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409 of 454 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 2011
The great irony that arrived on my iPad (via Kindle) with David Mamet's excellent book is that, as the dramatic authority of confidence games (e.g., House of Games, The Spanish Prisoner), for most of his life he was taken in by the confidence game of modern Liberalism. (Born and raised in Chicago, he still got conned.) Mamet is erudite, literary, and incisive in this set of linked essays. I rarely use the Kindle's highlight function, but I found myself highlighting more passages in the first third of his book than all 260 of the other books I have read on Kindle. His writing is that great. He resides in that specialized domain of an H. L. Mencken, or a Richard Mitchell (whose Underground Grammarian and several books are available free on the Web). He draws from Hayek and Sowell, among others, but is more fun to read. Here are some of my favorite highlights:

Chap. 1: "We cannot live without trade. A society can neither advance nor improve without excess of disposable income. This excess can only be amassed through the production of goods and services necessary or attractive to the mass. A financial system which allows this leads to inequality; one that does not leads to mass starvation."

Chap 2: "I will now quote two Chicago writers on the subject, the first, William Shakespeare, who wrote 'Truth's a dog must to kennel; he must be whipped out, when Lady the brach may stand by the fire and stink'; the second, Ernest Hemingway, 'Call 'em like you see'em and to hell with it.'"

Chap 3: "The grave error of multiculturalism is the assumption that reason can modify a process which has taken place without reason, and with inputs astronomically greater than those reason might provide."

Chap 4: "College, while it may theoretically teach skills, also serves to delay the matriculation of the adolescent into society."

Chap 5: "No, the luckless product of our Liberal Universities, skill-less, will not touch that item his culture named taboo: work. So we see the proliferation, in the Liberal Communities, of counselors, advisors, life coaches, consultants, feng shui 'experts,' as the undereducated chickens come home to roost."

Chap 6: "A subjective system can never be shown to have failed. If its goals are indeterminate, general, and its progress incapable of measurement, how can its performance be faulted?"

Chap 7: "From the Left's point of view one need not work, and may not only Hope to be provided for, by this government, but may insist upon it."

Chap 8: "A Slave is not permitted to make these distinctions. Al of his behavior is circumscribed by the will of his master. The necessity of making distinctions is the essence of freedom, where one not only can but must choose...The essence of freedom was and is choice."

Chap 9: "...I was from Chicago. It was a rough city, ruled by Machine Politics, which ruled the state, and currently rules the country."

And that's just the first nine essays, in which I've highlighted many paragraphs. Mamet is essential reading for thoughtful conservatives and libertarians, and anyone else willing to stand the challenge of examining unchallenged assumptions. A tour de force. Thank you, David.
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505 of 572 people found the following review helpful
David Mamet made a stir in 2008 with his Village Voice essay, "Why I Am No Longer a Brain-Dead Liberal." This book is a fuller, wittier, and more scathing treatment of the same subject--a liberal screenwriter who has "seen the light."

Like other big media apostates, Andrew Breitbart, Tom Wolfe, John Stossel, Ben Stein, and Dennis Miller, Mamet realized the liberal assumptions that capitalism was evil and that Republicans were corporate lackeys had serious holes. When he began to investigate the logic behind free markets, he realized that it actually made sense. As Mamet puts it, modern liberalism is nothing more than a religion that its practitioners preach blindly on faith.

To examine the inanity of modern liberals, Mamet offers 39 entertaining essays that cover the gamut of modern living, including "Adventure Slumming," "Cabinet Spiritualism and the Car Czar," and, my favorite, "Oakton Manor and Camp Kawaga." Throughout the expose, Mamet makes use of his excellent perspective in the arts. With examples from his theater class, he shows exactly how absurd political correctness and the liberal agenda can be.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good story and wants to peer into the ultra-liberal New York/L.A. big media mindset. Of course, the culture wars are just a symptom of the problem, and, for anyone who wants an examination of how we got into this situation, I recommend the brilliant Juggernaut: Why the System Crushes the Only People Who Can Save It.
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109 of 120 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2011
I hope this book sells a billion copies and is read by everyone in America. (See? I'm in favor of hope & change, too!)

Well, that won't happen, but I suspect this book may be an effective converter of more than one leftie. Mamet's writing is crystal clear because his thinking is crystal clear. He is especially telling on the failure of our schools to teach anything useful, leaving us with a mass of liberal arts majors who hardly know how to spell, much less how to WORK. Mamet comes back to this again and again: the leftie dream is somehow to avoid doing work, just like Aristotle and his dream of the "contemplative life" --- The Nicomachean Ethics (Oxford World's Classics) --- or James Hilton's fantasy Lost Horizon --- where the unpleasant reality emerges (sooner or later) that the man living the contemplative life can only do so because of his slaves, and ditto for the lamasery of Lost Horizon. In the end, both books can be justly accused of being guides for the independently wealthy.

Capitalism is evil!! Oh, really? Do you mean the capitalism which built your house and your car, the capitalism which founded public libraries all across America, and created Harvard, Stanford, Yale, and the American university system? The capitalism which encouraged and sustained your grandfathers and fathers, the capitalism which brings you food to eat every day? The capitalism which threw off so much wealth it was able to guarantee the European peace for fifty years FOR FREE, and enable the Europeans to grow into fat-cat America-haters??

If that is evil, could we please see an example of something which is good?

Mamet never met a conservative before he was 60, but he has surely been playing catch-up like the virtuoso he is. This is a superb, dazzling book.

Highest possible recommendation!!
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99 of 109 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2011
You will have to read the book to understand "the pellet".

I started this morning (after reading half the book) by talking to a liberal friend, who at times talks as if he is conservative, but when I point that out he clams up. So, the first thing I sent him was the Wall Street Journal interview with Mamet from May 28th, to which my friend responded with "he's a sellout and been corrupted by Rupert Murdoch and FoxNews and what else would you expect in the Wall Street Journal". "...have a pellet of food."

So, I sent him the Village Voice article, and his response was Mamet has sold out for the money and become a capitalist. "...get a pellet of food."

Then I read a paragraph from the book about getting a pellet, and his response, after a bit of silence was "I don't care". He " the pellet".

He is clearly one of the "wouldn't it be nice if everything was nice" liberals.

One of the best things about the book, as an almost life long conservative but having arrived there through some effort, (I didn't eat the pabulum) I not only couldn't disagree with any premise or observation, but found that Mamet put some things together and drew the cause and effect picture, that I'd not thought of.

The book is extremely entertaining, and I really felt like I was watching a play. It was a comedy, a tragedy and a morality play all in one and I didn't want an intermission. I couldn't put it down. I want more! FUN!

Oh, and I pre-ordered this for delivery on the 2nd and it arrived in my Kindle on iPad at 00:10. Neat!
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314 of 356 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2011
This is not the story of David Mamet's transformation from liberal to freethinker who thinks his way into conservatism. Instead this is 39 short, well-written observations from someone who has encountered conservatism with virgin eyes, like Columbus looking on the Americas for the first time. These will all be familiar to conservatives who are well aware that there are good reasons underlying conservative thought and action.

Mamet's revelations can be a little amusing to long-time conservatives, like hearing your child come home from school and saying "in Australia the seasons are reversed! Christmas is the hottest time of the year, and July 4th the coldest!"

Perhaps his best epiphany is that everything is a trade-off in life. For example, realizing that there's a very real reason why a country that can send a man to the moon can't provide free school lunches to all; because that nation chose to send a man to the moon instead. Government can some of the things we want it to do, but not all.

"All human interactions are tradeoffs, one may theoretically offer cheap health insurance to the twenty million supposedly uninsured members of our society. But at what cost-the dismantling of the health care system of the remaining three-hundred million plus? What of the inevitable reduction, shortages, abuses, delay and injustice caused by State rationing? There's a cost for everything."

Lots more insightful observations like the neo-Puritanism on the Left, for example, at his child's school, where the familiar music mnemonic of Every Good Boy Does Fine is changed to Every Good Baby Does Fine, to avoid using the masculine 'boy.' More on the mind-numbing political conformity instilled by college, Diversity hypocrisy, Liberalism as a religion which has replaced religion, etc, etc.

Good for a Liberal who's able to calmly evaluate why one of his own opened his mind to a whole new way of thinking about the world, and for those who appreciate Mamet's artistry
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97 of 108 people found the following review helpful
on July 25, 2011
Let's be honest. If you actually buy the hardcover edition of a book like this, it's probably because you assume you'll agree with it. I bought it. Like Mamet, I would once have considered myself a liberal, but have had it brought irresistibly to my attention that conservatism makes more sense. Well, that's what I say now. Should any of us ever be so secure in our world view that we deny the possibility of change?

Let's continue being honest. If we subscribe to world view "A", then there will always be a fascination in reading confessionals by apostates from opposing world view "B". How did they become convinced that we were right, and they were wrong? I had read Mamet's Village Voice article from a few years back in which he "came out" as a conservative, and I wanted more.

So, approaching this book with a predisposition to like it, and agree with it, I was mildly disappointed. Most of the conventional Right vs Left talking points are here, principally the blinkered self righteousness of the modern Left, its intolerance of other views, and its inability to look at the world as it actually is. There was relatively little actually to disagree with. Perhaps where Mamet lost me was in conflating conservatism with an acknowledgement of "the Divine". It's not clear how conventionally religious he actually is, but he frequently cites the Torah, is proud of his Jewish heritage, and a "centrist" Rabbi helped guide him on his political journey. He is distrustful of non-believers, as most conservatives are. Atheist and agnostic conservatives have their own struggles with acceptance, but I am straying too far from a review of this book.

I never felt, reading it, that I had been intellectually challenged, made to look at things in a different way. Instead, it was covering the ground that most conservatives have been over in forming their beliefs. It is important to Mamet, because he is talking out the changes in the way he sees human reality, but does it have anything new for the rest of us, anything that we haven't gotten from other political writing? For me, it doesn't.

The writing is not bad, exactly, this is a great playwright, after all. Perhaps his style is not well suited to an argument at this length. Dipping in at any one point, one can find striking observations, very well put. Reading the whole thing cover to cover, there is a lot of repetition, and a sense that he didn't really think about the structure of the book as a whole.

There are factual claims which, even if true, could stand with elaboration. If a female airline passenger's argument with a stewardess really led to her getting a 3 month sentence for terrorism, perhaps he could have given us some names or other details that would allow us to check the facts for ourselves. There are other dubious claims that could have used some documentation, and in some cases he simply gets it wrong. Although it's not central to any point that he's making, he seems to think that the cheating by the 1919 Chicago "Black Sox" was directed to unfairly winning a World Series rather than throwing it to the other team.

He could have used his footnotes to cite sources. Instead, he uses them for lengthy rambling asides which seriously derail his main discussion if one reads them, but which we don't want to skip for fear of missing something important.

Like me, he is concerned with, and bothered by, the antisemitism which has pervaded modern liberal attitudes. I agree with most of what he says, without feeling that he has said it in a way which deserves particular attention.

Perhaps the most interesting parts were those which discussed his own background, his parents, his struggles with school, his children. He makes some interesting points about the attachment of modern reform Jews to liberalism and to the Democratic party, particularly how the traditional Jewish passion for justice has become disconnected, in its American setting, from an understanding of its connection to law.

In short, I doubt there is much here to make a committed liberal change his mind, apart from the fact that the author was once a liberal himself, and has only recently crossed over to the other side. For the conservative, there is little new here, no new facts or talking points, no "aha" moments. Not a waste of time, but far from being a must read.
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133 of 150 people found the following review helpful
Mamet wanted to be a liberal, but reality kept getting in the way. These 39 chapters take on the conventional political wisdom of the various artistic and intellectual elites in a subjective style that doesn't pretend to be comprehensive or scrupulously documented. He refers to the views of writers and thinkers like Hayek and Friedman in passing, so that the only people who are going to really "get" what he's saying are the people whose political journeys took them past the same thinkers, and who already have roughly the same political disposition that Mamet now outlines.
That said, this book is full of some Menckenesque writing that deserves a broad audience. It will be interesting to see how the New Yorker, Washington Post, NYT, et al respond to this public barbecue of their sacred cows.
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54 of 62 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2011
David Mamet has produced one of the most fundamentally condemning and enlightening books of the past 15 years. Weaving empirical observation, research, wisdom and soul searching, he has created an impressive tapestry decorated with today's social dynamics and their predictable outcomes.

If you manage to read this book with an open mind, you will find yourself nodding in agreement as Mr. Mamet looks to history and the present to draw parallels with America's present course.
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
I'm not a critic or a writer but I can say that this book is enlightening and entertaining. It's a quick and enjoyable read and I'm sure I'll read it more than once because it is paragraph after paragraph of intellectual snapshots.
The book is written in a lyrical playwrights style with each chapter as an essay in it's own right and the kind of book the reader can pick up and read at any point. It's introspective and entertainingly educational.
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43 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Wow, what a piece of writing. A tour de force of political thought. Highly recommended. To see his transformation from one line of thinking to another and why it happened is very thought-provoking.
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