Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Tagged Up

Okay, here’s my Tagged drill:

1. How many books? Rough guess: Over 5,000. I have two homes, both of which need well-stocked libraries. I’ve had carpenters build LARGE bookcases in five rooms total; then there’s overflow in the garage, and then there’s still more in my AEI office.

Some people might think I have a problem. But no; as Henry Ward Beecher put it, "A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life."

2. Last book bought? Hilary Putnam, The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy and Other Essays. (Just trying to keep up with political science trends.)

3. Last book read? Joseph Stanik, El Dorado Canyon: Reagan’s Undeclared War with Qaddafi. (Most of my reading these days is connected with my ongoing Reagan book project.)

4. What five books mean the most? Only five? This is tough, though I’m tempted to repair to Chesterton’s answer about what one book he’d take to a desert island (his answer: Hawkins’ Complete Guide to Shipbuilding.) I guess I’d settle on these:

-C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man. (A prologue, in many ways, to Natural Right and History.)

-Nicomachean Ethics.

-Paul Johnson’s Modern Times, for showing the style I’m trying to emulate with The Age of Reagan.

-Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty. (More complete than Road to Serfdom or Capitalism and Freedom.)

-Odyssey of a Friend: Whittaker Chambers’ Letters to William F. Buckley Jr. An odd choice, I know, but more interesting that Witness in my judgment.

Now, having resisted the blandishments of chain letters my whole life, I’m not going to tag anyone, lest this thing spin out of control by geometric proportions.

Discussions - 9 Comments

Mr. Hayward,

Could you say more how Abolition of Man is a kind of prologue to Natural Right and History?

Sure: The Abolition of Man explores the face of what we today call "value relativism" or even postmodernism--the view that there is no objective truth, that all "values" are subjective. Natural Right and History tells the back story, as they say in Hollywood, about the long road of how we got to this point. I am sure Lewis would have wholly embraced Natural Right and History if he had read it.

People might disagree with my reading of this, or suggest another pairing. Harry Jaffa used to say to us at Claremont that Walter Lippmann’s A Preface to Morals was a fitting prologue to Natural Right and History, and of course Lippmann was influenced some by Strauss, especially in A Public Philosophy. (What would the Strauss-bashers make of that, if they paid attention?)

I read Abolition of Man in high school, and it made a large impression on me, in large part because Lewis’s treatment is both serious and profound, but accessible. I am sure I couldn’t have got through five pages of Strauss in high school.

Mr. Hayward, may I offer some sage advice from a book not on your list:

But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body. --Ecclesiastes 12:12

Having mentioned that, I would say that I am not surprised in the least about Lippmann’s admiration of Strauss. As an embracer of socialism, when he was young, a strong, middle-aged supporter of the "New Dealer’s War," Lippmann turned full circle in his elder years, becoming a rather staunch "conservative" reactionary. In short, Lippmann became one of those old "mugged by reality" foggies late in life.

How do I know this? I read it a book somewhere. :)

Marc:

I had thought about selecting the Bible as my Number One book, but assumed--perhaps mistakenly--that the criteria implied books written by men alone.

As for Lippmann, it should be noted that he published A Preface to Morals in 1929, before the New Deal. The Public Philosophy was published in 1955, after Strauss arrived on the scene with NRH.

Steven:

I am sure you would agree, the big gripe new lefties have with Strauss revolves around his notions of "national greatness" (ie., Strauss was a Nazi). I can think of no more a fitting tribute to this exceptionalist view than a Lippmann quote, which Jimmy Carter used in his 1980 SOTU speech just before he was trounced by Renaldo, btw. Furthermore, I cannot see one iota difference between Lippmann’s exhortation of 1940 and FDR’s famous "To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected."-theme of the 1930s. Meaning, of course, that Lippmann and that "nice man" were on the exact same page, wrt the "New Dealer’s War" (on both domestic and foreign fronts), at least in spirit.

And, from what I understand, so, too, was Renaldo, at that time.

But, if you read closely (pages 105-106 of An American Life), one can see a bit of what Reagan began to see, at the end of this "sacrifice your comfort and your ease" national greatness rainbow. From the sound of it, the road looked to be paved with "serfdom" (or as Reagan put it, "fascism"). Ergo, both Reagan and Lippmann (who strongly opposed both Korea and Vietnam) began to reassess their understanding of the meaning of freedom and liberty by the end of WWII.

Perhaps Strauss addressed this "greatness" dilemma at some point? I know I don’t agree with the Left’s paranoia with anything that smacks of American exceptionalism, but there is a certain element of truth to their fears (even if their embrace of Marx makes them hypocritical).

Books can be found only in a home of readers. People that don’t read don’t accumulate large libraries. My parents were avid readers, and I became one. My wife read little before we were married (she has a massive dyslexia problem), but now consumes books at the rate of two or three a week (books on tape are a wonderful thing!). Two of our three children are avid readers, the third has severe problems reading, stemming from abuse from his birth parents before we adopted him. My granddaughter is also an avid reader.

Being on the lower end of the "middle class" (I’m a disabled, retired veteran living on my military retirement/disabilty income - $22,000 a year), we utilize our public libraries extensively, but still have a personal library of around 2500 books - including all but maybe 30 of the Readers’ Digest Condensed books from #1 to about 2003. Those have led us to many "favorite writers" over the years.

I’ve even tried my hand at writing. I have five novels online here. Robert Heinlein started writing science fiction because of a disability. I’m not in the same class, but then, it’s still early in my career... 8^)

Actually, friend, I don’t think that listening to books on tape really counts as "reading." Therefore, your wife cannot be considered an avid reader. Nor can your children, if this is indeed the method by which they "consume" books. As a person who insists upon absolute clarity in all cases, I feel that I must point this out. Good day.

H. Langdon, perhaps you should read a book about not being snide.

Ohio Voter- Could you recommend a good one? I’ve never been able to find a book on such a topic, and believe me, sir when I say that I have searched high and low!

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