Book Reviews

Book Review: An Enjoyable Guide to Economics

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Popular Economics: What the Rolling Stones, Downton Abbey, and LeBron James Can Teach You about Economics by John Tamny (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, 2015) 279 pages. It  is often pointed out that man’s improved circumstances on this Earth over the centuries has been the result of the accumulated knowledge that each generation takes from the preceding ones, to ... [click for more]

Your Data or Your Life

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Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World by Bruce Schneier (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2015), 400 pages. Your data or your life. Distilled to its essence, this is the argument of surveillance hawks who want U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies to retain their intrusive, unlawful, and unconstitutional surveillance ... [click for more]

Business Is No Business of the State

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Uncle Sam Can’t Count: A History of Failed Government Investments from Beaver Pelts to Green Energy by Burton W. Folsom Jr. and Anita Folsom (Broadside Books, 2014), 239 pages. The day after the 2010 mid-term elections, the federal government quietly announced the bankruptcy of Solyndra, a “green energy” company that had been touted by Barack Obama as a ... [click for more]

The War That Justified Other Wars

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The Good War That Wasn’t — And Why It Matters: World War II’s Moral Legacy by Ted Grimsrud (Cascade Books, 2014), 286 pages. Even among some libertarians, World War II is viewed as the great exception. Although it was the most destructive thing to life, liberty, and property that the world has ever seen, World War II is ... [click for more]

Innovation, Patents, and the Industrial Revolution

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The Most Powerful Idea in the World: The Story of Steam, Industry and Invention by William Rosen (University of Chicago Press 2012), 376 pages. This is the story of an important microcosm of the Industrial Revolution: the development of the railroad. Although the story is one of personalities — and the book is engaging and a good read ... [click for more]

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]
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