The Corner

Books

Know Your Socialism: Two Great Books

Earlier this year we published a much-acclaimed double special issue (actually, two full issues of your favorite magazine) on Socialism (against) and Free Markets (for). Urged to publish these 24 essays making the case for our principles, and against the determined enemy (i.e., socialism) of them, we discussed the book prospect with our friends at Post Hill Press. They agreed (excellent idea), and acted, and here it is, sweetly and simply titled: Against Socialism, and filled with the wisdom of Rich Lowry, Charles C. W. Cooke, Kevin D. Williamson, John O’Sullivan, Yuval Levin, David L. Bahnsen, Timothy P. Carney, Ramesh Ponnuru, Scott Lincicome, Deirdre Nansen McCloskey, Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, Joshua Muravchik, Jeffrey Tucker, Andrew Stuttaford, Shawn Regan, Avik Roy, Theodore Dalrymple, Jonah Goldberg, Marian L. Tupy, Robert Atkinson, Samuel Gregg, Jimmy Quinn, and Helen Raleigh.

Get yours in quality softcover, or the Kindle edition. Order at Amazon, right here. OK, I know the question: Will it make an excellent Christmas gift? I also know the answer: Yes.

The other great book that should be in your hands is Amity Shlaes’ Great Society: A New History. Get the down-lo right now by listening to two podcast interviews: John J. Miller interviews Amity on NR’s The Bookmonger, and at The Power Line Show, the Amity and Steven Hayward chat up Great Society.

Want to know more? Fair enough. Michael Barone provides an excellent (and praising) review last week in The Wall Street Journal. From his review:

“Great Society” is in part a story of how antipoverty programs like Community Action sprang into being and then nose-dived. But interspersed among Ms. Shlaes’s chapters on the programs’ architects are chapters on seemingly unrelated individuals and trends. Between the Port Huron Statement and Michael Harrington, we encounter General Electric CEO Ralph Cordiner, his labor-relations head Lemuel Boulware, and company spokesman Ronald Reagan: Together they launched a campaign of free-market boosterism that would see fruition, politically, decades later in the 1980s and ’90s.

In between Shriver’s Office of Economic Opportunity and its scuffles with mayors and governors, we meet Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce as they leave Fairchild Semiconductor, found what would become Intel, and develop microchips, whose capacity, as has been famously calculated, doubles every 18 months or so. After we read about Tom Hayden’s trip to North Vietnam in 1965 and the “Negro removal” necessary to build Pruitt-Igoe-type projects, we learn about European nations, in their attempts at economic recovery, whittling down America’s gold supply and threatening devaluation of the dollar. And after describing the tumult at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, Ms. Shlaes shifts our attention to Japan, where Toyota executives are preparing to boost sales in America of tiny Corollas produced by workers empowered to make decisions and not represented by adversary-minded labor unions like the UAW.

These juxtapositions underline a central message delivered not explicitly but by unmissable implication: The architects of the Great Society’s war on poverty thought their ideas and strategies were the wave of the future. Hadn’t government shown its capacity to win a world war, develop technology and provide direction for the macroeconomy in the two decades before Harrington wrote about the “other America”? The Big Units of big government, big business and big labor just needed the right guidance and the injection of energy from yet another generation of young men (and an occasional woman) to eliminate the last pockets of poverty and racism.

But the critical changes that were coming turned out to be not from thinkers with connections at the top of society but from innovators whose ideas were bubbling up, mostly unseen, from odd geographic corners and outside familiar institutions. The Big Units’ dominance was being quietly, without celebration in newsmagazine covers, undermined by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and Japanese auto makers, by financial innovators and by that former spokesman for GE, who would be elected governor of California and, in time, U.S. president.

If you liked Amity’s other best-sellers, such as The Forgotten Man and Coolidge, you are going to love Great Society: A New History. Kudos to her. Order your copies here.

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