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Love him or hate him, you are probably very familiar with Ben Shapiro and his brand of constitutional conservatism. There is nothing in this book that will surprise his fans and plenty of disagreements for his enemies.
This book is a commentary of modern American politics through the lens of Shapiro's conservative ideology. I say "Shapiro's", but at its heart, the ideology is textbook constitutional conservatism. The first chapter defines America's founding philosophy, which itself is a quick summary Shapiro's previous book. This is the "unionist" view. The following chapter attempts to define the underlying philosophy of the opposing "distintegrationists." This pattern is repeated two more times for different topics relevant to today's political discourse. Both sides are strictly opposed through ideology, a tug-of-war that is apparent to any observer of American politics.
Overall, the book is well-researched interpretation of history and political science with 35 pages devoted to citations (numbered throughout the text). Shapiro's is by no means the ONLY interpretation, so feel free to read the source material and conduct your own self-study to figure out how much you agree or disagree.
It may surprise you that so much of the book is rooted in political philosophy. This, I think, is a weakness of the book since relatively few people are aware that the founding documents are so heavily influenced by philosophy. When the Declaration describes "these truths as self-evident", it is saying "these are the axioms for our philosophical arguments". In philosophy and mathematics, axioms are the starting point for all proofs. This is a very strong statement showing that the founders designed America in what they believed to be "a given", which is assumed to be an objective truth.
This is all well and good, but it won't help you in any political arguments. My brother is a Berniecrat and recently repeated to me the oh-so-common "healthcare is a fundamental right" line. I asked him, "can you define a 'right'" and he immediately accused me of becoming overly semantic. All this is to say that this book isn't intended to aid in arguments, or even convince others that it is correct. It is a quick primer for conservatives about the ideological background of the country and how it is at odds with popular left-wing proposals.
The biggest weakness of the book is that it casts disintegrationist thought-leaders as moustache-twirling villains. I honestly think that most of these leaders were acting in what they believed to be good faith in an attempt to make a better country. It's also interesting to see almost all of the current mainstream Democratic positions were specifically mentioned in FDR's second Bill of Rights over 75 years ago, and that the sentiment to update America's ideological philosophy can be traced back at least as far as Woodrow Wilson. However, I will say that I am relieved to read political commentary that actually takes to time to define its opposition and cite them heavily. Too often the opposing perspective is missing at best, and ridiculed at worst.
I don't think that most people on both the left and the right have much knowledge of these underlying philosophies. What I think is happening right now is that current generations are trying to define what America means to them instead of accepting what it meant to previous generations. Using my brother again as an example, he rejects founding philosophy because "the founders had no idea how to run a country in the modern world" (unwittingly echoing Wilson). He yearns "to have what the rest of the world has" and to incorporate "first world socialism" into the American model (unwittingly echoing FDR). This is extremely common logic for Millennials, especially since the internet and social media have crafted multiple generations to see both the successes and horrors of the world up-close at the speed of a click. There are BIG problems with no easy solutions, so obviously it takes a BIG force, like powerful governments, to handle the problems. This is how you get very intelligent college students interested in neo-Marxist policy proposals.
Ultimately Shapiro is correct in diagnosing the "seductive draw" of disintegrationist perspectives. It points to examples of "unfairness" and "injustice" and promises to correct them if we entrust power to the right people. In reality, this is a power grab by individuals and groups who are looking to fundamentally transform America into something it was never designed to be. At the same time, it convinces those same, well-meaning people that the only power they have to make the country a better place is to give power to a specific organization or political candidate and not any individual effort they make on their own. This brings me back to the current generations defining what America means to them. This book will help arm you with knowledge to make that decision. But by all means, check out other sources and see for yourself how well (or poorly) they fit Shapiro's paradigm.
I've never written a published book, but I imagine Ben started writing this right around when the Covid stuff was happening, in March, and he mentions he went light speed through it. I am guessing, because of it's release date, that the Social Issues of late May-on had not happened by the time this was already going to print. Oh boy, is his message and analysis so much more accurate now...
This book is as complete a picture of the current social climate as can be created. Everything he states is referenced so thoroughly (like 20+ pages of notes and references at the end) that, other than the conclusion, I don't see how the Woke Culture "Disintegrationists" would even find a way to disagree with his analysis. These people said these words, wrote these pieces, and obviously believe these things. You could give this book to someone who wanted to be indoctrinated into Woke Ideology, and if you reversed the chapter order it would explain what they are trying to do.
He helps his legitimacy by unabashedly dogging his own side of the aisle while linguistically crucifying the other side. He is very fair to the subject, he calls bad republicans bad. Makes him feel more intellectually honest (which I have come to appreciate truly about him, although I don't always agree fully with everything he says, but not why I only gave it 4 stars).
My critique of the book is that the first couple chapters read a little sluggish. Shapiro is BRILLIANTLY smart and otherworldly versed in the subject matter, and unfortunately the subject of the first couple chapters are a bit more abstract, so they can be a bit tough to understand. He spares no intellectual prose or complexity. If a cricket made a noise outside, I lost my place and had to reread the last chapter, thats how much attention I felt this book demanded.
4 stars not because of any specific deficiency, even the one I mention, but because it isn't Earth shattering and 5 stars means darn near perfect. I'd save 5 Stars for the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and if I told Ben that was my reasoning I feel confident he would agree, at least in principle.
Very worth a read. This is a scary time we live in, and not enough people are pointing out the deficiencies of both extremes. Shapiro does.
He raises many good points, mainly harping on the fact that our constitution was written with three basic assumptions: Rights come from nature or God, humans were given reason to recognize those rights and the government's responsibility is to protect those rights. How do we know what a right is? If it is something that someone else has to provide for you, either directly or indirectly (most common via redistribution via taxation) then it is a positive right. He considers negative rights to be what the founders intended, which is the ability to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness without interference. Positive rights violate our negative rights per Shapiro, with which I agree. How well is it written? I would say above average for Shapiro, although his real skill is giving lectures and debating, which he has not been doing much of lately. I prefer Matt Walsh's writing out of the Daily Wire guys, but he has only written two books whereas Shapiro has written and ghost written many. Overall, it's worth a read, although it does drag at some points because Shapiro's writing just isn't always interesting, let's face it. But that's only around 15-20% of the book.
Ben Shapiro is a good thinker with an admirable depth of understanding of history, culture, politics, and government. His thesis is solid, and he supports it in a methodical, linear manner.
Ben is a lawyer by training, and unfortunately, the book reads like a legal brief. Ben's prose style is flat, colorless, and lacking in wit (which is surprising). The book is not a fun read, and if your mission is to persuade, you will fail if you can't get into readers' minds. An edit by Andrew Klavan would have been helpful.
Moreover, Ben seems to presume at times that his readers agree with implicit premises that he should have taken care to elaborate.
There are even several copyediting errors.
A far more magisterial and readable book in the same lane is Jonah Goldberg's Suicide of the West. Anything written by Goldberg is a richer, deeper read than this.
Ben touts this book as a must read for your high school or college kid. Though I agree every hs and college kid should understand these concepts, and I certainly enjoyed the book, it's written in a way that's probably way over the heads of most college kids and nearly all high schoolers. Ben's prose, word choice, and sentence structure though correct and beautiful to read are going to confuse most people without a fantastic vocabulary.
An accurate and honest look at the socialist movement in America. The truth about their historical roots and what they hope to accomplish at the high cost of destroying the individual rights guaranteed in our country's founding documents. Every American needs to be informed concerning the ongoing battle between the individual freedom loving Americans and the Big Brother government that is being attempted by the socialists. This book will educate you in order for you to prepare yourself and your family for the battle.
Was interesting to read at the same time, United States against the United States from Alberto Benegas Lynch that was written 20 years back. The similarities specially at the beginning are astonishingly.