How Do You Spellrn’Individualism’?rnby William J. Watkins, Ji.rnThe Myth of American Individualism:rnThe Protestant Origins ofrnAmerican PoHtical Thoughtrnby Barry Alan ShainrnPrinceton: Princeton University Press;rn394 pp., $39.50rnApopular belief about the foundingrnera is that America was a society ofrnatomistic individuals. All that Americansrndemanded, according to myth, wasrnthat their life and property be protectedrnby government; the remainder of theirrnaffairs was to be their own concern,rnBarry Alan Shain, in his new book ThernMyth of American Individualism: ThernProtestant Origins of American PoliticalrnThought, systematically debunks this libertarianrnfiction by appealing to primaryrnsources, such as sermons and politicalrntracts, to which most Americans werernregularly exposed.rnRather than focusing on the commonlyrnheld ideas and beliefs of the elite,rnShain examines those of ordinary Americans.rnThe key to understanding the attitudesrnof the common man, and thernnexus of the book itself, is reformedrnProtestantism. In Shain’s view, Calvinrnrather than Locke shaped the colonists’rnthought as they contemplated separationrnfrom Great Britain. Certainly thernFounders were influenced by the likes ofrnAlgernon Sidney and Montesquieu, butrnthe farmer and craftsman had little or nornknowledge of their works. The commonrnpeople knew their Bibles, Hymnals, andrnAlmanacs. Theirs was a world in whichrnoriginal sin kept man from the possibilityrnof enjoying absolute liberty.rnThus ordinary citizens expected theirrnneighbors and local governments to berninvolved in their lives as they sought torndo their paramount duty: service to God.rnShain concludes that they believed thatrn”God was best served by a community ofrnbelievers mutually and reciprocally ensuringrnthat they chose his ways over thernsiren calls of the flesh.” In light of this reformedrnProtestant belief, early Americarncould have been nothing but localist andrncommunalist.rnIf this is the ease, how did the myth ofrnAmerican individualism develop? Shainrnpostulates that at the heart of the misunderstandingrnlies language. What 17thandrn18th-century Americans meantrnwhen they spoke of liberty is entirely differentrnfrom the modern understandingrnof the word. Whereas liberty is nowrndefined as the freedom to do as onernpleases, our ancestors saw liberty as thernfreedom to “do all the Good we can inrnour Places, to serve GOD and our Generation.”rnUnless one understands this, itrnis easy to interpret their words in a libertarianrnsense.rnShain also blames two of America’srnmost prolific foreign guests—Toequevillernand Michael Chevalier—forrnmuch of the confusion. Tocqueville describedrnindividualism as the tendency ofrnthe American “to sever himself from thernmass of his fellows and draw apart withrnhis family and friends.” Shain correctlyrnobserves that Tocqueville was describingrnlocalism, or familialism, rather than individualism,rnand notes that “individualism”rnwas not in the English languagernuntil translations of Chevalier andrnTocqueville’s works appeared. Hadrnsomething akin to modern individualismrnexisted in America, there no doubtrnwould have been a word to describe it beforernthe 1840’s.rnThe fact that America was essentiallyrncommunal does not, however, meanrnthat Americans were not leery of centralizedrnpower. Though Americans of thernfounding generation expected their localrngovernments and neighbors to have a sayrnin their affairs, the national governmentrnwas given no such power. Shain seesrnAmerican federalism as evidence of thernpreponderance of localism. Under thernConstitution, the national governmentrnwas simply to provide for defense and securernfree commerce among the severalrnstates. The states and local governmentsrnretained their police powers to regulaternthe health, welfare, and morals of the citizenry.rnShain’s study of America’s communalrnpast is a fascinating work that does muchrnto expose the hollowness of early Americanrnindividualism.rnWilliam ]. Watkins, ]r., is assistant editorrnof The Freeman.rnLearned Liarsrnby Arnold BeichmanrnThe Dream That Failed: Reflectionsrnon the Soviet Unionrnby Walter LaqueurrnNew York: Oxford University Press;rn231pp.,$25.00rnLet us at the outset dispose of one ofrnthe major criticisms of Sovietologyrnand Sovietologists: their failure to predictrnthe end of Soviet communism andrnthe collapse of the Soviet Empire. It isrnone of the strange curiosities of Sovietrnhistory that the communist leadersrncould not predict events in their ownrnbackyard, either. Marxism-Leninism sornblinded these virtuosi of revolution andrnmasters of the “laws” of history to the realityrnaround them that they did nothingrnto protect themselves or even, in the end,rnto conserve the Leninist system. Despiterna network of informers and a cowed population,rndespite a powerful secret policernpossessing the most advanced surveillancerntechnology, and despite the absencernof the rule of law, neither Leninrnnor Trotsky predicted the rise of Stalin tornsupreme power. Stalin, who wantedrnMalenkov as his successor, was unable tornforesee the rise of Khrushchev; LavrentirnBeria, the head of the secret police,rnnever expected his execution in 1953 atrnthe hands of his fellow Politburocrats;rnKhrushchev, in turn, did not foretell hisrnown dethronement in 1964 and the risernof Brezhnev; Brezhnev and his Politburocratsrnwere astonished by the outcome ofrntheir war against Afghanistan; the SovietrnPolitburo failed to grasp the consequencesrnfor communist rule if Gorbachevrnwere elected to the top position;rnthe unsuccessful putsehists who tried tornoverthrow Gorbachev in 1991 did notrnexpect to fail; and, finally, Gorbachevrnhimself had no inkling that, five years afterrnassuming office, he would be presidingrnover the liquidation of the SovietrnEmpire, and that he would also be out ofrna job. If these leaders, the original Sovietrnexperts with their own interests atrnTo order these books, (24hrs, 365 days)rnplease call (800) 962-6651 (Ext. 5200)rnAUGUST 1995/33rnrnrn