Tag Archives: Reading List

The Bookshelf: What is Seen and What is Unseen

What is Seen and What is Unseen is a part of both the Free Man’s Reading List and the Dark Enlightenment Reading List. It was written in the early 1800s by a Frenchman, Frederic Bastiat.

The writing is solid and moderately engaging, but nothing spectacular.

It’s a rather short book at less than 50 pages, but it gets its main point, that government spending and government debt have unseen negative consequences and you should be aware of unintended consequences when making policy, quite well. Essentially, it is a debunking on Keynesian BS from over a century before Keynesian BS existed. While reading the book, I couldn’t help like feeling Bastiat was intellectually bitch-slapping Paul Krugman from beyond the grave.

Given the age of the book, most of the arguments are well known on the right or among those with some economic knowledge, so if you’re knoweldgable about economics you might already know most of these arguments, such as the broken window parable, for which the book is known. To simplify the parable, a broken window does not lead to economic gains, as the person spending money to replace the window may be employing the glazier, but the tailor/printer is losing out as her is not buying a new book or new clothes.

But even if you know most of it, the most fascinating thing about this book is how little has changed in two hundred years. How can you not read this and think of the intellectual whores like Krugman:

But if, on the other hand, you come to the conclusion, as is too often the case, that it is a good thing to break windows, that it causes money to circulate, and that the encouragement of industry in general will be the result of it…

Or this, and think of every idiot socialist:

Our adversaries consider, that an activity which is neither aided by supplies, nor regulated by Government, is an activity destroyed. We think just the contrary. Their faith is in the legislator, not in mankind; ours is in mankind, not in the legislator.

Or this and think of the Fed:

Whatever may be the amount of cash and of paper which is in circulation, the whole of the borrowers cannot receive more ploughs, houses, tools, and supplies of raw material, than the lenders altogether can furnish; for we must take care not to forget, that every borrower supposes a lender, and that what is once borrowed implies a loan.

Anyway, the greatest thing about this book is seeing how retarded economic ideas parroted by  the ignorant and blind were intellectually destroyed two centuries ago by an economist most people have enver even heard of. Then you feel somewhat sad that mentally enfeebled will still gain traction with their debunked arguments.

Recommendations:

I would strongly recommend reading What is Seen and What is Unseen. It’s a short, quick guide to basic economic reasoning that demolishes Keynesian arguments.

The only reason not to read this book, is if you are reading another Austrian economics book that is more in-depth. For example, I have started reading Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson, and most of the subject matter of What is Seen and What is Unseen has been covered in the first few chapters of Hazlitt’s book.

But even then, the enjoyment of watching modern idiots being thrashed by some unknown Frenchman 150 years dead may make it worth your while.

Note: I am now moving onto Boston’s Gun Bible and Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson, if anyone is trying to read along with me.


The Bookshelf: The Trivium

I finished the Trivium, part of the Free Man’s Reading List, after a couple of months(with interruptions for other reading), so let’s get to the review.

Now, your first question, valued reader, might be, “why did a book of little more than 250 pages take months to finish?

To which there are two equally correct answers; First, I fall asleep on the bus, my primary reading time, a lot and, second, and far more applicable to this particular book, this is probably the most dense book I have read. There is more information/word in this book than anything I ever read in university or high school.

I learned from the bibliographical notes at the back that it was actually written as a college textbook for a course on the Trivium of logic, grammar, and rhetoric back in the 1930’s for a freshman course that “met five days a week for two semesters.” And this was in the days when a college education actually meant something. So you know there is a lot of information packed in this book.

That this book was a product of a different time shows clearly throughout the book. There is no coddling or hand-holding of the reader/student here; the text is simply ‘this is what is, here’s a couple of examples, you now know the concept’. A concept or word is defined or explained once, then you are expected to know it throughout the rest of the book. There are no gentle reminders: if the word ‘syncategoramic’ was defined in chapter 3, then you damn well better know what it means when used in chapter 6. (There is also no glossary, which would have been amazingly useful in trying to remember what exactly “a distributed term”, for example, refers to; the lack of a glossary would be my biggest criticism on the book).

If this book was written today, I’m sure it would be padded to a good 500 pages (at least) with examples, hand-holding, and explanation and still contain less information. This is not a ‘friendly’ book. Simply following along and understanding the book requires a lot of mental effort. Retaining the terms and concepts requires a lot more more. To get the most out of this book, would require serious study (such as a 5-day, 2-semester course), which I did not do.

I am almost certain I am not going to retain a lot of the information presented, and I will not remember a lot of the terms; I’ve already forgotten what an enthymeme refers to.

That being said, the concepts are far more important than the terms. I might not remember the term that refers to a particular concept, but next time I see the concept being symbolized in words, it will likely get me to think deeper about what I am reading, and I can always look up the term or concept for further clarification.

I found interesting about the book is how it flowed together and built off itself. The book starts with the function of language and moves onto grammar. From there is moves seemlessly into logic, which makes up the bulk of the book. I found it fascinating how the discussion of logic itself is naturally built within and on grammar. The book ends with a small section outlining the basics of rhetoric, composition, and reading.

At the same time I was fascinated, I was also saddened. This book revealed to me just how ruined our education system currently is. I took “English” throughout school, like most did where I learned grammar. I took a logic course in university (although, the isntructor never did teach any formal logic for some idiotic reason). I am highly educated, intelligent, and my writing has always been better than average, yet no one has ever, through my 18 years of education (18? ouch), pointed out the connection between grammar and logic and how the latter is rooted in the former.

This whole book was a walking indictment of our modern education system. These are the very basics of language and thinking, yet little of it is taught in school. I am familiar with most of the concepts in the book, if not the terms and formal laws, yet this I’ve never seen it so systematized and logically presented anywhere throughout the almost two decades I spent being “educated”. Some rules of grammar are drilled into our heads in grade school, and there are logic courses that are offered, but I’ve seen nothing like this.

This book should be foundational to education. They should start teaching this systematically in grade school. Hell, if all six years of grade school focused solely on the Trivium, ignoring everything else to get kids to fundamentally understand it, it would be a vast improvement to our education system. When my future children are homeschooled, this book will be a major component of the curriculum.

As for the writing style, it is clear, analytical, and precise, if rather stark, exactly what you should looking for in a book like this. You are not going to be entertained, but the writing does the job it is intended to do transmit information, even if it gives you absolutely no slack or mercy.

Anyway, to get the most out of the Trivium would require a commitment to comprehensively study it over a decent period of time. Simply reading it through like I did, will help introduce many concepts or solidify concepts you may be familiar with, but you will know that you are missing a lot. You will get out of this book in relation to the time and effort put into it.

Recommendation:

If you want to learn the basics of grammar and formal logic and/or you are looking to better develop clear thinking and clear language, the Trivium will help you understand these concepts directly in relation to how much effort you’re willing to put in.

So, if you are interested in this and willing to put in at least some effort, I recommend the book. Be warned, even if you are not studying it in-depth, it is still a dense read.

If you are planning to homeschool, I would recommend making the Trivium a foundational text of your curriculum.


DE Reading List Update

Here are some additions to the Dark Enlightenment Reading List based on comments from the original post.

The Moral Animal – Robert Wright
Meant to add this one, but somehow it didn’t get added.

The Manipulated Man – Esther Vilar
Darkness at Noon – Arthur Koestler
Patriarcha (the Natural Power of Kings) – Sir Robert Filmer
Is There Anything Good About Men? – Roy Baumeister

I would have added The Resistance by Ernesto Sabato but I can not find an English version.

A few books, such as the 48 Laws of Power, were already on my Free Man’s reading list and didn’t really fit this one, some didn’t fit either list, and some already had similar, preferable options. Macaulay, for example, seems to be a whig.

I’ve also added a few more from Moldbug and Radish:

Popular Government – Henry Maine
The Rising Tide of Color – Lothrop Stoddard

You are Not so Smart was added to the Free Man’s List under Mind.

Some asked for history and I think it would be a good addition, but I wasn’t sure where to start on this, but I found this list on Moldbug, so that sounds good:

Life and Liberty in America – Charles Mackay
Land of the Dollar – George Steevens
Outre-Mer – Paul Bourget

Shall Cromwell Have a Statue? – Charles Francis Adams Jr.
Memoirs of Service Afloat – Adm. Raphael Semmes
The Roving Editor – James Redpath

Democracy and the Party System in the United States – Moisei Ostrogorskiy
A South-Side View of Slavery – Nehemiah Adams

The Origin of the Late War – Lunt

Here’s a couple more from the Free Man’s list:

Reflection on the Revolution in France – Edmund Burke
Origins of English Individualism – Alan MacFarlane

Here’s a few more from other Mencius posts and Foseti:

True History of the American Revolution – Sydney George Fisher
The Shortest-Way With The Dissenters – Daniel Defoe
While you Slept – John T. Flynn
The Road Ahead; America’s Creeping Revolution – John T. Flynn
America’s Retreat from Victory – Joseph R. McCarthy

I think that should be enough history; if anyone has any other DE-related history books that should be read, feel free to suggest.

Added GBFM’s reading list and Foseti’s “books that influenced me” to the other reading list links.


Update to the Free Man’s Reading List

Based on recommendations I have added a section to the Free Man’s Reading List on moral philosophy. While creating the list, I ended up starting, then removing a section on moral philosophy a number of times. In the end I decided not to keep it. I was hesitant to add moral philosophy to the list, as the purpose was to help a free man build himself, not to dictate a man’s values or life philosophy to him. I was worried adding moral philosophy would conflate being a good man and being good at being a man,to paraphrase Jack Donovan.

Upon reconsideration, Chevalier de Johnstone convinced me. I realize that no free man can be complete without some moral purpose. So, here’s a list that hopefully will allow for free men a broad sampling of moral philosophies.

The Bible – Is already in the list, now it has a proper home.

Marcus Aurelius – Meditations is a classic of stoic philosophy.

Plato – The Republic is a classic book on justice and the cardinal virtues.

Aristotle – Nicomachean Ethics is the classic books on virtue ethics (my preferred type of ethics/morality; I will probably write more on virtue ethics at a later time). Read it with Acquinas’ commentary.

Thomas Acquinas – Summa Theologica is the classic on Christian theology and morality.

Adam Smith – Moral Sentiments creates a moral foundation for capitalist action.

GK Chesteron – Everlasting Man is a Christian apologetics books.

CS Lewis –  Mere Christianity is another Christian apologetics book. Along with Chesterton, is among the greatest Christian writers of the 20th century.

Friedrich Nietzsche – On the Genealogy of Morality and the Antichrist present an anti-Christian moral framework.

Alasdair MacIntyre – After Virtue is a modern book arguing for the revival of virtue ethics.

John Stuart Mill – Utilitarianism is a defence of utilitarian ethics.

Immanuel Kant – Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals introduces the categorical imperative as opposed to deontology, virtue, or utilitarian ethics.

Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching is fundamental to much of oriental philosophy and religion.

Confuscious – Analects is another fundamental book in oriental philsophy.

I also added some other works elsewhere:

Mortimor Adler – How to Read a Book

GK Chesteron – What’s Wrong with the World

Ron Paul – Liberty Defined

Nassim Talib’s 3 books are added.

Ronald Reagan – Time for Choosing (Speech)

Here are some other notes based on reader responses:

The list is heavily libertarian and firmly planted in the English liberal (classical liberal, not the modern welfare state liberalism) tradition. The list is designed to help men make themselves free in the English tradition of freedom. This is not a reading list for re-establishing traditional culture, for building a reactionary society, or any other such end. It is a list to help a man learn what makes him free, how to think like a free man, and how to be a free man within the English liberal tradition. (I might further discuss freedom within the English liberal tradition and other concepts of liberty at a later time). The inclusion of other reactionary or conservative material would be outside the scope of the list.

Outside of violence and social skills, I tried to avoid adding books on learning specific skills out of the list. Again, the purpose is to let a free man to develop himself so he can be free, not to dictate what a free man should do and learn with his freedom. Outside a few very general, all-purpose skills (such as rational thought, leadership, and ability to react in a crisis), a free man should be able to figure out what specific skills (such as hunting or plumbing) he needs for his life. I will continue to leave what skills to develop out of the list at this time, but reserve the right to add one or two books outlining the general skills “every man should know” in the future should I come across them.

While I have been reading on the Dark Enlightenment, as people have taken to calling it, I did not include information on the DE for two reasons:
1) They did not fit the purpose of the list; while learning uncomfortable truths about forgotten and newly (re-)discovered realities is important, they are not necessary to being a free man.
2) The DE is primarily an internet phenomenon at this time, there is no standard canon for it, and few books, so making a reading guide is not quite so simple. You could point to some books on genetics, evolutionary psychology, the bell curve, etc. and then point people towards Moldbug, Sailer, La Griffe du Lion, et al., but that would require compiling a lot of blog posts.
I think it would be good to make such a reading list, but if I do, it will be in the future.

I considered adding some game resources, in particular Day Bang, but mostly decided against it, Athol’s book being the exception. This was again for two reasons:
1) The narrowness of game. Game literature, particularly the books, are generally aimed at a PUA life-style. While free men may choose to follow this lifestyle, the PUA lifestyle is one of narrow appeal, while this list was meant for all men wanting to be free. Athol’s book was included because it was as much a men’s self-improvement book as it was a game book, and the usefulness of it was much broader. Between MMSL and Greene’s Art of Seduction, I believe the topic of romantic success is covered.
2) Is much the same as #2 for the DE. Most of the “canon” is on the internet and it would require some work compiling the must-read blog posts.
3) Game, outside of the generalizable skills outlined in MMSL and Seduction, is a specific skill set (faking socio-sexual desirability) created for a specific goal (attracting women). I think it would fall into the category of specific skills I was trying to avoid loading the list with.
Same as with the DE, I think a game reading list would be good, but if I make one, it will be in the future.

A reading list has to be manageable. Even before adding the moral philosophy section it was already over 60 books. That’s over a whole year’s worth of reading if you read a book a week (and a lot of these books are heavy material). I want to avoid overloading the list as much as possible to make it possible to actually accomplish. That means a lot of good books will not be on the list. For example, however much I liked O’Rourke’s Eat the Rich (or any of his books/articles, he’s a great author/humourist/commentator), it is not an essential read. In addition, books that will more or less argue what is already contained in other books will not be added further.


The Free Man’s Reading List

Cogitans asks the question:

What should a person, if he wishes to think of himself as a free man of the republic, absolutely must read?

I’m a free man of the dominion and a monarchist myself, but even so, it is still important for a free man to know the basics of freedom. I think building a reading list for free men is an excellent idea, I will create one and try to compile and update it over time as a reference. The permanent list to be updated can be found here. For right now, here’s the books I’ve put on the original list and an explanation. Please feel free to add your input.

Note: I have not read all, or even most of these yet; I’ve maybe read a quarter of them. Those I have read are personally recommended, those I have not are either classics in their field or have been recommended by others and I plan to read in the future.
Another Note: I do not necessarily either endorse or oppose anything expressed in these books. Just because something should be read does not mean it should be followed.

Being a free man is made of two parts: being a man and being free. This reading list will address both parts. Being only a man makes you someone else’s developed slave, being only free leaves you a weak hedonist. The goal is to be both.

The first three writers on the list establish the philosophical basis of freedom, a concept that I think is unique to the English. The fourth, Machiavelli, gives a view of liberty, a more universal concept.

John Locke – His Second Treatise of Government is the philosophical basis of English liberalism. It is a must-read for any free man.

Edmund Burke – Burke is the originator of modern conservatism (also called liberal-conservatism). His Reflection on the Revolution in France is a must-read and his A Vindication of Natural Society would also be important.

Thomas Paine – As a republican counterpoint to Burke’s monarchist liberalism, read Paine’s The Rights of Man and Common Sense. Together Burke and Paine will display the difference between monarchic freedom and republican freedom.

Nicollo Machiavelli –  The Prince is important to understand the nature of power in government, the Discourses are an important work on republicanism and freedom.

Having established the philosophical basis of freedom, we can turn to more modern pro-freedom works:

Barry Goldwater – The Conscience of a Conservative is the classic manifesto of modern American conservatism.

Robert Nozick – Anarchy, State, and Utopia is a strong moral defence for freedom which also fights the anarcho-capitalism of Rothbard.

FA Hayek – The Road to Serfdom in which Hayek argues that socialism leads to tyranny.

Isabel Paterson – The God of the Machine surveys history through a pro-freedom lens.

Having knowledge of societal freedom, we now turn to personal freedom. You might not be able to free society, but you can free yourself.

Ralph Waldo Emerson – Self-Reliance is an essay on your own self-worth and against conforming to the world.

Freidrech Nietszche – Thus Spake Zarathustra focuses on the concept of the Ubermensch, a self-mastered individual, while On the Geneology of Morality outlines the concept of the slave morality.

Harry Browne – How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World is a book on steps towards finding personal freedom.

Economics is the study of the free interaction of free men, it is the study of the workings of freedom, and having a a base knowledge of economics is essential for a free man. Most of the basics economics books are somewhat interchangeable, but the recommended pro-freedom books to learn the basics of economics are:

Henry Hazlitt – Economics in One Lesson will teach you basic economics.

Thomas Sowell – Basic Economics is a more expansive book on basic economics.

Milton Friedman – Capitalism and Freedom is a classic book asserting the good of the free-market from the leader of the Chicago school.

Knowing basic economics, we can then turn to Austrian economics, which pushes even more strongly for economic freedom and rejects mainstream economists’ attempts to control the market.

Frederic Bastiat – That Which is Seen and That Which is Not Seen. This was the original work that Austrians built upon.

Gene Callahan – Economics for Real People. In itself not important, but it’s said to be a good, simple introduction to Austrian economics. Any other introduction will do, or you can skip it and go straight to the next two books.

Murray Rothbard – Man, Economy, and State is his major work. The most important work of the originator of anarcho-capitalism and a major contributor to Austrian theory.

Ludwig von Mises – Human Action. The magnum opus of the man who really grew modern Austrian economics.

Now that we know what freedom is and how it works, we now must have the ability to be a free man. The first ability is a capacity for violence. Freedom comes from power and strength, as does masculinity, and power and strength come from a capacity for violence, so a knowledge of violence is essential. In addition to all these, you should probably pick up the defining book(s) (if there is one) of whatever martial art you choose to participate in (and every free man should be learning a martial art).

Boston T. Party – Boston’s Gun Bible is the book on firearm use and firearms freedom. Firearms are the modern tool of violence and this will introduce them to you thoroughly.

Improvised Munitions Handbook – The US Army’s guide to improvising weapons; a man should have the ability to get weapons when necessary.

Sun Tzu – The Art of War is the basic guidebook to war and to violence in general. It’s fairly simple and a lot of it is common sense, but it’s common sense for a reason. Read it.

Miyamoto Musashi – The Book of Five Rings is a classic Japanese text on martial arts, strategy, and philosophy.

Dave Grossman – On Killing, On Combat, and the Warrior Mindset are a trilogy on the psychology of violence. Knowing how to commit violence is an entirely different kettle of fish from being able to actually engaging in violence. These books will teach you how to keep your head when the SHTF.

Rory Miller – Meditations on Violence and Facing Violence help you prepare for violence in the real world. Lawrence Kane’s Little Black Book of Violence does much the same. All three will help you be prepared when the SHTF.

A man should have a mission and should have virtues he holds dear. He should be competent enough to be successful and have a diverse array of skills to promote independence. These will help you accomplish your mission (choosing your mission is up to you):

Jack Donovan – The Way of Men is a relatively short book outlining the virtues that make a man a man.

Roy Baumeister – Willpower is a guide to harnessing your willpower based upon modern science so you can better meet your goals.

Robert Greene – Mastery is a book about how to gain mastery (really?) and take control of your life.

Jim Rohn – 5 Major Pieces of the Life Puzzle
Napolean Hill – Think and Grow Rich and the Law of Success
Stephen Covey – The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

These last three are a few of the classics in the motivational self-help books. Danger & Play has outlined here why you should read them. Essentially, they outline the virtues you need to accomplish your mission.

A free man should be healthy and strong of body. These books aren’t must reads and aren’t irreplaceable, dozens of other books would likely work just as well, but information on nutrition and health is a must. If you don’t read these specific books, read others that fulfill a similar function.

Mark Sisson – The Primal Blueprint and the Primal Connection. These two books are guides to getting healthy in our modern world through lessons from our primal ancestors. The former is about physical health (ie. the primal/paleo diet), the latter is about mental health.

Mark Rippetoe – Starting Strength and Practical Programming are highly recommended guides to physical training and weight-lifting.

A man should be able to lead others (even if he chooses not to) and interact with others. Here’s some books on leadership and interpersonal communication:

U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual – This book is mandatory for all officers in training in the US Army. That should tell you something.

Robert Greene – The 48 Laws of Power, the 33 Strategies of War, and the Art of Seduction are brutally honest and straight-forward guides to obtaining what you desire in the social arena.

Dale Carnegie – How to Make Friends and Influence People and The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Public Speaking. The classic guides to interacting with others; a must read.

Allan Pease – The Definitive Book of Body Language is a good guide to body language. Reading this particular book is not necessary, but read a book on body language, as it makes up a large portion of human communication.

Athol Kay – Married Man sex Life Primer 2011 is essential if you have or plan to have a wife or long-term relationship. It will teach you how keep her and not have her dominate you. It will also introduce you to game.

Robert Glover – No More Mr. Nice Guy is about manning up (in the good way) and get what you want in life and relationships.

Isaac Asimov – Treasury of Humour goes goes through the various types of humour, analyzes them, providing examples, and explains how to tell jokes. Humour is an important part of socializing,a man should know how it works.

One part of being a free man is learning how you’ve been lied to you’re whole life. Now most of the above books will expose the lies you’ve been told, but these will teach you how to think and how they lie to you:

Darrell Huff – How to Lie with Statistics is a short simple guide to how people manipulate numbers to lie to you.

Miriam Joseph – The Trivium outlines the use of classical logic, grammar, and rhetoric.

This hasn’t fit in any of the other categories but I think it is essential:

The Bible –  Regardless of your religious beliefs, one can not deny that the Bible is the fundament upon which Western culture has been built. Western philosophy and civilization, upon which English freedom is built, can not be understood apart from the Bible. I don’t think any man can interact meaningfully with Western culture without having read the Bible.

The prior books have all been non-fiction, but here’s some fiction that should be read:

Robert Heinlein – Starship Troopers. Other books by Heinlein, such as the Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Glory Road, and Farnham’s Freehold, are strongly pro-freedom and make excellent reads , but Starship Troopers is an essential book on freedom, responsibility, and republicanism, plus it has tons of violence. What’s not to love?

Jack London – His two classic books Call of the Wild and White Fang form a companion set exploring individualism, primitivism vs. civilization, freedom, and violence.

George Orwell – 1984 and Animal Farm are his two classic works on totalitarianism and must be read. You’ve probably already read them, if not, do so.

Aldous Huxley – Brave New World is based on a totalitarianism more familiar to us; one of pleasure, hedonism, and distraction.

Ray Bradbury – Fahrenheit 451 is a classic about the dangers of an entertainment society.

Kurt Vonnegut – Harrison Bergeron is a classic short story about the failures of equality.

Ayn Rand – Atlas Shrugged and the Fountainhead are two pro-freedom fiction books that have had massive influence on the freedom movement.

While created this list I realized I have a lot yet to read, and I’m already almost two dozen books behind in my reading list even before this list. It’s something to work towards though.

Here’s a couple of other reading lists I came across while writing this post if you want more to read:

Ron Paul’s freedom reading list.
Francis’ reading list.
Art of Manliness’ The Man’s Essential Library.
Art of Manliness’ 34 Books About Being a Man.
Learn Economics.