Save Stirner From the Burners
That was a curious assortment of literature selected by the contributors to your "What to Save When the Book Burners Come" (Dec.). The books selected might have been expected at a convention of librarians, but for a magazine presumably dedicated to the principles of liberty-my, oh, my!
Why no mention of the greatest of individualists, the one contemporary Karl Marx feared-Max Stirner? Some of your contributors listed works by Ayn Rand, but Stirner beat her to the arena by over a century. Most of Rand's thought derives from Stirner and Nietzsche. It's a pity that the intellectual world didn't listen to Stimer's warning, in 1844, that the Marxian program held the potential of being the most ruthless political system in history.
Stirner preached the doctrine of getting value out of oneself. This, he asserted, could be achieved only through a philosophy of complete personal liberty. The title of his famous book, DerEinzige und Sein Eignetum, has been translated as The Ego and His Own, but a more literal rendering might be "The Unique One and His Property." This embodies the concept of each individual as unique and the sole owner of his most valuable property-himself.
Surely, no single book has been more unrelentingly devoted to the exercise of reason in opposing the illusions and delusions of socialism and what we now know as the sentimental social ethic which demands the submission of the individual to the community. No book has probed more deeply into the contradictory relationship between the real and the ideal.
Your respondents' lists show a few surprising omissions. What philosophical writings are as profoundly liberating and intellectually stimulating as the works of the three great Austro-Hungarian / British evolutionary epistemologists: Karl Popper, Michael Polanyi, and F. A. Hayek? In each case, it is hard to pick a single best or most representative work; but at the least, Popper's Conjectures and Refutations, Polanyi's Personal Knowledge, and Hayek's Law, Legislation, and Liberty would make quite a difference in an otherwise authoritarian and anti-individualistic world.
As for works of fiction, I would certainly add The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien Like Popper, Polanyi, and Hayek, Tolkien has the rare ability to inspire a deep love of liberty, of the other values it makes possible, and of the virtue of responsible personal judgment and action that is its most noble expression.
Thanks for yet another thought-provoking issue.
Redwood City, CA
How the DEA Could Be Out of a Job
The December cover story ("Inside the dea") reminded me of an essay on NPR's "All Things Considered" that I heard last summer. The essay focused on the demise of the moonshiner and his industry in the South.