LIBERALISM: THE DEMISE OF AMERICA by Michael Galen Martin

LIBERALISM: THE DEMISE OF AMERICA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A spirited polemic against political liberalism that aims to rest on a philosophical foundation.

Debut author Martin says the communicative distance of the political aisle keeps widening, so much so that “it’s like liberals and conservatives live in different worlds.” In response to the fact that contemporary “political discourse has broken down,” he intends to provide a lucid account of the fundamental principles that divide the warring political classes. To this end, the book is “pitched at a philosophical level” yet primarily “aimed at the common man, bringing big ideas down to earth and providing guidance through our current political-economic-social morass.” The text is split into two parts: The first uncovers the foundations of progressive thought, both theoretical and historical, while the second critically examines liberalism’s practical failings and defects at the level of economic and political policy. The scope of the project is exhaustive; Martin spent 35 years as an economist for the International Monetary Fund, which provides him with a unique, sometimes studiously empirical perspective on a wide array of public policy issues. However, by reducing liberalism to a “disease” or a “cancer” rather than a defensible if perhaps misguided set of principles, the book may alienate readers. Despite conceding that “most liberals are wonderful people,” the text regularly explains disagreements in terms of liberals’ flaws of moral character—one section is called “Moral Smugness”—or from a psychological standpoint. When scrutinizing the philosophical roots of liberalism, finally treating it as an intellectual purview rather than a sickness, the text invariably takes the easy, reductionist road by caricaturing the belief as a “totalitarian and collectivist agenda.”

Edifying even as it burns more bridges than it builds.

Page count: 371pp
Publisher: Manuscript
Program: Kirkus Indie
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