Today, it’s nothing less than a book review: The End Is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome: How Going Broke Will Leave America Richer, Happier, and More Secure, by Kevin D. Williamson, landed in the Czar’s mailbox a couple of days ago, and the Czar is eager to tell you all about it. You can get a copy of your very own by clicking on our Emporium Gormogonicum over to the left, and then scooting over to the Czar’s Library. Or just click here, they tell me.
|Kevin D. Williamson, who looks exactly like an expert on running out of money.|
The overt premise of the book is that, yes, America is going broke and our political system is falling apart. Sure, that’s old news, but Williamson is one of the first people to tackle the question of what typically happens next.
Right: rather than pine for things lost or opine on what should happen, Williamson takes the road less taken by asking what almost always happens whenever any monopoly goes broke and falls apart. And the end result is that the primary consumers—in this case taxpayers—wind up substantially better than before.
He takes the argument much further than this, of course, but we are merely trying to whet your appetite. The reality is that this book is so good at laying out its arguments that the Czar was pleasantly surprised by its invention. Typically, books with a political or economic bent eventually fall into a common formula: state the problem, propose an alternative view or other revelation, and then bombard the reader with example after example, each one infested by endnotes. Not Williamson: this book flies pretty fast, and doesn’t waste your time defending its position with bolstering notes. No, it’s pretty clear where you can find this stuff out on your own.
The Czar is further delighted to reveal that there is at least one remarkable hit per page: whether it is an observation about business, politics, technology, or history, Williamson manages to surprise you all along the way. No, it’s all stuff you knew, but he links things together in a way you had not considered before. This is a book designed to make the reader smarter from the very first page all the way in; we cannot understate how true this is.
That alone is worth the small price of the book. But better still, Williamson takes on and succeeds with the difficult task of writing all the things that plague America right now, and avoid an overt political tone. We of course know Mr. Williamson’s background, but a new reader will have a difficult time determining his political preferences from this book because he takes on everyone, equally. Even so-called political independents are exposed as part of the problem. No, screwing up our country took a group effort since the early 20th Century, and Williamson lays it all out. This book ought to be enjoyed by everyone.
But is The End Is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome correct? As Williamson mentioned to the Czar the other day, you should be cautiously optimistic. Yes, there are inevitable trends at work, and yes, history provides pretty solid examples, but there is always room to mess the thing up worse. Basically, Williamson takes the fascinating tack that you have to look at the history of politics, commerce, and industry as an intertwined entity: you can make great cases for each of the three, but you never get the complete picture; rather, you get a good argument but too many exceptions. It isn’t until you examine all three legs of that stool together to understand the grander a-ha of the situation.
Putting it far too simply, the government and commerce and industry are always intertwined. But the latter two, when properly subjected to economic free-market forces, evolve into monopolies that eventually break apart into smaller, better entities that do things better, cheaper. Read the book for examples (they are good and they work), but simply put the business model of a successful company today is a whole lot different than the models of 1900.
Similarly, he argues, government also follows that model on the local, state, and federal levels, but right now it is caught in its monopoly phase. Look at everything: education, healthcare, retirement planning, mail delivery, and so on. Can you find an example of where the government—which has no real competition in these areas—is succeeding? In fact, as he shows, government is behaving exactly like any of the 20th Century monopolies just before they split apart into far more successful and less expensive smaller business that operate as partners.
This can challenge readers: will a massive reorganization of our government—pictured with white columns, domed edifices, and marble statues—bust apart into e-commerce-like entities? More challenging is his question: would that be a bad thing if it did?
The book will disturb conservatives who prefer to minimize change, but should encourage them that some changes will be highly desirable and be better for all. The book is certain to disturb liberals who like big government, but should reassure them that what will follow actually will function as they pretend it does now. But libertarians, who want the government out of their lives, will certainly relish the promise.
Let us talk about that for another couple of paragraphs. Williamson’s argument contains the embedded corollary that government has been changing continously through history. The job of conservatism is not to get back to some older form of government where things worked better…because history debunks that they ever did. Rather, conservatism should be about managing change so that it is smart and efficient. This book provides such a vision.
Likewise, nearly all liberals secretly know that their model cannot sustain itself. Everywhere it has been tried, liberalism fails. The more it is tried, the faster it fails. Although there is significant denial in the media about this, liberalism cannot pay for itself any more than any other con game makes the other players richer. This book spells out how our government is the biggest victim of the con game, and that things will change whether we want it to or not. Politics, Williamson explains, is an industry of its own, and it is an out-dated industry way behind the times. Things are changing (sorry to both conservatives and liberals), and history shows they are supposed to get smarter and more rewarding.
So: cautiously optimistic news from Kevin D. Williamson. The interesting part is that you won’t have to wait very long to see if he’s right. Because even though Williamson is aware of how far we have already traveled down this path, the reality is we are probably much further than even he appreciated when he started exploring this topic.
Highly recommended to people of all stripes. There is no way you’re walking away from this book without learning something great.