Saturday, January 9, 2010

Book Notes 2

These “book notes” (see Book Notes 1 for background information) appeared originally in terra nova, Volume 2, Number 1 (Autumn [North] Spring [South] 1992).

The Russian Heart: Days of Crisis and Hope. Photographs and Journal by David C. Turnley. (New York: Aperture, 1992), 144 pp., $40.00 cloth.

Russian Heart David TurnleyPulitzer-prize winning photojournalist David Tumley spent two months in the Soviet Union during the summer of 1991, arriving in Moscow in the midst of the hardliners’ coup against Mikhail Gorbachev. The 100 color photographs in this collection show all the grit and grind of Soviet life: queues for food, the blackened faces of coal miners, the drabness of a political prison. They also provide glimpses of a more open future: naval cadets attending a service at St. Isaac’s Cathedral, Lithuanian President Landsbergis and his 98-year-old father, synagogues and mosques vibrating with prayer after years of repression. The photographs from Moscow during the coup are the most dramatic: a young soldier sitting atop a tank in the rain, Gorbachev thanking Yeltsin, crowds cheering the end of the putsch and waving the Russian national flag. This is a coffee-table book with a difference.

A Dictionary of Environmental Quotations, compiled by Barbara K. Rodes and Rice Odell. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992), 335 pp., $35.00 cloth.

Dictionary of Environmental QuotationsOne expects that a book from Simon and Schuster’s prestigious Academic Reference Division would make some pretense to comprehensiveness and balance. Not so with this “dictionary,” really a book of quotations that make the case for increased environmental regulation and governmental intrusiveness and make fun of those who cast doubt on that program. The omissions are telling: not a single major proponent of the free-market environmental movement is quoted— not Walter Block, Terry Anderson, Fred Smith, nor Michael Greve, to name a few. The late Warren Brookes merits one mention. S. Fred Singer comments on the ozone layer, but Patrick Michaels, debunker of global warming, is missing, as is Edward Krug, who has proven that acid rain is not a problem. Rodes and Odell have performed a disservice to their readers.

Restoration: Congress, Term Limits, and the Recovery of Deliberative Democracy, by George F. Will. (New York: The Free Press, 1992), 260 pp., $19.95 cloth.

Term Limits Democracy George WillThe 1992 campaign season has been uniquely plagued or blessed (depending on one’s perspective) by the voluntary retirement of some 100 Members of Congress, and the involuntary retirement (through electoral defeat) of several others, including Senator Alan Dixon (D-Ill.) and GOP Congressional Campaign Chairman Guy van der Jagt (R-Mich.). Framing these “defections” is a widespread national debate about the merits of placing limits on the terms legislators can serve. Several states have adopted term limits for both their own legislatures and for their representatives in Washington, usually through hard- fought referenda set before the general electorate. Here political pundit George Will weighs in on the issue: formerly opposed to term limits in principle, he now feels they are necessary to resuscitate a moribund democracy. Term limits, he says, will return the United States to the tradition of citizen-legislators envisioned by the Founders and destroy the “incumbency machine” that the modern Congress has become.

1492 and All That: Political Manipulations of History, by Robert Royal. (Washington: Ethics and Public Policy Center, 1992), 203 pp., $18.95 cloth.

1492 Robert Royal The quincentenary celebration of Christopher Columbus’ first voyage to America has brought out of the woodwork all sorts of countercultural protests, all decrying the effect of Western (read: European) culture on the rest of the world. Royal quotes activist Hans Koning as saying the Columbus anniversary “presents the best opportunity for progressives ‘since the Vietnam War,” adding that “the linkage here is not accidental. A large portion of the most rabid anti-Columbus material in 1992 comes out of the same cultural and political quarters as the antiwar protests of the 1960s.” 1492 is a scholarly examination of history and historiography; it also provides intellectual ammunition for the 500th anniversary’s cultural battles.

Preferential Option: A Christian and Neoliberal Strategy for Latin America’s Poor, by Amy L. Sherman (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1992), 230 pp., $17.95 paper.

Amy Sherman Preferential OptionAmy Sherman, a frequent contributor to the pages of terra nova, provides a clear and articulate free-market agenda for Latin American economic development. Her intended audience is committed Christians, who are taught by the Gospels that “opting for the poor is not optional.” She adds that “how Christians opt—what development strategies they pursue—makes all the difference if the poor are to be served effectively.” Drawing on Catholic and Protestant social teaching, critiquing conventional macroeconomic development models, and creating a moral defense for free enterprise, Sherman makes a strong case for economic liberty as “the preferential option for the poor.”

Coming Out Conservative: An Autobiography, by Marvin Liebman (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1992), 272 pp., $19.95 cloth.

The triumph of conservative politics in the United States and classical liberalism worldwide was not due entirely to academic treatises. It required ward- heeling, electioneering, money, and propaganda. This memoir tells the tale of a behind-the-scenes activist helping others gain the limelight. Liebman was a committed Communist whose mind was when Stalin’s atrocities came to light in the 1950s. He brought to the nascent conservative movement a talent for the agitprop developed by the Left and instituted grassroots organizing and fundraising methods still in use today. A longtime associate of William F. Buckley, Jr., he cofounded Young Americans for Freedom and the American Conservative Union. He is probably the only person to work both on Henry Wallace’s Communist-front presidential campaign in 1948 and those of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan two decades later. His book helps put the conservative movement in both a personal and a historical context.

No More Martyrs Now: Capitalism, Democracy, and Ordinary People, by Don Caldwell (Johannesburg: Conrad Business Books, 1992), 272 pp., R40 paper.

One of the more stimulating and frustrating challenges in post-apartheid South Africa is spreading the truth about free enterprise in the face of hostility, mythology, and simple misunderstanding. Caldwell, a writer and lecturer on business and economic topics, states that his new book “is written from an unashamedly liberal-democratic perspective. It’s in favor of capitalism and skeptical of politicians from beginning to end.” In a breezy but not unserious style, he describes the importance of civil society, decries the imposition of social engineering, and takes aim at the African National Congress’s authoritarian tendencies. The book also contains some useful appendices: the 1955 Freedom Charter, draft bills of rights from the ANC and the South African Law Commission, and the constitutional principles of the ANC and the National Party.

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