Silber is, indeed, in so many ways, the American success story writ large. His is a more intellectualized version of that rather unstructured thinking which is endemic in our society. In our social life, the weakness of the liturgical churches in this country insures the ahistorical enthusiasms of the Moral Majority on the right, and groups such as the Quakers on the left, just as it inspires ahistorical spokesmen like Silber.
In this All-American sense, of course, Silber's is an exciting book. The book has many challenging passages. He ranges into foreign affairs; he challenges the liberal view of disarmament at any price. He has an interesting chapter on tenure in the universities, and he scores some good points. He clearly cares that leadership in the academic community is now automatically seen to be the enemy. Yet his tough-minded views seem sometimes illogical and inconsistent, one with another.
He appears to come down against abortion. In an essay that is not always easy to follow, he also seems to be one of those who is against sex education.
He is, of course, in favor of morals. Ethical relativism is not for John Silber. Yet, his list of enemies is, at best, confusing. Among the "bad guys" are program traders and drug dealers. Yet he is strongly in favor of the private-enterprise system. He is opposed to regulation. Perhaps it is my muddled European background, but I still find it odd that we attempt to have the lowest speed limit on the roads among the major industrial nations; we have the best record for regulating new pharmaceutical products, for having lead-free gasoline, and may have the first smoke-free airlines. Yet, at the same time, we seem to think that teen-agers should have an inalienable right to buy AK47s.