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Seven Events that Made America America
And Proved that the Founding Fathers Were Right All Along
By Larry Schweikart
HC, 272 pgs. $25.95
ISBN: 1-5952-3064-5

The rest of the story

By Steven Martinovich
web posted June 21, 2010

Seven Events that Made America AmericaHistory, it is said, is written by the winners. If that is indeed the case, it would appear that liberalism long ago won the day in the United States. Over the past two centuries the American experiment has drifted away from its founding principles to the extent that philosopher Leonard Peikoff once argued that America was at least half-way on the road to tyranny.  Whether that is true or not, it is a very plausible argument that America's Founding Fathers would likely be appalled at the nation's current state of affairs.

Larry Schweikart's thought-provoking and fascinating Seven Events that Made America America: And Proved that the Founding Fathers Were Right All Along presents seven historical events – not all of them well known today – that he argues mostly run counter to the America that the Founding Fathers dreamed of. Some were responsible for seismic changes in the social-political landscape, such as the infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision, while others, such as the founding of the Democratic Party, precipitated a fundamental change in the American political system.

Among the arguments made by Schweikart are that the electric guitar was at least as powerful as ideology in the war against communism, Dwight Eisenhower's 1955 heart attack spawned Big Mother government intrusion into American refrigerators, the 1889 Johnston Flood illustrated the superiority of private disaster relief and the media's failure to remain objective – particularly in the case of Barack Obama. In each case Schweikart explores not only the event itself but provides context by laying out the road to it and the long-term consequences afterwards.

For the most part it's difficult to read Seven Events that Made America America without being at least a little sad. Although events like the response to the Johnston Flood are inspiring, the common thread among much of Schweikart's effort is the expansion of government and its negative effects on personal liberties. Whether Peikoff was right concerning how far along Americans were on the road of tyranny is a matter for debate but Schweikart certainly illustrates that the Founding Fathers weren't likely to support the spending of federal funds to tell you what to eat.

Although most of Schweikart's targets are politically liberal, he does occasionally take aim at the right as well. No less a sainted figure than Ronald Reagan is taken to task for the sending of U.S. Marines to Lebanon in 1982 as peacekeepers and their subsequent withdrawal after a terrorist attack, which sent the message to Islamists that the United States didn't have the stomach for a bloody fight. Given American plans to withdraw from Afghanistan and Iraq, one wonders if perhaps America's enemies are continuing to come to the same conclusion three decades later.

There will doubtless be those who argue with some of Schweikart's connections and conclusions but Seven Events that Made America America's real core argument is of American exceptionalism and the power of the individual. They are lessons rarely, if ever, taught in American schools these days and as such Schweikart's effort is useful if only to remind Americans of the special nature of their founding. Most importantly, however, it could also teach everyone about the dangers of unintended consequences – after all, who considered Buddy Holly to be a soldier in the Cold War? ESR

Steven Martinovich is the editor in chief of Enter Stage Right.

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