The Great Debate, by Yuval Levin

The Great Debate, Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine, and The Birth of Right and Left. Finally a book that clarifies the essential difference between the conservatives and the progressives in a manner which I found it hard to pick sides, for each has its distinct attraction and rational philosophy.

There are a few things to point out. Firstly the author is a Conservative advocate, and as such is able to explain the conservative view eloquently, to a person that sometimes wondered how they, The Right, managed to survive as a political power. Being a progressive this book was important, not only to understand the philosophy behind conservatism, but actually appreciate why it is important to have such a counterweight for the development of society.

Secondly, the book is written in historical context of the breakaway American colonies from the British empire and the French Revolution, detailing the views and philosophies of Edmund Burke a british politician at the time and Thomas Paine an Englishman, who was a pro-American political activist and philosopher. There are many historical accounts relating to each side, dealing with specific people in a specific time, with reasons of self-interest dictating their position. This makes the book seem more like a history, rather than a philosophy book, but in actuality I found the book quite thought-provoking.

While both Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine brought out arguments to support their position in a convincing fashion, one needs to remember they are both tarnished by, in the case of Edmund Burke being a politician supported by, or in support of the aristocrats and all the injustices and atrocities of the British Empire at the time, while Thomas Paine a political activist, in support of what we would now a days call a terrorist, with unlawful encouragement of decent, the creation of America being the result.

For me, this is a book is worth the read because of the arguments used by both sides, and although the context in history can be considered important, the wider meaning had more appeal. It really elucidated the rational arguments brought forward by the conservative and progressive approach, while highlighting challenges inherent in both. It also brings out a philosophical discourse on the subject, which I found to be intriguing and honest.

This book is a good read on how the two sides were established, and how it relates to the founding of America. I would  recommend it to those that have too much affinity to either the Right or Left. It’s clarity has inspired me to think and put forward further philosophical analysis and my opinion on the subject in a different blog which I shall publish in due course.

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