Great read (pardon the pun) on how ideas influence policy…a thesis not overly surprising for a book-a-day place like DC. I also wholly support the notion that most books were more effective as articles as well as the notion that you don’t need to read the entire book to get the key ideas.
I saw the potency of books firsthand while serving recently on the State Department’s policy planning staff. Ideas that originated between covers often shaped conversations and found their way into major speeches or memos. Indeed, a book, by its mere existence, can lend legitimacy to an argument in a sound-bite-driven debate. “There are so many ideas flying around, it’s very important that some have been worked out more thoroughly and comprehensively,” says Anne-Marie Slaughter, the State Department’s policy planning director from 2009 to 2011. “When I find an idea I’ll immediately go to the book to make sure that it’s serious, even if I don’t read the whole book.” The author Leslie Gelb acknowledges that his “Power Rules,”where he argued that G.D.P. matters more than military might, was more influential when reduced to articles. Still, he says, publishing a book “gets people talking about what you did.”
Other key reads? “Nonzero,” “Monsoon,” Lords of Finance,” “This Time is Different,” and even “The Best and the Brightest” all get the nod.
“Nonzero” employs evolutionary biology and game theory to argue that life is not a zero-sum game with a clear winner and loser. “You operate within a much more horizontal setting, where you operate by connecting to others and mobilizing others in ways that advance common causes,” Slaughter says. “ ‘Nonzero’ basically spells out the logic of that.” This idea was reflected in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2010 Internet Freedom speech, which championed the “freedom to connect.” Slaughter, who was policy planning director at the time, says, “We were actively focused on a world in which the power to connect to others is essential.”