Packer’s slim book, Last Best Hope, begins with patriotic despair ... Packer is at his best when he ties his thesis about Americans’ loss of the art of self-government to the inequality that he has covered extensively and intimately in his career as a journalist ... But Packer’s lens of analysis is economic.
... incisive, deftly argued ... Packer – who as well as contributing to the New Yorker and the Atlantic has edited collections of George Orwell’s essays – goes on to attempt something close to the ideological fables in Animal Farm or Nineteen Eighty-Four ... Despite imperial puffery, we may never have been the best, but we used to be better than this. Now we seem doomed to be last, and there’s no hope anywhere.
While this is not a new subject for Packer, the tone and tenor of his latest book is decidedly insular. At times he does not seem wholly convinced by his own increasingly abstract pronouncements. Never fully answering the question of how we arrived at our current predicament, Packer does not explain how a revitalized liberalism can get us out of it. The search for causes and policy remedies remains secondary to the reassertion of ideological precepts: above all else, that liberalism and America in general remain our era’s last best hope. To his credit, Packer identifies a core problem: Inequality in the United States ... Packer’s effort to renew the liberal faith by divvying up the past into a set of progressive parables is sadly endearing. His failure to consider how the same liberal faith he sought to renew decades ago has contributed much to the dismal political and economic situation we confront today feels like malpractice.