Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Proper Role and Improper Role of Government, by Ezra Taft Benson and H. Verlan Andersen

My brother-in-law knows I'm an insufferable crank (my e-mail signature states my title as "Amateur Hothead"), so he offered to let me borrow this book from him. I finally got around to reading it because I want to give it back to him the next time we see him, which will be Thanksgiving.

You might think to yourself, "I've heard of Ezra Taft Benson, but who's Verlan?" As best I can tell, he's a guy from Provo, Utah, who dislikes socialism. You might think you're in for a brief journey through the incoherent ramblings of a crackpot, but Andersen limits himself to some textual analysis of The Communist Manifesto, followed by some economic statistics and his take on how they show the blossoming of socialism in America. Pretty tame, actually, compared to the commodity-based monetary system Benson puts forth in his half of the book.

I was pleasantly surprised by which author played which role in the "sensible analysis/crackpot banter" setup. (Not that I think the 15 points Benson advocates are crackpot, but most people in modern America probably do.) It made the book much stronger than it otherwise would be. If Benson was the sensible one and Andersen the wacko, it would be easy to say, "Well, that guy's a conspiracy nut from out west," but the more strident political statements and more radical economic recommendations come from the former Secretary of Agriculture and 14th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That makes it a little more difficult, at least for a Mormon, to explain it away. Good reading for anyone concerned about the run-away growth of government spending and government involvement in what used to be known as "private life," but probably a little inconvenient reading for someone who thinks the best solution to every problem is to get Congress and the president involved.

Rating: 6 out of 7 giant inflatable monkeys.

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