So, What Have People Been Saying About This Fascinating New Book….?

Herewith, a blessedly difficult to compile, and sure to be ever growing, set of links of chatter about my book:

A gratifyingly positive review in the Wall Street Journal–which, as my pal the wonderful cartoonist Joe Matt said yesterday when calling to tell me a friend of his saw the review–“that’s a newspaper, right?” Yes, it is.

Some excerpts from that:

With “Radicals for Capitalism,” Brian Doherty finally gives libertarianism its due. He tracks the movement’s progress over the past century by focusing on five of its key leaders–Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek, Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard and Milton Friedman. The emphasis is on their ideas, but Mr. Doherty also takes into account their personal struggles–not least their feuds with other thinkers and their relation to an intellectual establishment that for most of their lives thought they were either crazy or irrelevant or both.


Louis Rosetto, the “radical capitalist” who founded Wired magazine, notes that, even if libertarian ideas must now push against a statist status quo, “contrarians end up being the drivers of change.” Among the most ornery contrarians, he says, are the libertarians “laboring in obscurity, if not in derision.” They have managed “to keep a pretty pure idea going, adapting it to circumstances and watching it be validated by the march of history.” Mr. Doherty has rescued libertarianism from its own obscurity, eloquently capturing the appeal of the “pure idea,” its origins in great minds and the feistiness of its many current champions.

But go ahead, read the whole thing. In what seems like a trend, more gratifyingly positive reviews from The New York Sun (written by excellent skeptic writer Michael Shermer). A telling excerpt:

The 20th century philosopher-novelist Ayn Rand, author of “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged,” famously called herself a “radical for capitalism.” The libertarian writer and journalist Brian Doherty has borrowed the epithet for his remarkably engaging and encyclopedic history of the movement in “Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement” (Public Affairs, 768 pages, $35). As a senior editor for Reason magazine — the largest and most influential libertarian publication in the world today — Mr. Doherty is perfectly positioned to have researched and written this tome. Although the book is long and the typography dense, it’s is a page-turner, covering in delicious detail not only the big names (Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard, Milton Friedman, Barry Goldwater, etc.), but the quirks and oddballs operating in the nooks and crannies of the movement, publishing low-circulation “freedom” magazines out of basements and sponsoring small seminars in hotel conference rooms.

And that’s not all. Kenneth Silber at the New York Post is also happy with the book:

Doherty writes entertainingly about the movement’s infighting and schisms. While he shows respect for various libertarian factions, the book’s overall tone celebrates radicalism. Libertarian ideas, Doherty writes hopefully, “may seem a reasonable and achievable basis for a next American revolution.”

Doherty’s book provides valuable background on the origins and development of ideas that have helped shape the world of today and tomorrow.

And let us not forget the online version of the American Enterprise Institute’s The American magazine, with a very detailed, thorough, and thoughtful review essay from Laura Vanderkam. An excerpt:

Radicals for Capitalism maintains its momentum, illuminating a quintessentially American story that has not yet found the audience it deserves. Doherty’s fascinating and, indeed, freewheeling history reminds us that curmudgeonly people can shape the world too—even if they never quite work themselves out of their snit.

And what about the world of economics bloggers? From George Mason University’s very libertarian-leaning econ department come these thoughts from Bryan Caplan. They are worth contemplating at length:

….this remarkable labor of love – winningly titled Radicals for Capitalism, is, at last, complete. And it rocks. Even though I’ve repeatedly read earlier versions of most of the chapters, I can’t put the book down.

What’s so great about it?

First, Doherty knows his subject forwards and backwards. He hasn’t just fact-checked all the facts; he’s theory-checked all the theories. He’s a journalist by vocation, but even when he’s explaining technical economics, each sentence is accurate.

Second, Doherty is a terrific stylist. We economists spend so much time trying to make our writing clear, we sometimes forget rarer literary virtues like eloquence, wit, and fun…..

Third, whatever your political views, the history of modern libertarianism is a great story. Its early figures were so contrarian and stubborn that it boggles the mind. In the middle of the New Deal, an underground of intellectuals was mad as hell about things like… the existence of public schooling. How did a handful of eccentrics from the ’30’s, thinkers who were often amazed to learn of any other human being on earth who agreed with them, blossom into the scourge of the blogosphere? (All of which makes me wonder: If the Internet had been around in the ’30’s, how much sooner would libertarianism have become an idea to be reckoned with?)A final virtue of Doherty’s work is that he fearlessly airs eighty years of dirty libertarian laundry. His affection for most of the figures and ideas he covers is plain. But he never worries about giving ammunition to “the other side.” Time and again, Doherty explains a viewpoint of a prominent libertarian, and furrows his brow in puzzlement. Truth is, libertarians have thought, said, and done things we shouldn’t be proud of. Though Doherty loves liberty, I’d say that he loves truth more.

Yes, it does a writer’s heart good to read such things. And from Bryan Caplan’s colleague, Peter Boettke, great exponent and explainer of the Austrian economics tradition discussed at length in my book, this encouraging blog post:

Best book on the libertarian movement since It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand, but Doherty has produced a much more comprehensive, subtle and intellectually sophicated treatment of the issues, ideas, institutions and personalities while capturing the humor, irony, tragedy, passion, and hope of the story of the modern libertarian movement.  It is not every book that can make you laugh, cry, and dream of possibilities at the same time. Get your copy today and spend the weekend reading.

Congratulations to Brian — this was a labor of love for a decade and the outcome is brilliant.

What can I say? When Boettke’s right, he’s right.

There is actually more to come, but there’s a start. And for those who like to listen and watch as well as read, here is a link to Luke Ford’s interview with me about the book, and my hourlong C-SPAN2 appearance discussing the book on its After Words program, see the link at the bottom of this Reason Hit and Run post.

More later about radio and personal appearances promoting the book, both completed and forthcoming.


8 responses to “So, What Have People Been Saying About This Fascinating New Book….?

  1. It must be hard on you to post all those bruising reviews! By the way, I e-mailed Chris Whitten that you name-checked him on C-SPAN. He said it was about time you gave him some credit! 😎

  2. Joe Matt… That’s a human, right?

  3. How bout some RSS up in this piece for us groupies?

  4. Groupie—I gotta confess, i am ignorant about how to do that through my web site interface thingy, which is wordpress. I’ll look into it. If’n you can educate me, please do so. I always like to keep the groupies satisfied.

    Peter—Joe is a delightful innocent about certain of the complications of modernity. Let us be kind. He’s a great friend.

  5. Luckily, Brian, the good folks at Samizdata put up a tutorial recently, which inspired me to dip my toes into this for the first time. Lemme tell ya, this RSS thing rawwwwwwwks.

    No idea how to get a wordpress preview button for comments, but that’d be pretty sweet too.

    Congratulations on 164!

  6. Pingback: Back from New York/More Reviews « Radicals for Capitalism by Brian Doherty

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s