I’ve been throwing my spare time at reading lately, instead of blogging. A list of my most recent reads, with a short description of the impression made upon me by each book:
Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon. Imprisonment of the vanguard. A short novel about Stalin’s purges in the 1930’s. Its drama is derived from the philosophical conflict between the instigators of the Russian revolution and those who imprisoned and shot them under the pretext of maintaining the revolution. Recommended.
Lionel Trilling’s The Middle of the Journey. Moral justification for defection of the vanguard. Another short novel. An account of a fellow traveler coming to terms with the atrocities committed in the name of Soviet communism, and his close friends’ blindness to them. (Stalin’s purges took the lives of Chambers’ Soviet contacts.) Based in part on Trilling’s relationship with Whittaker Chambers. Lionel Trilling was not Whittaker Chambers’ best friend, but he understood Chambers’ passionate communism and the moral passion that drove him away from communism and towards Christianity. Not as strong a recommend as Darkness, but worth a read, and good if read in tandem with Darkness. Try this essay by Cynthia Ozick to see if The Middle of the Journey is for you.
W.M. Curtiss’ The Tariff Idea. An eighty page pamphlet on protectionism.
A collection of essays by George Stigler called The Economist as Preacher. A quote particularly relevant to the current climate change uproar, from an essay within entitled “Does Economics Have a Useful Past?”:
“As I understand Babbage’s main (unoriginal) contribution to the subject [the clique-ishness of scientific associations], it is the assertion that learned bodies are each run by a self-perpetuating inner clique. I believe that this is true, and necessary to their survival. Private property not only turns sand into gold but also committee meetings and journal editing into careers. Babbage’s violent dissatisfaction with this state of affairs is reminiscent of Ambrose Bierce’s definition of the word incumbent: “A person of the liveliest interest to the outcumbents.”
Another collection of essays by a Nobel laureate economist, this one by Ronald Coase: Essays on Economics and Economists. Most gratifying: “The Market for Goods and The Market for Ideas,” and both essays on Adam Smith. Coase’s writing on Smith has convinced me to tackle An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. I should have done so long ago. No time like the present. Coase is a treasure in his own right. Highly recommended; Coase is charming and humorous and a terrific writer.
David Henderson’s The Joy of Freedom. Also highly recommended. For those on the fence about their libertarianism, this is the book that will graciously help them down on the right side. It will convince you, through subtle argument and solid logic, that more freedom and less government really is the solution to most, if not all, social problems. It is written in an easy-going, friendly style. If you’re not a libertarian but are curious about what it means to be one, this book will welcome you into the fold. And if you strayed away from libertarianism it will welcome you back. Reading this book was like talking to an old friend; it was comforting and reassuring. Henderson walks through big issues such as the insolvency of Social Security, ending the draft, socialized medicine, free trade, taxes, the war on drugs. And he walks through such territory with gentle confidence and ease.