An Anarchistís Nightstand
by Wally Conger
a manís finger-nails, by his coat-sleeve, by his boot, by his trouser-knees,
by the callosities of his forefinger and thumb, by his expression,
by his shirt-cuffs by each of these things a manís calling is
plainly revealed," Sherlock Holmes told his friend Dr. Watson
in Sir Arthur Conan Doyleís The
Sign of Four.
so, throughout the 60 Holmes adventures four novels and 56 short
stories the master detective deduced the personal habits, qualities,
and philosophies of hundreds of people by studying everything from
their ashtrays, to their felt hats, to their breakfast dishes.
always thought you can tell a lot about someone by examining their
bookshelves. But I believe even more can be determined when
you observe which books are stacked on a personís bedside nightstand.
There lie the books they read again and again, the books
that give them comfort and inspiration, the books they live with
and live by.
which volumes will you find at the bedsides of those who write for
LewRockwell.com? This would make an intriguing study for even Sherlock
Holmes. And yesterday, I took time to consider which books have
spent the most time sometimes years sitting on my own
no special order, here are the books I found:
From Slavery, by Booker T. Washington
Iím tired of boo-hoo-hooing about the dayís news and need an attitude
adjustment, I read a chapter or two from this great autobiography,
written in 1901. Without fail, it puts my day-to-day problems in
a slave, Washington taught himself to read, fought discriminatory
laws, and preached personal responsibility and the spirit of enterprise.
For that reason, you donít usually find Washington or this book
cited by contemporary black leaders. He wasnít a libertarian, but
Booker T. Washington consistently advocated self-help and shunned
From Slavery inspires and re-inspires.
Freedom Outlawís Handbook, by Claire Wolfe
is a relatively new addition to my nightstand. Published just last
summer, itís an update and expansion of Wolfeís earlier 101
Things to Do íTil the Revolution (1996) and Donít
Shoot the Bastards (Yet) (1999), both now out of print.
Now, Iíll admit that this new edition a large-paged paperback
is less handy to read in bed than its predecessors. But it
remains valuable to any freedom-lover both frustrated by The Way
Things Are and wise enough to recognize the futility of electoral
Freedom Outlawís Handbook is stuffed with 179 suggestions for
taking action (and sometimes not taking action) in moving
personally toward liberty. Some items are for shifting your mind-set.
Some are methods of outreach to potential allies. Some are downright...well...radical.
They range from the obvious (donít forget the Bill of Rights, donít
pay more taxes than you must, home school) to the self-liberating
(fly the Gadsden flag, celebrate April 19, skip TV) to the more
controversial monkeywrenching of the State.
hereís the best part: Claire Wolfe is not only educational and instructional,
sheís fun to read. Wolfeís certainly one of the best writers in
todayís freedom movement. Iím never far from her books.
and Liberty: Reflections on the Pursuit of Happiness, by
Thomas Jefferson (edited by Eric S. Petersen)
Petersen did something very clever, and itís something we can be
thankful for. He combed through tens of volumes of Thomas Jeffersonís
letters, speeches, and public documents. Then, taking in hand the
most succinct, stirring quotations he discovered, Petersen crafted
34 original Jefferson essays on everything from liberty, to faith,
to enthusiasm, to simplicity. The result is a brief but wonderful
Jeffersonian primer that rings with wisdom and inspiration.
word is Jeffersonís. Writes Petersen in his introduction: "My
effort to create smoothly flowing text, to the extent it has been
successful, is attributable to the remarkable consistency of Jeffersonís
style and philosophy expressed over the course of his long life."
youíre tired of the constant Jefferson-bashing of the past decade
or so, youíll adore this little book.
Prince, by Niccoló Machiavelli
I donít get much in the way of comfort or inspiration from this
volume. But to be effectively anti-political, as any anarchist worth
his black flag should be, you must understand politics thoroughly.
And 500 years later, still no better book has been written about
the subject than Machiavelliís 16th century Italian classic.
are the "rules of the game." Here is the ultimate no-B.S.
guide for seizing power and, more important still, keeping
power. Confesses the author: "This work I have not adorned
or amplified with rounded periods, swelling and high-flown language,
or any other of those extrinsic attractions and allurements wherewith
many authors are wont to set off and grace their writings..."
The Prince instructs that ethics and morality have no role
the book is centuries old. But politics never really change. Only
the faces do.
on Voluntary Servitude, by Étienne de la Boétie
comes from 16th century France. And you might call it
the antidote to Machiavelli. In Discourse on Voluntary
Servitude, La Boétie analyzes the origins of tyranny,
and then explains how people can thwart political enslavement and
free themselves by withdrawing their consent from the State.
Carl Watner once described La Boétie as "the first libertarian
political philosopher in the Western world." Murray Rothbard,
in his rightly famous introduction to one edition of Discourse
on Voluntary Servitude, called La Boétie "the first
theorist of the strategy of mass, non-violent civil disobedience
of State edicts and exactions." For those reasons, this slim
volume is vital and deserves to be read and studied repeatedly.
Conger [send him mail] is a
marketing consultant and writer living on Californiaís central coast.
He has been a non-political, anti-party activist in the libertarian
movement since 1970. His blog of unfinished essays and spontaneous
eruptions can be found at wconger.blogspot.com.
© 2005 LewRockwell.com