Category Archives: Reviews (Books)

“How to Judge People by What They Look Like,” Reviewed by Sean Gabb


 

How to Judge People by What They Look Like
by Edward Dutton
(Published in The Salisbury Review)

This short book is equally naughty and entertaining. It bounces along, making its points in a light-hearted and generally a witty manner. It is naughty so far as it is a flat challenge to many of the pieties of our age.

We are told never to judge a book by its cover – that the substance of a person, this being character and intelligence, have no measurable relationship to his external form, this being his physical appearance. At the extreme, of looking at correlations between race and intelligence, you can get into serious trouble for disputing this piety. Even moderate dissent earns hostility or just ridicule. Look, for example, at the relevant textbooks. The phlogiston theory is covered as an early theory of combustion, superseded by the truth. Phrenology is denounced as barely short of a moral and intellectual failing. No one thinks ill of Lamarck for this theory of inherited characteristics. Lombroso and his measurement of criminal heads are seen as steps on the road to Auschwitz. Read more

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“Read Magazines, not Books” – Review of The Complete Libertarian Forum: 1969-1984


“Read Magazines, not Books” – Review of The Complete Libertarian Forum: 1969-1984

By Duncan Whitmore

“Read magazines, not books”. Such was the advice given to me by Theodor H Nelson, for whom I had the privilege of working for a number of years when I was a fresh-faced graduate. In Dream Machines (1974) Nelson, who is not a libertarian, had earlier justified his imperative by stating that “magazines have far more insights per inch of text, and can be read much faster”.

It is only after having finished The Complete Libertarian Forum: 1969-1984 (LF) – two, formidable volumes of a total of 1,200 pages of small print, the reading of which has occupied me on and off for the past year or so – that I can see precisely what Nelson meant, and more. For LF is not only a treasure trove of ongoing theoretical debates within libertarianism and of libertarian viewpoints on important global events at the time; it is a record of the successes, failures, triumphs and tragedies of the libertarian movement in one of the most turbulent periods in recent history. Read more

How I awoke from being a socialist to a sane person – A review of ‘The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality’, by Ludwig von Mises


By Andy Duncan, Vice-Chairman of Mises UK

Back in 1998, I was working in the filthy world of trade. I’d received this book from Mises.org one morning and had to wait until lunchtime before I could read it. I then sat in my car in a dreary supermarket car park and opened it up. It took less than an hour to get through. However, the clarity, the penetration, the directness, the sheer thrill of all those dense scales falling from my eyes melted my mind. Who was this Mises? And why had he made me feel so very uncomfortable?

Via the pages of this book, Mises had told me the truth about life, the universe, and everything. He’d tumbled the monuments in my mind, to Marx, by taking a wrecking ball to them.

This book essentially details the societally destructive power of human envy. Like a fine Bossa Nova dancer in perfect tune with his own epistemological theory, Mises slices and slashes at the tenets of Marxism until there’s nothing left but malevolent dust.

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The Writing on the Berlin Wall: Pictures of the Socialistic Future


By Andy Duncan, Vice Chairman of Mises UK

If someone gave me a gold sovereign for every time in my life I had heard a variation on the following phrase, then in the words of Private James Frazer, from Dad’s Army, I would now be an extremely wealthy man. Here’s the general phrase that you may have heard too:

“Socialism is a great idea, but human nature is so perverse, selfish, and horrible, that nobody has figured out how to do it right yet.”

There are so many misconceptions buried within that simple sentence that there are few single books that can refute them with justice. One that springs immediately to mind is Socialism, written by Ludwig von Mises in 1922; unfortunately this is an immense, distilled work that requires perhaps weeks, months, or even years of study to fully appreciate.

However, I may have just stumbled across another excellent book that uses a different approach to tackle the same misconceptions. In contrast to Socialism, the main beauty of this alternative is that it hits all of its targets in just three or so short hours of delightful reading.

We’ll get to the book shortly, but first let us examine the misconceptions.

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Review of “Latin Stories”


Latin Stories: A GCSE Reader
Henry Cullen, Michael Dormandy, John Taylor
Bloomsbury Academic, London, 2017
ISBN: 978 1 3500 0384 2

Any English speaker who calls Latin easy is either a genius or a fool. It is a synthetic Indo-European language that communicates in ways very different from English. Nouns are divided into at least five classes, each of which has five or six or seven cases – singular and plural – to express meanings that we express by adding prepositions. Pronouns have their own declensions. Except for the perfect passive tenses, verbs are generally inflected. Because the Classical grammar is a snapshot of a language in rapid and profound change, there are duplications and irregularities everywhere. The future tense, in particular, is broken, and has been reconstructed in every language I know that descends from Latin. Add to this an elaborate syntax, an indifference to what we regard as a normal order of words, and a vocabulary that is naturally poor, but expanded by allowing most common words to bear different meanings that must usually be inferred from their context. Read more

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn and ‘Leftism’ – An Appreciation


By Andy Duncan, Vice-Chairman of Mises UK

As John the Baptist to the Jesus Christ of Hans-Hermann Hope, Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn forms an essential reading component of any modern Miseo-Rothbardo-Hoppeian. As a Renaissance gentleman swimming in a sea of kleptocratic fools – perhaps whilst holding his head aloft and smoking a fine Cuban cigar – Kuehnelt-Leddihn successfully negotiated these seas and serially and routinely speared and devoured our enemies, the hate-filled envious class warriors of ‘social justice’.

Although an Austrian nobleman by birth, he never became a full true ‘Austrian’ in the sense of Ludwig von Mises. However, rising up from the water, he definitely flew within the ambit of angels, describing himself as an ‘extreme conservative arch-liberal’. In one sense of the word, I would personally regard myself as completely ‘apolitical’. I simply wish that everyone else in the world would leave me alone, so long as I abstain from infringing upon their rights of property and freedom. However, if someone compelled me to bear a political label, then I would hold myself happy to concur with this description.

So, if you’ve never read Kuehnelt-Leddihn before, where do you begin? Should you start with Liberty or Equality, The Menace of the Herd, or Leftism? (To my mind, these three immense works rise up clearly as the triumvirate pinnacle of his many books.) Well, as a labour of love I’ve already read all three for you, along with most of the rest, and for me the clear winner stands out as Leftism. It’s historical, it’s complete, and it stands alone by itself. If there existed only one of his books in the vaults of history, it sums up his thinking best of all. Fortunately, it’s also freely available to download and read via Mises.org at the link here! Quickly, before all stocks go!

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Interview: Analysing ‘Democracy, The God That Failed’


By Andy Duncan, Vice-Chairman of Mises UK

With the PFS 2018 conference rapidly coming up at Bodrum, I thought it might be worth dusting off an interview I did a couple of years ago with a friend of mine, Greg Moffitt, from the Legalise Freedom podcast.

Greg had earlier contacted Professor Hoppe to ask whether he could interview the current Dean of the Austrian School about his books, particularly, Democracy – The God That Failed. To my great personal surprise, the professor had then directed Greg to contact me instead, to sort of stand in as an ‘Ersatz’ Hoppeian!

As an Austrian, and as a believer in a totally voluntary society, it’s really difficult to think of any higher honour, so I stepped manfully into the breach.

In preparation for the interview, I re-read all of the main Hoppe books, and then in this quite extensive interview, we discuss most of them, with me in an unfamiliar role as a podcast guest rather than in my more familiar role as a podcast host.

Although most of the podcast is dedicated to DTGTF – along with Hoppe’s other major works – we also cover a number other books, by various other Austrian luminaries, so it really is quite a smorgasbord of Austrian economics.

Anyhow, that’s enough talking, here’s the podcast:

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