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History book or political polemic?,
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This review is from: How We Invented Freedom & Why It Matters (Kindle Edition)
This is half a good book. The author makes a very well argued case for why many of the liberties and freedoms we enjoy today first took hold in the English-speaking world and he leads us through the key historical moments (and a few less remembered ones). He also, rightly, points out that many of the "bad" aspects of British/American history were still better than their contemporaries and were failings, in part, against the higher standards those nations set themselves compared to others.
All well and good. Where the book falls down is in the second half where the author seeks to link all 1000+ years of historical success to his own current political point of view. All that is right and good in the world came from men who think as he thinks. By the latter third the book has descended into political diatribes (primarily against the EU and President Obama) that reads like a series of Daily Mail opinion pieces. I half expected him to end with "Vote UKIP".
This might not matter if his argument was coherent but it isn't. He lauds all the political and social advances of the Anglosphere yet glosses over - or ignores - the fact that his political antecedents fought tooth and nail against most of those advances. His arghument that the radicals pressing for change were in fact the "conservatives" because they harked back to pre-Magna Carta liberties is a semantic one that does not allow him to lay claim to them as poltical brothers. His true colours are revealed when he cites the NHS (not by name but by implication) as an example of government interfering with liberty and lays the blame for the recent financial crisis again on governments - the unfettered capitalism that triggered it is not even mentioned (nor does his tirade against profligate government spending extend to the trillions spent baining out banks worldwide).
Bottom line, if you share the author's political view you will likely enjoy the whole book as it will reinforce those views. If you understand that the world (and history) is a bit more complicated than that, you probably won't get much beyond halfway before you start skim-reading and hoping the author will get off his high horse and back on track.
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Initial post: 18 Mar 2014 17:34:40 GMT
K. Helme says:
"the unfettered capitalism that triggered it is not even mentioned" - probably because a) there is no unfettered capitalism - anywhere, and so b) it couldn't have caused anything. If in doubt read all about e.g., the Community Reinvestment Act and the roles of the Central Bank and State spported mortgage corporations in the US.
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