#BookReview: Country Capitalism by Bart Elmore

Flawed, Yet Well Documented. This is a book all about how several corporations from the American South used *CORPORATISM* – not Capitalism, and yes, there is absolutely a difference – to remake the American (and, yes, global) economy and planet in ways both foreseen and not. Documentation-wise, it clocks in at about 28%, which is very healthy and perhaps slightly above average. Elmore transitions from company to company well, almost as well as the best transition between various groups I’ve ever seen – that of Power Rangers: Dino Thunder’s Legacy of Power episode which gave a history of the entire franchise to that particular entry. There’s a lot to learn from any perspective here, but the flawed title, referencing the left-academia boogeyman of capitalism -rather than what Elmore accurately describes which is corporatism – is indicative of the overall direction of the narrative. Mostly accurate – and, again, well documented – but from a leftist viewpoint that some readers may find off-putting. The overall tone is nowhere near as dry as some academic tones and even approaches the conversational, which makes for a pretty great read for anyone remotely interested in the subject.

Ultimately this truly is a seemingly solid history, if from a leftist perspective, and actually exposes something I suspect I’ve *known* of for a while without realizing the full extent of the problem – a problem Elmore exposes here while proclaiming it to be a great and beneficial thing – and that is the problem of lobbying not in Legislative Halls but in Corporate Boardrooms. Of lobbying interests attacking not elected legislators, but CEOS and others in power of corporations that, thanks to the corporatism described in this text, have power that in many ways rivals – and arguably even exceeds – that of elected officials. Thus, for these reasons and despite its flawed title and narrative, it is very much recommended.

PS: And for those like me who are contemporaries of Elmore – based on when he got his BA and when I got my BS and him discussing a few times – including the conclusion – that he grew up in “North Atlanta”, just a few miles down I-75 from my hometown of Cartersville (referenced a few times when discussing the history of Coca-Cola, as it played a role there) – the book can be particularly interesting. Perhaps moreso when the reader happens to be, as a native Georgian, a big fan of back to back College Football National Champions the University of Georgia Bulldogs… and finds out that Elmore works for perennial whiner (in football at least) “the” Ohio State University. Ok, so this entire paragraph has little to do with the book, but this review is my *thoughts* on the book, and the proximity of Elmore as we were growing up – though to be clear, there were literally tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of teenagers roughly the same age and within the same 30 ish mile radius in the northern Atlanta general vicinity, and thus I am not in any way claiming to have ever so much as heard his name before – as well as our respective claimed schools adds a bit of spice to my own thinking about the book.

For those still reading… go pick up the book. Either pre-order if you’re reading this between when this review is written on February 27, 2023, or simply straight up order it if you’re reading this more than two months later and the book is now publicly available.

This review of Country Capitalism by Bart Elmore was originally written on February 27, 2023.

#BookReview: Waco by Jeff Guinn

Precisely Detailed. Needs Better Bibliography. You know that time when a friend has already read an ARC of a book that somewhat interests you and you go on a cruise for your 40th birthday only to come back to an email from the publisher asking if you’d also like to ARC review the same book? A book that happens to be about an event that happened when you were 10 yrs old but which was overshadowed in your own memory by another, much larger and much more directly impactful event (The Storm of the Century in 1993), but you still remember some details of this event itself live? No? Only me? Ok. Well then.

For everyone *else*, this is actually a remarkably detailed book, as Guinn’s histories tend to be (as evidenced by the only other book I’ve read from him – 2021’s War On The Border). Indeed, while only 83% or so of this book is narrative – more on that momentarily – we don’t actually begin the tale of the siege itself until around the 52% mark. Meaning over half of the actual narrative of the book focuses on detailed histories of everything that got us to that particular moment in time at that particular place with these particular players. We get an entire history of the Branch Davidian religion, including how it formed and some other offshoots that seem to have come to play to certain extents. We get a history of the ATF and what exactly it was dealing with in that moment (an embarrassing sex scandal and looming budget hearings, which were rarely ‘friendly’ in the best of times). We get a detailed history of this particular Branch Davidian organization and how it came to be exactly where it was and exactly in the state it was, both physically and mentally, including biographies of the man who came to claim the name “David Koresh” and earlier leaders of the group and their internal rivalries. We get all of this richly detailed setup…

And then we get a near second by second play by play of exactly what went down and when and by whom, told from both sides and clearly showing when the evidence seems to support one side or another and when each side differs in their views and exclusive claims. This is no celebration of the man who called himself “David Koresh”, nor is it a celebration of the various police agencies and politicians and political appointees who executed the raid. Instead, it is a remarkably balanced look at just how these people came to be where they were and what happened when these two groups came to such explosive conflict. It is a remarkable look at how a clearly gifted orator could become so twisted in his own thinking – and use his gifts to twist the beliefs of so many, including some who continued in these beliefs long after the orator himself was dead. It is a remarkable look at the mistakes made by each side of the conflict and just how many points there were where history could have changed for a more peaceable outcome. It is truly a remarkable tale of the entire event seared into the American zeitgeist as simply “Waco”.

And yet, getting back to the 83% narrative bit: It is specifically because the bibliography clocks in a touch short at 17% – 25-40% is a more normal bibliography length in my extensive experience with nonfiction ARCs – that I had to drop the overall rating by a single star. The tale told here is remarkable – but remarkable claims require remarkable evidence, and the cited evidence here needed to be more extensive, at least to this reader.

Still, this is absolutely a book every American should read and understand in full, as this truly was a seminal moment in American history, one that foretold much of what was to come over the next 30 years. Very much recommended.

This review of Waco by Jeff Guinn was originally written on January 27, 2023.

#BookReview: Never Out Of Season by Rob Dunn

Interesting Yet Only Tangentially Related To Title. This is a book primarily about plant pathogens and the history of the study of plants and specifically their pathogens, mostly centering on the roughly 200 ish years between the beginnings of the Irish Potato Famine in the mid 19th century to the bleeding edge research being done by Dunn and other scientists in the later early 21st century. Dunn bemoans the fact that the food supply of the world basically comes down to a dozen or so key varieties of key species in the beginning… while later backdoor praising that very same thing as saving the world from certain pathogens, at least – as Dunn claims- “temporarily”. Overall the book, at least in the Audible form I consumed it in, was engaging and thought provoking, and despite being vaguely familiar with farming due to where and when I grew up, Dunn highlights quite a bit here that I was never aware of. Things that adventure authors like David Wood, Rick Chesler, or Matt Williams could use as inspiration for some of their stories – but also other real world events that could serve as inspiration to Soraya M. Lane and other WWII era historical fiction authors. Ultimately the book becomes quite a bit self-serving, highlighting work done by Dunn and his colleagues and friends in the years preceding writing the books. And yet, again at least in Audible form, there was nothing truly objective-ish wrong here to hang a star deduction on, and thus it maintains its 5* rating. Recommended.

This review of Never Out Of Season by Rob Dunn was originally written on November 28, 2022.

#BookReview: The Southern Way Of Life by Charles Reagan Wilson

Solid Exposition, Lacking Bibliography. This book is truly a phenomenal look at southern culture from the time the first Europeans came to the southern North American region through today and how various in and out groups have viewed and shaped that culture along the way. Divided into a few different eras, Reagan truly does an excellent job of showing just what Southern culture and Southern Civilization meant to the various peoples of the given eras and how those views would come to shape later generations. Indeed, the only issue I could find with this book (even given its 600+ page length!) was that its bibliography comprised just 10% or so of the text, when 20-30% is more normal for a nonfiction text in my experience across literally hundreds of Advance Review Copies over the last few years alone. Thus, the one star deduction – which even I admit may be debatable in this particular case, as 10% of a 600+ page book *is* 20-30% of a 200-300 page book. Still, I’ve seen similar length books still hit that 20-30% mark, so I’m sticking to my guns here even as I openly admit others may feel different. Very much recommended.

This review of The Southern Way of Life by Charles Reagan Wilson was originally written on November 22, 2022.

#BookReview: Bourbon by Fred Minnick

Seemingly Great History, At Least In Audible Form. Yes, I read the Audible of this – mostly on my commute to and from work over the month of October 2022, though I finished it after work on Halloween day itself. So I can’t speak to all the pictures and such that some complained about in the text version of this tale. And I also can’t speak to how well documented it is – the Audible version doesn’t exactly have footnotes. ๐Ÿ™‚

With the above caveats though, I found the actual history presented here to be interesting and informative, though as others noted, perhaps a bit tedious in some spots (“bonded” is used long before it is clear exactly what this term means) and perhaps with some hand waving in other spots (the Whiskey Rebellion, and even Prohibition outside of its particular application to whiskey generally and bourbon specifically). It even manages to cover some of the more modern issues in the liquor business, at least through the mid-2010s when the book was originally published, including the GenX / Millenial shift away from whiskey and dark liquors to more vodkas and lighter liquors.

Thus, overall this truly is a strong history that anyone remotely interested in the subject (and not already well-versed in its history) will likely find informative and interesting. Very much recommended.

This review of Bourbon by Fred Minnick was originally written on November 2, 2022.

#BookReview: Uniting America by Peter Shinkle

Strong Historical Exposition Marred By Back Half Of Epilogue. This is a book that was an absolute 5* read… until potentially the last few pages. It is well documented at 31% of the text, and even claims to have a handful of previously unreported facts – which given just how *libraries* have been filled with even solely nonfiction tomes on everything to do with WWII, would be quite a feat indeed if accurate. As with most histories of its type, it spends a few chapters both before and after the period directly in question, setting it in its context and showing its aftermath, respectively, with the bulk of the narrative focused on the core thesis. Through all of this, and even through the first half of the epilogue, this book truly is remarkable.

But then… Shinkle just *had* to put his thoughts on more recent events, particularly political events of the last few years, in the same tome, and in its last pages to boot. This is *worse* than being a “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” scenario where the tale should have ended *shortly* after the coronation of Aragorn, as in this instance it is more akin to ending Return of the King with a few pages discussing the events of Star Wars: Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi and trying to tie the two together. Yes, there are some *very high level* similarities. But if you’ve just spent 300 ish pages discussing the very *minutia* of the one thing, and then you try to zoom out to an International Space Station level to get a view that *might* *maybe* support linking this other thing to that first thing… it ultimately sours the taste of the overall meal.

Still, ultimately this narrative *is* a strong and interesting one that anyone seeking to more fully understand WWII should read. Just ignore the final few pages. You’ll know them when you encounter them. Recommended.

This review of Uniting America by Peter Shinkle was originally written on October 4, 2022.

#BookReview: Nation Of Victims by Vivek Ramaswamy

Stacey Abrams == Donald Trump. And The Way Back Is To Ignore Both. Ok, so the title here was a bit intentionally inflammatory – but Ramaswamy *does* essentially make this very point late in the book, pointing to how both Abrams and Trump see themselves as victims of election fraud rather than candidates who lost elections because more voters legitimately sided with their opponents. But to get there, and to get from there to how we can truly come back, Ramaswamy dives through American history, legal theory, and even his Hindu religion to show how both progressives and conservatives have largely adopted a victimhood mentality. Interestingly, he never once cites Ayn Rand’s examinations of this same idea in Atlas Shrugged. Overall an interesting book worthy of consideration, and with a fairly normal bibliography at about 21% of the overall text here. Very much recommended.

This review of Nation of Victims by Vivek Ramaswamy was originally written on July 17, 2022.

#BookReview: Free Market by Jacob Soll

Deep And Fascinating Exposition Of The History Of An Idea. Soll is a Professor of History and Accounting, and I’m just a college grad who had ECON 101 as an 18 yo HS Senior / college freshman who then went on to discuss the Austrian/ Chicago schools of economics (Friedman, Hayak, von Mises (who actually does *not* get mentioned in this book, unlike the first two), etc) with various libertarian (of both “l” and “L” levels) fellow activists and Party officials, back in the former life where I did those things.

So I’m not going to debate the specifics of Soll’s commentaries here, though I do think that there is room for those more dedicated to true pure free markets to do so – I’m just blatantly nowhere near qualified to do it. ๐Ÿ™‚

What I *can* say about this book is that it truly is a deep and fascinating exposition of the history of economic thought regarding what a market is and how it does/ should operate. With von Mises being the only notable exception (discounting also economists who are still alive), Soll takes us on a journey from pre-history through Cicero and the beginning of the Roman Empire (and fall of the Roman Republic) to St Augustine to Machiavelli and the Italians into the rise of the Dutch and then England and France (where we eventually get… who else… Adam Smith… ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) and the other Enlightenment philosophers and from there to America and eventually through the post WWII era and into Keynes, Friedman, and Hayak. Entire libraries have been filled over the centuries talking about the lives and theories of many of these men, and Soll does a good job of showing their thoughts and how at times they were shaped by the world around these men while never delving so deep as to become a treatise specifically on any one person or their contributions to the field. He also manages to avoid most academic and professional economist terms and instead writes in a manner that is more easily accessible to most any reader with so much as a middle school/ high school level of historical knowledge.

Ultimately this is a book that seems destined to become required reading for many ECON 102/ 103 ish classes, and really should be read by anyone seeking to have a general understanding of one of the most discussed foundational issues in modern economics. Very much recommended.

This review of Free Market by Jacob Soll was originally written on July 9, 2022.

Featured Release Of The Week: Divided We Fall by David French

In light of last week’s US Supreme Court rulings upholding the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and striking down Roe v Wade, and the fact that the middle of this book contains two prognostications for how the US could completely come unglued and each of those decisions last week plays into one of them, I’m doing something never before done in the history of this blog and bringing back a former Featured New Release and making it this week’s Featured Release post. Thus, this week we are again looking at Divided We Fall by David A French.

Looking through French’s tweets and writings on his site, it appears that there is much we will disagree over on many policy issues – I’m not exactly quiet about being an avowed Anarchist and 2nd Amendment Absolutist. (Pretty much an entire Bill of Rights Absolutist really, but there is at least some commonality with French on at least some of those points, apparently. :D)

But ultimately, I think we largely agree that the partisanship America is seeing right now is destroying it – and we seem to be edging ever closer to the moment of no return.

Indeed, with last week’s events in mind, they immediately triggered memories of the two most chilling and traumatizing chapters I’ve ever read in any book, anywhere. As it turns out, French actually posited in his “Calexit” chapter here – where he describes a fracture of the US from the left – that by a 6-3 SCOTUS decision, California would be transformed into a “shall issue” State for gun licenses. This has already happened, as California has already dropped its “good cause” requirement for obtaining a concealed carry license. He *also* pointed to Roe V Wade being overturned in his “Texit” chapter, where he describes a fracture of the US from the right.

I said two years ago when I first wrote my Goodreads review of this book that “Quite simply, Iโ€™ve yet to encounter a more important book for every American to read *immediately*, and *particularly* before you vote in the General Election this fall.” I thought then that this book should get quite a bit of attention, that it mattered and could help save this nation.

Given the events of the last week – not to mention the last 20 months or so since the publication of this book – I maintain this position with even more voracity. We’ve seen demonstrations all over the place. We continue to see both sides blatantly lie about the other side. We continue to see the hate and vitriol expanded on both sides to truly chilling degrees. If you care about saving this nation, if you care about preserving the American experiment even so much as another decade, you *need* to read this book and take its recommendations to heart.

And maybe, *maybe*, *together*, we can still save this land.

#BookReview: Gun Barons by John Bainbridge Jr

Could Be An Entertaining – And Equally Informative – History or Discovery Documentary Series. I went into this book expecting something more along the lines of Nathan Gorenstein’s The Guns Of John Moses Browning or Jeff Guin’s War On The Border… and got a touch of an amalgamation of the two. Like the Gorenstein book, this book is focused on the lives of a select group of men that became icons of gun manufacturing in the US… and how they got there and what their legacies became. Like the Guin book, this book also tells the surrounding history and places these men’s live solidly within their historical context, mostly between the Mexican-American war in the front half of the 19 century and the US Civil War and Reconstruction in the back half of the same century. Unlike the Gorenstein text, you’re not going to find a lot of technical discussion of the exact details and features of the guns in question here – though you *will* find quite a bit about the various lawsuits and threats of lawsuits that helped some of these men and hindered others of them. Overall, a solid look at the men and the early days of their empires whose names last even into the new Millennium. Very much recommended.

This review of Gun Barons by John Bainbridge Jr was originally written on May 23, 2022.