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August 27, 2005

In Praise of Nepotism

(A history of Family Enterprise from King David to George W. Bush)
Adam Bellow – 0385493894

“Nepotism works, it feels good, and it is generally the right thing to do. It has its origins in nature, has played a vital role in human social life, and boasts a record of impressive contributions to the progress of civilization. Nor, despite our best efforts over hundreds of years, have we succeeded in stamping it out.”

As the subtitle informs, it is expository of nepotism from ancient Israel to modern America, exploring the subject in all permutations and discussing the strengths and weaknesses of each. It is everywhere balanced, revealing data without specifically passing judgment. The family anecdotes woven into the discussion make for interesting reading, and include stories about Pericles and Charlemagne, thru Napoleon and Lincoln to the Bush’s, while perusing subjects from monogamy to the Morrill Act.

This is a breezy work filled with nuggets of history mined from extensive research. His stated goal is to stimulate consideration and debate of this heretofore overlooked subject, as he justifies his summary statement that Western/European nepotism authored the modern world by effecting the substitution of related groups and national pluralism for rigid kinship, while maintaining effective families.

He discusses the good wrought thru nepotism--an activity frequently viewed as immoral or at least divisive—pointing out that the foundation of all civilization from time immemorial depended upon it as a default position. The right kind of nepotism is necessary to human progress and has its rightful place within civilization. “Nepotism is nothing if not an aspect of the family . . . and is not really a cultural construct, but a hardwired biological given—as basic as sex and aggression.”

“Nepotistic concern for the welfare of children is the engine of the capitalist system: take that away and you destroy the main incentives for innovation and the creation of wealth. . . . Meritocracy unleavened by personal ties is inhumane, as ample evidence [shows].”

His recurring reviews of elements of D.H. Fisher’s work Albion’s Seed (a phenomenal book, by the way) is especially interesting, as is his exploration of the Rothschild family’s creation of world banking and Teddy Roosevelt’s impact upon American civilization. His lengthy exposition of the Kennedy dynasty is absorbing, as is his discourse on the baby boom generation.

All in all, this is one of the most enjoyable books I have read recently. Try it. It’s worth the time.

Posted by respeto at August 27, 2005 3:18 PM