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Sunday, May 20, 2007

book review: bully boy

I recently finished reading Bully Boy, by Jim Powell. It's the third president bashing book by Mr. Powell and the second one I've read. As a biography of Teddy Roosevelt, it's very weak, but as a libertarian survey of that era, it's worth a read. The main problem with the book is that the author spends pages upon pages describing the history of something (like railroads) with little reference to Teddy and then adds a few paragraphs describing Teddy's statist involvement.

There is also a major gap in the narrative. The author barely mentions Roosevelt's failed run for President in 1912, surely one of the most destructive acts of his egotistical life. Roosevelt's third party run allowed Woodrow Wilson to get into office and eventually drag America into World War I, with disastrous consequences for the twentieth century.

The other major flaw is the attempt to pin so much blame on one man. In the last chapter, Powell details much of the loss of freedom in the twentieth century and traces the beginning back to Teddy himself. Isn't it a bit of a stretch to blame TR for legislation in the fifties and sixties that gave more power to the FDA?

All in all, I give the book a thumbs up, a worthy addition to any libertarian's bookshelf. The Progressive era is one that deserves more scrutiny and this book is a good intro even if it is not a great bio of Teddy Roosevelt.

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