Thursday, August 21, 2008

Book Review: What Would the Founders Do?

I recently purchased a copy of Richard Brookhiser's What Would the Founders Do? is currently selling it for $5.99. For the price of lunch at Subway, you can hang out with the Founders. Not bad.

Brookhiser is knowledgeable, interesting, and readable. That sets him apart from most academic history texts, and What Would the Founders Do? is certainly intended for a popular audience. The book begins by establishing similarities and differences between the Founders' world and ours - and this section alone is fascinating. After laying that foundation, Brookhiser moves on to asking questions, addressing several hot-button issues (he begins with gun control, the death penalty, and stem cell research). The book is divided into topical chapters, which are further divided into specific questions, so readers need not work through the entire book to find answers to their particular concerns.

Some critics will say that Brookhiser is selective in his illustrations and speculative in his conclusions. Yet all history is such. The question is: does the historian select and speculate responsibly. Since I don't have a PhD in history, I'm reluctant to make a final call on that question, but based on Brookhiser's reputation, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Additionally, his conclusions will frustrate conservative and liberal readers alike, which makes me think his approach is even handed.

IDEA LEADER: Do you have any historical role models? If so, why do you look to them for guidance? If not, spend this week considering who would make a good role model for you.

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