My original idea was a quiet exit, entirely without fuss: out the door and back to Indiana. No explanations, no farewells, no summing up. But colleagues and friends objected: people might misunderstand, think I was leaving under duress or in a fit of pique. Since neither of these is the case--my fellow editors insist (at least for the record) that they would rather I stayed and I know I am quite without pique I had to reconsider. The reason for my hesitation to write about my departure from FT was simple. I had nothing out of the ordinary to say about it. Retirement announcements, I pointed out, are virtually always exercises in banality. "Well," my wife replied, "maybe it's an occasion for banality." (She was charitable enough not to suggest that I had met such occasions before.)
In simplest terms, I'm leaving because it feels like it's time to leave. I'm already a year past the standard retirement age, and I had never assumed I would work much beyond that. With this issue FT completes fourteen years of publication, and fourteen years seems to me a long enough tenure as Editor. I'm not exhausted, but meeting the endless deadlines has become more and more tedious. Better to go before it becomes truly onerous.
There are also signs of ideological malaise. FT is a journal of opinion, and its editors are necessarily involved in the inevitable conflicts of ideas that mark any democratic society's deliberations over how it should arrange its affairs. America is engaged in an ongoing and intense battle of beliefs, and FT stands, broadly speaking, with the cause of cultural conservatism and theological orthodoxy. Those on our side of the barricades are what Peter Steinfels has labeled "counterintellectuals," people who operate in the intellectual world but who do not share the sense of alienation from the dominant values and beliefs of the middle-American majority that is prevalent in that world. My problem is that, while I am happy to be identified as a counterintellectual and am as fully persuaded an adversary of the adversary culture as I have ever been, my enthusiasm for waging the culture war has gradually declined.
A few years back I stopped writing my regular column. I had said what I wanted to say about what seemed to me the most important issues of American politics and culture and, not wishing to repeat myself, was finding it increasingly difficult to find subjects on which to write. The column had become more a journalistic chore than an...