Book Reviews

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]

For Your Own Good

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Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism by Sarah Conly (Cambridge University Press, 2013), 256 pages (ebook edition reviewed). Bowdoin philosophy professor Sarah Conly has given us a remarkably timely book. Against Autonomy makes an important contribution to the trending discussion of what some call the “nanny state” and others might call simply “petty fascism” (or maybe just “fascism”). It is ... [click for more]

Money and the Constitution

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Constitutional Money: A Review of the Supreme Court’s Monetary Decisions by Richard H. Timberlake (Cambridge University Press and Cato Institute 2013), 257 pages. Most Americans would be surprised to learn that the Federal Reserve Notes in their wallets and the balances in their various accounts are not constitutional money. Yes, what they have is money, but not the kind ... [click for more]

Lincoln-Worship Overlays the Corporatist Agenda

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Lincoln Unbound: How an Ambitious Young Railsplitter Saved the American Dream — and How We Can Do It Again by Rich Lowry (HarperCollins 2013), 390 pages. One of the central themes in James Scott’s Seeing Like a State is the ideology he calls “authoritarian high modernism”: It is best conceived as a strong (one might even say muscle-bound) version of ... [click for more]

How the Castle Crumbled

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Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces by Radley Balko (Public Affairs 2013), 400 pages. “A man’s home is his castle,” the old English saying goes. Since the American Revolution, Americans’ homes have been considered sanctified space. Under the Castle Doctrine, first expressed in English common law, a person’s home — whether it’s a shack or ... [click for more]

The Great Writ

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The Power of Habeas Corpus in America: From the King’s Prerogative to the War on Terror by Anthony Gregory (Independent Institute/Cambridge University Press 2013), 390 pages. Among libertarians generally, there is a somewhat dependable tendency to hark back to the halcyon days of a supposed free age somewhere in the past, and to spotlight certain related features of Anglo-American ... [click for more]

The Killing Years

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The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth by Mark Mazzetti (Penguin Press 2013), 400 pages. Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield by Jeremy Scahill (Nation Books 2013), 680 pages. The young man reached across the table and pushed the timer’s red button. Looking up ... [click for more]

Whither Power?

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The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being in Charge Isn’t What It Used to Be by Moisés Naím (Basic Books 2013), 320 pages. The topic of Moisés Naím’s book is the decay of power — the shift of power “from brawn to brains, from north to south and west to east, ... [click for more]

The Business Cycle Explained

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It Didn’t Have to Be This Way: Why Boom and Bust Is Unnecessary — and How the Austrian School of Economics Breaks the Cycle by Harry C. Veryser (Intercollegiate Studies Institute 2012), 318 pages. This is one instance where a book’s subtitle tells the reader much more about its content than the title does. You know at once that ... [click for more]

Revisiting Vietnam

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Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam by Nick Turse (Metropolitan Books, 2013), 386 pages. The Vietnam War polarized Americans in the 20th century like no other event, dividing the people as no war had since the so-called Civil War a century earlier. Even though Vietnam was thousands of miles away, had not attacked the United ... [click for more]
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