James Morone

James A. Morone, a political science professor at Brown University , is the author of Hellfire Nation: The Politics of Sin in American History.

Recent Articles

Freedom Freely Imagined

    Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America's Founding Ideas by David Hackett Fischer (Oxford University Press, 851 pages, $50.00)

George W. Bush used the word “freedom” 24 times during his second inaugural address. After the president's handlers rushed out and denied that he was looking to start more wars, George Bush Senior clarified the point of his son's speech. “It's about freedom,” he explained.

In God's Name

The Bush administration rushed into war talking about good and evil. "A calculated, malignant, devastating evil has arisen in our world," proclaimed Attorney General John Ashcroft. "And we know God is not neutral," added President Bush. While few defend Saddam Hussein, people around the world are troubled by the American crusade. The Bush administration has turned a complex international problem into an epic contest between the virtuous and the vicious -- and, of course, one cannot compromise with demons. Invoking God as we occupy other lands is as American as, well, manifest destiny.

The Corrosive Politics of Virtue

Decrying moral failure is an old American tradition that goes back to the Puritans. But the moral diagnosis is wrong -- and it brings pernicious political consequences.

The most influential men in America met in Boston.
The nation, they agreed, faced a terrible moral crisis: rampant substance abuse,
sex (even the old taboo against naked breasts seemed to be gone), illegitimacy.
Public schools were languishing, the pursuit of profits was appalling, the
explosion of lawsuits completely out of hand. Worst of all, parents were doing a
terrible job of raising their kids—not enough discipline. "Most of the
evils" that afflict our society, reported the conference, stem from "defects
as to family government." The gathering published a famous call for moral
reform in 1679.

Cultural Phenomena: Dumbledore's Message

Back when the Harry Potter books first reached America,
the righteous were ready: Conservative Christians called for a ban on the little
wizard. Focus on the Family, a conservative religious group, cautioned that
"witchcraft...is directly denounced in scripture." Evangelical preachers pounded
Harry Potter as "the work of the devil." Harry flattened the preachers, of
course--the tally now stands at 114 million books sold and still counting. My
next-door neighbor, Laura Walker (age 13), blasted through the most recent
book--the 734-page Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire--in two summer
days, then flipped back to the beginning and started again. With the whole wired