“A Peculiar People”: An Interview with J. Spencer Fluhman

This is part of the DR Book Collection.

I was lucky enough to meet BYU history professor J. Spencer Fluhman last year when he presented at the Miller Eccles Study Group here in Texas. The lecture was based on his book “A Peculiar People”: Anti-Mormonism and the Making of Religion in Nineteenth-Century America. Anti-Mormonism took on a number of forms, from describing Joseph Smith as an impostor and his religion as “false” to seeing Mormonism as a kind delusion or madness to fearing the Mormons’ political power and fanaticism. The U.S. Constitution granted religious freedom, but these fears and accusations led Americans to question what was truly meant by religion.

A fascinating read.

The interview below features both Fluhman and Joanna Brooks.

Why Growth Matters: An Interview with Jagdish Bhagwati

This is part of the DR Book Collection.

Yesterday, a friend’s Facebook wall was blowing up with debates over the merits of libertarianism. One commenter wrote, “Libertarians should spend time in India or Pakistan to see what weak, ineffective government ultimately accomplishes.” My response was, “Just finished this yesterday.” I linked him to Why Growth Matters: How Economic Growth in India Reduced Poverty and the Lessons for Other Developing Countries by Columbia economists Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya. The book explains how the Indian pro-market reforms of the early 1990s have led to economic growth and consequently reduced poverty. Of course, the book does not argue in favor of a stateless utopia (there are a number of things listed in the book for the Indian government to do). But it does demonstrate how powerful and positive a force liberalization can be in the lives of the most destitute.

Definitely for those interested in developmental economics.


Lost Christianities: An Interview with Bart Ehrman

This is part of the DR Book Collection.

Last week, I posted an interview with economist Thomas Sowell on his brand new book Wealth, Politics, and Poverty. At the time I was reading through the book and have since finished it. The relative popularity of the post gave me an idea: I will begin posting clips from interviews and/or lectures (depending on their availability) that are based on the books I read throughout the year. Obviously, not all of these books will be published in 2016. In fact, most won’t be. Nonetheless, if you’re anything like me, you might like to know what others are reading. And if it peaks your interest, you might like to get a firm grasp of the book’s subject and potential quality prior to reading. So, I plan on making this a consistent thing.

Without further ado, here’s the next book.

New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has at times been the center of public controversy due to some of his more popular books (Misquoting Jesus, Jesus, Interrupted), largely for introducing pretty standard New Testament scholarship to lay readers. His Oxford-published Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew, however, is one of his earlier academic publications. The book covers the history of Christian diversity and contention in the first few centuries. The debates and controversies among the chaos of early Christianity ranged from the nature of Jesus to the contents of the scriptural canon. It’s a fascinating and important history. I’d merely piecemealed the book over the last few years since I was already familiar with the sects Ehrman describes, but I finally buckled down and read through the entire thing. Well worth it.

You can listen to a Beliefnet interview with Ehrman below.

Wealth, Poverty, and Politics: An Interview with Thomas Sowell

This is part of the DR Book Collection.

Economist Thomas Sowell was featured once again on the Hoover Institution’s Uncommon Knowledge to promote his latest book Wealth, Poverty, and Politics: An International Perspective. The interview is a nice, if somewhat simplified overview of his main arguments. Poverty, he says, is the norm. Wealth is what needs to be explained. And wealth largely comes by means of productivity. Yet, why are some groups across the globe more productive than others? He delves into a number of factors, ranging from geography to culture (human capital) to politics. Both the conversation and book are enlightening.

Check out the interview below.