Thursday, March 21, 2013

Book Review: Still the Best Hope

Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph.  By Dennis Prager.

I deliberately get all of my news from sources with whose political slate I disagree (a practice I have had for 14 years now).  Consequently, I have a window on both how the political Left perceives itself, and how it perceives the political Right.

From my perspective on the Right, the Left's perception of the Right is laughably inaccurate.  I expect that, were a Leftist to read this book, they would consider its perception of the Left to be laughably inaccurate as well.  It is my opinion that books that claim to explain what the other side believes are usually a waste of paper.  No one is persuaded by them that does not already believe what they state.

For example, in the Introduction, he spends a couple of pages in the introduction arguing that Leftism is a religion.  I have never, ever met anyone who was persuaded that there philosophy was a religion.  You may be able to persuade people that their philosophy serves the same purpose as a religion, but what's the point of that?  Even if you could persuade someone that their philosophy was a religion, why should that cause them to change?  A religious belief by a philosophical name can be held just as fervently.

I, however, being on the political right, and thus already persuaded, did agree with nearly all of what he said.  For example (in the introduction) I do agree that Leftists don't believe that they have a philosophical system.  One of the conceits of Leftism is that it is a purely rational system that addresses each issue as it comes, or as it's put in Scripture, "blown to and fro by every wind of doctrine."



Blogger Noumenon said...

It is my opinion that books that claim to explain what the other side believes are usually a waste of paper. No one is persuaded by them that does not already believe what they state.

Two ways this can be effective: introduce self-doubt (like I believed that article about liberals being people who had more success as kids than as adults and are whiny about it, or whites believe we actually do see things through a white privilege lens).

Or, you can make some liberal groups sound bad enough that the reader thinks "Well, I don't want to be that kind." Then instead of "us liberals" you have "us liberals" and the "others," the hippies or union layabouts or whoever. Means less solidarity and pushes you toward conservative by making you withdraw from some liberals.

I've also noticed that conservatives describe some liberal worldviews when attacking them ("secular humanism," "culture of death") and later I come around and think, "You know what, that is what I believe!"

I couldn't get through this book, however. Not sure exactly why, but none of it seems to be actual thinking of the sort you'd find at say, the Monkey Cage or Steve Sailer. I don't think either "the Left" or "America" are real things you can refer to with a proper noun the way he does, but I don't really know.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Yoel Natan said...

I assume that Prager's book, as well as many conservative books, "trade on ignorance," as the saying goes. When people approach the subject of capitalism and fairness and other ideals trumpeted in conservative books, they assume that there is a fairly equitable distribution of money and power in the United States and in other countries, and they are warmed by reading these books. However, reality is a cold splash of water in the face. No one enters the Monopoly game at the start of a game, since the game is intergenerational, and the top 1% own 40% of wealth in America and 50% of the stock market. With the legislated demise of unions with pensions, 80% of Americans own only 10% of the stock market. Moreover, America has an antiquated taxation system where real estate and goods and services are taxed heavily, but stored wealth is not taxed at all except at death, and for a long while there was no death tax. If you count stored wealth as property, which it is, the rich are hardly taxed at all in America, while the burden for taxation falls on the poor. The rich continue to press their money into politics to preserve the status quo, and even make it easier for themselves, so given this situation, how are many Americans going to get ahead in life given the hand they are dealt? Robert Reich is right in that the US ought to slap a 2.5% or 3% tax on stored wealth in America:

Video and story on the distribution of wealth in America:

12:48 AM  
Blogger Noumenon said...

That comment was 98% tangent, the other 2% being how you'd rather guess what was in the book than read it or Look Inside it on Amazon. I didn't read a lot of the book, but I think it's more about "moral absolutes" and junk like that than tax policy.

9:30 AM  

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