The highly influential Publishers Weekly reviewed Governing Ourselves in its quarterly “PW Select” issue highlighting print-on-demand books. Of the 184 titles submitted, they selected 45 for review.
This reviewer clearly has little patience for reading contrary political views:
Sweeping statements bolstered by opinion rather than research form the backbone of this Tea Party–tinged treatise on the proper role of government in the lives of the citizenry. Thomas begins by enumerating the failures of the federal government, followed by the familiar doomsday scenarios of collapsing currency and foreign domination, before presenting purely fictional case studies of what life would be like if a libertarian utopia emerged post-crash. In this scenario, corporations police themselves, banks operate with transparency and ethics, and children are home-schooled by mothers who don’t work. Problematically, the book goes on to utilize these invented case studies as evidence that social programs only foster dependence and laziness, and that regulations do nothing but suppress entrepreneurship. Thomas further claims that trade unions are unnecessary because people can always find other jobs, that unemployment insurance and Social Security simply bail people out of bad life decisions, and that the needy could be cared for by the charity of their community. A chapter on the environment dismisses global climate change. Readers looking for doctrinaire right-wing politics will find it here..
I have no problem with a negative review. A reviewer has the right and duty to give an honest evaluation of what they read. However, except for the complaint that my book is more opinion than research, I have to wonder what objective standards the reviewer used. Nowhere did they address the clarity of my writing, logical flow of ideas, originality, or any other characteristic of literary criticism we learned about in high school and college English classes.
Governing Ourselves is for a mass audience. I wonder how much “research” this reviewer expects an average reader to digest. The book is clearly indefensible as a doctoral dissertation, but 121 endnotes from carefully selected sources and a Postscript detailing how I got my ideas should make it evident that I researched the topic and gave it considerable thought.
I can cite how the reviewer ignored the context within the book itself for every statement they found to be problematic; but to do so would open me to charges of being “overwrought,” annoy the reader, and make this post much too long. I will simply note that a reviewer who cannot distinguish between libertarianism and “doctrinaire right-wing politics” should not indulge any notions that they are politically sophisticated.
Publishers Weekly has been a trusted source of reviews for book buyers and librarians for over a century, and I am sure it will continue to be for years to come; but its editors need to guard that reputation jealously against reviewers who would allow their political bias to cloud their professional judgment.