It's been a while since Benjamin R. Barber, the left-wing political scientist and ex-Howard Dean adviser, attracted the attention of The Scrapbook. Barber is one of those anticapitalist types who is careful to disguise his unpalatable ideology in anodyne terms—see Jihad vs. McWorld: How Globalism and Tribalism Are Reshaping the World (1995)—in order to be welcome at Davos, or the Kennedy School, or Foundation World.
So we were a little surprised when a galley of Barber’s latest volume landed on The Scrapbook’s desk. Like most publicity-minded intellectuals, Barber is adept at riding the trending waves, tailoring his message to the subject du jour. (The subtitle of Jihad vs. McWorld, his antiglobalization screed, was switched in timely fashion to “Terrorism’s Challenge to Democracy.”) But he seems to have lost his touch this time: His new book, If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities (Yale), arrived on the very day that the city of Detroit declared itself bankrupt—a bombed-out metropolis drowning in billions of dollars of debt—after decades of following Barber’s advice.
Of course, none of this will stop Benjamin Barber and his cohort from extolling the virtues of burdensome taxation, overregulation, and a bloated public sector, or endanger Barber’s standing with his patron George Soros. But it is pleasant to witness, if only for a moment, this delightful convergence of progressive theory and human catastrophe.