The Burden of Bad Ideas: How Modern
Intellectuals Misshape Our Society
(Ivan R. Dee, 2000)

256 pages $26.00 / ISBN 1-56663-337-0

by Heather Mac Donald

Manhattan Institute
City Journal

The Burden of Bad Ideas.
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The upside-down world of public policy, and how it got that way

Critics have attacked the foolishness of some of today's elite thought from many angles, but few have examined the real-world consequences of those ideas. In The Burden of Bad Ideas, Heather Mac Donald reports on their disastrous effects throughout our society. At a Brooklyn high school, students perfect their graffiti skills for academic credit. An Ivy League law professor urges blacks to steal from their employers. Washington bureaucrats regard theft by drug addicts as evidence of disability, thereby justifying benefits. Public health officials argue that racism and sexism cause women to get AIDS. America's premier monument to knowledge, the Smithsonian Institution, portrays science as white man's religion. Such absurdities, Ms. Mac Donald argues, grow out of a powerful set of ideas that have governed our public policy for decades, the product of university faculties and a professional elite who are convinced that America is a deeply unjust society. And while these beliefs have damaged the nation as a whole, she observes, they have hit the poor especially hard. Her reports trace the transformation of influential opinion-makers (such as the New York Times) and large philanthropic foundations from confident advocates of individual responsibility, opportunity, and learning into apologists for the welfare state. In a series of closely reported stories from the streets of New York to the seats of intellectual power, The Burden of Bad Ideas reveals an upside-down world and how it got that way.

Heather Mac Donald is a John M. Olin Fellow at The Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor to City Journal, the quarterly magazine of urban affairs where most of the pieces in this book originated. She is a nonpracticing lawyer who has degrees in English from Yale and Cambridge universities. She lives and works in New York City.

Reviews.
Critical Acclaim.

Excoriating the Enablers, in 12 Chapters | Robin Finn | The New York Times | November 28, 2000

"No journalist now writing about urban problems has produced a body of work matching that of Heather Mac Donald. One of the cadre of analysts who have made The Manhattan Institute's City Journal so valuable, Mac Donald is, as readers of this volume will discover, indispensable."
George F. Will

"If there were any justice in the world, Mac Donald would be knee-deep in Pulitzer Prizes and National Magazine Awards for her pioneering work."
David Brooks

"Heather Mac Donald is a brilliant journalist of the first rank."
JOHN LEO, U.S. News & World Report

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