Skidmore Professor of Government Flagg Taylor has just published a new book, The Great Lie, and it is, simply, magnificent.
Flagg has brought together in one volume three dozen essays on totatiltarianism in the twentieth century that prove profound, readable–and important. Carl Friedrich’s 1954 essay, “The Unique Character of a Totalitarian Society.” Vaclav Havel’s great 1978 work, “The Power of the Powerless.” Eric Voegelin’s 1953 essay, “The Origins of Totalitarianism.” Hannah Arendt’s 1954 study, “Ideology and Terror: A Novel Form of Government.” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s 1975 work, “Our Muzzled Freedom.”
The Great Lie represents scholarship of the highest order: Flagg has given us the benefit of his own wide reading, putting in a single volume what every American needs to know. Nazism and Communism really were something new and distinctive in human history, yet at the same time they represent horrors that could recur–anywhere. As Solzhenitsyn says in a quotation that Flagg prints on the frontispiece:
There is always this fallacious belief: “It would not be the same here; here such things are impossible.” Alas, all the evil of the twentieth century is possible everywhere on earth.
If American academic institutions were truly intent on imparting to students the principal lessons of our civilization, then Flagg’s book would instantly appear on reading lists at colleges and universities throughout the country. But if you’re unwilling to count on modern academia, take matters into your own hands: Buy a few copies, then assign them to the students in your life yourself.
I get lots of books at my office–over the years, I’ve ended up on a lot of mailing lists at a lot of publishing houses. This book counts. And I’m all the happier to say so because, although here on Ricochet he goes by a pseudonym, Prof. Taylor is one of us.