Books to Read
by Tom Donelson on August 24, 2010 at 9:44 AM
Armed with a Nook for the weekend, I had the chance to read Tom Sowell’s “Dismantling America” and the F.A Hayek classic, The Road to Serfdom. In today’s America, knowledge is king. The following are a few books I would recommend to help in understanding the period we live in.
The Road to Serfdom is a Hayek classic that talks about the problem of central planning and how even in democracy, central planning can eventually lead to a loss of freedom. For Hayek, economic freedom was an important component to political freedom and he also connected the dots between Fascism, Communism, Nazism and socialism to show that Fascism was just one aspect of Marxism. Peter Drucker once observed, “Fascism is the next step after communism shows to be an illusion.” Hayek did not state that it was automatic that the United States or Great Britain would turn into a totalitarian nightmare, but he did warn that a generation or two, under socialism, makes us weaker in protecting all of our freedoms. His last book, Fatal Conceit, continues the theme that central planning was doomed to fail. The fatal conceit was that central planners felt they could manage a modern day economy with billions and billions of exchanges on a daily basis.
God and Man at Yale by Bill Buckley could have easily been written today. This was Buckley's first book, and this book described a university that essentially treated liberalism as gospel truth. Buckley explained that much of the university faculty was hostile to America's place in the world, free market ideas and many of Americans' belief in God. Universities are now sixty years further down the path that much of the 60’s radical fully entrenched.
Atlas Shrugged is one of those books that accurately describes the modern day bureaucracy as it strangles the entrepreneur spirit of America. Like Buckley, Rand saw the future clearly, but her book is flawed as its characters are mere caricatures, and her own atheism weakened her own case for capitalism as her characters essentially play their own version of playing God. Yet, when John Galt and his fellow businessmen go on strike, America nearly collapses. Today, many entrepreneurs are staging their strike as they refuse to hire and banks refuse to loan money under the present circumstances. Despite its flaws, Rand's vision of a bureaucratic nightmare is coming true before our eyes. One of her points was what was to happen if America collapses? Rand observed in her book that much of the world was asking how can they continue their welfare state if America is poor as well? A poor America will produce a poorer world and there is no guarantee that China will fill the void since its major trade partner is the United States. As Tom Sowell noticed, it took nearly a thousand years before Europe returned to the living standard of the Roman Empire before its collapse.
America Dismantling by Tom Sowell is his latest book and it is a pessimistic book that features many of Sowell’s essays over the past two years. Sowell talks about the decline of culture and that the disrespect to the Constitution is producing an America slipping into a banana republic status. As one pundit noticed, America’s decline is a choice. (Sowell is an economist who can write and his interest goes beyond Economics. His book Basic Economics is a good primer for anyone who wants to learn about the dismal science. His recent book on the Housing crisis is a necessity for anyone who wants to understand why the recent economic collapse happened.)
Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson is another great primer on free market economics. Written in 1946, Hazlitt principles still hold. Read this along with Sowell works and you will know more than the average congressman.
The Forgotten Man by Amity Shales tells the story of the New Deal failure to heal the Great Depression. Shales’s thesis is that Roosevelt's war on business delayed recovery and even produced a depression within a depression. Ms. Shales is not the first to write a book on the failure of the New Deal but, her thesis on the physiological effect upon business paralyzed by Roosevelt action have added a new thought on government policy. (It should be noted Conrad Black, a leading conservative historian and businessman, have disagreed with Ms. Shales and much of the left today feel that the failure of the New Deal is due to Roosevelt not spending enough money! Paul Krugman who is predicating a lost decade for America has called for Obama to spend even more on stimulus. This book is indispensable in understanding why Obamanomics is failing and will continue to fail.) Today, many businesses have hesitated to hire new workers and unemployment has stayed stubbornly high and one reason is that businesses are uncertain about the government policies in the future.
George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm were brilliant allegories on the nature of communism in particular and a totalitarian future in general. Orwell was as pessimistic about our future, and his book was about a bleak future that faced us. These books tell of societies in which freedom is extinguished.
Finally the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Harry Potter series will add to any understanding of our present situation. Both tells stories that evil exists and must be confronted. In Harry Potter, no one can even say the name of Lord Voldemort, for to mention the name means that evil did exist. Just remember last year when acts of terrorism were declared a man-made disaster and how difficult it was for the world Islamic extremists, and blaming them was considered taboo. While some conservatives may feel uncomfortable with the wizardry world of Harry Potter, there is more than enough lessons to teach your children about the world as it is.
So my challenge to all, add to the list.