DANIEL BELL, who died on January 25th, aged 91 (my column this week looks back on his life and works), was always sensitive to being called a neocon. He cut his intellectual teeth with future neocons at "Alcove No. 1", at City College. He was a close friend of Irving Kristol, the godfather of neoconservatism, and even founded the Public Interest with him. But he always remained, as he described himself, "a socialist in economics, a liberal in politics and a conservative in culture". Here is a letter he sent to us when we bracketed him a little too closely with Kristol.

SIR - Your obituary of Irving Kristol (September 26th) aligned me with his effort to transform conservatism from a dour to a modern outlook. I was never part of such an effort. I co-founded the Public Interest with Kristol. In our opening statement of intent there was not a word about conservatism; instead we focused on our effort to discuss public policy and to make whatever knowledge we have, primarily in the social sciences, more effective. From 1965 to 1972 most of our economic articles, for example, were written by Robert Solow, Tom Schelling, Robert Heilbroner and Ed Kuh, whose "demogrant" proposals (benefits based on demographic characteristics) were adopted by George McGovern.

Both Kristol and I supported Hubert Humphrey for president against Richard Nixon in 1968. All this came to a head in 1972 when Kristol, under great pressure from the right, declared for Nixon. Faute de mieux, I declared for Mr McGovern. Irving had also begun to espouse supply-side economics, and write about it in ideological terms, in the pages of the Wall Street Journal.

I had been friends with Kristol since 1937, going back to our days at the City College of New York. Yet when we began to disagree, even quarrel, about the direction of the Public Interest, I told Irving, but also said that friendship is more important than ideology, which I still believe. I resigned as co-editor of the magazine, to be replaced by our mutual friend Nathan Glazer. None of the economists I mentioned above ever wrote subsequently for the Public Interest. It had become, then, a neoconservative journal. I remain, if a label has to be stated, a social democrat in the mould of my old, close friend, Tony Crosland.

I mourn Irving Kristol. He was an extraordinarily warm, witty and engaging man. I remained friends with Irving and his wife Gertrude Himmelfarb. But I did not share their political views.

Daniel Bell,

Cambridge, Massachusetts