The Great Debate by Yuval Levin
Edmund Burke maintains a strong hold on the English conservative imagination, but is scarcely known on the other side of the Atlantic. Thomas Paine, while half-forgotten in his native Britain, is presented to American eighth-graders as a founding philosopher of the 1776 revolution. Yuval Levin treats their ideas in tandem, and shows how their disagreements – most vividly over the French revolution, most intensely over the political authority of history – illuminate divisions in politics to this day, especially those between left and right.
Burke and Paine lived far from the ivory tower. Both were deeply and personally engaged in the issues of the day, Burke as a civil servant and politician, Paine as a pamphleteer and adviser to some of the leading lights of his era, from the Marquis de Lafayette to Thomas Jefferson. Levin himself is a combatant in the battle of political ideas, especially in his role as editor of one of the most influential journals of the thinking American right, National Affairs. (Last year he received a $250,000 award from the Bradley Foundation for his efforts to further conservative thinking. Only in America.)