Book Review: Armstrong Williams' 'Reawakening Virtues' a Moral Manifesto in a Money-Obsessed Election Season

Reawakening Virtues, the latest book from Big Government contributor Armstrong Williams, seems an oddly timed release. As the Republican presidential primary kicks into gear, social issues have largely been placed on the backburner of our national dialogue in favor of economic issues, yet Williams’ book, subtitled Restoring What Makes America Great, unapologetically emphasizes personal and social virtues as the building blocks of America’s much-needed recovery. Drawing from the positive role models and learning experiences in his life, Williams visits a bevy of topics to paint a clear portrait of right living that can make sense for both sacred and secular reasons.



Williams begins with issues fundamental to human nature before moving into broader societal, economic, and civic concepts. Most of the book's early chapters focus on family issues and parenthood, where Williams uses the example of his own hardworking father and mother and the different roles they played in his development to illustrate the ideal he envisions for American families. This segment of the book also devotes a chapter to the sanctity of life, advocating some thought-provoking abortion policies, especially his take on expanding the rights of fathers in the decision whether or not to terminate a pregnancy. The book's middle tackles an assortment of miscellaneous topics, from physical fitness to conscientious objection to race, giving readers a wide scope of issues and ideas to mull over.

Reawakening Virtues' standout chapter defends capitalism as not only a morally sound economic system but the most moral economic system the world has seen--not just for the rich and businessmen but for the poor, as well. Through a brief historical summary, Williams shows that the development of the middle class and upward mobility for the poor were uniquely tied to the rise of capitalism, then demonstrates the philosophical and moral superiority of capitalism compared to its modern competitors, communism and socialism.

For those who tire of capitalism's stereotype as the robbery method of choice for mustache-twiddling robber barons, it's refreshing to see a clear defense of the system, not as a necessary evil but as a new benchmark in human achievement. Of course, he concedes in the next chapter how capitalism can be corrupted, detailing how borrowers, lenders, banks, and the government shared responsibility for the subprime meltdown and the subsequent financial crisis of 2008. Williams instead urges a return to a purer capitalism based on thrift and savings rather than debt and buck-passing.

Reawakening Virtues is a worthy reminder that, while it's easy to blame someone else--a corporation or politician, for example--our society is only as good as we are. As we obsess over economics and fiscal issues while choosing our nominee for the 2012 election, this book can help America remember how honesty, fidelity, and strong parenting skills can be just as important as carefully managing a budget, both for ourselves and our leaders.

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