Andrew S. Rogers, who has an excellent anarcho-capitalism website, wrote a review of Attention Deficit Democracy that appeared on Amazon on July 4. I appreciate all the thought & spirit Rogers, one of Amazon’s top reviewers, put into his comments on the book:
Outrageous. Over the line. Frustrating. Depressing. Essential., July 4, 2006
“Today is a good day I think to write about the successes and failures of American representative government, and it’s been a long time since I’ve read a better survey of those failures than James Bovard’s “Attention Deficit Democracy.” This book is nothing less than, to borrow a phrase Bovard himself borrows from John Taylor, a “commission to overthrow political idolatry” — which shows, of course, why so many strong feelings come to the fore when people read his writings.
Bovard’s career is evident proof of the saying of Charles Beard that the quickest way to get yourself a reputation as a troublemaker and extremist is to go around saying the same things the Founders said in 1776. Bovard’s problem is that he takes history seriously. He takes concepts and the meaning of words seriously. Most of all, he takes liberty seriously. He further places himself outside the pale when he uncompromisingly criticizes both Republicans and Democrats. When he took on President Clinton in book after book, it may have been easy enough to categorize Bovard as a “conservative.” But now that he’s giving President Bush the same treatment, what are we to do about him? Because clearly, there is no morally acceptable ground outside that staked out by the two “opposing” parties.
But enough sarcasm. In “Attention Deficit Democracy,” Bovard is saying things that need to be said — things which should be self-evident to any open-minded observer. Americans who still embrace the truisms of talk radio, the major newspapers and TV stations, and their sixth grade civics classrooms, will shudder at the author’s disproving the trendy equation of “freedom” and “democracy” (in fact, they don’t have any direct or necessary relationship at all), his stomping of the urban legend that “democracies never fight each other,” and perhaps most of all, his sacrilegious suggestion that the people most to blame for the current state of affairs are the American people themselves. This isn’t just a simple, Al Frankenish, “How could you let yourself be fooled by Bush?”, but a much more fundamental questioning of people’s understanding of how far away from true liberty we’ve really moved. Are we still a free country, just because we’re given the chance to vote for new rulers every two, four, or six years?
James Bovard’s recitation of the administration’s “disassembling” (to use a Bushism) on torture made for deeply frustrating reading. His citing chapter and verse of all the elites who place “trust of government” as the highest of a citizen’s obligations, was infuriating. And his attempt to show how “freedom” and “democracy” are in fact the answers to two, very different, questions was something that really needed to be said (or said again: I point the reader to “Liberty or Democracy: The Challenge of Our Time” [1952, reprinted 1993] by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn for an excellent primer on this topic). On the whole, this is an excellent book filled with excellent analysis. It’s much easier to get outraged by him, or to ignore him, than it is to refute the fundamental truths he’s laying out.
Bovard’s last section, where he answers the inevitable “So what can we do about it?” question, struck me as a little thin relative to the strength of the rest of the book. But I suspect he included that chapter just to avoid the otherwise-inevitable criticisms of those who believe every political book needs to end with a twelve-point platform for fixing everything in the next five years. Personally, I think Bovard’s analysis of the problem is right on, but I tend to doubt that things will ever be “fixable.” We’ve fallen too far to ever reclaim that height, and that makes Independence Day a depressing holiday indeed.”
When you go to Andrew Rogers’s website, check out the flags he has designed. (I didn’t see the Virginia state flag with the Sic Semper Tyrannis motto on his site – but it is at the bottom of www.jimbovard.com in case anyone needs a booster shot of sedition.