Book Hints

A selective mention of books received for review


Another Bicentennial, this time of the U.S. Constitution, is upon us. No doubt a display of patriotics will proclaim the document's durability. But Harvard political scientist Stephen Macedo argues that there is cause for concern about our Constitution. In his highly acclaimed monograph, The New Right v. the Constitution (Washington: Cato Institute, 60 pp., $7.95 paper), he warns against judicial trends that seem to put untrammeled majoritarianism in place of constitutionally guaranteed liberties.

Our Constitution is rooted, at least in part, in English Common Law, which Arthur R. Hogue analyzes in Origins of the Common Law, a classic recently reprinted by Liberty Press (Indianapolis, 271 pp., $10/$4.50). Just as the United States inherited from Britain certain legal traditions, so too did it borrow much from British political economy, above all from Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations. Richard Teichgraber examines Smith's eminent work, especially looking at the philosophical assumptions behind it, in "Free Trade" and Moral Philosophy: Rethinking the Sources of Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations" (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 140 pp., $19.95/$7.75).

The ideas of Adam Smith, F.A. Hayek, and other classical liberals have found renewed vigor in recent years. That's what Britain's "New Right" is all about, and in The "New Right" Enlightenment: The Spectre that Haunts the Left, (New York: Universe Books, 263 pp., $15 paper), Arthur Seldon gathers together essays by young thinkers who are in part responsible for the rebirth of classical liberal scholarship.

On the subject of free markets, Steven Plaut provides an entertaining introduction to the dynamics of the free-market system in The Joy of Capitalism (London and New York: Longman, 114 pp., $5.95).

Free-market economic thought has found an especially welcome home among libertarians, who stress individual freedom and property rights over government authority. John Galt, a pseudonymous voice of the libertarian movement, brings to the reader a lively introduction to this political outlook in Dreams Come Due: Government and Economics As If Freedom Mattered (New York: Simon & Schuster, 318 pp., $19.95).

One by-product of the renewed appreciation of free markets has been deregulation. Two new books explore the prospects and consequences of deregulation in the electric utility and communications industries: Electric Power: Deregulation and the Public Interest, edited by John C. Moorhouse (San Francisco: Pacific Research Institute, 516 pp., $34.95/$14.95) and Communications Deregulation: The Unleashing of America's Communications Industry, by Jeremy Tunstall (New York: Basil Blackwell, 320 pp., $24.95).

The flip side of the free-market coin is Big Government. For those who prefer to laugh rather than despair at the foibles of our own Big Government, Susan Trausch's It Came from the Swamp: Your Federal Government at Work (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 227 pp., $15.95) might be just the cup of tea. To put politicians in their proper perspective, for example, Trausch advises that we imagine them in their underwear: "You…picture the person or persons standing there in something white, baggy, and wrinkled that came from a sale table at Sears. We're not talking Bloomingdale's monogrammed here.…You've got to think loose elastic, gray around the waist band, tank top undershirts, and Playtex Long Lines."