Poorer Richard's America: What Would Ben Say?
By Tom Blair
Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.
If you are just looking for a delightful book, you would not go wrong in choosing this one. Blair has certainly captured Ben Franklin’s voice, and whether or not you agree with all the wisdom espoused, I assure you that it is both refreshing and wonderful.
On page XIX, "Notes to the Reader," Blair, in the guise of Ben, writes, "So with your leave anticipated, I did petition one of yours to clarify and amplify those things most mystifying to me. And to assure that this missive is contemporary in terminology and speech, this kind gentleman [Ben is referring to Blair] translated and otherwise fashioned my many words to your ear, lest you laugh a confused laugh when you lay your eyes upon my writings" (p. xix).
If you are looking for sage advice about America’s current situation and future possibilities, this is a thoughtful, challenging choice. Blair has not only addressed many contemporary issues (e.g., the national deficit, federal budgets, prejudice, democracy, Republicans and Democrats, taxes, the moment of conception, hardships and sacrifice, marital bliss, the Bill of Rights, foreign affairs, equal rights, health care, love and marriage, and China among others), but he gently offers reasonable, realistic solutions as well.
To give you some sense of Blair’s (Ben’s) writing, here is a quotation from Chapter 19, "The Written Word . . . Yesterday’s Printing, Today’s Media": (Remember this is Ben Franklin speaking as he observes today’s media.) "Alas, as I watch your news, news reported over the airwaves to tens of millions of citizen’s ears, I fear the legs of fair reporting do not always straddle an issue; at times they seem to kick it to one side or another. And, many of those that report the news appear to comingle their opinion with the flow of facts, thus relieving the listener of the need to draw his own conclusions. If, perchance, some of America’s news personalities became judges, they might well sentence the accused before the jury rendered its verdict" (p. 95).
Then, if you are just looking for a collection of Ben’s thoughts, lifted from Poor Richard’s Almanac, this wouldn’t be a bad choice either.
For me, this is a five-star book, first, because it is original in conception and presentation, second, because it is thoughtful and well-written, and, third, because of its sheer entertainment value.