Book Review: Government in the Clouds
by Patrick E. Peterson,
The perils of reading self-published political tracts are fairly plain. The writers of such tracts need not be accountable to facts, history, or observable reality; they are free to obfuscate, to misconstrue, to rant. But two things bear keeping in mind: first, a good number of texts taught in universities today began as self-published political tracts, and second, as has been abundantly clear in the last few years, the major publishing houses haven’t exactly been keeping America’s bookstores free of misleading political rants.
It all comes down to content, of course, and there’s a great deal of interesting content in Dr. Patrick Peterson’s new self-published political tract, Government in the Clouds. Peterson’s book bears little resemblance to any modern self-published political works with which the reader might be familiar; there are no locust-swarms of typos, no moonshine-stilling Ozark relatives quoted as “experts,” and no freebooting homicidal rage.
There is anger, however – a great deal of anger. The text presents the reader with a torrent of information (the book is printed in an oddly appealing oversized paperback format) on subjects ranging from U.S. Government history to the rise of special interest groups and powerful lobbyists to government spending. Given Peterson’s extensive medical background, it’s not surprising that his chapter on the morass of health care reform is the book’s strongest, but throughout all the other chapters he maintains a clear tone of controlled exasperation, as when he touches on the roots of America’s recent financial meltdown:
This is where reality and fantasy meet. People can only borrow and spend if the Federal Reserve and bankers provide the funds to do so. By creating money out of thin air and handing it out to people with no means of repaying it, the financial elite and politicians in Washington played a key role in bringing the U.S. Economy to its knees via the sub-prime debacle.
Peterson is emphatic that he himself is not a revolutionary. He never uses verbs like ‘destroy’ or ‘overturn,’ preferring ideas like ‘constructive outlets’ and ‘evolution.’ He’s done a large amount of research on the background of the issues he discusses, and he keeps his outlook bipartisanly broad by declaring a plague on both their houses: it isn’t Democrats or Republicans he especially dislikes, it’s politicians in general, a breed he views as almost wholly beyond salvage:
Politicians will never stop spending and giving away money to special interests and lobbyists, and have always voted against any limits of their power to do so. Until this power is taken away from them, our democracy and economy will be at every increasing risk.
The most thought-provoking idea in Government in the Clouds, the one Peterson hammers repeatedly, is that Americans need to remember that politicians – all of them – are only transient hirelings of the people. In his zeal, he advocates drastically curtailing the power of politicians through the electorate’s increased use of Internet and cellphone technologies (the “cloud” of the title) to make their wishes known – indeed, make their wishes law (affecting policy “in real time”). It’s only in this excess that he forgets that the Founding Fathers he reveres would have been horrified at the idea of straight-up majority rule: they correctly maintained that it was the worst kind of unthinking tyranny. But in all the rest of his well-balanced jeremiad, Peterson is largely on-target – greater voter interest, irritation, and involvement can only help when it comes to chopping away at the incremental abuses all centralized power is heir to. And the plentiful facts and assertions Peterson assembles will be enough to get even the most complacent reader thinking – and perhaps productively upset.