The '80s ushered in a new prominence for religion in political discourse. On the one hand, liberation theologists endorsed a Marxist agenda in the name of Christianity. On the other, the Moral Majority took up the conservative torch, again in the name of Christianity.
Two new books challenge the political ideologies behind Christian political activists who seek state power to achieve their ends. In Beyond Good Intentions: A Biblical View of Politics (Westchester, Ill.: Cross way Books, 271 pp., $9.95 paper), REASON Contributing Editor Doug Bandow argues that "Christians should have no illusions that the state can build an earthly utopia." Jacques Ellul exposes the weaknesses of so-called Marxist Christianity and, like Bandow, argues that the biblical perspective takes exception to all political power, in Jesus and Marx: From Gospel to Ideology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 187 pp., $12.95 paper).
Martin Gardner, dean of the pseudoscience critics, applies his droll wit and common sense to debunking parapsychologists, televangelists, and other like-minded believers in The New Age: Notes of a Fringe-Watcher (New York: Prometheus, 273 pp., $19.95 paper). He takes on such ripe targets as Shirley MacLaine (who, among other things, lived on Atlantis in a former life and communes with past spirits through "trance channeling") and exposes some of the flummery espoused by Sigmund Freud and noted anthropologist Margaret Mead.
Charles Wolf, Jr. , dean of the Rand Graduate School, brings us back down to earth with an excellent examination of the shortcomings of government efforts to replace or regulate markets in Markets or Governments: Choosing Between Imperfect Alternatives (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 222 pp., $18.95). And Ideas, Their Origins, and Their Consequences (Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute, 312 pp., $26.50), edited by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, presents a collection of excellent lectures on political economy to commemorate the work of G. Warren Nutter. Included are presentations by Nobel laureates Milton Friedman, George Stigler, and James Buchanan.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Book Hints".