BOOKS: The Colonial Coalition

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"Fighting For Liberty and Virtue: Political and Cultural Wars in Eighteenth-Century America," by Marvin Olasky (Crossway, 316 pp.; $25, hardcover). Reviewed by Russ Pulliam, editor at the Indianapolis News.

Marvin Olasky wears many hats. A professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, and the editor of World magazine, he is also a historian whose books have a way of providing useful contemporary applications. His best-known work, "The Tragedy of American Compassion" (1992), gained national attention when Newt Gingrich singled it out as required reading to understand the need for welfare reform. (A sequel, "Renewing American Compassion," is forthcoming from the Free Press in May.)

Olasky's new book, "Fighting for Liberty and Virtue," is the first installment in a projected trilogy, "The American Experience." He began research on this project before the rise of the Christian Coalition. But Olasky believes in the doctrine of providence and would appreciate the timing of his book with respect to current political events.

Conservative Republicans who swept the 1994 election forged an uneasy but potent alliance between Religious Right groups and free-market conservatives. The parallels between that current history and the colonial struggle recounted in Fighting for Liberty and Virtue are implicit but unmistakable. Olasky argues that the British were the big-government liberals. They were imposing higher taxes, writing bureaucratic rules and regulations in London, and offering "benefits" that the colonists did not seem to appreciate very much. The colonists, on the other hand, were the small-government conservatives, seeking independence and reduced, decentralized government.

Olasky perceives an interesting colonial ...

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