I'm a lawyer and mediator. I represent businesses in disputes with their insurers and in other complex litigation. I also assist machinery companies and manufacturers (primarily international) with equipment sales, non-disclosure agreements, and business issues. I also mediate commercial disputes.
This is an important book for anyone interested in contemporary geopolitics. Friedman takes us on a quick tour of European history which focuses on the rise of Germany three times: As an economic and military power leading to World War I, as a military power under Hitler, and as the greatest post-war economic power. Now being a rich, but militarily weak, country, Friedman explains the many challenges that Germany faces for itself, and that it creates for the rest of Europe. His discussion also chronicles the reemergence of Russia, and its need to move its "buffer" to the west, having been re-positioned far to the east after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Friedman also weighs in on the enigma of France and how it is neither really a northern European economic power or a weak southern European country, but a curious mixture of both. And, of course, Great Britain's role is analyzed. No longer a world power, Britain needs Europe and keeps a watchful eye on it, but does not really want to commit to the European Union. Friedman's most incisive discussion, however, involves borderlands across the quilt of many nations that form Europe. Some borderlands are peaceful and will likely remain that way, while others--most notably Ukraine--form the flashpoint for future conflicts. Friedman's main point is that the contention that the European Union ushered in an age of prosperity for all that made conflict and war a thing of the past is simply not true. Very thought provoking. I may listen again.
Peter Schiff offers a detailed and devastating criticism of the Fed and the federal government. He makes a compelling argument that the federal government has expanded far beyond the Constitutional limits. He also makes a convincing case that the fiscal path our country is on is unsustainable and may lead to a financial crash more devastating than 2008.
Schiff also lays out an alternative path for the country; a path in which a far smaller federal government stays out of our lives, and where individuals have the freedom to lead their own lives and to take responsibility for their future. The responsibility for taking care of the poor and infirm is returned, as it had existed for centuries, to local governments and churches and charitable institutions. As Schiff points out, this alternative vision for America is not new; it is what the country was before the Fed, the New Deal, and the ever increasing expansion of the federal government.
Schiff also offers compromise proposals, which he deems more politically achievable. The alternative vision would, in general, decrease the size of the federal government and gradually phase out government transfer programs, using means testing as an interim measure.
Essentially, Schiff presents a Libertarian view of what the country should be. Libertarian philosophy generally offends Democrats (because it would shrink the federal government substantially) and certain elements of the Republican Party (less government interference means legalizing drugs and a less aggressive military). However, it has the virtue of at least being consistent (less government in every aspect of our lives) while the current parties each support an expanding federal government (and greater intrusion) one way or the other.
Schiff's book lays out the Libertarian case in detail. The book is important because many people really do not understand Libertarian philosophy, although many clearly agree with at least substantial parts of it.
One cautionary note: The book does NOT lay out in any detail how to invest for or protect yourself from the crash Schiff is certain is coming. He summarizes his views in one chapter. Those looking for investment advice should read Schiff's other books. The title is misleading in this respect.
This book begins like a mystery novel and expands into a wide ranging expose of the NSA documents disclosed by Edward Snowden. It then concludes with an expansive analysis and critique of the NSA, government officials, and, especially, the mainstream media.
I began this book with few preconceptions where it would lead. I was highly disturbed by revelations regarding the NSA, but also cognizant of the real danger posed by terrorism.
One thing that comes through from the outset is Snowden's sincere belief in what he did and his courage. As Greenwald points out repeatedly, Snowden made no effort to conceal his involvement and knew that doing so would almost certainly ruin his previously comfortable life.
The revelations regarding the NSA and the prior deception regarding the scope of its program--and the rather complete lack of meaningful oversight--are highly disturbing. Why does the NSA believe it needs to "collect everything" instead of using a targeted approach focusing on likely sources of danger?
Greenwald is at his best in making the case against mass surveillance. As he points out persuasively, people modify their behavior just by the threat of surveillance, and mass surveillance is the antithesis of a free society as history should have already taught us time and again.
Greenwald also makes impressive indictments against politicians who regularly and reflexively defend surveillance no matter how absurdly broad and unfocused it may be. And the Constitution gets lost in the wringer of life inside the Beltway.
Greenwald also swings for the fences and delivers in his indictment of the mainstream media. The mainstream media consist of lapdogs, pliantly doing the bidding of politicians. As Greenwald points out, the Obama Administration has not only carried on the Bush era programs, but has expanded them, with rarely an eyebrow raised in the media, especially a fawning media that (until recently at least) was willing to swallow and parrot whatever drivel the Administration chose to peddle.
Greenwald gets off target, in my judgment, in criticizing the NSA for studying the economic interests of foreign nations and industries in foreign nations. Of course the NSA (and the State Department) need to be fully aware of the such interests, as they often define policy interests and drive foreign policy decisions. This is far different than spying on all Americans.
Greenwald also, in my judgment, loses momentum in minimizing the threat posed by terrorism, particularly violent Islamic terrorism. While it may be true that a person (at least to date) is more likely to die of a lightning strike than in a terrorist attack, Greenwald ignores the damage that, for example, the 9/11 attacks did to the U.S. economy and our way of life. The reality is that it made a big difference. Greenwald's argument also pales--if not seems somewhat naive--in light of ISIS and other powder kegs around the world.
So perhaps Greenwald overstates in a few instances and gets off track in others. That does not detract from the importance of this book and the importance of what Snowden--with the help of Greenwald--revealed about what our government is doing to us.