but thinks is imperative.rnIn Mr. Miller’s view, “The UnitedrnStates can welcome immigrants andrntransform them into Americans becausernit is a ‘proposition countrv’,'” a “universalrnnation” in Ben Wattenberg’s happyrnphrase, and the proposition by which thernAmerican nation defines itself, that allrnmen are created equal, means that thern”very sense of peoplehood derives notrnfrom a common language but from theirrnadherence to a set of core principlesrnabout equalit)’, libertv’, and self-government.rnThese ideas . . . are universal.rnThey apply to all humankind. Theyrnknow no racial or ethnic limits. They arernnot bound by time or history. And theyrnlie at the center of American nationhood.rnBecause of this, these ideas upholdrnan identity into which immigrantsrnfrom all over the world can assimilate, sornlong as they, too, dedicate themselves tornthe proposition.” Mr. Miller, it is by nowrnevident, doesn’t know what he’s talkingrnabout.rnIn the first place, it is not true that thern”proposition” that “all men are createdrnequal” and the ideas derived from it arernuniversal and “not bound by time or history.”rnIf they were so, there would neverrnhave been any dispute about them, letrnalone wars and revolutions. No onernfights wars about the really self-evidentrnaxioms and derived propositions of Euclideanrngeometry. Mr. Miller’s propositionsrnare very clearly the products of arnvery particular time and place —latern18th-century Europe and America—andrnwould have been almost inconceivablern50 years earlier or 50 years later. Norrnhave they ever appeared in any other politicalrnsociety at any other time absentrntheir diffusion from Europe or America.rnMoreover, they are based on concepts ofrnanthropology and history, including anrnentirely fictitious “state of nature,” a “socialrncontract,” and a view of human naturernas a tabula rasa, that no student ofrnhuman society or psychology took seriouslvrnafter the mid-19th century.rnIn the second place, America as a nationrnis not based on or defined by thesernideas, and Mr. Miller’s own account ofrnthe history of immigration and naturalizadonrnin American historv makes thisrnobvious. You don’t have to suffer fromrn”racial paranoia” to know that, untilrn1965, immigration and naturalizationrnlaws in the United States tended to excludernor restrict non-European entry orrncitizenship, while, aside even from thosernrestrichons, the American national identityrnhas centered around various obviousrnidentities of community, kinship, class,rnreligion, territory, and region, not tornmention the equally obvious linguisticrnand political heritage of Great Britain.rnThe egalitarian universalism Mr. Millerrnthinks is the defining core of the Americanrnnation logically implies a unitaryrnmass democratic state, and in some passagesrnMr. Miller suggests that this is whatrnhe wants and believes in. It certainlyrndoes not justifv the federalist politicalrnanatomy of the United States, states’rnrights, and the balanced structure andrnpowers of the federal government itselfrnThose essential features of the Americanrnpolitical order are comprehensible onlyrnas adaptations of the British (or what thernFramers tiiought was the British) constitution.rnInsofar as the abstractions ofrnequality and universality have beenrnmeaningful in American history, it hasrnbeen because they presupposed thisrncommon culture and common politicalrntradition in which their limits were clearlyrnunderstood. Ignore or destroy thern”commonalities” of our real nationalrnidentity, and the universal propositionsrnMr. Miller gloats over will be as meaningfulrnas they were in the constitution ofrnthe Soviet Union.rnMr. Miller and his fellow universalistsrnwould say that all these particularitiesrnare merely violations of or deviationsrnfrom the universal code that definesrnthe nation, but he never offers any reasonrnto believe that very many Americans untilrnthe 1960’s accepted universalism asrnthe defining code of the nation, or anyrnexplanation whv his “proposition” (arnone-sentence fragment of the Declaration)rnshould be the key to the code—letrnalone a demonstration why political universalismrnis itself desirable or true. If fewrnAmericans took it seriously, or if almostrnall of them continuously violated it, inrnwhat sense can it be said to have definedrnthe identity of the nation? Like almostrnall other manifestos of universalism, Mr.rnMiller’s relies on assertion and repetition,rnnot evidence.rnOf course, when Mr. Miller talksrnabout a “proposition country,” he (again)rndoesn’t know what he is saying. Phrasesrnlike “proposition country” or “universalrnnation” are contradictions in terms, oxymorons.rnCountries and nations are byrndefinition territorial aggregates of populationsrnwith shared characteristics, somernof them inherited, some of them historical.rnWhat he really means when hernwrites that “the United States is a propositionrncountry” is that the United Statesrnought to abandon (as it has been abandoningrnsince the 1960’s) its particularisticrnfeatures and redefine itself along ideologicalrnlines. In that way it could take anrnhonored place alongside the other ideologicalrnstates of the 20th century, most ofrnwhich have by now crumbled in war orrnrevolution after several generations ofrntyrannically trying to fit the real nationsrnto the false ideology.rnBut by ignoring, denving, and dismissingrnthe particularisms that define Americanrnnationhood, Mr. Miller makes “assimilation”rneasy. All you have to do tornassimilate is come here and assent to thernproposition. In his account of assimilation,rnhowever, Mr. Miller seldom discussesrnwhat that assent—aside from thernmost elementary political participationrnas voters in the mass electorate —involves,rnlet alone the countless politicalrnand social implications of the bland vagarvrnthat “all men are created equal.” Inrnone passage, however, he is almost eloquentrnin his discussion of what being anrnAmerican really means. In a paean tornMcDonald’s as the great assimilator, Mr.rnMiller writes.rnThere may be nothing more Americanrnthan working beneath therngolden arches. For immigrants,rnMcDonald’s is a great place tornlearn about basic American workrnhabits: filling out an employmentrnapplication, showing up on time,rntaking care of a uniform, functioningrnon a team, keeping thingsrnclean, dealing with customers,rnoperating a computerized register,rnmaking change, and speakingrnEnglish.rnPaleoconservatives as well as manyrnwho take the proposition more seriouslyrnthan I may wonder what taking care of arnuniform and filling out job applicationsrnhave to do with having been createdrnequal, but everyone will wonder whatrnthey have to do with being an American.rnAs for speaking English, Mr. Miller isrnproperly concerned about the failures ofrnbilingual education and properly eagerrnto abolish it, but why should adherents ofrnthe proposition have to speak a commonrnlanguage? Isn’t the proposition valid inrnother languages too? Mr. Miller says, “Itrnmatters because it is our common languagernNo nation is complete withoutrna culture, not even a nation that dedi-rn28/CHRONICLESrnrnrn