James Buchanan

Discovering Equality

The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery By Eric Foner (W.W. Norton, 426 pp., $29.95) I. As we begin a raft of sesquicentennials that will carry us through at least the next half-decade—the secession of Southern states, the formation of the Confederacy, the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, Appomattox, and so on—I confess to feeling a mixture of excitement and trepidation. These are all signal events in our history, the roadblocks and thoroughfares in the making of modern America, and at a time of general crisis they are especially important to revisit.

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Jonathan Chait has responded to my post about our lack of knowledge about the practical effects of stimulus spending. He seems to be taking on opinions that aren’t mine. Chait begins his reply by claiming that I “oppose any stimulus at all.” This is a position which I did not present in the post, and which I do not hold. In fact, I have consistently advocated stimulus in the face of the current crisis, and generally in venues that are not as hospitable to this idea as The New Republic.

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This month, various contributors to TNR have argued about economic stimulus: It works, it doesn’t work, or we don’t know if it works or not. On August 17, Josef Joffe asserted (with caveats) on Entanglements that we know stimulus doesn’t work because (1) economic trendlines in the United States have not improved dramatically since it was instituted here, and (2) those countries that have spent a lot on stimulus don’t seem to be doing as well as some countries that have not.

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Crisis and Command: A History of Executive Power from George Washington to George W. Bush By John Yoo (Kaplan, 544 pp., $29.95) Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State By Garry Wills (Penguin, 288 pp., $27.95)   I. In December 2008, Chris Wallace asked Vice President Cheney, “If the president, during war, decides to do something to protect the country, is it legal?” Cheney’s answer included a reference to a military authority that President Bush did not exercise.

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Correspondence

Standing by her man TO THE EDITORS: I'm, neither a New Yorker nor Hillary Clintons biggest fan, but I found something troubling in Michelle Cottle's article ("The Wrong Race," June 7).

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Kenneth Arrow makes the case for redistributing income.

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