By Josh Rees, AM Virginia
As a reading enthusiast, I find it hard to narrow this list down to just eight books. However, there are a few books that, in my opinion, helped shape my political ideology and set the foundation for what I believe today. As someone who has always considered himself a conservative, I had very little knowledge of policy and I could not substantiate my beliefs when confronted with opposing viewpoints. After coming to Washington D.C. for a few internships, I found myself needing a stronger foundation for my beliefs to rest upon. With that being said, here are a few books that I found crucial in forming my political beliefs.
1. The Law by Frédéric Bastiat
The Law, written in 1850, is a pamphlet that Bastiat published approximately two years after the French Revolution. This book is, by far, my favorite book in the context of political philosophy. Bastiat was a huge proponent of individual liberty and argued that life, liberty, and property are God-given and supersede government. He argued that God-given rights are not granted by government and thus government cannot tread upon those rights.
2. The Conscience of a Conservative by Barry Goldwater
In 1960, Senator Goldwater saw a lack of fervor and a lack of unity in the conservative platform. Therefore, Senator Goldwater took it upon himself to set the foundation for what would lead to Conservatism as we know it today. Many prominent figures, such as President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, clung to the ideas put forth in this book.
3. The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek
As someone who finds economic philosophy strangely fascinating, I’m drawn to figures such as Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig Von Mises, and Milton Friedman. Hayek wrote this book as a rebuttal to the Keynesian economic system that was sweeping the globe. Hayek argued in favor of Austrian economic philosophy and believed that Keynesian economics would be a step back towards feudalism. This book is known as Hayek’s greatest work and its principles are still used today in Austrian economic philosophy to promote economic freedom.
4. The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism by Friedrich Hayek
In this book, Friedrich Hayek specifically takes on socialism and the devastation that it has caused. Hayek believed that it was not enough to just refute socialist policy, he believed that we must completely reject any form of the idea. He argued that socialism will not lead to a perfect utopia but to the horrors of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.
5. Two Treatises of Government by John Locke
In the first treaty, Locke refutes the idea of Patriarcha which believes in the divine rights of the king. John Locke argued that the government was created to protect the individual’s God-given rights. In his second treaty, Locke offers insight into where his beliefs come from. Locke believed in private ownership of property and that the individual can best dictate how that property is to be used.
6. The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
This book is about the foundation of the capitalist and free market ideology. Adam Smith so famously described the free market as the invisible hand. He believed that free markets are the only way to further innovation and produce more wealth. Furthermore, Smith outlines the appropriate roles of government and promoted fair and clear taxation to support those roles.
7. Confrontational Politics: How to Effectively Practice the Politics of Principle by H.L. Richardson
In this book, Richardson outlines the issues that conservatives face. He argues that conservatives remain on the defensive and this allows the left to continually pick the fights. Richardson believes that conservatives should be on the offensive and thus promote a winning mentality.
8. Rules for Radicals By Saul Alinsky
This book may come as a bit of a surprise. Rules for Radicals is used by the left to organize and train activists. However, I found this book very informative for conservatives. The only way to stay ahead is to know the opposition. As Sir Francis Bacon so famously said, “Knowledge is power.”