REASON's annual book review issue could not, obviously, be an attempt to offer readers a peek at all recent books, or even all recent books of importance. Space limitations demand selection, and the end result is a balance of judgments as to importance (within the range of REASON's general thrust) and practical considerations—for which important books are there capable and willing reviewers?
Most of the books reviewed in this issue were written for academic or semi-academic audiences. Why? Not because REASON readers are predominantly academicians, nor because we ignore the division of labor and think academics make the world go round. But if there is ever to be a reversal of current trends and a movement in the direction of "a rightly ordered society," it must spring from a consensus of values. And where do popular ideas come from and/or gain respectability? How are attitudes changed?
The results of a recent study show that some 30 percent of college entrants grossly overestimate average business profits, while that percentage is doubled by graduation time! Scholars are increasingly called upon by governments not only to educate citizens, but to enter into political decision-making with their facts, findings, theories, and expert opinions. In short, no one can deny the widespread importance of intellectual currents in academia.
At the same time it is doubtful that anyone need be told which way the wind blows these days. Thus books by academicians who are setting their course differently are worth bringing to the attention of readers.
There is, unfortunately, a preponderance of books reviewed here which are in one way or another concerned with economics, and especially with economics and the political sphere. Even the political theoreticians reviewed—F.A. Hayek, James Buchanan, and Robert Nozick—are economists (the first two) or ground their theories on a notion of "economic man" (the last two).
This joint concern with economics and the political is not surprising. There is about a widespread conflation of the concepts of a political system and an economic system. And, of course, the two are merging in fact—more each day; individuals' economic decisions, whether as producer or consumer, are increasingly overlaid with and dictated by governmental policy. This is an unfortunate fact for those concerned with the value of human liberty. And in this sense it is unfortunate that so many of our reviews are of economic/political thought.
Were trends not so overwhelmingly against separation of the political and economic, there would be no reason to fill our pages with notice of every dissenting voice, and pay careful attention to any potential flaws in their cases for a free society.
Here's hoping that the books we found important to review will gain currency and proper impact.