Monday, October 22, 2012

The Good American / B Sidney Smith

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Politics/Current Events

Approximate word count: 15-20,000 words

Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store


“B. Sidney Smith served in the US Army as an enlisted soldier for five years in the 1980's, much of it spent driving M1 battle tanks around the German Countryside. Although the Chief Tobias mysteries are fictional, their themes, events, and characters are taken from these experiences.

After his discharge, he returned to school, eventually earning a PhD in mathematics from the University of Colorado. While a college math teacher, he became active in Radford University's Peace Studies program, and joined International Philosophers for Peace and the Institute for Economic Democracy, for which he is now an editor and co-director.

Now a recovering math professor, he resides in central Virginia with his wife and their standard poodles, Hypatia and Madeleine, tending his garden and geese, editing and promoting books on economic democracy.”

Smith also has a novel, The Officer’s Wife, available for Kindles or in a paper version.


“In this exhaustively sourced account, mathematician B. Sidney Smith shines a stark light on every elephant in the room: out of control militarism, the rape of our economy, the propaganda that infantilizes our people and neutralizes their citizenship, and over it all the terrifying spectre of population overshoot—a disaster that is already upon us. But there is no ‘doom and gloom’ hand-wringing here. Dr. Smith ends his account with a stirring call to action, the promise of hope and a bright future—if we but have the patriotic courage to turn aside from partisan folly, redress our errors, and shoulder once again the obligations of citizenship.”


Subtitled A Situation Report for Citizens, The Good American outlines issues the author feels have to be addressed if the US as a country (and really the world as a whole) hope to survive more than a generation or two. These are problems that require action now. Some are environmental, while others are cultural. Although a short read, Smith efficiently explains each of the problems and makes an excellent case (with endnotes to sources for virtually every claim he makes). As claimed in the book’s description, he avoids the doom and gloom language often found in books such as this, although the picture he paints is far from pretty.

I have only two relatively minor nits to pick with Smith’s approach. The first is that this would have been better if there was no sign of partisanship. In the introduction, Smith summarizes some  current political issues, including the 2012 US Presidential race, and gives an even-handed argument that concludes neither major party candidate is a good choice. That cries out for an alternative, and he suggests one. I’m afraid that going partisan may cause some readers with strong party affiliation to abandon the book for that reason. However, if he was going to do this the way he did, doing it in the beginning and then staying away from any obviously partisan political statements for the remainder of the book, was the right choice.

My other nit is that, at least to me, the language used to describe certain situations often felt like the same kind of verbiage used by conspiracy theorists. Yet what was being described didn’t feel like an organized conspiracy (something requiring multiple people to coordinate), but instead something more informal. He also does a much better job of sourcing his contentions than the typical conspiracy theorist rather than requiring we take it on faith. Possibly his political slant is closer to my own political beliefs, making me more willing to see things as he describes them, but much of what he described seemed self-evident.

Regardless of your politics, regardless of who you’re going to vote for in the next election, The Good American is something everyone in the US should read and decide for themselves. 

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: **** Four stars

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