Books

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King Barack’s Crown Government

By 4.15.14

The federal government threatens a Nevada rancher with the loss of his private property. A Long Island man loses his life to Obamacare while a Virginia woman’s family says, “Obamacare killed my sister." IRS bureaucrat Lois Lerner is held in contempt of Congress, having emerged as the key figure in a scheme to deprive conservatives of their rights.

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21st Century Spock

By 4.11.14

The Myth of the Spoiled Child: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom About Children and Parenting
By Alfie Kohn

(Da Capo, 280 pages, $25.99)

Child-raising is something everyone can have an opinion about. We were all children once. We interacted with other children—siblings, classmates. If we are middle-aged, we have probably raised children of our own. Many of us have worked as teachers, struggling to engage with half-formed juvenile minds. Practically everyone has a good base of experience to opine from.

Alfie Kohn’s opinions are of the type that flatters itself as “progressive,” the idea being that we should cast away old, bad ways of doing things and embrace new, good ones. The particular old, bad ways he urges us to reject—what he calls “the traditionalist sensibility”—include punishment, deference to adults, competitive games, rewards for achievement, graded examinations, science fairs, encouragement of “grit,” and, yes, dodge ball.

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I Think Therefore I Am…What?

By 3.28.14

Thinking: The New Science of Decision-Making, Problem-Solving, and Prediction
Edited by John Brockman
(Harper Perennial, 432 pages, $10.90)

Before mass media came up in the mid-twentieth century there was the public lecture, at which some person of eminence or accomplishment would address a hall full of curious citizens. The Internet equivalent is supplied by nonprofit foundations like Edge.org and TED.com, which spread interesting ideas by inviting thinkers to give online talks.

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Escaping Economic Frenzy

By 3.26.14

Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society
By John Horvat II
(York Press, 400 pages, $21.95)

America has been on a “never-ending party cruise” for decades, according to John Horvat II, and the economic crash of 2008 was evidence that the hedonistic pursuit of consumer thrills cannot continue indefinitely. In this sense, our $17 trillion-dollar national debt stands as an indictment not merely of our federal government, but of the irresponsible attitudes of the American people, who have likewise piled up debt to fund their “unsustainable” lifestyles.

Book Chat

Megan McArdle

By 3.13.14

Megan McArdle's The Up Side of Down is an enlightening and entertaining book about why we can't always win and why that’s okay. I spoke with the blogging pioneer and former correspondent for the Economist and the Atlantic, about bankruptcy in Denmark, the history of Viagra, and why she’s optimistic about the United States.

Matthew Walther: What was the genesis of this book?

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American Excess, Chinese Success

By 2.27.14

Unbalanced: The Codependency of America and China
By Stephen Roach
(Yale, 345 pages, $32.50)

China forecasting is a mug’s game. The terrible example before us all is Gordon Chang, who in 2001 published a book titled The Coming Collapse of China, which predicted that within five to ten years the Communist Party would be chased out of power amid social and economic breakdown. (I reviewed the book here.) As Stephen Roach notes drily in Unbalanced: “During the next ten years China averaged 10 percent annual growth in its GDP, with no signs that the Party was losing its grip on power.”

Flashback

A Thinking Man’s President: Jan. 1998

By From the January 1998 issue

In honor of president's day, the Spectator will be republishing this week essays and reviews on our nation's best — and worst — leaders.


John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life
Paul C. Nagel

Knopf/432 pages/$30

Our sixth President has long been a favorite of quiz shows and Trivial Pursuit junkies: the only son to follow his father to the White House, the last President to be elected by the House of Representatives, the only candidate to win the Presidency while losing both the popular and the electoral vote, and the only President to serve as a member of Congress after leaving office.

Flashback

George Washington: Prudent Warrior — Apr. 1989

By From the April 1989 issue

In honor of president's day, the Spectator will be republishing this week essays and reviews on our nation's best — and worst — leaders.


George Washington: A Collection
Edited by W.B. Allen/Liberty Fund/561 pp $22.95

Brothers: I am a Warrior, My Words are few and plain; but I will make good what I say.
—George Washington, Speech to the Delaware chiefs, May 12, 1779

How refreshing for the chiefs to hear such straightforward language from the mouth of a white man. In this address the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army told the Delaware that cooperation with the United States would be rewarded as much as confrontation would be punished; they had his word on that. Such was the popular trust reposited in the name George Washington that less than a decade later the establishment of the American nation would rest on much the same foundation: his honor.

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Let Them Eat Candy

By 2.15.14

Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure
By Samira Kawash
Faber, 416 pages, $27

I love candy. Last year I turned 21 and had my fun, but any pleasure gained from legal drink pales in comparison with the thrill I felt at 14; employed at a local butcher’s and deli, I would take my little paychecks and peruse the candy aisles. Charleston Chews, Haribo Gummi Bears, Necco Wafers, Sour Blue Raspberry Bubble Tape: The fruits of the modern world were mine. My tastes in clothes, poets, and people changed as I matured, but I continue to appreciate the sweet stuff.

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