Brent's Reviews > True Compass: A Memoir

True Compass by Edward M. Kennedy
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Jul 04, 10

Read in March, 2010

There is certainly much that could be said about this book, due to its length, the long period of history covered, and the controversy surrounding the author.

In addition to his own personal life story, Senator Kennedy offers his own unique perspective on the tragedies suffered by his family. Controversies are white washed where possible and mei cuplas are offered for his "personal failings" where white washing is not possible. He settles some personal scores with politicians both sides of the aisle, and discusses at length his own progressive theories for "reform" of our socioeconomic institutions. And he speaks of his love for his family and his Catholic faith.

However what struck me most was the entirely different world in which the late Senator lived. There is, of course, the fact that he was the product of a wealth and political connections. He speaks casually of his multimillion dollar properties, his sailing boats, Irish bread horses and global vacations. It is astounding to me that he could view himself as an advocate of the common man, as nothing in his life was common.

Beyond this, however, Senator Kennedy seems to show absolutely no understanding of the harm done by the repercussions of his policies. The Senator believed that "working hard" meant pushing a bill into law. And if that bill had a pleasant sounding name, it must be positive. Take as an example his championing of raising national minimum wage. He pats himself on the back for this "accomplishment" but seems completely oblivious to the lost jobs, rise in prices for goods mostly purchased by those with lower incomes, lost opportunity for unskilled workers to receive on the job training to become skilled workers, and the distortions introduced by the economy by reducing the ability of people to trade in freedom.

I wouldn't mind so much if there were any indication that Senator Kennedy understood these issues but felt that the good in his policies outweighed the bad. However the Senator does not provide any evidence of thinking beyond stage one (to use the phase from Thomas Sowell). There is an arrogance to the man, which is common in progressives and neoconservatives, that they are smart enough to inject themselves into incredibly complex systems and tinker with them in away that only produces the good results consonant with their good intentions. When the unpleasant unintended consequences of their actions manifest themselves the solution is to tinker more and make the situation even worse.

It would come as a great surprise to Senator Kennedy to learn that he, and those like him, are the cause of many of the social problems that so distressed him.

In the end this is an interesting, if limited and frustrating, account of the past half century from the vantage point of a man in extraordinary an situation. I do wish the Senator well and pray he rests in peace.
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