Posted: January 29, 2007
Leading and Leadership by Timothy Fuller
Love, teaching, work, and death are subjects of the other volumes in the Ethics of Everyday Live series, published by the University of Notre Dame Press. Each contains a variety of readings, from ancient and contemporary sources, reaching across cultures and disciplines. Each has a distinguished editor or editors—Leon and Amy Kass, Mark Schwehn, Gilbert C. Meilaender, and Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. These are volumes rich in instruction.
Editor Timothy Fuller proceeds from the "premise…that we must become more thoughtful and more philosophical about the meaning of leadership." That the volume is not one on citizenship—hence no readings from Aristotle—is already a cause for concern. It is also the most secular volume of the series. But Fuller's carefully chosen selections let us rise above the vulgar Führer prinzip: "seek to be worthy of recognition," sage council from Confucius, begins the volume. Sections on classical, heroic, democratic, and contemporary leadership follow. Readers will see that the "more philosophical" approach to leadership turns it into a question of statesmanship, and then of political philosophy. So understood, the mundane points to the wonderful.
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The Founders' Almanac : A Practical Guide to the Notable Events, Greatest Leaders & Most Eloquent Words of the American Founding by Matthew Spalding
George Washington: Foundation of Presidential Leadership and Character edited by Ethan Fishman, William D. Pederson, and Mark J. Rozell
These collections remind us that the study of the American Founders has both popular and scholarly purposes. The volume edited by Matthew Spalding is designed for the serious beginning student of the American Founding as well as those who wish simply to ransack the Founders' wisdom for immediate practical use (e.g., adorning a speech with quotations). In addition to apt quotations, a calendar of events, basic documents, and essays by scholars such as Steven Forde, Mackubin Owens, Bradley Thompson, Colleen Sheehan, Dorthea Wolfson, and Spalding himself make this a most useful reference work for teachers, students, and professors.
The Ethan Fushman et al. book contains a range of essays, uneven in quality, by new and venerable George Washington scholars, including William Allen, Kent Kirwan, Glenn Phelps, Colleen Shogan, and Spalding. Allen's essay on "The Foreign Policy of Republicanism" contains a useful resume of commentary on the Farewell Address, in addition to reflection on the teaching of distinguished Claremont McKenna College international relations professor Harold W. Rood, Fishman and other essayists take seriously the Aristotelian prudence displayed in Washington, whose example helps to inspire both of these volumes.
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Free Market Environmentalism by Terry L. Anderson and Donald R. Leal
What would happen if Walt Disney took over the management of the Grand Canyon? Far from a horror show, the result might be better for those seriously concerned with preserving that natural treasure. "Free market environmentalism emphasizes the importance of market processes in getting more human value from any given stock of resources." On the whole, argue Anderson and Leal of the Political Economy Research Center, markets and property rights make far better protectors of the environment than government regulation. They muster example after example of how an attention to the rationality of the market and respect for property rights would have produced a far better result (e.g., fishery preservation) than government policies generated by political pressure groups, ideological rigidity, or regulatory inertia. In this subtly argued work, environmental policies ranging from recycling to international agreements come under enlightened scrutiny.
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Mobocracy: How the Media's Obsession with Polling Twists the News, Alters Elections, and Undermines Democracy by Matthew Robinson
Mass-media polling is justifiably skewered in this spirited work by Matthew Robinson, managing editor of the conservative weekly Human Events and an adjunct fellow of the Claremont Institute. He begins with the abuses of polling and ends with a stout defense of the American Constitution and the statesmanship and political journalism that helped launch and legitimate it.
Mobocracy provides a multitude of recent examples of liberal journalists' and Democratic politicians' manipulation of public opinion through polling (including a shrewd, no-holds-barred account of the Clinton impeachment coverage). The primary objective of their manipulation, Robinson argues, is to validate a big-government political agenda and to discredit the Republicans. Most pollsters presume (or pretend there exists) a rational, informed public, but their "dirty little secret" is that vast numbers of Americans know little or nothing about the issues on which they are polled. Hence, polls not only conceal widespread public ignorance but actually feed it with flattery. Such citizens are easy prey for demagoguery.
Robinson ultimately demonstrates that America's Founders were right in their judgment that the many cannot govern directly and that the only reasonable alternative is representative government in which they have the choice of rulers.Mobocracy is thus dialectical, beginning with crucial examination of the current frenzy of journalistic democracy and ultimately taking the reader back to the more sober view of the Founders. It is an education in true self-government.
—Richard H. Reeb, Jr.
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William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles by Catherine Mulholland
Fans of the movie "Chinatown" may wish to know about the real Noah Cross, a.k.a. William Mulholland, as described by his granddaughter. We see the immigrant Irish engineer who designed and built the system that brought water to Los Angeles, allowing for its remarkable growth. Mulholland's tenacity enabled him to become the Faust of southern California, draining distant lakes and turning a desert into a garden (called L.A. and Orange County). His endeavor parallels the career of California Governor-turned-U.S. Senator Hiram Johnson, one of the major figures of Progressivism. More probing works are needed to reveal the founder behind the bureaucrat, but the example of Mulholland is the stuff for such speculation.
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A is for America: An American Alphabet by Devin Scillian with illustrations by Pam Carroll
Devin Scillian dedicates his book to "Mom, who taught me to love books, and Dad, who taught me to love my country." For parents who want to do the same for their children, A is for America is a fine start.
In this abecedarian volume, children are introduced to the Liberty Bell, Bunker Hill, Chicago and Charlotte, Denver and Dallas, and fireworks on the Fourth of July, as well as Hershey Bars, Holiday Inns, and Huckleberry Finn—all seen in Pam Carroll's colorful full-spread paintings.
Most of Scillian's rhymes do tend to emphasize what is extraordinary about America. "I is indeed important, how America came to be. It's the idea that an individual can insist on being free." With "J," "If not for Thomas Jefferson, where would we be today?" While "Abraham Lincoln gets all of L. It's elementary you see. He held us all together and at the same time set us free." Further on, we also meet Mickey Mantle, Norman Rockwell, Rosa Parks, and "Ulysses S. Grant in his Union uniform." Even difficult letters succeed with "Q" for John Hancock's quill and "X" to remind us of Election Day. Best of all, each letter includes a sidebar with additional facts on the subjects named. The book closes with the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner" and a detailed account of how it was written.
John Adams wrote that "children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom." A is for America is one way to put them on the right track.
—John B. Kienker