Why do otherwise decent people embrace ideologies that entail the killing of millions? What is the appeal that made so many people, especially intellectuals, support Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, and Mao? Whittaker Chambers argued that if we are to combat the most monstrous evil in the history of the world—totalitarianism, as invented in the twentieth century by Lenin—we must understand what draws some people to it and makes others incapable of countering, or even understanding, its appeal.

Marx and Milton Friedman notwithstanding, the answer has nothing to do with economics. If the best one can say against the Soviet Union and for the West is that free markets create a higher growth rate, one has already lost the game. Having been converted first to Communism and then from it, Chambers knew that Communism’s fundamental strength lay in its spiritual dimension.

It is no surprise, then, to learn from Richard...

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