Powell, Jim 1944-
Powell, Jim 1944-
PERSONAL: Born 1944. Education: Graduated from University of Chicago.
CAREER: Cato Institute, Washington, DC, R.C. Hoiles Senior Fellow, 1988—; Laissez Faire Books, Little Rock, AR, editor, 1992—. Has worked for the Manhattan Institute, Institute for Humane Studies, Citizens for a Sound Economy, National Right to Work Committee, and Americans for Free Choice in Medicine. Lecturer.
The Triumph of Liberty: A 2,000-Year History, Told through the Lives of Freedom’s Greatest Champions, Free Press (New York, NY), 2000.
Bully Boy: The Truth about Theodore Roosevelt’s Legacy, Crown Forum (New York, NY), 2006.
Former editor, New Individualist Review. Contributor to periodicals, including Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Esquire, Architectural Digest, Science Digest, Family Circle, and Connoisseur.
SIDELIGHTS: Jim Powell is a historian, editor, lecturer, and author of several history books with a libertarian outlook. His first, The Triumph of Liberty: A 2, 000-Year History, Told through the Lives of Freedom’s Greatest Champions, presents stories of sixty-four people who fought against war, slavery, and oppression. The subjects in the book represent a wide range of heroes of all sorts: writers, philosophers, civil rights workers and many others, including Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mark Twain, John Locke, and Victor Hugo. “On some books you feast. On others you nibble. Jim Powell’s The Triumph of Liberty is one of the latter,” reported John Hood in a review for the Freeman: Ideas on Liberty Web site. “A fascinating collection of brief biographical sketches of those who have championed human freedom throughout history, Powell’s work is a seemingly inexhaustible source of information, insight, and inspiration. To sit down and read it cover to cover would be not to give Powell his due. His stories deserve to be savored, re-read, and retold,” stated Hood. A Publishers Weekly writer called the profiles in the book “pithy” and “vivid.”
In Wilson’s War: How Woodrow Wilson’s Great Blunder Led to Hitler, Lenin, Stalin and World War II, Powell reexamines the legacy of U.S. president Woodrow Wilson. Ranking him as the worst president in American history, Powell states that Wilson was responsible for involving the United States in World War I, and that Wilson was motivated by his desire leave a legacy as a peacemaker. In Powell’s view, Wilson’s actions paved the way for the Holocaust, the Cold War, and numerous other modern disasters. A Kirkus Reviews writer found that “none of it is convincing,” however, and a Publishers Weekly writer called it “a tendentious and heavy-handed distortion of history.”
Bully Boy: The Truth about Theodore Roosevelt’s Legacy, also seeks to upend a popular president’s reputation. According to Powell, Theodore Roosevelt was a reckless and destructive leader. Though Roosevelt is often praised for breaking up monopolies, promoting the sale of pure food, and advancing the cause of conservation, Powell believes that he really promoted big business, helped special interests who were often responsible for adulterated food, and did immeasurable harm to the environment by permitting harmful policies on dam-building and forestry. A Kirkus Reviews writer noted that those “who share Powell’s enthusiasm for limited government and free markets will doubtless enjoy this skewering of a widely admired president,” but added that other readers might be surprised to learn that Roosevelt’s “stated good intentions always led to dark deeds.”
Theodore Roosevelt’s cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was taken to task by Powell in his book FDR’s Folly: How Roosevelt and His New Deal Prolonged the Great Depression. Although Franklin Delano Roosevelt is usually at or near the top of lists of great presidents, Powell “argues that [New Deal] economic and regulatory policies were bad for many Americans, especially poor blacks.” His case is at least somewhat “convincing and damning,” noted Damon W. Root in Reason.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES
Booklist, August, 2000, Mary Carroll, review of The Triumph of Liberty: A 2, 000-Year History, Told through the Lives of Freedom’s Greatest Champions, p. 2085; August 1, 2006, Gilbert Taylor, review of Bully Boy: The Truth about Theodore Roosevelt’s Legacy, p. 34.
Campaigns & Elections, July, 2005, Ron Faucheux, review of Wilson’s War: How Woodrow Wilson’s Great Blunder Led to Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, and World War II, p. 38.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2005, review of Wilson’s War, p. 109; June 15, 2006, review of Bully Boy, p. 623.
Library Journal, May 1, 2005, Thomas A. Karel, review of Wilson’s War, p. 102; August 1, 2006, William D. Pederson, review of Bully Boy, p. 101.
Publishers Weekly, June 19, 2000, review of The Triumph of Liberty, p. 69; March 14, 2005, review of Wilson’s War, p. 58; May 22, 2006, review of Bully Boy, p. 44.
Reason, November, 2000, Brian Doherty, interview with Jim Powell, p. 13; October, 2004, Damon W. Root, review of FDR’s Folly: How Roosevelt and His New Deal Prolonged the Great Depression, p. 59.
Cato Institute Web site, http://www.cato.org/ (January 16, 2007), biographical information about Jim Powell.
Freeman: Ideas on Liberty, http://www.fee.org/ (February 9, 2007), John Hood, review of The Triumph of Liberty.