Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Most Evil Books?

Via Lawyers Guns and Money, with other commentary from several blogs including Brad DeLong, Here's What's Left, Pennywit, and rapidly several other blogs, is the list of the 30 most harmful books as named by a conservative panel. Thoughts below the list:

HUMAN EVENTS asked a panel of 15 conservative scholars and public policy leaders to help us compile a list of the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries. Each panelist nominated a number of titles and then voted on a ballot including all books nominated. A title received a score of 10 points for being listed No. 1 by one of our panelists, 9 points for being listed No. 2, etc. Appropriately, The Communist Manifesto, by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, earned the highest aggregate score and the No. 1 listing.

And the list:
1. The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx
2. Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler
3. Quotations from Chairman Mao, Mao Zedong
4. The Kinsey Report, Alfred Kinsey
5. Democracy and Education, John Dewey
6. Das Kapital, Karl Marx
7. The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan
8. The Course of Positive Philosophy, Auguste Comte
9. Beyond Good and Evil, Friederich Nietzsche
10. General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, John Maynard Keynes
11. The Population Bomb, Paul Ehrlich
12. What is to be Done, V.I. Lenin
13. Authoritarian Personality, Theodor Adorno
14. On Liberty, John Stuart Mill
15. Beyond Freedom and Dignity, B.F. Skinner
16. Reflections on Violence, Georges Sorel
17. The Promise of American Life, Herbert Croly
18. Origin of the Species, Charles Darwin
19. Madness and Civilization, Michel Foucault
20. Soviet Communism: A New Civilization, Sidney and Beatrice Webb
21. Coming of Age in Samoa, Margaret Mead
22. Unsafe at Any Speed, Ralph Nader
23. Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir
24. Prison Notebooks, Antonio Gramsci
25. Silent Spring, Rachel Carson
26. Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon
27. Introduction to Psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud
28. The Greening of America, Charles Reich
29. The Limits to Growth, Club of Rome
30. Descent of Man, Charles Darwin

There's a lot to say here so I'll limit myself to a few general thoughts.

1. Is it not utterly rephrensible to have the Communist Manifesto as worse than Mein Kampf? What this tells me is that conservatives feel that the idea that people should work together for equality and throw off their industrial masters is an inherently more evil idea than killing 6 million Jews. Say what you will about the history of communism, but the ideas themselves as laid out in The Communist Manifesto, Kaptial, and the other Marx/Engels tracts do not argue for the deaths of an entire race, as Hitler blatantly does.

2. That Silent Spring and Unsafe at any Speed are on there tells me that conservatives believe that the regulation of industry, regardless of whether that industry is rapidly destroying many species or selling products they know are unsafe, is only a magnitude of one less evil than killing 6 million Jews and millions of other innocent people in Europe. To have those two ideas in the same breath is deeply disturbing.

3. I am surprised that Darwin is on there. This shows me how the conservative movement has evolved over the 20th and 21st centuries. 80 years ago, conservatives might likely would have listed Darwin in their best books and certainly would have listed Herbert Spencer. Have ideas of social Darwinism faded away, or do they just not get openly praised anymore except behind closed doors? I suspect it's the latter. In any case, I think the listing of Darwin is a sop to the Christians.

4. It's just stupid to have The Little Red Book in there since that book, a) didn't really have a major effect around the world except in isolated cases such as the Khmer Rouge and Shining Path, and b) came out of Mao's complete control over China, which already existed before this book was widely read. Call Mao evil if you want, that's fine. But to argue that this book was that damaging seems quite off base.

5. It's hilarious that John Dewey is #5. I love conservative mythology about families and how to raise children.

6. The Feminine Mystique is #7. This as much as anything should say as much as anything that what the conservative movement really wants is women back in the home. Abortion is just a start folks. Until they have their 1952 fantasy fulfilled, they won't stop.

8. Coming of Age in Samoa on this list is another way of saying, especially combined with Wretched of the Earth, that conservatives basically don't think people in the developing world are equal to white people.

9. I'm rather surprised that The Autobiography of Malcolm X is not on here. Certainly more people have read that and been deeply influenced by it than The Little Red Book, at least outside of China.