Let’s Burn Us Some Books!

Human Events Online has performed the valuable public service of convening a panel of 15 “conservative scholars and public policy leaders” to develop a list of the “Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries.”

The wingbut panelists were almost unanimous in their choice for number one: Karl Marx’s “The Communist Manifesto,” followed at second by Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.” I suppose it would be difficult for even a left-leaner to argue those choices, but the problem I have with the list is that it seems to do what all book-fearers do — blame the book for either the actions of the author (Hitler) or for the actions of others in the name of or under the aegis of the author (Marx).

I think you can blame Hitler, not his rambling prison-cell rant, for the Third Reich. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to read Marx, but all we can really blame him for is turgid prose, not the Great Communist Conspiracy. To say that Russia or China or North Korea really implemented Marxian ideals, as elucidated in his “Manifesto,” to create their totalitarian states and foment the Cold War is ludicrous.

Here’s the rest of the list:
3. “Quotations from Chairman Mao,” By Mao Zedong
4. “The Kinsey Report,” by Alfred Kinsey
5. “Democracy and Education,” by John Dewey
6. “Das Kapital,” by Karl Marx (a two-fer in the Top 10!)
7. “The Feminine Mystique,” by Betty Friedan
8. “The Course of Positive Philosophy,” by Auguste Compte
9. “Beyond Good and Evil,” by Freidrich Nietzsche
10. “General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money,” John Maynard Keynes

There are some interesting selections among the runners-up as well:
“On Liberty,” by John Stuart Mill
“Beyond Freedom and Dignity,” by B.F. Skinner
“Origin of the Species,” by Charles Darwin (thought that would have scored higher)
“Madness and Civilization,” by Michel Foucault
“Coming of Age in Samoa,” by Margaret Mead
“Unsafe at Any Speed,” by Ralph Nader
“Silent Spring,” by Rachel Carson
“Introduction to Psychoanalysis,” by Sigmund Freud
“Descent of Man,” by Charles Darwin

While some of these choices perhaps are not surprising (absent Margaret Meade), it’s well to note that these are labeled as “harmful” books, not just books they disliked. Once you marginalize a book by deeming it “harmful,” can the matchbox be far behind?


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