A well-argued examination of the nation’s founding principles.

THE PRICE OF GREATNESS

ALEXANDER HAMILTON, JAMES MADISON, AND THE CREATION OF AMERICAN OLIGARCHY

Founding Fathers worried over inequality, popular sovereignty, and economic growth.

Controversy over the meaning of the Constitution, the powers of the presidency, and the reach of federal government; concern about the political influence of wealthy citizens and corruption among elected officials; questions about the effects of tariffs on economic stability—these issues that beset contemporary America began in its earliest days. Focusing on James Madison (1751-1836) and Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804), Weekly Standard contributing editor Cost (A Republic No More: Big Government and the Rise of American Political Corruption, 2015, etc.) offers a revealing look at how their contrasting political philosophies shaped the new nation’s domestic and foreign policies. Although they eventually became fierce opponents, Madison and Hamilton began as allies, sharing a belief “that people were easily led astray by selfish interests that undermined the cause of good government.” State oversight could not be trusted to rein in opportunism and greed. Their proposals for fostering a strong federal government, however, were at odds: Hamilton envisioned a system emulating Britain’s, where senators, appointed by an electoral college, would serve for life, as would the president. Only members of the House would serve three-year terms. The “natural aristocracy” would be drawn from wealthy men, who, merely by virtue of their wealth, had proven their talent for leadership. He proposed a strategy of mediation whereby “individual factions within society would receive direct benefits from the government” in the expectation that they would invigorate the economy and therefore benefit the whole nation by growing its industries. Madison, on the other hand, saw a society dominated by agriculture, “populated by able-bodied, independent farmers.” Deeply suspicious of warring factions, he proposed two chambers of Congress, apportioned according to population, with the power to veto state laws. Madison’s views were held by Republicans, including Jefferson and James Monroe; Hamilton’s, by Federalists, including Washington and John Adams. All recognized the difficulty of balancing nationalism, liberalism, and republicanism, and all saw the risk of factions usurping popular sovereignty.

A well-argued examination of the nation’s founding principles.

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5416-9746-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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