Yet effectively rebutting liberal arguments isn’t where this book shines the most. Goldberg quotes George Orwell’s famous observation that “we have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.” Of course, the real need goes beyond restating the obvious; it’s finding a way to make the obvious engaging. And here, Goldberg succeeds admirably. Which is not to say that The Tyranny of Clichés is without flaws. A few chapters feel needlessly discursive, and some topics could stand to be fleshed out a bit. Given Tyranny’s short length and wide ideological/historical sweep, it would be nearly impossible for most readers not to have a few objections, or stumble across places where they feel the argument could be made better. Still, it’s quite a feat to write a polemic about byzantine ideological disputes and political semantics and make it thoroughly enjoyable. If you’re interested in giving a precocious student or open-minded liberal an explanation for why they should take the trouble to understand conservatism, this is the book to give them. There’s a good chance they’ll actually read it; it will likely make them do some rethinking; and it almost certainly will make them laugh.
Bonus! Andy Ferguson’s great cover story on the New Phrenology (sound familiar?) calls The Tyranny of Clichés “Dazzling.”
Bonus II!: In his review over at Goodreads.com, Mark Hemingway calls TOC: “… might be the best and most fun-to-read primer on the tenets of conservative politics since P.J. O’Rourke’s Parliament of Whores.”
Update: The Hemingway review is now out from behind the firewall.