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oppdatert 15.07.2014

Conservatism versus Leftism and Islam

Review of Dennis Prager's book: Still the Best Hope

Overview: This book focuses on three subjects, discussing each: 1) Leftism, 2) Islam, and 3) the American value system. It is the author's claim that one of the three will the dominate future (most of the world, if I interpret Prager correctly), and that - over time - only the latter is sustainable, and that these three ideologies are incompatible (I believe the latter is correct). The book discusses ideas and positions. Prager claims (correctly) that Leftism basically is a secular religion. Because Leftism is fundamentally different from (original?) Americanism, and because only Americanism truly stands in the way of Leftism (he claims), the Left - worldwide - is anti-American. Although Leftism and Islam ideologically are enemies, Leftism and Islam are allied against Americanism. That is why the Left around the world intervenes on behalf of Islam and deems any critique of Islam as Islamophobic. Prager is a God-religious man, and his version of conservatism seems to be the re3ligious neo-conservative American one.  

Still the Best Hope - Why the World needs American valuesI believe there are some flawed arguments in the book, mostly related to Prager's assertion that it is necessary to believe in God. While the book's two first sections (Leftism and Islam) are close to excellent, I experience problems with parts the third section. One reason for this is the author's tendency towards - often - placing all who do not believe in God in one and the same cubicle. So while Prager's book starts out as a much needed attack on Leftism and Islam in its present form, and a defense of American values and the Western system of liberty and democracy (to the extent liberty still exists), this third section more transforms into an attack on all who do not believe in a monotheistic God and in God-based moral values, living the reader still somewhat in the dark regarding what American conservatism really is, according to Prager's view.

Before continuing I find it correct to notice that from a European point of view, Leftism and Islam are allied against the entire Western world, although more so against America because of its influence and strength. Prager tends to focus only on America in this respect. Prager discusses what he believes to be the three major alternatives that exist today. That there are only three alternatives can of course be disputed. There are differences between American conservatism and both European conservatism and classical liberalism/libertarianism. I do not believe a decline in the West will necessarily follow as a consequence of not believing in God (in its Judeo-Christian version), because – indeed – Leftism is not the only possible or plausible alternative for secular individuals and societies. It seems more and more people are attracted to a moderate version of right wing libertarianism (at least in the English speaking world), and I believe such a political system is an alternative and sustainable solution. 

Prager's book is not an academic treatise based on a systematic analysis. It is a practical and useful book meant for a wide audience, skillfully and intellegently written. It gives good insight into Leftist activities, attitudes and partly ist bad psychology. It also shows the Islamic danger in our time.  


Not many Europeans will have heard of Dennis Prager, but in America he is quite famous (of September there were 224 reviews on Prager is a syndicated radio show host, columnist, author of several books and a public speaker. He has taught Jewish and Russian history at college level. 

Why would a European read Prager's book? Well, there really is no mystery here. The motive was to find out - more in depth - how the "American Right" thinks (to the extent one can put "the Right" in one cubicle), in contrast to how "the (American) Left" thinks, something we are far more familiar with, since mainstream media and most universities in both US and Europe are dominated by Leftism. Of several books I chose Prager's book because it has received a lot of attention and praise in America. 


Leftist ideology spans from so-called "democratic" socialism to extreme communism. As Prager's points out, it is important to understand that Leftism is not only a value system, but a fundamental way of understanding the world. A large number of Leftists let their ideology direct their lives, and some are willing to kill for it. I add that the latter is exemplified by Marxist-Leninist revolutions with its political cleansing and - often - class cleancing (in contrast to ethnic cleansing and racial cleansing). 

In my view this part of Prager's book is the best and most thoroughly treated one. A little more than half its length covers Leftism and Leftism's moral record. I believe Prager has a correct understanding of what Leftism is, and what motivates the Left. For decades, out of experience, I have held pretty much the same view about Leftism myself. Thanks to Prager's book it's now developed a little further. I strongly recommend this part of the book to all who are curious about what it is that drives the Left and want a better understanding of Leftism, its values, actions and psychology. 

An example of the religious character of Leftism is the term adopted by Hillary Clinton when she was First Lady: "The politics of meaning". Prager: "This term was highly meaningful to the Left, but meaningless to conservatives, [because] conservatives do not look to government and politics to find meaning. They look instead to their own lives." This shows the different - and dangerous - nature of Leftism. Prager's explanation is that "...with the collapse of God-based religion on much of the Left, Leftist religion has filled the meaning void." I believe it is correct that for true Leftists, a "new" secular religion fills a "meaning void", but I disagree with his claim that all humans need a religion. However, many people seem to need a religion if life is to have meaning. So if a higher education or some "cultural development" for many leaves a God-based religion out of the question, a secular religion can "step in" and fill the "meaning void" for those experiencing one. Realistically, I regard this as a correct description of true Leftists. For we should consider that one of the most essential characteristics of Leftism (After Saint-Simon and Marx) is the need to have Utopia created here on Earth, now! Prager: "Politics becomes the vehicle to achieving this... For the Left politics is a way to transform the world; for conservatives, politics is primarily a way to stop the Left from doing so." 

This shows a fundamental difference between not only Leftism and conservatism, but between Leftist and non-Leftist political ideologies in general (Nazism is contrary to Prager's belief essentially a Leftist ideology). True Leftists (there are many of them) are never, ever going to leave you in peace to live your life as you yourself considers best. As long as you "shut up" and let Leftists continue to infiltrate media, schools, universities, and civil institutions, and conquer the government without interfering, they will not notice you specifically. But if you become politically active against Leftists or successfully raise your voice in the media against them, in order to stop them in their scheme to create their version of society, using the people as guinea pigs, they will, well, come after you. 

This leads to a subject discussed in Prager's book: How the Left continuously and viciously demonize any opposition to their plans "for a better society", and constantly twist everything opponents say against Leftwing action and policy. Prager's book is filled with examples of how media persons and Leftist politicians, even university professors, treat opponents and especially conservatives. In almost every case he offers solid references that readers can check out themselves. Europeans of age will recall Leftist behavior and agitation in Europe in the 1970s and 1980s. Furious and virulent Leftism is active in America today, and I'm shocked by some of the examples Prager offers. 

Now, pointing to abuse of reason and language alone, coupled with demonization of enemies, is not enough to make a book interesting. Prager's book is interesting because he "connects the dots". Mostly he offers intellectually satisfying explanations of why Leftism must be as it is. Why Leftism cannot accept opposition. Why they constantly are "at war" with society. To give just one example: To conservatives (and libertarians I add) the highest political value is liberty. Liberty demands, to be feasible, the in practice smallest possible state (government). For the Left, however, material equality is the highest political value; even the highest moral value. Therefore, when it really comes down to it, liberty is not held in high esteem by the political Left, as Prager excellently demonstrates. Why? Because demanding liberty is 'to throw a wrench in the machine' that will create material equality. And since a fundamental aspect of Leftism (connected to utopianism) is intention-based wishful thinking, Leftists subconsciously believe most humans indulge in intention-based wishful thinking. So for the Left the "conservative cry", in Prager's words, "for liberty is little more than a cover for preserving economic inequality." So how can the Left not be at war with "the Right"? Left-wingers believe they "know for certain" that conservatives are human beings with bad intentions, that they are evil (even though they accuse conservatives for believing in such concepts as "good" and "evil"). 


Reading Prager has also confirmed my own understanding of what Islam - Islamism - is, and the danger it represents. Prager is careful when it comes to morally assessing religions, but "dares" it anyway Fortunately, because, as Prager eloquently puts it: "How could a book purporting to evaluate competing ideas for humanity's improvement not evaluate Islam, an intensely proselytizing religion with over a billion adherents? And how could one of the world's most popular doctrines - one that offers itself as incomparably superior to all other ways of life, secular or religious - not expect to be evaluated?" 

The amount of violence that historically has been, and today is, committed in the name of Islam makes an assessment of Islam necessary. Again Prager offers a lot of examples of both Islamist attitudes and actions, supported and explained further with the use of Suras from the Koran. It cannot be plausible denied that Islam, as it is understood and practiced today in most of the Islamic world, is a serious problem for peace and prosperity throughout large parts of the world. This part of Prager's book will show the reader that one cannot hide behind a flawed hypothesis of cultural relativism to avoid taking the threat of Islam seriously. And, since I mention it – be aware that cultural relativism is a neo-Marxist hypothesis.  

The American value system 

The American value system, says Prager, is the trinity of Liberty, In God We Trust, and E Pluribus Unum. The latter means "out of many, one" – out of many cultures, immigrants from all over the world, one unity – a country, a people with an identity – has been formed. This, Prager holds, is unique in the world, and he is probably right. If Prager is correct in stating what the American value system is, one must at least to some extent conclude that "liberal (Democratic Party) America" no longer represents the American value system. But I leave that problem to Americans, and only mention is for readers to reflect upon. 

The major part the book's final section treats the 'In God we trust' part of the American value system (50 of 90 pages). Although partially interesting, for me this part of Prager's book largely consists of unsubstantiated assertions since it is based on a claim that only if moral values are God-given, are moral values "objective". The problem here is Prager's assertion that "secular moral values" can be nothing more than personal preferences, thus leading to moral relativism. Prager seems to claim that all of us, in time, will end up as moral relativists unless we believe in God. Well, I certainly don't believe this is happening to me, and I don't believe in God (as an agnostic I neither deny the existence of God). Now, moral relativism constitutes an essential part of Prager's argument against Leftism, and I believe most non-Leftists are against moral relativism. I certainly argue against this absurd Leftist hypothesis. 

I believe Prager is mistaken. It is not so that not believing in God must lead to moral relativism. Essential knowledge: Cultural neo-Marxists put together the hypothesis of moral relativism with the specific aim of destroying Western capitalist societies from within. The aim was moral deterioration and a breakdown in belief in capitalism. They did this because they discovered that empirical findings refuted essential parts of Marxist theory, namely historical (dialectic) materialism. They realized that the working class in industrialized countries would not start the long hoped for proletarian revolution Marx had hypothesized – and promised. So they had to come up with an alternative scheme. Cultural relativism is part that that evil plan. So when Prager essentially spreads "the same rumor", although from very different motives (or beliefs), those who simply don't believe in God, receives the same message from two different and mutually exclusive parts of society. The terrible result could be an increased belief in cultural relativism. 

Finally: All Prager says about liberty is correct and well, but unsatisfactory from the point of view of a political philosopher. Too little space is dedicated to liberty, and instead of giving a clear definition of liberty, Prager is satisfied with applying liberty to different areas of life in the form of a list (political, religious, free speech, etc.). He does have important things to say, though, like this, which you should mind: "The bigger that state, the smaller the citizen." I also have to mention that in this last section of his book, Prager too often resort to cherry-picking to prove his point. That is a drawback for this part of the book.

Bent Andreassen


Book data - Dennis  Prager: Still the Best Hope - Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph. Broadside Books. 2012, 440 pages + iiix pages.