Good Books For Liberty
July 19, 2012 by Sam Rolley
The Library of Congress is currently celebrating books that it deems have been instrumental in shaping the American mystique with a list of 88 titles and an exhibit in Washington, D.C.
The Library contends that the list is not one of “best” American works of literature but rather of works that have influenced the lives of most all Americans in one respect or another. Among the titles included on the list are such classic works as Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick”, Allen Ginsberg’s controversial test of free speech no matter how controversial in “Howl”, and lighter works like Dr. Seuss’s iconic “The Cat in The Hat”.
Many are titles that a majority of Americans have or should have read at one time or another during youth or education. Surprisingly, given that the list was compiled by an entity of the Federal government, there are also a few titles that all liberty-loving Americans should have in their libraries.
If you haven’t read the following titles, you should.
|“Common Sense” by Thomas Paine (1776)
Paine, in his writings, laid forth in common language why the American colonies needed to become free of British rule while the idea of independence was still under debate. “Common Sense” describes how “natural liberty” must remain an important part of any governmental body and rejects the idea that any people should live under a permanent ruling class. Paine’s work was considered one of the most “incendiary” of the Revolutionary period and is credited for bringing the common man into the political debate.
|“The Federalist” by John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison (1787)
In order to understand why many people believe that the Federal government has ballooned wildly out of control and taken on powers which it was never intended to have, “The Federalist” is a go-to guide. Alexander Hamilton has been referred to by some historians as “the founding father of big government,” for his faith in the power of institutions to create good policy. His writings in “The Federalist” do not reflect the accusations, as he discussed his high regard for State’s rights. Reading those writings and studying Hamilton’s later actions also illustrates how dishonesty from politicians is nothing new in America.
|“Walden” Henry David Thoreau (1854)
What Thoreau’s work about the importance of embracing nature in life rather than living in constant pursuit of material possession lacks in practical prepper information, it makes up for in philosophy. More than 150 years ago, Thoreau believed that Americans were enslaved by money and debt, overly distracted by social life, killing themselves with poor diets and wholly unable to provide basic needs for themselves. He decided to shun society for two years, living near a pond in Concord, Mass. In modern society, with all of Thoreau’s aforementioned complaints amplified, “Walden” offers interesting perspective on the importance of self-reliance.
|“The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair (1906)
In this early investigative journalism piece, Sinclair brings to light the horribly unsanitary conditions that were found in Chicago’s meatpacking districts in the early 20th Century. This is the book that established a meatpacking law and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 creating the agency that eventually became the Food and Drug Administration in 1930. Realizing the disgusting conditions that existed in food plants prior to the establishment of the entities, but also considering how the FDA has become a Gestapo force for big agribusiness and pharmaceutical giants today, one can understand the true meaning of the phrase “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
|“Fahrenheit 451″ by Ray Bradbury (1953)
Bradbury depicts an American future without 1st Amendment rights in which books are burned, critical thinking is shunned and people are allowed only information provided them through government-approved television programing. In the dystopian novel, government officials believe that a public inundated with endless television chatter and popular culture, remains productive and efficient for those in charge.
|“Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand (1957)
In “Atlas Shrugged”, perhaps the most poignant title on the list given the current political landscape, Rand illustrates what might happen if society’s producers, fatigued by overbearing regulation and taxation for the collective good, suddenly resisted: inevitable societal collapse. If you disagree with President Barack Obama’s recent assertion that government, not hard work, is the secret behind entrepreneurial success, this is a novel for you. If you agree with the President, you too should read Rand’s masterpiece. If the current anti-business attitude persists in the United States, Atlas could shrug any day now.
There are several other good-for-fun reads on the Library’s complete list (which can be found here), and no doubt many other works not on the list that American patriots should read. Of the Library’s 88 suggestions, however, these are the most important to understanding why liberty must remain a part of the American tradition.