From New York Times bestselling author Cass Sunstein, a brisk, provocative book that shows what freedom really means—and requires—today
In this pathbreaking book, New York Times bestselling author Cass Sunstein asks us to rethink freedom. He shows that freedom of choice isn’t nearly enough. To be free, we must also be able to navigate life. People often need something like a GPS device to help them get where they want to go—whether the issue involves health, money, jobs, children, or relationships.
In both rich and poor countries, citizens often have no idea how to get to their desired destination. That is why they are unfree. People also face serious problems of self-control, as many of them make decisions today that can make their lives worse tomorrow. And in some cases, we would be just as happy with other choices, whether a different partner, career, or place to live—which raises the difficult question of which outcome best promotes our well-being.
Accessible and lively, and drawing on perspectives from the humanities, religion, and the arts, as well as social science and the law, On Freedom explores a crucial dimension of the human condition that philosophers and economists have long missed—and shows what it would take to make freedom real.
Being insulated by two immense oceans makes it hard for Americans to appreciate the concerns of more exposed countries. American democracy's rapid rise also fools many into thinking the same liberal system can flourish anywhere, and having populated a vast continent with relative ease impedes Americans' understanding of conflicts between different peoples over other lands. Paul R. Pillar ties the American public's misconceptions about foreign threats and behaviors to the nation's history and geography, arguing that American success in international relations is achieved often in spite of, rather than because of, the public's worldview. Drawing a fascinating line from colonial events to America's handling of modern international terrorism, Pillar shows how presumption and misperception turned Finlandization into a dirty word in American policy circles, bolstered the "for us or against us" attitude that characterized the policies of the George W. Bush administration, and continue to obscure the reasons behind Iraq's close relationship with Iran. Fundamental misunderstandings have created a cycle in which threats are underestimated before an attack occurs and then are overestimated after they happen. By exposing this longstanding tradition of misperception, Pillar hopes the United States can develop policies that better address international realities rather than biased beliefs.
The promise of America is that, with ambition and hard work, anyone can rise to the top. But now the promise has been broken, and we’ve become an aristocracy where rich parents raise rich kids and poor parents raise poor kids. We’ve been told that the changes are structural, that there’s nothing we can do about this. But that doesn’t explain why other First World countries are beating us hands down on the issue of mobility. What's different about America is our politics. An ostensibly progressive New Class of comfortably rich professionals, media leaders, and academics has shaped the contours of American politics and given us a country of fixed economic classes. It is supported by the poorest of Americans, who have little chance to rise, an alliance of both ends against the middle that recalls the Red Tories of parliamentary countries. Because they support an aristocracy, the members of the New Class are Tories, and because of their feigned concern for the poor, they are Red Tories.The Way Back explains the revolution in American politics, where political insurgents have challenged the complacent establishment of both parties, and shows how we can restore the promise of economic mobility and equality by pursuing socialist ends through capitalist means.
An impassioned defense of the freedom of speech, from Stéphane Charbonnier, a journalist murdered for his convictionsOn January 7, 2015, two gunmen stormed the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. They took the lives of twelve men and women, but they called for one man by name: "Charb." Known by his pen name, Stéphane Charbonnier was editor in chief of Charlie Hebdo, an outspoken critic of religious fundamentalism, and a renowned political cartoonist in his own right. In the past, he had received death threats and had even earned a place on Al Qaeda's "Most Wanted List." On January 7 it seemed that Charb's enemies had finally succeeded in silencing him. But in a twist of fate befitting Charb's defiant nature, it was soon revealed that he had finished a book just two days before his murder on the very issues at the heart of the attacks: blasphemy, Islamophobia, and the necessary courage of satirists. Here, published for the first time in English, is Charb's final work. A searing criticism of hypocrisy and racism, and a rousing, eloquent defense of free speech, Open Letter shows Charb's words to be as powerful and provocative as his art. This is an essential book about race, religion, the voice of ethnic minorities and majorities in a pluralistic society, and above all, the right to free expression and the surprising challenges being leveled at it in our fraught and dangerous time.
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