by A.C. Grayling ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 4, 2020
A brilliant exploration of democracy as it is and as it should be.
The noted British political and economic philosopher examines modern democracy and finds it—well, not very democratic.
Democracy, Churchill once remarked, is the worst form of government except for all the others. Grayling agrees, holding that democracy along the “Westminster Model,” which includes the U.K. and, in modified form, the U.S., “is either dysfunctional or in danger of becoming so as a result of the model’s essential weaknesses.” Both the U.K. and the U.S., he adds, are the most pronounced examples of its failures because both have become thoroughly politicized—and, he notes, “government is not the place for politics. Politics is the place for politics: in election campaigns, in the negotiations to form government, in the public debate in general.” When government is politicized along party lines, someone doesn’t get represented, and the foremost goal of a democratic state is representation for all and the opportunity for everyone to flourish. This is far from the case, writes Grayling, since too many people are excluded from the benefits of the state “as a result of political and economic choices made by those who still get control of the levers respectively of government and economic activity.” Rather than monolithic party rule, the author favors broad-based parliamentary coalitions, which further the goal of arriving at a majority opinion “composed of the overlapping Venn diagrams of a sufficient number of minorities.” He is particularly disparaging of the “first-past-the-post” system that has taken over both the U.S. and the U.K., which leaves voters for the losing side without a voice in governance. Fortunately, to trust Grayling, there are ways to reduce politics in government and get democracy back on the road to functioning properly, even if the powers that be will surely struggle against any such reversion to the ideal.A brilliant exploration of democracy as it is and as it should be.
Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020
Page Count: 256
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Review Posted Online: April 20, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020
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by Walter Isaacson ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 12, 2023
Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.
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A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.
To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.
Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023
Page Count: 688
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023
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by Thomas Sowell ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 19, 2023
For those satisfied with blame-the-victim tidbits of received wisdom.
The noted conservative economist delivers arguments both fiscal and political against social justice initiatives such as welfare and a federal minimum wage.
A Black scholar who has lived through many civil rights struggles, Sowell is also a follower of Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, who insisted that free market solutions are available for every social problem. This short book begins with what amounts to an impatient declaration that life isn’t fair. Some nations are wealthy because of geographical advantages, and some people are wealthy because they’re smarter than others. “Some social justice advocates may implicitly assume that various groups have similar developed capabilities, so that different outcomes appear puzzling,” he writes. In doing so, he argues, they fail to distinguish between equal opportunity and equal capability. Sowell is dismissive of claims that Black Americans and other minorities are systematically denied a level playing field: Put non-white kids in charter schools, he urges, and presto, their math scores will zoom northward as compared to those in public schools. “These are huge disparities within the same groups, so that neither race nor racism can account for these huge differences,” he writes, clearly at pains to distance himself from the faintest suggestion that race has anything to do with success or failure in America. At the same time, he isn’t exactly comfortable with the idea that economic inequalities exist, and he tries to finesse definitions to suit his convictions: “The terms ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ are misleading in another and more fundamental sense. These terms apply to people’s stock of wealth, not their flows of income.” As for crime? Give criminals more rights, he asserts, as with Miranda v. Arizona, and crime rates go up—an assertion that overlooks numerous other variables but fits Sowell’s ideological slant.For those satisfied with blame-the-victim tidbits of received wisdom.
Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2023
Page Count: 224
Publisher: Basic Books
Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2023
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