Christmas Books

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Recently
by Thomas Sowell: Walter
Williams’ Memoir

 

 
 

It is hard
to come up with Christmas gifts for people who already seem to have
everything. But there are few — if any — people who can keep up
with the flood of books coming off the presses. Books can be good
gifts for such people.

Among the books
I read this year, the one that made the biggest impact on me was
New
Deal or Raw Deal
by Burton Folsom, Jr., a professor at Hillsdale
College. It was that rare kind of book, one thoroughly researched
by a scholar and yet written in plain language, readily understood
by anyone.

So many myths
and legends glorifying Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal administration
have become part of folklore that a dose of cold facts is very much
needed.

The next time
someone repeats one of the many myths about FDR, or tries to use
the New Deal as a model of how we should try to solve current economic
problems, whoever reads this book will have the hard, documented
facts with which to shoot down such claims.

Another book
by the same author was published this year — the 6th edition of
The
Myth of the Robber Barons
. When I have asked people, “Just
whom did the robber barons rob?” I have never gotten an answer.
This book shows why.

Apparently
the real sin of the so-called “robber barons,” like that of Wal-Mart
today, is that they charged lower prices than their competitors,
many of whom went out of business because they were not efficient
enough to be able to bring down their prices.

A book more
focused on our contemporary culture is Spoilt
Rotten!
by Theodore Dalrymple. Its subtitle gives its theme:
“The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality.” Dr. Dalrymple sees sentimentality
as not just a silly foible but as a serious danger to government
policy-making, as well as a corruption of personal relations.

A new book
on the New York Times by award-winning journalist William
McGowan is titled Gray
Lady Down: What the Decline and Fall of the New York Times Means
for America
.

The New
York Times is not just another newspaper. It has long been a
major influence on the rest of the media and on public opinion,
so its degeneration into a propaganda publication in recent years
is a national tragedy. McGowan spells it all out in plain words
and with numerous examples.

The fact that
the New York Times has lost both circulation and credibility
is its problem. The fact that America has lost a once reliable source
of news is a national problem.

I don’t usually
read autobiographical books but two very good ones came out this
year. My favorite is Up
from the Projects
by economist, columnist and personal friend
Walter Williams. It is a small book with a big punch. Once you start
reading it, it is hard to put down.

Up from
the Projects is not only a remarkable story of a remarkable
man’s life, it is the story of both progress and retrogression in
the black community. Everyone wants to take credit for the progress
but nobody wants to take the blame for the retrogression.

An even smaller
book by a very different man in very different circumstances is
Inside
the Nixon Administration
— subtitled “The Secret Diary of
Arthur Burns, 1969–1974.” Distinguished economist Arthur F. Burns
was chairman of the Federal Reserve System in those years, and these
posthumous excerpts from his diary paint a chilling picture of the
irresponsibility, vanity, dishonesty and incompetence in the Nixon
White House.

This book is
not just about the Nixon administration, however. It is about the
ugly realities of politics behind the pious talk of “public service.”
And it is about what it means to have a very strange man as President
of the United States — something that is all too relevant to our
own times.

My own new
books this year are Intellectuals
and Society
, an account of another strange and dangerous
group of people, and the 4th edition of Basic
Economics
, which is more than twice as large as the first
edition. It has been putting on weight over the years, like its
author, but the weight is muscle in the case of the book.

Basic Economics
has sold more copies than any other book of mine and has been translated
into more foreign languages. Apparently there are a lot of people
who want to understand economics without having to wade through
graphs and equations.

December
15, 2010

Thomas
Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford
University. His Web site is www.tsowell.com.
To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other
Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators
Syndicate web page
.

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