DOASKDOTELL BOOK REVIEWs of Lou Dobbs: War on the Middle Class, Exporting America; Dorgan: Take this Job and Ship It, Lomborg: Cool It; Friedman: The World Is Flat; Hot, Flat and Crowded;  David Smick: The World Is Curved; Alan Greenspan: The Age of Turbulence; Gore: The Assault on Reason; Jacoby: The Age of American Unreason; Cafferty: It's Getting Ugly Out There; Now or Never; Karelis: The Persistence of Poverty; Lowenstein: While America Aged; Morris: The Trillion Dollar Meltdown; Perkins: Confessions of an Economic Hit Man; Klein: The Shock Doctrine; Elshtain: Sovereignty; Senge: The Necessary Revolution Leeb: The Coming Economic Collapse; Gladwell: Outliers: The Story of Success Krugman: The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008  Blankley: American Grit; Ramo: The Age of the Unthinkable; Levin: Liberty and Tyranny; DeMint: Saving Freedom; Zakarai: The Post-American World; House/Howard: Something's Rising; Moisi: The Geopolitics of Emotion; Main: Bulldozed; Levitt & Dubner: Super Freakonomics; Bartlett: The New American Economy; Walker: Comeback America; Lewis: The Big Short; Joseph: Aftermath


Author (or Editor):  Lou Dobbs

Title:  War on the Middle Class: How the Government, Big Business, and Special Interest Groups Are Waging War on the American Dream, and How to Fight Back

Fiction? No

Publisher:  Viking, New York

Date:  2006

ISBN:  0-670-03792-3

Series Name:

Physical description: hardbound, 276 pgs, indexed with extras (below)

Relevance to doaskdotell: special interests, integrity in business and government


When I was taking adult courses at Hennepin County Technical College near Minneapolis in the fall of 2002, I would have supper in a cafeteria and watch CNN at the end of the room before the 6 PM Central Time class started. I always caught some of Lou Dobbs and his Moneyline, which was getting into troubling stuff in the post 9/11, post Enron, post Worldcomm era.

Here I mention his extra. He appends his book with a copy of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and Amendments 11-17. He encourages everyone to read them and think about going back, not to just limiting the power of government, but to restoring its integrity. Dobbs says that he is a proper Republican, and yet you don’t see that until 2/3 the way through, as much of the book he is making well-founded liberal arguments for social justice and reform.  

Dobbs starts out by relating the pressures in professional journalism to slant the truth. When he expressed his opinion that the War on Terror is a War on radical Islam, he was almost blackballed from significant government contacts. He was critical of network journalism’s unwillingness to speak of “illegal aliens” or “illegal immigrants.” Yes, the tone of professional journalism can be modulated by political correctness, and a fear of offending too many people in the electorate. He does come out and call for a commitment to Truth in reporting.

This is a difficult thing to do. The professional media and press have to go through the usual self-protective due diligence as review what goes on the air, and that costs money. Small fry and newbies (like me) skip all of that to tell the truth, and find we cannot deliver as professional-looking a product to compete with them; when someone like me wants to be taken seriously, it seems I am trespassing on their turf.

So, like David Callahan in The Cheating Culture, Dobbs launches in on the worst abuses in lobbying, trade, job offshoring, health care. In all of these areas he makes valuable points.

Early on, he explains how he thinks the economic dislocations started. One catalyst was Michael Milken and junk bonds (Drexel Burnham Lambert) which would enable the enormous leveraged buyouts and corporate raiding activities (like by Ivan Boesky, who attacked by overlord employer, Borg-Warner, owning Chilton in the 1980s). Another was the huge stock options offered to roaming tech employees in the early days of the dot-com boom (1990s), that would go bust. 

For example, on bankruptcy reform, he recognizes the need for self-discipline by consumers, but reports that most personal bankruptcies result from medical costs. He is appropriately critical of NAFTA and other trade agreements as threatening to American sovereignty. (I recall getting a call from a Clinton administration pollster in 1993 on NAFTA! We also have to bear in mind the counterweight arguments about protectionism.)  On job offshoring, he makes an interesting observation about the Y2K effect. Companies could not hire enough programmers to check and make all the changes, so they hired companies in India. Lo and behold, after 2000 flipped, they found that overseas companies could keep all the mainframe application maintenance work as well as overnight support. Programmers were laid off, and many dropped out, feeling that they had been eliminated by a normal Darwinian cycle. Now companies may need them back. The expectation of such utilitarian personnel staffing policies causes professionals to think about their careers differently, and be less willing to remain committed to retaining professional certification or skill levels in exportable skills. That did happen to me. He points out that offshoring of information skills can cause security problems and increase the risk of identity theft or increased vulnerability to major disruptions from viruses and worms or terrorists.   

He does talk about collusion in government and business, and even mentions the Skull and Bones society at Yale (depicted in the movie The Good Shepherd).

At the end, he makes his own proposals. He wants strict control of illegal immigration, which he believes is a boon for greedy employers. He wants English promoted in the school systems (he notes some school districts in Texas have tried to force teachers and administrators to become bilingual -- I wonder how Dobbs would like the film "Freedom Writers"!). This includes much stricter campaign finance reform, with complete public funding. (I wonder how the blogger controversy with the Federal Election Commission would come out.) He does recommend that voters cease to see themselves as partisan and become independent. He also recommends more use of initiative and referendum, which can be dangerous, however, to some people, especially gays and lesbians. (At one point he does criticize the waste of Congressional time on the gay marriage amendment when there was more pressing business at hand.)

In general, he leaves us with a picture of American business as a bit of a spoils system disguised as a personal meritocracy. You prove you are good enough and virtuous enough to deserve your wealth, and you find a system above you with the morality of the Vatican when it was selling indulgences before Martin Luther. No wonder newbies like me want to do things my own way.

Lou Dobbs. Exporting America: Why Corporate Greed Is Shipping American Jobs Overseas (2004, Warner Books, ISBN 0-446-57744-8, 196 pgs, two appendices of readers' letters and abusive companies, hardcover) is a simpler book and fairly short, with small pages, outlining the same thesis in more elementary terms. Some of Dobbs's points really come out. He asks us the moral question as to whether American corporations should be loyal to American stakeholders, rather than maintaining that they are building global living standards, which they are, an argument that Thomas Friedman will use in his Flat World opus, below. He counters typical free trade arguments by discussing Reagan administration policies, that resulted in foreign companies setting up factories in the United States, especially for cars. (In the mid 1980s American-made cars started getting much better, so that now the typical domestic compact can last a dozen years or so and well over 100,000 miles without major failures, if well maintained.)  He discusses the offshoring of skilled jobs, even to the point that movies set in the United States are often filmed overseas (such as Cold Mountain, a civil war epic from Miramax filmed in Romania).

But what stands out in this book, more than in the others on this review page, is the way corporate outsourcing affects ordinary individual attitudes about loyalty and speech. Because I expected my own job skills to be outsourced after Y2K (which had caused a blip in the demand for COBOL programmers in the late 1990s, to die after Y2K, although now it may be coming back), I did not maintain an aggressive position with respect to advancement and deploying mainframe skills. Instead I focused on my book, websites, and attempts to approach the film business in semi-retirement -- presenting its own issues because of the way I have to present myself publicly. Yet, high level corporate employment has come to mean public relations management and a "we give you the words" attitude, antithetical to intellectual honesty of any kind. There is a section of recommendations from William Bierce and Security Industry News about "What to Say When Lou Dobbs Calls." That is, corporate executives dare not speak honestly in public, and should view an interview from people like Dobbs as "an ambush." See how this could tie in to today's controversy about employers looking at profiles? 

Senator Byron L. Dorgan. Take this Job and Ship It: How Corporate Greed and Brain-dead Politics Are Selling Out America (2006, Thomas Dunne, 274 pgs hardcover, indexed, ISBN 0-312-35522-X). The Democratic Senator from North Dakota writes in short, elliptical paragrpahs that make his argument easier to read than most policy missives. There are twelve short chapters, the last which challenges Freidman's analysis of the new "Flat World" global theory. Dorgan believes in fair trading rules and import certificates. Many of his suggestions have been made before: crackdown on countries that abuse workers, invest in ethanol fuel or hydrogen fuel. He tends to focus on the corporations as abusive, and occasionally challenges the individual, as he suggests means testing for social security recipients. Unregulated capitalism, he says, turns into a Monopoly game with Monopoly money (that is, Wal-Mart). with taxpayers picking up the pieces anyway. He provides some details as to how oil cartels work, and makes serious warnings about our relationship with Saudi Arabia. He makes a lot of the hold that employers have on workers, when they employ cheap labor overseas and fire pregnant women and deny workers bathroom breaks, regimenting them into piecework quotas. (In the early 90s, remember, some American companies, like Lincoln Electric, were suggesting piecework pay as an alternative to layoffs; suggestions like this get met with the idea that unions are far too weak now.)   One of his major arguments is that government adds to the problem by giving indirect tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas. Also, the trade rules really are stacked in favor of big business (consider the controversy over the elderly going to Canada to try to get prescription drugs at fair market prices). He does list his heroes, who include Lou Dobbs, Bill Moyers, George Becker, John Sweeney. He also has a long list of villains.

 Bjorn Lomborg. Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming. New York: Vintage, 2008.  ISBN 978-0-307-38652-6. 252 pages, indexed. Danish scientist  Lomborg urges a pragmatic, middle course for optimizing standard of living and warns that many of the projections are misleading. Blogger.

Thomas L. Friedman. The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century. (2006, originally 2005, "Updated and Expanded, Release 2.0", Farrar, Straus and Giroux, hardbound, 600 pages, indexed, ISBN 0-374-29279-5) is a kind of monument to latter day history, in several sections, in somewhat the style of a "do ask do tell" book but without much personal perspective. The public take on this is that the author's spin is, "the virtual, information-based, linked-up world is here. Get real. Accept it. But don't take it for granted." The book is optimistic, but toward the end he develops, with warnings, about the downside of the shrunken world for some people.

The two polar dates are 11/9/1989 and 9/11/2001. The first date refers to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The first third of his book is a detailed enumeration of the Ten Forces that Flattened the World. The first one is 11/9, and probably would include the fall of the Soviet Union two years later. The others are well known: the standardization of computing and communications protocols, the development of the World Wide Web and its opening to the public, workflow automation, just-in-time inventories, open source, free entry to upload content, search engines, end-user "informing" (with search engines and tools on social networking sites), outsourcing, offshoring, insourcing. It all makes sense. It would lead business into a curious dichotomy. On the one hand, there would be excessive concerns with short-term profits (although, as Dobbs points out, this had started earlier with various financial deregulation), and yet a new appreciation of individual content creativity for its own sake. 

Very early, Friedman mentions the opportunity for any one to make himself or herself into a journalist with a website or blog, software, and perhaps a webcam. He develops this further when he talks about the uploading (that is, blogs, personal sites, YouTube, the various social networking sites) and then mentions that the Internet creates a new component of personal reputation that no one had anticipated, because of, primarily, Google. Be Good! he counsels. Anything you do stays known forever.

As to the policy and economic complaints about the disappearance of jobs, Freidman's basic argument is that emerging countries like China are in a race with us to the top, not a race to the bottom. He lists all kinds of new careers and jobs in the new century. But he cautions that we are being careless in our giving kids (and existing workers) the skills they need to remain competitive.

As the book progresses, he comes cleaner on the downside and vulnerability of the Flat World. For one thing, political bedfellows will change. He imagines the Republicans and Democrats being replaced by the Wall Party and Web Party (essentially, authoritarian v. libertarian). He mentions the pandemic (avian influenza or bird flu threat) that he says makes SARS look like a tortoise. The just-in-time technique of business would collapse under the quarantines. Then he gets into the radical Islamic terrorist threat, which he compares to Leninism or communism rather than Fascism. But Communism, Fascism, and radical Islam all aim for perfection: perfect worker class, perfect race, or perfect religion. As for communism, he makes an early "wisecrack" that communists could make everyone equally poor, and capitalism could let some people get rich (and gradually raise living standards for everybody).

Friedman is very concerned about the way terrorists can use the Flat World to tear it down with asymmetric threats -- in the basic trust we must have in our infrastructure. The trust is built into open competition (his Dell Theory of Conflict Prevention).  He gives some detailed policy suggestions as to how to contain specific threats, like nuclear terror.

The books by Dobbs and Dorgan deal with public policy flaws that encourage cheating and shortchanging of workers. Friedman, to some extent, brushes these off, but he does seem to be pointing to a new way of thinking about fairness. The Flat World encourages individuals in more developed countries to see themselves differently, as their own moral agents, competing for themselves in one fully reconciled global dominion. Poorer people, at different levels, get left behind, not only materially but socially, as the whole meaning of extended family and religion as something to live for gets pulled apart. Friedman says that this leads to "humiliation" which is what drives a lot of Islamic Leninism. We've seen this kind of humiliation before in history, leading to other movements, and we also see it underneath our own culture wars. Many pundits still try to argue for a world in which people collect into groups that look after their own, and terrorists could be trying to force us back into that world. 

Thomas L. Friedman: Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution, and How It Can Renew America. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, hardbound, 438 pages, indexed, ISBN 0-374-16685-4. Friedman's thesis is that we're in for trouble as the developing world tries to match our standard of living and consumers more resources, including warming the planet. We can't afford to borrow from our descendents any longer. We have to make every citizen accountable for what he or she consumes. Nevertheless, clean energy could become the next "Internet" business revolution. Blogger discussion.

David M. Smick. The World Is Curved: Hidden Dangers to the Global Economy. New York, Portfolio, 2008. ISBN 978-1-59184-218-7, 304 pages, hardcover, indexed. "The mortgage crisis was only the beginning." Smick characterizes the credit squeeze as having begun in 2007, and describes different policy flaws in different countries, such as Japan which had a decade of deflation. The book was apparently completed just before the Sept. 2008 "financial 9/11". Blogger.

Alan Greenspan. The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World. Penguin, NY. 2007. ISBN 9781594201318, 531 pages, indexed.   This is the former Federal Reserve chairman's memoir, going all the way back to his upbringing in New York City, including an account of how he got out of the World War II draft because doctors thought he might have tuberculosis. He was actually a pretty good baseball player and musician. He would meet Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Brandon and learn the theory of objectivism shortly after the War. Then throughout his life he would start to learn the practical obstacles to objectivist ideology (including the belief that taxes are a sign of evil).

His introduction opens with an account of his own activities on 9/11, when he could not get out of Europe and come back home without a military-escorted flight. He goes over what he feared could happen to the financial system in the wake, even as airlines were shut down and checks could not be processed.

Blogger discussion is here.

Al Gore: The Assault on Reason. Doubleday, 2007. ISBN  978-1-59420-122-6, 308 pages, hardcover, indexed.  Al Gore's latest book seems like a litany of the sins of the Bush administration, which are indeed considerable. He sees the current policies of the administration, from its negligence in anticipating 9/11 to the cronyism and abuse of civil liberties (with the Patriot Act) in the past six years as a typical example of the abnegation of reason that has characterized most authoritarian governments in the past.  The book is in eleven chapters. The first five discuss how citizens are hoodwinked (fear, faith, wealth, "convenient untruths", invasion of the individual), and the next three discuss the real issues (security, global warming, and the challenge to democracy) and the last discusses the resurgence of democracy in America, in which the Internet has obviously a critical role.

There are many interesting points along the way. A few quotes can speak for themselves.

"Moreover, the abstract nature of reason made some of the most zealous practices dangerously numb to human realities rooted in emotional attachments and shared feelings of responsibility for community, family, and nature." p 13

 "The Enlightenment, for all its liberating qualities--especially to empowerment of individuals with the ability to use reason as a source of influence and power--had also a dark side that thoughtful people worried about from the beginning. Abstract thought, when organized into clever, self-contained, logical formulations, can sometimes have its own quasi-hypnotic effect and completely capture the human mind as to shut out the leavening influences of everyday experience." p 251.

Call these "social graces" (the Army's term when I was in), empathy, and even common sense. Being well-educated does not mean being well-informed, as Gore points out in discussing Germany before WWII, a parallel that he sees as applicable today with the control of the media.  Gore overlays his criticism of Bush with an orderly sequence showing how the media has become more centralized during the past century. The fascists used radio for propaganda, and from the 50s until now the one way nature of television and passive entertainment has been an effect way for large corporate interests (even big tobacco until relatively recently) to manipulate demand and husband special treatment from politicians. (I recall that my first trick as a gay man in New York City had talked about "the abuse of the media".)  The Internet has become the obvious democratizing opportunity, and Gore sees it as threatened by corporate interests unless Network Neutrality legislation is passed. He gives some detailed discussion of VC2 (viewer-created content for television) and the site http://www.current.tvand But the real issues with the Internet are even more subtle than he gives credit for, as I take up in my blog.

Gore gives quite a detailed discussion of FISA, Guantanamo, and President Bush's belief that he can order the detention of any private citizen without charge on suspicion of being a threat to security (as was done with Joseph Padilla over the supposed dirty bomb threat). He also discusses the "wire tapping" scandal that erupted at the end of 2005, with the warrantless and unsupervised surveillance that surpasses J. Edgar Hoover's.

Susan Jacoby. The Age of American Unreason. New York: Pantheon, 2008. ISBN-978-0-375-42374-1. 356 pages, indexed, with additional Introduction. The author points to paradoxes in American society, tracing back to its origins, where freedom and religious hyper-emotionalism co-exist and tend to stamp out reason in the guise of morality. At the same time, media saturation is having the effect of dumbing down many people. In her first chapter, she talks about the idea of people as "folks," but Hitler actually did that. Her quote of pastor Henry Ward Beecher Blogger talking about Darwin when he really referred to British philosopher Herbert Spencer is quite brutal. Meritocracy indeed.  link.

Jack Cafferty: It's Getting Ugly Out There: The Frauds, Bunglers, Liars and Losers Who Are Hurting America. John Wiley & Sons, ISBN 978-0-14479-4, 269 pages, hardcover). The CNN news commentator has a blistering book. Cafferty attacks the Bush administration and its deceptiveness and doubletalk on all kinds of issues. He says it is illogical to tolerate illegal aliens. He maintains we are giving bad examples for our kids in our culture, and he claims that special interests are trying to manipulate the press and media to obfuscate the truth for the obviously wealth and privileged. Pretty standard moral stuff. (He digresses with some detail about how right wing republicans get caught in sex scandals, including gay ones, and he spends some space on the downfall of Mark Foley with his ephebophilia, known for years by Hastert but with those salacious emails to bright but underage and trusting Congressional pages tolerated until a gay blogger, acting on his own, forced the issue on the media; had this gone on long enough, would he have been caught in one of Chris Hansen's Peej stings?)   One question is what it means about the responsibility of the "average Joe." He does say that bloggers are starting to keep the major media honest. He also calls for mandatory national service. On page 245, he writes

"There's a vacuum in the lives of young people today that has been filled by self-absorption, music downloads, material glut, celebrity gossip, and TV junk. We enjoy a lot of benefits in this country and most of us don't have to do a hell of a lot to avail ourselves of them. It's time that we all kicked in, no exceptions. Between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, everyone should owe this country eighteen to twenty-four months of their life--Peace Corps, inner-city volunteer work, mentoring kids, painting park benches, or serving in the military. Every young person should be required to register and devote some time and energy toward the general welfare of this place while there's still something here worth salvaging."

Fighting words indeed. Why not an intermittent, life-long service requirement then? Would Mr. Cafferty himself serve then?  And what about "don't ask don't tell"?   

Blogger discussion.

Jack Cafferty. Now or Never: Getting Down to the Business of Saving Our American Dream. New York: Wiley, 2009. ISBN 978-0-470-37230-2. 266 pages, hardcover, indexed. Cafferty takes us through the 2008 political campaigns and elections and mixes his political criticisms with what was happening in his own family life, which doesn't always track. Blogger discussion.

Charles Karelis: The Persistence of Poverty: Why the Economics of the Well-Off Can't Help the Poor. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-300-12090-7. 190 pages, hardbound, with 16 roman numeral pages as Preface. Eight chapters, three of which have their own internal appendices. The author is a Professor of Philosophy at The George Washington University in Washington, DC.   

Discussing Epicurus, Bentham, Hume and other philosophers that we sometimes had to write essay questions about in high school or college, Karelis builds up a case for an essentially utilitarian approach to economic justice. His basic point is that poor people often behave "badly" in generally accepted terms because of the uneven rewards and punishments for incremental changes in behavior. This observation (combining basic undergraduate psychology with economics) applies in such areas as education (delayed income), work, alcohol and drug use, and crime. In a couple of places, he diagrams his ideas with mathematical functions and essentially makes up a problem set that you could assign to a pre-calculus class in high school.

His concluding chapter is "Economic Justice Revisited" and he presents two polar opposites in what people generally see as moral thinking about economic justice. One side is provided by the market economy, that a person is entitled to what others are willing to pay for his work or output (his analysis of the unpublished novelist gets interesting); the other side is the Marxian "to each according to his needs." He argues that a systematic transfer of wealth from the rich to the poor, in some functional fashion, improves (by essentially what amounts to mathematical smoothing or making continuous) the incentives for productive behavior among the poor. He somewhat discourages stratification in wealth transfers, which sometimes appeal to people with moral or religious agendas. Along those lines, earlier he has pointed out (cleverly) that many of the employees in low-wage fast food or similar business are "retired" seniors.

He discusses, without precisely defining, the Epicurean Fallacy, which could help explain the seemingly self-destructive behavior of terrorists (or, in another sense, of sexual addicts or drug addicts).  He views procreation as simply a natural benefit in the experience of most people, which is automatically easier than cultural production through work. He does not get into the effect of institutionalized marriage, which can be very important in the theories of others. 

A couple of startling quotes from the last paragraph on pp 162-163:

"The original notion was that we can find the optimal balance between need-proportioned justice and market-defined justice in an economic system by finding the point where utility gains from incremental transfers downward, away from the market-set income allocation, and outweighed by utility losses.... The practical upshot in the practical case of the United States is surely that the optimum balance between need-justice and market-defined justice is closer to pure need-justice than is generally appreciated."  

More discussion on blogger here.

Roger Lowenstein. While America Aged: How Pension Debts Ruined General Motors, Stopped the NYC Subways, Bankrupted San Diego, and Loom as the Next Financial Crisis. New York: Penguin, 2008. ISBN 978-1-59420-167-7. 273 pages, hardcover.  Well, the title of the book lists its specific contents, but the main point is well known by now: Americans are living longer, pensions, both private and public, are badly underfunded, and now newer companies don't offer defined benefit pension plans at all, so the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation is not taking in enough revenue to cover the losses. The author points out that retiree health care, for early (often "bought out") retirees under 65, is very weak and fragile.  The authors propose extending a modified Medicare coverage as partial single-payer health insurance to all Americans. 

Blogger discussion.

Charles R. Morris. The Trillion Dollar Meltdown: Easy Money, High Rollers and the Great Credit Crash. New York: Public Affairs, 2008. ISBN 978-1-58648-563-4, 194 pages, hardcover. A concise historical summary of how credit and financial bubbles work, and how they were set up by overregulation in the past. There is plenty of explanation of buzz concepts like barbell investments and the Black-Scholes formula. Blogger review

John Perkins. Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. New York: Plume, 2005. ISBN 1-57675-301-8.  303 pages, paper, indexed, preface 25 roman pages. This book is recommended by Lindsey Williams in his video "The Energy Non-Crisis" (which itself was a book by Williams in 1980). Perkins reinforces Williams's thesis, that the "economic growth" is a paradigm made up by a cabal of right people who develop countries and then drain the ordinary people for debt, which, according to Williams, now shows up in the price of gasoline for ordinary motorists. Williams, an only child, found himself, after some personal coincidences (don't we all have them) working for the NSA and one of its shell companies around the world to get out of Vietnam and the draft.  This would make a nice indie movie. Blogger discussion.

Naomi Klein. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. New York: Picador, 2008. ISBN 0-312-42799-9.  This book has a similar premise to that of Perkins. The corporate world, under the guise of neo-conservative ideology, walks in the door after a disaster and conquers and "privatizes" everything, throwing out the previous people ("Blank is beautifu"). In the introduction, she mentions the privatization of New Orleans schools after Katrina. She draws an odd metaphor with two "shock doctors": Ewen Cameron at McGill University in Montreal, a resource of the CIA with its renditions; and Milton Friedman at the Chicago School of Economics, with the yanking of much of Latin America away from the Left, and the ideology of "market fundamentalism." Indeed, she has an interesting perspective on how ideologies alone can be dangerous. Blogger discussion.

Jean Bethke Elshtain. Sovereignty: God, State and Self. New York: Basic Books, 2008. 334 pages, hardcover. ISBN  978-0-465-63759-9. An examination of the concept of "authority" in religion, government, and in the self in relation to others.  There is a historical coverage of the concept of the sovereign nation state as a centralized monarchy, much as in European history books, but with a lot of emphasis on theology and on the idea of how earthly authority is justified in an ethical sense. Thomas Aquinas had argued that no man could be the master of his own fate, but modern liberalism has gradually developed that idea. She provides a critical examination of the "hard" and "soft" sovereign self, with the views of many philosophers.

Key quote: (p 231).

"The self I have in mind seeks meaning and dignity and finds a measure of both not in total liberation from nature, nor in some utopian attunement and at-oneness with nature but, rather, in growing to become a full person according to our human natures."

She goes on to distinguish "individuals" from "persons" who are social beings.  Is that a criticism of introversion? 

Blogger discussion.

Peter Senge, Bryan Smith, Nina Kruschwitz, Joe Laur, Sara Schley. The Necessary Revolution: How Individuals and Organizations Are Working Together to Create a Sustainable World. New York: Doubleday, 2008. ISBN 978-0-385-51901-4.  7 parts, 29 chapters, 406 pages, indexed.  Our way of life, as it came into being with the Industrial Age, is no longer "sustainable" and we need a new system of thought about our priorities. But this is already happening, at the individual and corporate level, in private efforts. This is sort of a green "Healing Our World". It does call into question whether "sustainability" ought to be a personal virtue, and I wonder how that affects attitudes toward procreation and sexual orientation (Vatican ideas).

Blogger discussion

Stephen Leeb, Ph. D. The Coming Economic Collapse: How You Can Thrive When Oil Costs $200 a Barrel. New York: Business Plus, 2007. ISBN 0-446-57978-5. Paper, 212 pages.   This book came out before the subprime crisis exploded, and actually says real estate is probably good!  But it's right on the fundamentals of oil supply, and if we don't want a tragic collapse of civilization, we need to get working on renewables. He thinks the energy crisis will hit us before global warming does. Blogger discussion.

Malcolm Gladwell. Outliers: The Story of Success. New York: Little Brown, 2008. ISBN 978-0-316-01792-3. 309 pages, hardcover. Gladwell develops a thesis as to how people who seem spectacularly successful and self-made on their own actually benefit from a cohort effect (he calls it "The Matthew Effect" based on the Parable of the Talents). Success in sports often depends on the time of year of birth, because slightly more mature kids have a big advantage. Success in music or computer programming, even chess, depends on the opportunity for practice and getting agile and good (it takes about 10000 hours in youth). Above a certain measure, added ability means less. As a result, he argues, affirmative action by race actually works: even if African Americans measure slightly less qualified, they are still good enough to do as well in life afterward. Blogger discussion.

Paul Krugman. The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008. New York: WW Norton, 2008, 191 pages, hardcover. Yes, we really can have another full-blown depression. But we can experience "depression economics" without having to relive the 1930's style Great Depression.   Blogger.

Tony B. Blankley. American Grit: What It Will Take to Survive and Win in the 21st Century. Washington, Regnery, 2009. ISBN 978-1-59698-519-3. 215 pages, indexed. Ten chapters and a conclusion.  The author calls for a new American "nationalism" and says that there needs to be a re-emergence of "the common good" at the national level. Of course, that can invite authoritarianism and tribalism or racism, but perhaps that is where the debate needs to be. He says that the military needs soldiers again, and argues vigorously for universal military service, or for a draft where the military's needs are met and everyone else serves two years in civilian service. He makes the point that colonies could conscript during the Revolutionary war. He also calls for curbing entitlements, and for censorship and for a wartime plan for civil liberties. Perhaps his ideas could lead to too much interdependence. Blogger.

Joshua Cooper Ramo. The Age of the Unthinkable: Why the New World Disorder Constantly Surprises Us and What We Can Do About It. New York: Little Brown, 2009. ISBN 978-0-316-11808-8. 279 pages, hardcover. Ramo's thesis is that asymmetry breeds instability, but the asymmetry can be a sandpile of any size. Blogger.

Mark R. Levin. Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto. New York: Threshold, 2009. ISBN 1-4165-6285-0. 240 pages, hardcover. Very principled, and he divides the world into conservatives and Statists. He gives FDR's version of "Bill of Rights 2" a hard time. Blogger.

Jim DeMint. Saving Freedom: We Can Stop America's Slide into Socialism. Nashville: Fidelis, 2009. ISBN 978-0-8054-4957-0, 278 pages, hardcover. Distinguish between "dependency" and "inter-dependency." But he can't explain his anti-gay stances that are way off the mark. Blogger.

Fareed Zakaria. The Post-American World. New York: Norton, 2009. ISBN 978-0-393-33480-7. Paper, 288 pages, revised from 2008.  Zakaria, host of CNN's GPS (Global Public Square) gives a view of how globalization is transferring the engine of capitalism to the rest of the world. He doesn't buy the gloom and doom of everyone else. Blogger.

Silas House and Jason Howard, editors; Lee Smith (foreward): Something's Rising: Appalachians Fighting Mountaintop Removal. 2009, University Press of Kentucky. 306 pages, hardcover, indexed. ISBN 978-0-8131-2546-6.  Contributions by Jean Ritchie, Denise Giardina, Bev May, Carl Shoupe, Kathy Mattea, Judy Bonds, Pat Hudson, Jack Spadaro, Nathan Hall, Anne Shelby and Jessie Lynne Keltner, Larry Bush. Mountaintop removal is a technique of stripmining that is gradually making the western part of Appalachia part of the Midwest. Or maybe not so gradially. Ritchie says they saved Black Mountain, Kentucky's highest "peak". Blogger.

Dominique Moisi. The Geopolitics of Emotion: The Cultures of Fear, Humiliation and Hope Are Reshaping the World. New York: Doubleday, 2009, ISBN 978-0-385-52376-9. 177 oages, hardcover.  Map the emotions to the West, Asia, and Middle East. And imagine that people can be brought low. Blogger.

Carla T. Main. Bulldozed: “Kelo”, Eminent Domain, and the American Lust for Land. New York: Encounter Books, 2007. ISBN 1-59403-193-2. 304 pages, hardcover. The author examines eminent domain, especially the Gore v. Royall and Freeport case, but also the Kelo v. New London case, and takes the issue back to Revolutionary times. The book is under litigation as of mid 2009. Blogger.

Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner, “Super Freakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance,” 2009, from William Morris Publishers, ISBN 978-0-06-088957-9, 270 pages, hardcover, indexed. Lots of existential paradoxes. Mention of Singapore’s Maintenance of Parents Law (filial responsibility), and the existential trap that motivates suicide bombers. Blogger.

Bruce Bartlett. The New American Economy: The Failure of Reaganomics and a New Way Forward.  Palgrave/MacMillan, 2009, ISBN 978-0-61587-8, 266 pages, hardcover. Blogger.

David M. Walker.  Comeback America: Turning the Country Around and Restoring Fiscal Responsibility. New York, Random House: 2010. ISBN 978-1-4000-6860-9. 212 pages, hardcover. Prologue, 11 Chapters, Epilogue.   Blogger.  He wants to means test social security, make electoral reforms, and segment health insurance.

Michael Lewis. The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine. New York:  W. W. Norton, 2010, ISBN 978-0-393-07223-5, hardcover, 266 pages, ten chapters, prologue, epilogue.  Blogger.  A detailed look at the Crash of 2008, when Wall Street capitalism almost destroyed itself in a spectacular implosion, predicted by a doctor with Asperger’s syndrome, Michael Burry, who made a mint of credit default swaps.

Lawrence E. Joseph. Aftermath: A Guide to Preparing for and Surviving Apocalypse 2012. New York: Broadway, 2010. ISBN 978-0-7679-3078-9. Hardcover, 271 pages.  Get ready for coronal mass ejections from the Sun in 2012; they match electromagnetic pulse (EMT) from terrorists as modern civilization’s most dangerous existential threat. Blogger.


 Related: Callahan: The Cheating Culture      Movie: The Good Shepherd   Gore: An Inconvenient Truth       Matthew R. Simmons: Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Oil Shock and the World Economy


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