Human Events, the conservative news magazine, asked a panel of fifteen conservative scholars and public policy leaders to compile a list of the ten most harmful books of the 19th and 20th centuries. “Each panelist nominated a number of titles and then voted on a ballot including all books nominated.” A title received a score of 10 points for being listed No. 1 by one of the panelists, 9 points for being listed No. 2, and so on.
Here is the list:
- The Communist Manifesto
- Mein Kampf
- Quotations from Chairman Mao
- The Kinsey Report
- Democracy and Education
- Das Kapital
- The Feminine Mystique
- The Course of Positive Philosophy
- Beyond Good and Evil
- General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money
A few rather random and unformed observations:
First, I am ashamed to admit that I have not heard of several of the titles, especially the titles that did not make the top ten. And this from a guy who graduated college with a degree in history (though I did graduate summa cum averaga and was far more interested in being the best euchre player in the cafeteria than being the best student). I spent most of my time studying the early and mid 20th century, so have no excuse.
Second, it would be difficult to argue that the first three titles (as well as the sixth) would be any different if this panel had been composed of liberals. The Communist Manifesto, Mein Kampf and The Little Red Book surely contributed to untold amounts of evil and bloodshed. Each of them led to the rise of a government known primarily for atrocities committed against not only other nations, but against its own people. Where the list diverges radically from what liberals might choose is at number four, The Kinsey Report and at number seven, The Feminist Mystique. These titles would be held by many as great contributors to society rather than books that are deemed harmful. These books served to advance agendas in direct contradiction to the Scriptures, but advances that many today consider beneficial (though apparently not conservatives).
Third, buried at number 17 is the title I probably would have chosen first overall, Darwin’s Origin of the Species. Why? Because I don’t think any single person in history has done so much to degrade human beings as Charles Darwin. And it all began with this book. He set out to prove that man was not created in the image of a Creator, as men had long believed, but was merely the product of chance. And not only that, but man is merely a species in process, and will surely become something better as evolution continues. It is not difficult to argue that Darwinism contributed to many of the other titles on the list, and that without his “advances” in science, the others may never have gained a voice. Thus his book is important not only by its own merits but because of who and what it later inspired. Darwin’s great contribution was to make man only a little higher than animals, and even then only because of fortuitious random occurences.
What are your thoughts on this list? Are there titles that are far out of place? Are there titles missing that you feel should be added?