Reading list

The primary issues in this year’s elections will be the economy and the war. The sub-text will be whether opposing Barack Obama for any reason is knee-jerk racism.

I present my reading list of the last 6 weeks, which contains some selections you should read specifically regarding those issues. Others are included because they are worth reading, too. First, the election relevant titles:

Thomas Sowell – Race & Culture
What should have informed Obama’s famous speech on race, and didn’t.
Moderately long.

Footnotes omitted in the following.

Outside of Western civilization, the the anti-slavery effort was opposed and evaded, especially in the Islamic world. Repeated pressure on the Ottoman empire led its government to decree a ban on the slave trade within its domains in 1847, … However, mindful of the opposition within, Ottoman authorities were not very active at trying to stamp out the slave trade. Eventually, the British government threatened to begin boarding Ottoman ships in the Mediterranean to search for slaves, unless the Ottomans themselves began enforcing the the ban on the forbidden slave trade. Nor was the Ottoman Empire the only foreign government to feel the pressure of British anti-slavery policy. In 1873, British ships anchored off Zanzibar and threatened to blockade the island unless the slave market there closed. It closed.
[p 212]

To explain the enslavement of Africans by Europeans by things peculiar to Africans or Europeans is to ignore the glaring fact that slavery was a worldwide institution, among the most disparate races and cultures, going back untold thousands of years. Clearly other factors must have been at work to explain the existence of slavery elsewhere.
[p 219]

Another distortion of history is to assume a priori that social problems afflicting contemporary blacks in the United States are a “legacy of slavery.” Broken families, lower rates of marriage, lower rates of labor force participation have been included among the social phenomena explained and excused on the ground of a “legacy of slavery.” In reality, most black children were raised in two-parent homes even during the era of slavery and for generations thereafter, blacks had higher rates of marriage than whites in the early twentieth century, and higher rates of labor force participation in every census from 1890 to 1950. Whatever may be the real causes of very different patterns among blacks in the world of today must be sought in the twentieth century, not in the era before emancipation.

Henry Hazlitt – Economics in One Lesson
Demonstrating that economics is not so complicated as those in government would like you to believe. Also that they lie and pander. Who knew?
Not a long read.

Government -guaranteed home mortgages, especially when a negligible or no down payment is required, inevitably mean more bad loans than otherwise. They force the general taxpayer to subsidize the bad risks and to defray the losses. They encourage people to “buy” houses that they cannot really afford. They tend to eventually to bring about an oversupply of houses as compared with other things. They temporarily overstimulate building, raise the cost of building for everybody (including the buyers of homes with the guaranteed mortgages), and they may mislead the building industry into an eventually costly overexpansion. In brief, in the long run they do not increase overall national production but encourage malinvestment.
[p47 I will remind you that that it was written in 1946.]

The government must act. All that we really want to do is correct these violent, senseless fluctuations in price…

There are several methods by which it is commonly proposed to do this. One of the most frequent is government loans to farmers to enable theme to hold their crops off the market.

Such loans are urged in Congress for reasons that seem very plausible to most listeners. They are told that the farmers crops are all dumped on the market at once, at harvest time; that this is precisely the time when prices are lowest, and that speculators take advantage of this to buy the crops themselves and hold them for higher prices when food gets scarcer again. Thus it is urged that the farmers suffer, and that they, rather than the speculators, should get the advantage of higher prices.

This argument is not supported by either theory or experience. The much-reviled speculators are not the enemy of the farmer; they are essential to his best welfare. The risks of fluctuating farm prices must be borne by somebody; they have in fact been borne in modern times chiefly by the profession speculator. In general, the more competently the latter act in their own interest as speculators, the more they help the farmer. For speculators see their own interest precisely in proportion to foresee future prices. But the more accurately they foresee future prices the less violent or extreme are the fluctuations in prices.
[p 110-111]

Again, written in 1946.

Since 1958 there has been an experiment in the futures commodity market that proves Hazlitt’s point. Onions are forbidden (thanks to Gerald Ford) to be traded on futures commodity markets. Here’s the result: “Onion prices soared 400 percent between October 2006 and April 2007, only to crash 96 percent by March 2008 and then rebound 300 percent this past April.”

Michael Yon – Moment of Truth in Iraq

Check reviews at the link above, but buy a signed copy here.

Why our military’s ability as public administration warriors made the surge a success, and why the surge could not have been a success except for the preparation of the field by our military commanders on the ground.

Despite what the MSM would have you believe, the seeds of the “Anbar Awakening” had to be planted before adding US troops made sense. Our soldiers planted those seeds, and Obama’s claim that that the awakening must be considered an event separate from our military presence is tripe. He can’t admit he was wrong on the signature judgment of his candidacy, so the success of the surge can’t be what it appears.

Yon is no war apologist, and he explains why you should get behind finishing what we started in Iraq. For those reluctant because they think this book will be neo-con propaganda, Yon has been a serious critic of our Iraq policies. He is a self-financed embedded reporter. He is the Ernie Pyle of the Battle of Iraq. HIGHLY recommended. If you read but one of the recommendations here, let it be this.
Not long at all.

“When General Petraeus took command in early 2007 he had the diplomatic and command skills to take full advantage of “the cleaving” that was already underway. (People talk about “the surge.” But there was something else that happened: “the cleaving.” We hacked a lot of the groups apart from one another.) During the fall and winter of 2006, our military had already progressed substantially in transforming how it conducted the war. Heavy-handed tactics were mostly gone, replaced instead by a multi-dimensional counterinsugency strategy rolled out simultaneously with tightly targeted kinetic battles.
[p 94-95]

I understood why army officers had been telling me the marines were more advanced in counterinsurgency. These marines were doing vintage Special Forces work and had a flair for it. They were even studying Arabic in their filthy little compound [sahred with the Iraqis they were mentoring] … The Iraqis appreciated it.

One of the most important things I saw was that Iraqi soldiers and police constantly emulated marines and soldiers.

…A man like [SSG] Raken Lee was not someone they could overlook. Physically, the man was amazingly strong. But even more amazing was the strength of his moral fiber. Whatever the man talked, he walked.

…By showing that the strongest soldier is also disciplined, just and compassionate, soldiers like SSG Lee were winning the moral high ground in Iraq and devastating al Qaeda. I saw an Iraqi Army lieutenant named Hamid treating prisoners with respect because he had seen American soldiers do it.
[p 99-100]

They have devastated al Qaeda and they are sowing respect for Western values in a nation we dearly want as an ally. We have expended much blood and treasure to reach this point. Barack Obama would throw it away, because he is as ignorant of our troops performance as he is of the history of “the awakening,” which he would like you to believe occurred spontaneously and independent of the efforts of American troops.

Obama argues his “plan” for complete and precipitous withdrawal might have worked, but wasn’t tried. He contends the Anbar Awakening might have flowered without additional troops to protect it. He’s trapped in his own far-left pandering.

The other books:

Isaac Asimov – New Guide to Science

Not so new, (4th edition, 1984) but a good history of science. Even if you’ve been keeping up you’ll learn something. I got mine for a buck at a book sale, don’t pay the outrageous prices at that link.

Lee Child – Nothing to Lose
Adventure fiction. Don’t start with this, read Child’s earlier Jack Reacher stories first.
In this genre I prefer Stephen Hunter’s Bob Lee Swagger and Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, but Child’s series is worth reading.
Not long.

Ray Kurzweil – The Singularity is Near
Technological progress is truly exponential. You think it’s linear. Why your mistake matters.

All these books are recommended, but reading in the first 3 categories is required prior to casting your vote in November. For those not familiar with the issues: Don’t vote if you don’t read in the categories – even if you reject all my suggestions, read something new. For those familiar with the issues, here are alternatives in the economics arena:

For economics, instead of Hazlitt you might read Sowell’s Economics 101 to similar effect. Hazlitt, however, writing as early as the mid-1940s, touches on the precisely the same economic conundra we face today – from Social Security to minimum wage to energy prices – and Sowell has an entry already. Still other choices in the economic realm include Eat the Rich (O’Rourke), The Road to Serfdom (Hayek) and Capitalism and Freedom or Free to Choose by (Freidman). O’Rourke is the most entertaining (it still makes me laugh aloud after several readings), if not quite as directly relevant. Read it just for the humor.

In any case, responsible voters need to read in economics, on the Battle of Iraq and a on culture from sources that provide some counterpoint to Jesse Jackson and Jeremiah Wright, who are Barack Obama’s philosophical progenitors and mentors, whether he’s belatedly thrown them under the bus or not. Maybe you already have read extensively in these categories and are confirmed in your opinion, but if it helps, I will offer to be informed by any book suggested in a comment on a tit for tat basis.

Update 7:04AM 28-Jul This comment appeared on anothe post, but I think was intended for this one:

Anonymous said…
Liberalism by Ludwig von Mises. (1927) A short book and very accessible.