on February 23, 2007
Kevin Phillips has emerged as the most prescient of the crowd of pundits who attempted to predict America's future in the past thirty years or so. His style is relatively dispassionate and well-supported by a keen eye for historical trends. Unlike many authors, he doesn't try to hang his whole argument on only one aspect (e.g. rise in influence of religious fanaticism) of the current political climate in the US, but rather looks at the apparently perennial political-economic forces that have been common to the rise and fall of the great Empires of the past.
His ability to extract plausible economic and political trends out of a mess of historical events and counterforces is impressive. The book is clearly-written, well-documented and convincing. Things don't look too hopeful for North America if Mr. Phillips is correct.
Unfortunately, his diagnosis of the state of the Union is more complete and seems more historically informed than any other that I have read.
on March 30, 2006
Phillips is a renown political analyst, attracting hostility among right-wing reviewers precisely because his account of the rise of the Christian right is direct, centered on the point, objective and thought provoking.
He boldly states that a political movement is a political movement. Christian doctrine is broader, and Christianity more inclusive, than the narrow views and political boundaries adovcated by the religious right, the members of whom hide behind their religious beliefs when their political opinions and actions are challenged.
Books I Also Recommend:
The World is Flat (Thomas Friedman)
The Black Book of Outsourcing (Brown and Wilson)
Friedman serves up more direct observations on the offshoring trend, and Brown/Wilson bring advice on how to succeed in the new world economy not found anywhere else.
Kevin Phillips is perhaps the best person to write a book like this - a Republican analyst, he can not easily be dismissed as someone with a lock-step animosity toward the Right wing. He analyses in the past, including the rise of the Republican party in the manner that it has, has been correct in many ways for several decades. Phillips writes in many ways as someone who is a court insider giving fair warning to the king - the kingdom has some troubles.
Phillips identifies three principles areas of concern - the rise of certain elements of religion into the political sphere, the problems of oil as a national addiction (to use the President's own words), and the growing crisis of deficit and economic mismanagement. Phillips is a political commentator with an eye toward history, he makes apt comparisons with empires of the past: the Dutch trading empire, the British colonial empire, and even the Roman empire provide parallels for the United States in the twenty-first century. One thing to note - the period of stability of empires has decreased over the millennia; whereas an empire like Rome might sustain itself for half a millennium, later empires were able to sustain themselves for less and less time. The United States has been the pre-eminent global superpower for less than a century, and is already looking at relative decline.
The problem with oil, according to Phillips, involves problems with both foreign and domestic policy as well as cultural issues. Rather than address growing needs, the Republicans in power have instead adopted a dangerous laissez-faire approach that threatens long-term stability, Phillips notes.
The problem with the deficit and finance is similar to this - the Republican party used to be the party of smaller government and less spending, but in the past twenty five years, it has only been a Democratic administration that has been able to get the budget deficit under control. This is the kind of fiscal management that again jeopardises the long-term for the country.
The problem of radical religion is not a new thing in American politics. While the country might not have been founded on quite the same principles being touted as Founding Fathers Theology today, it is true to say that religion has always had a role in the culture, and hence the politics of the nation. However, the danger is real - Phillips makes very telling comparisons with the ante-bellum situation of the North and South, showing how many issues prior to the Civil War involved religious dimensions, and how the long-term injection of religious radicalism can destabilise the culture (this works on both the Left and the Right, by the way).
In addition to a critique of the Right, Phillips has strong words for the Democratic opposition as well, in that there isn't any kind of consistent vision or organisation being offered in distinction from the incumbents.
This is a worthwhile book for anyone Left, Right or in the muddle (er, middle).