While there are few more troubling qualities in people seeking power than overwhelming ambition, there is no more desirable quality in authors. Regrettably, although every politician fantasizes about becoming president, at most one in a thousand writers aims to pen a book addressing the basic questions of life.
Instead, most authors either write about their dreams, desires and resentments or else to meet a need in the marketplace. The result is a towering pile of novels about unhappy childhoods, along with cookbooks, spy novels, bodice rippers, diet books, mysteries, fantasies and tomes on weddings, travel and computers.
How rare and commendable then is an intelligent, thoughtful new release that first aims to explain the causes of the great misfortunes of the last century and then aspires to provide guidance and reasoning towards a peaceful and humane path for life on earth in the future. This is what Jason Scott Jones and John Zmirak have provided with The Race To Save Our Century: Five Core Principles To Promote Peace, Freedom and A Culture of Life.
In not even 200 pages, the authors offer a literate and informed study of the causes of the horrors of the last century — and the chance that they are apt to repeat themselves in our time. The authors begin by noting how much better the world was in many crucial ways at the eve of the First World War. That centennial date marked the end of a period of almost a hundred years of peace, growing prosperity and technical innovation, religious freedom and ease of travel and movement. Soon to follow, of course, were not only campaigns of trench warfare but the rise of the Bolsheviks and the Nazis, the first of the utopian movements that continue to plague us today.
The authors, both practicing Roman Catholics, are a seemingly mismatched pair. A Hawaii native, Jones is a married father of seven and a radio talk show host who has held an assortment of positions in the right-to-life movement. By contrast, the Queens, New York-born and raised Zmirak is a bachelor with a doctorate in literature. However, what they have come up with together is significant: well-written, thoroughly researched and penetrating.
Much in their story is also bound to surprise even knowledgeable readers. I confess that I was unaware that birth control advocate and Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger proposed laws prohibiting those whom the state found unfit — by reason of intellect or character — from ever having children, even if wed.
Jones and Zmirak show how the violence of the last century arose either from a fundamental arrogance and indifference to the value of the individual or, conversely, from a belief that the rights of the individual trump all other rights. Jones and Zmirak argue that this second aim of radical individualism leads to hedonism (or is motivated by it) and that it destroys the ethical and social foundations of civil society.
The authors argue for the necessity of five core principles. These include the idea that every person is made in the image of god and therefore worthy, the belief that law is and must be based in a transcendent moral order, the Catholic idea of subsidiarity, acceptance of the principle of universal brotherhood among people of all races, and a strong belief in the rights of private property. They argue for these ideas by taking the reader through a path of logic involving thinkers as varied as Kant and Marx, Thomas Aquinas and Ludwig von Mises. This is not a light read, but it is a remarkable and important book dealing with the critical issues of civilization in the 21st Century. The authors deserve still more credit in that it is brief and readable.