As we leave behind the tumultuous year of 2020, we have the growing sense that most Americans are eager to calm our strident politics and move forward in a way that brings peace, justice, and prosperity to all citizens, but particularly to Black Americans. Jason Riley argues that to do so, we have an obligation to look dispassionately at the policies of recent past administrations and decide which ones worked and which ones did not.
Riley, a longtime columnist for the Wall Street Journal, has dug into the data and concluded that the economic lives of Black people improved under policies put into place during the Trump Administration. To admit as much is not to endorse the 45th president but rather to champion policies that achieve a clear moral end. From the inauguration day of 2017 until the onset of the pandemic in 2020, Black people in the United States enjoyed higher wages and homeownership, record-low unemployment and poverty, and a narrowing of social inequality.
Without question, these are outcomes that everyone wants. The trouble is that we have fallen into the collective habit of allowing our disapproval of a political personality to skew our appraisal of effective policies. If we want to make actual progress, says Riley, we must look at what actually works, and keep doing it. We must not let partisanship allow us to sit back and watch these economic gains vanish, especially when we know better.
As with previous books in our New Threats to Freedom series, The Black Boom includes two essays from prominent experts who take issue with Riley’s assessment. This shows that it is possible to share the best of intentions for the most disadvantaged in our society but to disagree on what the data suggests we do. Nevertheless, civil, calm, rational dialogue, like the kind exemplified in this book, is what Americans want, and need, at this moment in our history.
In Bring Back the Bureaucrats, John J. DiIulio Jr., one of America’s most respected political scientists and an adviser to presidents in both parties, summons the facts and statistics to show us how America’s big government actually works and why reforms that include adding a million more people to the federal workforce by 2035 might actually help to slow government’s growth while improving its performance.
Starting from the underreported reality that the size of the federal workforce hasn’t increased since the early 1960s even though the federal budget has skyrocketed and the number of federal programs has ballooned, Bring Back the Bureaucrats tells us what our elected leaders won’t: there simply are not enough federal workers to do work that’s critical to our democracy.
Government in America, DiIulio reveals, is Leviathan by Proxy, a grotesque form of debt-financed big government that guarantees bad government:
• Washington relies on state and local governments, for-profit firms, and nonprofit organizations to implement federal policies and programs. Big-city mayors, defense industry contractors, nonprofit executives and other federal proxies lobby incessantly for more federal spending.
• The proxy system chokes on chores as distinct as cleaning up toxic waste sites, caring for hospitalized veterans, collecting taxes, handling plutonium, and policing more than $100 billion a year in “improper payments.”
• The lack of enough competent, well-trained federal civil servants figured in the failed federal response to Hurricane Katrina and in the troubled launch of Obamacare “health exchanges,” Bring Back the Bureaucrats is further distinguished by the presence of E. J. Dionne Jr. and Charles Murray, two of the most astute voices from the political left and right, respectively, who offer their candid responses to DiIulio at the end of the book.
“Greek debt” means one thing to the country’s creditors. But for millions who prize culture over capital, it means the symbolic debt we owe Greece for democracy, philosophy, mathematics, and fine art. Johanna Hanink shows that our idealized image of ancient Greece dangerously shapes our view of the country’s economic hardship and refugee crisis.
This book examines the afterlife of decolonization in the collective memory of the Netherlands. It offers a new perspective on the cultural history of representing the decolonization of the Dutch East Indies, and maps out how a contested collective memory was shaped. Taking a transdisciplinary approach and applying several theoretical frames from literary studies, sociology, cultural anthropology and film theory, the author reveals how mediated memories contributed to a process of what he calls “unremembering.” He analyses in detail a broad variety of sources, including novels, films, documentaries, radio interviews, memoires and historical studies, to reveal how five decades of representing and remembering decolonization fed into an unremembering by which some key notions were silenced or ignored. The author concludes that historians, or the historical guild, bear much responsibility for the unremembering of decolonization in Dutch collective memory.
Ever since the Warren Commission concluded that a lone gunman assassinated President John F. Kennedy, people who doubt that finding have been widely dismissed as conspiracy theorists, despite credible evidence that right-wing elements in the CIA, FBI, and Secret Service—and possibly even senior government officials—were also involved. Why has suspicion of criminal wrongdoing at the highest levels of government been rejected out-of-hand as paranoid thinking akin to superstition? Conspiracy Theory in America investigates how the Founders’ hard-nosed realism about the likelihood of elite political misconduct—articulated in the Declaration of Independence—has been replaced by today’s blanket condemnation of conspiracy beliefs as ludicrous by definition. Lance deHaven-Smith reveals that the term “conspiracy theory” entered the American lexicon of political speech to deflect criticism of the Warren Commission and traces it back to a CIA propaganda campaign to discredit doubters of the commission’s report. He asks tough questions and connects the dots among five decades’ worth of suspicious events, including the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy, the attempted assassinations of George Wallace and Ronald Reagan, the crimes of Watergate, the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages deal, the disputed presidential elections of 2000 and 2004, the major defense failure of 9/11, and the subsequent anthrax letter attacks. Sure to spark intense debate about the truthfulness and trustworthiness of our government, Conspiracy Theory in America offers a powerful reminder that a suspicious, even radically suspicious, attitude toward government is crucial to maintaining our democracy.
From a leading political thinker, this book is both an invaluable playbook for meeting our current moment and a stirring reflection on the future of democracy itself.
The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated some of the strengths of our society, including the rapid development of vaccines. But the pandemic has also exposed its glaring weaknesses, such as the failure of our government to develop and quickly implement strategies for tracing and containing outbreaks as well as widespread public distrust of government prompted by often confusing and conflicting choices—to mask, or not to mask. Even worse is that over half a million deaths and the extensive economic devastation could have been avoided if the government had been prepared to undertake comprehensive, contextually-sensitive policies to stop the spread of the disease.
In Democracy in the Time of Coronavirus, leading political thinker Danielle Allen untangles the US government’s COVID-19 victories and failures to offer a plan for creating a more resilient democratic polity—one that can better respond to both the present pandemic and future crises. Looking to history, Allen also identifies the challenges faced by democracies in other times that required strong government action. In an analysis spanning from ancient Greece to the Reconstruction Amendments and the present day, Allen argues for the relative effectiveness of collaborative federalism over authoritarian compulsion and for the unifying power of a common cause. But for democracy to endure, we—as participatory citizens—must commit to that cause: a just and equal social contract and support for good governance.
The study of dictatorship in the West has acquired an almost exotic dimension. But authoritarian regimes remain a painful reality for billions of people worldwide who still live under them, their freedoms violated and their rights abused. They are subject to arbitrary arrest, torture, corruption, ignorance, and injustice. What is the nature of dictatorship? How does it take hold? In what conditions and circumstances is it permitted to thrive? And how do dictators retain power, even when reviled and mocked by those they govern? In this deeply considered and at times provocative short work, Alaa Al Aswany tells us that, as with any disease, to understand the syndrome of dictatorship we must first consider the circumstances of its emergence, along with the symptoms and complications it causes in both the people and the dictator.
During the 2016 presidential campaign millions of voters, concerned about the economic impact of illegal immigration, rallied behind the notion of a border wall between the United States and Mexico. Well into the Trump presidency, immigration endures as a hotly contested issue in United States politics.
In Dreams Derailed sociologist William A. Schwab shares the stories of immigration reform advocates and follows up on stories told in his 2013 book Right to DREAM, which argued in favor of the DREAM Act that would have provided conditional residency for undocumented youth brought to the United States as children, a version of which was later enacted by executive order and referred to as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).
Taking as its focal point the Trump administration’s decision to rescind Obama-era DACA protection, Dreams Derailed delves into the economic, political, and social factors that inform the public conversation about immigration, making a clear case for the many benefits of inclusive policies and the protection of undocumented youths. Schwab also takes a close look at the factors that carried Donald Trump to the White House, demonstrates how economic upheaval and the issue of immigration influenced the 2016 presidential election, analyzes current immigration laws, and suggests next steps for reform.
Ed Garvey (1940–2017) was one of the most influential and colorful progressive politicians in Wisconsin's history. Growing up in what was a conservative rural town, he got his first taste of liberal activism at the University of Wisconsin in the 1960s, became the first executive director of the National Football League Players' Union, led two spirited campaigns against Bob Kasten and Tommy Thompson, and eventually cofounded the Fighting Bob Fest.
Shortly before he died, Garvey expressed his views on everything in a series of detailed, no-holds-barred interviews with journalist Rob Zaleski. In his trademark witty, blunt, and often abrasive style, he offered his impressions of the political climate, worries about the environment, and Act 10 protests on Capitol Square. Garvey's candor during these conversations provides deeper insight into the personal highs and lows he experienced over his rich life. Diehard followers will fondly remember his energetic campaigns, but they may be surprised to learn of his long-simmering disappointment after those losses. Ever timely and meaningful, Garvey's words offer a path for how the Democratic Party, both within Wisconsin and nationally, can regain its soul.
America is in civic chaos, its politics rife with conspiracy theories and false information. Nationalism and authoritarianism are on the rise, while scientists, universities, and news organizations are viewed with increasing mistrust. Its citizens reject scientific evidence on climate change and vaccinations while embracing myths of impending apocalypse. And then there is Donald Trump, a presidential candidate who won the support of millions of conservative Christians despite having no moral or political convictions. What is going on?
The answer, according to J. Eric Oliver and Thomas J. Wood, can be found in the most important force shaping American politics today: human intuition. Much of what seems to be irrational in American politics arises from the growing divide in how its citizens make sense of the world. On one side are rationalists. They use science and reason to understand reality. On the other side are intuitionists. They rely on gut feelings and instincts as their guide to the world. Intuitionists believe in ghosts and End Times prophecies. They embrace conspiracy theories, disbelieve experts, and distrust the media. They are stridently nationalistic and deeply authoritarian in their outlook. And they are the most enthusiastic supporters of Donald Trump. The primary reason why Trump captured the presidency was that he spoke about politics in a way that resonated with how Intuitionists perceive the world. The Intuitionist divide has also become a threat to the American way of life. A generation ago, intuitionists were dispersed across the political spectrum, when most Americans believed in both God and science. Today, intuitionism is ideologically tilted toward the political right. Modern conservatism has become an Intuitionist movement, defined by conspiracy theories, strident nationalism, and hostility to basic civic norms.
Enchanted America is a clarion call to rationalists of all political persuasions to reach beyond the minority and speak to intuitionists in a way they understand. The values and principles that define American democracy are at stake.
False Black Power?
Jason L. Riley Templeton Press, 2017 Library of Congress E185.61.R568 2017 | Dewey Decimal 305.896073
Black civil rights leaders have long supported ethnic identity politics and prioritized the integration of political institutions, and seldom has that strategy been questioned. In False Black Power?, Jason L. Riley takes an honest, factual look at why increased black political power has not paid off in the ways that civil rights leadership has promised.
Recent decades have witnessed a proliferation of black elected officials, culminating in the historic presidency of Barack Obama. However, racial gaps in employment, income, homeownership, academic achievement, and other measures not only continue but in some cases have even widened. While other racial and ethnic groups in America have made economic advancement a priority, the focus on political capital for blacks has been a disadvantage, blocking them from the fiscal capital that helped power upward mobility among other groups.
Riley explains why the political strategy of civil rights leaders has left so many blacks behind. The key to black economic advancement today is overcoming cultural handicaps, not attaining more political power. The book closes with thoughtful responses from key thought leaders Glenn Loury and John McWhorter.
Hugh M. Hefner’s legacy of enduring free speech and free press values is embodied in the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Awards, established in 1979, which honor leading First Amendment scholars and advocates. Hefner also had a lifelong interest in film censorship issues and supported teaching about them at the University of Southern California for 20 years. His deep commitment to these values was confirmed when the author was granted unrestricted access to over 3,000 personal scrapbooks, which Hefner had kept in order to track free speech and press issues during his lifetime.
The format of the book is an homage to the in-depth conversational interviews Hefner pioneered as the editor and publisher of Playboy magazine. Stuart Brotman conducted in-person interviews with eight persons who in their lifetimes have come to represent a “greatest generation” of free speech and free press scholars and advocates.
Are we as a species headed towards extinction? As our economic system renders our planet increasingly inhospitable to human life, powerful individuals fight over limited resources, and racist reaction to migration strains the social fabric of many countries. How can we retain our humanity in the midst of these life-and-death struggles?
Humanity’s Last Stand dares to ask these big questions, exploring the interconnections between climate change, global capitalism, xenophobia, and white supremacy. As it unearths how capitalism was born from plantation slavery and the slaughter of Indigenous people, it also invites us to imagine life after capitalism. The book teaches its readers how to cultivate an anthropological imagination, a mindset that remains attentive to local differences even as it identifies global patterns of inequality and racism.
Surveying the struggles of disenfranchised peoples around the globe from frontline communities affected by climate change, to #BlackLivesMatter activists, to Indigenous water protectors, to migrant communities facing increasing hostility, anthropologist Mark Schuller argues that we must develop radical empathy in order to move beyond simply identifying as “allies” and start acting as “accomplices.” Bringing together the insights of anthropologists and activists from many cultures, this timely study shows us how to stand together and work toward a more inclusive vision of humanity before it’s too late.
I Heart Obama
Erin Aubry Kaplan University Press of New England, 2016 Library of Congress E908.3.K36 2016 | Dewey Decimal 973.932092
In his nearly two terms as president, Barack Obama has solidified his status as something black people haven’t had for fifty years: a folk hero. The 1960s delivered Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, forever twinned as larger-than-life outsiders and truth tellers who took on racism and died in the process. Obama is different: Not an outsider but president, head of the most powerful state in the world; a centrist Democrat, not the face of a movement. Yet he is every bit a folk hero, doing battle with the beast of a system created to keep people like him on the margins. He is unique among presidents and entirely unique among black people, who never expected to have a president so soon. In I Heart Obama, journalist Erin Aubry Kaplan offers an unapologetic appreciation of our highest-ranking “First” and what he means to black Americans. In the process, she explores the critiques of those in the black community who charge that he has not done enough, been present enough, been black enough to motivate real change in America. Racial antipathy cloaked as political antipathy has been the major conflict in Obama’s presidency. His impossible task as an individual and as a president is nothing less than this: to reform the entire racist culture of the country he leads. Black people know he can’t do it, but will support his effort anyway, as they have supported the efforts of many others. Obama’s is a noble and singular story we will tell for generations. I Heart Obama looks at the story so far.
By one reading, things look pretty good for Americans today: the country is richer than ever before and the unemployment rate is down by half since the Great Recession—lower today, in fact, than for most of the postwar era.
But a closer look shows that something is going seriously wrong. This is the collapse of work—most especially among America’s men. Nicholas Eberstadt, a political economist who holds the Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy at the American Enterprise Institute, shows that while “unemployment” has gone down, America’s work rate is also lower today than a generation ago—and that the work rate for US men has been spiraling downward for half a century. Astonishingly, the work rate for American males aged twenty-five to fifty-four—or “men of prime working age”—was actually slightly lower in 2015 than it had been in 1940: before the War, and at the tail end of the Great Depression.
Today, nearly one in six prime working age men has no paid work at all—and nearly one in eight is out of the labor force entirely, neither working nor even looking for work. This new normal of “men without work,” argues Eberstadt, is “America’s invisible crisis.”
So who are these men? How did they get there? What are they doing with their time? And what are the implications of this exit from work for American society?
Nicholas Eberstadt lays out the issue and Jared Bernstein from the left and Henry Olsen from the right offer their responses to this national crisis.
For more information, please visit http://menwithoutwork.com.
Our idea of the Founding America and its values are not true. We are not the heirs of the Founders, but we can be the heirs of Reconstruction and its vision for equality.
There’s a common story we tell about America: that our fundamental values as a country were stated in the Declaration of Independence, fought for in the Revolution, and made law in the Constitution. But, with the country increasingly divided, this story isn’t working for us anymore—what’s more, it’s not even true. As Kermit Roosevelt argues in this eye-opening reinterpretation of the American story, our fundamental values, particularly equality, are not part of the vision of the Founders. Instead, they were stated in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and were the hope of Reconstruction, when it was possible to envision the emergence of the nation committed to liberty and equality.
We face a dilemma these days. We want to be honest about our history and the racism and oppression that Americans have both inflicted and endured. But we want to be proud of our country, too. In The Nation That Never Was, Roosevelt shows how we can do both those things by realizing we’re not the country we thought we were. Reconstruction, Roosevelt argues, was not a fulfillment of the ideals of the Founding but rather a repudiation: we modern Americans are not the heirs of the Founders but of the people who overthrew and destroyed that political order. This alternate understanding of American identity opens the door to a new understanding of ourselves and our story, and ultimately to a better America.
America today is not the Founders’ America, but it can be Lincoln’s America. Roosevelt offers a powerful and inspirational rethinking of our country’s history and uncovers a shared past that we can be proud to claim and use as a foundation to work toward a country that fully embodies equality for all.
The New Babel: Toward a Poetics of the Mid-East Crises evokes and investigates—from a Jewish American perspective and in the forms of poetry, essays, and interviews—the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, America’s involvement as both perpetrator and victim of events in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and the multiple ways that poetics can respond to political imperatives.
The poems range from the immediately lyrical to the experimental forms of the “Apple Anyone Sonnets” series, which relies heavily on the Arabic but has Shakespeare as its scaffolding.
In the essays, Schwartz calls on the power of poetry—and of some of the great poets in the Arabic, Jewish, and American traditions—to help rethink the battle lines of the contemporary Mid-East, with the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber looming large.
The interviews provide Schwartz’s discussions with Israeli poet and activist Aharon Shabtai, political philosopher Michael Hardt, and the late, great American poet Amiri Baraka.
In these creative, analytical, and conversational moments, Leonard Schwartz rethinks the battle lines of the contemporary Middle East and calls on the power of language as the essence of our humanity, endlessly fluid, but also the source of an intentional confusion there is a necessity to counter.
Obama’s 2008 victory, coming amid the greatest economic crisis since the 1930s, opened the door to major reforms. But he quickly faced skepticism from supporters and fierce opposition from Republicans. What happened? Skocpol surveys the political landscape to help us to understand Obama’s triumphs and setbacks and see where we might be headed next.
Who am I? The question today haunts every society in the Western world.
Legions of people—especially the young—have become unmoored from a firm sense of self. To compensate, they join the ranks of ideological tribes spawned by identity politics and react with frenzy against any perceived threat to their group.
As identitarians track and expose the ideologically impure, other citizens face the consequences of their rancor: a litany of “isms” run amok across all levels of cultural life; the free marketplace of ideas muted by agendas shouted through megaphones; and a spirit of general goodwill warped into a state of perpetual outrage.
How did we get here? Why have we divided against one another so bitterly? In Primal Screams, acclaimed cultural critic Mary Eberstadt presents the most provocative and original theory to come along in recent years. The rise of identity politics, she argues, is a direct result of the fallout of the sexual revolution, especially the collapse and shrinkage of the family.
As Eberstadt illustrates, humans from time immemorial have forged their identities within the structure of kinship. The extended family, in a real sense, is the first tribe and first teacher. But with its unprecedented decline across a variety of measures, generations of people have been set adrift and can no longer answer the question Who am I? with reference to primordial ties. Desperate for solidarity and connection, they claim membership in politicized groups whose displays of frantic irrationalism amount to primal screams for familial and communal loss.
Written in her impeccable style and with empathy rarely encountered in today’s divisive discourse, Eberstadt’s theory holds immense explanatory power that no serious citizen can afford to ignore. The book concludes with three incisive essays by Rod Dreher, Mark Lilla, and Peter Thiel, each sharing their perspective on the author’s formidable argument.
Accompanying the acclaimed BBC Radio 4 program, Reflections features interviews with twelve of Britain’s most influential political figures from the last twenty years. Presented by Peter Hennessy, one of the UK’s most renowned historians, each interview not only offers an honest and frank assessment of a political career, but also acts as a biography filled with fresh insights and moments of new revelation. From one of the longest-serving Prime Ministers and three of the Conservative leaders who stood against him, to dominant figures of late Thatcherism, stalwarts of successive New Labour cabinets, and leaders of the Liberal Democrats, Hennessy brings his characteristic style to each encounter. The politicians included in this volume are: Tony Blair, Michael Heseltine, Vince Cable, Margaret Hodge, William Hague, Harriet Harman, Michael Howard, Paddy Ashdown, Sayeeda Warsi, David Blunkett, Iain Duncan Smith and Kenneth Baker.
After a decade of Stephen Harper, the arrival of Justin Trudeau as prime minister of Canada felt like a relief. But as Canadians reckon with the gulf between the dazzling promise of Trudeau’s election and the grim reality of his government, journalist Martin Lukacs makes the case that “real change” was never part of the agenda.
Drawing on investigative research and first-hand reporting, Lukacs reveals that behind the latest wave of Trudeaumania was a slick status-quo political machine, backed by a cast of corporate elites and lobbyists who expected a pay-off from Liberal rule in Ottawa. He sheds light on a climate plan hatched in collaboration with Big Oil, the arming of a bloody Saudi war in Yemen, a reconciliation industry masking the ongoing theft of Indigenous lands, and the off-loading of public infrastructure to private profiteers—together these signal not a break from Harper, but a continuation of his destructive legacy. Trudeau’s much-hyped new politics, Lukacs argues, were in fact an Instagram-era spin on an old Liberal approach: playing to people’s desire for far-reaching change in order to ward off a backlash against the Canadian elite.
But as the Trudeau formula unravels, Lukacs warns that right-wing scapegoating politicians are misdirecting this growing discontent with the established order. He argues that the only way to defeat the rise of an ugly right—and fulfill the hopes betrayed by Trudeau—is an unapologetically bold response to inequality, racism, and climate breakdown. In this election year and beyond, Lukacs contends that it is time for Canada’s progressive majority to abandon the idea of political saviors and renew the task of collectively winning the world we need.
Carolyn L. Baker grew up in Southern California during segregation and came of age in the counter-cultural climate of the 1960s. Many years later, when Baker was in her mid-sixties, she first learned of the murder of Emmett Till, sparking an investigation of her own position as a white woman in the midst of a world of racial trauma. An Unintentional Accomplice follows Baker’s awakening to the realities of her own white privilege, confronting white guilt, navigating aspects of white identity, and searching out ways to be an ally who both acknowledges her own position and seeks to provide active support for those who live with a different set of circumstances. We find Baker facing the painful reality that, no matter how unintentional, she plays a role within a system that continues to inflict racial harm. She comes to realize that, by not actively opposing discrimination, as a white person, she acts as an accomplice.
An Unintentional Accomplice offers a non-judgmental personal narrative that invites readers to explore the complexities of race in America and how to navigate the guilt that can arise in the face of these realities. The book defines institutionalized discrimination, illustrates the distance between the American dream and American reality, calls for a radically inclusive feminism, and suggests relevant ways to change direction and take action to build a more humane nation.
A consideration of how to repair the British state.
Not since Ireland broke away from the United Kingdom has the British state been so fragile. Northern Ireland now operates under trading rules that are legally separate from the rest of the nation. In Wales, support for independence is running at a historical high, and Scotland is more conscious than ever of its individual identity and has aspirations for a European future. With public trust and confidence in government at record lows, the United Kingdom faces a crisis that can only be repaired by a new constitutional settlement. Unwritten Rule calls for a radical realignment, embracing a federal approach that would accommodate devolution as the best way of bringing about a successful and diverse national life, increasing democratic control over local and national decision-making, and modernizing national political structures.
A denunciation of the credentialed elite class that serves capitalism while insisting on its own progressive heroism
Professional Managerial Class (PMC) elite workers labor in a world of performative identity and virtue signaling, publicizing an ability to do ordinary things in fundamentally superior ways. Author Catherine Liu shows how the PMC stands in the way of social justice and economic redistribution by promoting meritocracy, philanthropy, and other self-serving operations to abet an individualist path to a better world. Virtue Hoarders is an unapologetically polemical call to reject making a virtue out of taste and consumption habits.
Forerunners: Ideas First is a thought-in-process series of breakthrough digital publications. Written between fresh ideas and finished books, Forerunners draws on scholarly work initiated in notable blogs, social media, conference plenaries, journal articles, and the synergy of academic exchange. This is gray literature publishing: where intense thinking, change, and speculation take place in scholarship.