Stephen Karlson (shkarlson) wrote in 50bookchallenge,
Stephen Karlson

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Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum collaborated on That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back.  It's time to catch up on the reading.  I'll keepI'll keep Book Review No. 33 (seventeen more to go?) brief, sticking to the main ideas.

Some things have gone wrong in the country, and some of them are self-inflicted.  The title for the post comes from page 125, and it's probably one of Mr Friedman's famous (or infamous) epigrams, although it's part of a line of argument in the book to the effect that Soft America's distortion of education has not served the youngsters well, something that places them on the side of Cold Spring Shops.  And it is difficult to be critical of a work that quotes Harvard's Lawrence Katz on page 223, "American fifty-five-year-olds are still the most educated people in their cohort in the world.  But American twenty-five-year-olds are in the middle of the pack."  Or to take issue with a work that includes a disregard of evidence and logic and laws of conservation, including economics, as part of the Decline.

On the other hand, when a work equates infrastructure with government spending on roads and waterways -- neglecting the investor-owned utilities and railroads and much of the Internet's hard-wiring -- and credits Indian and Chinese education with more than it deserves, and identifies as a source of gridlock the presence of majority-minority Congressional districts conjoined with safe Republican districts, without noting the bipartisan complicity in the creation of those Gerrymanders ... well,it comes as no surprise that the authors still seek a Resolution by Traditional Means, in this case getting a proper Third Party to properly Redirect the Major Parties. Emergence? Self-Organization? Less Reliance on Experts? Perhaps that's why Andrew Ferguson (in The Wall Street Journal) and Matt Welch (in Reason) weren't impressed.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)
Tags: current events, non-fiction, politics
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