By Heather Mac Donald
Ivan R. Dee, 242 pp, 2000
In publishing this book, the world learned
that journalist and think tank fellow Heather Mac Donald has reached that
status in which old, recycled articles from other publications are deemed
worthy enough to appear in book form. Those looking for an original work,
as I was, will be disappointed.
Because I hadn't read any of these
articles, though, the disappointment was mild. Most of them appeared in City
Journal throughout the 1990s. I don't read the City Journal,
never have, probably never will. I don't have anything against the
magazine. There is only so much time during the day, and I already
struggle to stay current with the magazines I do read.
I don't have a lot to say about this book.
The articles are dated and could have used some editing. For example, when
Mac Donald mentions dates like "next March" and "late
1995," it's a bit jarring. You'd think the editor could have cleaned
up some of those references to make the article seem less old.
Most of the essays are standard
conservative fare - Mac Donald shows government programs to help the poor
are inefficient and wasteful, not to mention harmful to those who are
supposed to benefit. Little in this book is surprising to most
conservatives and libertarians.
There are a few original stories, though.
Perhaps the most interesting was Mac Donald's inspection of the New York
Times Hundred Neediest Cases. She explains how it began during the
Depression and then changed into something barely recognizable in
subsequent decades. The Times, for example, used to distinguish between
the "deserving" poor and those who were poor because of their
own irresponsible behavior. Not anymore - now all behavior is coddled or
excused, no matter how tragic the consequences. Few attempts are made
anymore to encourage irresponsible people to change their ways.
Mac Donald also examines how liberal
endowments like the Ford Foundation have corrupted American society with
their grants and feel-good programs.
Other than that, the book is a standard
conservative/libertarian critique of much of the hot-button social issues
of the 1990s, like political correctness and the Smithsonian and
government subsidies to drug dealers. For those readers not familiar with
these issues, you'll probably be surprised and dismayed at how your tax
dollars are wasted.
Heather Mac Donald is a fine writer and
deserves credit for reporting these stories. I just wish this book had
been an original work rather than recycled work.