Book Hints

A selective mention of books received for review


The first complete English translation of Francisco Ayala's Usurpers (New York: Schocken Books, 178 pp., $15.95) brings to the American reader this compelling collection of historical fiction. Translated by Carolyn Richmond, Ayala's stories are unified by a common theme—all power exercised over others is usurpation—and evoke a scathing portrait of political tyranny.

Another fiction collection, Bloodsong, and Other Stories of South Africa (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 134 pp., $13.95), by Ernst Havemann, illuminates the quiet anguish of South Africa's inhabitants, black and white, in the face of political repression. In contrast to this poignant, dramatic portrayal, Henri Lopes's The Laughing Cry (New York and London: Readers International, 257 pages, $16.95/ $8.95; distr. in U.S. by Persea Books, New York) lampoons the supreme African dictator—Amin, Bokassa, Mobutu, all in one—in a hilarious satire on government and power politics.

Ethiopia's bout with famine in 1984–85 made worldwide headlines and inspired monumental charitable endeavors. Among those who journeyed to Ethiopia offering his services was Dr. Myles Harris, who led one of the first Red Cross aid teams there. Breakfast in Hell (New York, Poseidon Press, 271 pp., $18.95) is his chilling account of his experience—a chronicle in which government pettiness and totalitarian bureaucracy play a prominent role in creating starvation.

The U.S. Catholic bishops' letter on the economy continues to arouse controversy, with the sides generally lining up pro and con capitalism. In The Catholic Bishops and the Economy: A Debate (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books; Bowling Green, Ohio: Social Philosophy and Policy Center, 118 pp., $19.95/$12.95), James Sterba defends the extensive welfare legislation and economic regulation that the bishops advocate, while REASON contributor Douglas Rasmussen ("The Bishops vs. the Bourgeoisie," Dec. 1986) criticizes their views as lacking both moral foundation and economic sense.

Assessing capitalism by a different set of moral, political, and economic terms is Democratic Capitalism? Essays in Search of a Concept (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 210 pp., $22.95/$8.95), edited by Fred Baumann. Paul Weaver, Robert Hessen, and others examine the tensions and harmony between capitalism and democracy. Economics and politics are also central to Liberty and Property: Political Economy and Policymaking in the New Nation: 1789–1812 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 221 pp., $25), by John Nelson, Jr. Nelson offers a new interpretation of the political and economic ideas of Alexander Hamilton and republicans such as Thomas Jefferson.

The conflicting views of the Founding Fathers have influenced the course of American history, often surfacing in Supreme Court cases. Economic Liberties and the Judiciary (Washington, D.C.: Cato, 392 pp., $15.95 paper), edited by James Dorn and Henry Manne, offers essays by prominent legal and economic scholars such as Richard Epstein, Bernard Siegan, Antonin Scalia, and Manne, who explore the relationship of economic freedom, law, and the U.S. courts.

Several recent books specifically assess the impact of various labor and employment laws. In Making America Poorer: The Cost of Labor Law (Washington, D.C.: Cato, 218 pp., $21.95/$9.95), Morgan Reynolds argues that U.S. labor laws actually reduce the real income of working people, as well as hamper U.S. competitiveness. In another Cato publication, The Rule of Experts: Occupational Licensing in America (99 pp., $7.95 paper), S. David Young marshals empirical data showing how occupational licensing harms consumers.

In Plant Closings: Worker Rights, Management Rights, and the Law (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books, 137 pp., $19.95/$12.95), Francis O'Connell, Jr., examines the history of the National Labor Relations Board as well as the common law tradition on management and workers' rights. He criticizes attempts by cities and states to prevent plants from closing, arguing that such efforts are counterproductive.

Plant closings have particularly affected the troubled U.S. steel industry, but Donald Barnett and Robert Crandall describe a bright spot, minimills, in Up From the Ashes: The Rise of the Steel Minimill in the United States (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 135 pp.,$26.95/$9.95).

Showing an excellent grasp of public choice analysis, Dorothy Robyn provides a rich case study of interest-group politics in Braking the Special Interests: Trucking Deregulation and the Politics of Policy Reform (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 295 pp., $24.95). Another public policy book, The Private Provision of Public Services in Developing Countries (New York: Oxford University Press, 278 pp., $27), by Gabriel Roth, surveys the potential and record of privatization in developing countries, from power and telecommunications to health and education.