Human Events, a 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. The article states that "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. With fifteen panelists, the highest possible score would be a "150" for a unanimous vote for #1.
Here is the list:
A few comments:
1) The Communist Manifesto - by Karl Marx and Freidrich Engles, published 1848, 74 points. The Manifesto envisions history as a class struggle between oppressed workers and oppressive owners, calling for a workers’ revolution so property, family and nation-states can be abolished and a proletarian Utopia established.
2) Mein Kampf - by Adoplh Hitler (1025-26), 41 pts. Hitler explained his racist, anti-Semitic vision for Germany, laying out a Nazi program pointing directly to World War II and the Holocaust. He envisioned the mass murder of Jews, and a war against France to precede a war against Russia to carve out “lebensraum” (“living room”) for Germans in Eastern Europe. The book was originally ignored. But not after Hitler rose to power. According to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, there were 10 million copies in circulation by 1945.3) Quotations from Chairman Mao - by Mao Zedong (1966), 38 pts. Ootherwise known as The Little Red Book, as a tool in the “Cultural Revolution” he launched to push the Chinese Communist Party and Chinese society back in his ideological direction. Aided by compulsory distribution in China, billions were printed. Western leftists were enamored with its Marxist anti-Americanism. “It is the task of the people of the whole world to put an end to the aggression and oppression perpetrated by imperialism, and chiefly by U.S. imperialism,” wrote Mao.
4) The Kinsey Report - by Alfred Kinsey (1948), 37 pts. Kinsey, a zoologist at Indiana U., wrote to give a scientific gloss to the normalization of promiscuity and deviancy. Much of his research has been debunked because of his skewed population (prison inmates).
5) Democracy and Education - by John Dewey (1916), 36 pts. Dewey was a “progressive” philosopher and leading advocate for secular humanism in American life. He signed the Humanist Manifesto and rejected traditional religion and moral absolutes. In this book, he disparaged schooling that focused on traditional character development and endowing children with hard knowledge, and encouraged the teaching of thinking “skills” instead. His views had great influence on the direction of American education--particularly in public schools--and helped nurture the Clinton generation.
6) Das Kapital - by Karl Mark (1867-1894), 36 pts. Marx forces the round peg of capitalism into the square hole of Marx’s materialistic theory of history, portraying capitalism as an ugly phase in the development of human society in which capitalists inevitably and amorally exploit labor by paying the cheapest possible wages to earn the greatest possible profits. Marx theorized that the inevitable eventual outcome would be global proletarian revolution. He could not have predicted 21st Century America: a free, affluent society based on capitalism and representative government that people the world over envy and seek to emulate.
7) The Feminine Mystique - by Betty Friedan (1963), 30 pts. This author disparaged traditional stay-at-home motherhood as life in “a comfortable concentration camp”--a role that degraded women and denied them true fulfillment in life. She later became founding president of the National Organization for Women.
8) The Course of Positive Philosophy by Auguste Comte (1830-42), 28 pts. Comte turned his back on his political and cultural heritage, announcing as a teenager, “I have naturally ceased to believe in God.” Later, in these six volumes, he coined the term “sociology.” He did so while theorizing that the human mind had developed beyond “theology” (a belief that there is a God who governs the universe), through “metaphysics” (in this case defined as the French revolutionaries’ reliance on abstract assertions of “rights” without a God), to “positivism,” in which man alone, through scientific observation, could determine the way things ought to be.
9) Beyond Good and Evil - by Freidrich Nietzsche (1886), 28 pts. Nietzsche’s profession that “God is dead” appeared in his 1882 book, The Gay Science, but under-girded the basic theme of this book which was published four years later. Here Nietzsche argued that men are driven by an amoral “Will to Power,” and that superior men will sweep aside religiously inspired moral rules, which he deemed as artificial as any other moral rules, to craft whatever rules would help them dominate the world around them. “Life itself is essentially appropriation, injury, overpowering of the strange and weaker, suppression, severity, imposition of one’s own forms, incorporation and, at the least and mildest, exploitation,” he wrote. The Nazis loved Nietzsche.
10) General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money - by John Maynard Keynes (1936), 23 pts. Keynes was a liberal Cambridge economics professor who wrote this book in the midst of the Great Depression. The book is a recipe for ever-expanding government. When the business cycle threatens a contraction of industry, and thus of jobs, he argued, the government should run up deficits, borrowing and spending money to spur economic activity. FDR adopted the idea as U.S. policy, and the U.S. government now has a $2.6-trillion annual budget and an $8-trillion dollar debt.
I have heard of all these people but not read anything. I doubt any of us have read any of these, except for excerpts for a possible college class. That is probably a good thing.
The book that finished #18 on the list with only 17 points would have shot to the top of my list: Charles Darwin's "Origin of the Species." It would be hard to argue against the idea that no other person in history has done so much to change the worldviews of humanity. Before Darwin, most people had a worldview that stemmed from some sort of Judeo-Christian background. Darwin changed all that as 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 "observations" in science and the advancement of his principles by his disciples, the others may never have gained a voice. Thus his book is important (and dangerous) not only by its own merits but because of who and what it later inspired.