Professor Burns begins in militant fettle, as if he's lately been radicalized a la Jerry Rubin -- Attica has just happened,...

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UNCOMMON SENSE

Professor Burns begins in militant fettle, as if he's lately been radicalized a la Jerry Rubin -- Attica has just happened, poverty continues, the environment is going to smash, the old liberal reforms he's worked so long and hard for have come to nothing, the country is experiencing ""a failure of nerve"" (the book is loaded with such sponge phrases); in short, ""The young have been our educators."" But old New Dealers' wheels seldom leave that single track except for retreading and Burns quickly confirms that he's no exception: it's not SDS but the ""compelling vision of Enlightenment values"" which underpins his brand of ""uncommon sense,"" set forth here as ""strategies"" (more sponge) for ""comprehensive reform"" of the political system through ""directed"" change. Before unveiling his strategies however, Burns blasts those revolutionaries who seek change through violence; Marcuse (naturally) is clubbed down like any other Fascist. Burns' proposals boil down to greatly enhancing the power of the federal government, especially the executive and in particular the presidency; what better way to achieve protection of liberty and equality, eradication of poverty, and salvation of the environment -- liberal consensus goals which have been frustrated by conservative exploitation of antiquated checks-and-balances in the system, right? Congress would simply act as a veto on presidential authority; in addition it might serve as a ""national ombudsman."" And how might this complete centralization (or ""nationalization"") of power be accomplished? Burns posits a ""new"" coalition of the poor, blacks, the young, labor, and white collar professionals which will inherit the Democratic party. There are an enormous number of self-evident, unanswered questions about all of this -- but the most haunting is will Burns be taken seriously by other frustrated liberals?

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 1971

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1971