Liberty as a human ideal may never seem more powerful—or problematic—after reading these pages.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Rethinking one of America’s most cherished values in search of a better tomorrow.

America has lost its way, says Schwartz (Liberty in America’s Founding Moment, 2011), a former religious studies professor–turned–software company executive. From a political and economic standpoint, he believes much of the blame can be traced to a flawed understanding of liberty. Many Americans equate liberty with protecting individual rights and property. But, Schwartz writes, that one-sided view ignores the responsibilities that come with liberty. He calls this philosophy “liberty-first” because it places liberty above all other values, such as equality, justice and compassion. The result is an egocentric, government-fearing mentality that carries grave political and environmental consequences for an increasingly crowded planet. “The near-obsessive focus on liberty to the exclusion of other important values and concepts is part of what is causing the world’s problems and undermining America’s leadership and respect,” he writes. Schwartz pits himself against libertarians and other far-right politicos by advancing a “responsibility-first” philosophy. At its core is the belief that humans, past and present, are irrevocably interdependent. So, along with our rights, we have obligations to each other. Controversial, ponderous and intensely argued, the book attacks principles many Americans take for granted. Concepts such as “natural rights” and “self-regulating markets” come under blistering critique as Schwartz probes their origins in the writings of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Adam Smith and others. The implications of his philosophy are far-reaching: It reconsiders the nature of government, property, labor and natural resources in the pursuit of a more equitable and sustainable future. Overall, the book strikes a good balance between scholarly rigor and popular appeal. Endnotes are used judiciously, helping to keep the narrative free of academic quibbling. The prose is articulate and carefully worded, only occasionally blemished by long-winded sentences. Conservatives may find the book troubling, but few can disagree that with a global population of 7 billion and growing, humans must find new ways to coexist peaceably. For Schwartz, that means broadening our views on civic life.

Liberty as a human ideal may never seem more powerful—or problematic—after reading these pages.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9828325-1-6

Page Count: -

Publisher: Other Ideas Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

Close Quickview