Thomas Sowell

One way to reduce the wear and tear of Christmas shopping at the mall is to give books as presents. Books can be bought on the Internet, and they can be matched to the person who receives them without having to know that person's measurements.

Dick Morris' new book -- "Catastrophe"-- is an education in itself, on politics, on economics and on foreign policy. It is a strong antidote to the pious rhetoric and spin that come out of Washington and the media. Partly this is because Dick Morris was once a Beltway insider-- an adviser to President Bill Clinton-- who knows first-hand the ugly realities behind the pretty words that politicians use and that much of the media repeat.

Morris' argument in "Catastrophe"-- whose title tells us where he sees us headed-- is backed up by numerous hard facts and supported by an understanding of history and economics. Most of all, it is supported by an understanding of politics as it is, rather than the way it is depicted by politicians and the media.

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Dick Morris can also cut through a blizzard of political spin with a few plain words. In describing Barack Obama's economic policies, Morris says simply: "Curing the recession was not his end; it was his means to the end. The end was bigger government." Obama's actions often make no sense if you believe Obama's words, but they do make sense if you follow Dick Morris' analysis.

A revised edition of Angelo Codevilla's classic book, "The Character of Nations," has been published this year, and it too is an education in itself. "The Character of Nations" is less focussed on immediate domestic political issues-- though it does analyze the contrasting responses of the intelligentsia to Sarah Palin and Barack Obama-- but it is focussed more on the underlying cultural developments that affect how nations work-- or don't work.

The very title of "The Character of Nations" is a challenge to the prevailing ideology that denies or downplays underlying differences among individuals, groups and nations. There are many examples of these differences. For example, Professor Codevilla says: "While it is unimaginable to do business in China without paying bribes, to offer one in Japan is the greatest faux pas."

He sees the things that are valued differently in different cultures as the key to everything from economic progress to personal freedom. But these values are not set in stone-- which means that countries which currently benefit from a given set of values can lose those benefits when those values get lost.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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