T Nation

The PWI Required Reading List


#1

It's time we have a repository for all things book related. I'm not talking about magazines or talking points, I'm talking about the foundational literature that should or does form the basis for your opinions and outlook politically. The books can be strictly political, or political/historical, or purely historical. Even philosophical. However, the rule is the books listed have to be 1) books you personally have read and 2) books that you consider fundamental to understanding politics and economy.

Certainly historical documents count, even if not "book" form.

The third rule is you need to give a reason for every book or paper/dissertation/document you post. Repeats from somebody else are ok, if you'd like to talk about your reasons for having them on the list--I think that helps bring up good discussion points or for that matter remind yourself of things you may have forgotten on the way.

Here's 3 of mine. No need to be limited to U.S. sources, I just have these three off the top of my head to start off with.

1) U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, for what I hope are obvious reasons being that it is the founding document of this country and also that it is generally a good idea to revisit a document you "think" you remember from time to time to check your opinions against the primary source. We all get sidetracked from time to time.

2) The Federalist Papers. If there is one central repository for the Founding Father's outlooks on governance and political will, this is it. It expands on the things enumerated in The Documents and further I think prevents people from saying "well the Founding Fathers said this" when they didn't, because if you had read certain of the Federalist Papers you would have gotten the person's opinions on the matter first hand.

3) Locke's 2nd Treatise on Government. This is in my opinion one of the--if not the singular--penultimate documents on political philosophy for the modern world. Locke took the more extreme views of Hobbes and modified them into a rational and cohesive whole philosophy. This was also one of the source materials for our Founding Fathers and obviously it might pay to read many of the sources they would have been reading.


#2

I will add more later, as I think of them but:

1984 - Orwell - Very good social commentary as it pertains to blind political allegiance. Every time I see some wingnut on facebook or the news talking about jailing political opponents of theirs I cannot help but think of this book

Economic Facts and Fallacies - Sowell - Any book that breaks down statistical based political talking points in plain English is a must read for any political wonk.

Any book that breaks down “Rules for Radicals” - This will help you see what is going on around you.


#3

[quote]Aragorn wrote:
2) The Federalist Papers. If there is one central repository for the Founding Father’s outlooks on governance and political will, this is it. It expands on the things enumerated in The Documents and further I think prevents people from saying “well the Founding Fathers said this” when they didn’t, because if you had read certain of the Federalist Papers you would have gotten the person’s opinions on the matter first hand.
[/quote]

Wouldn’t you need a bunch of Jefferson’s writings to counteract this?

I mean, if you went strictly by what the Federalists Papers say, and by extension what the author of the Papers wrote in their later years, you’d be at serious odds with a lot of the posters on this subforum.


#4

I think our group needs a broader view than a bunch of guys that have all read the same works and sit around and agree with each other (CJS)

I would highly recommend the Communist Manifesto . I know it is a article written by the Devil himself . I how ever think it should be read by all


#5

#6

[quote]countingbeans wrote:
1984 - Orwell - Very good social commentary as it pertains to blind political allegiance. Every time I see some wingnut on facebook or the news talking about jailing political opponents of theirs I cannot help but think of this book

[/quote]

Pretty sure this was read as a “how to” guide by the current admin.

I’d also add:

Brave New World

Mein Kampf (yes, written by the Devil, Part II). Mainly to see the recognize the re-packaging of socialist/populist drivel going on to see nothing is new.

Any given Econ 101 and 102 text books, but only if at least 30 years old.

Any given Accounting 101 and 102 text books, but only if at least 20 years old.


#7

One of my favorite recent reads is You Are Not So Smart. While it is essentially a collection of blog style posts from his blog, it’s excellent at breaking down the fallacies and heuristic based issues. It may help us understand our own minds a bit better and the constant mistakes we make with things like conspiracy theories and bias. It helps me understand why some people with die hard beliefs can maintain those beliefs on political (or any type) of thinking even while in the fact of extremely contradictory evidence.

At the very least it’s a fun read for figuring out why we are dumb as hell even if we attempt to be educated.


#8

[quote]H factor wrote:

At the very least it’s a fun read for figuring out why we are dumb as hell even if we attempt to be educated. [/quote]

The older I get the more I shake my head at people that honestly think because we have hand held computers now we suddenly have it all figured out, and mankind is some sort of super advanced species that just “knows” all the answers now.

Human arrogance knows little bounds…

I’m going to have to look up this book I think.


#9

[quote]countingbeans wrote:

[quote]H factor wrote:

At the very least it’s a fun read for figuring out why we are dumb as hell even if we attempt to be educated. [/quote]

The older I get the more I shake my head at people that honestly think because we have hand held computers now we suddenly have it all figured out, and mankind is some sort of super advanced species that just “knows” all the answers now.

Human arrogance knows little bounds…

I’m going to have to look up this book I think. [/quote]

It’s actually a lot less about that than about our “mental” problems. I.E. the issues we have just by being people. Our memory is faulty, we give too much credit to certain occurrences, we “explain” events in our mind differently to make us feel better, etc. We hang onto beliefs in the face of contradictory evidence because we don’t want to have our opinions changed.


#10

1984 we read in high school, if you haven’t done it yet do it. 2nd on the Mein Kampf, that should be required reading as well. I’ve seen Economic Facts and Fallacies recommended before, I may put that on my list. Constitution and Bill of Rights should be a no brainer, but reading them doesn’t really “prepare” you for some of the arguments surrounding their meaning. If you haven’t studied those both go find your history teachers and punch them in the face.


#11

[quote]H factor wrote:
1984 we read in high school, if you haven’t done it yet do it. 2nd on the Mein Kampf, that should be required reading as well. I’ve seen Economic Facts and Fallacies recommended before, I may put that on my list. Constitution and Bill of Rights should be a no brainer, but reading them doesn’t really “prepare” you for some of the arguments surrounding their meaning. If you haven’t studied those both go find your history teachers and punch them in the face. [/quote]

I just purchased 1984 and hopefully will read it soon.


#12

[quote]H factor wrote:
Constitution and Bill of Rights should be a no brainer, but reading them doesn’t really “prepare” you for some of the arguments surrounding their meaning. If you haven’t studied those both go find your history teachers and punch them in the face. [/quote]

On this I would recommend something read by every first-year law student in the USA:

Emmanuel Law Outline, US Constitution

http://www.aspenlaw.com/emanuel-law-outlines/id-9781454824817/Emanuel_Law_Outlines_Constitutional_Law_Thirty-First_Edition

It’s easy to read, factual, no agenda. It’s like a Cliff’s Notes, but for law students.

By far the easiest method to use to understand the BOR and Constiution.


#13

[quote]Jewbacca wrote:

[quote]H factor wrote:
Constitution and Bill of Rights should be a no brainer, but reading them doesn’t really “prepare” you for some of the arguments surrounding their meaning. If you haven’t studied those both go find your history teachers and punch them in the face. [/quote]

On this I would recommend something read by every first-year law student in the USA:

Emmanuel Law Outline, US Constitution

http://www.aspenlaw.com/emanuel-law-outlines/id-9781454824817/Emanuel_Law_Outlines_Constitutional_Law_Thirty-First_Edition

It’s easy to read, factual, no agenda. It’s like a Cliff’s Notes, but for law students.

By far the easiest method to use to understand the BOR and Constiution.[/quote]

Will look into it, thanks.


#14

Great thread Aragorn, not sure why this wasn’t thought of before.


#15

[quote]magick wrote:

[quote]Aragorn wrote:
2) The Federalist Papers. If there is one central repository for the Founding Father’s outlooks on governance and political will, this is it. It expands on the things enumerated in The Documents and further I think prevents people from saying “well the Founding Fathers said this” when they didn’t, because if you had read certain of the Federalist Papers you would have gotten the person’s opinions on the matter first hand.
[/quote]

Wouldn’t you need a bunch of Jefferson’s writings to counteract this?

I mean, if you went strictly by what the Federalists Papers say, and by extension what the author of the Papers wrote in their later years, you’d be at serious odds with a lot of the posters on this subforum.[/quote]

Yes but…rule #1. I haven’t read enough of Jefferson’s personal writings so I can’t put it down.


#16

[quote]H factor wrote:

[quote]Jewbacca wrote:

[quote]H factor wrote:
Constitution and Bill of Rights should be a no brainer, but reading them doesn’t really “prepare” you for some of the arguments surrounding their meaning. If you haven’t studied those both go find your history teachers and punch them in the face. [/quote]

On this I would recommend something read by every first-year law student in the USA:

Emmanuel Law Outline, US Constitution

http://www.aspenlaw.com/emanuel-law-outlines/id-9781454824817/Emanuel_Law_Outlines_Constitutional_Law_Thirty-First_Edition

It’s easy to read, factual, no agenda. It’s like a Cliff’s Notes, but for law students.

By far the easiest method to use to understand the BOR and Constiution.[/quote]

Will look into it, thanks. [/quote]

Going to second that. Sounds like a really good source.


#17

[quote]MaximusB wrote:
Great thread Aragorn, not sure why this wasn’t thought of before. [/quote]

Thanks man! I’m not sure, it may have been involved years before but I couldn’t remember it being done. It will hopefully be interesting to see this thread expand.


#18

Gear idea for a thread, Aragorn!

The stuff on the Constitution and the BOR and the personal letters of the Founding Fathers goes without saying. Absolutely essential. There is something about reading things that they wrote. Like they’re rubbing off on you. Not sure if it’s been mentioned, but I’ll add the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Short, ridiculously candid, and absolutely spilling over with wit and wisdom and comedy. Good portrait of what it means to live the life of a statesman philosopher, while still finding the time to chase French prostitutes through the streets of Paris.

I also vigorously second 1984, and add in Animal Farm. The big problem with almost all “paranoid fiction” is that it is written by paranoid people, and paranoid people tend to be addled bundles of neurotic cowardice. It’s usually a mess, in other words. But prose does not get more clear-minded than under Orwell’s pen, making this one of those very rare cases of intelligible paranoia. In fact, I will throw in “Politics and the English Language,” which is probably even more essential than either of Orwell’s other two works. It turns out that everything he advises against doing in that essay has been adopted as a sacred method of operation by the modern political machine.

Civil Disobedience, Thoreau. Contrary to popular Jeffersonian myth, this book made famous the phrase, “that government is best which governs least.” A half hour’s worth of reading that will make you want to start a tax revolt.

The Power Broker by Bob Caro. Don’t read this one, because you’ve got a life to live, and it’s over 1200 pages long. I was forced into it in grad school, and was unhappy pretty much the whole way through. And Caro’s writing style gets tiresome after about 100 pages. But, it’s the closest thing there is, and probably the closest thing there ever will be, to God’s Truth about political power in the United States of America.

Also, Thucydides and Homer. We’ve been doing the same shit for millennia. Only difference is that they cooked their meals over a fire and we cook ours in microwaves.


#19

Atlas Shrugged and if there is a liberal equivelant for fiction.


#20

[quote]thethirdruffian wrote:

[quote]countingbeans wrote:
1984 - Orwell - Very good social commentary as it pertains to blind political allegiance. Every time I see some wingnut on facebook or the news talking about jailing political opponents of theirs I cannot help but think of this book

[/quote]

Pretty sure this was read as a “how to” guide by the current admin.
[/quote]
1984 is about the control of information and manipulation of the language to create truths since things are defined by what they are called. GWB did this before Obama was in office and GWB was far from the first to do it.

An invasion and occupation is named: Operation Iraqi FREEDOM.
Enemy soldiers have certain rights. Terrorists, who are criminals, have certain rights. A new term was created (or an old term redefined), enemy combatant, to circumvent those rights.
A law that gives the govt greater powers at the expense of private citizens’ rights is called the PATRIOT Act.
Then you have the WMD fiasco and something that could have been pulled right from the pages of 1984, “Mission Accomplished.”

Neither Obama nor GWB invented Newspeak. Don’t let your bias control your perception. That’s how you end up manipulated by political rhetoric.