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Bully Boy: The Truth About Theodore Roosevelt's Legacy Hardcover – August 8, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Forum; First Edition edition (August 8, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307237222
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307237224
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,293,496 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Powell, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, has made a name for himself writing provocative studies of presidents (FDR's Folly and Wilson's War). In this biased, unpersuasive account, Powell argues that virtually every plank of Teddy Roosevelt's Progressive agenda—including trust-busting, regulation of food and drugs, and the income tax (which Powell describes as "blood money") was a disaster. He sees Roosevelt as a dangerous tyrant who sought to expand the power of the executive office in order to promote his own interests. Powell's libertarian politics color almost every page of this study. To wit, his critique of Roosevelt's conservationism: "By establishing federal control over so much U.S. land, he defied the prevailing American view that land use decisions were best made by private individuals who had a stake in improving the value of their property." Powell also turns his guns on muckraking reporter Jacob Riis, remembered for his journalistic exposés of urban poverty. Powell says that instead of unmasking poverty, Riis should have asked "whether the poor were better off" in his day than they had been in the past, then approvingly quotes Thomas Hobbes's description of life as "poor, nasty, brutish, and short." This is irresponsible revisionism at its worst. (Aug. 8)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Powell takes Theodore Roosevelt to task, criticizing the historical plaudits attached to the Rough Rider's presidency. Flowing from a free-market perspective, Powell scores TR's trust busting, maintaining that monopolies, if they existed at all, were ineffective. TR's support for an income tax, touted as a soak-the-rich scheme, earns Powell's condemnation for its growth into a soak-everybody scheme. The analytical polemic continues with TR's creation of food and drug inspectorates, bureaucracies Powell flays as unnecessary since food processors had market incentives to keep food safe. Nor is TR-the-conservationist safe from Powell's pikes as the author argues Roosevelt damaged rather than preserved the environment. And as for TR's Big Stick, that was an original sin that opened the door to America's foreign interventions in the twentieth century. Readable, forceful, and opinionated, Powell's third presidential jeremiad (after Wilson's War, 2005, and FDR's Folly, 2003) should ignite debate between supporters and opponents of big government. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

For a book that I just happened to pick up, Jim Powell's book was a very excellent read.
A. C. Anderson
The page count comes in at 267 pages and has a strong end note section with a good bibliography to lead readers to more comprehensive resources elsewhere.
Efrem Sepulveda
In a similar vein, Powell documents the policies of TR in his new book, Bully Boy, and concludes that they largely did more harm than good.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

108 of 119 people found the following review helpful By vnrooster on September 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In FDR's Folly, Jim Powell relied heavily on the work of empirical economists to draw conclusions about FDR and his policies. While contrary to other historians who have largely ignored economic studies of the great depression, Powell evaluated FDR and the New Deal based on the actual outcomes and consequences that they produced. In a similar vein, Powell documents the policies of TR in his new book, Bully Boy, and concludes that they largely did more harm than good. Specifically, Powell discusses the following in Bully Boy:

* How TR's regulations, tariff and "trust busting" policies harmed consumers

* How TR's foreign policy undermined the Monroe Doctrine and set precedents for future intervention in conflicts with no clear threat to U.S. security

* How TR's Meat Inspection Act and Pure Food and Drugs Act were used predominately as special interest legislation and set the foundation for the future FDA "drug lag," which has killed thousands

* How TR's conservation policies were counterproductive

* How TR's tax policies help to establish the federal income tax

While Powell's assessment of TR cannot be found in most history books, Bully Boy is well researched and documented with approximately 29 pages of notes and a 21 page bibliography. I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to people that either love or loathe TR.

Many people will obviously disagree with Powell's conclusions or will support the consequences and precedents of TR's policies that appear to trouble Powell. I look forward to reading both the positive and negative reviews of this book. My hope is that those who disagree with Powell can provide more substance than the ad hominem attacks (e.g. "smut," "garbage," "reactionary claptrap") and other rhetorical fallacies that were the main locus of criticism for FDR's Folly and Wilson's War
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Keith Heapes VINE VOICE on March 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After reading Jim Powell's book FDR's Folly, I wasn't sure I wanted to follow that one by reading Bully Boy, Powell's critique of Theodore Roosevelt's political life. So, I thought I'd give my brain a rest and just check it out of the library and do a mild overview. Unfortunately, you can't read a Powell book like that, so after reading just the introduction, I was hooked.

Powell's view point in Bully Boy is similar to that in FDR's Folly, but a little less detailed. He provides a strong chronological look at T. Roosevelt's entire political career, with his major focus on its consequences, especially during Roosevelt's presidency.

One area that evidently eluded me during my years in school was the fact that T. Roosevelt was a Republican (pretty much in name only), but his politics were radical, liberal and progressive. As a result, he believed in a huge, powerful central government, led by a president who has a lot of individual power at his disposal. Roosevelt felt America's involvement in war was the noblest of endeavors, and as an aggressive expansionist president, continuously involved the American military in senseless, imperialistic takeovers of foreign governments like the Hawaiian Islands, Panama, Cuba, the Philippines, and even eyed countries in South America, even though not a single one of these military actions involved the national security of the United States. And many, if not most of these conflicts were done without Constitutionally mandated congressional approval. As the president, Roosevelt felt he had the power and the right to commit American military forces anywhere he deemed them necessary, and without anyone's approval.

Powell asserts that Roosevelt's famous "trust-buster" reputation was a sham.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Doug on May 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although I consider myself very much pro-laissez faire capitalism, a few of the chapters in this book are not very convincing, which detracts from the overall utility of the book. However, it is still one of the few books that critiques the Theodore Roosevelt Administration (henceforth T.R.) from a pro-laissez-faire capitalist perspective, and is therefore still worth reading.

T.R. became president at a crucial turning point in U.S. history. At this time, there was a raging political debate between Classical Liberalism and Progressivism. Classical Liberalism was the idea of the Founding Fathers, which essentially argues that the proper role of the Federal government is largely to protect civil liberties to allow all citizens to pursue happiness. Progressivism encouraged the federal government to serve as an advocate for the weak and take a more active role in public affairs for the "greater good" of society. Unfortunately, with T.R., Progressivism won, which set numerous political precedents for government regulations in business, food, medicine, the environment and just about every other facet of public life. Since the T.R. was a *decisive* victory for Progressivism over Classical Liberalism, this makes T.R. arguably the worst president in U.S. history.

Although Powell seems to miss the broad philosophical turning point described above, he does identify a large collection of loathsome policies of T.R. The chapter on "trust busting", which describes the dissolution of Northern Securities and Standard Oil and the subsequent hampering of economic growth that resulted from anti-trust laws, is very good. Similarly, the chapter on the massive pricing regulations on the railroad industry and the crippling economic results is also very eye-opening.
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