Category Archives: Books

Posts about books

The Road to Serfdom

After having read The Hobbit, I decided to pick up a text from a completely different genre: The Road to Serfdom by F. A. Hayek. This book was published in 1944 just as the catastrophe of World War II was winding down, and the threat of totalitarianism seemed to be defeated. “Something like that,” people would think when Germany or Italy were called to mind, “would never happen here.” Much to Europe’s chagrin, this was not the case; with Hayek calling attention to the concern that we too, in the England, the United States, and the rest of the free world, are in danger of becoming exactly the horror we just fought. Being written immediately after we defeated the Axis Powers with the help of the Soviets, The Road to Serfdom was published at a time when many turned to communist and socialist ideas. As Hayek demonstrates in his book, however, totalitarianism was not a reaction to the socialism and economic planning of our Soviet friends, but rather, it was a result of following these ideologies to their conclusions.

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After beginning with observation on the then-current socialism-ization of political philosophy in society, Hayek goes onto to prove the liberal case for government amidst an ever-growing base of supporters of economic planning. The book describes how socialism, although seen as nothing more than a philosophy of equality and the common good, in order to achieve the common good, requires a systematic method applied by a government. In socialism, in order to reach this goal, all property in society must be unified, and the people must become a collective that will work towards this objective. In liberalism, on the other hand, there is no such common goal, as people are more individualist. Since different needs rank above or below others to different people in each’s definition of the common good, the problem with socialism is that since no universal ethical code exists, one must be forced on the people, and their needs will be ranked by the ethical code of  the government, even if said code is immoral. In liberal societies, where there is Rule of Law, i.e. restrictions on government, government is confined to only certain types of regulation, and within the laws that government can pass, the people may do as the please. The difference in planned societies is that, as their is no such Rule of Law (and can’t be one if full planning is to be allowed), the government may enforce arbitrary laws, and become a moral institution in the way I mentioned above. Because of this, planned societies are inherently dictatorial, and a man’s money is controlled by the government. And “where the sole employer is the state,”  objects Trotsky to Stalinist measures, “the old principle: who does not work shall not eat, has been replaced by a new one: who does not obey shall not eat.”

After giving an exhaustive argument for the dangers of a planned societies, Hayek traces the fascist Nazi movement to it’s socialist roots, explains why the worst become the leaders, and lays out his view for what must be done. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in political philosophy, libertarianism, or socialism. Because if there’s one thing I think most of us can agree with Hayek: “A policy of freedom for the individual,” he finishes, “is the only truly progressive policy.”


My reading list


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The Hobbit

It wasn’t easy, but I recently got rid of all the TV-watching in my life, and I am trying to do away with the useless things I do on the web (I’m looking at you, Reddit!). To fill the newly opened slots of time in my day, I have taken up reading books and practicing music. I started to jot down a grocery list-like catalog of books to check out next time I go to the bookstore, and it quickly spiraled into a back-logged lineup that will take a while to finish, (I will include what I have so far in this Google doc, and probably update it from there.

Image Credits to Wikimedia

Said list begins with none other than the magnificent J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, or There and Back Again. No true fantasy novel reader’s library would be complete with out this 1937 classic. The novel follows Bilbo Baggins, a reserved hobbit who never did anything out of the ordinary, until one day he meets the wizard Gandalf and a company of thirteen dwarves, who sing of reclaiming their treasure from the Lonely Mountain, which has been taken over by the dragon Smaug. Together they kindle the adventurous side of Bilbo, and embark on a journey through dark forests and raging storms, past goblins, and werewolves, and orcs. Although Bilbo starts off as little more than a burden on the others at the beginning of the story, he ends up being the possible most heroic and invaluable member of the team. It shows that there is some inner, if undeveloped, heroism that exists in everyone, whether one’s a mighty hero or even a simple hobbit.

The interesting thing about this book is that while it is a fictional fairy tale, some of the ideas and motifs it includes, such as warfare, mirror the authors life. Many believe that the Battle of Five Armies, the fight that ensued as soon as the dragon was slain– with elves, dwarves, and men on one side, and the Wargs and goblins on the other– was influenced by J.R.R. Tolkien’s own history as a World War I veteran.

Although it is labeled a children’s novel, one can never really grow out of it. It was extremely enjoyable to me in my first reading of it now at 15 years of age. I would suggest this to anyone who likes fantasy novels, adventure novels, fairy tales, Norse myths, or any other mythology for that matter. I would also urge anyone who liked the movie to read the book. I have not seen the movie myself, as of yet, and, unfortunately, I hear it is nowhere near as good as the book. So even if you didn’t like the movie, read the book; it’s great.

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The Pros a̶n̶d̶ ̶C̶o̶n̶s̶ of E-Readers

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I just got my very own Kindle Paperwhite! Thank you, Amazon! It probably just surpassed my 3Ds as my favorite handheld device. I figured I should purchase such a gadget one day after an English class in which, in the few minutes between the quiz and the end of the period, we had a discussion on the subject of e-books. One thing that I found interesting in the class discussion was that my English teacher did, in fact, not like e-readers. I have heard this argument a number of times: real books are better than e-books. While I can’t disagree that it is always nice to be able to hold the physical copy in your hand, because of the smell and feeling of the paper, I do believe that there’s nothing not to like about e-readers.

I figure, whatever encourages people to read, that’s good! With all the vapid crap on TV and in the movies today (and I must admit that this is the problem in some books, but to a lesser extent), it is nice that people are turning to the written word, and if it’s an electronic medium that draws them, what difference does that make? In fact, according to a recent Forbes article by Jeremy Greenfield, more Americans than ever are reading e-books. “Some 28% of U.S. adults have read an e-book in the past year, up from 23% a year ago.”  and “two-thirds of children aged 2-13 are reading e-books [up from] 54%.” Some people might argue, though, that while the popularity of reading e-books is going up, that of reading physical books is down by the same amount. For instance, Amazon announced in 2010 that the sale of e-books had surpassed the sale of paperback books. This notion, however, is not the case. According to a Pew poll, 69% of adults are reading printed books this year, up from 65% last year. And if I may cite myself as evidence to back this up, I would like to add that I have probably purchased more print books as a direct result of my Kindle. This  year reading has just become overall more popular. It’s very easy to discover new books using the platform it does, that is, bringing the bookstore to you. Since getting it, within less then a month I have read 10 sic-fi novels (a genre that I have only got into through my Kindle), a Bitcoin buying, selling, and investment guide, and copies of both Reason and Philosophy Now magazines, as well as a daily subscription to the New York Times. Through my e-reader, I have become interested in new works, and have went on to buy the actual books in the actual bookstore. By reading my Kindle, I became interested in Leo Tolstoy, which is why just yesterday I purchased my own printed copy of War and Peace.

The e-book market will not kill the printed books market, as many believe. Rather, they will grow together, as a result of one another.

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