The Czar has finished reading Judge Andrew Napolitanos book Lies the Government Told You: Myth, Power, and Deception in American History, on loan from the Mandarin. By the way, you can check out the book on our Amazon link to the left. Go ahead; it costs nothing for you to look in our libraries and see what we read!
Sigh. The Czar really wanted to like this book, because he was so much looking forward to reading it. And there is much to like in it: Napolitano writes with a straightforward, clear style for the most part. His breakdown of the 2008 housing collapse is the simplest account the Czar has seen, and it basically covers everything. And his explanation for the inexplicable Federal Reserve Board is thoroughly fascinating and possibly the best out there right now.
In spirit, the premise of the book is simple. There are certain truths we as Americans like to assume true: you are innocent unless proven guilty. The government cannot simply take your property from you. Police cannot enter your house without a warrant. And so on he provides 17 major assumptions, and numerous other related beliefs, and exposes the many times the United States government has broken that promise. Within these stories, he covers everything from free market commerce to monetary policy to law enforcement to espionage. Certainly, it covers any Gormogon readerss collective interests.
However, the book suffers on numerous levels.
First, while there is nothing wrong with his honor being a Libertarian, the book is a gushing love letter to Ron Paul. Okay, we get it: the judge believes Ron Paul should be President today. Pull quotes on the cover. A foreword by Paul. And comments in every other chapter about how Ron Paul sees it differently. What should be a fascinating and mind-opening look into history becomes too much campaign literature.
Second, Napolitano seems to hate everybody. He really comes off as a bit of a jerk. You know those guys that no matter what you say, they shoot it down? Yep. Washington? Hypocritical slave owner who brutalized his slaves by ripping out their teeth. Adams? A petty power grabber who started the Alien & Sedition Act to punish his detractors. Lincoln? Racist bastard who is undeserving of his attention. Roosevelt? Worst president ever. Bush? Worst president ever. Carter? Obama? Clinton? Worst presidents ever. And after page after page of that, it gets tedious.
Third, he is not as well read as he thinks he is. For example, he takes on FDR in a very damaging tone, accusing the FDR of setting up the attack on Pearl Harbor, hoping for an attack, simply so he could use the panic of war to enact his changes. The Czar has heard a lot of these theories and know they stem from one particular crackpot conspiracist. So, seeing Napolitano recite these theories, he flipped to the Notes in the back of the book. Aside from a few quotes here and there from FDR, all the material in this section came from one and only one source: the crackpot conspiracy theorist pseudo-historian. Bad move, because a lot of that stuff has been disproven as hindsight-driven confirmation bias. Where are the other sources? Where is the corroboration? This would be a weak case, indeed, for any attorney.
Fourth, and this is the big one…what of it? Napolitano offers sweeping condemnations on nearly every topic, but fails to provide any real counter solutions. The Czar can see many a presidential advisor reading this and saying Okay, so what would you have us do? For example, Napolitano excoriates FISA as a thoroughly unconstitutional concept: the government can, without a warrant beforehand, intercept phone calls on people inside the United States. Yes, that smells really badbut there is little doubt FISA has captured monumental intelligence. Likewise, he trashes the Republicans for using war as a type of foreign policy management. No kidding! When we saw Iraq invade Kuwait, we wanted to get involved. But as a Libertarian, Napolitano might prefer the Kuwaitis suffer their fate while we sit by as strictly neutral non-interventionists. It becomes a fantasy notion given our position in the world.
By simply listing everything that pisses him off without providing real world recommendations, the book winds up being a collection of letters-to-the-editor written by a cranky old guy. And that is disappointing, because it drowns out the real message of his book: that the government acts in its own interests, not in yours, and as a result very real and very innocent people get hurt badly in the process. Great idea for a book; perhaps a little more work was in order in writing it.