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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

10 books with a positive influence

Human Events has a list of the 10 most dangerous books from the 19th and 20th century. Over at Sobering Thoughts I have my list of the 10 books that best influenced the 20th century (including my reasons). Here's the list without my reasons:

1. The Gulag Archipelago -- Aleksander Solzhenitsyn
2. The Road to Serfdom -- F.A. Hayek
3. Bureaucracy -- Ludwig von Mises
4. The Theology of the Body According to John Paul II: Human Love in the Divine Plan
5. Smoking and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General -- Surgeon General's Office
6. Mere Christianity -- C.S. Lewis
7. God and Man at Yale -- William F. Buckley
8. Capitalism and Freedom -- Milton Friedman
9. Orthodoxy -- G.K. Chesterton
10. Natural Right and History - Leo Strauss

Posted by Paul Tuns on May 31, 2005 in Books | Permalink


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» Danger Family Robinson! Detecting Literature! from Radar Monger
I'd just like to put my two cents in about the "harmful books" list. Human Events really really really wants to make conservatives look bad. Firstly, the premise that a book (being a collection of semi-manufactured bits of dead trees with ink applied... [Read More]

Tracked on 2005-06-01 7:11:22 PM


Didn't realize that John Stuart Mills's "On Liberty" was one of the most dangerous books of the modern world. Freedom of speech, freedom markets, freedom of ideas, freedom of conscience and religion. I can see what those are so threatening to a conservative organization like Human Events.

Posted by: TB | 2005-05-31 10:55:35 PM

It's late. Now without the typos:

Didn't realize that John Stuart Mills's "On Liberty" was one of the most dangerous books of the modern world. Freedom of speech, free markets, freedom of ideas, freedom of conscience and religion. I can see why those are so threatening and dangerous to a closed-minded conservative organization like Human Events.

Posted by: TB | 2005-05-31 10:57:04 PM

I also wonder at the inclusion as it seems contrary to the general tone of content at Human Events. However, simply throwing out ideas, it may be due to the perversion of these ideas by various parties. Most ideas , if caught in the head of a lunatic, can be twisted into something entirely antithetical to their original intent.

After all, we have seen the concepts of "freedoms and rights" conscientously expanded by the lefties.(Freedom from responsibility for your actions, the right to be a hopeless moron and have someone else clean up your mess, freedom from adverse consquences to irresponsible actions, etc.)

And to TB, I daresay that true conservatives are the only ones pushing these ideas. Particularly in a fetid swamp of socialist greed such as Canada has shown itself to be of late. Please enlighten me as to the last time the speNDP has endorsed anything vaguely resembling these ideas. Don't even start with the Liberals, as their idea of free markets has some peculiar twists also (Wheat Board, endless EDC subsidies for Bombardier, Nortel, etc.) which combined with our current PM's aversion to paying taxes in the country he is "leader" of paints a dismal grasp of these concepts also. Duceppe does little beyond try to wring every dollar out of the rest of Canada to throw at the French nightmare in the New World. Of the leaders, I have only ever heard of Stephen Harper having the intelligence/integrity/naivete to tell the Bay Streetwalkers that if they want lower taxes to expect lower subsidies.

On the freedom of ideas, conscience and religion, Who yells racist whenever mention is made of immigration standards passed by the Liberals is brought up? Who painted Stockwell day as David Koresh for his religious beliefs, while Chretien and Martin ,who are supposedly Catholic, (some crazy stuff going on with those folks if the coverage of the new Pope is an indicator) get a free pass?

Ideas? Paul Martin is supposedly a friend of Hernando de Soto, Nobel laureate in economics, yet refuses to reform Indian land ownership so as to provide them with the best chance to build a future for themselves (Read THE MYSTERY OF CAPITAL and the recent Fraser Institute report by Tanis Fiss). The current system has had virtually zero success since implementation, but no need to change, right?

And lastly Medicare, the proverbial anchor around this country's neck. Most politicians are so scared of tinkering with the ideas of a long-dead socialist it sickens me. Outside Cuba and North Korea, Canada is the only country in the world where it is illegal to pay for care which is normally paid for by government. This is fresh, innovative thinking? It is group suicide. The Conservatives are the only party who have ever expressed anything other than a near-religious devotion to this abomination.

God forbid anyone actually read this whole spiel, if you did either you are nodding your head in agreement or spitting mad.

Posted by: Shawn | 2005-06-01 12:23:56 AM

John Stuart Mill's 'On Liberty' was directed against conservatives, not liberals. I'm not sure what you mean by 'true' conservatives, but if by that you mean libertarians, then you're right. Otherwise, you miss Mill's point.

'True' conservatives, as I understand it, want to limit certain lifestyle choices, something Mill expressly said in 'On Liberty' should be permitted. Conservatives don't take kindly to gay marriage, to using drugs, to atheism, and so on. Mill, however, insisted that we cannot know whether or not these things would improve or worsen our lives--given the differences between people--and so we should allow experimentation. Should it turn out badly, well, someone has offered him or herself as a guinea pig, and we have learned something good for us. Should it turn out well, then we have a case we can mimic to improve our own lives.

Mill did not talk about markets in the sense of buying and selling in 'On Liberty.' Instead, he talked about the 'market of ideas,' and experimentation in lifestyles.

Posted by: P.M.Jaworski | 2005-06-01 5:51:25 AM

I don't know what is more dangerous, the books themselves or the list of books one should be afraid of?

Posted by: Mariusz Kolakowski | 2005-06-01 8:51:08 AM

Let me propose a few:

Origin of the Species, Charles Darwin

Atomic Structure and Spectral Lines, Arnold Sommerfeld

The g Factor: The Science of Mental Ability, Arthur R. Jensen

I could add a lot of articles in the fields of mathematics, science and technology, but they are not strictly "books".

Posted by: Peter | 2005-06-01 9:47:49 AM

Regarding Paul's list, I would agree with the choices of The Gulag Archipelago, The Road to Serfdom, Mere Christianity, and perhaps Orthodoxy. However, I don't think that Bureaucracy or The Theology of the Body have been that influential outside of the fairly narrow circles of free market economics fans and orthodox Catholics. (I would also rate Veritatis Splendor over Theology of the Body as JP2's most important and influential text). And I would put The Conservative Mind by Russell Kirk ahead of God and Man at Yale as a more influential text for the American conservative movement.

If fiction counts, George Orwell's 1984 should be at or near the top of the list. If not, Orwell's Collected Essays or Homage to Catalonia would be contenders. Also in fiction, a case could be made for Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and Waugh's Brideshead Revisited.

Other books that could be considered include Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind (which probably sold far more copies and had more influence than anything by Bloom's mentor, Leo Strauss.)

Posted by: Joe McCartney | 2005-06-01 10:08:41 AM

>If fiction counts, George Orwell's 1984

If anything that book was helpful as a prophecy; it was not in any way harmful.

I'd love to see a list that a liberal brain trust would come up with as "harmful". Orwell probably would appear on that least, as he did a lot to expose the realpolitik and dangers of socialism.

Posted by: Snowy | 2005-06-01 10:45:55 AM

Hayek and Von Mises...indespensible reading....personally I would have included Thomas Paine's Rights of Man...but....;-0

Posted by: WLMackenzie redux | 2005-06-01 10:47:59 AM

I wrote in my last post:

>If anything ... [Orwell's 1984] was helpful as a prophecy; it was not in any way harmful.

Oops sorry, was skimming through the posts way too fast and didn't realize Orwell was on a good list...

Totally agree he belongs on a list of beneficial writers.

Posted by: Snowy | 2005-06-01 10:50:26 AM

"expose the realpolitik and dangers of socialism"?

Have you read 1984? I would forgive anyone who admitted they couldn't slog through the whole thing. It's fairly ponderous.

Orwell's target was a bit bigger than mere socialism. Modernity maybe?

Shawn, you forgot one reaction to your speil. A bemused smirk. That's the reaction I usually get whenever I go on some pretentious rant which is designed to demonstrate how superior I am.

-- Rotten

Posted by: Johnny Rotten | 2005-06-01 11:02:36 AM

What? No "Atlas Shrugged"?

Posted by: JasperPants | 2005-06-01 11:21:17 AM

And on the 'lighter' side -- but still wickedly insightful -- Calvin & Hobbes.

Posted by: Linda | 2005-06-01 12:08:58 PM

I've got nothing to say about the first 4 books, but I am taken aback at the utter nonsense of producing a list of dangerous books in this day and age. What's next? How about we gather round for a big'ol book burnin?
I'm surprised that site didn't list any texts which have lead to countless millions laid to waste in the name of religion.
Nope, books that have expanded the human mind to new ideas and ways of thinking are the dangerous ones.
Heaven forbid we address human sexuality, education, female repression, free thought, introspection on the human race...etc. Even if we oppose these ideas in their extremes the least we can say is we looked into it.
I suppose if we all read Ann Coulter this would be a better world. Jebus save us!

Posted by: Gamblog | 2005-06-01 12:16:40 PM

Imagine a world where any idea could be discussed politely and rationally without being shouted down by those who fear it. I'm not sure most of you would like that to come to pass.

Posted by: lrC | 2005-06-01 1:22:48 PM

Lists are like opinions and rectums. Everbody's got one.

Posted by: JR | 2005-06-01 1:34:04 PM

It was not designed to demonstrate "superiority", I was merely expressing what I perceive to be rather glaring contradictions between TB's statements and the reality of Canadian politics. Are you suggesting that the current trend of redistributing portfolios and spending more money on the same tired socialistic programs represents innovative political thought. As far as bemused smirks go, glad I could make your day. I respect your right to be snide.

Posted by: Shawn | 2005-06-01 1:38:08 PM

I daresay that the world would be much better off without the demented musings of Hitler and his comrades-in-thought Marx, Engels, Lenin and Mao. The only practical use I can see for these "books" would be for studying sociopathology, or perhaps kleptomania.

Posted by: Shawn | 2005-06-01 1:42:29 PM

I would put Taylor Caldwell's books (all of them) on the list of books that shaped people's thinking in a positive way. Taylor Caldwell shaped the way a number of people of 'The Greatest Generation' thought and still do think. "Captains and Kings" is her most well known book because it was a novel about the life of John F. Kennedy. She wrote books about real life but with an underlying theme that no matter how bad things get, God is always the final Judge and He is Just.
Taylor Caldwell allows the reader to glimpse a wonderful mystery about life, the mystery is about the Glory of God in peoples lives that manifests itself in her books without preachy redundance. Taylor Cauldwell, like the 30's kids, loved Abstact nouns, the 30's kids were our parents and grandparents; the genetics have not changed - the way people think has: thinking and the power to think in the abstract is the reason that they were 'The Greatest Generation'.

Posted by: Jema54 | 2005-06-01 2:50:06 PM

James Fitzjames Stephen, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity (LF ed.) (1882)
About the Book

The Liberty Fund edition of this work. Impugning John Stuart Mill’s famous treatise, On Liberty, Stephen criticized Mill for turning abstract doctrines of the French Revolution into "the creed of a religion." Only the constraints of morality and law make liberty possible, warned Stephen, and attempts to impose unlimited freedom, material equality, and an indiscriminate love of humanity will lead inevitably to coercion and tyranny.



Stephen's message/works are now being revisited/studied.

Posted by: maz2 | 2005-06-01 3:14:15 PM

I agree with those who find the list offensive. Ideas, in and of themselves, are not dangerous. Having only free speech that you like is useless. Ideas and speech are supposed to offend and provoke response. "Human Events" lost a lot of my respect by even thinking of such a list.

Posted by: Strong and Free in AB | 2005-06-01 3:23:52 PM

Mill did not believe in or suggest unlimited freedom. His maxim was clear - if an action only affects me, it is not government's business to regulate the activity. If the action harms or has the potential to harm others, government action may be warranted. Mill was no anarchist. His idea, among others, was the basis for the concept of limited government and for a conservative bunch to find it offensive is truly amazing to me.

Posted by: Strong and Free in AB | 2005-06-01 3:43:51 PM

Strong and Free in AB: I agree. On Liberty is one of the great and most influential books of the modern liberal-democratic state and economy. But I think the fissure on this issue for Human Events and other groups of this ilk is along the lines of economic and individual liberty free from state control vs. social conservatism where the state has great power to control individual behaviour.

Posted by: TB | 2005-06-01 3:51:08 PM

Heres three nonfiction informative,interesting,smart Conservative reads. 1-On Higher Ground by William D Gairdner. 2-Slander by Anne Coulter. 3-All Things Considered by Michael Coren.

Posted by: Larry | 2005-06-01 4:33:06 PM

NOTE HERES A GREAT READ-The Case For Christ by former top journalist-crime lawyer and athiest Lee Strobel. This book contains information from a dozen top scholars all with earned PH.d's. Degrees in science,archeology,history and theology. They all give sound,smart and informed reasons by way of ancient manuscripts,archeology finds,predicted phophecy's which in fact came true,ancient secular and Biblical authors ect.,. Given sound reasons the Biblical Jesus Christ is real and factual. Not a dry read but rather highly interesting and explainable plus smart.

Posted by: Larry | 2005-06-01 4:56:27 PM

Jema54 I read most of Taylor Caldwells books about thirty years ago at about the same time I read Atlas Shrugged and Fountainhead. Now I cant remember most of what they were about but I seem to recall that they were similar in ways to Rands in that the fictional heroes were overbearing. I seem to recall also that Taylor Caldwell's opinion on children was they should be seen and not heard. I did consider her a great writer. What stands out to me about ATlas Shrugged, other than the story itself was plowing through 80 pages or so of her philosophy at the back. Still a good read at the time.

Posted by: MikeP | 2005-06-01 7:59:20 PM

Mike P
I am glad to know that you liked Taylor Caldwell's books too. Yes, her heros are overbearing - I think heros should be overbearing, whimps have never been heros in my books. She wrote about people in another "age", when children were to be seen and not heard - not because they were not loved but because childern should be protected from adult conversations and concerns. Too many people are their childern's servants, credability is given to the selfish demands of little people who should never be burdened with the responsibility of decision making. Parents of people who were part of large families did not view their offspring as commodities - they were allowed to grow up with siblings and they learned how to love and share and how to fight for their rights. Adults were hardly ever in their lives except at mealtime and bedtime. Taylor Caldwell recognized that childern can be mean and tyrants if they are allowed to believe they have power over adults.
I think what I admired most about Taylor Caldwell is that she recogninzed that evil exists and that it is very powerful. She wrote about evil people and she did not defend the evil in their souls. The denial of the fact that evil exists and that some people are evil is what is ruining the chance for mankind to have a future as free people.

Posted by: Jema54 | 2005-06-02 1:17:51 AM

What about Clausewitz or Sun Tzu? Surely some military strategy is useful.

My preference is for books about Patton, the man who got things done.

Avoid books about Canadian history, most of which is total fiction designed to convince people of Ontario's supremacy.

Posted by: Scott | 2005-06-02 2:27:44 AM

Why is Ayn Rand's Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal not there?
Her fiction books are amazing as well, but if we're solely sticking to non-fiction the above title or
"The Virtue of Selfishness" should be listed.
These books remain (or are more) relevant today, sadly.
Will there ever be a day where individualism is valued as highly as it should be in Canada?

Posted by: Charlote | 2005-06-02 6:48:33 PM

"I am taken aback at the utter nonsense of producing a list of dangerous books in this day and age. What's next? How about we gather round for a big'ol book burnin?"

This is not about burning books, but labelling them. Why is it nonsense to consider the impact of ideas, both good and bad, in our culture?
What if the book we are talking about is Mein Kampf, by Adolf Hitler (#2 on their list). Can we grant that a book that vaulted a man into power, who turned a democratic Germany into a totalitarian state, started a war that killed 50 million people, and commited genocide against 6 million Jews ... that such a book that expressed Hitler's philosophy was 'dangerous'?

Or how about Communism, which killed 100 million in the 20th century? Can we not call the ideas underlying these brutal regimes at least a wee bit 'dangerous'? Are you also opposed to movie ratings too, btw?

PS. I think the addition of John Stuart Mill is questionable at best, however, the reason may be due to the implications of his ideas in taking us to moral relativism and utilitarianism, both of which undermine society. Anyway, it's not on the Human Events top ten list.

There is merit to a positive list of good books to read. My entry: Bastiat's "The Law" is must read for all.

Posted by: PJ | 2007-06-03 1:58:14 PM

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