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Affluent Investor | June 27, 2017

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How Do I Become an Informed Voice to Defend Conservative Principles?

reading news paper PUBLIC DOMAIN

“Basically I’m looking for podcasts or websites that have well thought out articles on issues like obamacare, socialism Planned parenthood etc.. My ultimate goal is to change minds, but I’d like multiple places with great arguments and sources that I can cite as an informed voice.”

Thank you for the A2A!

First, to the degree that you are seeking information on current events, I would suggest several sources: obviously my own, but also Erick Erickson’s The Resurgent, which is an outstanding blog, usually reasonably up to the minute; The Federalist, a more in-depth commentary site; Conservative Review; National Review, which has for decades been the most important journal of the movement; and for a little more in-your-face tabloid approach, Breitbart and TheBlaze.com (Glenn Beck). Rush Limbaugh remains a very insightful if controversial voice, and Mark Levin, a Constitutional scholar turned radio host, is perhaps one of the brightest people on the air.

Oh, and did I mention RodMartin.org? Because if I didn’t, make sure to check out RodMartin.org.

Second, in the words of Morton Blackwell, “you owe it to your beliefs to learn how to win.” So given your goal of changing minds (presumably to a practical, society-improving end), I would strong recommend signing up for a class at The Leadership Institute. Those guys teach everything from grassroots activism to how to run for Congress: fundraising, campus organizing, on-camera television workshops, PR, get-out-the-vote strategies and tactics, you name it. And they’re cheap! They’re not in it for the money: they’re a nonprofit trying to equip people just like you.

Third, while I realize you did not ask about deeper philosophical issues, I find that you cannot ever prepare enough on this level; and likewise, if you are properly grounded in your principles, you can apply those to whatever situation arises.

I’ll address a few books others have suggested in a minute. But first, let me suggest just a few, highly readable volumes that stand out from the crowd and that will serve you extremely well.

  1. Wealth and Poverty, by George Gilder. This was considered “the Bible of the Reagan Administration” and deservedly so. You can learn more about how the world works in this book than in any other except the Bible. Additionally, George is one of Silicon Valley’s greatest gurus and a truly extraordinary mind.
  2. The Law, by Frederic Bastiat. His most famous work, The Law is concerned primarily with economics in the context of traditional values. Fabulous, brilliant, and really really short.
  3. Capitalism and Freedom, by Milton Friedman. Friedman won a Nobel Prize in economics, but this book is an entirely accessible, jargon-free explanation of the principles of economic freedom, which Friedman demonstrates conclusively to be necessary for the existence of political freedom.
  4. The Road to Serfdom, by Friedrich A. von Hayek. Hayek and Friedman won their Nobel Prizes just two years apart. Hayek wrote this short volume in the middle of World War II, showing powerfully that the only differences between the socialism of Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany and social democratic Britain were a matter of degree. In the age of Bernie Sanders, there’s hardly a more important book in the world.
  5. The Conservative Mind, by Russell Kirk. Kirk was one of a handful of conservative intellectual giants in the middle of the 20th Century, and this is perhaps his masterpiece. A must-read for any serious conservative.

And then, for bonus points I would also suggest:

  1. The Ruling Class, by Angelo Codevilla, a short but brilliant explanation of what’s wrong with Washington and what must be done.
  2. Liberty and Tyranny, by Mark Levin, that rare book that is not only rigorous in its thinking but highly popular as well: it was a number one bestseller for months in 2009. And
  3. Ronald Reagan, by Dinesh D’Souza. This short volume is absolutely the finest biography of Reagan written during his lifetime, and explains clearly and concisely the Reagan liberals (and even many conservatives) never properly understood.

If you decide you want more and/or longer books, let me know.

Finally, Caleb Giess lists as essential reading material The Bible, The Wealth of Nations, The Federalist Papers, and The Analects of Confucius. I would add just a bit of commentary.

Giess says that the Bible is “a religious source of social conservatism,” but that is far too narrow a view of its importance. Even if I were not a Christian (and I am), I would be forced to point out that all of Western Civilization as we know it — what was until very recently called “Christendom” and for good reason — is rooted in the Bible. Not having a working knowledge of the Bible and its intricacies is to this topic roughly equivalent to attempting to understand the English language (its fullness, not simple communication) without a working knowledge of Shakespeare. Indeed, the only literary achievement which matches Shakespeare’s importance to English is… the King James Bible. So while that particular translation is more valuable for the latter topic, while a more modern translation (such as the English Standard Version, among others) might be more useful for the former, in both cases, the Bible is vastly more important to understanding how we came to be who we are than merely gaining insight into the occasional pronouncement from Focus on the Family.

I love The Wealth of Nations, but it is very long and difficult for new readers. I have suggested several more useful alternatives for the newer student of these matters.

The Federalist Papers are indispensable. They are quite approachable and directly pertinent to virtually every modern day issue, while providing tremendously helpful context and clarity regarding what the Constitution’s various phrases meant to the people who wrote them, debated them, advocated and opposed them.

This matters more than people think. First, conservatives foundationally believe that the Constitution — and all laws, and all contracts, and all covenants — are not “living documents” subject to changing whims, but mean what their original parties agreed they meant. This is essential to liberty: if documents just mean whatever some new person subjectively thinks they mean, then they mean nothing, and they protect nothing. One may always change them by amendment, or change them by repeal, but one may never legitimately “interpret” them into a completely different meaning (e.g., “This contract says you will buy this house, which I hereby interpret to mean that you must beat your child.”)

But second, in the American context at least, conservatism conserves something very specific: the values and principles of the American Revolution. So it is hard to think of many sources more valuable than The Federalist Papers, which defined not merely a document but a society.

Finally, The Analects of Confucius are quite valuable. Nevertheless, let me refer you back to my earlier comments on the Bible. Moderns do not seem to grasp the degree to which Western Civilization, and America in particular, is marinated in, bounded by and constructed upon the foundation of Christian thinking. So while the Analects are highly useful, they represent an alien way of thought from a very different set of presuppositions. And while I personally like to consume all ideas from everywhere I can, I caution that Confucian conservatism is not European conservatism, but has far more relevance to European conservatism than to the extraordinarily different conservatism flowing out of the American Revolution. So read it, but know it’s coming from a very different place, with very different implications.

Originally posted on Quora.

Rod D. Martin, founder and CEO of The Martin Organization, is a technology entrepreneur, futurist, hedge fund manager, and professor. Fox Business News calls him a “tech guru”, Britain’s Guardian labeled him a “philosopher-capitalist”, and Gawker describes him as a “brilliant nonconformist.” He was a senior member of PayPal’s pre-IPO startup team and is a member of the Board of Governors of the Council for National Policy.

 

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