The Influences on My Political ThinkingFAVORITE LEADERS: Ronald Reagan, best President of my lifetime. Phil Gramm, my favorite Senator. George W. Bush, master of "Strategery". Leaders in history I admire include Alexander the Great, Charlemagne, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, Thomas Jeffersion, Konrad Adenauer. I think however the world's greatest politician was Mahatma Gandhi.
FAVORITE PHILOSOPHERS: Aristotle, Aquinas, and Kant are in my mind the "3 great synthesizers" of empiricism and rationalism. Of these, Aristotle is the greatest philosopher of all time in my view, and the first real scientist to boot. His "Nicomachean Ethics" is still relevant (and needed!) I am an empiricial pragmatist in many ways, and believe excessive 'rationalism' (putting internalized thinking ahead of real experience) is the root of many evil modern ideologies (aka "It's all the French's fault!"). I admire Locke, Edmund Burke, Adam Smith, F.A.Hayek for understanding this error. Hayek's essay on comparing the French and enlightenment English view of freedom is perhaps one of the most impressive statements of what freedom is really about. Bush named Jesus Christ as his favorite philosopher; I agree - The Sermon on the Mount is the purest expression of morality ever given.
BIGGEST INFLUENCE: My political ideas been shaped and informed by many, but one great conservative was a key influence: William F Buckley. He masterfully has woven the threads of traditional conservatism and classical liberalism thinking to create the synthesis that is modern American Conservatism. Watching "Firing Line" and reading National Review as teenager was an early influence for me. Up from Liberalism!
Influential books that shaped my political thinking:
1. "The Way the World Works" by Jude Wanniski. His brilliant description of the connection between politics and the economy brought me to the 'supply-side' politically and also made me a better investor.
2. "A Time for Change" By William E Simon (first political book I ever read, I was 15).
3. "Gulag Archipelago" by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I learned the truth about Communism and its inherent murderousness here. It led to reading dozens more books about Russian history and also reading about its twin evil, Nazism ("Rise and Fall of the Thrid Reich" William L Shirer).
4. "Atlas Shrugged" and "Virtue of Selfishness" by Ayn Rand. Read as a teenager - we need a teenage movie called "I Was a Teenage Libertarian".
5. "The Closing of the American Mind" Alan Bloom. All the critiques of "illiberal education" flow from this brilliant and devastating critique. One way, we will get the University 'back'.
6. "The Growth Experiment" Lawrence Lindsey. Shows the Reagan Tax cuts worked! I also read and like "The Seven Fat Years" by Robert Bartley
7. "Microcosm" by George Gilder (not a political book per se, but made me a fan of him and his various pro-free-enterprise supply-side and anti-feminist writings as well as his great technology writings, found in Forbes ASAP for many years) I also read and recommend his book "Wealth and Poverty"
8. "Knowledge and decisions" Thomas Sowell. Sowell is brilliant and writes so clearly even a liberal can understand. eg just one insight in this book has shaped a lot of my thoughts - it's not knowledge that makes us advance, but the ability to be ignorant (eg, you can drive a car you have no clue how to build or service) that enables the modern standard of living. This simple observation has huge economic and social implications for our 'Information Age' and explains much about how and why we need to organize society and its parts.
9. Books by William F Buckley. "The Sayings of Chairman Bill" and many others, especially also "The Unmaking of a Mayor" serious and funny both.
10. "The Liberal Crackup" and other stuff by R Emmett Tyrell. Him and PJ O'Rourke ("Holidays in Hell") make being Conservative FUN!
11. Lots of other great authors: Charles Murray, James Q Wilson, Robert Bork, George Will, the speeches of Edmund Burke, William Bennett, Rush Limbaugh, Robert Nisbet, David Horowitz, Jean-Francois Revel.
12. Economics books: "Human Action" by Ludwig von Mises, Henry Hazlitt's economics; the works of Keynes, Smith (in parts) and others; Schumpeter's "Captialism, Socialism, and Democracy" which contains a good refutation of Marxism on several levels, written at a time when socialism seemed inevitable. Socialism is an idea whose time has come - and passed!
13. "The Law" by Frederick Bastiat. Found it on the internet. It would be #1 if I read it earlier. This small book written in 1840 explains it all - what really works (freedom) and what doesnt (socialism) in governing societies.
14. "The Road to Serfdom" by FA Hayek. A small but profound work.
CONSERVATIVE READING LISTS:
Human Events Top Ten American biographies
Morton Blackwell's 25 books every conservative should read
Heritage Conservative Reading List
"Never give in, Never give in, never, never, never .. " - Winston Churchill, October 1941.