CRS Recommended Reading
By Russell Kirk
This influential book is the most authoritative single source on conservatism and its philosophical underpinnings. President Reagan called Kirk “the prophet of American conservatism.” Everyone should read The Conservative Mind, especially those who whose notions about conservatism have been influenced primarily by whatever the media—both right and left—and present day politicians choose to slap the conservative label on.
Perhaps the most powerful chapter of the book is the one on Edmund Burke and the Politics of Prescription. Kirk’s deep understanding of Burke, the British statesman widely regarded as the father of modern conservatism, and his faithfulness to Burke’s ideas shines through. It is also helpful that Kirk’s writing is a much easier read than Burke’s, thus making Burke’s incredible intellect more accessible to 21st century readers.
Beyond that, The Conservative Mind offers insight into the thinking of other great conservative minds from John Adams to T.S. Eliot, and a biting critique of contemporary society that lays bare the radical ideas that threaten the very fabric of civilization—some of which today are unfortunately championed under the “conservative” banner.
By Richard Weaver
Weaver, a conservative scholar and agrarian, wrote Ideas Have Consequences as a criticism of post WWII society and the decline of standards and values. The book has had a huge impact on conservative thinking. For those of us concerned about safeguarding the environment, Weaver’s concern about mankind’s attitude towards nature is particularly notable. He viewed the desire to dominate and conquer nature as impious because it denies the rightfulness of creation.
This book also advances a genuinely conservative understanding of property rights. Weaver refers to the right to own property as the “last metaphysical right” and he considers it essential to preserving both privacy and individual responsibility. Yet, Weaver’s property rights advocacy did not extend to property acquired by big corporations or exclusively for profit.
Like Kirk’s The Conservative Mind, Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences—though only 187 pages—is an American classic that provides a deeper understanding of conservatism and its philosophical underpinnings.
By Rod Dreher
Crunchy Cons (Conservatives) gives voice to traditionalist conservatives who still try to live by the original conservative ideas articulated by history’s great conservative thinkers, while drawing stark contrast to the socially destructive notions that are too often part of the political right’s agenda today. Dreher uses examples of real people, whose lives will seem counter-cultural to many, to illustrate the important aspects of family and society that genuine conservatism is supposed to preserve. In doing so he tackles a wide range of issues from environmental protection to education.
By Thomas G. Smith
This book is about John Saylor, one of the greatest—and perhaps least known—conservationists in our nation’s history. Saylor was a conservative Republican congressman who represented a western Pennsylvania coal mining area from 1949 to 1973. Saylor was instrumental in crafting and passing both The Wilderness Act and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. He was a strong national park advocate and played a critical role in saving the Grand Canyon and Dinosaur National Monument from proposed dam projects. Saylor also fought against efforts to allow oil drilling in what is now the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
In Green Republican, Smith chronicles in great detail Saylor’s environmental battles in Congress and how he, more often than not, prevailed in those efforts.
By Edmund Morris
This biography of Theodore Roosevelt picks up where Morris left off in his previous book The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. Theodore Rex covers Roosevelt’s presidency in great detail, and his portrayal of the man captures both Roosevelt’s larger than life personality and the righteous commitment to moral principles that drives him.
Although not the central theme of the book, Roosevelt’s passion for conservation comes through clearly and his environmental accomplishments are covered.
By Joshua David Hawley
While Morris’ Theodore Rex mostly details Roosevelt’s presidency without much analysis, this book examines Roosevelt as a thinker, exploring his ideas, their impact, and the philosophical influences that shaped his worldview.
Particularly noteworthy is Hawley’s recognition that Theodore Roosevelt was strongly influenced by the conservative philosophy of Edmund Burke.
September Book Review
Scapegoating the Free Market Changes Nothing
By Mark Royce
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. By Naomi Klein (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014), 566 pp. $30.00 cloth.
During the Cold War, “comrades” through groups such as the Red Army Faction, the Carlos gang, or the Germany Revolutionary Cells waged insurgent war against the American-led global capitalist system; and their anti-imperial and anti-capitalist views continue to inform the discourses of sympathetic academics, journalists, filmmakers, and human rights activists, including Canadian writer Naomi Klein. Concern for the poor and oppressed—or as a communitarian Galilean put it, “the least of these”—is a worthy and noble cause, but the left has too often indulged in irrational and alarmist attacks against systems and institutions that have helped provide opportunity, security and stability to a significant portion of the world’s population, with the volume under review a highly representative case.
In This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (2014), the author of Disaster Capitalism (2007) forcefully argues that global capitalist ideology has precipitated unsustainable global warming, employing the reasoning and invoking the history of the true or hard Left. “We have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions,” Klein asserts at the outset, “because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have been struggling to find a way out of this [climate] crisis” (18).