So, You Say You Want to be a Socialist?
Seven Suggested Books to Read First
By Eileen Griffin
With the political season in full swing, we are already inundated with the candidates’ opinions and perspectives. While much of the rhetoric is typical, if not redundant, there are some candidates who have staked out a position further beyond any of the traditional American perspectives. The values and goals of the nation seem to dramatically differ in some sectors of our current society. The most significant philosophical political shift seems to be the increased interest in socialism. This seems odd in a country founded on freedom, free markets, and an individualistic culture and economy, however, since it is gaining in popularity, perhaps now is a good time be sure that we really understand socialism. Toward this end, I offer a list of books I recommend to gain a better understanding of a socialist system; what it really looks like in practice, not just the theoretical fantasy, as well as a few books on capitalism for clarity and comparison.
Included are both fiction and non-fiction as sometimes the message is better understood when provided as a cautionary tale of fiction. While reading history may be difficult and boring, fiction can be thought provoking in a less cumbersome way.
Here is the list startling with a little fiction.
1.Animal Farm, George Orwell
This used to be required reading in high school, but I doubt that it is anymore. This is a short, easy, and light read on the surface, while cleverly explaining how the overthrow of “elites” quickly results in new “elites”.
2. 1984, George Orwell
This is another cautionary tale but not nearly as subtle as Animal Farm. Orwell’s story is an example of a socialist society with central control, censorship and “equality”.
3. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
It’s a long book but a very worthy read. This classic is still is relevant today in its wisdom and warning about government control and loss of freedom. The story is about successful business people who become enslaved to a government that is incapable of managing the industries they have taken over. They dictate and control until the business leaders withdraw from society; leaving full blown incompetence in every segment of society.
4. Secondhand Time, The Last of the Soviets, Svetlana Alexievich
This is a difficult read but invaluable in understanding how socialism works in practice. It is graphic and detailed, recounting true stories of the suffering of the Russian people under communist rule. It captures memories of those who were either members of the party, or who were aware of their activity. This is a true story of socialism.
5. Free to Choose, Milton Friedman and Rose Friedman
Primarily about economics, the Friedmans explain the importance of freedom and the connection between political and economic systems and the incredible success of a capitalism. It also warns about the dangers of centralized control and government overreach; i.e. socialism.
6. Capitalism, Ayn Rand
With additional chapters provided by Alan Greenspan, this is an excellent book for those wrestling with how the idea of altruism works collaboratively with capitalism. She explains the cultural differences of collective and individualistic societies and the freedoms inherit in an individualistic society, such as the U.S.
7. On Liberty, John Stuart Mill
Another classic. Mill’s impassioned plea for freedom and limitations of coercive power and control. This will light the passion of patriotism and open the eyes for those clouded with confusion about the brilliance of the founding fathers and the American way of life.