The Dying Citizen

How Progressive Elites, Tribalism, and Globalization Are Destroying the Idea of America


By Victor Davis Hanson

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The New York Times bestselling author of The Case for Trump explains the decline and fall of the once cherished idea of American citizenship.

Human history is full of the stories of peasants, subjects, and tribes. Yet the concept of the “citizen” is historically rare—and was among America’s most valued ideals for over two centuries. But without shock treatment, warns historian Victor Davis Hanson, American citizenship as we have known it may soon vanish.

In The Dying Citizen, Hanson outlines the historical forces that led to this crisis. The evisceration of the middle class over the last fifty years has made many Americans dependent on the federal government. Open borders have undermined the idea of allegiance to a particular place. Identity politics have eradicated our collective civic sense of self. And a top-heavy administrative state has endangered personal liberty, along with formal efforts to weaken the Constitution.

As in the revolutionary years of 1848, 1917, and 1968, 2020 ripped away our complacency about the future. But in the aftermath, we as Americans can rebuild and recover what we have lost. The choice is ours.



I thank my wife, Jennifer, for reading the manuscript, as well as my colleague and friend Bruce Thornton of the Hoover Institution. I owe continued thanks to Glen Harley and Lynn Chu of Writers’ Representatives. For over three decades, I have relied on their principled literary representation and friendship.

Lara Heimert, publisher of Basic Books, once again read the entire manuscript, and I owe her a debt of gratitude for needed syntheses, clarifications, and economies of expression and organization. In addition, I wish to thank again Roger Labrie of Basic Books for greatly improving the manuscript with his meticulous general editing. This is the third book we have worked on at Basic, and his common sense and good judgment are deeply appreciated. The remaining errors in the book are mine alone. I also thank Jennifer Kelland for a superb job of copyediting, and again I am responsible for any errors that remain.

My research assistant at Hoover, Dr. David Berkey, likewise read the manuscript. Along with John Magruder, he helped proof the endnotes, in addition to checking and reformatting the text during various stages of editing. John compiled a bibliography of all works cited that can be accessed at My assistant, Megan Ring of the Hoover Institution, ensured that I kept on schedule and met various deadlines, including those well beyond the scope of the book.

I thank supporters of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and others for allowing me time to write this book, especially Martin Anderson, Beatrice and Jim Bennet, Will Edwards, Roger and Susan Hertog, Lew Davies, Jim Jameson, John and Carole Harris, Mary Myers Kauppila, Rebekah, Jennifer, and Robert Mercer, Roger and Martha Mertz, Jeremiah Milbank, Tom and Diane Smith, Richard F. and Karen Spencer, Victor Trione, and Kay Woods.

Part 1


Chapter One


There are three groups of people. There are the rich who are never satisfied because their wealth is never enough for them—these citizens are totally useless for the city. Then there are the poor who, because their daily bread is never enough, are dangerous because they are deceived by the tongues of crooked politicians and by their own envy and so they aim the arrows of their hatred towards the rich. And then, between these two, there is a third. This one is between them. It’s there to keep the order, it’s there to keep the city safe.

—EURIPIDES, Suppliants

The English word “peasant” comes from the Old Anglo-French word paisant, derived from the Latin pagus (rural district). “Peasant” originally denoted a subservient rural resident or laborer of inferior rank.

It is understandable why the word has been rarely used in American English—other than as a condescending putdown akin to “rustic” or “boor.” After all, Americans had millions of arable acres on their frontier. The government for over seventy years of serial Homestead Acts (1862–1930) believed in granting such free land to those who would work and improve it—and thus become a stable, independent, and responsible middle class. So when “peasant” is used today in the American context, we must think away the anachronistic images of peasantry as stooped farmworkers burdened by rents and shares to absentee landowners.

Instead, for purposes of comparison, focus on the larger economic landscape of the medieval European peasants. Theirs was a world in which much of the population was dependent on an overclass of lords, barons, and bishops for its sustenance (and that is often true to this day in parts of Asia, Africa, and Latin America). They had little hope of upward mobility or even autonomy. Peasants then were like neither independent American agrarians nor autonomous yeomen.

The modern use of the word identifies the erosion of the middle class into an indebted and less independent underclass. The current reality is that millions of Americans, through debt, joblessness, and declining wages, are now becoming our own updated urban and suburban versions of the rural European peasantry of the past.

The idea that, without a middle class, there can be little participatory democracy, social tranquility, or cultural stability is not new. It is a poignant lesson from our shared past. The so-called middle ones (mesoi) of ancient Greece, referred to in the introduction, emerged out of the Greek Dark Age (ca. 1150–800 BC) as viable farmers of small orchards, vineyards, and grain fields. Legal citizenship, in its beginning, reflected the growing desires of these small yeomen farmers to protect and pass on to their children their property. Land ownership was the perceived font of all their rights and autonomy. Citizenship would have been impossible without this prior material security and independence.

The agrarians (georgoi) of many Greek city-states were the near majority of the resident population. They also owned and bore their own weapons. By intent their military-grade arms and armor transcended the need for personal safety or hunting. Quite logically, the first citizens of the West soon determined the very conditions under which their city-state’s militias marched as hoplite infantry in the phalanx to defend their polis. This revolutionary right of the citizens to bear top-grade arms—currently the most controversial amendment of America’s Bill of Rights—and to determine when, where, and against whom they would fight was also synonymous with citizenship at the very beginning of the West.

Perhaps most importantly, the new middling citizens assumed that as self-sufficient producers of food, they enjoyed economic independence from both the urban rich and poor. In the Greek philosopher Aristotle’s analyses, once armed, moderate property holders became the majority in the city-state. Only then did consensual government for the first time become possible.1

A chauvinistic cult of “middleness” propaganda proclaimed the mesoi morally superior by their singular virtue of working physically while taking on the burden of self-government. Drudgery in service to others was the predictable lot of the poor, idleness, the cargo of the rich. But hard work for oneself was enshrined as the supposed superior middle way. Families responsible for their own futures would be the best guardians of the democratic state. As the Greek poet Phokylides (mid-sixth century BC) put it, “Much good is there to the middle ones: I would wish to be midmost in a city.”

The Greeks’ attitude toward the rich was not one of mere resentment or envy but rather a chauvinism that the wealthy, like the poor, possessed neither the requisite skills and weaponry nor the people’s trust to anchor the polis. The poor could not afford the armor of hoplite infantrymen; the rich were perched on ponies. The middle ones alone were infantrymen, the armored spearmen of the phalanx—and the voices of when and when not to go to war. Too much land made one indolent. Yet no land ensured poverty and its twin, jealousy. On average, about ten acres—of olives, vines, and grain—ensured economic and political self-sufficiency. The cult of middleness spread throughout the more than fifteen hundred Greek city-states and later became the foundational assumption of the agrarian Roman Republic.2

There were plenty of indentured servants and helots in a few of the more backward Greek city-states. Chattel slaves—their status based on unlucky birth or the bad luck of wartime capture rather than race—were found in most. Nonetheless, an idea was born of both freedom and equality among the citizens whose natural evolutionary logic was always toward ever greater egalitarianism and inclusivity. Among the poleis of fifth-century BC Greece, the ancient idea of a “peasant”—a rustic permanently tied to the land as a renter or sharecropper without political rights and freedom—was thus superseded.

In the serf’s place arose the new notion of a citizen. He soon coined an iconic name: politês, or “city-state person.” Polis and politês were later to spawn an entire array of English constitutional terms such as “politics,” “politician,” “political,” “policy,” and “police.” Contrary to popular assumption, there is simply no word for “peasant” in the classical Greek vocabulary of the city-state. But there are plenty of such terms in ancient Greek pre-polis and atypical regions, such as the indentured helotai of Sparta and the penestai of Thessaly.3

Again, the classical traditions of the Roman Republic followed Hellenic precedent. Small agrarian Italian soldiers, the famed legionaries of Rome, became the foundation of a republic to ensure political rights predicated on their economic viability and martial prowess—a paradigm found nowhere else in the Mediterranean. The Roman civis (cf. “civil,” “civic,” “civilization,” etc.), or citizen, was the beneficiary of rights codified in an extensive body of law.

Legal protection for the civis against arbitrary arrest, confiscation, or taxation ensured the value of citizenship. Indeed, later, throughout the Roman-controlled Mediterranean, echoed the republican-era boast civis Romanus sum—“I am a Roman citizen.” The speaker, if he was so fortunate as to live inside the boundaries of Rome’s growing dominions, was entitled to rights that transcended those of both transient foreigners and mere permanent residents within Roman lands. Empowerment was again the key: give a citizen equality under the law, freedom, and economic viability, and his talents will bloom and enrich the state at large.4

In the second and third centuries AD, the Italian middle that had built the republic gradually over a millennium largely vanished. Rome increasingly became an empire of two classes, rich and poor, without much of a viable voting middle in between or indeed any national voting at all. The world’s first experiment with globalization (in this case, the Mare Nostrum, the Roman Mediterranean) eventually hollowed out the Roman agrarian and middle classes.

Sending landowning agrarian legionaries far abroad to conquer new territory (our version of “optional overseas wars”) in turn supplied foreign slaves for the consolidation of Italian agriculture in their absence. Agrarianism, remember, was thought to be the backbone of the preindustrial middle class. The independence of the small farmer and his need to combine brain and muscle to produce food were considered to offer vital traits for self-governance, from pragmatism to individualism. Unfortunately, the once agrarian legions gradually either became mercenary or were manned by those without a stake in Roman society. To keep ruling, the elite relied on sending public largess to the army and to the poor, the stereotypical “bread and circuses” (panem et circenses) of the poet Juvenal, who caricatured the urban and often idle masses kept afloat by the combinations of state-subsidized food and free entertainment.

Yet, even after the collapse of the classical world in the latter fifth century AD and the transitory disappearance of a vestigial middle class, the idea of Western broad-based citizenship never quite died. Instead it reemerged in various manifestations throughout Europe over the next millennium and a half. The sometimes waxing, sometimes waning agrarian classes sought to create a constitutional state to protect and reflect their own interests. Unlike the landless poor, they did not want redistributions of someone else’s land and money. In contrast to the wealthy, they did not see government mainly as an auxiliary to maintain privileges of birth or as an adornment to express influence and power.5

This reappearing European ideal of an independent middle class, originally agrarian, rather than a subservient peasantry became the American ideal, at least until recently. All politicians still praise the middle class, but few recently have sought or found ways to preserve it in a radically changing globalized world. The result is the emergence of a new American peasantry, of millions of Americans who own little or no property. The new majority has scant, if any, savings. Fifty-eight percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in the bank. A missed paycheck renders them destitute, completely unable to service sizable debt. Most of what they buy, from cars to electronic appurtenances, they charge on credit cards. The average charge card indebtedness is over $8,000 per household and over $2,000 per individual—paid through monthly installments at average annual interest rates of between 15 and 19 percent, at a time when most home mortgages are usually below 4 percent.

Such short-term debt is often roughly commensurate with the payments and share-cropping arrangements that premodern peasants once entered into with lords and made it impossible for the serf to exercise political independence or hope for upward mobility. The chief contemporary difference, of course, is that the modern American peasant is the beneficiary of a sophisticated technological society that allows him instant communications, advanced health care, televised and computer-driven entertainment, inexpensive food, and a social welfare state. These material blessings often mask an otherwise shrinking middle class without confidence that it is in control of its own destiny.

A fifth of America receives direct government public assistance. Well over half the country depends on some sort of state subsidy or government transfer money, explaining why about 60 percent of Americans collect more payments from the government than they pay out in various federal income taxes, in various health care entitlements, tax credits and exemptions, federally backed student and commercial loans, housing supplementals, food subsidies, disability and unemployment assistance, and legal help.

Such social insulation, along with science fueled by free market capitalism, has succeeded in ending starvation, dying in one’s thirties and forties, and, for the most part, chronic malnourishment, as well as ensured access to a wealth of material appurtenances. But otherwise, twenty-first-century American “peasants”—currently perhaps about 46 percent of the population—usually die with a net worth of less than $10,000, both receiving and bequeathing little, if any, inheritance.

Drive on El Camino Real on the perimeter of Stanford University’s elite campus and witness hundreds living in curbside trailers in the manner of the poor of Cairo, or visit the side streets near the Google headquarters in nearby Mountain View where thousands live in their cars, or walk among the homeless on tony University Avenue in Palo Alto. Then juxtapose their lifestyles with estates in nearby Woodside, Atherton, or Portola Valley and the Mercedes Benzes and BMWs of those in their earlier twenties parked in the student lots at Stanford University.

The natural historical referent for this dichotomy is certainly not the booming middle classes emerging following World War II. Instead the image is one of the manors and keeps of medieval Europe amid peasant huts outside the walls. For all practical purposes, it is almost impossible for young families to buy a home anywhere in California’s five-hundred-mile progressive coastal corridor from San Diego to Berkeley or in the greater Portland and Seattle areas. The same is largely true in the metropolitan and suburban areas from Boston to Washington, DC. Whatever this bifurcated new culture is—and it is new and different from that of a half century ago—it is not so conducive anymore to classical citizenship.6

Even those of the middle class who can be thrifty, who save some of their income and develop modest passbook savings accounts, are now targeted by institutionalized cheap interest. The result of massive and chronic trillion-dollar annual budget deficits—the national debt is now near $30 trillion—and the zero interest rates of the often jittery Federal Reserve is the destruction of any interest income on savings accounts. The modest, middle-class citizen saver thus faces daunting options just to preserve the value of his money. He can engage in risky real estate speculation or invest in a booming stock market, fueled not by business performance, per se, but often by those who have nowhere else to park their money. So middle-class families, to be safe, often keep their modest savings in passbook accounts or buy federal bonds, where interest payouts below 1 percent do not cover the erosion in value of their principal due to annual inflation.7

American citizenship always differed even from the Western tradition found in the Europe of the last three centuries. The founding of America saw an entire array of newly expanded rights, responsibilities, and privileges for the vast majority of the resident population. This late-eighteenth-century new birth of citizenship arose in part because of an almost limitless supply of land, in part because colonial America lacked many of the European mainland’s traditions of class distinctions, primogeniture, peasantry, and serfdom, in part because of the parliamentary traditions that Britain had implanted in North America, and in part because of the protections of the Constitution of the newly formed United States. America would soon become the freest and most egalitarian society in the history of civilization.8

At the beginning of the American experiment, there were, of course, still indentured servants sent to North America. Far more numerous were the African American slaves owned and exploited by Americans. But by the dawn of the nineteenth century, chattel slavery was confined mostly to wealthy plantations in the South and border states, while there still remained a multitude of statutory ways of discriminating against minority, non-northern-European free populations.

The point is not that late-eighteenth-century America was perfect at birth or could even approach what we now enshrine as twenty-first-century moral values. Rather, the new United States was unlike, or rather superior to, most contemporary nations. Indeed, almost alone of governments, America had hit upon a mechanism that would allow constant self-criticism, legal amendments to its founding documents, and moral improvement. Such change came without the necessity of collective suicide or permanent revolution—and yet within the boundaries of constitutional absolutes that transcended time and space.

Most other systems of the age in Asia, Africa, and Latin America that had allowed and profited from chattel slavery were authoritarian in nature. No one in such regimes was a free citizen. As a result, legitimate voices of opposition to slavery were far fewer and far more impotent. From the moment of the American founding, however, the new government confronted mounting pressure, predominately Christian, to match its ideals with the grim reality of its tolerance for chattel slavery and the denial of full voting rights to over half the resident population. This religious and abolitionist zeal dated back over a century in the colonies and had been formalized in the 1688 Pennsylvania “Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery.”

Nowhere does the US Constitution mention racial exclusivity. The only oblique reference to it is the infamous “three-fifths clause”—the result of a demand by northern states that southern slave owners not be rewarded for the hypocrisy of counting their chattel slaves as full citizens, which would earn southern states greater representation in the House of Representatives. In such a bankrupt logic, slaves in the South would not be treated as free native-born Americans entitled to full protections under the Constitution; yet they would earn their masters greater political clout. The heated compromise to hold the proposed tenuous union together was to grant southern states only partial population representation for their slaves—a conciliation with those who had opposed all such concessions.9

The egalitarian chauvinism of the early American agrarian, in spirit, survived the nineteenth-century shift of populations to the cities during the Industrial Revolution. The ancient value of middleness was manifested as the emerging middle-class blue-collar worker and, in the latter twentieth century, as the archetypal suburban, two-car-garage family. As long as the farm, then the factory, then the office offered social stability and upward mobility to the citizen, the American idea of empowered political citizenship remained viable. When it would or could not, then citizenship was imperiled.10

These new American concepts of expanding the pool of citizens were antithetical to the age-old peasant notion of a “limited good.” Free market capitalism was not a zero-sum proposition: someone could succeed without an exact counterpart failing. The American model was instead originally to own and farm a plot of ground—the more agrarians, the better for all. Over 90 percent of American colonists were self-sufficient small farmers. As the nation urbanized and industrialized, the original notion of property ownership and rights and the autonomy that a small farm had afforded were best updated by home ownership, inexpensive access to college or vocational training, and a steady well-paying job. Hollywood and popular culture enshrined the middle-class ideal, iconized in films as diverse as Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath, and George Stevens’s Western Shane.11

The trend of middle-class economic stagnation, at a time when the United States as a whole became ever wealthier, was of long-term duration, not a sudden occurrence. The middle class over the half century following 1970 was losing the ability to buy homes—even as, or in part because, houses became far larger and more livable. Far more rarely could the middle classes meet the family budget sacrifices needed to service growing mortgage debt. In the last fifty years of the twentieth century, for example, the ratio of collective mortgage debt to other family loan obligations rose from 20 to 73 percent. The ratio of household mortgage debt to household assets rose from 15 to 41 percent.

Middle-class Americans still wanted to own their homes. But increasingly they lacked the wherewithal to buy them and turned to ever-larger mortgages—if they could get them. As house costs rose, middle-class income did not increase commensurately, and financing became either unavailable or too costly. In the early twentieth century nearly half of Americans owned their own homes. That healthy percentage grew to 60 percent in the 1950s and nearly reached an incredible 70 percent in 2004. Yet just twelve years later, by 2016 home ownership had dipped back to 63 percent of Americans—the lowest percentage in nearly fifty years. The likely causes were in part record student debt, spiraling costs in urban areas that had shut an entire generation of youth out of the housing market, and the aftershocks of the 2008 housing collapse and subprime mortgage scandal, which resulted in foreclosures and discouraged subsequent mortgage lending to first-time buyers.12

The economic, social, and political desirability of owning a home has increasingly sentenced the average American family to stifling mortgage payments and a lifetime of debt. In just the twenty-year period between 1985 and 2005, monthly housing costs as a percentage of household budgets increased 128 percent. If small farms had created the stability of the original American population, postwar home ownership had seen it continue. But in the latter twentieth century, both were fading from the American landscape.

In the 1940s, the average appraised value of an American home was under $3,000. Yet sixty years later, in 2000, the average cost in adjusted dollars had soared to $119,600. Currently, the average American home sells for about $200,000—roughly $170,000 more than the average 1940 cost, adjusted for inflation.

Of course, both remodeled and new homes are usually bigger and better equipped than their earlier counterparts—but not to the degree that their real costs should have increased tenfold. The surge in costs was largely a result of new government codes and zoning regulations, increased land prices, new builders’ and legal fees, steep property taxes, environmental regulations, and developers’ reluctance to invest in less remunerative starter homes. Federal loan programs such as those sponsored by the Federal Housing Authority and the Veterans Administration, along with rising incomes, for a time helped to grow the home-owning middle class in the postwar period. But they could not keep up with the inflationary pressures on home pricing. In some sense, the new regulations and obstacles to home ownership were birthed by legislators, regulators, and bureaucrats who already owned homes.

More recent and far more costly federal programs run by the Department of Housing and Urban Development—$50 billion spent in 2014 alone—in a cost-to-benefit analysis have proved mostly unsuccessful in ensuring adequate home ownership, either for the poor through housing subsidies or in mortgage guarantees for the lower middle classes. Despite these massive government outlays, the costs of home ownership have climbed more rapidly. The social desirability of owning a home became institutionalized, but as real incomes began to stagnate, Americans grew more indebted and angry at the idea of becoming indentured in order to remain middle class.13

Nicholas Eberstadt, an American Enterprise Institute economist, summed up well the relationship between declining middling-class income and eroding home ownership:

The numbers are shocking. Nearly three in eight American homes today are rentals. Most are too near a hand-to-mouth existence. In 2019, half of all renters had a net worth of under $6,000. Over half of renting seniors had less than $7,000 to their name. Nearly half of all female-headed renter families had less than $2,000 in net worth.… Moreover, whether renters or homeowners, the lower half in America saw its mean net worth fall between 1989 and 2019—by a sixth or even more, depending on which measure of inflation one prefers.

Workers’ wages had also risen dramatically throughout much of the twentieth century in steady fashion, at least until slowing in the 1960s. The increases reflected the postwar era in which, for three decades, the United States had a near monopoly on supplying consumer goods to much of the war-torn world in Europe and Asia. Yet, between 1980 and 2017, wages noticeably began to stagnate, at least for the majority of the middle class. The cause was in part lethargic productivity and in part the ascendance of the exporting colossuses of Germany, Japan, the so-called Asian Tigers, and China. Unsurprisingly, then, whereas 70 percent of American families had relied on one income earner in 1960, sixty years later only 30 percent could.14

In terms of college costs, the story of middle-class erosion is similar, or perhaps even worse. In 1987–1988 students who enrolled in public


  • “Mr. Hanson, an accomplished classicist and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, is one of the great amalgamators of American political writing. He has a particular gift for bringing together a dizzying array of events, controversies and ideas and making sense of them by advancing a coherent argument that incorporates thousands of years of history… Mr. Hanson hits hard, but I don’t find his analysis unfair or partisan. There is enormous value, moreover, in thinking about toxic political developments not as problems of the moment but as destructive pathologies to which all societies are prone at all times.”—Wall Street Journal
  • “Indispensable… Hanson’s immensely erudite and inspiriting book offers a most welcome corrective to those influential forces and doctrines in our midst that conspire to delegitimize the citizen and citizenship as such. In doing so, he provides us with hope that our society still has within it significant powers of rejuvenation.”—National Review
  • “As Victor Davis Hanson shows in his learned, powerful, and troubling new book, The Dying Citizen, the steady devolution of citizenship speaks volumes about where we are today and where we seem to be heading… Hanson lays out this grim diagnosis with his usual clarity and brilliance, moving easily from his deep specialized knowledge of the ancient Greek and Roman world through savvy observations about present-day politics and American society.”
    The New Criterion
  • “A powerful and carefully developed argument for preserving American citizenship.”
    American Thinker
  • “Required reading for all those who seriously want to engage in the fieriest issues of our days at their most thoughtful levels of depth.”—Epoch Times
  • “Hanson is well-positioned to describe the evolution of citizenship from ancient times through the modern era, and especially the assumptions about citizenship underlying America's constitutional order… Hanson presents, clearly and concisely, a case that critics will struggle to refute. His troubling argument has far-reaching implications. The Dying Citizen is a book that all Americans should read, then discuss with friends and neighbors.”—Claremont Review of Books
  • “Among public intellectuals writing within a secular framework about America’s troubles, Victor Davis Hanson towers above the rest.”—First Things
  • The Dying Citizen is essential reading for any American who cares about the fate of our nation.”—Mark R. Levin
  • “In The Dying Citizen, Victor Davis Hanson shows once again why he is America's premier scholar, writer, and political observer. Drawing on his training as a classicist, and clearly informed by his deep personal experience living and farming in California's San Joaquin Valley, Hanson has written a tour de force on the history, rights, and responsibilities of modern citizenship, and the galaxy of forces that are undermining the concept of American citizenship today. Immensely enlightening but also deeply unsettling, The Dying Citizen is a wake-up call for our countrymen who want to preserve the American ideal for future generations.”—Rep. Devin Nunes
  • “Citizenship brings all the enduring principles of democracy into the sphere of the individual.  It honors the human need for a collective identity even as it makes room for the individual to pursue happiness. In this remarkably illuminating book, Victor Davis Hanson shows how so many contemporary problems—identity politics, the border crisis, bloated government, etc.—have only worsened for the lack of a vigorous and clarifying idea of citizenship. In this deeply democratic idea, Hanson points to a way beyond what ails us.”
     —Shelby Steele, author of Shame
  • “Politicians often speak to “my fellow citizens,” implying a kind of common project among all citizens.  In America, that project is our shared devotion to our founding principles.  Victor Davis Hanson explains in The Dying Citizen, however, that this uniquely American concept of citizenship is imperiled—whether from ancient threats like economic stagnation, open borders, and racial discord, or modern ones like unelected bureaucrats, anti-Constitution progressives, and globalists. As only he can, Hanson weaves together history, philosophy, and contemporary headlines to diagnose our current woes and to remind them that the cure lies in what is best in them and in America.”—Senator Tom Cotton
  • “Victor Davis Hanson’s book is not a complaint nor a polemic but rather a fine-grained diagnosis of a very serious disease. Its symptoms are all around us: the fragmentation of America’s national identity by the assertion of not merely separate but separatist identities with the vehement support of the most privileged of all Americans. May this brilliant diagnosis lead us to a cure.”—Edward N. Luttwak, author of The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy
  • “The great glory of the democratic revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was extending the blessings of citizenship to anyone and everyone who embraced the principles and responsibilities of self-governing nations. As Victor Davis Hanson explains, by subtle degrees we’re reversing course, through a deliberate attempt to dilute and eventually erase national identity, sovereignty, borders, and the meaningful content of citizenship itself. But if everyone is a “citizen of everywhere,” it means they are citizens of nowhere, with the return of autocratic rule the final result. The hour is late, and we have Hanson to thank for this capacious account of what we need to recover.”—Steven F. Hayward, author of Patriotism Is Not Enough
  • “This is not a drill—this is the real thing. If you don’t believe that the survival of the American republic hangs in the balance, you must read Victor Davis Hanson’s relentless exposition of the facts. America’s free citizenry is at imminent risk of defeat at the hands of an unelected Deep State allied to a globalist elite that flouts American law with impunity and plans to jettison the Constitution. Even if you think you’re informed and alarmed about these trends, Hanson’s brilliant presentation will leave you much better prepared to address these dangers. Get this book into the hands of everyone you know.”—David Goldman, deputy editor of Asia Times and author of You Will Be Assimilated
  • “Once again Victor Davis Hanson has written a masterly account of a great public affairs crisis. He has given a learned history of the concept and indispensability in a democracy of responsible citizenship; has perceptively chronicled how it has been undermined in the US; how Donald Trump in his sometimes frantic way tried to revive it, and of the tense but not unhopeful current prospects. This book is a concise masterpiece that all serious citizens should read.”
     —Conrad Black
  • “This is a book about an ongoing and threatening change of ‘regime,’ which means a change not only in how we are governed but also in how we live. To understand such a thing requires perspective: Victor Hanson is deeply educated in the classics, where knowledge of regimes was first developed. It also requires a close observation of what is happening today, about which he writes insightfully and in profusion. In this book, Hanson demonstrates yet again his command across time and for our time. This book and he are a treasure.”
     —Larry P. Arnn, president of Hillsdale College

On Sale
Oct 5, 2021
Page Count
432 pages
Basic Books

Victor Davis Hanson

About the Author

Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow in military history at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and a professor emeritus of classics at California State University, Fresno. He is the author of over two dozen books, most recently The Case for Trump. He lives in Selma, California.

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