Blogs > Liberty and Power > 12 books, 12 articles

May 12, 2005 9:34 am

12 books, 12 articles

Ok, here’s a bloggy thing to do: transmit a meme. Over at his other blog, our L&P co-blogger Don Boudreaux lists 12 books that really influenced him. (He also gives us a separate list of 12 articles.) So if I understand this stuff correctly, the proper blog procedure is for me now to do this also, and wait for a fun comments thread or for other L&Pers to do the same. < nicholson voice> Yes, I’m certain I read that somewhere, that must be the right thing to do < /nicholson >. This list won’t be in order of influentiality, or anything else, and I reserve the right to change the list if someone reminds me of some obvious thing that I’m forgetting.

1. Plato, Republic – highly influential in its presentation of justice as objective, reality as separate from perception, why philosophy is worth doing, and what inner harmony means. Widely misinterpreted as a utopian political treatise, the “ideal city” described herein is actually an analogy to the well-balanced psyche, and Plato’s account of how unjust regimes arise in books 8-9 is remarkably astute. No Plato, no philosophy major.

2. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics – virtue ethics beats deontology and utilitarianism hands down. No Aristotle, no grad school. 1177a10-22, dude!

3. Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia – obvious, perhaps, but this would be where I first read convincing rebuttals of both socialism and welfare-liberalism.

4. Tibor Machan, Individuals and Their Rights – very strong case for an individualist ethic and a libertarian political model derived from it.

5. Douglas Rasmussen and Douglas Den Uyl, Liberty and Nature – the argument with which I’m most sympathetic, showing how a neo-Aristotelian ethic can underlie a classical-liberal rights theory. (Their forthcoming book promises to be an even better approach to this theme.)

6. Jonathan Jacobs, Being True to the World – very convincing defense of a naturalist moral realism, and how practical reason can be action guiding.

7. Steve Ditko, Static – I didn’t know whether fiction should be included here, but I really have to include this, because the chain of causality is interesting and relevant. I had never read any Rand, but I read and loved Static. When I discovered that its themes were “objectivist,” that’s when I started to pay attention to Rand’s novels, which I found very rewarding, enjoyable, and thought-provoking (and under-rated). (Static seems to be out of print – that’s a crime.)

8. David Schmidtz, The Limits of Government – why the free-rider problem is much less of a worry than it’s said to be.

9. Robert Axelrod, The Evolution of Cooperation – one reason not to take Hobbesian arguments seriously.

10. Harold Berman, Law and Revolution – important history of law. What Don said.

11. F. A. Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty. Coercion and why it’s bad. Don’s pick, Law, Legislation, and Liberty, is better and I now refer to it much more frequently, but I wouldn’t have found that without having first read this.

12. Edith Hamilton, Mythology – this is surely the root of my interest in ancient Greek thought. Chain of causality again – Hamilton leads to Homer, Aeschylus, Thucydides.

13 (Don made it a bakers’ dozen, so I get to as well). Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars – very important influence on the development of my thinking on this issue.

The anarcho-influences which might seem to be lacking above turn out to be found in the “12 articles” section:

1. Randy Barnett, “Pursuing Justice in a Free Society, parts 1, 2” Criminal Justice Ethics Fall 85, Winter 86

2. Murray Rothbard, “Society Without a State,” Nomos XIX 1978

3. Terry Anderson and P.J. Hill, “An American Experiment in Anarcho-Capitalism,” Journal of Libertarian Studies III 1, 1979

4. John Hasnas, “The Myth of the Rule of Law,” Wisconsin Law Review, 1995

The other articles include:

5. Douglas Rasmussen, “Essentialism, Values, and Rights” (in The Libertarian Reader, Machan ed., 1982)

6. Stephen Holmes, “The Community Trap” TNR Nov 28 1988

7. Hayek, “The Errors of Constructivism” (don’t have the citation handy)

8. Leonard Read, “I, Pencil”

9. Mill, “On Liberty” (if Don can call “I, Pencil” a book, then I can call “On Liberty” an article – Mill calls it an essay!)

10. Douglas Den Uyl, “Freedom and Virtue” (in Machan 1982 supra, via Reason Papers 5, 1979)

11. Herbert Morris, “Persons and Punishment” (Monist, 52:4, 1968)

12. Douglas Den Uyl and Douglas Rasmussen,"Nozick on the Randian Argument," The Personalist 1978 (I found it in Jeff Paul's excellent anthology Reading Nozick.)

13. A. N. Prior’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry “Traditional Logic”

Ok, your turn. Yes, you.

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More Comments:

Stephan (K-dog) Kinsella - 7/14/2005

A few offhand that I would list, but that I have not yet seen listed:
--Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
--Hoppe, A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism
--Rothbard & Rockwell, eds., The Free Market Reader
--of course, The Tannehills, The Market for Liberty

Gil Guillory - 5/16/2005

Look here:

I have two number 2's. Pretend not to notice.

Aeon J. Skoble - 5/16/2005

Dan also chides me for negelcting his unpublished essay "The Countervailing Effects of State Intervention: A Reevaluation of the Welfare State Standard," which was indeed excellent and influential. But I was going for published articles. Nevertheless, if any L&P reader wants to read this, I'm sure he'll be happy to send you a copy.

Aeon J. Skoble - 5/13/2005

Reader Dan Schmutter writes to suggest I note that my one fiction entry, Steve Ditko's _Static_, is what we now refer to as a "graphic novel." I hesitated to put any fiction at all, since in one sense, all the novels I read in junior high and HS would have been very influential on my character development etc. I singled out Static, which I read in grad school, because of the interesting and tangible causal chain it led to, but (a) that's not to disparage other fiction I read growing up (that could lead to another list!! 12 most influential novels read as a teeenager!) and (b) plenty of other graphic novels which I read after Static also offer rich philosophical reflection, notably the works of Alan Moore and Frank Miller, which I discuss here:

Aeon J. Skoble - 5/12/2005

Remember, it's not a list of great books, it's a list of those which were great influences on me. I also think they're great, of course, that's _why_ they influenced me, but it's not a matter of me adding to my list -- what I'd like to see is _your_ list!

Aeon J. Skoble - 5/12/2005

As I stipulated in my entry, I reserved the right to alter my list if anyone reminded me of something I had forgotten, and Chris has done that. I'm editing my "12 articles" list to reflect the fact that Chris's article selection #8 was indeed more of an influence on me than the Steiner J Phil essay. No offense to him or his supporters - the exercise concerns what was of greatest influence, so it's no apsersion on the Steiner essay that it's now off the list. Revised list now up.

Chris Matthew Sciabarra - 5/12/2005

Okay. You made me do it.

At Notablog: 12 Books, 12 Articles.


Aeon J. Skoble - 5/11/2005

The more the merrier!

Sheldon Richman - 5/11/2005

You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me?