Ben Shapiro is indisputably one of the most significant conservative commentators of modern times. While I frequently disagree with him, his points are often well-made, reasonable, and excellently show the flaws of leftist thinking. How to Destroy America in Three Easy Steps, his recent book, is an example of that.
In a concise and well-written work, Shapiro thoroughly demolishes the way leftists view the United States’ history, philosophy, and culture and shows why, far from wanting to create a “more perfect union,” they actually want to demolish the union and radically transform it in their own image. Those Disintegrations, as Shapiro calls them, don’t love America or want to subtly change some aspects of it. They want to destroy it because they hate our history and values.
As you will read in the analysis section of this review of How to Destroy America in Three Easy Steps, I disagreed with Shapiro on a number of the finer points made in his book. But, overall, his general ideas and conclusions are well-supported and excellently articulated. Whatever the book’s shortcomings, and there are a few, it shows just why the leftists are so wrong and what their twisted view of America is.
Summary of How to Destroy America in Three Easy Steps by Ben Shapiro
Shapiro begins How to Destroy America in Three Easy Steps by presenting a dark view, albeit one that has become increasingly obvious over the past years and months: Americans don’t like each other anymore. Republicans and Democrats hate each other and the ties that bind us together are severely frayed. Shapiro describes the cause of that as being the battle between the “Unionists,” or people who love America and want to hold it together, and the “Disintegrationists,” who hate America and want to tear it apart so they can create a nation in their image.
Shapiro defines unionism in How to Destroy America in Three Easy Steps as the belief in the traditional values that have kept America together, namely our belief in natural rights, equality before the law, and the idea that government exists only to protest those two things. Additionally, part of a belief in unionism is a belief in America’s founding philosophy of reason, equality, liberty, and limited government. Without that shared culture and philosophy, the ideas that the Disintegrationists claim are a threat to the “common good,” we drift into tribalism.
Shapiro then describes the American philosophy in what is one of the stronger chapters of How to Destroy America in Three Easy Steps. His main focus is on rights, specifically natural rights and the idea that rights pre-exist government. To Shapiro, the America philosophy is composed of three major parts- human being have real, discernable individual rights, all humans are created with equal rights, and the government should protect those rights rather than override them in the name of the common good.
The next part of How to Destroy America in Three Easy Steps is the other side of the issue of American philosophy– how the Disintegrationists, such as Obama, want to do away with it and what their philosophy is. They want to replace science with grievance, replace rights with the collective, inculcate in Americans the idea of what he calls “pseudo-rights,” which are “rights” such as the right to healthcare, wipe away human inequality by doing away with inequality under the law, and use the judiciary to promulgate favored social policies.
Their ideas run counter to the philosophy that guided America for many years and are more in the vein of what liberal fascists like Wilson believed than what the Founding Fathers believed.
After discussing American philosophy from the view of Unionists and Disintegrationists, Shapiro delves into how those same groups view American culture.
According to Shapiro in How to Destroy America in Three Easy Steps, Unionists view American culture as a culture of rights and places a heavy emphasis on The Federalist Papers while doing so. That culture of rights is composed of four parts- tolerance for the rights of others, robust social institutions that imbue us with a sense of morality, a willingness to defend our rights against the advances of tyranny, and a sense of adventure.
To Unionists, the risks inherent in a culture of rights far outweigh the danger of a government attempting to define and cram down virtue on a populace. The robust institutions provide the social fabric that allows those rights to exist and our sense of adventure means we don’t try to erase the rights of others to establish a state of complete safety.
Disintegrationists, however, want to do away with that culture of rights because rights conflict with their utopian visions. They want to prosecute hate speech, do away with free speech, quash our spirit of adventure in the name of safety. Americans used to be adventurers and entrepreneurs. If the Disintegrations have their way, that will no longer be the case. They, in the words of Shapiro, want to “[dismiss] freedom on the behalf of security,” which runs completely counter to the quote by Samuel Adams on liberty and safety.
Next in How to Destroy America in Three Easy Steps is the view of American history, again through the lenses of both Unionists and Disintegrationists.
For Unionists, American history generally begins with the revolutionary generation, great men like Jefferson, Washington, and Adams. America’s story is one of constant striving toward a “more perfect union” in which freedom eventually triumphed, even over slavery. Capitalism led to increasing wealth, free enterprise traditionally triumphed, and the Progressive Era that followed the Gilded Age was a terrible time that led to the doing away with of our traditional view of free enterprise. But, generally, America was in the right and its story is an honorable one.
The Disintegrationists, according to How to Destroy America in Three Easy Steps, want to destroy that positive view of American history. Our story is one of evils such as slavery and men like Jefferson and Washington were not mostly good men with some flaws, but evil men because they owned slaves. Whatever evils their are in our system are the outgrowth of past injustices and the conception of rights and government that had existed since the founding was done away with starting in the Progressive Era. To them, slavery is the key aspect of America’s story, not freedom.
To Shapiro, Americans should believe that America was always great. Our unique philosophy and culture can be seen throughout our history and are things we should be proud of. We might not have always lived up to our ideals, but our story is generally a good one. That view is one that runs counter to the Disintegrationist view that America can never be great because its history is a story of evil triumphing. They want to found a new country, one that does away with almost all of traditional American culture, philosophy, and history. How to Destroy America in Three Easy Steps is a book about why they’re wrong and what they’re attempting to do.
My Take on How to Destroy America in Three Easy Steps
Overall, I thought How to Destroy America in Three Easy Steps was a pretty good book. Shapiro’s defenses of American culture, history, and philosophy are excellently crafted and show just why America is great. Similarly, his depiction of the Disintegrationists is a generally accurate one that shows what they’re doing and why. Those aspects of it make it an excellent primer to the culture war.
However, there are, in my view, some serious flaws with How to Destroy America in Three Easy Steps.
For one, Shapiro seems unwilling, at times, to address the reality of our present situation. For example, in the chapter on how Disintegrationists view American culture, Shapiro attacks the modern right for wanting to use the government to bring about a return of morality. That would be an accurate criticism if true, but I think it paints that belief in an unfair light. The goal is not to have the government saying what exactly is right or wrong and have the government enforce some code of conduct, as the Saudis or Iranians do. But what is wrong with incentivizing, through tax deductions or other policies, religiosity, raising children, or keeping parents married?
Similarly, he never presents a reason in How to Destroy America in Three Easy Steps why we should try to live with the Disintegrationists and tolerate their ideas. There’s the vague notion of accepting their viewpoints because everyone has a right to speak, but how can a country survives if it allows a small but vocal segment of the population to attack its very foundations?
Treason and sedition are not protected by the 1st Amendment, and a good argument could be made that, in their attempts to destroy the country, Disintegrationists are acting in a seditious manner, and if they’re doing so with the goal of bringing about a Chinese system, then that’s treason because it helps our enemies and their ideology.
And, finally, Shapiro never says why a splitting of America into two nations that respect our history and founding and those that don’t would be bad. According to the book, the Disintegrationists want to eradicate America as we know it. Additionally, they make up a sizable fraction of the American population. While they’re not an outright majority, they are a sizable minority. What would be so bad about separating ourselves from them?
I’m not saying I think the “Disintegrationists” should be arrested and tried for sedition or treason. Nor am I saying the government should incentivize a certain morality. I am conflicted on those topics as am, I am sure, many other conservatives. But I do think that Shapiro fails to effectively address those ideas. He mentions topics similar to them in passing, but never gets to the root of why thinking those things is wrong.
And the biggest problem is that he never addresses that final criticism, the one about giving the Disintegrationists some land to try to implement their anti-freedom philosophy and cultural ideas. I think that would be a terrible idea. But it is one that is becoming more popular on the left and right. How to Destroy America in Three Easy Steps would have been an excellent place to address it and Shapiro’s decision not to weighs heavily on the book.
How to Destroy America in Three Easy Steps is a great introduction to the culture war and the opposing sides. It is not, however, without its flaws. Perhaps it could be updated in a future edition to answer the questions left unresolved.
Should you read How to Destroy America in Three Easy Steps? Absolutely you should. Yes, it isn’t perfect. Few books, especially books about topics as complex and contentious as our culture war, are. However, it is very useful in teaching you whom we’re fighting and what their ideas are.
My criticism shouldn’t be viewed as a wholesale condemnation of the book. Like I said, it’s generally excellent. That general excellence makes it worth reading. Even though it has flaws, it’s about an important enough topic that you need to read it. We conservatives need to know who we’re fighting and why. How to Destroy America in Three Easy Steps, while not perfect, is a good start.
By: Gen Z Conservative