The theory and practice of politics and economics are more in depth than should be allowed. To be truly versed in them, more is required than being current on the news and happenings in Washington. Knowledge of current events is very necessary but without grounding in philosophy and hard doctrine it can only go so far. To understand current events with all their merit, it is requisite to view them through the kaleidoscope of theory. Because of this, all who seriously follow politics must be acquainted with the basic reads of said field and adding a sprinkling of history and economics has never harmed anyone. Here are a few well known and some lesser known tomes that all conservatives should familiarize themselves with. This list is divided into two articles to keep them both at a comfortable reading length. Note, these are not in any particular order.
10. The Constitution of the United States of America and Selected Writings of the Founding Fathers
In 2012, Barnes and Noble published a voluminous 800 page compilation of the writings of the men who founded America. These documents are not only of value because they outline the origins of US, they are also thought of as some of the greatest works of political theory in world history. Anyone searching for the core principles of republican government must inevitably start here. This book hits the highlights of the revolutionary era with writings such as The Federalist Papers, Common Sense, various speeches of the first four presidents and whole slew of documents from the Continental Congress.
9. The Two Treatises of Civil Government by John Locke
Continuing the theme of foundational theory, one must recognize the value of the works of Locke and most notably the Two Treatises of Civil Government. In these books, the argument against divine right monarchial government is advanced in concert with advocacy with what would become known as classical liberalism. Book one deals exclusively with a long debunking of the divine right which held that kings have the right to rule with absolute power because they are ordained to do so by God. Book two which is more consequential than the first deals with his conceptions of the formation of government, its role and the rights of the people. Locke is a staple of political theory that is almost single handedly responsible for dethroning the doctrine of absolute monarchy and for forming the ideological backbone of classical liberalism. The specific text that I recommend is that of the Cambridge texts in the history of political thought series which includes over one hundred pages of commentary on the text which provides deeper insight.
8. The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
Continuing with the theme of vital theory again, at some point every conservative must read the playbook of the most radical of the radicals: The Communist Manifesto. It is not the quality or thoughtfulness of this book that mandates right wingers examine it (because it possesses neither of those) rather, it is its influence. Untold millions were hypnotized by Marx in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Untold millions went to their graves because of it as well. History has pounded many nails into the coffin of communism but even though few leftists today profess to be Marxist-Leninists, Maoists or Trotskyists their arguments are still used. The politics of envy that yesterday’s reds trafficked in are still trafficked in by today’s garden variety leftists whether it is realized or not. Because of this continuing relevance, one must return to the root and at least briefly, study Marx. I personally recommend having a trashcan nearby in case one’s lunch becomes unstable in one’s stomach as a result of reading this.
7. Animal Farm by George Orwell
Speaking of communism, Orwell’s classic parody of early Soviet history is a must read. In it, the story is told of a farm in which an uprising by the livestock creates an animal run state. In the beginning, the animals have an idealism for better lives and they resolve to seize what they imagine they are being robbed of by the farmers (again, the politics of envy). Just as what happened in the Soviet Union and indeed in all communist states, corruption, mismanagement, demonization of opponents and the harsh realities of central planning’s ineffectiveness shatter that idealism. What is left is a tyranny indistinguishable from the one that was escaped in the first place. In short, it is an analogy for what will inevitably happen whenever the Machiavellian designs of the communist intellectuals marries the misguided idealism of a supposedly oppressed people in the form of revolution and establishment of a dictatorial state. Animal Farm is very readable and since it was written by a socialist, it speaks volumes of the evil and unworkable nature of communism.
6. Excuse me Professor edited by Lawrence Reed
Unlike the ones listed prior, this read is contemporary. Created by the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) and Young America’s Foundation (YAF), this book trots out no less than 52 leftist economic talking points and they are systematically debunked with an essay for each. It is designed as a field guide for students to challenge the tropes of the left on campus and it speaking from experience, it is useful for that. Some of its themes include “the minimum wage helps the poor, big government is a check on big business, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, the economy needs more central planning” and more. This book goes a long way to showing that what has too often been accepted as axiomatic in American politics is nothing of the sort. It is a must read for those who frequently talk shop with committed leftists.
Part two of this article will be published in the coming days.
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