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Follies of History

Barbara Tuchman, winner of two Pulitzers and grand generator of readable history, published “The March of Folly, From Troy to Viet Nam” in 1984. The book is a meditation on the historical recurrence of governments pursuing policies evidently contrary to their own interests. Various case studies focus on Troy, the Renaissance Popes provoking Protestantism, the British losing their American colonies, and the United States loss in Vietnam.

“The power to command frequently causes failure to think,” concludes Tuchman who sees that folly is a child of power.

George Bush may have provided us another chapter.

Tuchman shows in her case study that the leaders in power in these famous historical events were advised several times by their own advisors to not pursue their ultimate course of action. But despite the advice of trusted advisors they proceed to make decisions that proved to be historical disasters, just as their advisors had predicted.

The Political Brain
The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation
By Drew Westen
Public Affairs
New York, 2007
“The idea of the mind as a cool calculator that makes decisions by weighing the evidence bears no relation to how the brain actually works.” Drew Westen uses this thought as a takeoff point in his book, “The Political Brain.” He asserts that (page xv) “The political brain is an emotional brain.”