The Burden of Bad Ideas: How Modern Intellectuals Misshape Our Society
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The Burden of Bad Ideas: How Modern Intellectuals Misshape Our Society

3.36 of 5 stars 3.36  ·  rating details  ·  53 ratings  ·  14 reviews
One of the best of our urban journalists considers the upside-down world of public policy and the entrenchment of foolish ideas in closely reported stories from the streets of New York to the seats of intellectual power. Insightful and articulate...entertaining and provocative. --Richard Lamm, Wall Street Journal. Spirited, stimulating, eloquent essays...vivid and devastat...more
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Published March 12th 2001 by Random House Audio (first published 2000)
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Julie
This is another not that great book. The author has some really strong feelings about stuff. Real strong. But I barely know what she is ranting about. The book is a series of articles on different topics, but I can't wade through them because she doesn't offer both viewpoints and then her opinion. She just offers a bunch of very profession-specific, damning "insights" that as readers, we have to agree with out of common sense. But I'm not learning anything and getting through every page is painf...more
Christopher
MacDonald is a journalist, and this book is simply a collection of her articles, with no effort made to tie them together (other than a quick six page introduction). The writing is unfortunately newspaper-like: jerky, top-heavy, and with overly condensed opinions. I didn't really trust her political sensibilities (too much Republican, not enough Christian), and her evidence was anecdotal, and thereby open to the (probably somewhat justified) charge of sensationalism and one-sidedness. It was lik...more
David
I mistakenly thought this book might attempt to engage the reader at some kind of intellectual level. Instead it turned out to be a thinly disguised, incoherently written, polemic screed.
Eric Sondermann
Her first chapter, "The billions of dollars that made things worse," is particularly strong and important.
Michael Connolly
This book is a collection of articles by one of the best reporters for City Journal, the main publication of the Manhattan Institute, a pro-capitalism think tank. The first chapter describes how philanthropy has changed over the years. Great capitalists, such as Andrew Carnegie. John D. Rockefeller and Henry Ford originally used their wealth to support high culture: classical music, art museums, medical research, libraries and universities. But during the 1960s, many of these foundations shifted...more
Eric
In publishing this book, the world learned that journalist and think tank fellow Heather MacDonald has reached that status in which old, recycled articles from other publications are deemed worthy enough to appear in book form. Those looking for an original work, as I was, will be disappointed.

Because I hadn't read any of these articles, though, the disappointment was mild. Most of them appeared in City Journal throughout the 1990s. I don't read the City Journal, never have, probably never will....more
Bryan
This book is a breath of fresh in the area of political debate. It is a conservative book that uses clear logic to base its arguments on. It traces public policy that has been made over the last 40 years. With most of the focus on problems with public policy that ignores personal responsibility. It is very critical of research that shows causality between race and poverty. The problem this book argues is that correlation does not mean causality. The author makes the case that most public policie...more
Dennis
As many of us look to government at all levels to cut spending and balance budgets, this reading points out a particularly fertile area for scrutiny. Social programs at state and federal levels are ripe with fraud and abuse as this author points out with many startling examples. Many well meaning social program generators and administrators enable bad behavior in folks who look to use the "system" to carry them through their lives. These lives are fraught with drug and alcohol abuse and multiple...more
Bryan
This is one of the worst books I have tried to read in some time. The facts seem to be in order, albeit very selectively chosen to support a rigid, right-wing ideology. Her interpretation of the facts is where this book falls down. She often takes outrageous sounding events or quotes out of context, thus making them seem all that more outrageous. In most cases what she shares could easily be interpreted quite differently than she chooses to. Not only is she extremely biased, she also convenientl...more
Miriam "Mayang" Azurin
It's very useful whether you're tilted toward the right or the left. It will provoke reflections on how we can better social change...but that's just about it...provoke. It's not a compelling thought to change the discourse of the current poverty discussions because at the end of each essay is a rightist paradigm cloaked in factual argumentation.
Sandi
Conservative essays on how Marxist, feminist, and cultural ideals have the effect of taking substance out of learning institutions and fostering dependency on governmental programs.

This was an easy read while I was ill with the flu--Mac Donald makes some very good points in entertaining short essays. Many of her concerns with education echo Alan Bloom's Closing of the American Mind. However, she ends her long tirades laden with individual examples, with very quick, don't-look-at-me solutions. U...more
Mark
This one will certainly offend some readers, but it is hard to argue with some of her arguments. To Quote a couple of other columnists: "One of the best of our urban journalists considers the upside-down world of public policy and the entrenchment of foolish ideas in closely reported stories from the streets of New York to the seats of intellectual power. Insightful and articulate...entertaining and provocative." --Richard Lamm, Wall Street Journal. "Spirited, stimulating, eloquent essays...vivi...more
Elynn
There were some things I did not agree with, and she may have been "stretching" the data from studies she used, but I found much of it very insightful. I enjoyed it at the same time as much of the content made me upset and the bureaucracy of systems.

Each chapter is a different essay on various institutions: welfare system, education, teachers colleges, law school, etc. and she discusses how they have been shaped by modern ideals and have removed accountability from the system. Most of it is base...more
Victoria
If you like social programs, you'll hate this book. If you hate social programs, you'll like this book. :)
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