Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Book lists

For those who don’t know me, I love book lists. I have lists on Amazon, lists on my library account, and an excel spreadsheet on top of all that. So imagine my delight when I was sent the link to the 5 books project.

The concept is simple. Different experts are interviewed about the top five books in their field. And almost as fascinating as the books they recommend are who is making which recommendations. For example:

·   Governor Mike Huckabee on Simple Governance.

·   Congressman Keith Ellison on Progressivism.

·   Van Jones on Change in America.

·   Grover Norquist on Tea Party Conservatism.

·   Mitch Daniels on How Libertarians Can Govern.

·   Karl Rove on Compassionate Conservatism.

·   Nicholas Kristof on Saving the World.

And that’s just the history and politics sections.

I’ve already added several items to my Amazon and library lists...

Where do you get your book recommendations from?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Injustice for the common good

Over at Front Porch Republic, Walter A. McDougall has written a two part essay on, for lack of a better description, the history and future of conservatism in America. While the entire piece is worth reading, one part stands out in particular:

In every era America’s leaders, the ones inventing everyone’s future, evinced the qualities of the hustler and dodger, finding ways around obstacles to change and growth whether or not they conformed to ethics and laws. Whenever such corruption was perceived as damaging to society and of benefit only to the hustler, then American public opinion damned it and demanded the guilty be scourged. But more often the great scams in American politics and business, from the Transcontinental Railroad to urban machines, could be perceived as socially beneficial, for instance by opening up new opportunities for the many or keeping immigrants under control. In those cases Americans winked at the means employed to pursue the ends, or else applauded the authors of creative corruption, just as their colonial forbears had smuggled, cooked the books, and rioted against customs agents and Redcoats rather than obey the Navigation Acts.

McDugall appears to consider this a particularly American trait. However, it is nothing new. After all, it’s the same defense of injustice that Thrasymachus made in The Republic:

If someone commits only one part of injustice and is caught, he’s punished and greatly reproached—such partly unjust people are called temple robbers, kidnappers, housebreakers, robbers, and thieves when they commit these crimes.  But when someone, in addition to appropriating their possessions, kidnaps and enslaves the citizens as well, instead of these shameful names he is called happy and blessed, not only by the citizens themselves, but by all who learn that he has done the whole of injustice. … injustice, if it is on a large enough scale, is stronger, freer, and more masterly than justice (Plato, Republic, 344b-c).

Plato, of course, disagreed with Thrasymachus and argued that justice was more than the advantage of the stronger. However, Machiavelli later resurrected Thrasymachus in his The Prince:

it is a very natural and ordinary thing to desire to acquire, and always, when men do it who can, they will be praised or not blamed; but when they cannot, and wish to do it anyway, here lie the error and the blame. (Machiavelli, p. 14)


if he wants to maintain himself, to learn to be able not to be good, and to use this and not use it according to necessity. (Machiavelli, 61)

So how should we deal with injustices that actually promote the common good? It’s easy to adopt a results-oriented critique, but doesn’t a proper application of justice require more?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Who's Who 2012

Things have changed since my last political post on the debate. Since my GOP 2012 in a Nutshell post, we have seen a few people drop out and some new people join the battle. Here are a few thoughts to help you get to know the candidates a little more.

Who is running? What do they believe?

TOP Tier:

Romney is the front runner when it comes to money and name recognition. Every other candidate knows that RomneyCare is going to hurt him. And rightly so. RomneyCare has all the same problems that ObamaCare does. They both have taxpayer funding of abortion, individual mandates, and government control of the industry. If people don't like ObamaCare, I don't think they'll like Romney.

Bachmann has shocked the political elite (including Bill Clinton) by jumping to the lead in several recent polls. You will not find a candidate more conservative than her and she is a great speaker. She, however, can be difficult to work with and does not have any meaningful leadership experience. I like her, and she has proven herself ideologically but I'd like her to prove herself as a leader.

Pawlenty has experience and the smarts, but some complain that he is boring. Personally, I would like results over talk, a record over words, and a solid reputation over a record that changes with political need. He has worked hard to reach various audiences: homeschoolers, people who care about American foreign policy, and past Huckabee supporters.

Huntsman is running as the moderate in the room. One of the first mailers that his people sent out after he announced his candidacy was him taking credit for legalizing civil unions as Governor of Utah. He looks the part of the President, but I don't think that he will have much appeal with the conservative base.

Palin* is a rock star. The question, however, is whether or not she is running. She is solid on the issues that conservatives care about, but her popularity has suffered from three years of constant scrutiny and even attacks leveled from her nemesis: The Main Stream Media. I imagine that her best move right now is to stay out and use her political clout to regain credibility with the base.

Perry* is not official. Like Palin, he is flirting with running. Some (Karl Rove, Rep. Canseco, and other unnamed Republicans) say that he has decided to run, but there has been no confirmation. He is one of the most interesting possible candidates. On one hand, he has been a leader calling the nation to fast and pray and fighting for states' rights. On the other hand, he endorsed pro-abortion Rudy Giuliani in 2008 and ordered that all girls in Texas take HPV vaccines. He would shake up the race if he got in, but he would have a hard time facing Obama in a general election, if only because he sounds too much like Bush.


Santorum is a homeschool dad and was a leader fighting against abortion in the Senate a few short years ago. He repeatedly followed the party line on spending bills and he endorsed a pro-abortion Senator against now Senator Pat Toomey in 2004. He is a great guy, but the window of opportunity is closing for him to jump into the top tier.

Cain is a strong speaker and quick thinker. He is running as the outside-of-the-beltway guy, but the issue he has is that he doesn't have any experience. He has run huge companies, but his political experience is limited to arguing on TV with Bill Clinton. He will need to show some improvement in key polls or else his supporters will start looking elsewhere.

Bottom Tier:

Gingrich-Campaign is imploding and he is not working on building a winning plan.

Ron Paul-He can raise money and his supporters are very loyal, but there are not enough of them.

Johnson-Running on legalizing pot is not enough to win any serious nomination.

Roemer** - If there is a lower than bottom tier, he would be there.

Moore** -If there is a lower than bottom tier, he would be there.

* Undeclared

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