A few weeks ago, Matt Continetti had an item at TWS listing some of the books that had most shaped his thinking over the years, and he asked for input from readers on their influences. Aware that my conservatism owes itself to more than just repeated muggings by reality, I tried to walk it back in books. It's easy enough to trace it to a beginning point somewhere between Nixon's resignation, which I celebrated as a 21-year old, and Carter's weakness, which served as a wake-up call.
Limiting the influences to books per se is problematic in itself, since so much of what I've consumed in political thought over the last 20 years has been online, and in column or blog formats. Still, at the risk of appearing pretentious (I read them, so you should) or presumptuous (like someone cares), here are ten books that came to mind when I gave some thought to my own political influences...in no particular order...(all links to Amazon)
1984 - George Orwell
Witness - Whittaker Chambers
Reagan: In His Own Hand - Skinner, et al (Editors)
The Black Book of Communism - Stephane Courtois, et al
The Road to Serfdom - Friedrich von Hayek
Liberal Fascism - Jonah Goldberg
A couple others by Horowitz might well make a hypothetical second ten...Destructive Generation, or the more recent compilation Left Illusions for example....as might another Sowell title or two...Basic Economics for sure. A few other "just missed" books like Tocqueville's Democracy in America or Common Sense by Thomas Paine got consideration, but if I start going there, it never ends.
Of the ten above, only two are of 21st century vintage, and since I can fairly be accused at times of bearing the imprint of the last person to sit on me, some more contemporary reading is worth citing too. So here are another 15 (published since about 1995) that informed or entertained or otherwise spoke to me, and that I can recommend as worthwhile reads...again, in no particular order..
The Looming Tower - Lawrence Wright
Imagining the Future; Science and American Democracy - Yuval Levin
Infidel - Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Red Hot Lies - Christopher Horner
Reflections on the Revolution in Europe; Immigration, Islam and the West - Christopher Caldwell
The Secret Life of Bill Clinton - Ambrose Evans Pritchard
The Rape of Nanking - Iris Chang
In Denial: Historians, Communism and Espionage - John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr
America Alone - Mark Steyn
Ex-Friends - Norman Podhoretz
The Skeptical Environmentalist - Bjorn Lomborg
Here's another piece at First Things adapted from a talk Eberstadt gave about her book and its protagonist, and the New Atheism.
I somehow missed this when it was serialized at NRO in 2008. Haven't read the book yet, but it's in the mail.
Penn Gillette on the demise of the Hummer and the freedom to do stupid stuff...
Hummers are stupid and wasteful and if they go away because no one wants to buy one, that'll be just a little sad. It's always a little sad to lose some stupid. I love people doing stupid things that I'd never doâ€”different stupid things than all the stupid things I do. It reminds me that although all over the world we humans have so much in common, so much love, and need, and desire, and compassion and loneliness, some of us still want to do things that the rest of us think are bug-nutty. Some of us want to drive a Hummer, some of us want to eat sheep's heart, liver and lungs simmered in an animal's stomach for three hours, some us want to play poker with professionals and some of us want a Broadway musical based on the music of ABBA. I love people doing things I can't understand. It's heartbreaking to me when people stop doing things that I can't see any reason for them to be doing in the first place. I like people watching curling while eating pork rinds.
But if any part of the Hummer going belly-up are those government rules we're putting in on miles per gallon, or us taking over of GM, then I'm not just sad, I'm also angry. Lack of freedom can be measured directly by lack of stupid. Freedom means freedom to be stupid. We never need freedom to do the smart thing. You don't need any freedom to go with majority opinion. There was no freedom required to drive a Prius before the recall. We don't need freedom to recycle, reuse and reduce. We don't need freedom to listen to classic rock, classic classical, classic anything or Terry Gross. We exercise our freedom to its fullest when we are at our stupidest.
How public employees became members of the elite class in a declining California offers a cautionary tale to the rest of the country, where the same process is happening in slower motion. The story starts half a century ago, when California public workers won bargaining rights and quickly learned how to elect their own bossesâ€”that is, sympathetic politicians who would grant them outsize pay and benefits in exchange for their support. Over time, the unions have turned the stateâ€™s politics completely in their favor. The result: unaffordable benefits for civil servants; fiscal chaos in Sacramento and in cities and towns across the state; and angry taxpayers finally confronting the unionized masters of Californiaâ€™s unsustainable government.
(The cartoon alone is worth the click over)
One of the challenges facing Republicans this fall and in 2012, is getting elected without minimizing the trouble we are in with our debt-spending-deficit crisis, and without sugar-coating the fact that the medicine we require will not taste good. I suspect most Americans realize that recovery from the mess both parties have gotten us into will not be pain-free, and most of them are willing to "tighten their belts". But only to the extent that they can credibly perceive government and the rest of the public sector to be doing the same thing. That's where the disconnect has been, and that's the basis for tea party activism, as far as I can see.
Peter Hitchens reports from China for the Daily Mail.
In the cruel old China, baby girls were often left to die in the gutters. In the cruel modern China, they are aborted by the tens of millions, using all the latest technology.
There is an ugly new word for this mass slaughter: gendercide.
Thanks to a state policy which has limited many families to one child since 1979, combined with an ancient and ruthless prejudice in favour of sons, the world's new superpower is beginning the century of its supremacy with an alarming surplus of males.
By the year 2020, there will be 30 million more men than women of marriageable age in this giant empire, so large and so different (its current population is 1,336,410,000) that it often feels more like a separate planet than just another country. Nothing like this has ever happened to any civilisation before.
All kinds of speculation is now seething about what might happen; a war to cull the surplus males, a rise in crime, a huge expansion in the prostitution that is already a major industry in every Chinese city, a rise in homosexuality.
Three things are for sure. It cannot now be prevented, and it is already beginning to be obvious in the schools. It is also stimulating a miserable trade in stolen children.
You'd hope that the scarcer women became, the more valued and revered they would be by a society. The picture Hitchens paints shows them instead disdained by their own families as "spilt water", stolen and trafficked in by criminal gangs, and exploited in the thriving prostitution trade or sold to elite families as mates for privileged males.
Meet your new superpower. A country with 30 million young men without prospective mates. This can't end well. Read it all of course.
Buffoon, I believe, was the word Jonah Goldberg used earlier.
James Taranto on the President's call for patience. Rich.
If you can, carve out some time to read Donald Marron's lead article from the current issue of National Affairs, entitled "America in the Red". It's informative without being overly wonkish, and communicates the seriousness of the fix we're in while holding out hope that we can recover...if, that is, we act decisively and soon on multiple fronts.
Another in the "we are so screwed" series, this one by Robert Samuelson in the Washington Post