Book Review: Solutions: 2016

Solutions: 2016, by The Heritage Foundation

[Note: I received this book freely from The Heritage Foundation, without obligation to post a review on it.]

As a fairly wonkish person of generally conservative political inclinations, this wonkish book from conservative think-tank The Heritage Foundation is one I can definitely and warmly recommend for people of similar inclinations to myself. This is a book that is written for those who are thought leaders, people of influence, conservative but clearly of an intellectual kind, those who read books on domestic and foreign policy and find them of interest [1]. The book is designed in such a way that it seems to be meant to give backing for various political talking points about a wide variety of subjects for politicians and local political figures who may be called upon to speak in defense of these recommendations on a tactical and political level. As someone who has perhaps an unhealthy level of interest in the logistics of exercising authority, I find books like this quite fascinating to read, and at slightly more than 250 pages, it made for a read that was concise, very well-documented, and that showed sound reading and also a great deal of criticism of the Obama administration in domestic and foreign matters. The book appears to be tailor-made to deal with two main thrusts, either to discredit the socialist desire for overregulation and command and control that is quite pronounced in the contemporary Democratic party, and also to pillory the behavior of the State Department of the Obama administration, administered by Hillary Clinton and then John Kerry. Regardless of which candidate wins the primary, this book is of use as a public defense and also pointed criticism of the policies and worldview of the Democratic party from a principled conservative source.

In terms of its contents and structure, the book is divided unequally into ten sections. The first section briefly introduces conservative leadership as the right way to win hearts and minds, pun probably intended. The goal of this book, after all, is to help Republicans, and conservative Republicans at that, to win elections. This goal is in no way hidden or disguised, since this book is written for insiders who share the same motivations. Immediately after this purpose statement, the book discusses the economy, looking at jobs, federal spending and debt, labor concerns, tax reform, trade, and transportation infrastructure. The emphasis of preserving existing infrastructure and seeking to overturn the financial burden of a bloated federal bureaucracy is welcome and unsurprising. After this, the authors discuss money and the market by looking at monetary policy, financial services, and housing [2], where the familiar call is made to reduce overregulation and reform existing federal agencies. The next chapter then continues by focusing on regulatory overreach by advocating reforms in agriculture, energy, the environment, internet freedom, and regulations in general. It is only following this that the authors bring up issues of culture and society by writing about education, life, marriage, and religious liberty, seeking to support traditional religious beliefs, such as those I hold, by making an appeal to religious freedom, perhaps recognizing those beliefs are not as widespread as they used to be, or that there are many who dislike any appeal to tradition whatsoever. The authors then take on the delicate issue of entitlements like health care, social security, and welfare, pointing out their ballooning and aggressive growth in the face of demographic changes. A lot of people who would have retired in the 2040s and 2050’s, people like me, are likely to be screwed when the government shows itself insolvent and unable to pay its debt of honor after having siphoned off decades worth of payroll taxes. But that is a rant for another time. Following this the authors discuss issues of constitutionalism, like overcriminalization, protecting Second Amendment rights, rebuilding constitutional government, examining the role of the courts, and protecting voter integrity, all matters of clear and present danger in our contemporary society. Those readers who can read through the first three fifths of the book are rewarded for their patience by three closing sections that deal with matters of military and diplomatic interest. First, there is a discussion of defense that points out serious concerns in cybersecurity, defense spending and focus, illegal immigration and border security, and terrorism. After this comes a lengthy discussion of geopolitics and global flash points like China, the Middle East, North Korea, Russia, South Asia, and Taiwan [3]. The last chapter of the book advocates a pragmatic and self-interested view of foreign affairs with regards to America’s involvement in Alliances and International Organizations, foreign assistance, and treaties.

There is a lot to like about this book, if one shares the same basic worldview of The Heritage Foundation. The authors advocate government treating tax money not as the property of officeholders and bureaucrats, but as stewards of the resources of the taxpayers at large, urge involvement in international institutions to be undertaken in favor of American interests, and with the free and open use of financial leveraging to ensure more positive outcomes. The book advocates leaner (and perhaps somewhat meaner) government by redirecting funds away from subsidizing businesses and trying to enforce winners and losers in fiscal and social policy and devolve more concerns to the state and local level where those elected officials can face accountability for the decisions they make with voters, rather than leaving government in the hand of centralized and unaccountable federal elites. Those of us who strongly mistrust high levels of centralization of power will find little to dislike here and much to cheer about. The book is written on a tactical level, with shrewd insight into others, but not from a point of view that is strictly moral in nature. The people who write this book are aiming at what is best for America as a nation. They are motivated by strong pragmatic and practical concerns, and point out quite openly the difference between their approach and that of the Democratic party and their surrogates. The fact that the authors believe themselves to be speaking to people of like mind mean that this book is not filled with justification of why they think as they do, but rather fact-based and research-based appeals that provide the evidence for the public claims and policy recommendations of politicians and other Republican party surrogates.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

[3] These concerns, including Russian militarization of its Arctic region, are not unfamiliar to some of us:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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