"A vigorous and well-documented critique of the ruling assumptions and intellectual arguments of many of the leading figures among American conservatives. It will spark debate from Toplin's targets and supply ammunition for critics of dogmatic thinking on the right. Lively and hard-hitting, it also provides students with the basis for many stimulating exchanges in and out of the classroom." -- Lewis Gould
About the Author
Robert Brent Toplin is professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and the author of numerous books including Reel History: In Defense of Hollywood (see page 44) and Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11: How One Film Divided a Nation (see page 29).
It would be helpful if reviewers actually read and commented on the books they have reviewed. Free-market conservatives will undoubtedly bristle at Toplin's analysis. And, though he says at several points that he is talking about "radical conservatism," he does occasionally paint with a broad brush.
But the analysis, it seems to me, is telling on his critical point: what he calls "radical conservatism" (and now seems to be mainstream Republicanism) has abandoned the kind of balanced pragmatism that long characterized Republican leadership. Wendell Wilkie, Thomas Dewey, Robert Taft, Dwight Eisenhower, Howard Baker, etc. and other even more moderate Republican leaders of past generations would have scorned the kind of ideological fanaticism that assumes that the market is always right and government activism of any kind is always wrong.
Perhaps it's a matter of "leaders" following a broader rebellion against the role of modern government, but he clearly demonstrates that the abandonment of rational analysis in favor of an ideological outlook that is quasi-religious makes it very difficult for the kind of bipartisan cooperation that most Americans say they want.
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It takes a small mind to argue that free markets are not beneficial. Government interventions in free markets reduce the size of the pie, leaving less to be split among all parties. Those arguing against free markets on the basis that free markets delivered us to this economic disaster we are currently in miss the important point that free markets aren't possible as long as the Federal Reserve sets interest rates. Let's not forget to mention all the other government interventions in the housing market, health care, the currency markets, the bond markets, the commodity markets, the stock market, and the list goes on. If the interventions didn't work before, they won't work if we add more of the same. Therefore, the critique of "Stealth Libertarians" is in serious error. Doubtless, other groups attacked in this hatchet job could find suitable defense, though the Neocons would find no defense from this quarter.
The bottom line is that people have a right to keep what they earn, and the State is entitled to none of it. If we wish, we may decide to voluntarily contribute just enough to maintain minimal order, but the State does not have a right to force anyone to do anything other than protect basic property rights (as classicaly understood) and Constitutional Liberties as understood and expressed by the Founding Fathers. A weakened expression of Mill's harm principle applies here.
Those who express different views are simply looking for an excuse to buy votes by picking your pockets through the crude, authoritarian mechanism of redistribution. As a result, we're all the poorer for it; progressivism has therefore become regressive, perhaps without knowing any better. This clumsy approach to policy is fine until such mindless thugs gain power. Hold fast to your rapidly falling standard of living, and hope for gridlock!