Book Summary

Book Summaries: Part 2

Citing a book (or books!) is one of the most impressive things you can do in an extemp speech. Beyond presenting an opportunity to cite distinguished scholars, books typically hold complex political, social, and economic theories that add sophistication to your speeches. Below is a list of a few books (with their summaries) you may want to cite in your next speech. Part 1 of this series can be found here.

Before summarizing these books, I feel obliged to mention that you should take these authors’ assertions with a grain of salt. While certainly thought-provoking, political science is a diverse field, and ideas often come into conflict with one another. Thus, the point of this article is not to suggest that these books hold incontrovertible truths. Rather, the point of this article is to present you with a few books you might want to cite in your next speech. Enjoy!

Book 1: Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson

  • The political and economic institutions of a country are the main factors that contribute to a country’s success. Other factors, such as the climate, geography and religion, also play a role, albeit a smaller one.
  • There are two types of institutions: extractive and inclusive. Extractive institutions are focused on excluding the voices and concerns of the majority. Inclusive institutions are focused on the opposite, attempting to include the voices of everyone.
  • Since extractive institutions diminish the economic well-being of the many to enhance the economic well-being of the few, sustainable development is impossible in countries with these institutions.
  • The key to a successful nation is sustainable development, defined as consistent economic growth over a sustained period. This economic growth often happens thanks to scientific and technological innovation, which is accompanied by a protection of property rights. If people are not allowed to keep the profits of their labor, they will have no incentive to innovate. To prove this point, Acemoglu and Robinson examine several nations as case studies.
  • Once people have created an innovative and successful product, they may have an incentive to stop innovating or raise the price of their product. According to the authors, that’s why democratic institutions are important: the collective voice of millions can counter individual greed.

Book 2: The Clash of Civilizations and Remaking of the World Order by Samuel Huntington

  • Future conflicts will stem from differences in cultural and religious identities.
  • Civilizations will clash with each other because of more frequent interactions between nations (a byproduct of globalization), the immutability of culture (which makes these crises difficult to resolve), and centuries of history influencing countries’ unique identities today (which will also make these crises difficult to resolve).
  • There are two types of inter-civilizational conflicts: fault line conflicts and core state conflicts. Fault line conflicts are localized, occurring between adjacent states from different civilizations or within states that have different civilizations. Core state conflicts are globalized and occur between different countries of major civilizations.
  • The world can now be divided into the following major civilizations (Source: Huntington (1996) The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order):

Book 3: Special Providence by Walter Russell Mead

  • The United States has more foreign policy successes than any other nation in the world. This is because America’s four main schools of foreign policy—Hamiltonianism, Jeffersonianism, Jacksonianism, and Wilsonianism—have interacted with each other to create a unique and beneficial foreign policy.
  • The first school of American foreign policy is Hamiltonianism. Named after the founding Secretary of Treasury, it focuses on the protection of commerce, asserting that America’s chief foreign policy priority should be enhancing the United States’ position in the global marketplace.
  • The second school of American foreign policy is Jeffersonianism. Named after the 3rd US President, it focuses on maintaining America’s system of democracy. As a polar opposite to the Hamiltonian school of thought, Jeffersonians believe that humans are inherently good and that a focus on maximizing commerce will corrupt that human virtue. Thus, they firmly believe in limiting the scope of government and believe in keeping the US focused on itself. For this reason, Jeffersonians are often called isolationists.
  • The third school of American foreign policy is Jacksonianism. Named after the 7th US President, it focuses on populist values and military strength. Jacksonians are known for holding nationalistic views and may be willing to overlook the denial of rights to foreign citizens. Jacksonians strongly support the military, but not out of a concern for global well-being. Instead, they view the US military as a necessary tool to defend America’s honor and global power.
  • The final school of thought is Wilsonianism. Named after the 28th US President, it is concerned with the moral principles of American foreign policy. It should be unsurprising, then, that its proponent, Woodrow Wilson, was an architect of the League of Nations and promised to create a world that was “safe for democracy.” Unlike Jeffersonians who believe an international presence would hurt America’s democracy, Wilsonians believe that global contact is necessary to strengthen the United States’ democracy. Moreover, they assert that America’s foreign policy should focus on global well-being.

By Ananth Veluvali

Founder, the Extemper's Bible.

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