Thursday, October 04, 2012

Pity the Billionaire by Thomas Frank

Reading polemical books is a guilty pleasure -- I don't trust anyone who can read books like this and not feel guilty about having one's biases and received ideas so carefully stroked and petted -- so I try not to do it very much.

I haven't read Frank before, though he's quite well-known in lefty to moderate circles for such what's-wrong-with-those-people books as What's the Matter With Kansas? Pity the Billionaire was his new book at the beginning of this year, chronicling, as he put it, how the biggest market failure in seventy years almost immediately created a right-wing backlash that demanded the elimination of all government oversight that's supposed to keep such failures from happening.

I wish he was a bit better at detailing the fiendishly sneaky jujitsu that the Tea Party performed in turning anti-banker anger towards the kind of people who wanted a tighter rein on bankers. And I suppose someone in his position can't drill down to the underlying cause, which is that most people are bone-stupid and easily led. But this is a book that looks at what already seems to be the rear-view mirror -- the heyday of Glen Beck two years ago -- with a clear eye and a position informed by actual facts, and that's fairly useful. When the time comes to write the history of our era, this book will be cited in the footnotes several times.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I'm sure that Frank would agree with you about the stupidity of most people. The book is a fun read. However, I think that he is fundamentally wrong about what's been going on. I have my own take here:

The Apathy of Power

As for guilty pleasures: I'm not so sure. I don't feel any worse than when I read P. G. Wodehouse. But I would feel bad if I took it seriously. I think Frank is fundamentally a humorist. As you say, he writes what's-wrong-with-those-people books.

And What's the Matter with Kansas is very funny too.

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