Review of James P. Gray’s A Voter’s Handbook

voters-handbook-140A Voter’s Handbook: Effective Solutions to America’s Problems
by James P. Gray (Costa Rica 1966–68)
The Forum Press
200 pages

Reviewed by Ken Hill (Turkey 1965-67)


A VOTER’S HANDBOOK poses solutions for a myriad of public policy issues based on the assertion that government is the central problem which can be fixed by reducing government’s span and resources. Shrink government; grow entrepreneurship; expand choice and go back to “American Fundamentals,” says Mr. Gray. In the process, thankfully, he poses some practical approaches to a few of today’s most vexing issues; illegal immigration, for example, and treating the mentally ill who are not institutionalized.


A lawyer and judge, Mr. Gray has spent his life in the law, wandering occasionally into politics. A Republican candidate for Congress in 1998, he later ran as a Libertarian candidate in the 2004 California Senatorial race. In 2009, Mr. Gray retired after 25 years as a sitting judge before which he pursued the law both in private practice and as a public attorney in the military and civilian service. From 1966 to 1968 he served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Costa Rica.


The central problem, in Mr. Gray’s view, is too much government getting in the way: “Government is the reason for our healthcare collapse.”  He courageously attacks various complex problems using admittedly simple solutions, beginning with a change in attitude and expectations. At the outset of A Voter’s Guide, he uses a variety of simplistic anecdotes about the evils of government intrusion and engagement to the detriment of our society, some dating from the old Soviet Union. A much stronger case is required.


Mr. Gray wanders through the criminal justice system, public education, healthcare, immigration, tax policy, nuclear energy, pervasive government, etc., and suggests the way to achieve his solutions. Occasionally, he escapes the doctrinaire. It is a bit ironic, for example, for a “libertarian” to suggest that school uniforms be encouraged in all our schools. His approach to illegal immigration avoids the Maginot Line approach of the current right wing and suggests a practicable policy of control. Unfortunately, it stops short of a solution for the 12 million or more illegals currently in the United States which is the current sticking point on most policy options.


A Voter’s Guide is a discussion of critical public policy issues from a rather personal perspective. That Mr. Gray occasionally escapes the predictable and doctrinaire to offer some unexpectedly intriguing ideas makes it a more interesting read. Thankfully, it is a short book and one saving grace is a Bob Dylan quote. Can’t be all bad!


Ken Hill (Turkey 1965-67) was on the Peace Corps and ACTION staff until 1977. He returned to Peace Corps in 1994 to direct Peace Corps programs in Eastern Russia, Bulgaria and Macedonia and became Chief of Operations for Europe and Asia in ’99–’00. During 2001 he was Chief of Staff of Peace Corps Headquarters and retired at the end of that year. Ken was Chair of the Board of the National Peace Corps Association from 2004–06. Today he serves on the Board of Friends of Turkey (Arkadaşlar) and the Bulgarian-American Society. He has been an Organization for Security and Co-operation election observer in Kazakhstan, Bosnia, Kyrgyzstan, Albania, and Azerbaijan, and has served on selection panels for the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars and the Muskie Graduate Fellowship program in Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Ukraine and Tajikistan. He is active in local and regional politics and civic affairs. Ken lives in Alexandria, Virginia with wife Winnie, a CPA, RPCV (Nepal) and former Peace Corps staff member.
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