About Me

Kyle Smith (Twitter: @rkylesmith) is critic-at-large for National Review, theater critic for The New Criterion and the author of the novels Love Monkey and A Christmas Caroline. Type a title in the box above to locate a review.

Buy Love Monkey for $4! "Hilarious"--Maslin, NY Times. "Exceedingly readable and wickedly funny romantic comedy"--S.F. Chronicle. "Loud and brash, a helluva lot of fun"--Entertainment Weekly. "Engaging romp, laugh-out-loud funny"-CNN. "Shrewd, self-deprecating, oh-so-witty. Smith's ruthless humor knows no bounds"--NPR

Buy A Christmas Caroline for $10! "for those who prefer their sentimentality seasoned with a dash of cynical wit. A quick, enjoyable read...straight out of Devil Wears Prada"--The Wall Street Journal

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  • Living with Down Syndrome Kids

    By kyle | April 1, 2013

    In my Sunday column (extra bonus this week), I ask: If Down Syndrome children aren’t suffering, and they aren’t, then why are we so afraid to allow them to come into existence?

    Topics: Philosophy, Uncategorized | 56 Comments »

    Steve Jobs’ Deadliest Mistake

    By kyle | October 7, 2011

    It’s horrifying to learn that Steve Jobs, for all his brilliance in some fields, was massively hostile to science. That decision probably shortened his life and may well have cost him a normal lifespan. When he first learned he had cancer in the pancreas, this Zen buddhist, like many another California celebrity, rejected conventional wisdom and the near-unanimous opinion of the medicial community and pursued quack cures such as dietary adjustments. Nine months later, when he discovered the tumor had become enlarged (and apparently spread to nearby organs), he finally chose surgery. “Think different” and “follow your dreams” are said to be the lesson of Jobs’ life. A wiser one might be, “Know what you don’t know.” Consider whether a knee-jerk contrarian attitude, even to fields in which you have no expertise, is wise. To be plain, Jobs shortened his life because he thought he was smarter than his doctors.

    Jobs raises anew what I might call the Mickey Mantle question: In a zero-sum situation such as allocating livers for transplant in a world in which demand exceeds supply, is all human life to be valued at the same level? Mantle was a drunk who received a new liver he didn’t really deserve and anyway died a couple of years later.

    Jobs had a liver transplant in 2009. That means some other person who needed a liver didn’t get it. This new liver may have shortened his life further (transplants require drugs to suppress the immune system, which is unwise if you have metastasized cancer) but in any case didn’t extend it beyond two years. I assume it would have been evident to the doctors who installed Jobs’ new liver that the chances of a long-term favorable outcome were very poor since the liver was not the site of localized disease but of metastasized cancer, which is more or less a death sentence.

    I don’t know whether Jobs jumped the queue but it does seem that celebrities and rich people enjoy remarkably good fortune when it comes to confrontations with bureaucracy. Granting that Jobs was a great man — should great men be allowed to jump the queue for liver transplants? What if the person who didn’t get one would have lived another 25 years? Is two years of Jobs’ life worth 25 of an ordinary person’s?

    Topics: Philosophy, Tech | 17 Comments »

    Conquest’s Law (Cont.)

    By kyle | September 19, 2011

    It’s kind of hilarious to read all about how evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins is an insistent statist, Obama fan, etc. Because on the subject on which he is actually an expert, it’s a different story:

    Professor Dawkins’s voice slides playfully into High David Attenborough style as he mimics the mellifluous tone of BBC documentaries of the time: “The dung beetle is the refuse collector of the natural system, and where would we be without them? And male deer fight but take care not to kill each other.”

    He stops. “That sort of thinking was pretty dominant in the culture.” Artful pause. “And it’s plain wrong. I wanted to correct that ubiquitous misunderstanding.”

    Genes, he says, try to maximize their chance of survival. The successful ones crawl down through the generations. The losers, and their hosts, die off. A gene for helping the group could not persist if it endangered the survival of the individual.

    Such insights were in the intellectual air by the mid-1960s. But Professor Dawkins grasped the power of metaphor — that selfish gene — and so made the idea come alive. Andrew Read, a professor of natural history at Penn State, recalls reading “The Selfish Gene” and feeling his world change.

    “Gone in a stroke was the intellectually barren ‘it just is’ hypothesis,” he wrote in an essay. “ ‘The Selfish Gene’ crystallized it and made it impossible to ignore.”

    Not everyone bought the argument. The moral implications proved deeply troubling, suggesting that altruism disguised selfish, gene-driven behavior. “Many readers experienced the book as a psychic trauma,” wrote Dr. Randolph Nesse, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan. “It turned their moral worlds upside down.”

    Prominent scientists and intellectuals cast Professor Dawkins as the herald angel of a selfish culture, accusing him and his fellow sociobiologists of setting the cultural stage for the “I got mine” age of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

    Dawkins knows ruthless competition and individualism are the way the world works, always and forever, yet he votes for politicians who hold the opposite philosophy. As Robert Conquest said, “Everybody is reactionary on subjects he knows about.”

    Topics: Philosophy, Politics | 5 Comments »

    Review: “Ayn Rand and the World She Made”

    By kyle | November 1, 2009

    I highly recommend Anne C. Heller’s biography, “Ayn Rand and the World She Made,” which gives an invigorating look into the ideas but is unsparing about Rand’s wretched personality. My review is up. The book is currently at no. 70 on

    Topics: Books, Business, Economics, Europe, New York City, Philosophy, Politics, Religion | No Comments »

    We’re the Most Pathetic Men in History

    By kyle | November 1, 2009

    If it weren’t for Seattle Seahawk Owen Schmitt defending a disappearing ideal, where would we be? More on the fall of men in my Sunday column.

    Topics: History, Philosophy | No Comments »

    Congratulations Gay Patriots

    By kyle | April 7, 2009

    Vermont has done the nation proud, becoming the first state to make the morally correct decision to legalize gay marriage the proper way, the way a democratic republic is supposed to institute changes in laws — through elected legislatures whose job is to govern the way they believe the people want them to. The governor of Vermont vetoed a gay marriage bill (using as cover the obviously specious argument that an economic downturn is no time for such distractions, as though people don’t get married in economic downturns — and as though attracting gay couples to your state to marry has no economic value). The legislature overturned the veto by a 2/3 supermajority. Who knew you could fit nearly 200 representatives and senators in Vermont, a state so teeny that we Massachusettsans kicked sand in its face on our way to Maine?

    There is no good reason why gays should be deprived of the right to marry, gay relationships are not immoral, the Bible’s views on the matter are irrelevant given that book’s pro-genocide stance and other repugnant teachings, gay marriage does not pose some sort of threat to straight people (or the traditional family) and an increasing portion of the country realizes the time to legalize gay marriage has arrived. But it is vitally important that it not be imposed on citizens against their will by small groups of judges willfully misreading constitutions.

    If I were gay I’d reward Vermont with my tourism dollars and have a big gay honeymoon there. And to gays across the nation looking forward to getting hitched in a state where the legality of same-sex marriage can’t be questioned, I say, Welcome to being caged up with the same person for the rest of your life, suckers!*
    More from Gay Patriot.

    *To the Missus–Just kidding! Mwah.

    Topics: News, Philosophy, Politics | 17 Comments »

    Liberals Are Cavemen

    By kyle | April 1, 2009

    A very interesting blog by an economics professor named Scott Sumner relays this point from Cato’s Will Wilkinson about why people (liberal people, by which I mean statists) can’t think rationally about economics. Our brains didn’t evolve in a way conducive to understanding a non-zero-sum-game. In other words, we’re hard-wired to think that if you are getting richer, it is somehow costing me. Hating the rich was once rational. That primal feeling remains, for some. The Democratic party should give credit where it is due for the foundations of their economic philosophy: to Fred Flintstone.

    Because of the social nature of hunting and gathering, the fact that food spoiled quickly, and the utter lack of privacy, the benefits of individual success in hunting and foraging could not be easily internalized by the individual, and were expected to be shared. The EEA [i.e. Stone Age] was for the most part a zero-sum world, where increases in total wealth through invention, investment, and extended economic exchange were totally unknown. More for you was less for me. Therefore, if anyone managed to acquire a great deal more than anyone else, that was pretty good evidence that theirs was a stash of ill-gotten gains . . . Our zero-sum mentality makes it hard for us to understand how trade and investment can increase the total amount of wealth. We are thus ill-equipped to easily understand our own economic system.

    Sumner, by the way, calls himself a “right-wing liberal,” which sounds like a pretty nifty term.

    Topics: Economics, Philosophy, Politics | 2 Comments »

    Dagny Lives! “Atlas Shrugged” The Movie

    By kyle | April 1, 2009

    It’s been rumored before but Lou has the scoop on how a handful of Hollywood conservatives think this is the moment to finally bring “Atlas Shrugged” to the screen. It’s never been buzzier and is said to have been selling more now than it ever has in its entire history. Lou (quoting my pal Steve Zeitchik at the Hollywood Reporter) says Angelina Jolie’s dithering has made producers turn an eye toward Julia Roberts (?), Charlize Theron (!) and Anne Hathaway (~) instead. Here’s an idea: Zack Snyder to direct. Or Brad Bird? Who says he can’t do live action?

    Topics: Books, Movies, Philosophy, Politics | 7 Comments »

    There Is No Such Thing As Greed

    By kyle | March 29, 2009

    In my Sunday column I point out that there’s nothing unseemly or immoral about wanting more — therefore, there is no such thing as greed. Now that the Obama administration is on record as stating that there should be more greed, maybe my viewpoint is catching on.

    Topics: Barack Obama, Economics, Philosophy, Politics | 2 Comments »

    “Atlas Shrugged” Selling Faster Than Ever

    By kyle | March 14, 2009

    Says this Randian, in the Wall Street Journal today. Says It’s the #41 best selling book at the moment.

    Topics: Barack Obama, Books, Philosophy, Politics | 26 Comments »

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