Farewell to ‘The Public Interest’

By David Skinner
From The Weekly Standard

What everyone who’s worked at The Public Interest talks about is what a privilege it was to hang around Irving Kristol. The job amounted to a kind of graduate school in life as a public intellectual. Irving would recommend books and offer career advice, often unsolicited and almost invariably sound. (“You want to go to law school? Why? Do you want to be a lawyer? No? Then don’t go to law school.”) The unpartitioned one-room office—which former executive editor Ben Wildavsky, now education editor of U.S. News and World Report, suggests was set up to look like the Commentary offices circa 1952 (the last year Kristol worked there)–allowed the young editors to eavesdrop on Irving’s phone calls and talk with him about any number of issues. One former editor remembers the days when Irving would dictate letters to his longtime assistant Rita Lazzaro, which allowed the younger assistants to listen in as he debated various correspondents by mail. One of the big lessons offered was in “how to behave,” says Wildavsky. I myself carry around in my head a sort of Irving Kristol tutorial on the proper conduct of an editor, whose main lessons are how to be modest without being meek, frank without being vulgar, and direct without being hostile—standards I’ve fallen short of only about a thousand times. [more]

Our Own Cool Hand Luke

By Charles Krauthammer
From The Washington Post

It gathered around it a remarkable constellation of writers. The cover of the first issue, reprinted in the current and last issue, features articles by Kristol, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Robert Solow (a future Nobel Prize winner in economics), Jacques Barzun, Daniel Bell and Nathan Glazer. By the third issue they had added Milton Friedman, James Q. Wilson and Peter Drucker. For 40 years, an all-star team of social thinkers tilted at windmills and, unlike most brainy journals, knocked them down. The magazine’s increasingly neoconservative bent over the years quietly shaped, and then came to dominate, political discourse in America. [more]

40 Years of Character

By David Brooks
From The New York Times

The Public Interest will cease publication next month. This may not seem very important, since the magazine has never had more than 10,000 subscribers. But over the past 40 years, The Public Interest has had more influence on domestic policy than any other journal in the country – by far. It didn’t discover as much truth as Moses did during his four decades of wandering, but it did pretty well. [more]

Mission Accomplished, a Journal Folds

By Edward Rothstein
From The New York Times

In the mid-1960’s, its mild mission statement was actually a statement of dissent. “It is the nature of ideology to preconceive reality,” the editors wrote, but “The Public Interest will be animated by a bias against all such prefabrications.” [more]