At AEI’s online magazine, The American, Values & Capitalism program manager Josh Good reviews Charles Murray’s “American Exceptionalism: An Experiment in History.”
He writes that the short book delineates the traits and qualities that once made America and her people exceptional, and shows how contemporary America would be “unrecognizable” to our Founders. This primer brings the reader back to America’s founding, allowing us to recapture our nation’s early beginnings as we decide what we want for our future:
American Exceptionalism says a great deal in very few words. The book effortlessly drops in rich pearls from our best historians and most notable leaders, including Abraham Lincoln’s haunting description of “the silent artillery of time”: that incessant, steady force that pounds relentlessly and quietly away at the walls of liberty, first built by America’s founders.
When Murray writes, it is as though Alexis de Tocqueville, Frederick Jackson Turner, Max Weber, Robert Fogel, Seymour Martin Lipset, and Robert Putnam are all in the room — and their voices enter the conversation at just the right time.
As I step back and reflect on this book, as well as his related writing, I believe Charles Murray is teaching us that the first iteration of America was our founding through the beginning of the 20th century. The second has lasted from 1930 to the present. But today we are quickly becoming more like Europe; and to borrow his recent phrase, our classes are coming apart.