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Friday, October 12, 2018


Published by Random House Audio in 2018.
Read by the author, Jonah Goldberg.

Duration: 16 hours, 1 minute.

Jonah Goldberg, noted political commentator and an editor at the conservative political magazine National Review, takes a long time to set up his argument that modern West culture and its economic system, as it developed under the Enlightenment, is unique and worthy of preservation. He goes on an in-depth look at the conditions that brought about the Enlightenment and makes some reasonable conclusions - certainly nothing that was earth-shaking. But, he makes them in easily understandable terms because this is not a poli-sci or an economics textbook - this is the political version on an evangelistic tract trying to sell the citizens of The West, particularly Americans, that their political and economic culture is worthy of saving, even if it is imperfect.

Goldberg spends a great deal of time pointing out that the vast majority of human history has been the story of dictatorships (history in the formal sense, that is, the part that we have been able to record in written form in some way or another over the last 5,000 years or so). Some of those dictatorships have been formal dynasties, some mere military strongmen. He looks at why and how governments formed through the lens of both John Locke and Thomas Hobbes and notes how they were both correct, in their own ways. 

But, the modern West is really based on the ideas that Locke described and the Enlightenment movement used those ideas to re-think government and emphasize the rights of the individual, even if it inconveniences or irritates the majority. Sometimes these new political system were formally discussed and created (as in the United States Constitution) and sometimes as a matter of cultural evolution (which at least partially explains the British system). I particularly enjoyed his discussion of how the capitalist economic system and Western political models developed together.

Once he establishes why the Enlightenment was so unique, he then looks at several threats to American political culture in our current climate, paying special attention to Donald Trump. Jonah Goldberg, like me, is a "Never Trump" Republican (I call myself a "Republican in exile") who finds himself in a quandary in regards to Trump. While Goldberg and I don't always agree on why, we do both agree that Trump is not a valid choice and is certainly not a Republican. I will not distill his arguments here because he has made them known many times in his opinion pieces.

The audiobook was read by the author and he did a great job of making it a very lively reading, filling it with intonations and areas of special emphasis that only the author can give.

I found this to be an intriguing book, definitely one of the more enjoyable audiobooks I have listened to in the last two or three months. Highly Recommended.

I rate this audiobook 5 stars out of 5. It can be found on Amazon.com here:  SUICIDE of THE WEST: HOW the REBIRTH of POPULISM, NATIONALISM, and IDENTITY POLITICS IS DESTROYING AMERICAN DEMOCRACY by Jonah Goldberg.

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