What Books Would You Recommend To Progressives?

I can’s start this post without explaining that I’m uncomfortable with the term “Progressive” in this context. Some definitions of the word include “making progress  toward better conditions” and “characterized by such progress,  or by continuous improvement.” The problem is that rehashed statist and socialist policies that have been proven both ineffectual and improper empirically and logically, do not move us towards improvement, they do the opposite.

But for the sake of this post let’s stick with the term progressive the way it’s often used politically now.

In this story, John Kerry recommends five books that he things every progressive should read. I suspected the list would be cringe-worthy, and I was not disappointed. ;-)

He recommends:
Silent Spring By Rachel Carson
The Grapes of Wrath By John Steinbeck
Letter from the Birmingham Jail By Martin Luther King Jr
The Conscience of a Liberal By Paul Wellstone
The Other America By Michael Harrington

The only one on there that I would even consider keeping would be the King book. But remember, we need to whittle the list down to just five books.

[Update: 11.13.2011 => Watch Dr. Stephen Davies discuss his top 5 books for libertarians]

So what would my list look like? I would start with having the progressive read the U.S. Bill of Rights and Constitution. Then I would recommend a good selection of these authors: Henry Hazlitt, Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell, and Milton Friedman. And then have the progressives read the U.S. Bill of Rights and Constitution again, twice. Okay, I cheated a little. And I would recommend the same reading of the Constitution and Bill of Rights for NeoCons and those on the political Right.

I reserve the right to change my list but I think this is a solid start:
Capitalism and Freedom: Fortieth Anniversary Edition by Milton Friedman
Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy by Thomas Sowell
Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt
The Law by Frederic Bastiat
The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism by F. A. Hayek

[UPDATES: 08/08/11 PM => Dr. Newmark recommends Dr. Thomas Sowell's A Conflict of Visions, along with Daniel B. Klein's The People's Romance, Leonard Read's I, Pencil, and Why Capitalism Is Good for the Soul, by Peter Saunders.]

And in the on-deck circle:
Economic Facts and Fallacies: Second Edition by Thomas Sowell
Every column ever written by Dr. Walter Williams
The Myth of the Robber Barons by Burton Folsom
Free to Choose: A Personal Statement by Milton & Rose Friedman
The Ultimate Resource by Julian Simon
The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality by Ludwig von Mises
Defending the Undefendable by Walter Block
The Road to Serfdom by F. A. Hayek
The Price of Everything: A Parable of Possibility and Prosperity by Russell D. Roberts
The Choice: A Fable of Free Trade and Protection by Russell Roberts (review)

So, what would your list look like?

  • John

    A Conflict of Visions by Thomas Sowell

  • http://www.idiotscollective.com Aaron McKenzie

    I might add to your on-deck circle “The Rational Optimist” by Matt Ridley. It wasn’t quite as influential for me as some of the others you listed, but a lot of modern liberalism seems to be predicated on a terribly pessimistic outlook on the world.  Many such folks could do with some sunshine blown up their backside and Ridley is just the man for the job.

    • http://pretenseofknowledge.com/ speedmaster

      Great point, and it reminds me I completely forgot Julian Simon! I’ll update the list tonight.  ;-)

  • Bill Stark

    I’d add Liberal Fascism

  • http://ourdinnertable.wordpress.com Seth

    Nice post.  Good idea. 

    On-deck:
    Sowell’s “Black Rednecks and White Liberals”
    Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs and Steel”.  Without having a political bias, I found this to be a good book to get people to think beyond the immediate landscape and be a little more open to 2nd and 3rd order consequences. 

    • http://pretenseofknowledge.com/ speedmaster

      Oh, good. That was a great Sowell book.

      • http://ourdinnertable.wordpress.com Seth

        I think BR/WL’s deserves more attention.  It changed the way I view cultures.