Unless bolstered by evidence and reasoning, cheery optimism is not reassuring. Edward Luce, with the Financial Times, scolds the United States for squandering its influence in Time to Start Thinking: America and the Spectre of Decline. Politicians and citizens, increasingly polarized over ridiculous issues, studiously ignore the many global-scale problems at hand. The nation could emerge strong once again by bolstering the middle class, investing in education and infrastructure, and emphasizing innovation. Reviewer Alistair Burnett, editor of BBC’s The World, compares the criticism to a stern wake-up call from a friend.