on September 4, 2006
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
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. As president, he created governmental monopolies, while damaging America's free-trade economy and harming consumers by the use of tariffs, breaking up of worthwhile businesses, and resurrecting the dreaded income tax.
Bully Boy is a compelling, well-documented, and controversial book. Regardless of your view point, Powell has written another thought-provoking volume, worthy of serious consideration. The end notes and bibliography in this book are a gold mine of historical information.
Whether you love and admire Teddy Roosevelt, or can't wait for his face to be sand-blasted off of Mount Rushmore, Jim Powell's book "Bully Boy" is truly a worthwhile read. All I ask is that if you're going to write a review or add comments to another "Bully Boy" review, please respect the author, Amazon.com, and the other reviewers by at least reading the book, the entire book, and also please refrain from spilling your ideological guts out all over Powell and the rest of us instead of adding a beneficial and thoughtful review.
on November 29, 2010
For a book that I just happened to pick up, Jim Powell's book was a very excellent read. Theodore Roosevelt is often looked at as one of the most vibrant, enthralling presidents. This picture often gives people the impression that he was the quintessential American man. Although he was a very interesting person, his political views severely crippled a thriving democratic republic. Powell points out that Roosevelt's ideas were as socialistic, if not more so, than his cousin's FDR. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about the roots of why America is in its current position.
on January 22, 2011
If you've always wondered what happened between the great laissez-faire post-war expansion of the late 19th century and the nanny-state socialism of the 20th, Bully Boy is for you. Not that TR is fully responsible, but he certainly paved the way. From destructive international intervention to stifling regulation of business, TR's systematic reduction of America's freedom, her true source of greatness, is well documented in Bully Boy. Powell's language is easy to understand and not unduly boring. If the size of the book intimidates you, know that a good portion of the back is filled with references. While no amount of reference material will silent those who come to Amazon to provide negative reviews of books they haven't read, the information is persuasive for those struggling to cast free the shackles of pro-TR indoctrination. A good read and not a huge investment of time. If nothing else, Bully Boy provides an interesting glimpse into a pivotal time in American history, unencumbered by political correctness.
on June 15, 2015
This is a great and informative book, in spite of the unnamed idiot from Publisher's Weekly who considers this revisionism, let alone at its worst. Lets challenge that reviewer, Please, Publisher's Weekly, provide either one single example of a factual mistake in Powell's book? And, Teddy (or the un-named reviewer), will you please provide us some specifics about the "robber barons?" Who did they rob? What did they rob? Monopolies? Oh goodness, such a thing is nearly impossible in a free market, because competition is assuredly going to seek out those most profitable arenas. For example, Teddy targeted oi, steel and railroods. But before Teddy even was elected, the average price of steel rails fell from $68 to $32. Teddy targeted Standard Oil. But it had so many competitors that they're too numerous to even begin listing. And Standard's prices were lower than most of its competitors and had been falling thru the years. The truth is that anti-trust laws didn't protect us from high prices. The protected high cost producers from being forced out of business by their lower priced competitors. The process continues to Sears and A & P to Microsoft these days (imagine, MS dared to include new features w/o raising prices - how DARE they?).
Teddy favored control by the sovereign, including control over railroads. Do you notice how well that has turned out? When was the last time any reader found travel by railway to be either convenient, competitively priced, or even a real option? Thank "Bully Boy."
We can also thank Teddy for the "Meat Inspection Act," the FDA and essentially the plethora of law that D.C. imposes upon us, but not by our elected legislators (law-makers) but by bureaucrats, all unelected and unaccountable.
His foreign policy was no surprise. Teddy thought we should control any area of the world in which we had an interest, especially a financial interest. Thus, Teddy vigorously defended the U.S. permanent "acquisition" of the Philippines. And then there is his canal. Of course, we can all see the benefit of a canal thru central America, right? Read for yourself what had to be done to "convince" the owners of that real estate (it wasn't owned by the U.S, you know). Columbia and Panama weren't big fans of the idea.
Teddy's foreign policy was none as the "Roosevelt Corollary" to the Monroe Doctrine. As Teddy himself describe his positions, "Chronic wrongdoing or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society, may in America, as elsewhere, ultimately require intervention by some civilized nation, and in the Western Hemisphere, the adherence of the United States to the Monroe doctrine may force the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power."
Under the U.S. constitution, an act of Congress declaring war is required before we can GO to war. Teddy didn't let that stop him (and subsequent presidents have gleefully followed his lead), so off we go to Cuba, to "monitor" their insurrection!
This is a great book - it serves not only to focus our attention on the specifics of Roosevelt's use of U.S. power, the use of presidential power and serves to remind us that the victor and the sovereign write the history. In this country, we're fortunate that others get to at least offer opposing views.
I thought this book was a great expose on debunking many of the myths surrounding Teddy. Although most people have fond memories of FDR, Teddy still has a grand image and it's amazing how many things he is known for are somewhat false. This trust busting and environmental stance are some of the most typical wars he was involved with but this book does a great job of diving into facts that make you question the history books you studied in college. The author does a great job of summarizing issues and then diving deep into the facts to expose the weakness in the arguments. In summary, a very good book for those who want to know the good and bad in people.
on September 6, 2014
As of this writing, California is going through one of its serve droughts and has resulted in extremely low levels of water at the Folsom and Shasta dams. Federal authorities recently allowed some of the water from the Colorado River to flow into Mexico for crops in that country and to have some of the water reach the Gulf of California. Jim Powell, in his book Bully Boy, puts before us a clear explanation for these predicaments.
In short, this book is a short biography of Theodore Roosevelt and the many policies that he advocated. He was a strong interventionist and advocate of our entry into the First World War; he called for the regulation of food and drugs and was a strong supporter of the income tax. Powell's contention is that these policies have led to a massive centralization of power in Washington, gave us a constant threat of war and fomented an erosion of our liberties. Powell gives ample documentation of Roosevelt's desire for power. Gore Vidal mentioned in an interview in 1992 that his grandfather, Senator Thomas Gore of Oklahoma, told him that it was the tendency of every president to be a dictator for that position possesses tremendous power. Teddy Roosevelt proved that axiom true through bypassing Congress in foreign policy matters and creating conservation commissions without congressional authorization.
I wanted to comment on a particular part of this book that affects us here in Arizona. Powell states that the creation of federal programs with regards to irrigation in the West led to unexpected consequences in terms of water for the region. Before the programs were set up, states like California, Arizona and Nevada had very small populations due to the inhospitable environment. Through their lobbying efforts, the Western states were able to extract wealth from the East to create reclamation and irrigation projects that provided water for the people and agriculture of the Southwest. With the passage of time, it has become evident that the Southwest (California, Arizona and Nevada) holds tremendous political power by holding over 20 percent of the seats in Congress. With the Southwest's influence, federal control over the region will remain for a long time to come. However, the projects created by the government has led to wasteful uses of water with water evaporation in reservoirs in hot regions, flat rates for water in agricultural regions and the pressure to provide water to an ever-increasing population, a side effect of unwise federal policy. This crisis should be one of Teddy Roosevelt's legacies. A bad one indeed.
This was an overview of Roosevelt's marks on our nation and was not in depth. 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. A great book. Five stars
on May 11, 2008
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. The chapter on food and drug regulations contains a lot of informative facts, such as the ludicrous campaign against Coca-Cola (well after cocaine was removed as an ingredient), but it is a little less convincing. The chapter on environmental regulation was probably the least convincing of these four.
Although Powell is very good at revealing how in many situations, the government regulations did not actually make consumer products safer or the environment cleaner in many situations, his argument seems to boil down to how these things inherently became less safe in every situation, because the government got involved. While this is certainly true in many situations, it is definitely not true in all, as there are legitimate cases of fraud or negligence in consumer products or pollution that the government should be involved in. Instead, Powell's argument would have been much more compelling to base his arguments on moral rights. For example, a chronically ill patient has the right to risk his life with a non-FDA-approved drug, if he indeed rationally perceives it to be his only hope to recovering.
Moreover, the chapter on Roosevelt's foreign policy is not persuasive. Roosevelt did indeed think that a country should routinely go to war to maintain national pride and would toughen men into "real men". This is indeed an alarming view for a Commander in Chief to have, since wars should be viewed as something a country is forced into to defend the rights of its citizens, not as a means to boost national moral. However, Powell goes well beyond this. Powell is heavily critical of the Panama Canal because its construction was made possible by a U.S. government backed revolution in Panama. While I think there can be a serious discussion on the propriety of this actions, to fixate on the fact that the Panama Canal was made possible by "interventionism" overlooks the prodigious achievement in civil engineering and international commerce that this canal truly represented. Furthermore, Powell labels T.R.'s handling of the Ion Perdicaris hostage situation as unnecessary interventionism, which overlooks how T.R.'s actions boldly declared that the U.S. would have zero tolerance for those who violate the rights of U.S. citizens overseas.
Overall, this is a good, but definitely not great, book on the Theodore Roosevelt administration from a pro-laissez-faire capitalist perspective.
on July 5, 2009
A great review of TR, his idea's, and their consequences. Systematically shows how TR was in fact not one of the greatest presidents of the US, but in fact a disaster. More depth would have been nice in certain areas, but a good intro to TR.
on May 29, 2015
A valuable contribution to explicating the origins of US corporatism and imperialism. It's clear why today's progressives and neocons both claim TR as an important contributor to their ideologies and methods.