Christmas Reading

G. K. Chesterton’s Heretics ended up at the head of my slightly non-deterministic reading queue. It was a quick read, due in equal parts to fascination and frustration.

Chesterton’s lament is that “everything is important, except everything” – that we had come to care more about the tiny details and positions one might hold rather than one’s overarching and all-encompassing philosophy of life. Furthermore, we have ceased to care about being right, about being orthodox. He argues that the modern man cares nothing for the notion that he might be heretical, while the ancient man would never entertain such a thought. He was orthodox, even if the entire world held a heresy.

Gilbert Keith (poor man) Chesterton proceeds to analyze and assail the dogma – or lack thereof – espoused by some of his contemporaries. In this same spirit, and possibly having some causal link with the aforementioned frustration, let me say this: Mr. McCabe’s description of Mr. Chesterton hits the nail on the head. The man “makes up facts” and “substitutes imagination for judgment.” He makes good points, but often by means of un-argued assertions and dubious chains of logic. Chesterton takes the ‘mystery or absurdity’ dichotomy route past its logical conclusion – he embraces both. One can sense that he has great things to say, but his manner of saying them is maddening to the theoretically-inclined mind. He rejects rationality, and I think he enjoys and revels in it. All that said, Mr. Chesterton was a very entertaining writer and I plan on reading his other books, starting with Orthodoxy.

Ron Paul recommended Frédéric Bastiat’s The Law. I’m a Ron Paul fan, and I usually associate Bastiat more with economics than legal or political theory, so I picked up the book. It’s a short, 55-page read with a single and very clear thesis: government may morally use force to secure the life, liberty, and property of the people, and to secure exactly that – no more and no less. A person has a right to use force to defend himself and his property. Government is the collective use of force, so therefore the valid governmental uses of force can be no greater than the permissible uses of force by any member of that body, i.e. any one citizen.

Next (in theory) on the queue is a re-read of 1984 and Dying to Win (an analysis of why people blow themselves up). Cheery, I know.

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