The Almanac of American Philanthropy: 2017 Compact Edition
Last year Zinsmeister’s 1,342-page Almanac became the best compendium of readable information about great donors, major philanthropic achievements, statistics on U.S. generosity, and more. This year’s 460-page version includes stories, stats, and insights on good charity vs. bad charity and the relationship of donors and passion, plus comparisons of philanthropic and government problem-fixing. Also worthwhile: quotations on charitable goals (C.S. Lewis: “The proper aim of giving is to put the recipients in a state where they no longer need our gifts.”) and data showing that those who attend religious services give four times more than those who don’t.
Benjamin Barton and Stephanos Bibas
Most of what passes as criminal justice in the United States is now impersonal, amoral, and hidden. Benjamin Barton and Stephanos Bibas want it to be individualized, moral, transparent, and participatory. They show how plea bargaining almost always replaces trials and insiders do what’s convenient rather than what’s just. They show how we could simplify and clarify the process so most litigants, guided by trained paralegals, court clerks, and online programs, could proceed effectively without a lawyer. Felony public defense could be beefed up and misdemeanor and civil cases handled in faster and cheaper ways: Do those public defenders need six-figure law degrees?
The Ideas Industry
Daniel Drezner offers an amusing analysis of how ideas spread and pundits become brands. He portrays intellectuals competing for the attention of wealthy benefactors, in the process adjusting their ideas and demeaning themselves as proximity to power offers seductive opportunities. Meanwhile, some students take on enormous debt to get degrees that might enable them to become merchants of flighty ideas, but the country does not benefit. We do get to hear witty remarks and TED talks that fit the formula for standing ovations, but thoughtful analysis becomes less important than hitting green rooms to feed big media beasts.
The Working Class Republican: Ronald Reagan and the Return of Blue-Collar Conservatism
Henry Olsen now writes about politics for WORLD, but his latest book made my list before he became our correspondent several months ago. In The Working Class Republican he shows how Ronald Reagan developed a blue-collar conservatism based on his understanding of Americans who proceed paycheck to paycheck and want a social safety net if the factory closes, the business goes bankrupt, or an injury leaves them unable to work. Republicans have the opportunity to build a business–working class coalition, but the GOP may be blowing it by bowing to big funders rather than hard workers.