Books by Gingrich, Newt

Gingrich, Newt. Real Change. Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2008. ISBN 978-1-59698-053-2.
Conventional wisdom about the political landscape in the United States is that it's split right down the middle (evidenced by the last two extremely close Presidential elections), with partisans of the Left and Right increasingly polarised, unwilling and/or unable to talk to one another, both committed to a “no prisoners” agenda of governance should they gain decisive power. Now, along comes Newt Gingrich who argues persuasively in this book, backed by extensive polling performed on behalf of his American Solutions organisation (results of these polls are freely available to all on the site), that the United States have, in fact, a centre-right majority which agrees on many supposedly controversial issues in excess of 70%, with a vocal hard-left minority using its dominance of the legacy media, academia, and the activist judiciary and trial lawyer cesspits to advance its agenda through non-democratic means.

Say what you want about Newt, but he's one of the brightest intellects to come onto the political stage in any major country in the last few decades. How many politicians can you think of who write what-if alternative history novels? I think Newt is onto something here. Certainly there are genuinely divisive issues upon which the electorate is split down the middle. But on the majority of questions, there is a consensus on the side of common sense which only the legacy media's trying to gin up controversy obscures in a fog of bogus conflict.

In presenting solutions to supposedly intractable problems, the author contrasts “the world that works”: free citizens and free enterprise solving problems for the financial rewards from doing so, with “the world that fails”: bureaucracies seeking to preserve and expand their claim upon the resources of the productive sector of the economy. Government, as it has come to be understood in our foul epoch, exclusively focuses upon the latter. All of this can be seen as consequences of Jerry Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy, which states that in any bureaucratic organisation there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organisation, and those who work for the organisation itself. Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representatives who seek to protect and augment the compensation of all teachers, including the most incompetent. The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organisation, and will thence write the rules under which the organisation functions, to the detriment of those who are coerced to fund it.

Bureaucracy and bureaucratic government can be extremely efficient and effective, as long as its ends are understood! Gingrich documents how the Detroit school system, for example, delivers taxpayer funds to the administrators, union leaders, and unaccountable teachers who form its political constituency. Educating the kids? Well, that's not on the agenda! The world that fails actually works quite well for those it benefits—the problem is that without the market feedback which obtains in the world that works, the supposed beneficiaries of the system have no voice in obtaining the services they are promised.

This is a book so full of common sense that I'm sure it will be considered “outside the mainstream” in the United States. But those who live there, and residents of other industrialised countries facing comparable challenges as demographics collide with social entitlement programs, should seriously ponder the prescriptions here which, if presented by a political leader willing to engage the population on an intellectual level, might command majorities which remake the political map.

July 2008 Permalink

Gingrich, Newt with Joe DeSantis et al.. To Save America. Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2010. ISBN 978-1-59698-596-4.
In the epilogue of Glenn Beck's The Overton Window (June 2010), he introduces the concept of a “topical storm”, defined as “a state in which so many conflicting thoughts are doing battle in your brain that you lose your ability to discern and act on any of them.” He goes on to observe that:

This state was regularly induced by PR experts to cloud and control issues in the public discourse, to keep thinking people depressed and apathetic on election days, and to discourage those who might be tempted to actually take a stand on a complex issue.

It is easy to imagine responsible citizens in the United States, faced with a topical storm of radical leftist “transformation” unleashed by the Obama administration and its Congressional minions, combined with a deep recession, high unemployment, impending financial collapse, and empowered adversaries around the world, falling into a lethargic state where each day's dismaying news simply deepens the depression and sense of powerlessness and hopelessness. Whether deliberately intended or not, this is precisely what the statists want, and it leads to a citizenry reduced to a despairing passivity as the chains of dependency are fastened about them.

This book is a superb antidote for those in topical depression, and provides common-sense and straightforward policy recommendations which can gain the support of the majorities needed to put them into place. Gingrich begins by surveying the present dire situation in the U.S. and what is at stake in the elections of 2010 and 2012, which he deems the most consequential elections in living memory. Unless stopped by voters at these opportunities, what he describes as a “secular-socialist machine” will be able to put policies in place which will restructure society in such as way as to create a dependent class of voters who will reliably return their statist masters to power for the foreseeable future, or at least until the entire enterprise collapses (which may be sooner, rather than later, but should not be wished for by champions of individual liberty as it will entail human suffering comparable to a military conquest and may result in replacement of soft tyranny by that of the jackbooted variety).

After describing the hole the U.S. have dug themselves into, the balance of the book contains prescriptions for getting out. The situation is sufficiently far gone, it is argued, that reforming the present corrupt bureaucratic system will not suffice—a regime pernicious in its very essence cannot be fixed by changes around the margin. What is needed, then, is not reform but replacement: repealing or sunsetting the bad policies of the present and replacing them with ones which make sense. In certain domains, this may require steps which seem breathtaking to present day sensibilities, but when something reaches its breaking point, drastic things will happen, for better or for worse. For example, what to do about activist left-wing Federal judges with lifetime tenure, who negate the people's will expressed through their elected legislators and executive branch? Abolish their courts! Hey, it worked for Thomas Jefferson, why not now?

Newt Gingrich seeks a “radical transformation” of U.S. society no less than does Barack Obama. Unlike Obama, however, his prescriptions, unlike his objectives, are mostly relatively subtle changes on the margin which will shift incentives in such a way that the ultimate goal will become inevitable in the fullness of time. One of the key formative events in Gingrich's life was the fall of the French Fourth Republic in 1958, which he experienced first hand while his career military stepfather was stationed in France. This both acquainted him with the possibility of unanticipated discontinuous change when the unsustainable can no longer be sustained, and the risk of a society with a long tradition of republican government and recent experience with fascist tyranny welcoming with popular acclaim what amounted to a military dictator as an alternative to chaos. Far better to reset the dials so that the society will start heading in the right direction, even if it takes a generation or two to set things aright (after all, depending on how you count, it's taken between three and five generations to dig the present hole) than to roll the dice and hope for the best after the inevitable (should present policies continue) collapse. That, after all, didn't work out too well for Russia, Germany, and China in the last century.

I have cited the authors in the manner above because a number of the chapters on specific policy areas are co-authored with specialists in those topics from Gingrich's own American Solutions and other organisations.

June 2010 Permalink