Sunday, August 31, 2008

Books in Brief

An Inconvenient Book
by Glenn Beck

This book by the sardonic talk radio host is a humorous introduction to politics. It covers around twenty different political and cultural issues relevant to our times. It mixes facts and reason with counterfactual jokes and humorous asides. It contains plenty of sidebars and pull-quotes, resembling the style of a modern textbook, except interesting. Except for the chapter on "peak oil", it is solidly conservative. Anyone looking for humor and an introduction to politics will find this book enjoyable, but those searching for in-depth policy analysis will have to go elsewhere.

The Revolution, a Manifesto
by Congressman Ron Paul

This book is a short introduction to Paul's constitutionalist libertarian political philosophy. The chapters on economic freedom and the Constitution should please most conservatives. The chapter on money and the Federal Reserve, while not an issue that conservatives have usually focused on, is quite compelling. It is short, non-comprehensive introduction to Austrian economic theory and the theory of how monetary inflation causes the business cycle. The chapter on civil liberties will likely inspire both agreement and disagreement, as Paul takes issue with the Patriot Act, Military Commissions Act, and other recent presidential policies. The chapter that will find the least agreement is the one on foreign policy.

Paul explains his non-interventionist philosophy, and exposes some of the flaws of imposing democracy and nation-building. Paul's contention that the main cause of terrorism and enemy attacks does not hold up, however. So-called blowback certainly does exist, but that does not mean that it is the main cause of such problems. Regardless of where the reader comes down on this issue, Paul's view is a serious one that deserves serious consideration. Readers who want to know what Ron Paul is all about should read this book to find out.

Constitutional Chaos: What Happens When Government Breaks Its Own Laws
by Andrew Napolitano

Napolitano, a former New Jersey judge and Fox News commentator, has written a defense of civil liberties against both local and federal encroachments. For those whose conception of civil liberties is whatever the ACLU advocates, Napolitano's constitutionalist libertarian perspective deserves consideration.

Napolitano criticizes such practices as entrapment, plea bargains in exchange for testimony, unwarranted traffic stops, and more. His defence of natural law against legal positivism, defence of gun rights and the Second Amendment, and criticism of Janet Reno's Waco massacre, Ruby Ridge manslaughter, and child abuse witch hunts will please conservatives. Some of his other contentions will inspire more debate. Entrapment is certainly unjustified when the government dreams up the entire crime and talks someone into doing it, but Napolitano criticizes even entrapment of sexual predators who seeks meetings with children on the internet and actually show up for the meetings. It is hard to argue against his assertion that offering reduced sentences in exchange for testimony can lead to perjury. But the unanswered question in this case and others is what would happen to crime rates if we did things Napolitano's way?

There are a few other issues with Napolitano's philosophy. He acknowledges that judicial review was once uncommon, but defends it as part of natural law. He also views procedural rights as in the third through eighth amendments as equivalent to natural rights, as in the first and second amendments. Nonetheless, the book is thought-provoking and worthy of consideration.

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