3 must-read books to ring in the new year
What a year! America, once known as the common sense nation, seems to have left common sense behind in the increasingly bizarre Biden era. Yet 2022 has been a banner year for truly great common sense books by thoughtful Americans.
America's Rise and Fall Among Nations by Angelo Codevilla
The common sense year began with Angelo Codevilla's magnificent book on foreign policy, America's Rise and Fall Among Nations. When America was the common sense nation, it quite naturally had a common sense foreign policy. America's common sense foreign policy is simple to state: America minded its own business and left other people to mind theirs.
That policy was followed with scarcely a misstep by America's leaders from the time of the founders through the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. It succeeded spectacularly, and America rose among the nations of the world.
America's original foreign policy was most clearly articulated by John Quincy Adams. Codevilla presents Adams's view with simple clarity:
[J]ust as others' business, others' quarrels, and others' objectives are rightfully and inescapably their own, America is the sole, sovereign judge of its own business, of what our own safety and welfare require. This, Adams argued, is international law as well as common sense.
The election of Woodrow Wilson in 1912 brought an end to America's common sense foreign policy and to the era of America's peace among nations. America's Progressive elite swiftly imposed a new foreign policy that rejected the principles that had worked so well — and plunged America into eleven disastrous decades of international quagmires.
The Money Confusion by John Tamny
Codevilla's book shows Americans the way to restore common sense and sanity to America's foreign policy. Tamny's book shows American citizens how to restore common sense and sanity to America's economic policy.
We cannot depend on the experts in either area. Economists, pundits, and politicians misunderstand money and inflation to a frightening degree. That's because they have abandoned common sense. All you need to free yourself from the experts' confusion is your own common sense — and a little help from your friend and mine, John Tamny.
Tamny's theme is that it's essential that money be trusted as a measure in the same way that the mile, the degree, and the tablespoon are trusted. He begins by quoting Adam Smith: "The sole use of money is to circulate consumable goods." In short order, he quotes John Maynard Keynes: the market "presumes a stable measuring-rod of value, and cannot be efficient — perhaps cannot survive — without one." Everything in the book follows from this simple yet profoundly important commonsense understanding of money.
Both Codevilla and Tamny it make clear that so-called experts have been allowed to have their way in America for far too long. Here's Codevilla:
Progressivism's core proposition [is] that the correct path in human affairs is to be discovered through specialized knowledge rather than by politically responsible common sense.
The only thing you can say for the CDC's Anthony Fauci is that he has demonstrated once and for all the folly of Progressivism's core proposition. It is time for America to return to politically responsible common sense.
Schools for Statesmen by Andrew Browning
The impact of the common sense thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment on the American founding, once known to virtually every American, has been largely forgotten. The tragedy of that forgetting inspired me to write my book Common Sense Nation. I made every effort to tell the whole story as briefly as possible, to provide you, as I wrote in the preface, "the maximum of understanding in the minimum of pages."
Twenty twenty-two has brought a major development in the important project of re-awakening Americans to the sources of the American idea: Professor Andrew Browning's magnificent new book, Schools for Statesmen: The Divergent Educations of the Constitution's Framers. It is an astonishing achievement.
Professor Browning's focus is narrower than mine. He keeps his focus on the Framers and the Constitutional Convention. Instead of striving for brevity, he tells the story in astonishing detail. His 278 pages of close text and 45 pages of notes are brimming with information and brilliant observations explaining the miracle that occurred in 1787 in Philadelphia. Understanding how it came about will only increase your wonder at what was accomplished then and there.
Reading all of these books might not be your cup of tea. But if you are reading this, at least one of them must be.
The book by my dear friend Angelo Codevilla is a must-read for those of us who are troubled by American foreign policy.
The book by my friend John Tamny is a must-read for those of us who are troubled by American economic policy.
The book by Andrew Browning is a must-read for those of us who want to understand deeply the commonsense thinking of America's founders and especially of those who gave us that most astonishing document in the history of the world, the Constitution of the United States of America.
Whether or not you enjoy one or all of these books, let us join in sharing our gratitude for America, the common sense nation, and our hope for America in 2023.
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