Book Reviews

Militarism: Our Civic Religion

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Militarism, U.S.A by Col. James Donovan; Foreword by Gen. David Shoup (Scribner’s 1970), 265 pages Today the United States is engaged in seemingly winless wars without end in Iraq and Afghanistan and has been engaging in interventions in places such as Libya, which seem to result in nothing but chaos. Libya has descended into civil war and the rise ... [click for more]

Empire, Security, and the War State

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The War State: The Cold War Origins of the Military-Industrial Complex and the Power Elite, 1945–1963 by Michael Swanson (CreateSpace 2013), 430 pages. In the October 1958 issue of The New Yorker, near the high-water mark of McCarthyism, the novelist and literary critic Mary McCarthy famously wrote, “Bureaucracy, the rule of no one, has become the modern form of despotism.” ... [click for more]

Government versus Progress

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Intellectual Privilege: Copyright, Common Law, and the Common Good by Tom W. Bell (Mercatus Center 2014), 238 pages. Permissionless Innovation: The Continuing Case for Comprehensive Technological Freedom by Adam Thierer (Mercatus Center 2014), 1089 pages. These books cover two different aspects of the same phenomenon — how laws and regulations obstruct progress. Tom Bell’s Intellectual Privilege examines copyright law, which ... [click for more]

How Technology Can Create Political Change

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Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World by Jeffrey Tucker (Liberty.me 2015), Kindle, 130 pages (estimated). Jeffrey Tucker opens with the story of Fereshteh Forough, who set up a chain of clinics in Afghanistan to empower women by teaching them coding, design, and other computer skills that they could market directly on the web. The problem they ... [click for more]

Missing the Point about Flourishing

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Mass Flourishing: How Grassroots Innovation Created Jobs, Challenge, and Change Movement by Edmund Phelps (Princeton University Press 2013), 392 pages. Nobel Laureate Edmund Phelps evaluates economic systems with a view to how they promote human prosperity, or “flourishing”: engagement, meeting challenges, self-expression, and personal growth.... A person’s flourishing comes from the experience of the new: new situations, new problems, ... [click for more]

The Real Story Remains Untold

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Liberty’s Dawn: A People’s History of the Industrial Revolution by Emma Griffin (Yale University Press 2013), 320 pages). Emma Griffin calls this a “People’s History of the Industrial Revolution,” and uses documentation of much the same kind as E.P. Thompson in The Making of the English Working Class — a work she explicitly frames her work as a ... [click for more]

Children Learn More from Starfish than from Spiders

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The Rebirth of Education: Schooling Ain’t Learning by Lant Pritchett (Center for Global Development 2013), 288 pages. This book, which indicts centralized state schooling in the developing world, engages you from beginning to end. Examples from Pritchett’s own experiences in India and his use of Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom’s spiders and starfish tropes to differentiate centralized from ... [click for more]

Libertarians and Political Violence

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To Shake Their Guns in the Tyrant’s Face: Libertarian Political Violence and the Origins of the Militia Movement by Robert H. Churchill (University of Michigan Press 2011), 384 pages. Discussions regarding the legitimate use of force are not limited to any single ideology. Perhaps the defining quality of any political movement vying for validity is its position on ... [click for more]

Why Doesn’t Democracy Work?

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Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government Is Smarter by Ilya Somin (Stanford University Press 2013), 280 pages. In Democracy and Political Ignorance, law professor Ilya Somin looks down into the apparently fathomless depth of voter ignorance and concludes that dividing and decentralizing the power of the federal government can alleviate many of the ills attending such ignorance. Somin ... [click for more]

Nothing to Fear from New Technologies If the Market Is Free

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The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee (W.W. Norton & Company 2014), 320 pages. The subject of this book is the “second machine age,” in which “computers and other digital advances are doing for mental power — the ability to use our brains to understand ... [click for more]

“Both Together, They Made a Very Good Book”

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The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Left and Right by Yuval Levin (Basic Books 2014), 235 pages. Yuval Levin’s well-written Great Debate is full of useful material, understandable explanation, and interesting reflections. It flows along smoothly and even entertainingly, unless that is a cuss word in serious circles. Levin goes through the Burke-Paine controversy ... [click for more]

Ignoring the Difference between Free markets and State Capitalism

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Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, translated by Arthur Goldhammer (Belknap 2014), 696 pages. The basic phenomenon that Thomas Piketty devotes this book to describing is simple: “When the rate of return on capital significantly exceeds the growth rate of the economy..., then it logically follows that inherited wealth grows faster than output and income.” His historical account ... [click for more]
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