Paine in the Burke

Great review of Yuval Levin’s The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine and the Birth of Right and Left by Jonah Goldberg. I can’t decide whether to read it, since I’m already pretty familiar with both writers and it sounds like I’m likely to agree with Levin. Everyone, though, can do with a heavy dose of Burke:

Politics ought to be adjusted not to human reasonings but to human nature, of which reason is but a part and by no means the greatest part.

And there, in a nutshell, is the problem with the left: communism, socialism, Keynesianism and international law might all work if we weren’t sinful humans with limited understanding living in a fallen world. But we are. And so we need to do the best with what we have (including our political and cultural institutions) rather than think we’re clever enough to build a utopia from first principles.