The years following the 2008 financial crisis have been difficult for those who adhere to the vision of society articulated by Adam Smith. The success of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-first Century shows how criticizing the theoretical justifications of the free market has become more fashionable in academic and elite circles than at any time since the end of the Cold War. And the scope of the Obama administration’s expansion of spending and government control over the economy has been truly alarming.
Steven Pinker’s The Sense of Style is a maddening book, much the way doctoral students are maddening. At once a style guide, a work of aesthetics, and an overeducated explanation of writing precepts that many unwashed composition teachers nationwide already understand, it is a book sometimes too smart to get out of its own way.
Enoch Powell once remarked, “all political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure.” Nelson Rockefeller, so unlike the gloomy Powell, would have agreed, and said so in his way. Near the end of his life, he told a former staffer “you’ve got to understand something. When you are a has-been you are a has-been. I am a has-been.”