Techno-enthusiast Al’s discussion is interesting, if occasionally heavy-handed in its erudition. With so many facts on display, errors inevitably creep in: Bronze wasn’t chosen over copper in ancient times because copper is too brittle (it isn’t brittle at all) but because bronze tools could hold an edge under hard use, as copper tools couldn’t. Even so, Mr. Gore’s fans will find the book a useful introduction to the future, if not to the past. Yes, he does go on about climate change at some length, but that is hardly news. There is much, much more to the book than a rehash of the global-warming debate.
But then Savonarola Al intervenes, his fondness for high-toned scolding coloring every topic. It’s a pretty monochromatic color. After reading Savonarola Al’s sermons, one might be excused for thinking that all of the evils in the world come from corporations. There is a lot about what Mr. Gore calls “the domineering crimes of the robber barons” and the evils of capitalism, but the actual “crimes” that Mr. Gore mentions, chiefly lobbying efforts that thwart regulation, don’t seem all that bad in comparison with the things that governments are capable of doing. In much of the Third World—think Zimbabwe or Iran—people have far more to fear from the despotic regimes that misrule them than they do from private enterprise. And even in the free world, governments have a coercive power that no corporation can rival. Hence the need for lobbyists as a check on wealth-destroying intrusions into markets and abridgments of commercial freedom.