Saturday, December 1, 2007

John J. Miller has an interesting interview with Daniel Walker Howe about Howe's latest book, What God Hath Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848. Howe offers some interesting comments about politics, technology, religion in nineteenth-century America. For example:
HOWE: Before I wrote this book I had never really grasped how often improvements in material terms fostered improvements in moral terms. The people who encouraged economic diversification and development in many cases also supported more humane laws, wider access to education, a halt to the expansion of slavery, even, sometimes, greater equality for women. The two heroes of my story, John Quincy Adams and Abraham Lincoln, both illustrate this. The economic development that they wanted to promote empowered the average person in all kinds of ways. It brought wider vocational choices and opportunities for personal independence. In today’s third world, improvements in living standards should similarly encourage democracy and respect for human rights. Adams and Lincoln both valued capitalism as a moral as well as material benefit, and they were right to do so. This is the most important thing I learned from the experience of writing the book.