Thursday, June 23, 2011

Commentarama Reading List (Part 1)

Today we unveil part one of the Commentarama Reading List. These are the top conservative/liberal fiction books you should know. Next time, I’ll do nonfiction books. Then we’ll finish with books you should know to be well-versed in our culture. Today’s list contains thirteen conservative and eight liberal fiction books that best represent the ideologies. These are well-known/influential books with strong messages about liberal and conservative principles -- even if that wasn’t the author’s intent. A couple will surprise you.

Interestingly, finding books that genuinely belong on the list was difficult. Lots of books include political messages on particular issues, but few truly represent the ideology. Also, breaking these down as liberal or conservative proved difficult, particularly as many authors intended something other than the message they ended up creating. So feel free to disagree with my selections and let me know what you think should be added or subtracted.... maybe we can get the list to 25? FYI, check (HERE) to see my criteria for separating them.

The Conservative Books
1. 1984, George Orwell (1948): Number one has to be 1984. Although Orwell was a socialist with communist sympathies, 1984 became the seminal anti-collectivist, anti-big government book. No other book so clearly expresses the nightmare of all-powerful government crushing the individual. 1984 also was ahead of its time, foreshadowing everything from political correctness to doublespeak to thoughtcrime to the surveillance society. . . Big Brother is watching. This is a must read for conservatives.

2. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand (1957): A capitalist opus, Rand’s Shrugged graphically portrays the destruction of society by a government that takes from those who can to prop up those who can’t. If economic equations can be expressed as plot points, this novel does that. Singing the virtues of capitalism, competition and self-interest, this book proved prophetic as leftists have systematically tried to repeat the acts of her villains, always with the consequences she predicted. Shrugged is also unapologetic about the fact that socialism is not noble, it is theft and oppression.

3. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley (1931): Huxley is a bit of a contradiction. An extreme critic of the utopian visions of the 1930s, he was also an LSD user who fell for every whacko and mystical idea. Nevertheless, Brave New World is an essential companion to 1984. BNW replaces Big Brother’s government with a corporate “The World State,” but the effects are just as onerous as individuality is crushed to serve the collective good. Yet, unlike Orwell’s 1984, this crushing isn’t done by the government stick, it’s done by an endless supply of government carrots that placate and sedate the public. As Huxley explained, the civil libertarians who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.”

4. Animal Farm, George Orwell (1945): Animal Farm is an attack on Stalinism (which Orwell described as “ceaseless arrests, censored newspapers, prowling hordes of armed police”), but inadvertently tells us why no collectivist society will ever work. Without the possibility of personal profit, the animals become indifferent free riders who don’t work but expect to receive the benefit of everyone else’s labor. And the collectivist leaders quickly set themselves above the law, keeping the spoils of society for themselves and using cold-blooded murder to eliminate their opponents and suppress the population. All animals are equal, but some animals are indeed more equal than others.

5. The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand (1943): Rand’s Fountainhead brought the concept of objectivism to life. This book teaches that the only way for mankind to achieve its potential is to free individuals from the sabotaging/protectionist efforts of others. This is brought home brilliantly as a bevy of lesser architects struggle to prevent genius Howard Roark from achieving his potential and thereby exposing their own lack of talent. In essence, Rand argues that society should let people exercise their talents without restraint and let them succeed or fail on their own merits.

6. Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien (1955) and The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis (1950): I’ve lumped these together because they’re on the list for the same reasons. Both LOTR and Narnia are favorites of religious conservatives, though some groups complain about “pagan imagery.” But they make our list because they are more than just religious allegories: they advocate classic heroic/ethical values, i.e. the stuff the Greeks described as the noblest parts of humanity -- belief in honor and duty, self-sacrifice, friendship, loyalty, and staunch opposition to evil without trying to justify it as shades of gray. These books define the “personal responsibility” portion of conservative thinking.

7. To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee (1960): Listing this as a conservative book may seem counter-intuitive as the Civil Rights Movement has been defined by the left as a liberal idea. But the values taught by Lee outline the conservative view of civil rights -- equality under the law for all individuals combined with moral persuasion to end discrimination. . . not the group rights of liberal thinking. Thus, this book's philosophy does not fit with liberal thinking. Indeed, if this book were published for the first time today, I suspect liberals would attack it as Uncle-Tom-like because of its passive acceptance of the world as it is, i.e. its failure to advocate a government solution.

8. The Trial, Franz Kafka (1925): Kafka is another socialist who gives us a reason to fear the consolidation of power. In particular, The Trial warns us against abandoning the rule of law. In this case, a man is arrested and prosecuted by a government which refuses to show itself to him and which refuses to reveal to him the nature of the crime for which he is being charged. This is more real than you would think.

9. Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling (1997): Yep. The Harry Potter series is packed with conservative themes. And while this isn’t a social commentary per se, it does a heck of a job promoting conservative values. For example, as I’ve noted before, the Harry Potter series promotes families, capitalism, individual responsibility, and it shows government to be bureaucratic, corrupt, abusive, manipulative and evil. The series also clearly recognizes the difference between good and evil and doesn’t fall into shades of gray or excusatory psychobabble. These books may not have the gravitas of Lord of the Rings, but their pro-conservative politics are even stronger and more obvious.

10. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad (1902): A deeply conservative writer, Conrad hated both socialism and direct democracy. Darkness is Conrad’s attack on colonialism and is about good and evil and the dangers to our souls of doing evil deeds. While modern liberals like to lump colonialism in with other supposed “conservative” crimes, its actual roots were liberal -- a utopian belief that government force used benevolently could make natives better people. That’s the same belief that later powered socialism.

11. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury (1951): The left loves to accuse the right of book burning, primarily because the Nazis burned books and religious groups periodically try to ban one thing or another. But the Nazis were left-wing and the communists were equally guilty, though they were quieter about it. And in terms of modern thinking, it is the left that seeks to ban politically incorrect books, words and ideas from society. Thus, Fahrenheit is a conservative book as it attacks over-bearing governments that control their people by controlling what ideas they can know about.

12. Catch-22, Joseph Heller (1961): An anti-war novel about the marginalization of the individual, this book defined the modern view of bureaucracy. Unlike the darker 1984 and The Trial, Catch-22 explores the circular reasoning and absurdity of bureaucracy as the heroes encounter “no win situations” and “double blinds.” This book does have a counter-culture feel however, and could also be seen as liberal, but its theme is conservative.

13. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, Robert A. Heinlein (1966): A novel about a lunar colony’s revolt against rule from Earth, with themes of “rational anarchy” and seeing government as non-existent except as the acts of self-responsible individuals, Heinlein’s Moon is considered one of the most influential libertarian novels of the last century. This book is credited with coining the phrase “there’s no free lunch.”
The Liberal Books
1. The Jungle, Upton Sinclair (1906): Jungle defines progressive politics as it exposes the corrupt practices of the American meatpacking industry and complains about the lack of social programs for the poor. Originally published in a socialist newspaper, Sinclair hoped this would encourage a welfare state. Much to his chagrin, the public focused only on his safety complaints about the meat packing industry and ignored his concerns about the poor.

2. All Quiet On The Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque (1928): As mentioned the other day, this book is liberal not because it’s anti-war, but because it’s anti-society. This book is anti-officer, anti-family, anti-church, and anti-traditional “heroic” values like honor, duty, self-sacrifice, courage, and friendship. It is the ultimate expression of selfishness, right down to the indifference to the suffering of their comrades. But this is also an excellent book and it became the prism through which modern society would see war.

3. Ulysses, James Joyce (1922): A retelling of the The Odyssey by avant-garde stream of consciousness writer Joyce, Ulysses dwells on the squalor and monotony of life in 1920s Dublin, Ireland. Originally banned as obscene because a character masturbates, this book was the crown jewel of the modernist movement which revolted against realism, tradition, the Enlightenment, and belief in God.

4. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck (1939): The story of sharecropping “Okies” from Oklahoma who flee to California after the dust bowl, this story is leftist propaganda about the idealized working poor being exploited by the demonized rich. It advocates unions and the New Deal, though it complains that not enough money was spent by the benevolent government. Still, it’s a good book for understanding the historical context of the New Deal.

5. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003): On the surface, Code seems like nothing more than conspiratorial fiction. But this book highlights the recent style of attacks on traditional values by the left. This book takes a provably wrong theory that insultingly cuts to the core of Christian belief and presents it as fiction “based on” truth, i.e. it pretends it’s true without saying so. This book is the latest form of soft propaganda.

6. A Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen (1879): Ibsen’s House is not only feminist propaganda, but it heralds the truly selfish thinking that dominates liberal thinking. Ibsen’s heroine not only rejects traditional society, but she walks out on responsibilities she’s undertaken, i.e. her children. Ibsen says he wasn’t trying to create “propaganda” for “the women’s rights movement,” but was instead trying to show the need of every individual to become the person they really are. And apparently that means abandoning your family to find yourself. Welcome to the 1960s. . . one hundred years early.

7. The Stand, Stephen King (1990): The Stand appears on some conservative book lists, but I suggest they look closer. The Stand is anti-capitalist, anti-American-society and deeply anti-military, which it shows to be enthusiastic murders. And while many Christians mistake its message for being pro-Christian, it actually advocates liberalism combined with meekness and mysticism as a substitute for religion.

8. Lord of the Flies, William Golding (1954): Conservatives believe people are good and can be moved to improvement with moral persuasion. Liberals believe people are evil and must be controlled by force. Flies makes the liberal list because it tells us that left on their own, children will become murderous animals for no particular reason, i.e. it views humans as inherently violent and evil.

Thoughts? Additions? Subtractions? Corrections?


T-Rav said...

Interesting list, Andrew. On the conservative side, I've read the majority of the books mentioned (or parts of them). I would say the summaries for "Brave New World" and "To Kill A Mockingbird" are spot-on; Atticus Finch's speech at the end of the trial is the best summation of the conservative position on civil rights I've ever read. I haven't read Conrad's "Heart of Darkness," but I have read another short story or two by him before, and his conservatism is very evident.

On the liberal side, I've read fewer of those, though I have seen the movie version of "Grapes of Wrath." The only one that really sticks out in my mind is "Lord of the Flies," which...was really messed up. One bone to pick: in your summation of LOTF, when you say the difference between liberals and conservatives is liberals see people as evil and conservatives see them as good, don't you kinda have it backwards?

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I'm glad you like the list and I'm glad you've read a lot of them. Think of the rest as homework! ;-)

I agree about "Mockingbird" and this, to me, is the classic example of the divergence between liberal rhetoric and liberal thinking. The book makes strong moral points and I suspect liberals will be very upset that I list it as a conservative book because they consider the civil rights movement "theirs." But the truth is that their version of it is inconsistent with this book -- they want government power to create equality of result for groups. That's 100% different than what "Mockingbird" is saying, which is we need to win over people's hearts and minds to doing the right thing.

On who sees who as evil/inherently good, I know why you're saying that, but no, I stand by the statement. What you are noting is the idea of perfection. Liberals think that humans can be MADE perfect if we just use the right laws. Conservatives, by comparison, see human nature as unchangeable and believe there will always be good and bad. That could be used to argue that liberals see people as (potentially) good and conservatives see them as (perpetually) bad. But that's wrong.

Liberals only see people as good IF they are changed, otherwise they see us as evil. Conservatives see a mix. What's more, conservatives must by definition see people as inherently good or they wouldn't believe that leaving people alone and using moral persuasion can make them better. In other words, we must believe that people can rise to perfection on their own, i.e. we believe that people are inherently good -- they just need to be shown right from wrong. On the other hand, liberals must by definition see people as bad or they wouldn't advocate forcing them to change. If you need to force someone to believe something, then you don't believe that they actually are capable of it on their own.


AndrewPrice said...

P.S. Anything you would add to either list? There's still room for four more if we want to get to 25!

CrispyRice said...

Wow, what a list! I've read an awful lot of what's on here. I'm going to have to think about them a bit. I'll be back to comment, but thanks for this. It'll make good dinner conversation tonight!

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Crispy! And take your time. If you think of anything else, make sure you let us know. :-)

DUQ said...

Ow my head! LOL! Thanks for the info Andrew. I've read some of these but never got around to many of them. I'll definitely add them to my list though.

I definitely agree with most of what's on the list and I can't think of anything to add off the top of my head. Let me think about it though.

I can't wait to see parts 2 and 3 of the list.

Unknown said...

Andrew: I think you've compiled an excellent list on both sides. But you know I can't help myself when it comes to commenting, even when I'm in basic agreement.

You are so right about To Kill A Mockingbird That message was a major part of why I chose to get involved in the Civil Rights movement. It's just a good thing that Atticus Finch can't see what the movement has degenerated into.

To your review of The Trial, I would add that I saw it also in terms of the dangers of mindless, faceless bureaucracies, a thing I'm much disturbed by as the federal leviathan grows. The true statist asks of his victim: "Don't you know the rules?" The intelligent victim answers: "How can I? There are so many."

To Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath I would suggest that it should be read just before reading Travels With Charlie [In Search Of America] written thirty years later. By then, Steinbeck had become a parody of himself, and simply made things up which were supposed to have been real events occurring during his "travels." Even his liberal friends attacked him on his bias and his passing off fabrications as truth. He became the model for Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass.

Finally, I must take some issue with your description of what conservatives believe about human nature, at least in one arena. Those of us who come from traditional Protestantism and those from traditional Catholicism do not see man as inherently good. Quite the opposite. We believe we are born in sin, and only with the grace of God and the assistance of the scriptures can we avoid the pitfalls set by the Evil One. But that does not in any way mean that I actually disagree with you. The difference is that liberals believe that man can become like God, while Christians believe that we must aspire to Thomas a Kempis's imitation of Christ, knowing full-well we can never attain that perfection.

The common mistaken belief of liberals and misled Christians is that babies are born good. In fact, we believe they are born innocent, and what happens after birth for the rest of their lives, and the choices they make is what distinguishes the good man from the bad.

Liberals believe in the perfectibility of man, preferably with the constant ministrations of the state. Conservative Christians believe that man is inherently imperfect (not evil), and can only aspire to a perfection that he can never attain. The last thing on Earth a conservative Christian wants is to have a secular state telling him how to become "perfect."

Anonymous said...

T-Rav beat me to it since I had the same reaction. Why must this be so confusing?!?! :-)

Good list but I have nothing to add at the moment (thus rendering this post useless). :-)

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, 2 and 3 will take some time, these types of articles take a long time to put together.

In terms of adding things, I actually found it hard to find more books to put on either list. There are other books you can add, but few that are both influential and deeply ideological. Plus, when you look at things like counter-culture books, you could list a million of them, but what's the point -- they all say the same thing.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, No post is useless. You'll think of something. How many of these have you read?

Which of T-Rav's points? The "Mockingbird" thing or the inherently good v. evil thing?

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, On the books, "Mockingbird" to me is fascinating because it shows that for a brief moment, liberals had the right idea, but that passed very quickly. As I say, I suspect that if "Mockingbird" was published today for the first time, it would be torn apart on MSNBC as racist propaganda because it advocates that blacks should just sit there and what for evil whites to change. So while they still revere the book and claim it as their own, I think they really would be appalled by what's in it -- much as they hate early Sesame Street.

Stienbeck had a definite talent, but he was the 1930s version of Keith Olbermann. "Grapes" totally demonizes anyone who isn't poor and it totally sanitizes the underclass. I haven't read his later works, so I wasn't aware he got even more biased, but that's good to know.

I think "The Trial" is fascinating because it hits you in a way that even "1984" doesn't, when it comes to abuse of power. How can a regime be so distant from its people that they can't even find out who is charging them or with what they are being charged? It's pretty horrific.

Anonymous said...

The good v. evil thing. I read that and thought, "Was I wrong this whole time?"

I read Lord of the Flies, Fahrenheit 451, and To Kill a Mockingbird in high school... and that's about it (I'm not as well-read as people think!). It's a shame Mel Gibson never made his F451 film adaptation which seemed to be all set to go about ten years ago.

I only read part of 1984 but I enjoy Brazil... does that count? :-)

I'm sure I'll get to the Orwell, Kafka, and Huxley sooner or later.

Unknown said...

Andrew: And just one more thought on Mockingbird to expand on what you've said. Today, the liberals would tear the book apart because it posited that "only a white man could save a black man." Ridiculous, but does anybody remember the liberal anger at the movie Mississippi Burning? How dare they suggest that white FBI agents had to come into town to save the black folks?

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, On the good/bad issue, this is a classic example why I said the other day that religion and conservatism cannot be seen to be the same thing. To take what you say literally, then Christians believe that non-Christians (e.g. Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists) can never be good people no matter how they act toward their fellow man. I don't see anyone who would believe that to be a "politically conservative" belief.

Moreover, you're looking at the wrong aspect of this. You're looking at a cure, not the underlying condition.

Consider this. Unless conservatives are stupid, then it would be foolish to think that people who are inherently evil will suddenly become good if we just leave them alone and try to offer moral persuasion. If conservatives truly believed that people were inherently evil, then they would advocate government force to require people to conform to being good. So why don't we? Why do we trust in self-interest? Why do we trust in private charity? We trust in those things because we believe that if people are left alone, they will usually make the right, i.e. moral, choices.

And when I say good/bad, there is a huge distinction there between infallable and good. I'm not talking about good in a religious sense, I'm talking about good in a practical sense. Conservatives believe that people let to their own devices will do good things for each other and treat each other in a decent way.

Liberals are the exact opposite. If liberals believed that people are good, then why do they advocate the use of force to change people? Why don't they trust private charity? Why don't they trust self-interest? Why do they see people as inherently racist/sexist/greedy/murderous? It's because they think people are evil unless they are controlled by force.

That's what I'm saying. Don't equate good with Godliness, but think of it as good in a practical sense. Conservatives trust people, liberals don't.

Tennessee Jed said...

I would add Alan Drury's Advise & Consent as being a conservative book. Another Sinclair Lewis book, Babbitt, falls into the category where the author means to mock capitalism and individuality, but ends up showing liberalism and socialism were not all they were cracked up to be. That is the same category as Brave New World. As I mentioned to you the other night, Huxley thought the Brave New World was inevitable and later wrote BNW revisited and the Island as a possible solution. The principles he adhered to were those of Peter Kropotkin who believed neither in capitalism nor central planning, but rather a radical anarchal type of Communism. Huxley would be vomiting in his grave if he knew he was listed as a conservative book (l.o.l.)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I'll be with you in a few minutes -- work calls. :-(

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I highly recommend reading these. Most are easy reads and they do a great job of graphically outlining the ideologies. It's good for your brain! :-)

In terms of the good v. bad thing, forget the discussion above for a moment, which I think is more about the religious view of good/evil than it is about the human view of good/bad.

Start by concentrating on liberals.

One of the problems with liberals is that their rhetoric and self-image often do not match their beliefs. In other words, they like to think of themselves as nobler than they are. Thus, for example, they will say they favor "equality for all," but they really don't. They favor group rights with favored groups oppressing others, see e.g. affirmative action or how gay rights trample religious freedom. They say they favor "freedoms" like "free speech," but in the same breath they advocate loads of censorship and speech codes. Etc. This is true on issue after issue.

Saying that they are the "good people" who see everyone as inherently good is part of this delusion view. If they really saw people as inherently good, then why do they advocate so much force to be used to stop behavior, words and thoughts they don't like? Why do they advocate re-education? Why has the hard left been entranced by eugenics and remaking man into the new socialist man for decades? More obviously, why don't liberals trust that people will do the right things about race, charity, familial relationships, etc. Indeed, there isn't an issue where they trust that people can be left on their own to make up their own minds -- they always assume that people will "race to the bottom" and thus government must be used to force people to do the right thing.

If they really believed that people were good, then they wouldn't think there was a need to force people to act according to their moral code -- and there certainly wouldn't be a need to shield people from bad ideas, etc.

Conservatism disdains that view. Conservatives generally trust people to do the right thing because they believe that people don't become evil the moment the pressure is off.

Now, obviously, not all conservatives believe this anymore than all liberals do... but when you look at how the two sides act, conservative actions show trust in the individual to make the right decision and liberal policies don't. The only way to explain that difference is that conservatives see people as inherently good whereas liberals see people as inherently bad.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, I think liberals would agree that people are not good right now; the key word is INHERENTLY good. Every utopian thinker, from Rousseau through Owen to Marx and many others, has described a primordial state of being in which people were virtuous and could be counted on to do good. But then society got in the way (or if you're Marx, private property got in the way), and people's goodness became obscured by social evils and stuff. Their inner goodness can still be brought out, it just requires the intervention and if necessary coercion of the enlightened among us. So reason the liberals.

Meanwhile, in some ways conservatives' view of humanity as inescapably tainted with evil has functioned as a liberating force for the world. Take two conservative thinkers, Adam Smith and James Madison. Smith's famous free-market philosophy didn't make him a fan of capitalists; personally, he hated them for their greed. But he knew that the people who would presume to regulate them weren't any better. By upholding capitalism, he hoped to turn a vice into a virtue and allow people to make as good a use of their flawed nature as possible. And I don't think I need to go too deeply into Madison's famous "If men were angels, there would be no need of government" quote, which comes from the same reasoning. This is why I flip your description of conservatives and liberals.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I think that's absolutely right. I remember how upset they were about Mississippi Burning and I think they would act the same way about "Mockingbird." They would say (1) this is a book about a white hero saving blacks, which makes blacks appear like they need whites, (2) there is not enough open racism being shown to be accurate, it's a cover up -- see The Blind Side, and (3) this book advocates just waiting for whitey to change when we need government action now. This would be the charge as to why "Mockingbird" is a deeply white-racist book.

Sad huh?

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I don't doubt that Huxley would be pretty upset at the moment, but if he wants to make a more liberal book, then he should have tried harder -- or seen the error of his ideology. The fact is that when government (in any power) takes too much power, it become evil and oppressive. It ceases to be an agreement among the people for how to arrange their affairs and it tries to become their masters. At that point, everything goes wrong.

I have to admit that I haven't read "Babbit" or "Advise and Consent," but I will definitely check them out. I feel like there should be more books on this list, but I just couldn't locate any. I could find other ideological books, but nothing that really fit.

Thanks for the suggestions!

T-Rav said...

Andrew, four more? Hmmm...on the conservative side, and for the sake of the female viewers, I might offer up "Pride and Prejudice," or anything else written by Jane Austen. It's not exactly a book, but T.S. Eliot's poetry would also be a good addition.

As for liberal fiction, there are so many books which are stalking horses for the Left I'm not really sure. Probably "Slaughterhouse Five," because Kurt Vonngut may have been a liberal hack, but he was also a darn good writer. And maybe also "Catcher in the Rye." I thought about suggesting "The Feminine Mystique" or "Silent Spring" or the Alfred Kinsey studies, but I guess those are posing as nonfiction so they don't fit.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Those are good points, but I stick with my point for the simple reason that conservatives trust that if people are left alone to make up their own minds, they will generally make the world better. Liberals don't believe that.

I think maybe the problem is in how we're seeing the word "inherently." I don't mean it in the sense that humans are 100% good unless corrupted (like the utopian fantasy). I mean it in the sense that our nature is wired in such a way (with a balance of good and bad traits) that the things we prefer will usually result in a "good" world.

That's not to say there can't be mistakes, or that people can't be manipulated, but in general, a group of people dumped into a field will work a decent society.

I don't see that belief in liberals. Liberal thinking (as compared to liberal rhetoric) has always concluded that left to his own, mankind will devolve into chaos and murder. It is only through the intervention of a government of the enlightened that we keep from killing each other or letting each other die in the streets.

Thus, we need indoctrination, we need laws with harsh sanctions for failure to achieve the desired moral code, we need the government to manage your family, your race relations, your income, your charity, put limits on what you read, what you say, etc.

That is why I say that conservatives see people as good and liberals see them as bad. Perhaps "trust" is the better word?

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Vonnegut, what about Harrison Bergeron for the conservative category? I never read it but I've read about it and everything leads me to believe it belongs on that list.

As for the good v. evil debate, I suppose my initial (simplistic) reaction was something like, "Wait, I thought conservatives saw people as evil, hence the need for law and order and religion; and liberals saw people as good, hence the line: 'Your honor, this bank robber won't rob again, he's a good person stuck in a rut!'" (Just an example.)

But everything you're saying makes sense, too.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I thought about each of those books actually and I just couldn't find the ideology in "Pride and Prejudice", though you can be sure it will show up in part 3.

On the liberals, I had "Slaughterhouse Five" on the list and I thought about "Catcher in the Rye" as well as a few other "hippie" books, but I just didn't see how they differed from what's on the list. I'm sure the authors would be horrified to hear that, but these guys really were writing the same book, just with slightly different plots.

Yeah, those are non-fiction, which should be a good list. There are way more choices than there is room on the list in the non-fiction category!

By the way, in terms of female authors, I actually thought about "Frankenstein," which seems to be a clear warning against the rising tide of eugenics. Unfortunately, I read it so long ago that I don't recall if that's really a strong theme or if it's just the modern take-away?

Unknown said...

Andrew: No. I said Christian conservatives. You have misstated my position completely. I didn't exclude anyone else from having conservative views based on an entirely different belief system. I specifically said " at least in one arena," then went on to discuss a core belief of traditional Protestantism and Catholicism. I think you may have confused me with Jerry Falwell or Jimmy Swaggart.

I was pointing out only one kind of conservative belief, Christian conservatism, which does not in any way prevent others from having the same political beliefs. I made it very clear that Christian conservatives don't believe that man is inherently evil, but is inherently imperfect. But we do believe that sin and evil are all around us, including ourselves. "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." Others may be equally conservative politically without basing their views on the same set of core beliefs and values. Even an atheist can have a strong moral code that advises his political beliefs.

Likewise, I did not argue with your position that liberals are the ones who believe that man will do evil unless restrained by the government. What I said was that liberals believe in the perfectibility of man, under the constant tutelage of the government.

I also scrupulously avoided even hinting that only Christians can be conservative, or that some other religious or moral code might not be just as strong in leading them toward the conservative political viewpoint. I specifically discussed traditional Christian belief and its relationship to conservative political views. I share it with the Founders: "Men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." Equally importantly, they went on to say "That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed."

Needless to say, no mention of the government creating the rights or passing secular moral codes, or imposing Christianity on the unwilling, but Christians, like all other religions, consider their religious beliefs when considering their political beliefs. No mention of Christianity for them either, nor any exclusion of any other religious belief. Traditional Christian belief follows that exact thought, but does not exclude any other religious or moral code from participating in secular decisions (though it could be read to exclude atheists, and I don't even believe that). It's the basis of the later First Amendment to the Constitution.

Therefore, I am not looking at the "cure," I am looking at what I and other conservative Christians like me consider to be the nature of man. I'm sure the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities and Lutheran Social Services would have an answer for the contention that "left alone, most people will make the right (i.e. moral) choice." But before you misquote me, I am also quite certain that "(e.g. Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists)" have similar organizations. They are no less moral, simply differently moral. If they reach their politically conservative viewpoint after being advised by their religion or personal moral code, good for them. I just happen to get mine from traditional Christianity. One could arrive at exactly the same conservative political viewpoint using entirely different core principles.

Whatever other religions and secular beliefs may lead to conservative political views, the simple fact is that traditional Christianity believes that sin is always with man, and is often the easier choice. Otherwise, again strictly from the traditional Christian viewpoint, what did the Savior save us from?

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I've honestly never heard of that one ("Harrison Bergeron"). BUT... looking it up, I'm truly intrigued. I think I'm going to download it. Thanks!

On the other issue, I'm glad to hear that I've given you something to think about.

I've always believed that the only way to truly analyze what someone believes is to see how they act, rather than to listen to the rhetoric. Most people know what is considered good/bad/right/wrong and they will always present themselves as the good guy. Thus, rhetoric is kind of useless for determining what someone actually believes. But once they need to start taking action, e.g. proposing legislation or spending their own money, then you see what they really believe. So I always try to look for those points to figure out what people really think.

And for the record, let me be clear that while I think liberals often use rhetoric that is inconsistent with their beliefs, they are by no means alone. Conservatives do it too, as do independents and just about everyone else. It seems to be part of our nature.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, My apologies, I misread your comment and missed the caveat. Sorry about that.

I think you and I actually are on the same page.

On the issue of sin, you are correct in the interpretation of how sin is viewed as something man can't rid himself of except through a relationship with God.

I didn't mean to imply the elimination of sin, and to the extent I did, let me correct that -- I'm just talking about good in a more general sense as in "not bad." I think it's fairly obvious that conservatives have a great deal of faith in people because they are willing to trust them to regulate themselves (for the most part). Liberals on the other hand, have zero faith in humans as they feel the need to regulate people.

Logically, that tells me that conservatives see people as generally good and liberals see people as generally bad. Obviously not all and not always, but in general strokes that's how I see it.

Unknown said...

Andrew: I think that was the point I was originally trying to make when I said " But that does not in any way mean that I actually disagree with you." LOL

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, LOL! You know us lawyers, we get paid to fight by the word, even when there's no reason to fight.

Ed said...

Great list! I'm going to dodge the good and bad question, but I think Reagan's sunny optimism is pretty good proof that conservatives think people are good -- especially when compared to the constant whining from the left about how bad we all are.

The Heinlein choice is interesting. What's your take on Starship Troopers?

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Ed. "Starship Troopers" the movie stank. But the book is supposed to be pretty good. I haven't read it, but I've read about it and apparently it was Heinlein's response to people who were demanding that Eisenhower stop nuclear testing. Liberals call the book fascist, but I'm told it's not. But like I said, I haven't read it.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav & Lawhawk, Let me clarify one thing, I have no problem with Christians thinking that only Christians will be saved -- or any other religion having the same view. If you think that your doctrine is the right one, then by definition that means that others are wrong. So that doesn't bother me.

I don't personally share that view, but I can understand it and respect it -- just so long as people aren't militant about it.

T-Rav said...

Oh jeez, I guess I overlooked "Slaughterhouse Five" on the list. Goes to show how carefully I pay attention.

I think LawHawk explained what I meant more thoroughly than I could, so I'll just leave it at that. Also, because I had another point I forgot to mention, which is that I don't see Ayn Rand's work as all that conservative. I mean, it's definitely more conservative than liberal, but a lot of it is something else entirely. And since you're probably expecting my complaint as a social conservative, I'll just avoid that and say "Atlas Shrugged" (I haven't read "The Fountainhead") is frequently too dystopic to display a genuinely conservative message. I mean, the people in the novel don't really have strong personal connections with each other and don't seem to value human life in general. The heroes of the book seem to be totally self-interested, viewing themselves as gods among men. In fact, one reviewer (I forget his name) made the point that Rand champions capitalism not because it's better for society in general, but because it allows those few gifted people to exploit the rest of humanity for their own benefit and reach self-fulfillment. It's not that much different from what Marx thought, only she saw it as a good thing. This might explain why Rand originally got some backlash from mainstream conservatives, most notably Whitaker Chambers. Just a thought.

T-Rav said...

Okay, well on the good/evil thing (I just can't help myself), I don't think our reasoning is that different, because like you, I think people out to manage their own lives rather than have the government do it for them. I would just say that I hold that position not because I have a lot of faith in people--I really don't have any faith in them, but the nature of our would-be governors is no better than that of the rest of us. So it makes no sense to let people who are no better than we are, and know less about our own affairs than we do, dictate our lives. Personal freedom and responsibility is the best choice--it may be a lesser of two evils situation, but it is the best choice. And that's my position, basically.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, There is a definite schism between religious conservatives and libertarian conservatives. Rand definitely falls into the second camp, and I can say that people in that camp are unlikely to see most religious conservative beliefs as conservative.

To me though, that's a pointless fight. The two groups are much closer than they realize, they just need to understand each other better.

On Rand's books specifically, you have to realize that her characters are archetypes and the story is essentially about economics -- something religious conservatism just doesn't address. Yes, she's an atheist and that comes across in her characters, but that's not what the book is known for. It's know for its discussion of free markets, capitalism and rational self-interest. And on those points, her work is absolutely conservative.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, On the good/bad thing, the problem with that view is that it also leads to tampering with humanity. If we are to assume that everyone is bad and the reason we oppose government is that our leaders are likely to be just as bad as the rest of us, that opens the door to oppressive government once we find the leader(s) who appears to be better than the rest of us.

Tennessee Jed said...

some great comments. If I might address a comment, I think it was Scott's: "Why must this be so confusing?" Well, one reason is there are many, many different definitions, and movements over the past 200 years or so. While the definitions Andrew is using are not the only ones out there, they are very good, and really hit at the core philosophical differences between the two.

We all know that Wykpedia should be a suspect source of data, since for a long time they did no vetting of sources. However if you go there with such terms as classical liberalism, conservatism, modern liberalism, and progressivism, you will actually find some pretty good articles on the subject, and which give some nice support to the definitions Andrew used. I say this only because sometimes it helps to see things written in different ways.

I can't help but think that the reason I am having a hard time coming up with more classic liberal fiction, is because as a fiscal conservative and generally social libertarian (like Reagan,) it is hard for me to think of those kind of books as classic ;-)

Another random thought, spurred by the discussion. Whether it be the state or the private sector, sheer size of both tend to make the individual feel less and less powerful today. The political parties utilize these feelings to make voters fear either one or the other in the absolute. The truth is, we need both as a sort of check and balance on the other.

Michael R. Brown said...

It isn't the case that Ayn Rand was against charity. She was personally charitable to friends and donated to help Israel defend itself. In her own words: "My views on charity are very simple. I do not consider it a major virtue and, above all, I do not consider it a moral duty. There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them. I regard charity as a marginal issue. What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue."

Her point was that you have to have a healthy non-charitable sector in order to be able to provide charity, and that economic freedom (and nothing else) provides that health. How much can one donate if one is starving or dies at age 35, as before technology one did.

Government welfare is a perversion of charity because it is ill-managed and cripples the productive sector over time. Look at the tens of trillions in unfunded liabilities that are going to cripple our economy; and it's just going to get worse unless we get the system right.

One part of the foolishness of the recent debates about Rand is the idea that agreeing with Rand's prediction and diagnoses in "Atlas Shrugged" - the accuracy of which has been demonstrated in the last few years to a nicety - somehow magically commits one to agreement with her total philosophy. Would this argument be extended to an atheist leftist who recommends Tolstoy or Victor Hugo?

The other part is a specific misrepresentation of Christianity. Christianity is not a pro-Statism religion; indeed, given who killed their Savior, it tends to the anti-State. (This is something the left has not yet dealt with.) Nowhere in the Bible does it say that wealth should be expropriated and redistributed by the dubious means of government structures; it speaks of personal and *voluntary* charity. One might add, looking at the horrific debt and unfunded liabilities situation that the U.S. is in right now, that the Bible and Jesus were wise in staying away from government panaceas.

This entire kabuki charade is in bad faith. The Bible does not advocate any Progressive notions of "economic justice." The progressives who have suddenly discovered religion and its necessary role in politics - after thirty decades and more of stridently and rightly insisting it must be kept out of politics - are not sincere. After this temporary rhetorical bubble is over, they will resume their previous, also ad-hoc, declarations.

As for the "sociopath" accusation, this is what comes of copying attack website garbage. The whole thing rests upon one author - Michael Prescott's - highly selective excerpting and chopping up of a private [i.e., thinking out loud without clarifications ] journal written when Rand was barely out of her teens, fresh from the blood bath of 1920s Soviet Russia - and still made it very clear that her read on the personalities of the observers showed that they were not appalled by Hickman's crime - she said there had been far worse, without the same spectacle of glee - but by his flamboyant and mocking defiance of society. She - who was writing about a *legally innocent man* at the time of the trial - even called him a monster, a pervert, a repulsive and purposeless criminal. Enough with the disinformation and - yes - Satanizing of Ayn Rand.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Thanks! I'm glad you approve of the way I defined the ideologies. I think it does make sense when you look at their cores. The problem, as you note, is that there have been so many variants over time, so many movements, so many politicians who tried to shift the definitions... that it becomes nearly impossible to trace the ideologies cleanly throughout the years. Not to mention that many people just don't understand what they believe -- and that can lead to more confusion. But all in all, I think the underlying distinction of individualism v. state control is the only way to look at the two ideologies.

In terms of finding more books, I was genuinely surprised. Nonfiction is easy, as is finding books that have influenced our culture. But finding fiction books that act as social commentary on an ideological level (rather than just issue advocacy books) is surprisingly hard. If you get into unknown books, then you can find a lot, but if you're talking about well-known books or classics, then it gets a lot harder. And I think that really makes the ones on this list exceptional.

On your last point, I think that as the world gets bigger people feel like they are becoming smaller and more isolated. In the past, you might know everyone in your town. Now you don't know everyone on your block. That is bound to trigger fears. Add in a sensationalist media and you've got a recipe for people feeling upset, fearful and suspicious. And politicians of both parties love to play into that because if they can make you fear the other side, then you are more likely to support them -- whether you agree with them or not.

It's too bad that our politics can't be more thoughtful and less full of demagogues, but that's just the way things are.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, I'm not directly referencing the religious thing. (Of course, I could if you want me to.) I'm just pointing out that Rand's views on capitalism don't exactly dovetail with the conservative argument for it. She does an excellent job of showing why collectivism is a very bad idea for any society, and where it ultimately leads, so when you add everything up, she is definitely on our side. But let's not make her into the apostle of conservatism. In fact, a lot of her followers in the '60s and '70s (Randians or whatever they were called) had little in common with other conservatives, other than their free-market position; they were very socially liberal and very anti-war.

As for the good/evil thing, that kinda just proves my point. People are weak-willed and will misinterpret anything. It shouldn't be surprising that they can and will misinterpret that as well, but that's no reason to discard it.

AndrewPrice said...

Michael, Good points. The criticisms I've seen of Rand tend to fall into three categories.

1. The left demonizes her because they have no real counter to her ideology, so they seek to destroy the person. To do that, they try to make her out as a sociopath etc. They have no evidence of this, but that's never stopped them before.

2. People who don't like her views attack her work on the basis that the characters are not great. But this is a diversion. First, it's hypocritical as they don't apply the same criticism to other authors whose characters are even less real -- like a Jason Borne, for example. Secondly, this is an attempt to distract from the actual point of her work by taking about things around the edges. Third, they have misinterpreted her characters/story and are judging her characters as failed because the story wasn't something other than they were expecting. That would be like reading an economic text and complaining that it doesn't have a car chase scene.

3. She gets attacked by religious conservatives as a proxy for their continuing war with libertarians. As I mention above, this is a stupid conflict as both are much closer than they realize, they just haven't really sat down and thought about it.

Great point on the idea that somehow if you agree with part of her theory, then you must agree with all of it. That's another phony line of attack that is meant to demonize her by forcing supporters to support everything she believes, whether they share it or not. That's typical troll logic and is like saying "if you liked Bill Clinton's economic policy then you also favor molesting interns." That's ridiculously false logic and is again designed to distract by shifting the topic.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, Each of the conservative groups disagree on various points and they all think the others are horrifically not-conservative. The truth is that each of these groups is within 80-90% of each other. The problem is that the other 10% is what the groups define themselves by. So it seems much worse than it is.

In terms of her economic views, they are very close to the conservative view on economics/capitalism. She's a bit more anti-government than most conservatives, but not much. Social issues, policing and foreign policy is where she differs from the other groups. But then, that's where they all tend to differ too.

Let's agree to disagree on the good/bad thing. :-)

Tennessee Jed said...

Andrew - I would probably use the word agree more than approve (l.o.l.), but yes, when one really boils down the fundamental differences between the two ideologies, it would merely be quibbling to define it otherwise.

BTW, "Advise & Consent" won the Pulitzer prize and was made into a wonderful film. I believe it was one of the few times, if not the only time, a Pulitzer Prize for fiction was also a top of the charts best seller.If you have difficulty finding the novel, the film is, I think, a fairly faithful representation.

I own an original hard cover copy of this book, and have the movie on VHS tape. I told you I also starred in "When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth!)The plot centers around hardball beltway politics concerning a former communist who is being presented for confirmation as Secretary of State. It is an amazing novel with characters drawn from composites of actual people. The author was an ardant anti-communist and the politics must be viewed in the context of the times ("we will bury you," sputnick, and Alger Hiss.) I can remember discussing with LawHawk back in the pioneer days of BH!!

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, There are many different definitions, but I do think that separating them this way is the only one that cuts through the verbiage and gets at the real ideology.

I'll look for "Advice and Consent." I'll be Amazon has it.

I think I remember you discussion "When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth." It's funny what we remember.

rlaWTX said...

I haven't read comments yet, but I have a disagreement about your categorizations in the explanation of Lord of the Flies.

I would argue that conservatives do not believe that people are good - people are NOT good. We are selfish, self-centered critters with occasional positive impulses. BUT we are free individuals and are allowed to make our choices and live with the resultant responsibilities, and suffer the consequences. A Republic binds our penchant for mob rule and selfishness by requiring representation through an election rather than direct rule. We are required to work together for a common goal with the common good in mind. I would argue that liberals believe in the "goodness" of people - and if only the "right" good people were in charge all of the bad of life would go away. If only people are given an "equal playing field" everyone will become self-actualized, altruistic, tree-hugging, perfection.

In light of that argument, (and relying on memory of HS English class), L of the F could be the ultimate example of anarchy - no education, no moral compass based on Someone greater than ourselves, tyrannical leadership.

now I'll read the comments... Great list otherwise! :)

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, Thanks! I'm glad you liked the list -- with the one exception. :-)

On the good/bad thing, you've touched upon the main discussion from the comments as there seems to be a difference of opinion.

rlaWTX said...

OK - I'm glad to see that others had the same reaction, and an interesting discussion evolved. I don't know that people are "evil" as much as simply selfish ("not good").

I tend to think that the libs' love of lawful octopi (tentacles everywhere)is because of a feeling that people are good, but some are "gooder". And the gooder need to guide the good to a place of ultimate goodness. IE the idea that communism just hasn't been done right yet.

And that conservatives, believing that people are selfish, realize that we need laws protecting my stuff from you and your stuff from me and then leave us alone to do what we want with our own stuff. It's less an expectation of moral persuasion than that idea of enlightened self-interest. If I am cut-throat in business with you, you will go elsewhere for your business and I have hurt myself. And even if we remove the idea of the Christian God from the equation, the Founders still believed that our rights were not granted by the State, but by a force larger than ourselves (Nature?) and the State needed to be stopped from infringing on them.

rlaWTX said...

OH - and now I have to add books to my reading list!

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, That's an interesting take on the good/bad issue. I think it's true that conservatives see people as self-interested, but I think we conclude that rational self-interest keeps us from being rotten to each other. I'm not sure liberals believe that second part, which is why I think they are constantly trying to change people. In fact, there was an article yesterday again asking whether we're born "believing in the ownership society" or "if we can train kids not to think that way." Thinking that we should train people not to feel ownership is intensely stupid. That's why communism collapses. That's why rental property gets abused. Ownership brings with it the desire to protect and improve property. Non-ownership brings with it a sense that it's somebody else's problem.

Please do add your selections! :-)

Mr. Wonderful said...

Conservatives believe people are good and can be moved to improvement with moral persuasion. Liberals believe people are evil and must be controlled by force.

No, conservatives believe people are bad and must be "redeemed" from the taint of "original sin." Liberals believe people are good and should be allowed the freest expression possible of their beliefs, lifestyles, and opinions.

What? Too simple-minded and reductionist? So is this entire ridiculous list. Every time a "conservative" makes a list of "Liberal" and "Conservative" books, movies, tv shows, etc., he or she proves to be a drearily literal-minded cheerleader for his or her side, one who will say literally anything, no matter how half-baked, idiotic, or demonstrably false, in the service of their ideology.

(And anyone who calls Kafka "a socialist" would be wise to keep his opinions about literature to himself.)

Otherwise, yes! Interesting list!

AndrewPrice said...

Dear "Mr. Wonderful",

Nice troll comment. Too bad, like other trolls, you're an idiot -- and a pretentious one at that.

First, your definition of liberalism is delusional. Perhaps you should read a book or get out and talk to people because living in your cave certainly isn't helping you.

Secondly, I particular love the your comment: "And anyone who calls Kafka "a socialist" would be wise to keep his opinions about literature to himself."

In fact, Kafka's good friend Hugo Bergmann said:

"Franz became a socialist, I became a Zionist in 1898. The synthesis of Zionism and socialism did not yet exist."

I guess that tells us which of us should keep their comments to themselves. Out of curiosity, are you ever right about anything?

rlaWTX said...

good troll hunting, Andrew!

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks rlaWTX!

Sadly Mr. Trollderful probably won't be coming back to see how badly he blew it. Oh well. His pretentious stupidity can stand as a digital monument to others. :-)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Wow! Great list, Andrew! And the comments were very informative too!

It is difficult to find conservative fiction that fits the parameters of defining our ideology.

As you said, there are plenty of conservative fiction books but they don't clearly preach as much (or at all) like liberal leftist books do.

Some recent confic books that come to mind:

State Of Fear by Michael Chricton
Although this book talks specifically of how far liberal leftists will go to support their cult...I mean, ideology, the observations about how libs like to use fear, deception, lies, and will use any immoral means to reach the End they so covet.

Pretty much all of Tom Clancy's books which show, among other things, how good folks can make government (and the military, CIA, etc.) work despite those that would use it for their own ends which are often nefarious.

More on the good n' bad in a moment.

AndrewPrice said...

Thank Ben! :-)

I thought about Crichton and Clancy, but just couldn't put them on this list because they didn't write very heavily ideological books. They might work well on the third list though, which is more cultural than pure ideological.

What's interesting is that when I started looking for conservative authors, what I found was that (excluding nonfiction) conservatives rarely put together ideological books. They might have an ideological lean, but few of them have deeply ideological books. That's almost always the domain of the leftists -- and usually the far leftists. But what's interesting about that is that the leftists get it "wrong" so much and end up writing deeply conservative books. It's interesting that they are so good at seeing the negative in their own philosophies, but are so bad at recognizing that they are talking about their own philosophies!

I wonder what that tells us?

rlaWTX said...

it's the same at family reunions or other acquainted crowds - the libs are the ones being loud about their viewpoints, assuming that everyone either agrees or will become enlightened - meanwhile the conservatives have their quiet political conversations... Conservatives have their worldview represented in their books, while libs preach loudly...

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, That's very true. In fact, I'm amazed at how easily liberals just blurt out their beliefs as if everyone in the room agrees with them.

Conservatives are different. They try not to offend people or force their views on people. I've really come to believe that conservative silence enables liberals. In fact, I've argued with many conservatives, trying to get them to speak up more -- and the ones who have have always reported back, "as soon as I said something, everyone started agreeing with me and the liberals shut up!"

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...


I think that tells us mo9st liberals/leftists are more conservative than they know.

Case in point: the liberal authors you listed here that are actually writing about the dangers of their own philosophy/ideology.

On a more personal level, many of my inlaws and some of my relatives are staunch democrats but only because of tradition.
Because they are mostly consevrvative in their beliefs.

They believe in the ist and 2nd Ammendmenrs, more limited government (or at least non intrusive) and American exceptionalism, self reliance, charity, a strong military they really support.

But try as we might, my wife and I can't get them to see that the democrats they vote for are mostly against what their constituents want, individually and as a party which has been taken over by the far left and no longer contribute good ideas only destructive ones.

It can be very frustrating sometimes when you can't get someone who agrees with you 80% of the time to vote for someone that will actually represent their own interests.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

On the good n' evil thing:

I try to use a bit of advice from President Reagan concerning people:
Trust but verify.

Personally, I view man as fallen but that he or she can be redeemed and can conciously choose to do the right thing and do good.

But even people that generally (and specifically) do good can also choose to do evil (even if they don't see it as such) or fall into various temptations and false promises.

However, most folks in countries like ours where liberty is valued and sought, although prone to self intersts (I mean this in a good sense not a selfish one) will generally, most the time do the right thing, whether through fear of consequences (of breaking the law) or through resoning that it's in their self interest to cooperate with others the results are always better than mob rule, anarchy, tyranny, etc..

When we got hit by the huge 2007 flood as pretty much everyone in our little country community everyone stepped up and helped in any way they could, even folks who had lost everything!

It certainly wasn't like New Orleans after Katrina where people were looting businesses and fellow citizens homes, but that always seems to happen in liberal strongholds during tragedies that require folks to rely on themselves and their neighbors.

They whined and looked to the government for help even as they cursed them.

Those of us in small towns or rural areas (who tend to be more conservative/libertarian) never rely or count on the government during or after disasters and we prepare for such because a disaster or tragedy or just extended power outages, gas shortages due top govt. interference, etc., can happen anywhere.

So while I trust but verify, I would do a lot more verifying in a big city or leftist stronghold. :^)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

All that said, I believe folks should have the liberty to make their own choices, good or bad unless their choices breaks the spirit of the law of course and hurts or kills others illegally.

I believe folks who are raised in and understand life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (the value of private property) will alwayts tend to do the right thing more often than folks from socialist/commie/tyranny type countries.

Because liberty allows us the room to grow which, yes, many do take for granted and indeed, forget what it really means and how precious it is all for 30 pieces of silver or "security" above all else.

But folks are free to make those choices and that matters. It's worth fightin' and, if necessary, dyin' for, and I believe many Americans still believe that and hold these truth's to be self evident even if they may not fully understand those truth's as much as our Founding Fathers did.
There is a hunger for it though.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, I think that's right -- liberals are much more conservative than they realize. The problem is the rhetoric. The left talks so well about being for "freedom" and "helping people" and goodness and happiness, etc. It's all fake, but it sounds very enticing. And conservatives don't advertise nearly as well even though we have the ideology that liberals do. I think that's one of the keys with Reagan was that his constant optimism made conservatism a much easier "sell" than the angry that followed.

And I know exactly what you mean about being unable to convince them. I've gotten numerous liberals to the point where they agreed with everything I told them and agreed that the proper conclusion was a conservative philosophy... and then they said, "but that doesn't make sense... somehow." You just can't get through to some people.

Some liberals I've argued with simply won't accept facts or argument -- they've convinced themselves that anyone who isn't liberal must be lying to them, so they put their fingers in their ears and refuse to listen. That's pathetic.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, Bravo!!

That is an excellent statement of exactly what I'm talking about with the conservative view. Conservatives don't think people are infallible, but we think that if people are given freedom to take care of themselves, they will generally do the right thing, i.e. they will do good. If we didn’t believe that, then we wouldn’t be advocates of limited government because if we believed people were inherently bad, then it would be illogical to trust people.

Indeed, its liberals who show that they don't trust people and that is because they view people as inherently evil and stupid and thus believe that if they aren’t controlled by a strong government, they will murder each other.

I think the disagreement above is because people are talking about two different things. I think the religious aspect of the argument tells us that people are sinful or fallible creatures. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m not suggesting that people are perfect. I’m suggesting a much different standard, i.e. that people are generally good and can be trusted to make the generally right decisions if left on their own. Conservatives believe that, liberals don’t. I’m not saying that conservatives think people are infallible -- nor do I buy for a minute that liberals think that. No one thinks people are infallible. But that’s not the questions. The question is what does each side think of people generally in terms of how they organize society and treat each other. That again, is why I’ve been saying for days now that politics and religion are not the same thing because they are concerned with different aspects of humanity. And it is a mistake to try to apply religious doctrine to define political ideologies.

And I totally agree that the evidence is clear that when there is chaos in a disaster, it's ALWAYS in areas where the people have learned to rely on the government as their provider. It is simply corrosive to the human spirit to become a ward of the state and these people show it, because rather than rising to the occasion and helping each other and themselves, they turn on each other and then wait for someone else to bail them out.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Thanks, Andrew.
I did have the benefit of reading all the superb comments, minus trollinsky. :^)

Also, Liberals do look at each other, for the most part as good unless there is some other conflict involved (such as: competition, moving in on anothers territory, tryin' to be honest and not blame conservatives for eveything that goes wrong, etc..

It's odd that anyone would trust a govt. entity that they don't know over their neighbors and fellow citizens but I don't think they think about it that deeply, if ever.

BTW, with the exception of a few powerful leftists, I don't consider most lib/lefties evil but rather misguided and delusional.

Even though the policies or ideas they push for result in evil I know that's not what the original intent, although it would be nice to see m ore taking responsibility when it's clear that the results of their ideas hurt and or killed folks.

I would still be charitable to folks of the leftist pursuasion in a tragedy/disaster/attack.
And I think that's true of most conservatives.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, I don't see liberals as evil either, just misguided. There are some, but the average liberal just doesn't realize that what they are advocating will not work and will in fact have a whole host of horrible consequences. They should understand this, but they just don't want to think about it.

The ones who are evil tend to be in leadership. A lot of these are people who have a pure ideological interest and are willing to destroy society or cause suffering just to bring that about. The former head of one of the unions (can't remember which) is like that, as he was advocating intentional defaults on loans to cause a second financial crisis in the hopes that people would turn to them for solutions after Wall Street "fails."

But most of the rank and file just want to do what they think is right.... it's not right, but their motives aren't horrible.

In terms of the disaster, I think that's a classic conservative position. When something horrible happens, you drop the politics and help people. The left, doesn't do that, they go with the motto "let no crisis be wasted."

But let me be clear, I'm not saying that people in New Orleans or other liberal disaster zones are intentionally acting horribly to each other to achieve ideological ends... I'm saying that years of being taught to be helpless and let the government care for you, and years of being told to forget about personal responsibility and morality and right and wrong, prepare these people to act out the worst parts of their nature when something goes wrong. Hence, the riots, the looting, the rapes and the murders.

rlaWTX said...

Commentarama is awesome even when we don't totally agree! Happy weekend!!

rlaWTX said...

(and I ordered the Heinlein book and Heart of Darkness...)

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, Thanks! I agree. I love what we've got going here. Our audience is great -- even when we don't agree! :-)

I'm glad to hear you've ordered the books! I hope you enjoy them! I'm going to order a couple that were mentioned in the comments this weekend.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

BTW, Andrew, I recently read this very funny (but true) article which gives tips for how not to appear crazy on the internet and I thought the trolls that you get around here could really use this wise advice.

Since they probably will not read it anyway (nor take the advice if they do)(nor think it's funny) it's still a lol read for the rest of us. :^)

Oh, here it is:
Tips For How Not To Appear Crazy On The Internet

T-Rav said...

I missed a troll beatdown?! Darn it! Why doesn't someone tell me when these day-old threads are still active? (grumble grumble)

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, That's great! Thanks!

I love this line: "The advent of the internet should be a Renaissance for crazy."


AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, I'll try to mention it in the future! :-)

This one wasn't a very good troll though. He came in nasty and pretentious, but his substance fell apart faster then an Obama stimulus plan. So sad. Naturally, he's has nothing to say since I pointed out that his basic facts were 100% wrong. But he's welcome to come back and try to prove he's not a total loser.... if he can.

(P.S. I sent you an e-mail.)

tryanmax said...

Wow! I've read or seen adaptations of most of the items on this list (the exceptions being Kafka, Heinlein, Remarque, and Joyce--2 and 2). I guess that makes me a well-read individual.

On Lord of the Flies, I'm not really sure it belongs on this list (liberal or conservative). I think it serves mainly as an allegory for the wheel of history itself and less as a commentary on the inherent qualities of man, being as the characters are fairly divided in terms of the qualities they possess.

If I were to place it, I would place it on the conservative list for its frank dealing with the difficulty of maintaining order versus the simplicity of descending into chaos. The ending is rather allegorical to the Book of Revelation, so one could take it to imply that the spiral goes ever downward.

Regardless, I think it asks too much of a political philosophy to decide what is inherent. It is enough to know that men are prone to corruption and to establish law that deals accordingly.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I highly recommend "All Quiet On The West Front." It's an excellent book and it's very modern considering the time period in which it was written.

On "Lord of the Flies," I still see it primarily as advocating big government to control human nature on the basis that human nature is inherently evil unless it is reined in by a government. I see that as a fundamentally liberal message.

tryanmax said...

If that is how you see it, then I agree. I'd have to read it again to decide if I interpret it the same way.

AndrewPrice said...

It's been a while since I've read it, but that's basically the message I got out of it, that these kids were only civilized so long as they were under the control over government. And then the ending seems to have a sort of "world government" analogy when we learn that there is some war going on because the adults aren't any better than the kids and hence we need a supergovernment to control them.

There could obviously be other interpretations but that's how I saw it.

Anonymous said...

Interesting list! Did you manage to post Part 2 and 3? I'm curious as to what you came up with.

AndrewPrice said...

Anon, Sadly, I never got around to doing parts 2 and 3.

Anonymous said...

Are you planning to post parts 2 and 3? I hope you do!

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