My Reading List for August
I have decided to reread at least three very important books this month. One book is about the art of writing fiction while the other two are about economics and capitalism. This August, it’s time to reflect on the ideas of the most important thinkers and the best advocates of freedom and free-market capitalism of the last century— philosopher and bestselling novelist Ayn Rand, Austrian (school of thought) economist Ludwig von Mises, and prolific free-market journalist and book author Henry Hazlitt. These great men (and one woman) offered the best defense of the most productive yet most vilified economic and social system on earth: Capitalism.
So let’s just forget about economist Adam Smith, mediocre philosopher Hannah Arendt, post-modern lunatic Michel Foucault, and others. In college I happened to read Foucault’s works, including the forgettable works of some post-structuralists and post-modernists, namely, Jacques Derrida, Roland Barthes, Lévi-Strauss, among others through the prodding of my liberal professor whose name I shall never forget— Duke Bagulaya. In our communication theory class, we were exposed to the teachings of Masao Miyoshi and other liberal and post-modern writers. I believe a studious friend and I were the only ones who eagerly followed the class discussion, and I also remember asking Prof. Bagulaya whether he’s a member of the CPP-NPA. Instead of giving me a straight answer, he simply beamed a mysterious smile.
Because of that I became so interested in post-modernism, which led me to the works of Noam Chomsky. I had a lot of mixed premises that time. At one time I called my self an advocate of social democracy. I became so much interested in politics when I joined the student organ of the University of the East called DAWN, which was the only weekly campus paper in the country. However, I didn’t have any definitive stand on any social and political issue that time. I didn’t care about philosophy, which I regarded as too academic and impractical. Well, now I understand why that’s how I viewed philosophy in the past.
At the prodding of my parents, I entered law school where met a lot of students who graduated from various schools in the metro like Ateneo De Manila University, University of the Philippines, San Beda College, University of Santo Tomas, and so on. But one of the best things that happened to me was when a university consultant, who worked as press secretary for former President Diosdado Macapagal, introduced me to the works of Ayn Rand— The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. That was the beginning of everything—it was the genesis of my new life as a student of Objectivism.
I’d like to start with Ayn Rand’s The Art of Fiction. Although I bought this book last year, I haven’t finished it yet. I don’t know what’s holding me back. I just feel—or think— that I need to understand every word, every sentence of the book. As a voracious reader, I spent a lot of time reading books on fiction writing in the past, but I believe nothing compares to Ms Rand’s The Art of Fiction. This 180-page paperback is actually a print version of an informal course of lectures given by Ayn Rand in her own living room in 1958.
Ayn Rand’s The Art of Fiction
What I really like about this book is its brevity and the way it tackles the four essential elements of fiction—theme, plot, characterization, and style—in a very powerful way. Ayn Rand amazingly explains the role of the subconscious mind in writing. She defines the ‘conscious mind’ as a “very limited ‘screen of vision’”, and the subconscious as “that which you do not hold in your conscious mind at any one moment.”
“Why can a baby not understand this discussion?” she asks. “He does not have the necessary stored knowledge. The full understanding of any object of consciousness depends on what is already known and stored in the subconscious.”
Sometimes I experienced writing a blog or a writing project wherein the story simply wrote itself. It is as if a flurry of ideas just automatically popped out of my mind and all I had to do was translate them into written words. Now we understand that those “automatic ideas” didn’t come from nowhere; they were simply stored ideas in the subconscious mind triggered by the functioning of the conscious mind.
I had this same experience when I was writing my controversial blog entitled To All UP Student: Education is NOT a Right! At first I was supposed to comment only on the student protest in UP Baguio, however, as I translated my ‘mental pictures’ into words, the story simply wrote itself. At one moment I found myself giving my individualist interpretation of The Oblation, and then almost everything automatically came out of my subconscious mind. I don’t have this habit of making an outline or giving a working title for my article. It really feels great when my subconscious mind starts working.
“All writers rely on their subconscious. But you have to know how to work with your own subconscious,” says Ayn Rand. The mind is like a computer. You only have to feed it with the right, proper material. If not, the only logical result would be GIGO or “garbage in, garbage out.”
Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson
Economics in One Lesson is probably the best and the simplest economics book I’ve ever read. In this book Henry Hazlitt blasts the many fallacies, myths, lies, and stupidity, which all became an orthodoxy in the realm of politics and economics. He tackles the “broken window fallacy”, the so-called “blessings of destruction”, a conventional wisdom that also poisoned the minds of our public leaders and intellectuals, the evil of taxation, the negative impact of credit on production, the traditional notion against machinery and new technological developments, the perils of tariffs, the many fallacies regarding parity prices and government price-fixing, among others.
Economics in One Lesson is the best answer to the so-called economic achievements of former President and now congresswoman Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. President Noynoy Aquino should also read this 191-page book to know whether our country needs an anti-trust law.
Hazlitt opened his book with this paragraph:
“Economics is haunted by more fallacies than any other study known to man. This is no accident. The inherent difficulties of the subject would be great enough in any case, but they are multiplied a thousandfold by a factor that is insignificant in, say, physics, mathematics or medicine-the special pleading of selfish interests. While every group has certain economic interests identical with those of all groups, every group has also, as we shall see, interests antagonistic to those of all other groups. While certain public policies would in the long run benefit everybody, other policies would benefit one group only at the expense of all other groups. The group that would benefit by such policies, having such a direct interest in them, will argue for them plausibly and persistently. It will hire the best buyable minds to devote their whole time to presenting its case. And it will finally either convince the general public that its case is sound, or so befuddle it that clear thinking on the subject becomes next to impossible.”
This book is highly recommended to everybody!
Ludwig von Mises’ The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality
This is probably one of the best books written by Prof. Ludwig von Mises. In this book, Mises investigates the psychological roots of the anti-capitalistic views held by the intellectuals and most educated people in the semi-capitalist world. I just finished chapter one of the book wherein Mises tackles the following topics: the sovereign consumer, the proper concept of capitalism, the resentment of frustrated ambition, the resentment of the intellectuals, the anti-capitalistic bias of American intellectuals, the resentment of white-collar workers, the resentment of the “cousins,” and the communism of Broadway and Hollywood.
This book also explains why socialism or communism is rampant in many educational institutions in the United States.
In a society based on rank, status or caste, an individual’s station in life is fixed. He is born into a certain station, and his position in society is rigidly determined by the laws and customs which assign to each member of his rank definite privileges and duties or definite disabilities. Exceptionally good or bad luck may in some rare cases elevate an individual into a higher rank or debase him into a lower rank. But as a rule, the conditions of the individual members of a definite order or rank can improve or deteriorate only with a change in the conditions of the whole membership. The individual is primarily not a citizen of a nation; he is a member of an estate (Stand, état) and only as such indirectly integrated into the body of his nation. In coming into contact with a countryman belonging to another rank, he does not feel any community. He perceives only the gulf that separates him from the other man’s status. This diversity was reflected in linguistic as well as in sartorial usages. Under the ancien régime the European aristocrats preferably spoke French. The third estate used the vernacular, while the lower ranks of the urban population and the peasants clung to local dialects, jargons and argots which often were incomprehensible to the educated. The various ranks dressed differently. No one could fail to recognize the rank of a stranger whom he happened to see somewhere. The main criticism leveled against the principle of equality under the law by the eulogists of the good old days is that it has abolished the privileges of rank and dignity. It has, they say, “atomized” society, dissolved its “organic” subdivisions into “amorphous” masses. The “much too many” are now supreme, and their mean materialism has superseded the noble standards of ages gone by. Money is king. Quite worthless people enjoy riches and abundance, while meritorious and worthy people go empty-handed.”
I urge everyone to get a copy of this book!