Bok, Derek, The Politics of Happiness: What Government Can Learn From the New Research on Well-Being (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2010) (I was in college when it first struck me that Thomas Jefferson made a major misstep in one bit of critical language in the Declaration of Independence. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Focus on those last four word, "the Pursuit of Happiness." Would not nearly 234 years of discourse on that unalienable right to "the pursuit of Happiness" been more substantive if Jefferson had used the phrase "the pursuit of a Meaningful Life"? Would not the signatories of the Declaration of Independence gotten it? Would not the people asserting their independence gotten it as well? Would we get it now? I would much prefer debating what gives meaning to peoples' lives than to what might give them happiness. Perhaps this is because I know few, if any, serious-minded people who are, or would describe themselves as, happy (they would not describe themselves unhappy either. However, many, but not all of them, would describe themselves as living meaningful lives, or as being in pursuit of a meaningful life. [By the way, to say they have "meaningful lives" is not to suggest that they would describe their jobs--that which they do to pay the bills--as meaningful.] Moreover, certain pursuit which, though rather shallow, nonetheless makes sense in terms of happiness (e.g., good food, fine clothing, earning a lot of money), make a lot less sense in terms of pursuit of a meaningful life (e.g., becoming a clothes horse is not pursuit of a meaningful life). All that said, Bok's book is discussion of how governments might make use of happiness research to formulate and implement policies to increase the well-being of their citizens. As a school teacher I found Chapter 9, on education, to be of particular interest. "These findings suggest that an education that is truly designed to promote well-being should not just train students for jobs but try to cultivate a wide range of interests and prepare students for a variety of pursuits that tend to increase satisfaction with life." Id. at 157. I think the Carnegie study on the future of legal education missed that one. Yet, to be fair to the Carnegie study, the games was already over before the students enrolled in law school. "Despite [the] impressive breadth of activity, the widespread preoccupation with making money has definitely left its mark on undergraduate curriculum. In order to compete for applicants, colleges have felt impelled to offer more and more vocational majors, and students have responded by gravitating increasingly to programs that prepare them for higher-paid professions and occupations. From 1970 to 1970, the number of business majors rose threefold to become by far the most popular undergraduate concentration. Close to three-fifths of all undergraduates in four-year colleges now choose vocational majors. Even liberal arts concentrators pursue majors that often suspiciously like preprofessional programs designed for undergraduates seeking PhD and an eventual academic career." Id. at 166-167. "Critics within the academy have periodically questioned whether colleges do enough to prepare students to think deeply about what it means to lead what Alexander Meiklejohn described as 'a life worth living.' Allan Bloom dealt forcefully with this problem in his best-selling polemic in 1987, The Closing of the American Mind[: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students (1987)]. More recently, Yale law professor and former dean Anthony Kronman [Education's End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up the Meaning of Life (2007)] has sounded the alarm again." Id. at 169. In the over all scheme of things, colleges and universities do not have much control over what students ultimately pursue. However, it does make a difference whether the institutional mission includes providing an environment where students are exposed to the possibilities of pursuing meaningful lives, rather than limited to the mere pursuit of happiness, or, worse yet, the mere pursuit of the job. Ideas do have consequences. And it makes a difference whether the central or motivating idea is 'meaningful life,' 'happiness,' or 'career.' These may be overlapping, but they are not the same; and pursuing them is not the same. See Alan Wolfe, Joy to the World," NYT Book Review, 2/21/2010.).
Branch, Taylor, The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009) (Though I think this book will be of considerable interest to historians, political scientists, and biographers of Clinton in the future, I personally have a severe case of the BBs, i.e., Bill Burnout. See Joe Klein, "Bill Session," NYT Sunday Book Review, 9/27/2009.).
Chen, Anthony S., The Fifth Freedom: Jobs, Politics, and Civil Rights in the United States, 1941-1972 (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2009) (I dislike discussions about affirmative action because such discussions eventually devolve from discussion of policy to discussion of the personal. How they or someone they know is the unfair victim, and how someone else (it is always the other guy) is the unfair beneficiary, of affirmative action. As Joyce Carol Oates write, 'I am being cheated' is the American Creed. For those wanting an intelligent discussion of affirmative action and its political history and prehistory, then The Fifth Freedom is a worthwhile read. "The debate about affirmative action remains one of the most contentious and impassioned in American politics. Is affirmative action the grossest betrayal or highest embodiment of American values? Has the policy had beneficial effects, or has it merely exacerbated the problems it was meant to alleviate? Is it constitutional, or does it fundamentally violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment? These are important questions. . . ." "This book is motivated by a different set of questions. What explains the advent of affirmative action in employment? More precisely, what accounts for the unusual character of the policy regime governing the regulation of job discrimination in the United States? Why did a significant part of it center on monitoring compliance with government regulation (or demonstrating compliance with self-regulation) rather than on the enforcement of the law by administrative agencies? How did enforcement become anchored in federal courts? What explains the emergence of a small but controversial set of racially attentive policies under the aegis of 'affirmative action'? These are the questions I explore in the following pages." Id. at xiii. "There can be little doubt that the Civil Rights Act represents a major watershed in American history. But it did not come without a price. To form a bipartisan coalition broad enough to clear the numerous legislative hurdles that would culminate in the inevitable Senate filibuster by southern Democrats, liberals had to win the cooperation of conservative Republicans, who therefore enjoyed the balance of power in the politics of civil rights. Indeed, conservative views were uppermost in the minds of the Kennedy administration and Republican congressional leaders when they met in 1963 to craft a bill and a fair employment provision that would not be condemned to certain death. Rightly concerned with the deep antipathy of conservative Republicans toward administrative forms of enforcement, they agreed to set aside the strong liberal version of Title VII endorsed by the House Judiciary subcommittee, replacing it with a proposal by young Republican moderates to restrict the enforcement power of the EEOC to filing lawsuits in federal district court. This compromise formed the basis of a court-centered enforcement bill that cleared the whole House. When the House bill went over to the Senate, Republican Everett M. Dirksen used his leverage to strip the EEOC of even this modest power, leaving the agency a 'poor, enfeebled thing.' No other phrase from the era more evokes the costs of bipartisanship more powerfully." Id. at 227.).
Cooper, John Milton, Jr., Woodrow Wilson: A Biography (New York: Knopf, 2009) ("The following fall, [Wilson] told Ellen Axson, 'The law is more than ever before a jealous mistress. Whoever thinks, as I thought, that he can practice law successfully and study history and politics at the same time is wo[e]fully mistaken." "Yearning to write and lead 'an intellectual life' was what pulled him away from the law." Id. at 40. Also see Beverly Gage's review, "He Was No Wilsonian," NYT Sunday Book Review, 12/13/2009.).
Dempsey, Jason K., Our Army: Soldiers, Politics, and American Civil-Military Relations (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2010) ("This book presents comprehensive assessment of the political and social attitudes of members of the U.S. Army. The evidence suggests that while a great many officers feel comfortable identifying themselves as conservative and/or Republican, the sentiment is not consistent across the army. However, it is clear that the perception of the army as overwhelmingly Republican is widespread, both in an out of the military. This perception has led political parties to adjust their vote-targeting and campaign strategies. It has also generated extensive discussion among scholars of civil-military relations. In some respects it has been a case of too much theorizing, or overreacting to incomplete data." "There are two purposes to this book. . . . The first purpose is to add some depth to our understanding of the people who serve in the American military. I want to replace the stereotype of the American soldier with a more nuanced understanding of how soldiers think about social and political issues and a better understanding of the ways in which they are similar to, or different from, the civilian population. . . ." "The second purpose is to highlight to members of the army the dangers, and impropriety, of conflating identification with a political party or political ideology with military service. The perception of the military as a monolithic voting bloc may be inaccurate, but it was not created out of whole cloth. A generation of military leaders grew up in a military education system that forgot to teach the importance of political neutrality. As a result, an unacceptable number of army officers have comfortably combined their political and professional identities. This not only leads outsiders to question the nature and utility of military advice to civilian leadership, but introduces another, unnecessary, impediment to team building within the institution. Officers cannot, and should not, be expected to not have opinions on social and political issues, but they must proactively separate their political attitudes from their professional responsibilities." Id. at xv-xvi. Everyone should (re)read Anton Myrer's Once an Eagle (1968). The hero (and he is a hero) of the novel is Sam Damon. Were I to teach a course in Professional Responsibility, I would assign Once an Eagle as a required text and ask whether the standards set for lawyers comes any where near the standards set by Sam Damon.).
Downey, Kirstin, The Woman Behind the New Deal: The Life of Frances Perkins, FDR's Secretary of Labor and His Moral Conscience (New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2009) (A worthy biography of the first woman appointed to the cabinet of a U.S. President.).
Goodman, Jordan, The Devil and Mr. Casement: One Man’s Battle for Human Rights In South America’s Heart of Darkness (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009) (See Greg Grandin, Empire of Savagery," NYT Book Review, 2/4/2010.).
Gormley, Ken, The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr (New York: Crown, 2010) (No good guys. Nobody wins, everybody loses! Gormley does a very good job of taking us through the stupidity of this American nightmare. The book is, I think, a cautionary tale for young lawyers with all their idealism and certainty that they are on the side of truth and justice, but corrupting truth, justice, and themselves in the pursuit of truth and justice. "[Justice Department lawyer Jo Ann] Harris concluded from her investigation that the OIC [Office of Independent Counsel] had constructed a conscious plan to expand into the Lewinsky matter come hell or high water, maneuvering the situation so that it was 'difficult for the [Justice] Department to say no.' Her interviews with OIC prosecutors and FBI agents convinced Harris that the Starr team wanted desperately to land this new investigation of Clinton. 'Very badly,' she said. 'I think everyone I talked to . . . was absolutely persuaded, including Ken Starr, that Bill Clinton was a low life who would lie about anything. And this happens to prosecutors . . . that they would have done virtually anything to get him.'" Id. at 675. See Richard L. Berke, "The President and the Prosecutor," NYT Book Review, 2/21/2010.).
Green, Stephen, Good Value: Reflections on Money, Morality, and an Uncertain World (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2010) ("Where . . . is the world heading? Are we heading for a 'flat' world, in which globalization slowly erases the differences between us? Or are we heading for a 'clashing' world of mighty civilizations teetering perilously on the edge of mutual enmity? Neither. Both models are too simplistic. . . ." "What then is globalization? Much of the economic literature and public comment of today is based on the notion that globalization is somehow a concept or an ideology that is the result of conscious decisions. On this reading, globalization is something alien, something that is imposed by governments, or by multinational corporations, or perhaps by Western civilization on the rest of the world." "But, at its most fundamental, the truth is that globalization is not a concept or an ideology: it is a phenomenon. It is part of the sweep of human history. To treat it as something that is being steered by anyone, or any group of people or any group of countries, is to misunderstand what is really happening. . . . [G]obalization is like population growth. It is a phenomenon that we live with, and that has accelerated very sharply in the past few decades. . . . [G]lobalization is a phenomenon produced by the human spirit." "The vital point about globalization today is that it has passed the point of no return." Id. at 36-37. "Where . . . will globalization lead us? Over the next fifty years, its main political impact will be to create a more multipolar world. But it will also change societies, urbanizing them and individualizing them. It will bring with it a new burst of cultural interaction and creativity. And commercial connectedness and exchange will become ever more intense." "A more multipolar world is already upon us. This is, in fact, not so much a new chapter in the history of the world as a reversion to the historical norm. Only twice in history has there been a single global superpower. First, the British Empire from 1815 to (arguably) the unification of Germany in 1871. And, second, the US supremacy from the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 to . . . around now." Id. at 40-41.).
Harrington, Joel F., The Unwanted Child: The Fate of Foundlings, Orphans, and Juvenile Criminals in Early Modern Germany (Chicago & London: U. of Chicago Press, 2009) ("What would happen if we took the various acts that we call child abandonment and thought about them in a much broader context, such as what some historical anthropologists call the 'circulation of children'? This term was first developed by U.S. anthropologists to describe the various forms of fosterage and adoption they encounter in their subject populations in eastern Oceania and North America and has since been employed in a variety of settings. Depending on the cultural context, child exchanges and one-way fosterages can mean many different things, ranging from a profound familial alliance, to a kind of deposit on a debt, to a simple favor between friends--hence the usefulness of a broadly inclusive term such as child circulation. The most immediate benefit of considering the parental act of abandonment as a form of child circulation is that both the act and the subsequent state intervention are automatically decentered within scholarly studies. Instead we are forced to view both within the context of other key interactions, such as informal fosterage of children by relatives, friends, or strangers (whether voluntary or involuntary); the relative frequency of out-of-wedlock pregnancy and miscarriage as well as the availability of options such as quick marriage, abortion, and infanticide; the nature and degree of independence among poor children on the street; other forms of child circulation such as apprenticeship and domestic service; and so forth." "This process in turn might also lead us to reconsider our very use of the term 'parent' and 'child'. If we think of a parent as an adult responsible for the care of a minor and do not restrict ourselves to the biological mother or father, we are forced to acknowledge that virtually every society, including that of early modern Europe, contains a variety of parent-child relationships, ranging from apprenticeship or domestic service positions to boarding school to foster households run by a relative or godparent to full legal adoption. Each of these relationships represents a type of substitute parentage, widely differing in terms of affection and expectations, but all playing key parts in child circulation, where abandonment is far from the only option for a biological parent with an unwanted child." Id. at 7-8.).
Lichtenstein, Nelson, The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit: Walter Reuther and the Fate of American Labor (New York: Basic Books, 1995) ("Unions are weak in the United States because of a larger fragmentation in the character of American liberalism. In almost every one of his speeches, Reuther warned that 'labor must make what progress it can with the community and not at the expense of the community.' This was an echo of his Socialist youth, when leftists of all persuasions saw the trade unions as the vanguard of social reconstruction. . . . But half a century later trade unionism's greatest danger comes from an explosive division within the working population itself. As unionized labor has become but an island of well-being in a sea of resentful, low-wage aspirants, income inequality within the working class has reached levels unseen for more than two generations. It is not surprising therefore that one employer after another has opted for a policy of radical deunionization and brutal wage reduction. When Caterpillar took on the UAW in the early 1990s, managers found that years of deindustrialization and wage stagnation had generated a huge reservoir f eager replacement workers' whose residual commitment to their working-class neighbors had long since been extinguished in their desperate scramble to hold on to their houses, cars, and dignity." Id. at 441-442. And now we are another twenty years later, with a collapsed U.S. economy and double-digit unemployment (thirty, forty, and more percentages of unemployment for some social groups and in some localities), so American workers of all types and stripes are chronically desperate and with little reason for hope. "But even if Reuther had been attuned . . . , the racial polarization that began in the late 1960s was eroding the electoral constituency that for more than a generation had given his voice potent amplification. The greatest difficulty facing progressive America has been its failure to find the strategy that can bridge the gap between white and black. Industrial unions themselves flourished only during that middle third of the [twentieth] century when the fortunes of the movement for workers' rights and civil rights were linked in progressive and fruitful synthesis. . . ." Id. at 442. The so-called 'post-racial' America, proclaimed by many as Obama's 2008 election victory drew near, has pretty much faded away as the U.S. economy remains in the tank. Yet, as Lichtenstein noted about a time now passed, "History sometimes turns on a narrow pivot. The deep structures of economic power and social consciousness usually constrain the opportunities and shape the choices men and women have to make. But there are also times when circumstances conspire to greatly diminish our usual sense of social inertia and institutional stasis, when tradition's chains begin to crack and old fears diminish, thereby making the world once again seem plastic and open, not just to an ambitious few of will and vision but to a multitude of ordinary people who burst forward onto the stage of history." Id. at 74. Thus, even in these dismal times of ours, we can hope for a political and economic leadership with vision. I fear, however, that Americans will find and embrace leaders whose visions are hierarchical, authoritarian, and rigid. In a word: FASCIST. Heaven help our children.).
Mayor, Adrienne, The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2010).
Nash, George H., The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945 (New York: Basic Books, 1976) ("This book is about conservative intellectuals--those engaged in study, reflection, and speculation; purveyors of ideas; scholars and journalists. It is not a chronicle of political campaigns or an examination of the careers of . . . right-wing politicians of recent times . . . , men primarily involved in the hurly-burly of everyday politics. Nor is it concerned with the much-publicized 'Radical Right' organizations which received extraordinary attention in the 1960s. While extremists of the Right were often energetic in the period covered by this study, their contribution to conservatism as an intellectual force was negligible." "The focus of this book is on a 'movement'--a movement of ideas, but one with a visibly nonacademic and political aspirations. Conservatism in American after World War II . . . was a decidedly activist force whose thrust was outward toward the often uncongenial American of the mid-twentieth century. An intellectual movement in a narrow sense it certainly was; yet one whose objective was not simply to understand the world but to change it, restore it, preserve it. Id. at xi. Many thoughtful commentators have bemoaned the lack of new ideas on the part of republicans (other have done the same with respect to democrats). And the best of those commentators have pointed to the void or cracks in the intellectual infrastructure of conservatism. This book will remind us of a time when there did exist a vibrant conservative intellectual movement. America (and both political parties) are worse off today because of this current intellectual void. Instead of substantive debates over ideas and competing visions, conservatives and liberal exchange insults. Insults are not arguments, and they certainly are not constructive ideas. Who are, where are, today's F.A. Hayek, Ludwig von Mise, Henry Hazlitt, Milton Friedman, Ricard Weaver, Leo Strauss, Russell Kirk, Murray Rothbard, William Rusher, or William F. Buckley, Jr., just to name a few, who can get their voices heard over the shouting insults of those claiming the conservative mantle? It is not that those past conservative intellectuals got it all right; it is that they had somethings worth listening to and thinking about. . . . and eventually they were heard. "The phrase ['epistemic closure'] is being used as shorthand by some prominent conservatives for a kind of closed-mindedness they see as debasing modern conservatism's proud intellectual history. First used in this context by Julian Sanchez of the libertarian Cato Institute, the phrase 'epistemic closure' has been richocheting among conservative publications and blogs as a hig-toned abbreviation for ideological intolerance and misinformation." Patricia Cohen, "'Epistemic Closure'? Those Are Fighting Words, Friend," NYT, 4/28/2010, C1.).
Nierop, Henk van, Treason in the Northern Quarter: War, Terror, and the Rule of Law in the Dutch Revolt translated from the Dutch by J. C. Grayson (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2009) (From the book jacket: "In the spring of 1575, Holland's Northern Quarter--the waterlogged peninsula stretching from Amsterdam to the North Sea--was threatened with imminent invasion by the Spanish army. Since the outbreak of the Dutch Revolt a few years earlier, the Spanish had repeatedly failed to expel the rebels under William of Orange from this remote region, and now there were rumors that the war-weary population harbored traitors conspiring to help the Spanish invade. In response, rebel leaders arrested a number of vagrants and peasants, put them on the rack, and brutally tortured them until they confessed and named their principals--a witchhunt that eventually led to a young Catholic lawyer named Jan Jeroenszoon." "Treason in the Northern Quarter tell how Jan Jeroenszoon, through great personal courage and faith in the rule of law, managed to survive gruesome torture and vindicate himself by successfully arguing at trial that the authorities remained subject to the law even in times of war. Henk van Nierop uses Jan Jeroenszoon's exceptional story to give the first account of the Dutch Revolt from the point of view of its ordinary victims--town burghers, fugitive Catholic clergy, peasants, and vagabonds. For them the Dutch Revolt was not a heroic struggle for national liberation but an ordinary dirty war, something to be survived, not won.").
O'Toole, Fintan, Ship pf Fools: How Stupidity and Corruption Sank the Celtic Tiger (New York: PublicAffairs, 2010) ("The questions that the ruling trio of [Bertie] Ahern, [Charlie] McCreevy and PD leader Mary Harney really faced were about how the money that was now flowing into the state coffers should be used and how the economy could become successful in the long term, beyond the inevitable succession of bust to boom. They had an opportunity that was unique in Irish history. They had an opportunity to invest in the creation of a decent society, one that would be economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. . . ." "And they blew it. They allowed an unreconstructed culture of cronyism, self-indulgence and, at its extremes, of outright corruption, to remain in place, with fatal long-term consequences. They fostered, alongside the real economy in which people create goods and sold them, a false economy of facades and fictions. They practised the economics of utter idiocy, watching a controlled explosion of growth turn into a mad conflagration and aiming petrol-filled pressure-hoses at the raging flames. They amused themselves with fantasy lifestyles and pet projects while the opportunity to break cycles of deprivation and end child poverty was frittered away. They turned self-confidence into arrogrance, optimism into swagger, aspiration into self-delusion." "And they did this because they bought into the fallacy that the Irish had somehow discovered a 'model of development' that would work anytime, anywhere. Instead of the complex social, historical and political processes--and the sheer good fortune--that had created the Celtic Tiger, they had captured a genie whose golden lamp need only be stroked to ensure success. The formula was ultimately simple--be nice to the rich. Give capital its head, don't stand in its way and it will work its magic. Let the wealthy become ever more wealthy and everyone will benefit. The tragedy was not that Ireland's rulers and their cheerleaders chanted this mantra. It was that they actually believed it." Id. at 21-22. I heard Fintan O''Toole being interviewed on a National Public Radio. He stated that he never quite understood the American phrase "Luck of the Irish." Ship of Fools underscores that point of confusion.).
Pellegrino, Charles, The Last Train from Hiroshima: The Survivors Look Back (New York: Henry Holt, 2010) (From the preface: "As we move toward the precipice of runaway nuclear proliferation and even nuclear terrorism, we must remember that Hiroshima and Nagasaki represent the approximate destructive power of the weapons we are likely to see again. The hope that past is not prologue may indeed be slim, but I've never known the angel Hope when she was not looking a bit anorexic.").
Phillips-Fein, Kim, Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative Movement From the New Deal to Reagan (New York; Norton, 2009) ("[I]f one looks beneath the surface of the postwar years, it is clear that the 'liberal consensus' on matters of political economy was never absolute. Even at its zenith, liberalism was far less secure than it appeared to be. And one of the main challenge it faced began with those few prominent business leaders who were outraged by the New Deal, which they saw as a fundamental challenge to their power and their place in American society. . . ." Id. at xi. "This book is about those determined few, those ordinary businessmen (and I use the word advisedly, for they were mostly men) from companies of different sizes and from various industries, who worked for more than forty years to undo the system of labor unions, federal social welfare programs, and government regulation of the economy that came into existence during and after the Great Depression of the 1930. These were the men who supported and helped to formulate the economic agenda of the conservative movement. . . . By the early twenty-first century, the conservative movement in power had transformed the tax code, government regulation of business, and the relationship between the federal government and the states; in the private sector, the proportion of working population represented by labor unions had fallen to levels not seen since before the New Deal. The political economy of the postwar period was sustained by the Keynesian belief that consumption is the key determinant of economic growth, and that therefore pubic policies should primarily seek to stimulate consumption while encouraging some income redistribution. This vision of the economy no longer enjoys wide support in either political party." If we shift focus from cultural to economic issues, it becomes clear that the origins of modern conservative politics and ideology predates the 1960s. And in this sense the roots of the movement's triumph can be found in the disaffection of people very different from the working-class conservatives who are so often seen as central to its rise. It begins instead in the reaction against the New Deal." Id. at xi-xii. It will be interesting to see how the conservative movement, and it businessmen and increasingly businesswoman leadership, addresses the new realities that America is in the early stages of its inevitable decline as an economic power in the global economy. It will be interesting to see how they deal with an American people who, for the most part, see reduced prospects for themselves and their children. It will interesting to see how conservative business people propose paying for the failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while preventing a complete domestic collapse. It would have been interesting, though quite unpleasant, to hear what would be being said today had Social Security been completely privatized and the financial infrastructure had collapsed as it did in middle to late 2008. Given the debacle of Healthcare Reform ('debacle' in the sense that either no reform or an inappropriate compromised reform will be passed), it is likely that conservative will have their chance at governance. It will be interesting to see what they will do. What will they deregulate next? Or, will they come to realize that government regulation is oftentimes appropriate and necessary? Or, will it all be partisan politics, and revenge against so-called liberals. It is not that I oppose a conservative movement and support a liberal movement, it is just that I think that quality of the leadership in both movements is of rather low. Consequently, I don't anticipate any great ideas coming from whoever is in power.).
Pincus, Steve, 1688: The First Modern Revolution (New Haven & London: Yale U. Press, 2009) ("The old narrative emphasized the Revolution of 1688-89 as a great moment in which the English defended their unique way of life. The argument I advance in this book is that the English revolutionaries created a new kind of modern state. It was that new state that has proved so influential in shaping the modern world." Id. at 3. Essentially, Pincus sets out to refute the great Victorian historian Thomas Babington Macaulay and his magisterial History of England. "In contrast to both the classical modernizing and class struggle perspectives, I suggest that revolutions occur only when states embarked on ambitious state modernization programs. Revolutions do not pit modernizers against defenders of an old regime. Instead revolutions happen when the political nation is convinced of the need for political modernization but there are profound disagreements on the proper course of state innovation. . . . State modernization, as political aim and as political process, is a necessary prerequisite for revolution. The extent and nature of modernizing social movements may encourage state modernization. The social movements may help to shape the nature of the revolutionary process. But social movements do not spark revolution unless state modernization is already under way." Id. at 33. Also, see the review "England's Revolution," The Economist, October 17, 2009).
Posner, Richard A., The Crisis of Capitalist Democracy (Cambridge, Massauchsetts & London, England: Havard U. Press, 2010) (From the jacket cover: ". . . Posner helps nontechnical readers understand business-cycle and financial economics, and financial and governmental institutions, practices, and transactions, while maintaining a neutrality [???] impossible for persons professionally committed to one theory of another. He calls for fresh thinking about the business cycle that would build on the original ideas of Keynes. Central to these ideas is that of uncertainty as opposed to risk. Risk can be quantified and measured. Uncertainty cannot, and in this lies the inherent instability of a capitalist economy." "I first analyzed the crisis in my book A Failure of Capitalism: The Crisis of '08 and the Descent into Depression (2009), which took the story up to February 2, 2009. The title alarmed some readers, who thought I meant that capitalism has failed us and we need something different. But capitalism is not a synonym for free markets. It is the name given to a complex economic system with many moving parts. The buying and selling and investing and borrowing and other activities carried on in private markets are only some of those moving parts. Others include a system of laws for protecting property and facilitating transactions, institutions for enforcing those laws, and regulations designed to align private incentives with the goal of achieving widespread prosperity. If the regulatory framework is defective, it must be changed, because competition wil not permit businessmen to subordinate profit maximization to concern for the welfare of society as a whole,and ethics can't take the place of regulation." Id. at 1-2. Posner, as always, is a writer whose ideas should be taken seriously. Such is no less true in the present work. That said, Posner's critique of the problems with the regulatory framework is conspiciously incomplete. He does not address, and he should address, a simple question: how could the a key group of players--the legal profession (or at least that portion of the legal profession invoked in financial matters)--screw up so badly in it role of designing and monitoring the flawed system of laws, legal institutions, and regulations that certainly contributed to the crisis of capitalism? Everyone rightly discusses how bankers, insurers, business people, etc., derailled the system, but there is inadequate attention to the contribution of bad (not in the sense of immoral, but in the sense of incompetent) lawyering to the failure and the crisis. A disporportionate number of those regulators, bankers, insurers, politicians, etc., are themselves lawyers or advised by lawyers. What were they thinking as lawyers? The 'efficient market hypothesis' is a case in point. If the market is efficient, then, there is no need or less need for regulating the market. Law professors bought into efficient markets card blanche, convinced their students to buy into it uncritically, and those law students, as practicing lawyers, regulators, lobbyists, political aides, bankers, insurers, business people, etc., drank the juice without hesitation and help implement and maintain a legal framework based on efficient markets. Yet, the efficient market hypothesis is propably not correct, and certainly was never a reasonable assumption. The cause of the crisis is not simply bad economics, is is also bad laws, bad regulations (not too much or too little regulation, but the wrong regulation), bad legal institutions and, at the center, . . . bad lawyering and lawyers. also, see Niall Ferguson's review, "Uncertainty vs. Risk," NYT Book Review, 5/9/2010.).
Scammell, Michael, Koestler: The Literary and Political Odyssey of a Twentieth-Century Skeptic (New York: Random House, 2009) (See Christopher Caldwell, "Arthur Koestler, Man of Darkness," NYT Sunday Book Review, 12/27/2009).
Sen, Amartya, Development as Freedom (New York: Knopf, 1999) ("We live in a world of unprecedented opulence, of a kind that would have been hard even to imagine a century or two ago. . . ." "And yet we also live in a world with remarkable deprivation, destitution and oppression. There are many new problems as well as old one, including persistence of poverty and unfulfilled elementary needs, occurrence of famines and widespread hunger, violation of elementary political freedoms as well as of basic liberties, extensive neglect of the interests and agency of women, and worsening threats to our environment and to the sustainability of our economic and social lives. Many of these deprivations can be observed, in one form or another, in rich countries as well as poor ones." "Overcoming these problems is a central part of the exercise of development. We have to recognize . . . the role of freedoms of different kinds in countering these afflictions. Indeed, individual agency is, ultimately, central to addressing these deprivations. On the other hand, the freedom of agency that we individually have is inescapably qualified and constrained by the social, political and economic opportunities that are available to us. There is a deep complementarity between individual agency and social arrangements. It is important to give simultaneous recognition to the centrality of individual freedom and to the force of social influences on the extent and reach of individual freedom. To counter the problems that we face, we have to see individual freedom as a social commitment. This is the basic approach that this work tries to explore and examine." "Expansion of freedom is viewed . . . both as the primary end and as the principal means of development. Development consist of the removal of various types of unfreedoms that leave people with little choice and little opportunity of exercising their reasoned agency. . . ." Id. at xi-xii.).
Skidelsky, Robert, John Maynard Keynes, Volume One: Hopes Betrayed, 1883-1920 (New York: Viking, 1983).
Skidelsky, Robert, John Maynard Keynes, Volume Two: The Economist as Savior, 1929-1937 (New York: Penguin Press, 1992) (The End of the Victorian Fairy Tale: "Victorian governments believed that an economy prospers best when left to the free play of market forces. From this followed the golden rule of 'noninterference' or laissez-faire. Economic policy, in the sense of a commitment to certain outcomes for the economy as a whole, did not exist. The idea that the economy should be 'managed' to secure 'objectives' like full employment, stable prices, a healthy balance of payments, a satisfactory growth rate and so on would have struck the Victorians as incomprehensible or merely fanciful. Goods and capital were left free to flow where they would. The government raised taxes to pay for its own upkeep, including defence and law and order, but not to influence the volume of activity. There was no monetary policy, the supply of domestic currency being regulated by the 'automatic' mechanism of the gold standard. Governments made no attempt to prevent, and little to mitigate, unemployment. There was a business cycle, but the unemployed sooner or later seemed to disappear of their own accord--either back into jobs or on to ships taking them to North America or Australia. There were no attempts to 'restructure' British industry or agriculture to make them more competitive: the market system was supposed to take care of this. The laissez-faire consensus had started to break down by the end of the nineteenth century. The Right advocated protection of British industry against foreign competition; the Left called for higher income and inheritance taxes to pay for social services. Economists were hostile to the first, but accepted an economic case for the second. In general, there was little disposition to tamper with a system which had brought the British economy growing prosperity in the nineteenth century. Laissez-faire was validated by success, just as later it was ruined by failure." "Keynes rejected laissez-faire as a policy before he developed a convincing economic theory explaining why laissez-faire would not work. . . . From 1924 to 1929 Keynes developed a powerful critique of laissez-faire, but it was not specifically economic-theoretical, though it carried a strong theoretical charge. It was directed to showing that the presuppositions of laissez-faire--the psychological and organizational conditions which had made it work as a policy in the nineteenth century--had passed away. The idea that the nineteenth century was a special case in economic history thus makes its appearance in Keynes's thinking before the idea that classical economics--the theory of the 'special case' --was itself a 'special case' of a more general theory of economic behavior applicable to the more usual condition of mankind. Psychological and institutional observation was the foundation of Keynesian economics." Id. at 219-220. "Implicit in all this is a crucial shift in a view concerning the relationship between the economy and the polity. Nineteenth-century economists had looked to the liberal political system--one dominated by the business class--to underwrite economic prosperity. Keynes was the first economist to argue that economic prosperity was the only secure guarantee of a liberal political system." Id. at 221. The latter point, concerning the connection between economic prosperity, is one often overlooked or taken for granted.).
Skidelsky, Robert, John Maynard Keynes, Volume Three: Fighting for Freedom, 1937-1946 (New York: Viking, 2001) (From the "Preface to the American Edition": "'Fighting for Freedom' is a better subtitle for the American edition of this book than its British subtitle, 'Fighting for Britain'. . . ." "The British subtitle was designed to remind readers . . . that national interests do not disappear just because the cause is noble. Britain and America spent much of the war jockeying for post-war position. The battleground of this war was finance. I have called it 'Keynes's War' to distinguish it from 'Churchill's War'--because without Lend-Lease Britain could not have fought Churchill's War, and financial negotiations with the United States took up most of Keynes's time from 1941 until his death in 1946. The plot of this war was simple: America tried to get the highest price, Britain to pay the lowest price, for Lend-Lease. Keynes summed up this British 'war aim' in a nutshell: 'the retention by us of enough assets to leave us capable of independent action'. . . ." "American readers might be shocked by the revelation in these pages of the bitterness of Anglo-American rivalry. They should not be. Commercial and financial conflict had embittered relations between the two countries in the 1930s, with each one blaming the other for breakdown of the world economy. It was as natural for the United States to use its wartime financial leverage to weaken Britain as a financial and commercial rival as it was for the British to try to minimise or evade the strings attached to American help. But it is not easy to get this message across, first because it shatters the myth of the united front against evil, secondly, because Americans tend to believe that their nation is uniquely idealistic, and therefore exempt from calculation of self-interest. . . ." "To be reminded of the realities of alliance politics, even in the case of such close partners as Britain and the United States, is timely in the aftermath of the tragic events of 11 September, when the United States is working to construct a global coalition against terrorism. In 1940, it was British vulnerability which threw it into the arms of the United States. America did not fail its fellow-democracy; but also used the occasion to settle old scores, and secure pole position in the post-war international order. Today, the United states, faced with an unexpected vulnerability, calls in the Old World to redress the balance of the New. It, too, will have to pay a price for victory, through it will not be as high a price as Britain paid." Id. at xiii-xiv. Of course, nearly nine years after the events of September 11, 2001, the United States is still involved in a costly war in Afghanistan, still involved in a costly war in Iraq, is still no where near the end (let alone victory) in its so-called 'war against terrorism,' is still entangled in a severe meltdown of its economy, is still severely addicted to foreign oil as a energy source, and is still chronically dependent on foreign debt as a funding source. Would it be too much of an understatement to suggest that the United States is losing (and has probably already loss) its pole position in the post 9/11 international order? The short 'American Century' is over; only the Americans don't know it yet.).
Skidelsky, Robert, Keynes: The Return of the Master (New York: PublicAffairs, 2009) ("The economist John Maynard Keynes is back in fashion. . . . The reason is obvious. The global economy is slumping; 'stimulus packages' are the rage. But Keynes's importance is not just as a progenitor of 'stimulus' policies. . . . Keynes's importance was to provide a 'general theory' which explains how economies fall into slumps, and to indicate the policies and institutions needed to avoid them. . . ." "Keynes is relevant for another reason. The crisis has brought to a head wider issues concerning the explanation of human behaviour and the role of moral judgements in economics. These touch on attitudes to economic growth, globalization, justice, the environment and so on. Keynes had important things to say about these matters. . . ." "The economic hurricane now raging gives us an immense opportunity to reorient economic life towards what is sensible, just and good. Keynes remains an indispensable guide to that future." Id. at ix. "To understand the crisis we need to get beyond the blame game. For the root of the crisis was not failures of character or competence, but failure of ideas. As Keynes famously remarked, 'The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly supposed. Indeed the world is ruled by little else.' The practices of bankers, regulators [Aren't many of these regulators lawyers?] and governments, however egregious, can be traced back to the ideas of economists and philosophers. . . . [T]he present crisis is, to a large extent, the fruit of the intellectual failure of the economics profession." Id. at 28.).
Sullivan, Robert E., Macaulay: The Tragedy of Power (Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: Belknap/Harvard U. Press, 2009) ("Macaulay's 'fear of being mobbed' killed any thought of visiting the United States. As much as he despised American vulgarity and cultural leveling, he loathed American democracy and the prospect of its crossing the Atlantic. Late in life he 'wrote an answer to a Yankee who is utterly unable to understand on what ground I can possibly dislike Jefferson's politics.' His reply began with a straw man. He had never asserted 'that the supreme authority in a state ought to be entrusted to the poorest and most ignorant part of society'--his youthful infatuation with 'American institutions' did not go that far. It was inevitable 'that institutions purely democratic must, sooner or later, destroy liberty, or civilization, or both.' Democracy would either enable 'the poor to plunder the rich, and civilization would perish,' or trigger the defense of property by 'a strong military government,' thus destroying liberty. America's apparent exemption from that rule would end when it became 'as thickly peopled as old England.' England's order and prosperity depended on its powerful ruling class." Id. at 326. "Ultimately, the hungry majority would finish American democracy: 'a multitude of people, none of whom has had more than half a breakfast or expects more than half a dinner.' But they could vote for their rulers, and 'you will act like people who should, in a year of scarcity, devour all the seed corn, and thus make the next year, not of scarcity, but of absolute famine. There will be, I fear, spoliation. The spoliation will increase the distress. The distress will produce fresh spoliation.' He closed by prophesying the victory of new 'Huns and Vandals . . . engendered with your own country by your own institutions.' 'Huns and Vandals' was a euphemism for people whom he called 'human vermin' elsewhere." "Macaulay's savaging of democracy in America was published after his death. It provoked controversy there and had lasting implications elsewhere: for India and Ireland as well as England. Karl Marx had little to reach him about class conflict, and Macaulay would have required no instruction abut what a twentieth-century Marxist called 'hegemony.' The world epitomizes 'supreme power . . . in the hands of a class, numerous indeed, but select, of an educated class.' Macaulay commanded classical sources of the Marxist theory, and his up-to-date, take-no-hostages version of Malthusianism provided the coercion that 'an educated class' needed to dominate their inferiors.' It inspired him to pulverize the Tory paternalist Michael Sadler and to greet the Irish famine as a metaphorical godsend. Macaulay accepted the undemocratic implications of lethal dearth. But a boy who witnessed the 1943 famine in British-ruled Bengal grew up to invert that lesson. Its three million victims taught Amartya Sen that 'although by most indicators, from life expectancy to literacy, Mao's China was ahead of Nehru's India, China had a catastrophic famine between 1958 and 1961 in which up to 30m people starved to death. There was no free press or alternative political parties to give early warning. In democratic India, free from the Raj, this could not have happened.'" Id. at 327. From the book jacket: "Perhaps best known in the West for his classic History of England, [Thomas Babington] Macaulay [1800-1859] left his most permanent mark on South Asia, where his penal code remains the law. His father ensured that ancient Greek and Lain literature shaped Macaulay's mind, but he crippled his heir emotionally. Self-defense taught Macaulay that power, calculation, and duplicity rule politics and human relations. In Macaulay's writings, Sullivan unearths a sinister vision of progress that foreshadowed twentieth-century genocide. That the relevant portrait fashioned by Macaulay's extended family eclipsed his insistent rhetoric about race, subjugation, and civilizing slaughter testifies to the grip of moral obliviousness." "Devoting his huge talents to gaining power--above all for England and its empire--made Macaulay's life a tragedy. Sullivan offers an unsurpassed study of an afflicted genius and a thoughtful mediation on the modern ethics of power.").
Syme, Ronald, The Roman Revolution (1939) (London: The Folio Society, 2009) ("The subject of this book is the transformation of state and society at Rome between 60 BC and AD 14. It is composed round a central narrative that records the rise to power of Augustus and the establishment of his rule, embracing the years 44-23 BC. The period witnessed a violent transference of power and of property; and the Principate of Augustus should be regarded as the consolidation of the revolutionary process. Emphasis is laid, however, not upon the personality and acts of Augustus, but upon his adherents and partisans. The composition of the oligarchy of government therefore emerges as the dominant theme of political history, as the binding link between the Republic and the Empire: it is something real and tangible, whatever may be the name or theory of the constitution." Id. at xvii. "In all ages, whatever the form and name of the government, be it monarchy, republic, or democracy, an oligarchy lurks behind the facade; and Roman history, Republic or Imperial, is the history of the governing class. The marshals, diplomats, and financiers of the Revolution may be discerned again in the Republic of Augustus as ministers and agents of power, the same men but in different garb. They are the government of the New State." Id. at 7. "In the beginning kings ruled at Rome, and in the end, as was fated, it came around to monarchy again. Monarchy brought concord. During the Civil Wars every party and every leader professed to be defending the cause of liberty and peace. Those ideals were incompatible. When peace came, it was the peace of despotism. Cum domino pax ista venit [peace came with a master]. Id. at 9. "On all sides the monarchic Princeps robbed the other principes of power and honour. In the interests of an ordered commonwealth, consulate and military command were removed from competition--and from profit, for the governor now received a salary in money. Politics can be controlled but not abolished, ambition curbed but not crushed. The strife for wealth and power went on, concealed, but all the more intense and bitter, in the heart of the governing oligarchy, in court and cabinet." Id. at 399.).
Thomas, Keith, The Ends of Life: Roads to Fulfilment in Early Modern England (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 2009) ("It would, of course, be misleading to think of people as having pursued lifelong objectives in some systematic fashion. The French philosopher Pierre Charron, whose works were translated into English in the early seventeenth century, declared that a 'fundamental point of wisdom' was the 'fixing to one's self of a particular end, and then chalking out some determinate track, or course of life, which may be proper for leading us to that end'. But he went on to observe that 'the greatest part of mankind' did nothing of the sort. For most people, life was a matter of moving from one short-term expedient to another. For many, the question for subsistence was so all-absorbing that larger questions about how they should live seldom arose: mere life was a more urgent matter than the quality of life. As a contemporary wrote in 1689 about what he called 'the lower sort of mankind', 'they know no other ends of life than food, raiment, sleeping, and rising up early to take pains; all their care is what they should eat, and wherewithal to be clothed, and how to get money for necessary things. They know no other reason for their coming into the world.' Or, as Daniel Defoe put it twenty years later, they lived 'in a daily circulation of sorrow, living but to work, and working but to live, as if daily bread were the only end of wearisome life, and a wearisome life the only occasion of daily bread'." "In early modern England, most people had to make the best of the circumstances in which they found themselves. Their lives, like ours, were usually unplanned, and the business of daily living got in the way of the formulation of any longer-term strategy. Their paths were shaped by their birth and upbringing and governed by habit and routine, into which conscious choice seldom entered. Their energies went into making a living, maintaining a family, and simply getting by. Their values were implicit, rather than consciously articulated; and they were shaped for them by the social relationships in which they found themselves and the cultural influences to which they were exposed. Their needs, desires, and aspirations were those which their world allowed them to formulate. Even the privileged minority who lived in comfortable circumstances, with the leisure and the self-determination to articulate their aims in life, seldom gave the matter much thought. Those who did were all too easily distracted by what the philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1678) called the 'desire of ease and sensual delight'. Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) was a highly successful Admiralty civil servant. But he confessed that he was very easily diverted: 'music and women I cannot but give way to, whatever my business is'. Sir Dudley North (1641-91) pursued a distinguished career as a merchant, financier, and economic thinker, yet his brother tells us that when 'scraping a stick or turning a piece of wood . . . he was incomparably pleased than in all stages of his life before'." Id. at 2-3. Then, as is even more true today, very few people aspire to the 'examined life'. Life then was much harder than life is now (though life remains hard and brutal for many in the modern world, and even many Americans notwithstanding our great abundance). So, what do we do now that many of us are relieved of the burdens of living worrisome lives? Do we live examined lives? No. Instead we live vicariously though 'reality television', spectator sports, and shopping.).
Wilson, Peter H., The Thirty Years War: Europe’s Tragedy (Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: Belknap/Harvard U. Press, 2009) ("The Thirty Years War was an extremely complex event. The problem of interpretation derive from attempts to simplify it by overemphasizing one facet to the detriment of others. The present book seeks to reconnect the different elements through their common relationship to the imperial constitution. The war in the Empire was related to other conflicts, but nonetheless remained distinct. Observers even outside the Empire believe the struggle that began with the Bohemian Revolt continued until the Peace of Westphalia. . . ." Id. at 8-9. "The second major distinction of the present argument is that it was not primarily a religious war. Religion certainly provided a powerful focus for identity, but it had to compete with political, social, linguistic, gender and other distinctions. . . . The war was religious only to the extent that faith guided all early modern public policy and private behaviour. . . ." Id. at 9. "The third key distinction of the present argument is that the war was not inevitable. . . ." Id. at 10. "Though they are now largely silent, the voices from the seventeenth century still speak to us from the innumerable texts and images we are fortunate to possess. They offer a warning of the dangers of entrusting power to those who feel summoned by God to war, or feel that their sense of justice and order is the only one valid." Id. at 851.).