Book Reviews

How the Pentagon Really Gets Funded

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Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War by Robert Gates (Knop 2014), 640 pages. The most interesting parts of former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’s memoir, Duty, are about how he navigated the Department of Defense (DoD) bureaucracy and the special interests who live off it. A recurring theme is the difficulty Gates had in getting the DoD ... [click for more]

Imaging Patterns

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The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory by Jesse Walker (Harper 2013), 448 pages. What is the substance of American paranoia? From where does it emanate, and why is its study important? These are some of the questions that, without preaching or bludgeoning us with elitist pretensions, Jesse Walker, books editor at Reason magazine, addresses in The United ... [click for more]

Government-Rigged Markets

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Crony Capitalism in America 2008 – 2012 by Hunter Lewis (AC2 Books 2013), 399 pages. Ayn Rand called it “the aristocracy of pull.” That was her term for the political-economic system in which people can get ahead (and even become exceptionally wealthy) by virtue of their connections with those in power, rather than by their work, innovations, and ... [click for more]

The Worst Government Crimes

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Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder (Basic Books 2010), 560 pages. We can locate the deadliest place and time in world history, certainly for the modern West, in the stretch of land between Berlin and Moscow in the 1930s and 1940s. That setting hosted an unimaginable bloodbath thanks to the worst killers ever to plague Europe — ... [click for more]

The Poverty of Top- Down Anti-Poverty Efforts

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The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty by Nina Munk (Doubleday 2012), 272 pages. In the idealist, the system-building visionary, there is a certain natural attractiveness, a gravitational pull centered on the strength of his convictions. We desire to be a part of his crusade, or at least to root it on, because we admire the ... [click for more]

A Conservative Dissents from the Corporate Status Quo

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The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America by David A. Stockman, (Public Affairs 2013), 768 pages. Most leftist critiques of libertarianism focus on an alleged blind defense of corporate power. Indeed, left-libertarian Kevin Carson has helpfully criticized the very real problem of “vulgar libertarianism,” the working assumption that current economic realities are a product of free-market dynamics ... [click for more]

The Economics of Foreign Policy

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Doing Bad by Doing Good: Why Humanitarian Action Fails by Christopher Coyne (Stanford Economics and Finance 2013), 272 pages. In the aftermath of the carnage wrought by World War II, Harry Truman committed America to humanitarian action. In his 1949 inaugural address, he pledged to “continue our programs for world economic recovery” and “embark on a bold new ... [click for more]

The Defining Challenge of our Time

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Why Liberty — Your Life, Your Choices, Your Future edited by Tom G. Palmer (Jameson Books 2013) 116 pages. With this short, easily read, yet intellectually powerful book, Tom Palmer continues his work of making libertarianism the philosophy that will appeal to and animate young people around the globe. While the arguments for vastly downsizing our enormous, meddlesome, and ... [click for more]

The Boast in the Machine

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Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation by Tyler Cowen (Dutton 2013), 304 pages. In Average Is Over, George Mason University economist Tyler Cowen delivers good news and bad news with nearly equal enthusiasm. Basically, artificial “intelligence” (AI) is aggregating the “knowledge of the entire world” and intruding everywhere, ready to overturn our lives, ... [click for more]

A Treacherous Undertow

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American Coup: How a Terrified Government Is Destroying the Constitution by William M. Arkin (Little, Brown and Company 2013), 368 pages. Among the philosophy of liberty’s core ideas is the well-known precept that a free society must be one of laws and not of men, that the rule of law should stand above the arbitrary caprice of some empowered ... [click for more]

Broken

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They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America's Wars — The Untold Story by Ann Jones. (Haymarket Books/Dispatch Books 2013), 191 pages. Members of the American armed forces are props. They wave from convertibles as Independence Day parades make their way down Main Street U.S.A. They are trotted out at football games to bless the proceedings as some ... [click for more]

The Death of Empires

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Balance: The Economics of Great Powers from Ancient Rome to Modern America by Glenn Hubbard and Tim Kane. (Simon and Schuster 2013), 296 pages. One of the perennial questions historians address is why empires fell. In his 1987 bestseller, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, Yale historian Paul Kennedy theorized that every empire reaches a tipping point ... [click for more]
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