The Declaration of Independents

[Amazon Link]

If you hang around Reason's website at all, you will have noticed the marketing for this book. (It's written by Reason editors Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie.) You might also have seen mentions at Marginal Revolution, National Review, John Stossel's Fox News show, the Cato Institute, … It's kind of a major libertarian publishing event. So I got it. It was very appropriate reading material over the past Independence Day weekend. (But you shouldn't wait until next year in order to do the same, dear reader; buy it right now, hopefully via the link over there on the right.) (No, your right.)

And all the marketing hype, for once, is behind a pretty good book.

The subtitle is "How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America". That's slightly misstated, because there's not much detail here at all about plausible libertarian futures, or any sort of credible strategy of how to set the US onto a more libertarian course.

Gillespie and Welch are relatively optimistic that it's gonna happen, though, somehow. They point to a growing share of the electorate that refuses to identify itself with either Democrats or Republicans, and the increasing popularity of (at least fuzzy) libertarian principles. They decry the major-party "duopoly", and observe that, for the mainstream pols, their major objective is to obtain and wield political power; any other values, like liberty, are secondary at best.

If the book were all inspirational libertarian cheerleading and hand-waving, it would be pretty thin. They bring up seemingly disparate examples of how seemingly stable and dreary arrangements of power were overturned in relatively quick order by peaceful revolutionaries: how Eastern European Communism was subverted by Lou Reed; how old-school airlines were shaken up by Alfred Kahn and Herbert Kelleher (founder of Southwest); how upstarts like Nate Silver and Bill James bypassed traditional career paths; how folks like Tiger Woods are undermining old-style racial politics.

(The chapter on airline deregulation is a sad reminder that, irritating and dreadful as they generally were, you could occasionally get a free-market policy change out of mainstream Democrats like Jimmy Carter and Teddy Kennedy. What's happened since?)

All this is done in a breezy, hip, witty style that Reason readers over the past few years will be familiar with. Welch and Gillespie are utterly, and cheerfully, convinced they're on the (eventual) winning side. Hope they're right.

Last Modified 2012-09-25 1:10 PM EDT

Passion Play

stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

I wish I had a good excuse for wasting a Netflix pick on this. I think it was something like: "Hey, Bill Murray is in it." It was shown at a Toronto film festival last September, and opened in two (2) theaters in May, where it garnered $3,669 in box office receipts. A dismal score at IMDB and a measly 4% at Rotten Tomatoes. And they're not wrong.

Mickey Rourke plays Nate, a jazz musician who's in trouble with a gangster, Happy Shannon (Bill Murray). It seems that Nate was fooling around with Happy's wife, so before you know it Nate's being driven out to the desert for a quick execution.

Inexplicable fate intervenes, and Nate escapes. Wandering, he finds a carnival. One of the attractions is Lily (Megan Fox), who—I am not making this up—has big old angel wings. Nate and Lily break away from her carny captors, only to find themselves menaced by Happy again.

It's very ponderous and slow-going. It seems much longer than its actual 94-minute duration. Except for nudity and language, it's the kind of thing that Rod Serling or Alfred Hitchcock could have crammed into a half-hour, with commercials. (And, guess what—spoilers at the links—they did.)

Last Modified 2012-09-25 12:00 PM EDT