The Two Revolutions, Or How the United States Divided into Two Countries and Put at Risk Its Future as a Nation-State
The Annual Elizabeth M. Whelan Lecture
James Piereson, President, William E. Simon Foundation and Senior Fellow, the Manhattan Institute
Among the causes of the current polarization and dysfunction in national politics are the ongoing effects of two post-war upheavals -- the cultural and political revolution of the 1960s and the market revolution of the 1980s. These mini-revolutions were ideologically distinct and in conflict with one another, though both may have been libertarian in different ways. They were sponsored and supported by different groups in American society. In time they settled into rival political parties, setting the stage for ongoing conflicts and polarization which we see today. It is possible that the effects of the two revolutions are beginning to break up the foundations of the American nation-state. If this is true, and not reversed or corrected, then it suggests that even greater upheavals may lie ahead.
James Piereson is president and trustee of the William E. Simon Foundation, a private grant-making foundation located in New York City with broad interests in education, religion, and problems of youth. Dr. Piereson is also a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Public Policy in New York City. He was executive director and trustee of the John M. Olin Foundation from 1985 through 2005 and served on the Political Science faculties of several prominent universities, including Iowa State University, Indiana University, and the University of Pennsylvania.
He is the author, most recently, of Shattered Consensus: The Rise and Decline of America’s Postwar Political Order (Encounter Books, 2015). He is also the author of Camelot and the Cultural Revolution: How the Assassination of John F. Kennedy Shattered American Liberalism (Encounter Books, 2007); The Inequality Hoax (Encounter, 2014); Why Redistribution Fails (Encounter, 2015); and (with J. Sullivan and G. Marcus) Political Tolerance and American Democracy (University of Chicago Press, 1982). He is the editor of The Pursuit of Liberty: Can the Ideals That Made America Great Provide a Model for the World? (Encounter Books, 2008).
Dr. Piereson currently serves on the boards of The Pinkerton Foundation, the Thomas W. Smith Foundation, The Center for Individual Rights, the Foundation for Cultural Review (Chairman), the American Spectator Foundation, Donors Trust, the William F. Buckley, Jr., Program at Yale University, and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. He is a past member of the Board of Trustees of the Manhattan Institute, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and the Philanthropy Roundtable. He has published articles and reviews in numerous journals and newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Commentary, the New Criterion, the American Political Science Review, the Public Interest, Philanthropy, the American Spectator, the Weekly Standard, National Review, the New York Post, and the Washington Post. He received his B.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from Michigan State University.