Continuing Conversation... Yuval Levin on Burke, Paine, and the Great Debate
By Amy Willis
The origins of the Left-Right divide in American politics is the primary focus of this episode.
Consider the prompts below, and let’s continue the conversation.
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1. Levin describes Burke as a “founding father” of the American Right and Paine of the American Left. What are the characteristics of each that lead Levin to characterize them as such?
2. Levin argues that though both Burke and Paine supported the American Revolution, it was for different reasons. What does he mean by this, and how does this relate to the character of the Right and Left of today?
3. Roberts seems unable to choose “whose side he’s on” – Burke’s or Paine’s. What does he like about each of them? What does he dislike? How does this compare to Levin? And whose side are you on, and why?
4. Roberts asks Levin why there are no such towering intellectual figures in political debate today. Was their confluence an outlier? A mere coincidence? Or are they both wrong about the lack of genius in politics today?
5. In this episode from last June, Arnold Kling argues that the Right-Left dichotomy is an inaccurate picture of American politics today. Instead, there are three “languages” of politics- Progressives, Conservatives, and Libertarians. Which best describes the policy outlook of Burke, and why? Of Paine? How does the addition of this third character add nuance to political debate?