Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Most Harmful Books of the last 200 years

UPDATED: See below.

Human Events Online lists these 10 most harmful books and then 10 more that gained honorable mention. The entire list:
1. The Communist Manifesto
Authors: Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels
Publication date: 1848
Score: 74

2. Mein Kampf
Author: Adolf Hitler
Publication date: 1925-26
Score: 41

3. Quotations from Chairman Mao
Author: Mao Zedong
Publication date: 1966
Score: 38

4. The Kinsey Report
Author: Alfred Kinsey
Publication date: 1948
Score: 37

5. Democracy and Education
Author: John Dewey
Publication date: 1916
Score: 36

6. Das Kapital
Author: Karl Marx
Publication date: 1867-1894
Score: 31

7. The Feminine Mystique
Author: Betty Friedan
Publication date: 1963
Score: 30

8. The Course of Positive Philosophy
Author: Auguste Comte
Publication date: 1830-1842
Score: 28

9. Beyond Good and Evil
Author: Freidrich Nietzsche
Publication date: 1886
Score: 28

10. General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money
Author: John Maynard Keynes
Publication date: 1936
Score: 23

Honorable Mention - These books won votes from two or more judges:

The Population Bomb
by Paul Ehrlich
Score: 22

What Is To Be Done
by V.I. Lenin
Score: 20

Authoritarian Personality
by Theodor Adorno
Score: 19

On Liberty
by John Stuart Mill
Score: 18

Beyond Freedom and Dignity
by B.F. Skinner
Score: 18

Reflections on Violence
by Georges Sorel
Score: 18

The Promise of American Life
by Herbert Croly
Score: 17

Origin of the Species
by Charles Darwin
Score: 17

Madness and Civilization
by Michel Foucault
Score: 12

Soviet Communism: A New Civilization
by Sidney and Beatrice Webb
Score: 12

Coming of Age in Samoa
by Margaret Mead
Score: 11

Unsafe at Any Speed
by Ralph Nader
Score: 11

Second Sex
by Simone de Beauvoir
Score: 10

Prison Notebooks
by Antonio Gramsci
Score: 10

Silent Spring
by Rachel Carson
Score: 9

Wretched of the Earth
by Frantz Fanon
Score: 9

Introduction to Psychoanalysis
by Sigmund Freud
Score: 9

The Greening of America
by Charles Reich
Score: 9

The Limits to Growth
by Club of Rome
Score: 4

Descent of Man
by Charles Darwin
Score: 2
DISCLAIMER: I have read only Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, Darwin's Origin of the Species and Nader's Unsafe At Any Speed. Having fessed up, I am not altogether unfamiliar with many of the others. I would hazard a guess that most if not all of the bloggers and pundits throwing rocks at this list have not read more than 1 or 2 of these books, either. Ergo, I'll join the party.

First, the top 3 on the list as well as number 6 are books that either directly or indirectly lead to the deaths of more than 300 million people. Think about that for an instant or two. 300,000,000 or more people, men women and children. Deaths in battle, death in a rain of fire from the sky, death by firing squad, gas chamber, starvation, torture, single bullet-to-the-back-of-the-head, freezing to death, hanging, bleeding to death, death by biological agent, death by gruesome medical experiments and all manner of other types of murder that you and I can not and do not wish to imagine. All of the other books on the list pale in comparison to these 4. Maybe Nietzsche at number 9 should be included, I'm not sure.

Now, to some of the silliness on the list. Ralph Nader's book, history has shown us, was a bunch of crap relative to the Corvair. It was not, in its day, that bad of a car. However, Nader's work did point out 2 very pertinent facts. First, that Detroit (the big Three AND the UAW) was manufacturing and then foisting upon the American people shitty and dangerous cars. And they were becoming more shitty and dangerous every year. Nader's work couldn't stop this but the Japanese surely did. Detroit (the big Three AND the UAW) and the rest of America were warned by Nader, didn't listen, and Honda/Toyota/Nissan proved him right. Secondly, GM's reaction to Nader, rather than leaping to the defense of its products with real evidence contrary to Nader's, consisted of Mafia-like tactics (private investigators on his tail, police harassment, tapped telephones etc.) for which the president of GM was forced to apologize. These tactics helped point out to the American public and the congress that big business had gotten too big and the Nader/GM war helped lead to the government regulation of business that we see today. Is this a good thing? Overall, of course it is. Is government regulation too heavy handed at times? Overall, of course it is. You win some and you lose some. Was Ralph Nader's book one of the top 20 most damaging books in the last 200 years? Ridiculous!

Likewise with Rachel Carson and Silent Spring. Was the almost unregulated use of pesticides and herbicides permanently harming or killing humans as well as wildlife? Of course it was. Did DDT, for instance, need to be banned from common, unregulated use? Of course it did. Has the DDT worldwide ban caused millions to die from disease carrying insects that its use could have prevented? Of course it has. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. A problem with us human type animals is that we don't like to admit to problems, especially when it costs a lot of money to fix them. When we are finally forced to address a problem (What? No more Bald Eagles?), we tend do two things simultaneously. First, we cobble together onerous legal controls that go way beyond what is truly required to fix the problem and then we turn our attention away and fail to monitor the fix. Sometimes the cure is as bad or worse than the disease itself. The greenies and enviro-terrorists would have you believe that we should still be living in log cabins, reading by torchlight, huntin' varmits to stay alive and dying painful deaths before the age of 40. On the other hand, the big chemical companies, agri-business and the small farmer would have you believe that we should be free to poison the earth, air, water and ourselves at their descretion and dying painful deaths at the age of 50. Both side are wrong. Carson was not 100% right, but who is? Ranking her book as one of the top 20 most damaging books in the last 200 years? Ridiculous!

UPDATE: Steve DeLong at No More Mister Nice Guy reminds us of some books that did not make the list.

Linked to: Jim Henly, Steve M, Pandagon, Radley Balko, Brad DeLong, Feministe, Rox Populi, BostonDreamer, BuncoSquad, Monkeys and Typewriters, Modulator, PoliBlog, OTB

No comments: