For readers who give books as Christmas presents to political junkie friends, here are my 2019 gift book picks.
“Great Society: A New History” by Amity Shlaes.
A decade ago, the award-winning Shlaes penned an extraordinary revisionist history of the Great Depression titled “The Forgotten Man.” Her stories of the common people who struggled to survive that era, and description of what the New Deal failed to accomplish, were fascinating reading.
In her new book, she focuses her jeweler’s eye on Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society.
This revisionist history brilliantly describes and analyses the numerous crises of the 1960s, particularly public sector reforms vs. private sector advancement. Shlaes confirms Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s observation that government employees who administered the new poverty programs benefited more than poor minorities. Many entitlement reforms actually destroyed families, drove many into greater poverty, and encouraged permanent government dependence.
This book should be read by misguided pols calling for even more government handouts.
“How to Be a Dictator: The Cult of Personality in the Twentieth Century” by Frank Dikötter.
The author, a professor at the University of Hong Kong, is a leading authority on modern totalitarian mass murders. His trilogy documenting the horrors of Mao’s reign of terror that murdered more than 50 million innocent Chinese is remarkable.
Now he has penned for the general reader a work that “offers a stunning portrait of dictatorship, guide to the cult of personality, and a map for exposing the lies tyrants tell to build and maintain their regimes.” His subjects include Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Mussolini, and Kim Il-sung.
This excellent synopsis of the crimes against humanity committed by evil men should be gift to every millennial. Since so many under 35 have never heard of the subjects covered in “How to Be a Dictator,” it might just be a real eye-opener for them.
“Who Killed Civil Society? The Rise of Big Government and Decline of Bourgeois Norms” by Howard A. Husock.
This Manhattan Institute scholar argues that bourgeois norms — observing the cardinal virtues, good manners, temperance, honor, courage, the work ethic — are “an essential key to upward mobility, or at least to a healthy stable life.” In Husock’s judgment, constructive norms that have been abandoned by large segments of our society are the cause of many present-day problems: birth out of wedlock, the opioid epidemic, criminal violence, chronic unemployment of working-class men, etc. Husock offers “a powerful diagnosis of the dysfunction at the heart of our social ills” and offers great insight as to what can be done to begin the long process to fix the mess caused by America’s social engineers.
“Eight Days of Yalta: How Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin Shaped the Post-War World” by Diana Preston.
This British historian has written an eminently readable book on the last World War II meeting of the “Big Three” at Yalta in the winter of 1944. Preston reveals that the 8-day conference — that was supposed to decide the final conduct of the war and to create the blueprint for the post-war world — accomplished very little. She traces the fraying relation between F.D.R. and Churchill, and how Stalin extracted a heavy price to enter the Pacific War and to bless the creation of the United Nations. The end result of the conference: Churchill wrote to the new U.S. president, Harry Truman, three months later of “an iron curtain that was drawn down upon” Eastern Europe.
“The Conservative Sensibility” by George Will.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist has written a splendid magnum opus on the meaning of American conservatism.
In his book, Will stresses that conservatism for him is about conserving the wisdom of the nation’s founders.
Will calls on conservatives to provide the leadership to temper “government hubris and overreach” and to persuade Americans that “their political appetites are large parts of the problem.”
He concedes the task will be difficult because restoring “the dignity of constitutional government depends on restraints of a sort that do not come easily to conservatives or any other Americans.” But, Will concludes, the restraints requisite for limited government “will come only from thoughtful reverence from the nation’s founding, a reverence that not only honors the memory of the founders but is conscientious in understanding their principles.”
George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact," and "Christian Persecutions in the Middle East: A 21st Century Tragedy." He is chairman of Aid to the Church in Need-USA. Mr. Marlin also writes for TheCatholicThing.org and the Long Island Business News. To read more George J. Marlin — Click Here Now.
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