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The Central Liberal Truth: How Politics Can Change a Culture and Save It From Itself    by Lawrence Harrison order for
Central Liberal Truth
by Lawrence Harrison
Order:  USA  Can
Oxford University, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by Kerrily Sapet

Based on the current world situation as nations battle terrorism, attempt to establish new democracies, and struggle to stem rising fears (real and imagined), Lawrence Harrison's latest book is perfectly timed. In The Central Liberal Truth: How Politics Can Change a Culture and Save It From Itself, Harrison draws on a three year research project examining the dynamics of cultural and political factors. His findings are sometimes controversial, but make interesting points to consider in today's changing world.

Harrison suggests that the values and culture of nations can either promote or prevent progress. He takes a basic view of progress that includes life, liberty, prosperity, education, justice, and health, as these are all better than their alternatives. In Harrison's project, he studied the cultural values of nations from India to China to Sweden to Botswana and compiled a list of 25 factors that influence a nation's progress. These factors include the extent to which people trust each other and women's roles in society. The author is straightforward and honest, suggesting that some religions even promote more progress than others. He also disagrees with George W. Bush's current policies in Iraq and Afghanistan, where illiteracy and compromise are scant, and therefore the nations are likely to resist democracy.

The book presents an interesting look at why certain nations lag behind others. Harrison holds the island of Hispaniola up for example, explaining the diversity between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. He also offers a series of guidelines for developing nations and minorities to improve their political, social, and financial standing. Harrison's previous educational associations with both Tufts and Harvard University, along with his employment with USAID missions certainly lend credence to his research. This book reads like a textbook of a research project, but it provides an interesting peek into why the world is the way it is, and how that possibly can be changed.

Listen to a podcast interview with Lawrence Harrison at

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