The latest issue of The American Conservative has arrived in my mailbox, and I’m honored to have an essay included in a cover symposium observing the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s “Farewell Address,” which he delivered on January 17, 1961. The speech includes Eisenhower’s famous warning against the “military-industrial” complex; my own contribution reflects on Eisenhower’s warnings against the rise of a “scientistic” mentality (indeed, the famous phrase was winnowed down from its original iteration as “the military-industrial-scientific complex.” Also discarded was the phrase “the military-industrial-congressional complex” – either of which would have been accurate fears to warn against). I use the occasion to reflect on America’s dual legacy regarding its views on science – with its dominant tradition tending to embrace the Baconian legacy of science providing for “the relief of the human estate,” but also recognizing the existence of a “second voice” that has been a critical witness to the costs and abuses of the scientific enterprise and its fetish for “progress” at any price.
The symposium includes really fine essays by Robert Schlesinger (who offers a background about the speech, and from whom I learned of these various iterations); Michael Desch (who takes issue with Eisenhower’s warning and instead lays the blame of American militarism on the Left); Lew Rockwell (who indicts Eisenhower’s deep complicity in supporting the very complex he criticized – including his support for the interstate highway system); and FPR’s own Bill Kauffman, who recalls Eisenhower’s anti-war Jayhawk roots.
I can’t think of a publication in America that would run such a symposium, all really smart reflections on Eisenhower’s underappreciated speech, but all very different in their sentiments and concerns. Credit and praise goes to TAC’s superb editor, Daniel McCarthy. If you’re not a subscriber, you should be.