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Reading “the Great Books” Refreshing the Commitment to Ideas

Reading “the Great Books” Refreshing the Commitment to Ideas

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Editor’s Note: This special edition of 
SPN News
is abrief compilation of inspiring policy books and practicalnon-prot organization books assubmi�ed by various SPN mem-bers. Though not an exhaustiveinventory, the titles listed hereare valued among many in the free-market movement.
Immediacy is a central char-acteristic of our technologicalage. Society is dependent onspeedy communication and analysis. The paceof communication in the Internet age has broad-ened access to information — and to ideas — inastonishing ways. Those commied to advancingunderstanding of the principles of liberty and afree and ordered society have been quick to adaptto using technology to relay their messages to anunprecedented number of people in the policyworld, in the academy and in the public square.For all of its benets, however, the demandingnature of this technological age can be distracting.It is increasingly rare to nd time to revisit thewritings of the great thinkers who articulated thecore principles of a free society that permeate ourthoughts and motivate our actions.In this special issue of
SPN News
 , State PolicyNetwork invites readers to pause, to revisit and toreect upon the works of the thinkers who most
Reading “the Great Books”
Refreshing the Commitment to Ideas
C  N P
6255 Arlington Boulevard, Post Ofce Box 5208Richmond, California 94805-5208Phone: 510.965.9700 • Fax: 510.965.9701spn@spn.org • www.spn.org
Inside:
The Great Books on Reagan
inuenced the development of their philosophi-cal, economic, cultural and political perspectives.Readers are invited to deepen their understandingof the great books and to familiarize themselveswith texts not yet known. This is a valuable invita-tion for a variety of reasons.At the simplest level, we know that fewer andfewer average Americans spend time reading. Lit-eracy rates — particularly adult literacy rates — insome major metropolitan areas and in some rurallocations remain unacceptably low. We are notyet a nation of readers as a whole; unfortunatelyto a large extent America remains a culture thatundervalues the importance of a liberal educationin the traditional sense.For those involved in the world of ideas, itis often the case that time constraints makeus turn rst to condensed digests, magazines,newspaper articles or reviews to get informationquickly. Useful though these resources are, theydo not necessarily aord the same opportunity as books do for the considered reection necessaryto sustain an
active
appreciation for the power ofideas.Reading the great books in Western canon suchas the writings of Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas,Renaissance thinkers, Adam Smith and his peersin the Scoish Enlightenment, America’s Found-ing Fathers, Alexis de Tocqueville to name only afew, provides just such an opportunity for consid-ered reection. It is no bad thing to be remindedthat modern giants of the classical liberal traditionincluding economists like F. A. Hayek and LordPeter Bauer stood on the shoulders of these earlierthinkers.
SPN N
EWS
In this special issue of 
SPN News
 , StatePolicy Network invites readersto pause, torevisit and toreect uponthe works of the thinkerswho most inuenced thedevelopment of their  philosophical,economic,cultural and  political  perspectives.
Ingrid Gregg 
State Policy Network
Strategies for State Think Tanks / Summer 2004
 
S P
 
N 
SPN N
EWS
 
 2
 
Summer 2004
SPN NEWS • SUMMER 2004 • VOL 5 • ISSUE 3
SPN News
reports on issues of importance to state-based, market-oriented, non-prot public policy research organizations. Drawing from current updates andevents from within the industry, the publication provides timely informationon the most pressing issues facing public policy state think tank executives.State Policy Network publishes
SPN News
quarterly. Individual copies can beordered from the State Policy Network oces at (510) 965-9700.
*All book images used in this issue are owned by their respective copyright holders.
MISSION STATEMENT
The mission of State Policy Network is to provide strategic assistance toindependent research organizations devoted to discovering and developingmarket-oriented solutions to state and local public policy issues.6255 Arlington Boulevard, Richmond, CA 94805Phone: 510.965.9700 • Fax: 510.965.9701 • www.spn.org • spn@spn.org
STATE POLICY NETWORK
Tracie Sharp, PresidentFord A. Anderson II, Senior Advisor • Dr. Jo Kwong, Project DirectorPatrick McDougal, Program Coordinator
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
THOMAS A. ROE, FOUNDING CHAIRMAN (1927 2000)
Carl Helstrom (Chairman)...............................................................The JM FoundationTed Abram.....................................................American Institute for Full EmploymentAlejandro A. Chafuen....................................................Atlas Economic Research Fdn.Derwood Chase.........................................................Chase Investment Counsel Corp.Gis
è
le Hu...........................................................................Jaquelin Hume FoundationByron S. Lamm....................................................past President, State Policy NetworkRobert W. Poole, Jr.............................................................................Reason FoundationLawrence W. Reed................................................... Mackinac Center for Public PolicyTracie Sharp (President)................................................................State Policy NetworkGaylord Swim...............................................................................................Pillar Capital
It falls toeach personinterested in ideas tocontributeto deningmoral, social and political  prioritiestoday.
On another level, we know that it is a common-place to acknowledge that “the post-Cold War,post-September 11
th
 , 2001” world is an increas-ingly complex place. The complexity of the timesrequires that those commied to liberty rene theirarguments in favor of limited government andindividual responsibility with constant referenceto truth and to the principles of freedom. In orderto meet these challenges in the politically chargedand still hostile intellectual environment in whichthose interested in liberty nd themselves, it is stillimportant to build knowledge over time about theanimating principles that are permanently relevantto our work and in society. By so doing, classical lib-erals are beer placed to contribute to the continuedadvancement of these principles, and to resist thetemptations of complacency and resignation.The arguments for liberty that eventually defeatedsocialism and collectivism in the last century havethe power to resonate as strongly in this new com-plex century as they did before. Scholars, publicintellectuals, researchers and think-tank sta seean increasing awareness among the public at largeabout the power of ideas. As James Buchanan hasrecently noted, however, books and ideas are cru-cial, but they alone cannot insure the “the viabilityof our philosophy.” Classical liberals must continueto try to capture the public imagination by talkingand writing about the realities of politics, cultureand economics in accessible ways and at the sametime point toward a vision — an ideal — of whatsociety should be.This kind of task is not a new one. During theeighteenth and nineteenth centuries society expe-rienced radical social and economic changes as aresult of the rise of commercial society and theindustrial revolution. A host of questions wastriggered about the nature of human interaction ina modern time, not unlike those we confront nowthat the industrial age has given way to the technol-ogy age. Those involved in the world of ideas inprevious centuries relied on great books and ideasto dene identity and meaning in changing times.They aempted to understand progress in its vari-ous forms.There was much discussion in eighteenth-cen-tury Europe, for example, about how new wealthand new social structures would inuence or alterperceptions about morality and social ethics acrosssociety. We confront similar questions in our day,not least in such areas as bioethics. It falls to eachperson interested in ideas to contribute to deningmoral, social and political priorities today.We need steadying inuences as we go aboutthis process, as well as sources of refreshment andrenewal. Make time for the great books. You willnot be disappointed.
Ingrid A. Gregg, PhD is President of the EarhartFoundation, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
 
Summer 2004
 
3
 
SPN N
EWS
S P
 
N 
The Future and Its Enemies:The Growing Conflict OverCreativity, Enterprise, and Progress
By Virginia Postrel, Free Press,1999. 288 pages
The best statement of the contempo-rary threat to liberty since Hayek’s
Road to Serfdom
.
 -Sam Staley, President, Buckeye Institute
In Defense of Global Capitalism
By Johan Norberg, translated By Roger Tannerwith Julian Sanchez, Cato, 2003. 260 pages
This provides one of the most down-to-earth examina-tions of “globalization.” The book delivers a hard-hit-ting rebual to arguments that blame capitalism forthe world’s problems, and builds a sound foundationfor understanding how open markets foster prosperity,through the freedom of movement of goods, services,and people.
 -Jo Kwong, Director of Institute Relations, Atlas Economic Research Foundation
Constitution of Liberty 
By F.A. Hayek, The University ofChicago Press, 1978. 580 pages
The 1974 recipient of the Nobel Prizein economics wrote this systematicdefense of individual liberty andfree market economics, in whichhe argues that Americans have best been able todefend those values by defending the U.S. Con-stitution. Hayek brilliantly synthesizes ideas fromethics, anthropology, economics, law, and politi-cal science to show that the concept of “liberty”embodied in the Constitution is not a single value but rather the very source of all moral values. Heexamines how other Western societies have soughtto secure individual liberties and contrasts themto the U.S. Constitution. Hayek ultimately teststhe principles of freedom by applying them tocontemporary economic and social issues. In this brilliant work, Hayek restates the ideals that he believes have guided, and must continue to guide,the growth of Western civilization.
 -Jo Kwong, Director of Institute Relations, Atlas Economic Research Foundation
 The Great Books of Free-Market Policy and Philosophy 
The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphsin the West and Fails Everywhere Else
By Hernando de Soto, Basic Books, 2000. 276 pages
Dependent on D.C.: The Rise of Federal Controlover the Lives of Ordinary Americans
By Charloe A. Twight, Palgrave Macmillan,2003. 432 pages
 -Both recommended by J. Stanley Marshall, PhD,Founding Chairman, James Madison Institute
The Vision of the Anointed:Self-Congratulation as a Basisfor Social Policy 
By Thomas Sowell, Basic Books, 1995.305 pages
To be eective in public policy, one mustunderstand the environment in which one works aswell as the underlying assumptions from which one’sopponents operate.
 -John Taylor, President,Virginia Institute for Public Policy 
Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline,With a New Preface and Epilogue
By Richard Posner, Harvard UniversityPress, 2003. 416 pages
It promotes accountability in the ideas industry.
 -Greg Blankenship, Illinois Policy Institute
Lives at Risk
By John C. Goodman, Gerald L. Musgrave andDevon M. Herrick, with a foreword by MiltonFriedman, Rowman & Lileeld Publishers,August, 2004. 272 pages
Lives at Risk, subtitled Single-Payer National Health Insur-ance around the World, shaers the myths of nationalhealth schemes. It shows that patients are routinely deniedcare, and denied lifesaving treatments, due to political con-trol of health care systems in developed countries aroundthe world. This is the only comprehensive, treatment ofthis subject we know of. There are hundreds of footnotes,predominantly citing government-sponsored reports andresearch by advocates of national health insurance.
 -John C. Goodman, President,National Center of Policy Analysis
C   
In this brilliant work (TheConstitution of Liberty) Hayek restates theideals that hebelieves haveguided, and must continueto guide,the growthof Westerncivilization.
-Jo Kwong, Director of Institute Relations, Atlas Economic Research Foundation

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