Modern Times by Paul Johnson (who wrote TheBirthOfTheModern)
"What impressed me most was Einstein's own clear statement that he would regard his theory as untenable if it should fail certain tests.... Here
was an attitude utterly different from the dogmatism of Marx, Freud, Adler and even more so that of their followers."
Beginning with that quote indicates that the reading ahead will probably be rational, but it doesn't prepare you for the 700+ pages of smirking hilarity that follows. I don't think I can do this book any better justice other than by just listing the quotes:
- "It would be an irony of fate if my administration had to deal chiefly with foreign affairs." -- Woodrow Wilson, just prior to assuming office in 1913. (p. 27)
- "The US has refused to consider the cancellation of any debts, feeling that if she should -- other reasons aside -- the major cost of this and all future wars would fall upon her and thus put her in a position of subsidizing all wars, having subsidized one." -- Bernard Baruch after World War One. (p. 35)
- As part of "certain temporary, extraordinary measures" any newspapers "calling for open resistance or insubordination to the Worker's Government" would be suppressed and their editors put on trial. -- Lenin temporarily noted in 1918. (p. 64)
- Smoking was sold to females by: "Slenderize in a Sensible Way", "Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet". (p. 224)
- Andy Mellon bought Russian art from Stalin on the cheep in 1928, then gave it to found the National Gallery of Art. (p. 269)
- Hitler became Chancellor in 1933, 5 days later the government takes control of all papers, communications, public meetings, and searches of homes. (p. 285)
- "Life in China today is exceptionally pleasant" -- Simone de Beauvoir during China's Great Leap Forwards (Backwards?) (p. 544)
- "Everyone in politics talked revolution and practiced graft." Paul Johnson on Cuba (p. 619)
- History defined as "a race between education and catastrophe" -- H. G. Wells (p. 641)
On page 37, Johnson broaches the interesting idea that self-determination has tended to effectively mean that people create unified states with regards to a single variable like religion or ethnicity (witness the Balkans, Africa, or Iraq now). I guess that the minorities in unified countries do worse than majorities do in other non-unified countries (USSR, US, Singapore). Were that conjecture to hold, we should start accepting more states into the Union like Canadian provinces, Mexican States, et al. until we supplant the UN.