Aaron Gardner, a while back, emailed me to suggest RedState start some serious discussion on conservative ideas and thoughts. Being just a diarist and me being busy, I had the convenience of ignoring him.
Now that he is a front pager and has access to my super secret email address, I can’t ignore him anymore and decided I’d be pre-emptive. In all seriousness, I have been thinking for a while that it would be worth doing a series of posts on a collection of conservative great books.
Truth be told, however, I have become a lazy reader of late. I read so much for work, that I rarely sit down to enjoy a book except when I’m on an airplane.
In light of Steven F. Hayward’s column in the Washington Post this weekend, I thought it might be worthwhile to go on and move forward with this.
Hayward wrote, in part, “The single largest defect of modern conservatism, in my mind, is its insufficient ability to challenge liberalism at the intellectual level, in particular over the meaning and nature of progress. In response to the left’s belief in political solutions for everything, the right must do better than merely invoking “markets” and “liberty.””
I have my disagreements with Hayward’s column, but I do think we, as activists, need to get beyond our gut to the point of being able to articulate why we know what we know and think what we think. In the spirit of Ecclesiastes that “there is nothing new under the sun,” I think we ought to explore the ideas together in a Great Books program of sorts. As I wrote in my rebuttal to Hayward’s column, “[W]e should be excited by the opportunity to begin again with old ideas made new for a new generation of citizen showing itself to be instinctually conservative.”
Here is my proposal:Below is a list of books in no particular order. Some are easy. Some are hard. Some are meaty. Some are light. But they are all thought provoking. They all serve as bedrock for our believes and knowledge.
Aaron and I are going to read each book and we want you to join us. We will read one chapter a week. On Mondays we will write a post with our thoughts on the chapter. It will not be a “book review”, but rather our candid thoughts on the chapter, up to and including “the baby was sick all week and I didn’t get a chance to read it.”
We will pace this out over a good long time so that those of you with jobs, families, and other activities can still participate.
You have three commitments:
- Get the book.
- Read the assigned chapter or chapters (usually 1, but more if the book is short).
- Write a post over the following weekend with your thoughts on the chapter.
You can use the tag “Book Notes” in your post and we’ll track them and engage each other in the comments sections.
Here is the list (again in no particular order):
A Message to Garcia by Elbert Hubbard
Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg
Economics in One Lesson by Hazlitt
Liberty & Tyranny by Mark Levin
The Road to Serfdom by F. A. Hayek
The Conservative Mind by Russell Kirk
Free to Choose by Milton Friedman
Conscience of a Conservative by Barry Goldwater
Democracy in America by Tocqueville
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
God and Man at Yale by W.F. Buckley
Witness by Whittaker Chambers
The Political Writings of St. Augustine (a compilation available here)
Read A Message to Garcia. It is extremely short. And you do not need to buy it. As conservative activists, we should set this book to heart. In fact, I keep a copy of it on my desk at all times and re-read it frequently.
You can download it here as a PDF. It is an extremely quick read.
We’ll all post our thoughts on October 12th.
This gives us time to get ready for the next book. Aaron and I decided, though we’re going in no particular order, we’d really kick things off with Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism.
We hope you will join us in this endeavor.