Davison (Eshen: An American Colony, 2007) argues that the United States is spiraling fast into wholesale degeneracy, flirting with a state of permanent enfeeblement. His list of symptoms of decay is a familiar one: burgeoning debt, the erosion of individual liberty, welfarism, the aggrandizement of state bureaucracy, etc. His analysis focuses on the dangers promised by all forms of collectivism, which discard precious liberty for the sake of an illusory common good. Despite the attention devoted to collectivism, though, the author bucks the trend of other libertarian-minded tracts and also sharply criticizes conservatism—“thinly filtered liberal broth garnished with toothpick flags and miniature bibles”—as well as religion. In fact, a chapter titled “The Specious Political Dichotomy” is devoted to the insubstantial differences between America’s warring political parties. Davison’s gripe with religion is its lack of commitment to rationality—a central complaint to his argument. At the heart of the United States’ diminishment is a kind of collective neurosis, which the author discusses as the inability to assume accountability for one’s actions. Organized religion, he says, lacks the intellectual firepower to effectively oppose the rise of collectivism. However, Davison’s study sometimes suffers from excessive generalization; he never references the huge body of Christian literature that deftly counters communism in particular (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s work being a towering example). Also, bloated prose can sometimes undermine his call to unbiased bipartisanship. For instance, in an otherwise astute parsing of the antipathy toward capitalism in the U.S., he writes: “The villain is of course the capitalist, and like the ghosts and monsters of the child’s bedroom and the demons of superstitious religion, the capitalist in contemporary America is an extinct phantom exhumed to pose as a convenient effigy for public scorn.” Davison might be right when he contends that the “most disgusting feature of the contemporary debate is its acrimony,” but for all its insight, this book won’t temper that rancor.
Often intellectually lively, though the venom can be a turnoff.