Score: 96/100 (9.6 out of 10)
This is a well-researched, well-written book on sociopolitical and socioeconomic issues that are becoming more and more pressing matters in present-day America and the world. Namely, this book discusses the drive toward a predatory state and the continued tug-a-war between the ideologies of socialism and capitalism for the hearts, minds, and souls of Americans. It discusses the significance that institutions like the media and schools could have in which of these ideologies wins out, and it discusses the potential consequences of this.
Now, we feel obligated to preface this by saying that we may not agree with or endorse the (mostly Libertarian) views held by Bayrer, so don't cancel us, burn our houses down, throw bricks through our windows or anything like that. We just need to look at this book for what it is: a great book on an important set of relevant topics. But look, here's the deal: regardless of how we feel and regardless of what we think, facts are facts and history is history. It's very difficult to ignore the death toll of socialism in the 20th century, leading to the worst man-made famines in history and some of the worst examples of genocide as well. All of this really hinges on human nature. In the “utopian” view that Bayrer uses for comparison purposes, the government is benevolent and citizens are subservient for the good of the community. That would be amazing in an ideal, utopian world, but unfortunately human nature is a thing. Humans beings will avoid pain and pursue pleasure. Thus, asking them to work 12+ hours a day (pain) for society without hope of personal gain (pleasure) works against human nature. Humans beings will favor themselves and those close to them, so asking them to give up the fruits of their labor for society's benefit (or, more likely, a tyrannical government's) goes against human nature. Humans beings will naturally pursue power, so asking them to accept modest means and be content with being stuck in the middle-class goes against human nature. Those are some inconvenient truths.
Another inconvenient truth that comes along with this is that government will naturally pursue more and more power without checks and balances. Bayrer does a fantastic job at pointing out how the founding fathers, namely James Madison, foresaw this being a problem. It troubles us every election when people say they want a “Red Wave” or a “Blue Wave.” In other words, there exist people in our country who want one party or another to just disappear for whatever reason—however “justified.” They forget that there are reasons we have competing parties. Many forget or willingly ignore history. Many ignore common sense and—more likely—ignore human nature. Many forget what tends to happen in one-party systems: they more easily become tyrannies and oligarchies. Bayrer even makes references to ideologies weaponizing the almost religious fervor and devotion of subscribers.
Imagine if there was an “Angel Party” that looked like God's gift to man because they seemed to support all the right things that most people agreed with, at least before every election. What happens when that “Angel Party” lacks competition? One of three things happens: either that party becomes complacent, that party becomes tyrannical, or both. Competition, checks, and balances are what prevent this from happening. Creating a society absent of competition, per the utopian ideal, is asking for trouble. There's a reason why contests like this and sports exist. It's not just that it's fun, it's because we like to see the best of the best do what the best of the best do: GET BETTER and WIN. If you want things to get better, you need to invite competition, not squash it.
The West rules economically and politically largely because it has been more inviting of competition and innovation. Hollywood rules the entertainment industries worldwide for a reason. American music tops the charts worldwide. These things are simply backed by more capital (wealth) gained via capitalism and the intellectual fruits and efforts fed by individualism.
You would think that a nation that champions capitalism and individualism would be a detriment to the rest of the world, but the opposite is true: America contributes more money to charity than any other nation by far—and it's not even close. This prosperity is the result of capitalism and individualism, not despite it. Look at which nation was far and away the greatest donor of vaccines worldwide last year (the USA) and ask yourself what made that possible. Capitalism has pulled more people out of poverty than any other system, and we have the wealthiest and most powerful nation that has ever existed to look at as an example.
Bayrer champions the idea of the “FEO” (Free Extended Order of Human Cooperation) originally discussed by Friedrich Hayek. In the simplest terms, this is the belief that groups of people function best when individual rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are paramount and respected, as in the US constitution, and there are less government intervention and constraints on individuals and businesses.
What's ironic is that much of this information isn't anything new. It's what they teach you in an MBA program or basic economics, yet people willingly or subconsciously forget or ignore them. You've at least read Marx and Ayn Rand right?
So is this a perfect book? No. For one, this book can be incredibly heavy-handed, didactic, and—quite frankly—biased. Bayrer is a Libertarian through and through, and if it's not an ideology that appeals to you for whatever reason, you may not appreciate this (unless you're arming yourself for a debate class or an argument for some reason). And it's not like capitalism hasn't hurt a fly and that intervention is always wrong. Intervention has helped raise the minimum wage, helped decrease hours, created overtime pay, combated pollution, and gave workers the rights to vacation, social security, Medicare, and more. Yes, we know that some of that stuff is also what takes a huge chunk of your paycheck twice a month, but it has its benefits.
Thankfully, the author does provide a lot of references to back up his claims. There are a lot of references in this book, and a tremendous amount of these are from reputable sources including numerous folks with "PhD" next to their names. There are some parts about the superiority of Singapore's economy over others that get a bit grating, but lets face it: Singapore has the most open economy in the world, the 3rd least corruption, low taxes, and the second highest per-capita GDP in the world. So, it's not hard to see that argument.
This is a great educational tool for teaching the next generation about the predatory state and how surrendering our constitutional rights may chip away at the heart and soul of the nation—a heart and soul that value individual rights and freedoms—little by little. Can we avoid this fate or are we doomed to fall apart and go the way of the Mongols and the Romans? Will America likewise be lost to the annals of time?
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