I’ve been doing some reading over the summer and the past year or two and to conclude the summer I’ve picked out a few non-fiction books I’ve come across that I felt were good for conservatives.
Now, with one exception, these are not “foundational texts” of conservatism so that means no Bible or Federalist Papers and no Chesterton, either. Mostly because I’ve not read through all of the Federalist Papers yet (on my list). Anyway, it is just 5 books I think are good for conservatives of the modern era to have read or be reading.
1.) The Road to Serfdom by F.A. Hayek: The one “foundational” text I’m posting was written in 1944 warning Britain about the dangers of big government is still worth a read. He articulates how the necessities of centralized economic planning inevitably do damage to political freedom. Amazon.com
2.) Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell: A bit of a cheat here as I have not actually finished this book, it is a lengthy tome, and I own the Fourth Edition, not the Fifth I listed in the Amazon link, but I’ve read a sizable chunk of it and what I’ve read tells me that this should be by your desk or otherwise prominently displayed. It is the Bible of Free Market economics, explaining just why the big government schemes are doomed to fail. If you want something shorter then I recommend Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson. I’ve also heard good things about Sowell’s Economic Facts and Fallacies. Amazon (5th Ed.)
3.) Life at the Bottom by Theodore Dalrymple: If there is a more searing indictment of the impact of the Welfare state I have not read it. This collection of essays, composed while Dalrymple (real name: Dr. Anthony Daniels) was working as a doctor in the poorest parts of London are fascinating, depressing, and sometimes downright infuriating. It is also on Kindle for $3.99. Amazon
4.) Conservatarian Manifesto by Charles C.W. Cooke: Here National Review’s Charles C. W. Cooke, touching on a variety of issues from federalism to abortion to foreign policy, crafts a brilliant manifesto for the Right in the early-21st century. Even if you don’t entirely agree with everything he has to say, it is a great jumping off point for discussion. Amazon
5.) The World America Made by Robert Kagan: The foreign policy one was tough but I had to settle on this one since it makes the case for why America must not retreat from the world. It punctures holes in the claims of liberals who think a multipolar world would be just as, if not more, free and safe and libertarians who think America can retreat from the world while still engaging in free trade, arguing that it is a unipolar world under American dominance that ensures those things. Superpowers craft countries in their own image and an American-dominated world means a more free world while a world dominated by countries other than the US, say Russia or China, may mean a less free world. We should not trade in the good in the vain pursuit of the perfect. Amazon
—“What We Have to Lose” by Theodore Dalrymple: Just an article here but good enough. Written for City Journal in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, “What We Have to Lose” is a beautiful defense of civilization. It is in the anthology, Our Culture —What’s Left of It, also a good read. City Journal, Amazon
—Invisible Armies by Max Boot: An excellent history of guerrilla warfare from ancient times to modern day, disproving the constant refrains that (1) guerrilla warfare is exclusively “Eastern”, when in fact it has been consistently used around the world by weak armies, and (2) it is unbeatable. Amazon
—Seven Deadly Virtues, edited by Jonathan V. Last: This is collection of short essays, each written by a different conservative writer and edited together by Jonathan Last, is a fun, but also serious, tour through each of the virtues, starting with the Seven Virtues of Prudence, Temperance, Justice, Courage, Faith, Hope, and Love and continuing onto others such as Integrity, Fellowship, Chastity, and Perseverance. The writers include Jonah Goldberg (Integrity), the blogger Iowahawk (Hope), Christopher Buckley (Perseverance) and P.J. O’Rourke (the introduction). Worth a read. Amazon
—Liberal Fascism/Tyranny of Clichés by Jonah Goldberg: You’ve probably read or heard of the first one, Liberal Fascism, which points out, with an incredible amount of research, the similar roots of fascism and progressivism. Tyranny of Clichés is sort-of a follow-up to Liberal Fascism, it hits a broader range of topics, though, but is more of a careful debunking, through logic and history, of liberal clichés that now pervade modern thought. Liberal Fascism, Tyranny of Clichés
—“The Coddling of the American Mind” by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt: Another article, this one from The Atlantic. Lukianoff, head of the brilliant organization the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and psychologist Jonathan Haidt point out just why the current campus obsession with speech codes and “safe spaces” is harmful to the psychological well-being of the students, including the ones being “protected”. Atlantic
—Imperial Grunts/Blue Water Grunts by Robert Kaplan: These two-books, released in the mid-2000s, each provide a good overview of America’s presence overseas and debunk the Ron Paul false dilemma that in order to have a presence around the world we have to be constantly invading everywhere. Imperial Grunts, Blue Water Grunts
Any thoughts? Additions? (I hope so) Subtractions? (I hope not)