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Beltway Books: Words and deeds

Books | New books show politicians and businessmen need both

Issue: "Bailing Out," June 14, 1997

Not only was serious policy once discussed in Washington. It was once discussed eloquently. Evidence of that eloquence comes from Lend Me Your Ears, in which William Safire, former speechwriter to President Nixon and now New York Times columnist, collects some 200 great speeches, domestic and foreign. Government officials once eschewed cheap applause lines in favor of serious challenges and heartfelt tributes.

The latest edition of Government Assistance Almanac has arrived, summarizing 1,370 federal benefit programs. The book simultaneously alerts readers to every grant, loan, scholarship, and other subsidy available from Washington and demonstrates how government has become a vast pork barrel for special interests. Read it and weep.

Although freedom is under continuous assault today in Washington, the atmosphere is better than a half century ago. Writes historian George Nash in the updated edition of The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America: "For those Americans who believed in the creed of old-fashioned, classical, nineteenth-century, liberal individualism, 1945 was especially lonely, unpromising, and bleak. Free markets, private property, limited government, self-reliance, laissez-faire-it had been a long time since principles like these had guided governments and persuaded peoples."

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Mr. Nash traces how conservatism has since become a powerful intellectual force. Of course, these principles still have distressingly little impact in Washington. Admits Nash, despite the increased prominence of conservative politicians, "conservative influence on American culture appeared to be diminishing."

The most important international relationship today may be that between the United States and Japan, the world's two largest economies. Yet misunderstandings between the two countries are rife. Haru Yamada argues in Different Games, Different Rules that many of these misunderstandings, which have profound economic and political consequences, result from simple differences in how we communicate as people. In Shadow Shoguns economic reporter Jacob Schlesinger analyzes a political system that he considers to be the foreign equivalent of Tammany Hall. It's an intriguing tale that also helps explain Japanese policies, which have so often frustrated American politicians and businessmen.

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