Book Hints

A selective mention of books received for review


The inimitable Fletch, whose exploits were recounted in REASON's 1982 book issue (Dec.), returns again in Fletch, Too (N.Y.: Warner Books, 256 pp., $15.95). This is author Gregory McDonald's last volume on Fletch, crowning his sparkling series with a finale that takes his antiauthoritarian hero, reporter-detective Irwin Maurice Fletcher, to the ancient secrets and present dangers of Kenya.

There are two ways to look at politics—with humor and with despair. H.L. Mencken was surely a master at rendering humorous a world of politics over which one might otherwise only despair. A second edition of William Manchester's acclaimed biography of this enigmatic reporter is now available. Disturber of the Peace: The Life of H.L. Mencken (Amherst, Mass.: University of Massachusetts Press, 348 pp., $25/$8.95) brings to life the stormy Mencken legend, sprinkling the narrative with Menckenisms on everything from the Anti-Saloon League to the Justice Department.

The same government that fueled Mencken's wit is the focus of more somber analysis by Dwight Lee and Richard McKenzie in Regulating Government (Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 192 pp., $22.95). The authors examine current government activities, contrast them with the limitations set forth in the Constitution, show how free competition fosters justice and fairness, and distinguish rules that constrain liberty from those that promote it.

Ellen Paul, in Property Rights and Eminent Domain (Transaction Books, 276 pp., $26.95), also takes a look at the Constitution, narrowing her sights to the "takings clause" of the Fifth Amendment and showing how federal, state, and local governments have run roughshod over the intent of the clause, trampling individuals' property rights in the process.

Ideology and American Experience (Washington, D.C.: Washington Institute Press, 256 pp., $21.95/$14.95), edited by John K. Roth and Robert Whittemore, is a collection of essays that define and evaluate the origins, nature, and contemporary significance of the system of ideals underlying American political life. Included are contributions by Reason Foundation Senior Fellow Tibor Machan and REASON authors Douglas Rasmussen and Douglas Den Uyl.

The failure of the welfare state to fulfill its promise of prosperity and justice has generated a renewed interest in classical liberal ideas—individual liberty, markets, and limited government. Liberty, Market and State: Political Economy in the 1980s (New York: New York University Press, 278 pp., $45) assembles a set of recent essays by Nobel laureate James Buchanan in which he explores the notions of order, liberty, justice, efficiency, and progress.

In Liberalism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 106 pp., $25/$9.95), British scholar John Gray provides an account of classical liberalism—its nature, origins, and prospects in the modern world. Examining important strands in free-market thinking is The Unfinished Agenda (London: Institute of Economic Affairs, distr. in the U.S. by Transatlantic Arts, Albuquerque, N.M., 152 pp., $15.95 paper). Edited by IEA's Martin J. Anderson, it includes contributions by eminent free-market scholars such as Nobel laureates F.A. Hayek, Milton Friedman, and James Buchanan.

Economist Edwin S. Mills turns his attention to the role of governments in contemporary (primarily U.S.) society. In The Burden of Government (Stanford, Calif.: Hoover Institution Press, 188 pp., $23.95), Mill uses economic theory to calculate the costs of government activities, concluding that most impair efficiency and equity.

Individualism's role in Western thought is the subject of two recent works: Reconstructing Individualism, (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 365 pp., $39.50) edited by Thomas Heller, Morton Sosna, and David E. Wellbery, assembles essays on individualist ideology and the social, economic, and political institutions with which it is associated; Essays on Individualism, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 284 pp., $27.50), by Louis Dumont, presents related discussions of the genesis and growth of individualism as the dominant force in Western philosophy and how this system of thought differs from those of other cultures.