Two salient developments of modern history are the crisis of rationalism described by Mr. Bolotin and strong economic growth. Somehow, they must explain the divergent fortunes of political radicalism, which is up, and liberal education, which is down.
If we were all poorer, would the liberal arts have more of a fighting chance? From a classical perspective, prosperity creates the conditions for liberal education. Leisure requires prosperity, as does patronage. America has substantial cultural infrastructure thanks to, for example, the public library movement in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, and the Great Books movement in the mid-twentieth century. Even backlashes against prosperity can benefit the liberal arts. Many young Americans find their way to the life of the mind through seeking an escape from materialistic values.
Stephen Eide is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and contributing editor of City Journal.
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