It’s that time of year when various publications, online and off, come out with their lists of “best books of 2019,” some of which the people who said they read them might actually have done so. A lot of the lists, however, sound more like books you leave on view so people will be impressed that you (presumably) read them than something they actually wanted to read. And what better way to put hoi polloi in their places than to be asked for a list of books that you thought were the best?
We’d like to take a different tack for our list. First, we’re not going to ask anyone for his or her opinion. This is our blog, not theirs, and we’ve been saying for over a decade if you want to be a guest blogger, keep it within 1,000 words and make sure it’s consistent with the Just Third Way. Otherwise, start or continue your own blog.
Second, we’re not going to make a list of the best books we did read, but of the books you should read. Nor is this list comprehensive, authoritative, or even adequate. It’s not even books we read this year, although we did read them previously and often refer to them, especially when we’re writing new books that will (of course) appear on all the lists of best-books-I-really-read-and-actually-liked for 2020 . . . or as soon as they’re published, that is.
|Maybe next time.|
Third and finally, we’re going to keep it short, half a dozen or so books. Nothing in more than one volume, are rare or costly, or that might require too much brainpower. Of course, we realize that requiring any brainpower these days might be too much, but there’s nothing we can do about that, at least for now.
At least we’ve spared you William Winslow Crosskey’s Politics and the Constitution in the History of the United States (Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1953), the massive two (and a third posthumous) volume work that dissects the 150-year downward trend of constitutional law under the United States Supreme Court. According to Crosskey, under pressure from pro-slavery advocates, the Court changed the whole orientation of constitutional law in the U.S. from sovereignty of the people to state sovereignty in its notorious decision in Scott v. Sandford (60 U.S. 393 (1857)). By the way, did you know that the Court misspelled Sanford’s name? Bad law and bad spelling at one and the same time.
The Fourteenth Amendment overturned the Scott decision, but was in turn nullified by the Court’s decision in the Slaughterhouse Cases of 1873. It’s an epic that makes Chicago in the 1920s sound like a walk in the park.
It ain’t pretty, and we have an outline of a book giving Crosskey’s thesis in a much more popular way, filling people in on all the non-legal details behind certain key court decisions . . . as soon as we write it. A law professor has indicated interest in collaborating on something, and it’s a topic with extreme relevance in our day when both the Executive and the Supreme Court have usurped the powers of the Congress in the U.S.
So here goes:
How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren. (New York: Touchstone, 2014). We read the 1940 edition by Adler alone, but the revised edition has Adler’s stamp of approval. We’ve also seen the video series based on the revised edition with both Adler and Van Doren. The point is the same in both versions: “reading” is more than just running your eyes down the page. It’s comprehension and analysis, or (as Adler put it) a “conversation with the author.” This is a serious issue with the decay of modern Academia, and one that concerned Adler since the 1960s when he called for a reform of education. Not surprisingly, the situation has only gotten worse, as Dr. Noriko Arai (whose books, unfortunately, have not been translated into English) has noted. Students are not being educated so much as programmed. They are not taught to think, but to give pre-programmed responses. This is the sort of thing that results in what Drew Westen called “the political brain” in his book (duh), The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation (New York: Public Affairs™, 2008). Do you know the bad part? People who need to know how to read a book will be the last ones to read this book, if they ever do.
|Louis O. Kelso|
The Capitalist Manifesto by Louis O. Kelso and Mortimer J. Adler (New York: Random House, 1958). Credited with starting the modern ownership revolution, The Capitalist Manifesto (an obvious riff on The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels . . . although we’ve been hearing there is more Engels than Marx in the Manifesto and other writings ostensibly by Marx), Kelso and Adler’s book is far more profound than a mere handbook for the ESOP that many people have taken it for. Yes, Kelso presents the fundamental theory that he later applied when he invented the Employee Stock Ownership Plan, but there is also the philosophical foundation and, especially, the explication of the three principles of economic justice found in Chapter 5. The ESOP is not the end of the “Expanded Ownership Revolution,” but a tiny step on the way to a society in which (as Pope Leo XIII put it, referenced in Adler’s Prologue), “The law, therefore, should favor ownership, and its policy should be to induce as many as possible of the people to become owners.” (Rerum Novarum, § 46.)
|Mortimer J. Adler|
The New Capitalists: A Proposal to Free Economic Growth from the Slavery of Savings by Louis O. Kelso and Mortimer J. Adler (New York: Random House, 1961). Some people consider The New Capitalists a technical handbook on financing ESOPs. It’s a bit more than that, and in one important respect may be more key to the Expanded Ownership Revolution than The Capitalist Manifesto. That is the monetary theory on which Kelso’s theories are based. This may be one of the main reasons why Kelso’s theories (as opposed to an application of the theories, such as the ESOP) are rejected by people who think they know what they are talking about. The fact is that the three mainstream schools of economics (Keynesian, Monetarist, and Austrian) as well as all the minor schools of which we are aware take as a given something called “the Currency Principle,” which is that the quantity of money in the economy determines economic activity. Binary economics, however, takes as a given something called “the Banking Principle,” which is that economic activity determines the quantity of money. Unless this difference is clearly understood, Kelso’s theories and the whole Just Third Way will be incomprehensible. (Kelso and Adler cite Dr. Harold G. Moulton’s book, The Formation of Capital, 1935, as the source of their monetary theory.)
|Fulton J. Sheen|
God and Intelligence in Modern Philosophy by Fulton J. Sheen (Providence, Rhode Island: Cluny Media, LLC, 2019) Most people venerate Fulton Sheen because of his spiritual message made popular by his charismatic media apostolate (church lingo for “popular radio and TV shows”). They forget — if they ever knew — that Sheen’s spirituality was solidly grounded in his philosophy that firmly rejected much of what so many people today accept without question: the “new things” (rerum novarum) noted by Pope Gregory XVI in 1834 in the second social encyclical and reiterated by Pope Leo XIII in 1891: what eventually became known as socialism, modernism, and New Age thought. We can’t vouch for this particular edition, but Sheen’s doctoral thesis, originally published in 1925, goes directly contrary to what many people today think is authentic Thomist philosophy or orthodox Catholic teaching. Read carefully, Sheen’s book is an astonishing refutation of today’s Spirit of the Age. G.K. Chesterton's intro ain't bad, neither.
|Fulton J. Sheen|
Freedom Under God by Fulton J. Sheen (Arlington, Virginia: Economic Justice Media, 2013). Here is an edition we can vouch for, the Just Third Way Edition of Fulton Sheen’s long-lost classic analysis of individual sovereignty and the necessity of private property in capital as the chief support for human dignity. As Sheen put it, “Because the ownership of external things is the sign of freedom, the Church has made the wide distribution of private property the cornerstone of her social program.” We should mention that the republication of this book outraged many who prefer to see Sheen remembered only as a popular “televangelist” spouting clever aphorisms and making great numbers of converts to Catholicism (which Sheen himself repudiated by noting that it is God who converts, not Fulton Sheen). In particular, His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl stated that he found the Just Third Way Edition of Freedom Under God to be extremely offensive to his version of Catholicism, while other prelates forbade people to read it or have anything to do with CESJ. Read it for yourself to see what motivated some Catholic intellectuals and members of the Catholic clergy to react so negatively! (Bulk discounts available on request!)
Okay, five. We were tempted to keep on adding, but if there are too many, people won’t even read this posting, much less the books. If this whets your appetite, though, you can find some free ebooks (including the two Kelso and Adler books) on the CESJ website.