The Best Democracy Money Can Buy by Greg Palast
The ace reporter and iconoclast tracks down stories of cyber-Jim Crow. A database firm hired by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush helped the state to purge many black voters from the rolls. Palast, an independent journalist, goes after the powerful and wealthy groups and individuals, targets the corporate media often ignores.
In Praise of Idleness, book of essays by Bertrand Russell
Includes essays on his case for socialism, and a brilliant piece on fascism. In the case for socialism chapter: “In all classes, from the lowest to almost the highest, economic fear governs men’s thoughts by day and their dreams at night, making their work nerve-wracking and their leisure unrefreshing.”
Buried Alive essays by Walter Karp
Includes the essay The Two Americas, which separates America the Republic, from America the Nation. The former is “personal and concrete,” and engenders child-like and natural affection. The latter is abstract, artificial, and therefore unnatural. It must be drummed into one’s head through repetition, and it is closely linked to war.
Democracy Incorporated by Sheldon Wolin
Wolin develops his idea of “inverted totalitarianism,” governance not by an omnipresent leader but by a faceless oligarchy. This type of government provides no target for peoples’ anger. Voters get mad at the puppets, who are replaceable, leaving the wealthy firmly in charge.
Imperial America by Gore Vidal
Grandson of a famed blind senator, Vidal was one of the greatest writers of his generation. In this book of essays, he is very critical of America the Empire, rather than America the Republic. The year 1947 was a pivotal year in our nation’s history, the year when we went on a permanent war footing, with the passing of the National Security Act. Vidal writes brilliantly and acerbically on this subject.
Power by Bertrand Russell
Includes a chapter on power over opinion. The book ends with a chapter on “the taming of power,” which includes this: “The merits of democracy are negative: It does not insure good government, but it prevents certain evils.”
Pretensions to Empire by Lewis Lapham
A book of brilliantly written essays on the methods of deception used against the American public by our oligarchy. “In times of trouble the expression of contrary or unorthodox opinion comes to be confused with treason, and as a stop in the mouth of a possibly quarrelsome electorate, nothing works as well as the lollipop of foreign war.”
The Wrecking Crew by Thomas Frank
A book about the Right’s sale to private bidders of large portions of the government. This book would be worth the price if only for the paragraph (on page 33) written in 1887 by railroad lawyer Richard Olney, on how government agencies could satisfy “public clamor” for supervision, while making sure that the supervision was “almost entirely nominal.” This became the blueprint of our demise.
Socialism—Past & Future by Michael Harrington
The brilliant and sensible socialist wrote this book at the end of his life, while dying of cancer. His thinking on socialism was non-dogmatic. He understood the strengths and deep flaws of capitalism: “Capitalism created enormously important new possibilities of freedom and justice, which capitalists then resisted with all their might.”
Why We’re Liberals by Eric Alterman
Alterman, an editor at The Nation magazine, tackles a surprisingly difficult subject—how does one define the word ‘liberal?’ He points out that many people, alive and dead, qualify as liberals, including Einstein and Lincoln. Alterman understands that liberal and the Left are not the same thing. In this otherwise good book, he includes this supremely obnoxious message: “Liberals demand some form of reciprocity from their beneficiaries in exchange for their generosity.” When working people dismiss liberals as elitists, this is the kind of thing they have in mind.
A Collection of Essays by George Orwell
Orwell was a passionate Leftist, who fought with the Left-Anarchists in the Spanish Civil War. This collection of essays contains (at least) two masterpieces—Politics and the English Language and Looking Back on the Spanish War. On the meaning of the latter, he wrote: “The Spanish bourgeoisie saw their chance of crushing the labour movement, and took it, aided by the Nazis and by the forces of reaction all over the world. It is doubtful whether more than that will ever be established.”