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Book: What Works by @calthomas

This is the best politically-related book with a groundhog on the cover that I have ever read. It certainly supports the idea that groundhogs are conservative by nature, because otherwise I figure the groundhog would be attacking Cal Thomas instead of being happily photoshopped onto his shoulder. (I’m guessing it’s a composited photo, since there are separate credits for the author pic and the groundhog pic.)

I’m not here to deal with photography, though, I’m supposed to look at the content of What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America. So, let’s move on from the cover shot…or the tagline of “It’s groundhog day in Washington.” At least Thomas has settled on our government being locked on February 2. I’m pretty sure they’re all locked on April 1.

First and foremost, if you do not know Thomas’ political views, he’s conservative. Very conservative. If you hold the opposing views, you will most likely not like this book, nor will you like this review. I happen to think most of Thomas’ political viewpoint makes sense, so if you think the government should tax everyone into identical incomes to provide identical lives for everyone, you’ll dislike me, this review, and this book pretty solidly.

If you are a fan of Thomas, you’re aware of his writing style. He’s a newspaper columnist, which basically prefigures the modern blogger: you have to hit the point, hit it memorably, and hit it short. The difference in columnists and bloggers is this: any idiot can blog, but there are limited spots for columnists, so you have to be good at it to do it for a living.

Thomas has been good at it for nearly 30 years. What Works ends up reading like a string of columns organized by topic and concept. This is logical, but it does result in a few places of repetition. Additionally, the brevity lends itself to telling the preferred side of any given story or statistic. Citing one liners from speeches of past Presidents, for example, makes good points, but loses the context of the speech. And that says nothing of the context of history: what portions of President Coolidge’s economic policies contributed to the Great Depression? Yet we see Coolidge cited favorably at some points.

Of course, grasping what points the citations are is hampered by the use of the dreaded ENDNOTE instead of the blessed FOOTNOTE! As always, it’s hard to know if the author is responsible for that, but I will absolutely fuss about any nonfiction book that forces me to flip back and forth to check references.

In all, Thomas is very clear in his writing. He presents his conservative viewpoint and how he thinks they would benefit America. His views are not those of either party—certainly one knows he disagrees with the bulk of the Democratic Party platform—but he also has no use for the Republican participation in expanding the government.

This is a great book for those who are looking for a clear expression of conservative ideas. It’s a good book for those who are open-mindedly examining various views of the future of this country. If you’re not a fan of pro-American writing that thinks we’ve had great days before and that we are capable of great days ahead, you’ll want to skip it.

As to the ideas? I will say this: many of the problems we face have been tackled by more and more government spending over the past 5 decades, and it hasn’t worked. Maybe we should try less government instead…

I like this book, but I can see how it’s a case of confirmation bias: Thomas espouses what I think. He’s pro-life, pro-gun, pro-small government. If you’re not, you might just hate this book as much as I like it.

I received a copy of this book from HarperCollins in exchange for the review.


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