Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ten Simple Things to Restore the American Dream / Craig R. Allen

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Non-fiction/Politics

Approximate word count: 25-30,000 words

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As the winner of the 2008 Great American Think Off, Craig Allen tackled the question, “Does immigration strengthen or threaten the United States?” In that debate, Allen posited that the real problem was our inability to discuss the issue rationally. Allen has served in government on his city council as well as working with many city and county governments in the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area.


In this book, Craig Allen puts forth ten (relatively) simple proposals for change, which he feels would be a good step forward in correcting what he sees as problems in how government currently functions (or malfunctions) in the United States .


I was concerned about this book before I started reading. I assumed, incorrectly, that it would be espousing things that fall way to the right or well to the left of center politically. I worried that if it didn’t match my personal politics I wouldn’t be able to give it a fair chance. Since my politics are a mishmash of ideologies from a broad swath of the political spectrum, the odds of a match were slim. Although I have some glimmerings of where Craig Allen’s political beliefs fall and many of them wouldn’t match my own, it turns out his Ten Simple Things are the kind of things that aren’t obviously partisan; things that most people could potentially agree on regardless of ideology.

To give you an idea as to his mindset, here are a few quotes that should give you an idea:

There are lots of wonderful things about the United States; more than I can possibly list. But, it’s not perfect. I know that. You know that too. We probably don’t agree about exactly what isn’t perfect, but that’s not terribly important, at least not here.

That we can agree to disagree is one of the most wonderful things about this country … I’m seeking thinkers, not converts.

There are always problems and issues for us to confront. That’s called Life. Some we will never solve, but for the others the problem is that we’ve forgotten how to discuss our differences and reason our way to a potential solution.

Allen admits his ten things might not be the same as the list each of us would make. However, each are things that many people (dare I say most) would agree are problems. A few examples of the issues addressed are lack of leadership (politicians caring more about which party is perceived to win a “battle” than making the decision that is best for the country) and abolishment of the electoral college method of electing the president.

Many of his proposals seem like non-partisan common sense. While not everyone will agree with everything, the goal is to start the discussion, not end it.

While I agree with many of Allen’s suggestions, agreement doesn’t equal change. Although he terms these changes simple, they are only simple relative to other changes. Most require congressional action; some, constitutional amendments. In his conclusion, Allen acknowledges that making these changes requires many people putting pressure on their representatives to do so and that won’t happen without spreading the word. One way to do that is to recommend this book (consider this your recommendation). However, recommendations for action beyond that is where the book is weak. A Facebook page mentioned at the end of the book appears to be where the next steps (organization being the big one) could take place , but thus far, there is very little indication of that happening.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four stars


muse said...

I like what the author has to say and the way he says it - it is truly middle of the road, in the best sense of the phrase... As you said, Big Al - nonpartisan - for everyone. And to move forward in getting back the America of our dreams will take cooperation, not competition, within the parties.

Common sense...not so common anymore. Thank the gods someone still has it!

Craig Allen said...

Thank you for this review Al. I knew this wasn't your typical read when I submitted it, but I truly value your opinion. I'm glad you were able to look beyond assumptions and discover I'm not very extreme to either side of the aisle. I suspect most of us aren't.

Also, thanks to Muse. Truly appreciate the kind thoughts. Please share the idea with others.