By BDP Staff
Whether the goal is as simple as making informed decisions, or as ambitious as running for office, there are a few things every young Republican should know. The basics of economics, for example, are vital for any Conservative defending a free market, while a solid knowledge of what exactly is meant by “self-evident truths” and “certain unalienable Rights” provides the key to, well, just about anything.
The young Republican cannot depend upon the current educational system to learn about the most vital tenets of Conservatism. Fortunately, however, there are dozens of Conservative classics written by some of history’s brightest and most influential people. Below, we’ve listed 30 of them.
Some of our included books were written in recent years and specifically about U.S. politics. Others were written before America ever appeared on a map. However, they greatly influenced the Founding Fathers as they organized what would become the greatest government in the history of mankind. Still others on this list are novels. Despite their differences, these are the 30 books every young Republican should own.
The Abolition of Man
A book by C.S. Lewis — perhaps the foremost Christian writer of the 20th century — is a must have for any young Republican’s library. After all, the Founding documents and the basic tenets of Conservative thought are all rooted in the rights given to us by God. In The Abolition of Man, Lewis discusses such universal values as courage and honor as they relate to the common good, and warns of the consequences of doing away with those values.
American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia
Jeremy Beer, Bruce Frohnen, and Jeffery O. Nelson (Editors)
No matter what you want to know about Conservative political figures, platforms, or terms, American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia will have all the information you need. This unique book, the first of its kind, doesn’t preach any sort of ideology. Rather, it offers a helpful starting point by referencing historical events, influential writings, and court cases so that readers can begin to educate themselves on common political arguments and ideas.
When George Orwell’s Animal Farm was first published, a reviewer stated, “In a hundred years’ time, perhaps Animal Farm . . . may simply be a fairy story: today it is a fairy story with a good deal of point.” Though we haven’t quite reached 100 years since this classic book was written, it sadly remains as relative as ever. Written as a satire against Stalin and the Soviet Union, Animal Farm is the story of a group of animals — two hard-working horses, a bevy of sheep, and opportunistic pigs — as they work out the hierarchy of farm life. As the pigs say, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
Though a novel, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is a masterwork of ideas ranging from individualism, to capitalism, to reason based on philosophical tenets. The novel takes place in a future dystopian America, where society has collapsed thanks to excessive and increasingly oppressive government intervention. Perhaps you’ll recognize the novel’s famous opening line, “Who is John Galt?”.
The Battle: How the Fight Between Free Enterprise and Big Government will Shape America’s Future
Arthur Brooks was inspired to write The Battle after looking over a 2009 poll that found that 30% of Americans don’t support Free Enterprise. According to Brooks, the president of the American Enterprise Institute, this 30% actually reflected the growing rise of Statism in Washington. Though a slim volume, The Battle is Brooks’s compelling argument that the Republican party has become “unprincipled” and has therefore begun to stray dangerously far “from its free-enterprise values.”
Brave New World
Another novel worthy of a spot on any young Republican’s bookshelf is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Set in a future in which personal relationships are practically nonexistent. Children are born in hatcheries and citizens are automatically placed into one of five inescapable castes. Brave New World paints a terrifying picture of a society in which every single aspect of life is regulated by The World State.
The Burden of Bad Ideas: How Modern Intellectuals Misshape Our Society
The current American society is one run by “experts” and “elites” and they have a ton of bad ideas. Though these bad ideas are often attacked by critics in their infancy, few people actually follow the real-world consequences bad ideas have on our country. But in The Burden of Bad Ideas, Heather MacDonald does exactly that. She highlights multiple bad ideas, such as Brooklyn high school students receiving academic credits for graffiti skills, public health officials arguing that AIDS is caused by racism and sexism, and the portrayal by the Smithsonian of science as the white man’s religion. MacDonald makes the solid argument that the American people, particularly poorer Americans, are being irreversibly damaged by the “influential opinion makers.” These opinion makes are responsible for inciting policies that ultimately end up apologizing for and nursing the growing welfare state, MAcDonald argues.
Capitalism and Freedom
“If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there’d be a shortage of sand.” That now-classic quote comes from Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom, a book every young conservative should own. Friedman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, lays out the complex concept of economics in a way that anyone can understand. This is an excellent reference for understanding the quickly changing economy, no matter the convoluted wording or propaganda surrounding it.
The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students
Young Republicans interested in the liberal takeover of American higher education will find Allan Bloom’s book, The Closing of the American Mind a fascinating read. Bloom, a professor at University of Chicago, published the book in 1987, shortly after recognizing the corruption occurring in the humanities departments of universities across the country. As Bloom explains, the traditional idea of humanities — that is the understanding of the proper moral order — was replaced. It’s not a stretch to consider that Bloom was absolutely correct, as those who were students in 1987 are now the professors.
A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles
Thomas Sowell is one of the foremost contributors to modern Conservative thought, and any of his books are worth a spot on the Republican’s bookshelf. A Conflict of Visions, however, is especially worth mentioning. Sowell references such great thinkers as Rousseau, Hobbes, and Adam Smith, among others, as he illustrates the radical differences between conservative and progressive ideologies, and the intellectual impulses that motivate each group to think, act, and even win the way they do.
The Conscience of a Conservative
Barry Goldwater’s The Conscience of a Conservative remains as timely today as it was when it was published in 1960. Goldwater’s book begins with a clear distinction of right and left in American politics. He then goes on to outline the framework of traditional Conservative thought based on the ideas of the American founders and what inspired them.
The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945
George H. Nash
Today’s Conservatives can trace their roots back to the years just after World War II. At this time the intellectual ideas of traditionalists, anti-Communists, and libertarians began to meld into something that championed economic freedom and argued against the growing welfare state. In his book The Conservative Intellectual Movement, Nash traces this evolution to provide the reader with a better understanding of intrinsic Conservative values and the world-changing events from which they stem.
The Conservative Mind
For many, Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind is considered “the seminal work of the conservative movement.” To support his argument that Conservatism is less an ideology and more a lens through which to view life, Kirk references everyone from Edmund Burke and John Adams, to Nathaniel Hawthorne and T.S. Eliot. Conservatism, argues Kirk, has been a fundamental part of the American story.
The Constitution of Liberty
The first of two Hayek classics to make our list of the books every young Republican should own is The Constitution of Liberty. This must-read compares European liberalism and conservatism with American liberalism and conservatism. Why is such a comparison important to know? Hayek describes the rivalry between European conservatives (those who resist change) and the “Socialistic centralizers.” He makes it clear, however, that there “is nothing corresponding to this conflict in the history of the United States because what in Europe was called ‘liberalism’ was here the common tradition on which the American polity has been built.”
Written in 1960, The Constitution of Liberty has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years, especially as many have begun to argue that the modern-day Republican Party has become more like the European conservatives of Hayek’s day, while American liberals are resembling more and more Hayek’s “Socialistic centralizers.”
The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America, and Politics Without God
Americans and Europeans view the world differently, but why? In The Cube and the Cathedral, author George Weigel makes the powerful statement that Europe’s rejection of religion has led to not only a skewed understanding of democracy, but also a tumultuous relationship with terrorism and a swift demographic decline.
European politicians argue that “only a public square shorn of religiously informed oral argument is safe for human rights and democracy.” Weigel argues that there cannot be any true political thought about the common good and freedom without God, as “societies and cultures can only be as great as their spiritual aspirations.”
Democracy in America
Alexis de Tocqueville
In 1831, post French Revolution but still in the chaotic early years of French democracy, Alexis de Tocqueville toured 17 American states to study this new thriving political experiment. As part of his research, de Tocqueville interviewed two presidents and a slew of citizens ranging from settlers to lawyers. Over the course of nine months, the Frenchman studied what he would ultimately declare to be a flourishing democracy.
Democracy in America became an international bestseller, and served as a model for a number of nations wishing to form their own democracies.
Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics
A basic knowledge of economics is a must for any true Conservative, which is why Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson is an easy addition to our list of the books every young Republican should own. Hazlitt’s book is short and easy to read, but don’t let such simplicity fool you. His explanations of macroeconomics make it easy to understand why government interventionism is never the right answer when it comes to the economy.
The Federalist Papers
Publius (Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay)
The Federalist Papers are a must-read for anyone intent on fully understanding the U.S. Constitution. In 1787, as the argument over whether to ratify the Constitution raged on, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay teamed up to write a series of essays under the pen name Publius.
Young Republicans will be interested in each of the 85 essays, though those considered to be the most important in terms of longevity include:
-Federalist No. 10, which advocates for a large commercial republic in order to avoid rule by majority faction
-Federalist No. 78, which outlines the idea of judicial review by federal courts
-Federalist No. 70, which argues for a one-man chief executive, i.e. a president
-Federalist No. 51, which argues for the need for a checks and balances system in light of human nature.
The Founders’ Key: The Divine and Natural Connection Between the Declaration and the Constitution and What We Risk by Losing It
Larry P. Arnn
When the Founding Fathers composed the Declaration of Independence and, later, the Constitution, they used a number of timeless ideas from a range of history’s greatest thinkers. Hillsdale College president Larry P. Arnn lays out these timeless ideas and discusses the ways in which they were organized into the most successful government in the history of man. Arnn also discusses the ways in which the Founders’ intended government has become perverted by those who fail to understand the gravity of these two founding documents.
Free to Choose: A Personal Statement
Milton and Rose Friedman
Nobel Laureate in economics Milton Friedman co-wrote this must-read with his wife, Rose. Free to Choose is an easy-to-read explanation of the ways in which a free economy allows hard-working citizens to better their lives, while an economy stifled by government regulations makes success harder to achieve.
Conservative political science majors routinely refer to French economist Frederic Bastiat as a favorite, and once you’ve read The Law, it’s easy to see why. When it came to composing the Declaration of Independence, the American founders were greatly influenced by Bastiat’s natural law arguments for God-given rights, a free society, and a free economy.
For example, one particularly famous line from The Law reads, “We hold from God the gift which includes all others. This gift of life — physical, intellectual, and moral life. The Creator of life has entrusted us with the responsibility to preserving, developing, and protecting it . . . . And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation, and are superior to it.”
Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto
This syndicated talk show sensation and brilliant Constitutional lawyer has written a number of game-changing books worth a read, one of which is Liberty and Tyranny. Subtitled “A Conservative Manifesto,” this thorough book offers philosophical and historical arguments for a Constitutional renaissance to ensure the preservation of American society. The book is written as a series of essays, each of which focuses on Constitution-based values and the many reasons those values are worth protecting.
The New Road to Serfdom: A Warning to Americans
Much of today’s liberal agenda includes creating policies meant to make the United States resemble modern-day Europe. This agenda, asserts Daniel Hannan in The New Road to Serfdom is extremely dangerous. Hannan is a conservative British MEP and former president of the Oxford University Conservative Association. He may just be more knowledgeable about America’s founding and founding documents than most Americans. Hannan offers a glimpse into the actual, often unadvertised political state of modern Europe. He then passionately argues for renewing our founding principles — principles which have remained “a beacon of liberty for the rest of the world.”
The Reagan Diaries
The Reagan Diaries is a fascinating collection of brief diary entries kept by the 40th president during his eight years in office. The entries include glimpses into his everyday life, snippets about his family, and some of his innermost thoughts regarding some of history’s most memorable moments. Reading this probably won’t help you win that next political argument, but it will provide better insight into one of the Republican party’s most beloved figures.
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion
In The Righteous Mind, former Democrat Jonathan Haidt discusses how certain moving forces within the evolution of human psychology impel us to associate with either the Right or Left. Haidt goes even further by declaring that the value system most commonly espoused by the Left tends to ignore the elements of human nature that are most important.
The Road to Serfdom
Written in 1944 by Austrian economist F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom maintains the importance of individual freedom, as opposed to strong central planning by the government. Hayek’s ideas, of course, were largely inspired by the rise of the Nazi party and the general political trend surrounding him in Europe at the time. Not surprisingly, The Road to Serfdom inspired myriad conversations on American soil, and remains one of the most influential books of all time.
Robert E. Lee on Leadership: Executive Lessons in Character, Courage, and Vision
H.W. Crocker III
Good character is something that often seems to be missing in today’s political and social realm, though the ability to lead with courage and honor has never been so important. This book is a must-read for any young Republican. H.W. Crocker III celebrates the good character of one of the most famous leaders in all of American history. Robert E. Lee. Lee, whom agenda-driven politicos have systematically slandered in recent years, was a brilliant strategist who led an out-manned and out-gunned army over seemingly insurmountable obstacles during the Civil War.
Crocker highlights Lee’s greatest moments and summarizes his most inspiring ideas and quotes. He offers lessons from the man Winston Churchill declared to be “one of the noblest Americans who ever lived.”
A Student’s Guide to Political Philosophy
With so much of true conservative thought rooted in the ideas of early philosophers, it’s helpful to have a working knowledge of political philosophy. Harvey Mansfield’s short, but accessible A Student’s Guide to Political Philosophy briefly introduces the most influential political thinkers in history. He also provides a helpful list of books for further study.
The U.S. Constitution: A Reader
Hillsdale College Politics Faculty
At Hillsdale College, often considered to be one of the foremost bastions of Conservative political thought in the country, every student — regardless of major — is required to take a course on the U.S. Constitution.
To learn what these students learn, pick up a copy of Hillsdale’s The U.S. Constitution: A Reader. This unique compendium includes 113 primary source documents covering such areas as:
-the principles of the American founding
-the framing and structure of the Constitution
-the recent construction of the administrative state based upon Progressive rejections of the Constitution.
Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women
Christina Hoff Sommers
In Who Stole Feminism?, Christina Hoff Sommers asserts that the newest wave of feminism is driven by a group of zealots who claim to speak for all women. Their arguments, which are often based on research better funded than they are conclusive, are having a massive impact on everything from a young woman’s college experience to the laws that govern our society. Sommers’s book is both enraging and important, and a must-read for any young Conservative woman — despite the fact the author is a progressive liberal.