When reviewing a bestselling book, it is customary to read it first. Apparently Princeton doesn't teach that tidbit in its journalism classes anymore, as Newsweek intern (and Princeton student) Isia Jasiewicz decided she would attempt a review after reading only the first 10 pages--a fact she mentions in the last paragraph.
Does Newsweek really have such disdain for Beck that it would not only assign an intern to review what is sure to be this week's #1 New York Times bestseller (it came out Tuesday), but would print a review of a book the author didn't actually read?
The review attempts to contrast Beck's new thriller with Friedrich Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom," which Beck recently promoted on his show, and which has skyrocketed up the charts since. But given the many mistakes and assumptions Jasiewicz makes about the latter book, it seems she may not have made it past page 10 of that one either.
On June 8, Beck devoted an entire episode of his talk show on Fox News to The Road to Serfdom, a work of political theory written in the immediate aftermath of World War II by Friedrich von Hayek, an Austrian émigré to the U.K. and the 1974 recipient of the Nobel Prize in economics…The Road to Serfdom is a treatise on libertarianism, well-known only in academic circles or among political theory wonks stalwart enough to wade through the 60-page introduction and chapters on “Planning and the Rule of Law” and “The Prospects of International Order.”…
Beck pitched The Road to Serfdom to his viewers not as a history lesson per se but as a shocking expose of a secret socialist plan to destroy America. “There’s a war for the future of this country,” Beck told viewers. “It’s being waged right now.”
In the latter paragraph, Jasiewicz does her best to dismiss Beck as a conspiracy theorist, when in fact Beck was channeling Hayek himself by noting that the political class's affinity for state intervention and economic control could lead to a steady erosion of our liberties.
That was Hayek's argument. But if the previous paragraph is any indicator, Jasiewicz has read little more of the Road to Serfdom than she has of the "Overton Window."
R.S. McCain does a great job of dismantling the litany of falsehoods in that paragraph. "Just a few points," he writes:
- The term “libertarian” in its present meaning was not commonly used until the 1970s.
- Far from being known only to “wonks,” The Road to Serfdom was a best-seller in 1944 and ‘45, going through multiple printings, and was originally popularized through a condensed version published by Reader’s Digest.
- It was not “a work of political theory,” but an attempt to explain the rise of Nazism and fascism — 1944? hint, hint — as one consequence of the prevalence of socialist ideas. It was a very practical book, warning leaders in England and America that the tendency toward the “planned economy” could produce similar results even in Western democracies.
- The book obviously wasn’t written in the “aftermath of World War II,” but during the war.
- As to being “stalwart enough to wade through the 60-page introduction,” my own copy (50th anniversary edition, 1994) includes an 11-page introduction by Milton Friedman and a couple of prefaces to previous editions. The most interesting chapters, to my mind, are Chapter 8 (“Who, Whom?”), Chapter 10 (“Why the Worst Get on Top”) and especially Chapter 12 (“The Socialist Roots of Nazism”), which has never ceased to provoke howls from the Left, who refuse to admit that National Socialism was socialism at all.
Next assignment for Isia Jasiewicz? “The Bible, a theological treatise well-known only in religious circles or among clergy stalwart enough to wade through several pages of ’begats’ and the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy.”
Newsweek might consider employing folks who read the books they purport to review.