Tag: Books

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One of our family’s Yuletide traditions is to watch “Die Hard” on Christmas Eve Eve. Okay, so it doesn’t exactly hit the spot for “Peace on Earth” but if you wanted to really stretch things, you could say it’s an Incarnation Parable. Or you could say with dark humor the film blows stuff up real […]

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During our annual family visits to Denver, I always find a way to make it to The Tattered Cover, a large bookstore downtown. I rediscovered it after many years away, and pleasantly realized that they offered discounted and used books amongst their full-price items.   I usually spend a few hours in the company of this wide […]

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Tyranny Unveiled


FEAST_OF_GOAT_2-165x246I used to read a lot of novels. Now, alas, I don’t. Perhaps I am working too hard. Perhaps I waste a lot of time on the Internet. I really do not know. What I can say is that I really miss losing myself in a good story.

Just how much I miss it was brought home to me over the last few days. I have been working on an essay on Machiavelli’s Prince. This is a work that is now 500 years old. I gave a talk on the subject at Harvard just over a year ago, and I gave another version of the talk at a conference held at Columbia in December. In the course of trying to turn the talk into something publishable, I found myself pondering the difference between ancient and modern tyranny — between the likes of Polycrates of Samos and Joseph Stalin. It seemed to me that Machiavelli might have something to do with the reorientation of tyranny — with its acquisition of an ambition to transform human character and social relations that was absent from the aspirations of Cypselus and Periander of Corinth; Peisistratus, Hippias, and Hipparchus of Athens; and Hiero of Syracuse.

I do not mean to say that the ancient prototype is dead and gone. It is alive and well in many a corner of Africa; and, back in the third quarter of the last millennium, when I was young and the world was fresh, it was alive and well in many a corner of Latin America. Juan Peron, Perez Jimenez, Anastasio Somoza, Fulgencio Batista — those were the days!

Which Is Best for Liberty: The Presidency or a Parliament?


indexIn the Claremont Review of Books, I review a recent book by my friend, Frank Buckley, of George Mason Law School. His provocative argument is that the U.S. Constitution harms liberty because of the Presidency. He argues that parliamentary systems turn out to be more protective of individual rights.

That doesn’t seem right to me. I argue in response that the greater threat to liberty lies in unrestrained in majority democracy, where 50.1 percent of the people can legislative in any way it wishes — which is what happens in a parliamentary system, where there is no independent executive to check the legislature. But Buckley claims that the measure of freedom show that nations that have parliamentary systems have greater economic and political freedom than the U.S.

What do Ricochet readers think?

Preserving for Posterity the Truth about the Tea Party: A Review of Joel Pollak’s Wacko Birds


Joel_PollakDecades from now, when academic historians describe today’s Tea Party movement, they will almost surely repeat the tripe we often hear today—that the movement is motivated primarily by racism, that Tea Party members have no real principles, that instead their main goal is to deter President Obama from achieving significant accomplishments, that the movement is funded and largely controlled by the Koch brothers, who support the movement mainly because it would help their personal financial interests, etc.

When such academic histories are written, some of us will want to explain that the truth was quite different. We will be aided by Joel Pollak’s excellent new book, Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party. (The book will be released tomorrow. Pollak and his publisher have been kind enough to give me an advance copy.)

Pollak’s first step into the world of punditry occurred in April 2009, when he was a student at Harvard Law School. During the Q&A period of a speech by Barney Frank, Pollak asked Frank a simple question: How much, if any, responsibility do you have for the sub-prime mortgage crisis? Frank became defensive and visibly agitated. In fact, Pollak had to persist through several interruptions by Frank before he could even finish his question. Frank kept evading the question, and at one point Pollak offered “You can say ‘none.’ That’s fine.” Frank still would not answer. Soon after, Greta van Sustern invited Pollak on her show to discuss, what she called, his “showdown” with Frank.

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Looking at my Goodreads account, it lists over 1500 books I’ve read and there must be many books I’ve read in my life I can’t remember to post. We recently moved and gave away hundreds of books but still have hundreds more, some on shelves and some still in boxes. So it wasn’t difficult for […]

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The Importance of Learning at Home


Rewards BookNearly all children are “home schooled” during their first four or five years before being enrolled in a formal school. Growing numbers of students – approximately 1.7 million to 2.1 million – continue to be schooled at home after they are old enough to attend conventional schools, but in some capacity all students continue to be, or should be, substantially “home schooled” for their entire K-12 careers. This is because in their first 18 years, only about 12 percent of children’s time (when they’re not sleeping) is spent in school.

Some parents do all they can to ensure their children rank first in all their academic classes in school. Best-selling author Amy Chua, for example, described herself as a “Tiger Mother” and was much ridiculed for her impressive and successful efforts to gain her daughters’ entrance to Ivy League universities and for one to even make a solo performance at Carnegie Hall. Her book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, noted that rigorous family emphasis on achievement is common in Asian cultures. It sparked a national debate about parents’ roles in educating and pushing children to achieve.

Research shows children with devoted parents are likely to learn far more than others. Parents can create a learning environment at home by having on hand age-appropriate personal or library-borrowed books and if they can afford it, art supplies, musical instruments, and electronic devices such as personal computers and tablets, which continue to fall in price. Many of these items can be purchased inexpensively at second-hand stores, such as Goodwill. Since children quickly outgrow many of these learning aids, it is a good idea to get in the habit of buying them used and then donating them when finished.

‘What Have You Read?’


Here on Ricochet lately, we’ve been having a number of discussions between and about “Social Conservatives” and “Libertarians.” (Don’t ask.) In this context a question arose which might be summarised as follows: “What have you read?” I should like to ask this question more generally – not least because there are certain books that can be an education in themselves.

But which ones, and why, specifically, should we read them? We’ve all only got so much time, and some of these books aren’t cheap. Without at least something to spark our interest[1] or otherwise inspire us, the way to a vivid world of understanding may remain lost forever in the shadowy Terra Incognita of our minds; an echo of which may now and then reach us, before fading back “into the forest dim.”[2] Sometimes even when we’ve gone and got the book, it sits there on our shelves waiting hopefully for a day that may never come.

C-SPAN’s Conversation with Tim Groseclose


Earlier this year, the folks from C-SPAN’s Book TV sat down with Ricochet’s own Tim Groseclose to discuss his book Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind, preview his subsequent volume (since released), Cheating: An Insider’s Report on the Use of Race in Admissions at UCLAand explain why Professor Groseclose was leaving Southern California behind for a new academic home on the East Coast.

Watch the video here.

Would You Read Conservative Fiction?


NR Cover 2014.07.07National Review’s current cover story makes for an interesting companion to our discussion last week about what makes for great fiction. In it, book publisher Adam Bellow suggests that conservatives open a new front in the culture war: prose fiction.

To hear some conservatives talk you’d think movies were the Holy Grail, the golden passkey to the collective unconscious. This gets things precisely backwards…

Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the Narnia books by C. S. Lewis both produced big-budget movies that reached millions of people with what most of us would probably agree is a subtly conservative message. Yet both of these successful movie franchises ultimately pale in comparison with the impact of the books. Even at their best, movies are essentially cartoons and their effects are superficial and fleeting. Books engage the reader much more deeply, at a level of identification with the characters and plot that can instruct the soul and edify the mind. A hundred years from now, moreover, these classic books will still be read all over the world in dozens of languages when the films on which they are based are long forgotten or superseded by new forms of entertainment.

What the Piketty Errors Mean


PikettyRemember the Reinhart/Rogoff spreadsheet error? In the event that you do not, here is a summary. Those who follow debates between economists will recall that the spreadsheet error led to all kinds of excoriations of Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff on the part of liberal economists, who claimed that they were responsible for austerity policies that killed off economic growth. Even Stephen Colbert got in on the act. Their spreadsheet error was considered to be the worst tragedy that befell the planet since that one time when Oedipus and Jocasta had a super-awesome first date.

Of course, the excoriations were vastly overstated, but that didn’t stop intellectual opponents of Reinhart and Rogoff from engaging in hyperbole on a grand scale. Now that Thomas Piketty has been caught making his own significant errors, comparisons have naturally been made between Piketty on the one hand, and Reinhart and Rogoff on the other.

These comparisons fail. Reinhart and Rogoff may have made a spreadsheet error, but there is a very plausible argument that the error did not affect their conclusions, and there was no serious accusation on anyone’s part — not even the most severe critics — that Reinhart and Rogoff engaged in intellectual or scholarly fraud.

Facts Are Stubborn Things . . . As Thomas Piketty Is Beginning to Find Out


I have bought Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, and while I have posted many an item that takes issue with the books claims and conclusions concerning wealth inequality, I do plan on reading Piketty; his book has made quite the intellectual and cultural impact, and although I know what his basic arguments are, I want to be sure that I read the whole of the book to be fully aware of his claims.

But even before reading the book, one can conclude certain things about Piketty, as my previous blog posts indicate. And today, we learn that we may well be able to conclude one more thing still about Piketty, his research, and his arguments: They may be completely wrong. And yes, those words were worth emphasizing.

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So I noticed that no one responded to my invite in the Prelude. Rather than assume that the post just escaped notice of anyone on Ricochet, I’m just going to instead assume that y’all were snubbing me mostly because it makes me feel cool and important. I’m noticeable enough to be snubbed. In your face, […]

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Perhaps A Possible Unofficial Informal Meetup? So far I’ve posted two of these little reviews, and I plan to do more given the response (the first post actually got replies!) The next Local Authors Reading & Book Signing event is coming up, Apr. 26th, 6:00pm at the Three Mugs Brewing Company near Hillsboro (west of Portland), […]

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