The Score: Adams Family, Jefferson’s Education, Liquor Laws, Conservative Rift

This week on The Score – What did the two Presidents named Adams think about “The Problem of Democracy”? How did Thomas Jefferson think citizens of a republic should be educated? Are state liquor laws out of control? Is there a philosophical rift within the conservative movement?


During this week’s episode of The Score, we talk with two distinguished historians, a lawyer who writes about liquor laws, and a student journalist.

Early Education
Alan Taylor Thomas Jefferson's EducationAlan Taylor teaches history at the University of Virginia and he has been awarded two Pulitzer Prizes for his books on early America. His books include American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804, The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies, and Colonial America: A Very Short Introduction.

A few weeks ago, he delivered a lecture hosted by the Charlottesville Museum of History and Culture. The invitation to that event queried: “How did Thomas Jefferson re-invent the model of education for the new country? And what is the fate of that public education today? Does it still serve its founding purpose to create an educate citizenry who are capable of recognizing and opposing populist demagogues?”

A few days ago, I had an opportunity to talk with Professor Taylor to get a preview of his forthcoming book, Thomas Jefferson’s Education, which will be published in October. I first asked him how Jefferson was able to succeed in founding the University of Virginia despite obstacles in his path.

21st Amendment
Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision on the scope of the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which most people associate with the end of alcohol Prohibition, but which also gave states authority to regulate beer, wine, and spirits. Virginia’s socialist liquor stores are part of the 21st Amendment’s legacy. In the most recent case, Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association v. Thomas, the Court ruled that Tennessee could not impose a residency requirement on entrepreneurs seeking to open a liquor store. The vote was 7-2, with Justices Gorsuch and Thomas dissenting, and Justice Samuel Alito writing the majority opinion.

Baylen Linnekin Biting Hands that Feed UsThe evening before that decision was announced, I spoke by telephone to Baylen Linnekin, an attorney who writes for Reason magazine, frequently about food and beverage laws. Linnekin used to teach law at George Mason University and he is author of the 2016 book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable. You can find him on Twitter as @baylenlinnekin.

Linnekin’s recent articles for Reason on the broad topic of alcoholic beverage regulation include “Some State Booze Laws Are Improving, Others Are Only Getting Worse,” “New Jersey Regulators Crack Down on Craft Beer,” “Ontario’s Glacial Booze Reforms Aren’t Enough,” and “A Lawsuit Could Decide the Fate of PBR and Other Working Class Beer Brands.”

I began by asking him a question about how the U.S. Constitution affects how beer and liquor are regulated.

Presidents Adams
Andrew Burstein CharlottesvilleThe same morning I spoke with Alan Taylor, I also met with Louisiana State University Professor Andrew Burstein to discuss his new book, written with Nancy Isenberg, called The Problem of Democracy: The Presidents Adams Confront the Cult of Personality. (As it happens, the book will be featured this Sunday, June 30, on the cover of the New York Times Book Review.)

Burstein is also author of Democracy’s Muse: How Thomas Jefferson Became an FDR Liberal, a Reagan Republican, and a Tea Party Fanatic, All the While Being Dead, which he spoke about at the Virginia Festival of the Book in March 2015, as well as The Passions of Andrew Jackson (2004), and (also with Isenberg) Madison and Jefferson (2013). Burstein and Isenberg are on Twitter as @andyandnancy.

My first question to Professor Burstein was, where did he get the idea for the book?

Ahmari vs. French
Returning to the 21st century, an old argument among conservatives has been resurrected, and the argument is whether conservatism is a part of the grand liberal experiment that began in the 18th century, or is it at odds with it.

Audrey Fahlberg is a student at the University of Virginia and an opinion editor for the Cavalier Daily. She recently published a column about an odd dispute within the conservative movement, headlined “Post-Liberalism won’t win the culture war.” She lays out the emerging conservative rift in our conversation and also in her article:

While post-liberalism has gained some traction in small intellectual circles in the past year, the movement gained significant media attention with a recent feud between two conservative journalists — Sohrab Ahmari and David French. After learning that a Sacramento public library had allowed a drag queen reading hour for young children, New York Post Opinion Editor and First Things contributor Sohrab Ahmari felt the time was ripe for a post-liberal rallying cry. Incensed by what he perceived as cultural decay ostensibly brought on by liberalism, Ahmari targeted an unlikely political pundit. On May 26, Ahmari tweeted that there is no “polite, David French-ian third way around the cultural civil war.” According to Ahmari and the post-liberal guard, David French’s ‘nice-guy’ conservatism must be held responsible for the “moral slippage” our country faces today.

Interestingly, a few days after we talked, Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed to audition for a gig writing for First Things when he told an interviewer, “The liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population.”

You can follow Audrey Fahlberg on Twitter at @FahlOutBerg.

I hope the two doses of early American history on this week’s program has prepared you for the Fourth of July. Enjoy the holiday, and be sure to come back next week for more news, reviews, and interviews.

I’m also looking forward to a special episode of The Score on July 20. Stay tuned!

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