DiLorenzo, Thomas J. 1954-

views updated

DiLorenzo, Thomas J. 1954-

PERSONAL:

Born 1954; married. Education: Westminster College, B.A.; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Ph.D. Hobbies and other interests: Biking, playing golf, traveling.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Clarksville, MD. Office—Loyola College in Maryland, Sellinger School of Business and Management, Sellinger Hall, Room 318, 4501 North Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21210. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer, economist, journalist, and educator. Loyola College, Joseph A. Sellinger School of Business and Management, Baltimore, MD, professor of economics, 1992—. Also taught economics at George Mason University, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and State University of New York. Ludwig Von Mises Institute, Auburn, AL, senior fellow; Center for Study of America and Cato Institute, adjunct scholar.

WRITINGS:

Hidden Politics: "Progressive" Nonprofits Target the States, edited by Daniel T. Oliver, Capital Research Center (Washington, DC), 1993.

Unfunded Federal Mandates: Environmentalism's Achilles Heel? Center for the Study of American Business (St. Louis, MO), 1993.

Frightening America's Elderly: How the Age Lobby Holds Seniors Captive, preface by Alan Simpson, Capital Research Center (Washington, DC), 1996.

The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War, Prima (Roseville, CA), 2002.

How Capitalism Saved America: The Untold History of Our Country, from the Pilgrims to the Present, Crown Forum (New York, NY), 2004.

Lincoln Unmasked: What You're Not Supposed to Know about Dishonest Abe, Crown Forum (New York, NY), 2006.

WITH JAMES T. BENNETT

The Nation's Largest Municipal Bankruptcy: The Tip of the Off-Budget Iceberg, National Center for Policy Analysis (Dallas, TX), 1981.

Underground Government: The Off-Budget Public Sector, preface by Gordon Tullock, epilogue by William Simon, Cato Institute (Washington, DC), 1983.

Destroying Democracy: How Government Funds Partisan Politics, Cato Institute (Washington, DC), 1985.

The Profits of Nonprofits: Unfair Competition in the Computer Software and Audiovisual Industries, Center for the Study of American Business (St. Louis, MO), 1987.

Unfair Competition: The Profits of Nonprofits, Hamilton Press (Lanham, MD), 1989.

Health Research Charities II: The Politics of Fear, edited by William T. Poole, Capital Research Center (Washington, DC), 1991.

Official Lies: How Washington Misleads Us, Groom Books (Alexandria, VA), 1992.

Unhealthy Charities: Hazardous to Your Health and Wealth, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1994.

Cancerscam: Diversion of Federal Cancer Funds to Politics, Transaction Publishers (New Brunswick, NJ), 1997.

The Food and Drink Police: America's Nannies, Busybodies, and Petty Tyrants, Transaction Publishers (New Brunswick, NJ), 1999.

From Pathology to Politics: Public Health in America, Transaction Publishers (New Brunswick, NJ), 2000.

Public Health Profiteering, Transaction Publishers (New Brunswick, NJ), 2001.

Contributor to periodicals and newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal, Reader's Digest, USA Today, National Review, and Barron's.

SIDELIGHTS:

A college professor who specializes in economic history and political economy, Thomas J. DiLorenzo has authored or coauthored more than a dozen books on economic topics, including group-interest politics, interventionism, and antitrust issues. A strong opponent of big government, DiLorenzo has often collaborated with economist James T. Bennett. In their book Official Lies: How Washington Misleads Us, the authors use numerous statistics and anecdotes to make a case against too much government intervention. For example, they argue that government is ineffective and cannot be trusted to intervene in market failures. Writing in the Southern Economic Journal, Donald J. Boudreaux commented: "These authors show that government is, perhaps, the major source of false information and half-truths in the United States. Each of the book's ten chapters is choked with information about misinformation sponsored by, or left uncorrected by, government."

Destroying Democracy: How Government Funds Partisan Politics, contains Bennett and DiLorenzo's exploration of how government-funded foundations and related tax-exempt organizations are using federal dollars not for the stated purpose of the organization, but for prohibited activities such as lobbying and organization efforts that support partisan causes on both the left and the right. The authors believe that there is a network of groups that deliberately present themselves to the public as being in the advocacy or charity business of supporting good causes, but which instead exist to divert government funds to partisan activities. In this way, the authors "contend the federal government funds partisan political foundation activities that are ‘destroying democracy’" by giving unfair advantages to organizations operating stealthily and deceptively, noted Ernest Van den Haag in the New York Times Book Review. For instance, Van den Haag reported that the Legal Services Corporation, founded by U.S. Congress in 1974 to provide money to help the poor in product liability, family law, or landlord/tenant cases, has been known to have convinced a federal district court to block the use of statewide literacy tests as a requirement for high school graduation. The organization California Rural Legal Assistance sued to block the University of California from conducting research that would boost agricultural productivity, on the grounds that increased productivity would lead to higher levels of unemployment in the agricultural community. Bennett and DiLorenzo "quite correctly oppose Government funding of rightist as well as leftist political activity," Van den Haag stated. "They give us chapter and verse of many cases of such abuse." Van den Haag lauded the authors' work, concluding: "If we want to stop activists—of the right or the left—from feeding at the Federal trough, these procedures must be scrutinized."

In Unhealthy Charities: Hazardous to Your Health and Wealth, DiLorenzo and Bennett focus on charitable organizations. They present the case for their belief that these organizations are not particularly efficient or effective and would be better off focusing more funds on community services and the sick. The authors write: "For every dollar spent by the American Cancer Society for research to cure cancer, American taxpayers pay $15. The American Lung Association spends a paltry 5% of its income on research, and the National Institutes of Health spend more than $10 for every dollar of research money spent by the American Heart Association." A Nutrition Health Review contributor praised the work, noting: "In this well-documented book, the writers not only expose the woeful inadequacy of aid that these large charities give to the impoverished ill of our society but also venture to remind the organizations of their responsibility and offer advice for change that would ensure their efficiency and broaden their ef- fectiveness." Sidney M. Wolfe, writing in the Lancet, thought that the coauthors put forth many "naive views" and that there are major weaknesses in the authors' review of charities, including "the view that, in contrast to these charities, the for-profit sector is a model of efficiency and accountability because, ultimately, ‘The Captain is the consumer.’"

In The Food and Drink Police: America's Nannies, Busybodies, and Petty Tyrants DiLorenzo and Bennett take on the government and nonprofits for their supposed public-interest efforts in cracking down on industries that are perceived as producing products detrimental to the public's health. The authors ask: "Is pervasive regulatory regimentation of everyone's life the only feasible way of dealing with health risks? Is the essence of American business really profiting by selling dangerous or deadly products to an unsuspecting public?" In the book, DiLorenzo and Bennett explore the agendas, need for, and effectiveness of groups such as the Center for Science and Public Interest (CSPI) and Mothers against Drunk Driving (MADD). In the end, they question the need to have a government that protects us from ourselves.

Bennett and DiLorenzo provide a "serious, eye-opening indictment of America's public-health establishment" in From Pathology to Politics: Public Health in America, commented Miguel A. Faria in Ideas on Liberty. They note that in the late 1960s, the American Public Health Association, ostensibly an organization dedicated to matters related to public health, became more interested in politics and social policy matters than issues of public health. They describe the wide-ranging influence of the public-health establishment (PHE) and how it reached into nearly every government agency and department. Ultimately, the organization became more interested in self-preservation, increasing its power, and pursuing political agendas than on working to improve public health. "The authors show that a large portion of the tax dollars that go into the PHE are used to fund biased, unnecessary projects and other boondoggles concocted by public-health experts who frequently use politicized, results-oriented research masquerading as science to promote increased government intervention and to further increase their funding," Faria commented. As a particularly cutting example of the PHE's misguided mission, the organization endorsed a ban on asthma inhalers for children because the inhalers contain chlorofluorocarbons that are said to contribute to depletion of the planet's ozone layer. Despite outrage and persuasion from medical groups such as the American Medical Association, the PHE continues to support the ban, Faria stated, concluding that "the public-health establishment puts our pocketbooks, our liberties, and our health at risk."

DiLorenzo turns to the past in The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War. According to DiLorenzo, there are many myths surrounding Lincoln and his presidency, including the belief that he was a strong abolitionist. The author contends that Lincoln was far from the great leader history has painted him as being. In an interview in the Austrian Economics Newsletter, he commented that Lincoln "was just another politician, and a particularly menacing one," who was a "mercantilist and an inflationist." DiLorenzo also argues that the U.S. Civil War could have been avoided by Lincoln because, as he writes, "the political support structures for slavery were breaking down in 1860," and slavery would have eventually died out without the war. DiLorenzo also names Lincoln as one of the first purveyors of big government.

Critics came down on both sides of DiLorenzo's attack on Lincoln. An Insight on the News contributor commented that "DiLorenzo makes clear how, step by step, Lincoln's decision to forcibly resist Southern secession led to a regime that can only be described as authoritarian." Noting that the author "deserves some credit for producing an anti-Lincoln book worth discussing," Matthew Pinsker, writing in Presidential Studies Quarterly, concluded: "Most of these contentions and a litany of others tossed off pugnaciously within the book are old charges that have been twisted badly out of context." In an article in Independent Review, Richard M. Gamble commended DiLorenzo for bringing up "fresh and morally probing questions, challenging the image of the martyred president that has been fashioned carefully in marble and bronze, sentimentalism and myth." Gamble added, however, that "despite its provocative insights and obvious rhetorical skill, … The Real Lincoln is seriously compromised by careless errors of fact, misuse of sources, and faulty documentation."

DiLorenzo returns to this subject of scrutiny with Lincoln Unmasked: What You're Not Supposed to Know about Dishonest Abe, published in 2006. The author asserts the existence of a group of biographers and scholars who deliberately conceal the reality of the historical Lincoln from the reading public, and who work to put a positive face on Lincoln's negative poli- cies and dubious accomplishments. For example, he paints Lincoln not as the Great Emancipator, but as a "white supremacist whose primary motivation for fighting the Civil War was a desire to maintain a system of tariffs that greatly benefited northern states," stated a Kirkus Reviews critic. DiLorenzo also argues that the South was entirely within its rights to secede from the United States, and that the reasons behind the Civil War were economic rather than social. The Kirkus Reviews contributor felt that DiLorenzo's arguments would not be sufficient to convince the large number of potential readers who have long held a positive impression of Lincoln. However, the same critic noted that sometimes DiLorenzo does have reason behind his arguments, and that his positions are "intriguing."

DiLorenzo discusses capitalism and its importance to the United States in How Capitalism Saved America: The Untold History of Our Country, from the Pilgrims to the Present. He writes about such issues as what capitalism is, how it saved the Pilgrims, its enrichment of the working class, and how he believes Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal ultimately crippled capitalism. A Kirkus Reviews contributor felt that DiLorenzo failed to provide a complete context for some of his arguments, noting: "His insistence that both federal spending and borrowing be immediately cut in such situations is not, for some reason, rendered in context of the current administration." In a review for Booklist, Gilbert Taylor wrote: "DiLorenzo's presentation challenges widespread beliefs about economic history." Writing in Publishers Weekly, a reviewer called the book "a work of ideology cross-dressing as history. Its value lies in its lively polemic rather than its claims to novelty or historical depth." Library Journal contributor Lawrence R. Maxted noted: "The text is pretty extreme but consistent and well reasoned, which makes it worth reading."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

DiLorenzo, Thomas J., The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War, Prima (Roseville, CA), 2002.

DiLorenzo, Thomas J., and James T. Bennett, Unhealthy Charities: Hazardous to Your Health and Wealth, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1994.

PERIODICALS

Austrian Economics Newsletter, winter, 1994, interview with Thomas J. DiLorenzo."

Booklist, June 1, 1994, William Beatty, review of Unhealthy Charities, p. 1747; June 1, 2004, review of How Capitalism Saved America: The Untold History of Our Country, from the Pilgrims to the Present, p. 1681; September 1, 2006, Gilbert Taylor, review of Lincoln Unmasked: What You're Not Supposed to Know about Dishonest Abe, p. 40.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, January 1, 2001, E.R. Paterson, review of From Pathology to Politics: Public Health in America, p. 938.

Christian Science Monitor, September 26, 1989, R. Cort Kirkwood, review of Unfair Competition: The Profits of Nonprofits, p. 13.

Consumers' Research, April, 1999, Peter Spencer, review of The Food and Drink Police: America's Nannies, Busybodies, and Petty Tyrants, p. 43.

Footwear News, July 7, 1986, Dick Silverman, "Study: Imports Save $3.1 Bil," p. 4.

Independent Review, spring, 2003, Richard M. Gamble, review of The Real Lincoln, p. 611.

Insight on the News, May 13, 2002, review of The Real Lincoln, p. 5.

Journal of Business Ethics, January 1, 1990, John W. Dienhart, review of Unfair Competition, p. 20.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2004, review of How Capitalism Saved America, p. 41; August 15, 2006, review of Lincoln Unmasked, p. 818.

Lancet, January 21, 1995, Sidney M. Wolfe, review of Unhealthy Charities, p. 179.

Library Journal, May 15, 1983, review of Underground Government: The Off-Budget Public Sector, p. 1006; July, 2004, Lawrence R. Maxted, review of How Capitalism Saved America, p. 95.

National Review, August 19, 1988, Michael Fumento, review of Destroying Democracy: How Government Funds Partisan Politics, p. 56; September 26, 1994, Marvin Olasky, review of Unhealthy Charities, p. 66; October 14, 2002, Ken Masugi, review of The Real Lincoln, p. 61.

New American, March 20, 2006, John J. Dwyer, "An Honest Look at Abe: Abraham Lincoln Is Usually Regarded as a Saintly Figure, but a Detailed Book about Lincoln Shows That Much of What Historians Say about Him Is Pure Fiction," review of The Real Lincoln, p. 31.

New York Review of Books, December 19, 1996, Jeff Madrick, review of Frightening America's Elderly: How the Age Lobby Holds Seniors Captive, p. 68.

New York Times Book Review, December 22, 1985, Ernest Van den Haag, "Tax-Exempt Troublemakers," review of Destroying Democracy, p. 23; December 21, 1997, Robin Marantz Henig, "Nicotine Fit," review of Cancerscam: Diversion of Federal Cancer Funds to Politics, p. 15.

Nutrition Health Review, summer, 1994, review of Unhealthy Charities, p. 21.

Philanthropist, fall, 1990, Mark D. Hughes, review of Unfair Competition.

Presidential Studies Quarterly, March, 2004, Matthew Pinsker, review of The Real Lincoln, p. 167.

Public Interest, spring, 1995, Heather R. Higgins, review of Unhealthy Charities, p. 124.

Publishers Weekly, August 7, 2006, review of Lincoln Unmasked, p. 43.

Society, November 1, 1989, Bernice Rothman Hasin, review of Unfair Competition, p. 89.

Southern Economic Journal, April, 1993, Donald J. Boudreaux, review of Official Lies: How Washington Misleads Us, p. 831; July, 1995, Dwight R. Lee, review of Unhealthy Charities, p. 285.

Wall Street Journal, March 26, 1986, John H. Fund, review of Destroying Democracy, p. 29.

ONLINE

Hacienda Publishing, Inc. Web site,http://www.haciendapub.com/ (August 5, 2007), Miguel A. Faria, Jr., review of From Pathology to Politics.

Loyola College in Maryland Web site,http://www.loyola.edu/ (August 5, 2007), biography of Thomas J. DiLorenzo.

Townhall.com,http://www.townhall.com/ (November 4, 2004), Anna Marie Gould, review of The Real Lincoln.