MixedThe Wall Street JournalHe...proceeds to describe, in sometimes harrowing detail, the hardships of American poverty and to advance his own explanation for poverty’s persistence ... In his discussion of the ways in which the poor might be empowered, he overlooks school vouchers, which enable low-income families to bypass neighborhood public schools if they wish. He also gives short shrift to similar programs—aimed at helping the poor—in housing and health care ... Gone are the messy complications of politics and economics or the actions of the poor themselves: The high rates of school failure or drug use in poor communities, for instance, barely warrant attention. In Mr. Desmond’s view, we have \'so much poverty\' because we lack the will to have less of it. If only that were so.
RaveThe Wall Street Journal... solidifies Mr. Klay’s place among the best of an increasing number of writers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and, while recounting their experiences in combat realistically and unheroically, raise profound questions about the nature of contemporary warfare ... Mr. Klay served in Iraq during the Bush administration’s 2007 troop surge. He provides a town-level view of what worked and what didn’t: He notes that overwhelming force could be remarkably effective in subduing terrorists and securing villages but that it couldn’t transform the daily lives of Iraqis or make them feel safe in their own communities. Rather than viewing conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan as a series of engagements in which the side with the best weapons wins, Mr. Klay argues that, for the individual soldier and generally for American troops fighting on foreign ground, victory depends on \'weaving yourself into a web of relationships in such a way that those around you begin making choices that take your wants and desires into account.\' Building such ties is easier said than done.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalAlthough Mr. Wooldridge...makes a strong case for the practical and moral value of meritocracy (while acknowledging its flaws), he doesn’t fully confront what might be its most disturbing challenge today: doubts about just what \'merit\' is or whether it even exists ... Mr. Wooldridge...argues persuasively that the [standardized] tests’ originators saw them as ways of attaining morally and politically progressive goals, such as improving educational opportunities and promoting upward mobility ... Though none of these ideas is particularly new, they are all worth considering.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalAs a faculty member at a well-endowed university, Mr. Reich is understandably reluctant to conclude that philanthropy has no place in a well-run democracy. Thus he urges a change in the operating rules that government creates for it ... These are not new (or unreasonable) ideas, but whether they would make much of a difference is doubtful ... most cultures have adopted a variety of measures, including government policies, to prod their populace to be virtuous. Tocqueville understood this when he praised American civic traditions because they not only delivered useful services but also taught Americans how to be good citizens. By contrast, Mr. Reich believes philanthropy needs to be justified by its instrumental value, especially its egalitarian effects. Yet in a society that already places a premium on equality and its pursuit, philanthropy may be at its most valuable when it pursues other goals.