June 01, 2005

The Most Harmful Books?

15 conservative intellectuals were polled by Human Events and asked what they thought were the 10 most harmful books of the 19th and 20th centuries. Here’s the list.

The Communist Manifesto
Mein Kampf
Quotations from Chairman Mao
The Kinsey Report
Democracy and Education
Das Kapital
The Feminine Mystique
The Course of Positive Philosophy
Beyond Good and Evil
General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money

Some of those I agree are among the most harmful books. Hardly anyone would quibble with the books in the top two slots.

But The Kinsey Report? The Feminine Mystique? Democracy and Education? Are they serious?

Here’s the complaint against Democracy and Education by John Dewey (a book I admittedly have not read).
John Dewey, who lived from 1859 until 1952, was a “progressive” philosopher and leading advocate for secular humanism in American life, who taught at the University of Chicago and at Columbia. He signed the Humanist Manifesto and rejected traditional religion and moral absolutes. In Democracy and Education, in pompous and opaque prose, he disparaged schooling that focused on traditional character development and endowing children with hard knowledge, and encouraged the teaching of thinking “skills” instead. His views had great influence on the direction of American education--particularly in public schools--and helped nurture the Clinton generation.
Well, Lord help us. Someone wrote a book that “nurtured the Clinton generation.” Better lump that in with Mein Kampf. Bush doesn’t = Hitler. But a Clinton influence apparently ranks with him.

Origin of the Species by Charles Darwin gets an honorable mention. Why? Because it overturns the Book of Genesis? I can’t imagine why else it would be on there.

Meanwhile, nothing by Sayyid Qutb is on the main list or the honorable mention list. Perhaps The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan could be replaced with In the Shade of the Koran. It is to the Terror War what Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto were to World War II and the Cold War. Islamofascism maybe, just maybe, is a tad more harmful than feminism and biology.

Anyway, if you're going to use an exercise like this to gun for your domestic political opponents (John Dewey, and by extension Bill Clinton; John Maynard Keynes, and by extension Franklin Delano Roosevelt) at least go after the likes of Noam Chomsky. Leave the mainstream liberals out of it.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at June 1, 2005 12:01 AM
Comments

I guess the reason Darwin's book is on the list is because it been used/abused to justify atrocities in nazi and communist countries.
Link

I must also say that putting two books by Marx on the list is a bit superfluous. Communism is the most destructive ideology ever, but by putting the manifesto as number 1 they already make that point.
Last: Seeing as none of the books link directly to IslamoCommuFascism maybe they don't consider that a threat or don't know about those books.
Either of those makes it a bit hard to take the list very seriously.

Posted by: Rune Jacobsen at June 1, 2005 04:19 AM

I'm surprised the Internal Revenue Code didn't get ranked up there above Dewey but below Mein Kampf.

Posted by: Ray Zacek at June 1, 2005 05:57 AM

I'd place Literature & Revolution, Reflections on Violence, The Triumph of Death, Mr. Thomas Dixon's The Klansman, and The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century on the list and remove:

The Kinsey Report
Democracy and Education
The Feminine Mystique
The Course of Positive Philosophy
General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money

which are often silly books but not nearly so wicked in their influences.

Posted by: Virgil K. Saari at June 1, 2005 07:09 AM

Well, some of those are a bit silly, but Dewey definitely belongs there. Victor Davis Hanson has explained why in several columns, much more eloquently than I could. The institutionalized lack of respect for hard knowledge and character are doing more damage to Western civilization in the long run than Mein Kampf.

Posted by: TallDave at June 1, 2005 07:18 AM

Also, the institutionalized idea of moral relativism, under which the Aztec who tortures you to death and eats you is not morally wrong in doing so because under his value system this is acceptable behavior.

I do agree Chomsky should be on here. The only argument I can think of for leaving him off is that few people take his counterfactual sophistry seriously anymore.

Posted by: TallDave at June 1, 2005 07:22 AM

Human Events is one of paleoconservative Pat Buchanan's favorite publications - along with antiwar.com. Noam Chomsky isn't an opponent of paleos like Pat, he's kind of an ally. Extremists like Pat and Noam think liberal democracy is their enemy.

Human Events seems to publish a wide variety of conservative authors, but this article sounds kind of paleo.

Unless a book is blood libel (Protocols of the Elders of Zion) or unless it's the equivalent of yelling fire in a crowded theater (a guide to building your own nuclear bomb, a terrorist's guide to semtex, etc.) any idea that can be openly presented and openly criticized isn't harmful by itself. When criticism of that idea is forbidden, that's a problem. That's what the first amendment is all about.

So, what do these judges want to do about the problem of 'harmful books'?

Posted by: mary at June 1, 2005 07:32 AM

The institutionalized lack of respect for hard knowledge and character are doing more damage to Western civilization in the long run than Mein Kampf.

Uh, not exactly. If Mein Kampf's ideas had gained a little bit more traction than they did, there would be no more Western Civilization.

Posted by: Steve at June 1, 2005 07:56 AM

The institutionalized lack of respect for hard knowledge and character are doing more damage to Western civilization in the long run than Mein Kampf.

Uh, not exactly. If Mein Kampf's ideas had gained a little bit more traction than they did, there would be no more Western Civilization.

Posted by: Steve at June 1, 2005 07:56 AM

Sorry for double post; feel free to delete, Mike.

Posted by: Steve at June 1, 2005 07:57 AM

I have to admit, I've never really seen what's wrong with moral relatavism, since it's the only thing that really makes sense to me in terms of ethical understanding.

Why? How can you ever explain, fundamentally, why something is right or wrong, good or bad? If you assume nothing, what do right and wrong mean?

They mean, literally, whatever we want them to mean. I use the term "want" loosely, because we really don't get to choose what our interpretations are, but rather are mostly influenced by our environment in our understanding of morality.

Is this a bad thing? Of course not. I might think "it's wrong to cut out a man's heart and eat it to appease an angry war god". A 15th century Aztec warrior might think "there are few greater goods than cutting out a man's heart and eating it to appease an angry war god".

So if that Aztec tries to cut out my heart and eat it, I could sit there and think, oh, hey, it's ok, because he thinks it's right!

But I wouldn't do that, because only insane people would do that, and I don't think I'm insane. Fingers crossed.

Anyway, I think that idea of moral relatavism is a caricature. No one thinks that way. I acknowledge that the Aztec thinks he is doing good. But, to me, it's still wrong, and I'd still try to stop him from cutting out my heart.

But that situation doesn't work well because I could be doing it out of self-preservation, rather than a sense of morality. So let's imagine it's someone else: let's imagine that I'm walking down the street and I observe a woman being attacked by a man who has the intention of raping her. I believe rape is wrong, and he (for the sake of make-believe) believes rape is right and good.

If I were a pretend-make-believe-caricature moral relatavist, I might stroll on by and say, hey, it's ok! He thinks it's ok, so who am I to judge?

But I would judge, because that's a make-believe caricature. I judge within my own moral framework, because that's the only moral framework available to me. I still think rape is wrong, and as such, I would do my best within my power to stop him from committing rape. Moral relatavism is a very esoteric concept, in the sense that, at the moment, I probably would not concern myself in the least with the moral sense of the person committing the act; I'd act to stop it, and maybe much later, in reflection, ponder the difference in moral understanding.

Having a different understanding of morality does not preclude me from acting on my own sense of morality.

Posted by: The Commenter at June 1, 2005 08:05 AM

Mein Kampf. Definitely should not be on the list. The book was not the potent entity. Few people read it and had their eyes opened to a new way of thinking.
Mein Kampf is only significant because of the actions of the author. But it has no intellectual legacy. In fact, it probably has served people opposing fascism and racism more than fascists and racists.

The description about Dewey makes no sense at all. Sure Dewey's thought aided Clintonians, but it also aided Mortimer Adler and Allan Bloom.
It is the core of a conservative University of Chicago education.

And why is Mill on the list? Because his thought helped lead to libertarianism and Foucauldian critique?

I always thought of Mill as being more on the right than the left. But I guess he truly occupies the libertarian center.

Where was Derrida on the list? I thought deconstruction was something conservatives hate more than anything else.

Posted by: lebanon.profile at June 1, 2005 08:10 AM

I haven't read any of Hanson's stuff, but giving up teaching hard knowledge for teaching thinking skills seems like a bad enough move to warrant inclusion on this list.

It seems to me that thinking skills are a by-product of proper education. These skills are developed in the course of teaching hard knowledge (this supposes a breadth of hard knowledge). Whereas focusing on thinking skills leaves a lack of hard knowledge.

Even if were successful, why produce children capable of learning trigonometry instead of teaching them trigonometry? Who is supposed to teach them later?

Posted by: Ron at June 1, 2005 08:21 AM

Ummm, are these the same folks that argue that Heavy Metal music causes youth suicides?

I'm a pretty conservative type guy but I'm with Mary on this one: the best innoculation against bad ideas is full disclosure with its attendent examination and criticism.

Posted by: too many steves at June 1, 2005 08:33 AM

Commenter - As Shakespeare wrote, "is no such thing as 'good' and 'bad,' 'tis only thinking makes it so." Either we think and choose our own morals or we allow others to provide us with their morals which we accept unquestioningly.

Dewey wrote Education and Democracy in 1916, and the critic claims it "helped nurture the Clinton generation." Why not call it the Bush generation since Bush and Clinton were born one month apart from each other in 1946? Weird.

Maybe Dewey's book should be replaced on the list by the Al Qaeda Handbook/Training Manual.

One book missing from the list is Frederick Taylor's "The Principles of Scientific Management." His principles (managers control and think, and the workers do the work as unquestioning robots) have screwed up Western businesses, governments, schools, etc., for many, many decades.

Darwin is on the honorable mention list twice! What a terrible man he was. I think one could make a case that Albert Einstein's "Relativity: The Special and the General Theory" could be on the list instead since it was the theoretical basis for atomic weapons development. Another horrible man. Science is truly evil. Let's revert back to the good old days of theocracies in the Dark Ages.

Posted by: markytom at June 1, 2005 08:47 AM

To be honest it makes me a bit nervous to label any aspect of the written medium as being "dangerous" or "harmful". It's not what's contained in the book, but the individual(s) who wrote it, and the individuals who've read it and use it to further ill purposes that are dangerous.

There is much to be learned from "The Communist Manifesto", "Mein Kampf" and "The Prince". It is up to the reader to use the knowldedge gleaned from these sources and invert the original purposes of the authors in his best effort to defeat the cancerous ideology.

With that being said it is no good to fear the publications themselves because although they may contain poisonous information, they also contain the antidote. To label such books as "harmful" is to teter dangerously over the edge of a very slippery slope; as MJT has indirectly, but very astutely pointed out in his dissection of the original list.

Posted by: Mike T. at June 1, 2005 09:48 AM

I personally would rank "Beyond Good & Evil" in the top slot.

This book sets out the foundation for moral relativism, and I would bet money that almost any apologist defending any of these books (esp The Communist Manifesto) would be operating from this principle.

Posted by: m.harn at June 1, 2005 10:23 AM

Would Protocols of the Elders of Zion count?

Posted by: Independent George at June 1, 2005 10:35 AM

I don't know what criteria is being used to judge "harmful" but by any objective measure "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" and "The Turner Diaries" would be on the list.

And, while I can understand putting "The Communist Manifestor" on the list, I don't get "Das Kapital." Unlike the Manifesto, Kapital is absolutely incomprehensible, dull and long winded. Other than the unfortunate few within the vicinity of a copy of Kapital hurled by a pseudointellectual in frustration, I don't see how it could have harmed anybody.

Posted by: at June 1, 2005 10:55 AM

Steve,

But they never gained acceptance outside a few German elites, and the ideology of Mein Kampf is firmly rejected today by all reasonable people, while Dewey's have been widely accepted and eventually led to things like this:

Purple is replacing red as the color of choice for teachers. Why, you may ask? It seems that educators worry that emphatic red corrections on a homework assignment or test can be stressful, demeaning — even "frightening" for a young person. The principal of Thaddeus Stevens Elementary in Pittsburgh advises teachers to use only "pleasant-feeling tones."

http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/editorials/2005-05-31-kid-gloves-edit_x.htm

Posted by: TallDave at June 1, 2005 11:02 AM

Before you look at the list, look at where the "conservative scholars and public policy leaders" are from. Regnery Press? Eagle Forum? American Conservative Union? Oh, and the great, noteworthy, Florida Atlantic University, bastion of....of something, Whew! Heavy hitters, all, I'm sure. What is surprising in their list, after the obvious Das Kapitals and Red Books and Mein Kampfs (but where's the Protocols of the Elders of Zion?), I would expect, given this lofty crowd, to see Darwin up there with Dewey. What this shows is the bizarro world the right wing inhabits. Darwin and Kinsey. Wow!

Still, I think they should have added the Koran. In terms of being a source of pain and suffering, it's up there with the Manifesto, What is to be Done?

Posted by: Seymour Paine at June 1, 2005 11:31 AM

Harmful books? Very rare indeed. But even if we divined a list, so what? What are we to do? ban them? Want to despise communism? Read Marx. Wish to see the heart of evil? Read Mein Kampf.

Read, read, read and read some more. How did I learn to think Chomsky, Derrida, Foucault, Zinn etc were boobs? I read them. Otherwise how would I know? Did they harm me? No they did me good.

Posted by: spc67 at June 1, 2005 11:57 AM

Meanwhile, nothing by Sayyid Qutb is on the main list or the honorable mention list.

Quite right. But do his books belong on a most-damaging list of the twentieth century or the twenty-first?

Posted by: Solomon2 at June 1, 2005 12:02 PM

Great point spc. None of these books should be banned; indeed, that would be counterproductive for if their fallacies are not known and subject to public ridicule they might be unknowingly resurrected.

Posted by: TallDave at June 1, 2005 12:07 PM

Michael, you're not being fair at all, to pick the line about nurturing the Clinton generation as the key factor in why Dewey's book made the list. For making better sense, try this bit from the other end of your excerpt:

"John Dewey, who lived from 1859 until 1952, was a “progressive” philosopher and leading advocate for secular humanism in American life, who taught at the University of Chicago and at Columbia. He signed the Humanist Manifesto and rejected traditional religion and moral absolutes."

In a nutshell: Secular Humanism.

Posted by: stutefish at June 1, 2005 12:33 PM

Feminine Mystique is in but this little gem is out? http://www.alibris.com/search/search.cfm?qwork=6745820&wauth=Morgan%2C%20Marabel&ptit=Total%20Woman&pauth=Morgan%2C%20Marabel&pisbn=&pqty=222&pqtynew=0&pbest=2%2E95&matches=222&qsort=r&cm_re=works*listing*title

Sheesh.

Posted by: Omnibus Driver at June 1, 2005 12:58 PM

Stutefish,

You need to tell my why secular humanism ranks with Communism and Nazism. I'm more or less a secular humanist myself, so your answer had better be good.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 1, 2005 01:21 PM

Stutefish,

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about secular humanism. Have at it.

---------

Secular humanism is an ethical philosophy or life stance that emphasizes a humanist world view based upon naturalism.

"Secular humanism" is distinguished from the broader "humanism" in that the secular humanist prefers free inquiry over received wisdom—upholding the scientific method for inquiry, while rejecting "revealed knowledge" and theistic morality. Secular humanism has appeal to atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, rationalists, skeptics, and materialists. Its basic tenets may be simplified as:

  • Humans have value and can solve human problems
  • Science, free speech, rational thought, democracy, and freedom in the arts go together
  • There is nothing supernatural

Secular humanism often finds itself in conflict with religious fundamentalism especially over the issue of the separation of church and state. Secular humanists tend to see religious fundamentalists as superstitious and regressive, while fundamentalists tend to see secular humanism as the work of Satan to draw society away from God.

Secular humanism is often also in conflict with groups serving both religious and secular humanists, such as the American Humanist Society. The Council for Secular Humanism is open to humanists of all political stripes (libertarians, conservatives, liberals, democratic socialists) and not just leftists. Marxism can be viewed as a religion.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 1, 2005 01:25 PM

It's stuff like this that reminds me that - even though I'm a warmongering capitalist - I'm still a liberal. I may hang out with conservatives more these days, but no, I'm not one.

Posted by: Yehudit at June 1, 2005 02:16 PM

Michael, you might ask how many of your readers have even heard of more than one or two of the judges. These people are not movers and shakers in any significant sense of the word. Backwater anglers is more like it. This is not a meaningful list because the originators of the list are not meaningful. What were we talking about, the price of mangos in China?

Posted by: William Shuntley at June 1, 2005 03:03 PM

Kinsey was a child molester posing as a scientist. Dewey was an anti-Christian humanist whose philosophy is responsible for more murders in the 20th century than all the "holy wars" in the history of man kind. Dewey wanted to make this an American philosophy by brain washing our children in school.

Darwin Drivel is completely unsuported by scientific evidence yet embraced by liberals because of their hatred of the Bible.

Your comments tell me a lot about what you are.

Posted by: RA at June 1, 2005 03:11 PM

> Islamofascism maybe, just maybe, is a tad more
> harmful than feminism and biology.

I am not so sure that Islamofascism is more harmful than feminism. I don't talk about gender equality struggles. I am talking about the feminazis. The destruction caused by Islamofascism is fast, and this is why we worry so much about it. It plays right along in front of our eyes, and we clearly sense the sequence of events. But the feminazism's destruction happens is slow motion, and we don't react to it since it doesn't change too fast to be recognized. And this is, in my opinion, a far bigger threat to society on the long run.

For a quick introduction, read http://fjordman.blogspot.com/2005/04/confessions-of-ex-feminist.html which describes fairly well why I think that extreme feminism is indeed a very dangerous "ism" on par with communism. The only difference is that communism was more violent, but both cause terrible damage to the mind. Also, thanks to the effects of feminism (again, let me emphasize, I do not speak about gender equality, but about extreme feminism), our law system is seriously skewed. This letter appeared in yesterday's National Post (Canadian daily):

#########

Re: The Truth About 'Racial Profiling,' Ron Laffin and Martin Loney, May 30.

In 2004 I published an exhaustive article concerning the response of the law-enforcement system to domestic violence, based on data collected by the Edmonton Police Service and by myself at the Edmonton Crown Prosecutors' Office. I found that gender was the single-most significant predictor of outcomes, more so than even prior criminal records, the injury level sustained by the accuser/victim, intoxication of the accused or whether children were present at the time of the incident, among other things.

For example, men were 20 times more likely to be charged with domestic violence when neither party was injured, even though hundreds of sociological studies over the years have shown that women, by their own admission, are at least as likely as men to commit non-injurious violence against their partners. Women who seriously injured their partners were less likely to be taken into custody by the police than men who caused no injury to their partners. And men received significantly harsher sentences after conviction, when all other relevant variables were taken into account.

Because these conclusions do not align with the accepted dogma, they have been rejected and ignored by the Edmonton Police Service, even though they are vastly more robust than the allegations of racial profiling eliciting mea culpas from the Kingston police chief. Gender profiling in domestic disputes is pervasive in Canada; the establishment's selective sensitivity perpetuates it.

Grant A. Brown, Edmonton

##########

I read a couple of years ago that a policeman in Eastern Canada acknowledged, that if they are called regarding a domestic violence issue, then they automatically arrest the man involved, no matter that happened.

Also, if a woman accuses a man of harrasment, then irrelevant of the merits of the case, then the man is considered guilty until proven innocent.

These things led me to be very careful if I ever give help to a woman. Imagine, I am driving somewhere, and I see a female hitchiker (say her car broke down). There is a very good chance that I wouldn't give here a ride, since if later she accuses me of ANYTHING, then I will go to prison and the rest of my life will be ruined regardless the merits of her case.

I didn't react to the inclusion of "feminist mistique" since I haven't read it. I reacted to Mike's statement that Islamofascism is a tad less dangerous than feminism. I do feel that feminazism is, maybe not comparable, but is not far behind nazism and communism, as the horrible "isms" of the XX century. Nazism pitted races against other races extremely violently. Commumism pitted the rich against the poor semi-violently. Feminazism pits woman against man non-violently. But the long term effects of both communism and feminism (nazism is dead) are equally devastating. Fjordman's excellent article perfectly explains why.

Vilmos Soti

Posted by: Vilmos Soti at June 1, 2005 03:32 PM

Hmm,

the only name I recognized immediately was Phyllis Schlafly. Can't say I think this list has any particular relevance apart from providing something to argue over. Sort of like dropping the hockey puck at the start of the game.

Posted by: chuck at June 1, 2005 03:36 PM

> Darwin Drivel is completely unsuported by scientific evidence yet embraced by liberals because of their hatred of the Bible.

Ouch. You may be at the wrong blog. Evolution is well supported by scientific evidence, and there are plenty of smart, religious people who believe in it. It's not incompatible with the Bible, unless you're a absolute literalist who believes the world is 6000 years old.

(btw, this comment box is completely snafu'd in Firefox.)

I studied a lot of Dewey in my education classes, and I think reading him as "disparag[ing] schooling that focused on traditional character development and endowing children with hard knowledge" is a misreading. What Dewey advocated was bringing the outside world into the classroom, as much as possible. So, instead of just telling students how to, say, build a cabinet, bring the carpenter into the classroom and have the kids try it themselves. It's an approach that was radical at the time, because classes consisted then of kids sitting at their desks reading, and little more. That's just sound pedagogy, and isn't at all inconsistent with requiring hard knowledge.

Posted by: brett at June 1, 2005 03:48 PM

"Darwin Drivel is completely unsuported by scientific evidence yet embraced by liberals because of their hatred of the Bible."

Yeah, the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church - what a bunch of liberal Bible haters. Come off it. People who make ridiculous blanket statements condemning Darwin as "unsupported" should at least make a token attempt to come up with an alternative scientific theory. Is there one shred of evidence supporting ID theory? No.

Posted by: Vanya at June 1, 2005 04:23 PM

In Slovakia I've been enjoying mangos from Brazil, mostly -- I don't remember eating any in America (before 1990). There may be a tiny pistachio war going on between Iran and China here, but I think Iran is winning -- or else the big bag of Chinese pistachios I saw once was mislabeled.

"If I were a pretend-make-believe-caricature moral relativist, I might stroll on by and say, hey, it's ok! He thinks it's ok, so who am I to judge?"
How about, "If I were President Bill Clinton and genocide were occurring in Rwanda in 1994, I'd just order my State department to NOT call it genocide. And apologize later. Who are Americans to judge?"
Those who voted Clinton in 1996 rewarded genocidal inaction -- but the press didn't make it an issue, nor did bozo Dole, so that means it's OK.

As an EX-secular humanist, I particularly object to the idea of "nothing supernatural" -- not because it might not be true (it might be, though it can never be proven), but because it is so obvious that so many people WILL NOT accept "nothing supernatural" as true. Marxist "atheism" as a religion/absolutist substitute is an example; environmentalist "Gaia" fundamentalism is another; the religious ferver of current PC anti-Christians yet another.

"freedom in the arts" is particularly unacceptable to SH folk, when that freedom means letting Christian parents have Christian schools with equal finances (the SH folk are willing to let non-gov't schools exist, but be paid for in addition to taxes for gov't anti-religious schools). Vouchers are one way of having equal finances -- SH / PC folk are mostly against freedom in education.

Keynes and FDR deserve a LOT more criticism than they get. (How BAD would Stalin have to be for it to have been a mistake to have him as an ally against Hitler?) But I wouldn't have listed them.

Finally, abortion. To criticize conservatives without discussing abortion seems pretty absurd -- its perhaps 50% of the Moral Values / Culture War difference. Kinsey and Feminine Mystique are both terrible because of their pro-promiscuity, pro-abortion messages.

"Humans have value" Yeah, like the right to life. Unless they're itsy bitsy little human fetuses that, if allowed to be born, would be inconvenient to the promiscuous mother. Maybe, too, a possible embarrassment to the bio-father, who is prolly even more promiscuous, and thus unequally promiscuous and thus in violation of equality (of promiscuity). Yechh.

Every scientific biology book will tell you "when life begins" ... at conception. But PC pro-promiscuity folk will rationalize around "Science" and deny any human rights, or supernatural value, to a fetus unwanted by the mother.

The PC denial of science and human rights for very young humans should disqualify pro-abortionists from using "secular humanism" as a label; but "liberal" was long ago stolen too.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at June 1, 2005 04:34 PM

RA: Your comments tell me a lot about what you are.

Right back atcha, pal.

I'm supposed to take this seriously?

Dewey was an anti-Christian humanist whose philosophy is responsible for more murders in the 20th century than all the "holy wars" in the history of man kind.

Most people have never even heard of Dewey. If what you said was even on the same planet as the truth that would not be the case.

Unless, that is, you're trying to say that secular humanists are Stalinists because Stalin was an atheist. If that's the case, then piss off.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 1, 2005 04:48 PM

As I'm busy with TORTURE on other sites, I can't help but note the Secular Humanist defs above don't really give any reason to avoid torture of some ... if it helps others.

If SH is not utilitarian, than what is it? If it IS utilitarian, than "Universal Human Rights" are just a guide, that can be abandoned whenever the benefits, or the promise of benefits, are high enough. And thus Lenin and Hitler could, and DID, use Secular Humanist arguments for their programs.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at June 1, 2005 05:15 PM

Tom - And thus Lenin and Hitler could, and DID, use Secular Humanist arguments for their programs.

Bad guys (e.g., the KKK) have used religious arguments for their programs too.

Here is a good article on the 10 Myths About Secular Humanism , including:

6. Secular humanism is the same as communism. To which we can add the allegations that "secular humanism is a socialist political movement" and - brace yourself - "the Nazis were humanists."

Believe it or not, sometimes people make all these claims at once! Perhaps that should not be surprising when dealing with wild smear tactics.

Secular humanism is not a political movement, and secular humanists cover a wide spectrum of political views. In America, some secular humanists are active in the Democratic Party, many others are staunch Republicans, Libertarians, Socialists, Greens, etc. One political view that secular humanists do share is unswerving support for democracy, freedom, and human rights. All secular humanists are utterly opposed to totalitarian systems like communism and fascism.

Posted by: markytom at June 1, 2005 05:48 PM

I understand that Christian arguments have often been used for non-Christian activity (i.e. N. Ireland for 40 years or more). Who else uses your argments, or the arguments you oppose, is not a great argument.

My original goal was to explain my own conservative objection to secular humanists; and just because "Hitler thought that, too" is usually a weak argument, it is nevertheless a real and emotionally satisfying reason to be against something.

Are secular humanists utilitarian? I think essentially yes -- with the problems of utilitarianism. Absolute moralists have different problems.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at June 1, 2005 05:59 PM

I think the perverse hysteria of Mr. Grey and RA, illustrates why the Human Events crowd is bigger than you might think.

As for which books are most harmful I'm of the belief that a book can only be harmful if it is dropped from a great enough height. This is in polar opposition to the radical book banning Christian luddites but I just emphasize.

First off, two books by Marx is a little excessive. If I had to pick one I would go with The Manifesto.

Mein Kampf doesen't belong on the list. It's an awful book written by an awful man, but it's influence was both limited and short lived.

Quotations from Chairman Mao doesen't really belong either. Mao was a bastard, but this book was published after most of his bastard acts were undertaken. It didnt have the influence of a Dos Kapital or a Communist Manifesto.

Alfred Kinsey was not as honorable a man as many would believe, and most modern sexual studies I'm told, is based very little on his work. However, the primary reason conservatives loathe him is not because he was a bastard. It is because they believe he layed the groundwork for a culture that no longer viewed sex as this filthy disgusting act sanctioned by the Devil that should only be undertaken for procreative purposes. A culture that viewed sexual activity, in the right and safe circumstances, as something that could even be enjoyed (gasp!) recreationally.

John Dewey's Democracy and Education, has contributed much more to the genesis of modern conservative thought than the luddite theocrats at Human Events could ever hope too.

Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique: I assumed they disliked this one because it challenged the social order of the working/bread winning dad and the stay at home, homemaking mom. Turns out, their main reason for disliking it is that Betty Friedan was a leftist, and heck, that's bad enough apparantly. She did say some disparaging things about homosexuals so they couldn't have thought she was all bad.

General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. This is the one I object to the most. The worst thing they can say about this book is that it laid a blueprint for the growth of government, and if we know anything about the Human Events crowd, that was bad. But isn't it just slightly in appropriate for them to place this book on a list with other books, which by the Human Events crowd's standards, contributed to the deaths of millions of people?

As for John Stuart Mill's "On Liberty", that is simple. See, the conclusion of that book is that any and everyone should be free to do anything and everything they want, so long as it does no harm to others. "Free to do whatever they want?" The conservatives say? "Who could imagine the horror of such a society?" "I say this...Freedom that they speak of, is just as dangerous as Communism, if not moreso."

Posted by: Dustin Ridgeway at June 1, 2005 06:25 PM

Dustin says: Quotations from Chairman Mao doesen't really belong either. Mao was a bastard, but this book was published after most of his bastard acts were undertaken. It didnt have the influence of a Dos Kapital or a Communist Manifesto.

Actually, publication of "Quotations", or "The Little Red Book", preceded and helped trigger the repressive Cultural Revolution, an absolutely brutal reign of terror that lasted for nearly a decade in China. Mao is still revered here in China, and Maoism remains a potent force in nations such as Nepal.

Maoism may not be as influential an ideology as Marxism (from which it sprung) but its inclusion on this ridiculous list seems quite justifiable.

Posted by: SinoMatt at June 1, 2005 06:52 PM

Why does HUMAN EVENTS frame the question negatively? Instead of asking what books have done the most harm, why not ask what books have done the most good?

Generally, as a right-of-center thinker, this would be my main criticism of modern conservatism. Too often, we're very vocal about what is WRONG with Western society, and too frequently, we forget to commend what is RIGHT. It's far easier to announce yet another boycott (like the one that Wildmon's AFA just announced against Ford) than it is to encourage people for a job well-done.

Don't spend an hour telling me what you're against, until you've spent two hours telling me what you're for.

And thanks, Michael, for the wonderful photos from Oregon. BTW, I still think Christianity trumps secular humanism any day of the week, provided you find a strain that affirms what is good in life and Creation instead of just harping on what is wrong with the world. C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity" is a great place to start, to find a life-affirming yet theocentric point of view.

Posted by: Didsbury at June 1, 2005 06:57 PM

Interesting debate. I too have concerns with a lot of the choices. Clearly there's no disagreement with the first two choices, Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto espouse some of the most destructive ideas in the whole history of man. Das Kapital seems to be another rebuke of Marx (we got it with the Manifesto). The same with Mao. We may all have issues with Dewey, Kinsey, or Darwin, but to compare them to Communism or Nazism is an overrreach.

Keynes being on the list is absurd. I understand why they chose it (anti-FDR), but nevertheless. Friedan's book gets heat because it's feminism. No surprise there.

Posted by: Rafique Tucker at June 1, 2005 07:13 PM

Just a quibble with those of you who wrote that "Mein Kampf" wasn't influential beyond its rather narrow initial readership. It REMAINS influential. It's a bestseller in Turkey!

http://www.metimes.com/print.php?StoryID=20050317-040840-3067r!

MF is a good example of a book that telegraphed the author's intentions long before he implemented them. Seems to me that there are plenty of Islamist examples of same...when will the Left wake up to this?

Posted by: JABBER at June 1, 2005 07:17 PM

Actually, Marx's communist manifesto and das kapital had an influence on many of the greater mainstream economists and sociologists of the 20th century. Where would Max Weber have gotten his theories without Marx?
But name one serious intellectual [aside from Heidegger?ha ha] who could say that there intellectual theories were informed by Mein Kampf? Mein Kampf created nothing but harm.

Posted by: stan at June 1, 2005 07:57 PM

Marxism can be viewed as a religion.

Only by those who don't understand
Marx's writings.

Posted by: stan at June 1, 2005 08:04 PM

#3. Of Mice and Men. If you attend a public high school you may end up reading it your freshman, sophmore and senior year.

Posted by: Mike #3or4 at June 1, 2005 08:11 PM

Alas, Stan, that qualifies most all of his followers who, I doubt, ever understood a word he wrote. I didn't know until recently that Marx himself said this: "I am not a Marxist." Even he understood how misconstrued his ideas had become.

By the way, Stan, your link didn't work for me, but then maybe it's just me...

Posted by: JABBER at June 1, 2005 08:12 PM

this was the link:

http://monthlyreview.org/598einst.htm

Posted by: stan at June 1, 2005 08:31 PM

Thanks, Stan. Sadly, as a political philosopher, Einstein was a brilliant... physicist. Not only did he misunderstand Marx, he also misunderstood human nature and free market capitalism. At least his intentions were good...and there's the rub. There are lots of good hearted socialists out there who could stand an ideological cold shower of Friedrich Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom."

Posted by: JABBER at June 1, 2005 08:38 PM

Hayek, the man whose celebration of markets comes down to celebrating the rights of corporations to dominate markets really...
No, I'd say Einstein was pretty much on target in his reading of Marx. Anyone who believes that we are going to go back to the capitalism of the competitive age, which is really what the Hayekians celebrate, is misreading Capital...pardon the pun.

Posted by: stan at June 1, 2005 08:40 PM

Uh...Stan? I'm currently reading Hayek and it's pretty clear you could use a refresher course. How you read him as "celebrating the rights of corporations to dominate markets" is beyond me. He saw the Nazis up close and personal and posited, very persuasively, that when basic control of the economy is given up to "elite" planners, individual freedoms are lost and, worst case (and, sadly, history has shown that the worst case is highly probable), irretrievably lost to totalitarianism.

Posted by: JABBER at June 1, 2005 08:51 PM

Tom - "Are secular humanists utilitarian? I think essentially yes "

There seems to be a range of moral thought among secular humanists just as there is a range of moral thought among Christians. I can't speak of the motives for others, but I am a secular humanist who choses to follow a moral code that is very similar to the Christian moral code (Do unto others, don't lie, cheat, steal, etc.).

I argue that many Christian morals are as "relative" as secular humanistic morals are. For example, 200 years ago a "good" Christian could own alaves. Considered immoral today. 100 years ago a "good" Christian could take their children out of school and make them work in a factory, mine, or farm (at great risk to the children). Considered immoral today. There are endless examples that can be found. IMO, the point is that, in general, there are more similarities in Christian moral codes and secular humanistic moral codes than there are differences. And both moral codes change over time. Here is a list of principles of secular humanism.

Both Christians and secular humanists want to do what is best for the world and the greater good. But none of us can look into the future. Good intentions often times create poor results. So all we can do is try our best. Christians believe their actions will be judged by God and secular humanists believe that they will be judged by history.

It also depends on how you define utilitarian. www.utilitarianism.org defines Utilitarianism as, "By the principle of utility is meant that principle which approves or disapproves of any action, or of any measure, according and proportioned to the tendency it has to augment or diminish the happiness of the community." The problem with this definition is that it does not consider short-term versus long-term results/consequences from actions, nor does it define what the community is. And from Wikipedia, "Critics of utilitarianism claim that this view suffers from a number of problems. One is that utilitarianism is not proved by science or logic to be the correct ethical system. However, supporters claim that this is common to all ethical schools (and indeed the system of logic itself) and may continue to be so until the regress argument is satisfactorily solved. It might instead be argued that almost all political arguments about a future society use an unspoken utilitarian principle, all sides claiming that their proposed solution is the one that increases human happiness most. Some degree of utilitarianism might very well be genetically hard-coded into humans."

Posted by: markytom at June 1, 2005 08:53 PM

that when basic control of the economy is given up to "elite" planners, individual freedoms are lost and, worst case (and, sadly, history has shown that the worst case is highly probable), irretrievably lost to totalitarianism.

well, yeah, sure, but the only problem is the leading capitalist industrialists in Germany had no big issue with the fascist agenda, no? how does celebrating private property help to deal with that contradiction?

Posted by: stan at June 1, 2005 09:17 PM

"Kinsey and Feminine Mystique are both terrible because of their pro-promiscuity, pro-abortion messages."

Obviously you haven't read the Feminist Mystique.
I haven't read Kinsey, but my impression was that he just collected for the first time evidence of what Americans were actually doing as opposed to what they said they were doing. Looks like science to me.

This is a great thread. I'm finding out who all the secret wingnuts on this blog are.

Posted by: Yehudit at June 1, 2005 09:28 PM

Stan, there is NO contradiction in what you just argued. I'm quite sure that German industrialists were very well connected to the Nazi party; thus, they would have had little to fear. Just as all of Germany got swept up in moral blindness to the Nazi terror (including the Church, to its undying shame), so did the industrialists. That has/had nothing to do with free market capitalism; it had everything to do with selfish human nature unbounded by market competition (which includes the market for ideas and the checks-and-balances of a democratic state).

Posted by: JABBER at June 1, 2005 09:30 PM

That's not accurate at all. The major trade unions, the Social Democrats, Communists did not get caught up in the NAZI rave, not at all.
First thing you had to do in Germany was deal with the power base of the Fascists, appeals to private property didn't accomplish much since property was already private and concentrated.

Posted by: stan at June 1, 2005 09:32 PM

What in the world are you arguing, Stan? Clarify your position. Are you saying that the Scoial Democrats and the trade unionists (your beloved socialists) were the only counterbalance to the Nazis? Are you saying that free market capitalism (which arguably has NEVER existed in Germany) was somehow complicit in the rise of Nazism? You're making no sense. And, if you think I'm wrong, tell me specifically what you mean.

Sorry, Michael, for going off on this tangent, but I couldn't let this one ride...

Posted by: JABBER at June 1, 2005 09:42 PM

Absolutely capitalism was complicit in the rise of fascism in Germany, otherwise ya woulda seen the German industrialists fighting it tooth and nail. They supported it and surely you know that.
The unions, SD, Communists were deeply opposed to the rise of the fascists, seeing very clearly from the Italian experience that they were the target of fascist attacks.
I am saying that fantasizing about free markets when capital is already concentrated is pointless, especially when capital is supporting fascism as its mechanism to protect its position in a society against militant unions.
Your 'free markets' inevitably move toward the concentrated form of capitalism that Germany saw in the 1930s and that the world sees today for that matter.

Posted by: stan at June 1, 2005 09:53 PM

It's not a tanget, actually that we are even civilly debating such issues shows that Marx's ideas are worth debating. We simply can't say the same about Hitler's ideas, they have no intellectual value whatsoever, thus the reality that no serious intellectual or intellectual trend uses his ideas in any way.

Posted by: stan at June 1, 2005 09:55 PM

"Absolutely capitalism was complicit in the rise of fascism in Germany, otherwise ya woulda seen the German industrialists fighting it tooth and nail. They supported it and surely you know that."

Yes, I already acknowledged that, but this isn't the capitalism of which I speak. German industrialists supported Hitler because they could make lots of money, plain and simple. The Capitalism that I support isn't about Corporations (I believe that any legitimate capitalist economy MUST HAVE a strong Rule of Law, esp. wrt anti-trust), its about economic self-determination, ie, making personal choice about what one will buy and what one will sell.

"The unions, SD, Communists were deeply opposed to the rise of the fascists...." Well, yeah, duh, probably because they were on the wrong side, don't you think? But I don't care which side of the aisle Totalitarianism comes from...it's still Totalitarianism. If socialists ruled the world, you'd see the same depravity. Example: Stalinist Russia

"I am saying that fantasizing about free markets when capital is already concentrated is pointless..."

I agree, but then, that isn't Capitalism. That's "let all the aristocracy keep their monopoly of capital" which has ALWAYS been Old Europe's problem (boy, what a relevant point for today's Europe!)

"Your 'free markets' inevitably move toward the concentrated form of capitalism..." NOT TRUE!! A strong Rule of Law and true competition necessarily LIMITS such abuses.

"...that Germany saw in the 1930s..." Uh, no, Stan. As I've already said, Germany specifically and Europe generally has never experienced free market capitalism. If it had, it would be far healthier today.

Posted by: JABBER at June 1, 2005 10:14 PM

Didn't see your "Hitler doesn't matter" post until after my last post, Stan. Sorry I've got to disagree there, too. Several posts ago I gave a link to the fact that "Mein Kampf" is a bestseller in Turkey TODAY. I'm quite sure that it's quite influential in supporting the virulent anti-semitism in the Middle East. You may think it doesn't matter, but I'm afraid you're wrong on that score.

Posted by: JABBER at June 1, 2005 10:18 PM

"I believe that any legitimate capitalist economy MUST HAVE a strong Rule of Law, esp. wrt anti-trust)"

you can wish that till you're blue in the face, but it's not the way capitalism develops I'm afraid. Never has been nor will it ever.

  • Example: Stalinist Russia*

You take Stalin as the model for socialism, i take the left opposition in Russia as the model.

That's "let all the aristocracy keep their monopoly of capital" which has ALWAYS been Old Europe's problem (boy, what a relevant point for today's Europe!)

uhm, no, it's what happens wherever there is capitalism, it becomes concentrated. The Rockefellers were hardly 'old' aristocracy in America, they were leaders in encouraging the concentration of capital. Ditto Ford, Carnegie, etc. It's hardly an "Old European" phenomenon.

" A strong Rule of Law and true competition necessarily LIMITS such abuses."

You separate the making of law from the power of capital, not terribly wise if you're trying to analyze how capital secures its power over society.

Uh, no, Stan. As I've already said, Germany specifically and Europe generally has never experienced free market capitalism. If it had, it would be far healthier today.

It's not doing so terribly actually. And look at Japan, can you imagine the US surviving through a depression like what they've had for over a decade now with our laissez faire approach to dealing with loss of investment, overproduction, unemployment surges, etc.? And if your solution were the best one, China would not be doing so much better than shock therapy heaven Russia, eh?

Again I note though that what we are debating is valuable insofar as, for better or worse, Human Events' lunacy aside, they are real debates that take place between serious intellectual thinkers such as Smith, Rousseau, Marx, Hayek...all the time. No one sits around and seriously debates the ideas of Hitler's works. Weber's works draw from Smith and Marx. Had he lived to see Hitler, I can assure you he would still draw from Smith and Marx, and not one letter of his work would have been drawn from Mein Kampf or any other silly nonsense of paranoia conspiracy theory that Hitler came up with. Thus the silliness of equating Mein Kampf and Marx's work in terms of value or 'harm'.

Posted by: stan at June 1, 2005 10:26 PM

I can assure you no serious intellectual of any worth takes Hitler seriously. Book sales tell me little, Amazon also sells thousands of copies of it. No American intellecutal who is serious is influenced by Mein Kampf.

Posted by: stan at June 1, 2005 10:29 PM

Stan,

As someone (I forget who) once said: The problem with capitalism is capitalists. The problem with socialism is socialism.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 1, 2005 10:29 PM

Herbert Hoover you're thinking of Michael, hardly a person to draw inspiration from when thinking about a serious issue like capitalism or socialism.

Posted by: stan at June 1, 2005 10:33 PM

My last post, Stan. I need some sleep, and it's clear that we won't ever agree.

Yes, capitalist economies clearly go through stages of concentration. However, your citing of the Robber Barons makes my point for me. The fact is that the Robber Barons were largely dismantled by the Sherman Act and its brethren. The world had never seen such monopoly power acquired by so few and it didn't know how to handle it. Eventually, the US figured it out and instituted strong anti-trust laws. Thus, for you to describe ours as a "laissez faire" economy is laughable in the extreme. The sheer unprecedented (in the US at least) growth of goverment since the '40s renders that point silly.

The point is that healthy capitalism recreates itself, with a commensurate ebbing and flowing of capital into the hands of the best entrepreuners (read Schumpeter). At one point, to name but one example, typewriters were a good investment. At some point in the future, Bill Gates will lose his perch to the market's innovation, all because a truly free market HATES a monopolist. Thus, the very human traits that you and I both hate (greed, selfishness, etc.) are the engines of economic change and growth.

I heartily commend you to read "The Worldly Philosophers" by Robert Heilbroner. Heilbroner himself is a bit too left for my tastes, but his book is a good, readable introduction to capitalist philosophers. Capitalism is a logical complement to Democracy, for both empower the "little guy," one through giving him economic self-determination and the other a political voice.

Oh, and one last point....Japan's recession/ depression was largely due to EXCESS government control (ie, a socialist concentration of economic power). Also, a prediction: Within 10 years, China will no longer be a communist nation. Its economy and its political system cannot coexist for very long. One or the other will give, and I'm betting on the capitalists.

Posted by: JABBER at June 1, 2005 10:48 PM

Stan,

Are you a socialist? Just answer the question without dodging it. I won't hold it against you like some people will, I just want to know where you're coming from. I sympathize with the morality behind socialism, just not the implementation. I like what Paul Berman, who describes himself as a social democrat, had to say about it: socialism has finally become what it should have been all along - a ethical system rather than an economic how-to manual.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 1, 2005 11:26 PM

Okay, no one has commented on this yet, so I'll take the beating.

Seriously, I don't understand why Marx is so bad. I don't believe in Communism. In fact, I agree with F. Hayek (to an extent). But Marx provides a fantastic critique of his society.

Perhaps I've been duped by Althusser. Perhaps I disconnect Marx's social theory from his political agenda. But Marx never put in place any authoritarian regimes.

Now I did read Marx just after I read Smith's The Wealth of Nations, so I put the two together in context. But they didn't seem to refute each other in terms of the nature of capitalism. Where they massively disagree is in what that does to society.

Where Hayek gets it wrong is in his belief that clearing the road of blocks will simply lead to more freedom. In fact, when a complete libertarian agenda is put into place it leads to Lebanon: everyone has their own water tank, electricity generator, militia, police force, etc. The roads and media are completely private. Yes, JABBER, you said that Hayek needs a big footnote about anti-trust protection, but he disagrees with you on that big time.

To Hayek, anti-trust protection gives all the power to the government instead of the people. Its the path to serfdom. Its a path to forced labor and government control.

Also, why wouldn't they put William Lord Beveridge on their list. He was far more responsible for socialist welfare systems than Keynes. Keynes theorized. Beveridge implemented.
It's the difference between Rousseau, Montesque, and Thomas Paine compared to the US Constitution. Which is more powerful, the theory or the practice?
I'd argue the practice since it becomes copied again and again.

Posted by: lebanon.profile at June 2, 2005 02:38 AM

There's nothing especially bad about Marx. He wrote a brilliant critique of history and capitalism and proposed some interesting theories. Those theories however happened to be wrong. It's just that when you deal with uber hard line conservatives(Human Events, Front Page Magazine), the type of people for whom simply calling someone a leftist is enough of a critique or dismissal, Karl Marx is but a half step above Satan himself. Most economists and historians, even the ones who are far from prone to empathizing with Marx's ideas, can discuss him without an obligatory need to stab his picture with a pencil several times.

Posted by: Dustin Ridgeway at June 2, 2005 03:11 AM

I think this discussion calls for a little wisdom from John Kenneth Galbraith.

"Under Capitalism, man exploits man. Under socialism, the reverse is true."

Posted by: Dustin Ridgeway at June 2, 2005 03:16 AM

I looked at Kinsey when a teen, as well as Feminine Mystique. But I don't really remember what they said (so I'm virtually guilty of not reading them?)

My point is that conservatives think abortion is wrong, terrible, and of genocidal level harm. 42 million executed in the US since Roe, and counting.

Abortion happens because a woman is pregnant when she didn't want to be; meaning she had sex when she didn't want to become pregnant -- which is basically the "sex for pleasure is, or should be, OK" vs. "sex should be restricted to pleasure in marriage, so that pregnancy is OK".

What other book(s) supported the Sexual Liberation/ pro-promiscuity/ pro-abortion culture more? I remember better "Everything you always wanted to know about Sex* (*but were afraid to ask)". Conservatives think abortion has been a great harm.

On utilitarianism, economist Levitt strongly suggests that the general decrease in US homicides since about 1991 is, basically, due to a higher proportion of "future murderers" being aborted. Similarly the decrease in teenage pregnancy. While I like such good results, it doesn't justify abortion.

And I notice again that those who complain about these books refuse to take note of abortion.

Marx, like Galbraith, and even many Christian churches, fail to see the morality of capitalism. Human beings making peaceful, honest, voluntary agreements between themselves -- to create and distribute wealth by agreement.
It depends on property rights (capital ownership) and rule of law. Most poverty in the world is due to gov't failing to enforce the rule of law on the rich "capitalists" who make agreements with the poor, then break them yet suffer no punishment.

The problem with capitalism is that all through history so many of the "best" entrepreneurs are those willing to work 110% to make profits -- meaning willing to bribe, steal, & cheat in order to make more money -- or lobby the gov't to do the dirty deeds instead. Like the Fascist capitalists in Cabaret / Hitler's Germany.

In Eastern Europe, including Russia, virtually all the "new wealth" was based on corrupt, "crony capitalism" -- friends of the gov't get special gov't handouts of privatized assets. The head of Yukos, Khodorkovsky, is certainly guilty of illegal actions. He's also being selectively punished because of his legal actions in support of opposing Putin.

I suspect we'll be seeing a new fascism of National Communism in China -- as the successful commie entrepreneurs want to use the gov't to be more successful (and stop competition).

Monopolies ONLY exist because of gov't. Were the US or EU gov't to decide to use LINUX, only, the MS monopoly would rapidly collapse. Gov'ts should be using their purchasing decisions to support near-monopoly competitors.

Socialism is either immoral or unsustainable, or both. Though I do support socialism for "intellectual property" -- meaning I oppose copyrights and think no gov't force should be used to stop people from sharing whatever info they have, digital or otherwise.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at June 2, 2005 04:05 AM

The true nuttiness of this list is revealed not in the "Top Ten", but in some of the "Honorable Mentions":

"On Liberty" by John Stuart Mill

"Origin of the Species" by Charles Darwin

"Unsafe at Any Speed" by Ralph Nader

"Silent Spring" by Rachel Carson

Posted by: VinoVeritas at June 2, 2005 04:49 AM

Well, good morning everyone! More grist for the discussion....

lebanon.profile wrote "Yes, JABBER, you said that Hayek needs a big footnote about anti-trust protection, but he disagrees with you on that big time." I think you overstate it here. Hayek seems to me to be very much misunderstood. He may have Libertarian disciples that are extreme "laissez faire" proponents, but I don't read him that way. Here's a quote from his chapter on "Planning and the Rule of Law":

"The important question is whether the individual can foresee the action of the state and make use of this knowledge as a datum in forming his own plans, with the result that the state cannot control the use made of its machinery and that the individual knows precisely how far he will be protected against interference from others, or whether the state is in a position to frustrate individual efforts."

Hayek's point is that the legal framework of society must be set BEFOREHAND and then treated like a contract. Hayek's problem is with legal changes AFTER THE FACT which are an abuse of trust between the State and the entrepreuner. He's not saying, at all, that the State doesn't have a legittimate (and NECESSARY) role in the economy, just that the State mustn't use its coercive power to help special interests. I don't think any reasonable person could disagree with that. The problem, of course, is that no State (including the US) is willing to cede so much power. Thus, capitalism in its purest form HAS NEVER EXISTED! All the excesses of "capitalism" that have been pointed out in this thread are the result of abusive State interference.

Posted by: JABBER at June 2, 2005 07:15 AM

Are you a socialist? Just answer the question without dodging it.

Yes. Me n' Einstein. Berman knows little about political-economy, he believes that somehow it is possible to have both large military spending and social democratic projects in the US. Wishful thinking at best.

Posted by: stan at June 2, 2005 08:06 AM

Example: Stalinist Russia

There was no system of profits based on competitive markets in Stalin's Russia. The regulator of the economy was non-competitive priorities of the CCP. Next you'll be telling me that the Monarchy in England in the 14th century is an example of capitalism.

Capitalism is a logical complement to Democracy, for both empower the "little guy," one through giving him economic self-determination and the other a political voice.

Not really, in America, where capitalism was in its purest form, outside England's industrial revolution age of unregulated sweatshops, it took all the way until the Great Depression before workers could even unionise without the threat of being arrested for violating the law. Capitalism leads to concentration of wealth, the exact opposite of what is needed for a healthy democracy to flourish.

Posted by: stan at June 2, 2005 08:11 AM

Stan, you keep misrepresenting me. I used Stalinist Russia as an example of the logical end of state control by socialists, NOT as some twisted form of capitalism.

You have an unhealthy obsession with looking only at the downside of capitalism without looking at the inherent logic of it, which largely comes from its very clear-eyed view of human nature. Socialism would render everyone equal, which is utterly ludicrous on its face because people simply are NOT equal in terms of innate ability and drive to succeed. So capitalism harnesses those creative (and self-interested) forces to enlarge the economic pie for everyone. You also too cavalierly dismiss the restraining effect of market competition. Monopolistic concentration of wealth (which, by the way, is exactly what happens in Socialism, only the monopoly is one of coercive State power)need NOT be the end result (ie, via anti-trust laws).

Your fixation on historic excess blinds you to the logic and the possibilities of capitalism. I prefer to understand historic excess in order to create the Rule of Law that Hayek speaks of in order to make the system as equitable as it can be without destroying individual initiative.

Posted by: JABBER at June 2, 2005 08:40 AM

*So capitalism harnesses those creative (and self-interested) forces to enlarge the economic pie for everyone. *

Depressions and massive wasteful spending on military weaponry is hardly enlarging the economic pie for everyone. indeed, during depressions and recessions we find withholding of investment in human potential exactly when it's most needed. What you describe as 'excesses' are actually quite normal under capitalism, something that further clarification of property rights won't change.

Posted by: stan at June 2, 2005 08:58 AM

Capitalism leads to concentration of wealth

Capitalism also generates new wealth. Also, one needs to look at capitalism from a global perspective instead of from only a country perspective to understand how globalization has affected the world economically. From the article The Rich Get Rich and Poor Get Poorer. Or Do They?:

Over the last three decades, and especially since the 1980's, the world's two largest countries, China and India, have raced ahead economically. So have other Asian countries with relatively large populations.

The result is that 2.5 billion people have seen their standards of living rise toward those of the billion people in the already developed countries — decreasing global poverty and increasing global equality. From the point of view of individuals, economic liberalization has been a huge success.

In 1970, global income distribution peaked at about $1,000 in today's dollars, a common measure of poverty ($2 a day in 1985 dollars). In 1998, by contrast, the largest number of people earned about $8,000 — a standard of living equivalent to Portugal's.

"That's what I call a new world middle class," says Professor Sala-i-Martin. It is mostly made up of the top 40 percent of Chinese and Indians, and the effect of their economic rise is big.

What about the argument that income gaps are widening within these rapidly advancing countries? With a few exceptions, it is true, but still misleading.

The rich did get richer faster than the poor did. But for the most part the poor did not get poorer. They got richer, too. In exchange for significantly rising living standards, a little more internal inequality is not such a bad thing.

And from Xavier Sala-i-Martin: Economic Method Man:

One of the most interesting ideas to come out of Sala-i-Martin's work is the concept of an emerging global middle class. According to Sala-i-Martin, in 1970, the concept of a world middle class didn't exist. Now, there is a growing middle class in Asia, primarily in China and India, whose people were once among the world's poorest and now have roughly the same standard of living as those in a European country such as Greece. Those who in 1970 were living on $2 a day, says Sala-i-Martin, are now living on $10,000 a year, a profound difference in living standard. In his view, this suggests that globalization has not been the economic disaster that some critics charge it would be.

Posted by: markytom at June 2, 2005 09:04 AM

Thank you, Markytom! It's difficult to debate someone with a closed mind. Thanks for the assist!

Socialists like to harp on income inequality (which, perhaps sadly, is a fact of life given human nature) but never give capitalism credit for raising the ABSOLUTE level of wealth, including that of the poor (ie, "a rising tide raises all boats"). Dinesh D'Souza quotes one of his Indian friends, soon to emmigrate to the US, as saying "I want to live in a place where even the poor people are fat!" I can't put it any better than that.

Posted by: JABBER at June 2, 2005 09:33 AM

The argument falls apart when you compare China [heavy state intervention] and Russia [Shock therapy]. The latter is doing much better. Indeed, if they followed the laissez faire advice of western consultants in China, China would look like Russia too. Or Iraq, even worse.

Posted by: stan at June 2, 2005 09:36 AM

Socialists like to harp on income inequality (which, perhaps sadly, is a fact of life given human nature) but never give capitalism credit for raising the ABSOLUTE level of wealth, including that of the poor

You need to read Marx more carefully I'm afraid. His argument was based on the relative level of impoverization and inequality that capitalism generates. You're confusing Marx with someone else.

Posted by: stan at June 2, 2005 09:38 AM

I don't agree that all the above books were harmful but all were influential. Noam Chomsky is not on the list because his noxious screeds are taken seriously by few people.

Posted by: Doug at June 2, 2005 09:39 AM

Anything written by Jane Austen trumps this list. I'd also throw in Tom Clancy.

Posted by: bob at June 2, 2005 09:58 AM

Stan, debating with you is like beating my head against a wall. I'm not going to do it anymore. My quote, which you rip completely out of context, namely "Socialists like to harp on income inequality (which, perhaps sadly, is a fact of life given human nature) but never give capitalism credit for raising the ABSOLUTE level of wealth, including that of the poor," was a description of capitalism, NOT a discussion of Marx. You've got Marx on the brain.

Oh, and by the way, in closing my discussion with you, I suppose you believe that everyone in
China is living the socialist dream, where everyone makes the same wage, and all is peace and light. If so, then you are a fool. If not, then you aren't a socialist. I've said it before and I'll say it ONCE MORE: China cannot persist down the road it's on. Either it will clamp down on its entrepreuners and throttle innovation, or it will evolve, peacefully or not, to a more open society. Socialism is antithetical to capitalism; "social democracy" is an oxymoron, an experiment that has only had some success in very homogenous populations (ie, Japan, Europe), but simply cannot persist or flourish, esp when "others" start to crash the party (such as the muslim immigration into Europe...it's one thing for European socialists to share the wealth with their own "tribe," but when the outsider comes, all bets are off...the recent EU Constitution votes are an excellent case in point).

Been nice talking to you, Stan. Peace!

Posted by: JABBER at June 2, 2005 10:03 AM

well, marx is where most socialists derive their critique of capitalism from. for you to complain about my reference to him seems rather trivial. a distraction from your misunderstanding about what the main socialist critique of capitalist inequality is in any event.
Your argument about China is wishful thinking. If they opened up their markets the way you recommend at the moment, they'd look like Russia [or Iraq, even worse!]. Few Chinese care to go that route, not even most democracy activists.

Posted by: stan at June 2, 2005 10:13 AM

I think I've written a rather decent political manifesto at lebop.blogspot.com. Not to toot my own horn, but I think it is relevant to this conversation.

The great part about a non-state controlled system is that people are all equals. The government is only a friend if it reinforces this. Sadly, shock therapy in Russia did not.
China's gradual model isn't doing this either.

A free society offers strength to the individual and the collective. It allows people to freely exchange with one another and spurs thought. You will provide many uses to your society if you can't simply take the goods of others.

That requires strong enforcement of law, but lax regulation of activity.

However, intellectual copyright is the biggest capitalist fraud in the world. It skews the thinking dynamic. It tries to take power over ideas.

Posted by: lebanon.profile at June 2, 2005 04:14 PM

Most of this thread is way over my head but I did want to make a quick comment re secular humanism, mentioned some ways up.

MJT said "...the secular humanist prefers free inquiry over received wisdom—upholding the scientific method for inquiry, while rejecting "revealed knowledge" and theistic morality". His post also added that one of SH's basic tenets is "There is nothing supernatural".

I suppose I do consider myself a secular humanist and the latter statement ("there is nothing supernatural") appears to me to be a non sequitor given the previous statement, unless one wants to claim that free inquiry can never reveal evidence of the supernatural. IMHO, the history of mysticism seems to contradict that claim. It seems more accurate to claim, rather, that SH makes no objective claims regarding the supernatural and leaves it’s discovery (or lack therof) to the individual and as a SH, I think that's not only precisely how it should be, but factually how IT IS, from an epistomolical POV.

I followed Markytom's intereesting link to the 10 myths of SH and in the introduction it said:

“Yes, it's true that "secular humanists don't believe in a God or an afterlife”. It's true that “secular humanism encourages people to think for themselves and question authority."”

But I see no incompatibility between secular humanism and the POSSIBILITY of the divine. The key point is that SH’s don’t BELIEVE in the divine, as in have blind faith or depend on received authority for something they have no direct knowledge of. But free inquiry of whatever sort (presumably including even drug-induced states) is obviously permitted in pursuit of the possible existence of the divine. And my objective reading of some other people's experiences convinces me that there are indeed some people who have directly experienced the "divine". Most such people, however (if they aren't charlatans) seem to emphasize that each person will have to make this journey of self-inquiry for themselves.

Finally, from Markytom's link:

“One political view that secular humanists do share is unswerving support for democracy, freedom, and human rights. All secular humanists are utterly opposed to totalitarian systems like communism and fascism.”

From a secular humanist perspective, then, the Koran quite clearly belongs on the list, while Darwin certainly has no place, even in the honorable mention category.

Posted by: Caroline at June 2, 2005 04:39 PM

I should have added that if as MJT states, secular humanists subscribe to the tenet that "There is nothing supernatural", then they are theists (or more properly a-theists) and hence no different than those who believe in revealed knowledge. Their beliefs are equally fixed, aren't they? But then that's the definition of a "belief", isn't it? A fixed thought? That leads me to think that there's some confusion regarding the distinction between "atheism" and "secular humanism". IMO the former should be reserved for those who are somewhat fixed in their belief that there is no super-natural (that nature is all there is), while the latter term should be reserved for people who simply don't know, and recognize that most other human beings don't know either but who also recognize that the "Golden Rule" is probably self-evidently the best way of ordering human affairs in the meantime, until we DO know! (Does the Golden Rule go back to Confucious?)

One approach to this problem is to assume from the outset that we simply don't know but to also approach that dilemma NOT by trying to apprehend "the truth" - which seems inevitably to lead to searching for some "authority" to convey that truth to us - but rather to start with what we obviously know to be FALSE. In other words, keep stripping away the false and after it's all stripped away - there the truth will be! Like a nugget of gold covered under all the ash that was there all along.

That being the case, there are 2 things which I am absolutely certain are false:

1. The earth is 6,000 years old.
2. Muhammed was God's prophet.

Much beyond that - I don't know, but it's a good start!

Posted by: Caroline at June 2, 2005 05:12 PM

lebanon.profile, I like your post and, when I get a chance, I'll check out your manifesto. But will you allow me a quibble with your statement here:

"However, intellectual copyright is the biggest capitalist fraud in the world. It skews the thinking dynamic. It tries to take power over ideas."

I think you're far too broad here. Taken to your logical conclusion, our good friend Michael here (or any of us for that matter) could profit not at all from writing a book, a song, or a piece of software, to say nothing of any kind of patents. To render these all public domain, with the best of intentions, will lead ultimately to a throttling of intellectual sharing. Only altruists would share and, sadly, there aren't too many of those out here. Creative acts take enormous effort and perseverance which deserves to be compensated.

Posted by: JABBER at June 2, 2005 06:08 PM

Caroline,

Islamophobia is unbecoming of you.

I strongly recommend reading "The Two Faces of Islam" by Stephen Schwartz. You have one side of the story down. Do yourself a favor and get the other side. You'll be glad you did.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 2, 2005 06:40 PM

Michael - if you think Islamophobia is "unbecoming" of me, then you must think that "becoming" is somehow important to me. Frankly, I couldn't give a damn what people believe or don't believe - it's mostly not my business. But when people's beliefs are quite obviously connected to their actions vis a vis large scale violence, then their beliefs become my business.

Re Steven Schwartz - I have read enough of his stuff on frontpagemag to understand that he is a Sufi. He subscribes to the view that jihad refers to inner jihad only. I have no argument there. His beliefs dovetail very nicely with the "perennial philosophy". But his beliefs have nothing to do with real Islam, as expressed by the prophet Muhammed. There are a huge number of folks who have relinquished their identities with the monotheistic faiths and embraced some form of secular humanism (you) or what is sometimes called "new age philosophy", which acknowledges some divine reality larger than themselves, even if they don't embrace some formal religion to get them there.

But Schwartz is obviously an Islamic apologist. What is his excuse? And what is your excuse for him?

There are 5 billion people on this planet. Schwartz could easily search and find some alternative to his Sufi beliefs, something that doesn't serve as a COVER for Islam, which makes it awfully hard for the remaining 4 billion people to sort out the moderates from the extremists. Obviously you've taken that step to say "I don't know". What I don't understand is why you give a pass to a westerner like Schwartz -who could easily take that step but because he refuses to - makes it so much more difficult for the rest of us to defend ourselves against Muslim jihad. A whole lot of westerners have abandoned our formal religions along time ago and under no duress whatsoever. If Sufi Islam was my faith I would have recognized quite some time ago that I was endagering humanity by clinging stubbornly to Islam and recognized quite clearly that the same precepts of Sufism are expressed quite well elsewhere, in Buddhism, for example.

Michael - I have to admit that I am quite disappointed to find you calling me an "Islamophobe" so overtly. What bullshit is that coming from a supposed "secular humanist" anyway?

Islam isn't a race remember? Islam is an ideology. And if you have a problem with someone criticizing an ideology, then you are neither a secular humanist nor a liberal.

Posted by: Caroline at June 2, 2005 07:51 PM

Caroline: But Schwartz is obviously an Islamic apologist.

He's a Muslim, Caroline. Come on. He is also, as Christopher Hitchens put it, a most articulate opponent of Islamofascism.

Islam isn't a race remember? Islam is an ideology.

It is neither. It is a religion.

And if you have a problem with someone criticizing an ideology, then you are neither a secular humanist nor a liberal.

I don't have any problem at all with you or anyone else criticizing a religion - any religion. I'm an atheist. The problem is when you dismiss one-fifth of humanity and lump them all in with the Wahhabis and the Salafis.

If Sufi Islam was my faith I would have recognized quite some time ago that I was endagering humanity

Sufis, and other Muslims like them, are those who will put an end to the Terror War. I strongly suggest you encourage them rather than damn them.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 2, 2005 09:03 PM

Caroline, let me put it to you this way. You often speak about Islam as though liberal and moderate Muslism don't exist. But they do. I know some of them personally and count them as friends. I share your view of extremists Muslims - you know that. They just aren't the whole story, and I know that.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 2, 2005 11:47 PM

It always cracks me up to come here and see that Tom Grey still refers to himself as "Liberty Dad." That's just about the most pretentious thing I've ever seen in my life.

Posted by: Ed Revista at June 3, 2005 06:42 AM

Michael - you say that Islam is a "religion" rather than an "ideology". I did a quick google search of religion vs ideology and came up rather short on understanding the distinction. To me, any religion that purports to impart 'received knowledge' is an ideology by definition. It strikes me as a distinction without a difference. But in the case of islam in particular, I think we are quite obviously looking at a political ideology VERY THINLY DISGUISED as a religion. Do you have some problem in appreciating that human beings who have actually seen the 'face of God' so to speak - do not murder people? Do not butcher, maim, enslave and conquer them?

Well, it's rather obvious that Muhammed was not a holy man isn't it? It's rather obvious that he quite cleverly understood how to manipulate the uneducated masses to carry out his political ambitions by promising them heaven (and really - what a transparently laughable heaven he portrayed) if they did his bidding while promising them hell if they didn't (both in this life and the next).

(Are we actually having this discussion in the 21st century? Well, rather unfortunately it looks like we are. Welcome to the theatre of the absurd.)

Look - I most certainly do understand your point about the moderate Muslims, including Steven Schwartz. But when you make that point you ARE talking political and military strategy aren't you? You ARE being expedient, aren't you? (as opposed to actually trying to address what is true vs what is false ). I do find it fascinating though that modern secular humanists and liberals are so willing to abandon reason (which I had thought was the very thing that had advanced the human race so far) in favor of politeness. Yup. Politeness (now going by the name "political correctness"). PC - the ultimate bourgeois concept. (Strange irony there in which Marx's ideological descendents are the enforcers of bourgeouis-ness.)

In any case, the topic of this post wasn't political expediency - it was about the most harmful books. One could address the impact of books from either a practical/utilitarian (real world consequence) or epistemological (true/false) POV. From either perspective, the Koran clearly belongs on the list. If thinking so makes me an 'Islamophobe", well, so be it.

Posted by: Caroline at June 3, 2005 08:45 AM

Caroline,

Maybe you're just phobic about religion in general. I used to be, and I still am to an extent. But I've tried to make my peace with religion because it isn't going anywhere. Ideologies, on the other hand, die and can be defeated in battle.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 3, 2005 10:20 AM

Too add to my point, Caroline: To exterminate a religion you will have a commit genocide. It's not like defeating Nazism, Communism, or Baathism in war.

You don't really expect a billion Muslims to convert to Christianity or atheism, do you? Not even Stalin could convert a country to atheism. It just can't be done.

There are liberal Muslims in the world, though. And there will be many more in the future. The Terror War will end when there are enough of them.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 3, 2005 10:24 AM

MJT: "Maybe you're just phobic about religion in general"

You're the atheist, Michael, not me.

"Ideologies, on the other hand, die and can be defeated in battle."

Assuming the ideologues are wearing uniforms, like the Nazi's did, they can be defeated in battle. Otherwise, no, ideologies can't be defeated that way.

"To exterminate a religion you will have to commit genocide."

Oh man, there goes that genocide thing again. What rot. Ideologies are properly defeated by facts and reason. You're apparently forgetting the Theo van Gogh option. As his throat was being cut he pleaded, "We can still talk about it!" I guess he was a child of the enlightenment.

Posted by: Caroline at June 3, 2005 08:33 PM

Caroline, if I could talk a billion people out of their religion I would do it. But it is never going to happen, and I am not going to expend my emotional energy railing against that fact. If you want to try to talk a billion people out of their religion, you have my blessing. Just be nice to them in the meantime. Some of them are my friends.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 4, 2005 12:13 AM

MJT: "If you want to try to talk a billion people out of their religion, you have my blessing."

OK, thanks! I trust then that you'll stop calling me an Islamophobe while I give it a shot.

Posted by: Caroline at June 4, 2005 10:43 AM

Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy (1888)should be on the list. It was a significant inspiration for modern central planning. Read this review.

Posted by: Alan K. Henderson at June 7, 2005 02:01 AM

Anyway, if you're going to use an exercise like this to gun for your domestic political opponents (John Dewey, and by extension Bill Clinton; John Maynard Keynes, and by extension Franklin Delano Roosevelt) at least go after the likes of Noam Chomsky. Leave the mainstream liberals out of it.

Why not Keynes? He's the most influential of desctructive economic philosophers outside the Marxist school. Destructiveness is especially dangerous when it is mainstream, so "mainstream" philosophers should not be left out.

Since the list considers not only the badness of ideas but the breadth of influence, I'm not sure that Chomsky would qualify. Another radical professor's opus does come to mind - Edward Said's Orientalism. He definitely screwed up a lot of Western understanding of the Middle East.

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