Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed


Jason L. Riley - 2014
    Riley examines how well-intentioned welfare programs are in fact holding black Americans back. Minimum-wage laws may lift earnings for people who are already employed, but they price a disproportionate number of blacks out of the labor force. Affirmative action in higher education is intended to address past discrimination, but the result is fewer black college graduates than would otherwise exist. And so it goes with everything from soft-on-crime laws, which make black neighborhoods more dangerous, to policies that limit school choice out of a mistaken belief that charter schools and voucher programs harm the traditional public schools that most low-income students attend.In theory these efforts are intended to help the poor—and poor minorities in particular. In practice they become massive barriers to moving forward.Please Stop Helping Us lays bare these counterproductive results. People of goodwill want to see more black socioeconomic advancement, but in too many instances the current methods and approaches aren’t working. Acknowledging this is an important first step.

The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies


Bryan Caplan - 2007
    This is economist Bryan Caplan's sobering assessment in this provocative and eye-opening book. Caplan argues that voters continually elect politicians who either share their biases or else pretend to, resulting in bad policies winning again and again by popular demand.Boldly calling into question our most basic assumptions about American politics, Caplan contends that democracy fails precisely because it does what voters want. Through an analysis of Americans' voting behavior and opinions on a range of economic issues, he makes the convincing case that noneconomists suffer from four prevailing biases: they underestimate the wisdom of the market mechanism, distrust foreigners, undervalue the benefits of conserving labor, and pessimistically believe the economy is going from bad to worse. Caplan lays out several bold ways to make democratic government work better--for example, urging economic educators to focus on correcting popular misconceptions and recommending that democracies do less and let markets take up the slack.The Myth of the Rational Voter takes an unflinching look at how people who vote under the influence of false beliefs ultimately end up with government that delivers lousy results. With the upcoming presidential election season drawing nearer, this thought-provoking book is sure to spark a long-overdue reappraisal of our elective system.

Democracy May Not Exist, But We'll Miss It When It's Gone


Astra Taylor - 2019
    From a cabal of thieving plutocrats in the White House to rising inequality and xenophobia worldwide, it is clear that democracy--specifically the principle of government by and for the people--is not living up to its promise.In Democracy May Not Exist, but We'll Miss It When It's Gone, Astra Taylor shows that real democracy--fully inclusive and completely egalitarian--has in fact never existed. In a tone that is both philosophical and anecdotal, weaving together history, theory, the stories of individuals, and conversations with such leading thinkers as Cornel West, Danielle Allen, and Wendy Brown, Taylor invites us to reexamine the term. Is democracy a means or an end, a process or a set of desired outcomes? What if the those outcomes, whatever they may be--peace, prosperity, equality, liberty, an engaged citizenry--can be achieved by non-democratic means? Or if an election leads to a terrible outcome? If democracy means rule by the people, what does it mean to rule and who counts as the people?The inherent paradoxes are too often unnamed and unrecognized. By teasing them out, Democracy May Not Exist, but We'll Miss It When It's Gone offers a better understanding of what is possible, what we want, and why democracy is so hard to realize.

Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010


Charles Murray - 2012
    In Coming Apart, Charles Murray explores the formation of American classes that are different in kind from anything we have ever known, focusing on whites as a way of driving home the fact that the trends he describes do not break along lines of race or ethnicity. Drawing on five decades of statistics and research, Coming Apart demonstrates that a new upper class and a new lower class have diverged so far in core behaviors and values that they barely recognize their underlying American kinship—divergence that has nothing to do with income inequality and that has grown during good economic times and bad. The top and bottom of white America increasingly live in different cultures, Murray argues, with the powerful upper class living in enclaves surrounded by their own kind, ignorant about life in mainstream America, and the lower class suffering from erosions of family and community life that strike at the heart of the pursuit of happiness. That divergence puts the success of the American project at risk. The evidence in Coming Apart is about white America. Its message is about all of America.

This Is an Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt Is Shaping the Twenty-First Century


Mark Engler - 2016
    When mass movements erupt onto our television screens, the media consistently portrays them as being spontaneous and unpredictable. Yet, in this book, Mark and Paul Engler look at the hidden art behind such outbursts of protest, examining core principles that have been used to spark and guide moments of transformative unrest. With incisive insights from contemporary activists, as well as fresh revelations about the work of groundbreaking figures such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Gene Sharp, and Frances Fox Piven, the Englers show how people with few resources and little conventional influence are engineering the upheavals that are reshaping contemporary politics. Nonviolence is usually seen simply as a philosophy or moral code. This Is an Uprising shows how it can instead be deployed as a method of political conflict, disruption, and escalation. It argues that if we are always taken by surprise by dramatic outbreaks of revolt, we pass up the chance to truly understand how social transformation happens.

The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot


Naomi Wolf - 2007
    In authoritative research and documentation Wolf explains how events of the last six years parallel steps taken in the early years of the 20th century's worst dictatorships such as Germany, Russia, China, and Chile. The book cuts across political parties and ideologies and speaks directly to those among us who are concerned about the ever-tightening noose being placed around our liberties. In this timely call to arms, Naomi Wolf compels us to face the way our free America is under assault. She warns us-with the straight-to-fellow-citizens urgency of one of Thomas Paine's revolutionary pamphlets-that we have little time to lose if our children are to live in real freedom. -Recent history has profound lessons for us in the U.S. today about how fascist, totalitarian, and other repressive leaders seize and maintain power, especially in what were once democracies. The secret is that these leaders all tend to take very similar, parallel steps. The Founders of this nation were so deeply familiar with tyranny and the habits and practices of tyrants that they set up our checks and balances precisely out of fear of what is unfolding today. We are seeing these same kinds of tactics now closing down freedoms in America, turning our nation into something that in the near future could be quite other than the open society in which we grew up and learned to love liberty, - states Wolf. Wolf is taking her message directly to the American people in the most accessible form and as part of a large national campaign to reach out to ordinary Americans about the dangers we face today. This includes a lecture and speaking tour, and being part of the nascent American Freedom Campaign, a grassroots effort to ensure that presidential candidates pledge to uphold the constitution and protect our liberties from further erosion. The End of America will shock, enrage, and motivate-spurring us to act, as the Founders would have counted on us to do in a time such as this, as rebels and patriots-to save our liberty and defend our nation.

The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties


Christopher Caldwell - 2020
    Even the reforms that Americans love best have come with costs that are staggeringly high—in wealth, freedom, and social stability—and that have been spread unevenly among classes and generations. Caldwell reveals the real political turning points of the past half century, taking readers on a roller-coaster ride through Playboy magazine, affirmative action, CB radio, leveraged buyouts, iPhones, Oxycontin, Black Lives Matter, and internet cookies. In doing so, he shows that attempts to redress the injustices of the past have left Americans living under two different ideas of what it means to play by the rules. Essential, timely, hard to put down, The Age of Entitlement is a brilliant and ambitious argument about how the reforms of the past fifty years gave the country two incompatible political systems—and drove it toward conflict.

Supreme Inequality: The Supreme Court's Fifty-Year Battle for a More Unjust America


Adam Cohen - 2020
    But when Warren announced his retirement in 1968, newly elected President Richard Nixon, who had been working tirelessly behind the scenes to put a stop to what he perceived as the Court's liberal agenda, had his new administration launch a total assault on the Warren Court's egalitarian victories, moving to dismantle its legacy and replace liberal justices with others more loyal to his views. During his six years in office, he appointed four justices to the Supreme Court, thereby setting its course for the next fifty years.In Supreme Inequality, Adam Cohen surveys the most significant Supreme Court rulings since Nixon and exposes how rarely the Court has veered away from a pro-corporate agenda. Contrary to what Americans might like to believe, the Court does not protect equally the rights of the poor and disadvantaged, and, in fact, hasn't for decades. Many of the greatest successes of the Warren Court, such as school desegregation, labor unions, voting rights, and class action suits, have been abandoned in favor of rulings that protect privileged Americans who tend to be white, wealthy, and powerful.As the nation comes to grips with two newly Trump-appointed justices, Cohen proves beyond doubt that the trajectory of today's Court is the result of decisions made fifty years ago, decisions that have contributed directly and grievously to our nation's soaring inequality. An triumph of American legal, political, and social history, Supreme Inequality holds to account the highest court in the land, and should shake to its core any optimistic faith we might have in it to provide checks and balances.

Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics Is Destroying American Democracy


Jonah Goldberg - 2018
    Instead we are surrendering to populism, nationalism and other forms of tribalism. Only once in the last 250,000 years have humans stumbled upon a way to lift ourselves out of the endless cycle of poverty, hunger, and war that defines most of history--in 18th century England when we accidentally discovered the miracle of liberal democratic capitalism.As Americans we are doubly blessed that those radical ideas were written into the Constitution, laying the groundwork for our uniquely prosperous society: - Our rights come from God not from the government. - The government belongs to us; we do not belong to the government. - The individual is sovereign. We are all captains of our own souls. - The fruits of our labors belong to us.In the last few decades, these political virtues have been turned into vices. As we are increasingly taught to view our traditions as a system of oppression, exploitation and "white privilege," the principles of liberty and the rule of law are under attack from left and right.At a moment when authoritarianism, tribalism, identity politics, nationalism, and cults of personality are rotting our democracy from within, Goldberg exposes the West's suicidal tendencies on both sides of the ideological aisle. For the West to survive, we must renew our sense of gratitude for what our civilization has given us and rediscover the ideals that led us out of the bloody muck of the past - or back to the muck we will go.Suicide is painless, liberty takes work.

Why We're Polarized


Ezra Klein - 2020
    Most Americans could agree that no candidate like Donald Trump had ever been elected President before. But political journalist Ezra Klein makes the case that the 2016 election wasn't surprising at all. In fact, Trump's electoral victory followed the exact same template as previous elections, by capturing a nearly identical percentage of voter demographics as previous Republican candidates.Over the past 50 years in America, our partisan identities have merged with our racial, religious, geographic, ideological, and cultural identities. Those merged identities have attained a weight that is breaking much in our politics and tearing at the bonds that hold this country together.In this groundbreaking book, Klein shows how and why American politics polarized around identity in the 20th century, and what that polarization did to the way we see the world and each other. And he traces the feedback loops between our polarized political identities and our polarized political institutions that are driving our political system towards crisis.Neither a polemic nor a lament, Klein offers a clear framework for understanding everything from Trump's rise to the Democratic Party's leftward shift to the politicization of everyday culture. A revelatory book that will change how you look at politics, and perhaps at yourself.

The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics


Bruce Bueno de Mesquita - 2011
    They start from a single assertion: Leaders do whatever keeps them in power. They don’t care about the “national interest”—or even their subjects—unless they have to. This clever and accessible book shows that the difference between tyrants and democrats is just a convenient fiction. Governments do not differ in kind but only in the number of essential supporters, or backs that need scratching. The size of this group determines almost everything about politics: what leaders can get away with, and the quality of life or misery under them. The picture the authors paint is not pretty. But it just may be the truth, which is a good starting point for anyone seeking to improve human governance.

Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few


Robert B. Reich - 2004
    Reich, and now he reveals the cycles of power and influence that have perpetuated a new American oligarchy, a shrinking middle class, and the greatest income inequality and wealth disparity in eighty years. He makes clear how centrally problematic our veneration of the "free market" is, and how it has masked the power of the moneyed interests to tilt the market to their benefit. He exposes the falsehoods that have been bolstered by the corruption of our democracy by big corporations and the revolving door between Washington and Wall Street-- that all workers are paid what they're "worth," a higher minimum wage equals fewer jobs, corporations must serve shareholders before employees. Ever the pragmatist, Reich sees hope for reversing our slide toward inequality and diminished opportunity by shoring up the countervailing power of everyone else. Here is a revelatory indictment of our economic status quo and an empowering call to civic action.

Arguing with Zombies: Economics, Politics, and the Fight for a Better Future


Paul Krugman - 2020
    Likewise, there is no stronger foe of zombie economics, the misunderstandings that just won’t die.In Arguing with Zombies, Krugman tackles many of these misunderstandings, taking stock of where the United States has come from and where it’s headed in a series of concise, digestible chapters. Drawn mainly from his popular New York Times column, they cover a wide range of issues, organized thematically and framed in the context of a wider debate. Explaining the complexities of health care, housing bubbles, tax reform, Social Security, and so much more with unrivaled clarity and precision, Arguing with Zombies is Krugman at the height of his powers.Arguing with Zombies puts Krugman at the front of the debate in the 2020 election year and is an indispensable guide to two decades’ worth of political and economic discourse in the United States and around the globe. With quick, vivid sketches, Krugman turns his readers into intelligent consumers of the daily news and hands them the keys to unlock the concepts behind the greatest economic policy issues of our time. In doing so, he delivers an instant classic that can serve as a reference point for this and future generations.

Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity—and Why This Harms Everybody


Helen Pluckrose - 2020
    As Pluckrose and Lindsay warn, the unchecked proliferation of these anti-Enlightenment beliefs present a threat not only to liberal democracy but also to modernity itself. While acknowledging the need to challenge the complacency of those who think a just society has been fully achieved, Pluckrose and Lindsay break down how this often-radical activist scholarship does far more harm than good, not least to those marginalized communities it claims to champion. They also detail its alarmingly inconsistent and illiberal ethics. Only through a proper understanding of the evolution of these ideas, they conclude, can those who value science, reason, and consistently liberal ethics successfully challenge this harmful and authoritarian orthodoxy—in the academy, in culture, and beyond.

Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America


Nancy MacLean - 2017
    The capitalist radical right has been working not simply to change who rules, but to fundamentally alter the rules of democratic governance. But billionaires did not launch this movement; a white intellectual in the embattled Jim Crow South did. Democracy in Chains names its true architect—the Nobel Prize-winning political economist James McGill Buchanan—and dissects the operation he and his colleagues designed over six decades to alter every branch of government to disempower the majority.In a brilliant and engrossing narrative, Nancy MacLean shows how Buchanan forged his ideas about government in a last gasp attempt to preserve the white elite’s power in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education. In response to the widening of American democracy, he developed a brilliant, if diabolical, plan to undermine the ability of the majority to use its numbers to level the playing field between the rich and powerful and the rest of us. Corporate donors and their right-wing foundations were only too eager to support Buchanan’s work in teaching others how to divide America into “makers” and “takers.” And when a multibillionaire on a messianic mission to rewrite the social contract of the modern world, Charles Koch, discovered Buchanan, he created a vast, relentless, and multi-armed machine to carry out Buchanan’s strategy. Without Buchanan's ideas and Koch's money, the libertarian right would not have succeeded in its stealth takeover of the Republican Party as a delivery mechanism. Now, with Mike Pence as Vice President, the cause has a longtime loyalist in the White House, not to mention a phalanx of Republicans in the House, the Senate, a majority of state governments, and the courts, all carrying out the plan. That plan includes harsher laws to undermine unions, privatizing everything from schools to health care and Social Security, and keeping as many of us as possible from voting. Based on ten years of unique research, Democracy in Chains tells a chilling story of right-wing academics and big money run amok. This revelatory work of scholarship is also a call to arms to protect the achievements of twentieth-century American self-government.