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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Dangerous book lists revisited

So, you didn't like Human Events' list of the ten most dangerous books?  Never fear -- liberals have struck back with their own list!  Yes, Kevin Drum has compiled a list of the real ten most harmful books, including entries from Rand, Hayek, and the czarist secret police. 

So there you have it -- handy little ten-books-to-avoid lists for both sides of the political spectrum.  (Or if you prefer, call it a neat little Amazon.com shopping-list for your political enemies.) 

Meanwhile, all this list-making sounds like fun.  I'm wondering how we can get involved.  The ten most dreary law review articles?  No good -- don't want to have to sort through thousands of submissions.  The ten most incomprehensible judicial opinions?  Even worse. 

How about the ten most useless top ten lists?  Ahh, now we're getting somewhere.

Posted by Kaimi Wenger on June 8, 2005 at 01:59 PM in Deliberation and voices | Permalink


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Ha! That was funny!

Posted by: Hillel Levin | Jun 9, 2005 11:10:41 AM

It's an important apostrophe, as apostrophes go.

Posted by: Christine Hurt's Husband | Jun 9, 2005 9:43:06 AM

Agreed, Christine and Husband. The books aren't the problem, it's the ways in which people sometimes use them.

And I'm glad about the apostrophe in your tagline, Christine Hurt's Husband. It wouldn't be good to see "Christine Hurts Husband" as the tagline. :)

Posted by: Kaimi | Jun 8, 2005 6:51:18 PM

Following on Christine's point:

There is nothing wrong with identifying ideas we consider wrongheaded or even evil. There is nothing wrong with identifying ideas that have been used in support of evil or wrongheaded programs (or pogroms, take your pick).

But there is something qualitatively different about identifying books themselves as "dangerous," even as shorthand for "books we don't much agree with and/or that have been used in support of bad things." From "dangerous," the next logical step is disturbing, illiberal and elitist. Regardless of who generates the list, the act of labeling a book "dangerous" strongly suggests that, like other dangerous things, we should ban it or limit access to those we deem capable of handling it. Yuck!

As one of the rare conservaberals (liberatives?)around, I am frightened by those who would deny us the benefit of Marx's or Keynes' occasional deep insight. I am similarly disturbed by those who would consign Friedman's and Hayek's more worthwhile observations to the fire just because they are "more wrong than right" or have, in their opinion, been misused. Similarly, even the titles everyone should agree on (Mein Kampf, Protocols, etc.) have substantial value. They help us see, understand, and ultimately constrain a dark side of human nature that is our constant companion no matter how hard we wish it away.

Posted by: Christine Hurt's Husband | Jun 8, 2005 5:07:34 PM

As I said at my home blog, Conglomerate, books aren't dangerous. People are. url: http://www.theconglomerate.org/2005/06/dangerous_books.html

Posted by: Christine Hurt | Jun 8, 2005 2:46:53 PM

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