Skip to main content

10 Books Every Conservative Must Read by Benjamin Wiker: A Synopsis

James A. Watkins is an entrepreneur, musician, and a writer with four non-fiction books and hundreds of magazine articles read by millions.


Moral Truths

A Christian believes that moral truths about human nature are known to us. They have been revealed to us by our Creator, yes, and then by experience and common sense.

That means every man and woman can know the moral truth about humankind. Because of that, the Founding Fathers held that a people who believe in virtue and strive to be virtuous could govern themselves with minimal governmental authority over them. People who behave themselves do not need much of a state. The godless do not believe any of that, which is why they always desire an enormous state-run by them—the self-appointed experts.

Benjamin Wiker

Benjamin Wiker

The Free Will Not To Do Things

G. K. Chesterton observed that while Free Will includes the freedom to do things, it most importantly appears as the freedom not to do things—because they are wrong. Our ultimate happiness often depends on what we choose not to do. This is the heart of morality, which is why traditional Christian morality is hated by the godless who prefer to posit that we cannot help what we are and what we do.

Chesterton said, "It is obvious that tradition is only democracy extended through time." Benjamin Wiker explains it so well: "Tradition means giving votes to our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. Tradition is merely the respect we owe to the wisdom that has collected over time.”

When the godless Left attains a certain measure of power, it usually starts its Anti-Christian program by demanding that the Free Exercise of Religion be subordinated to the Almighty State. This is a stepping stone to the ultimate aim: eliminating religion except for a Religion of the State. It is the provider for all our needs and destroyer of all that oppose its aims. Of course, today's progressive ideology is Anti-Christian because Christianity shines a harsh, bright light of truth on its falsehoods.

G. K. Chesterton

G. K. Chesterton

Men Without Chests

C. S. Lewis argues that progressive ideology seeks to use government schools to create "men without chests"—men who will accept a totalitarian state dictating their lives as long as their bellies and groins are satisfied. Man's higher self is eliminated, leaving behind only the lower, base, animalistic man.

Leftists focus on class, racism, sexism, homophobia, and inequality because these things help them forget man’s real problem: Sin. Wickedness. The Depravity that we can see in all societies through all time.

That is why the French Revolution had as its chief aim the destruction of Christianity, as do Marxists, Socialists, Fascists, Communists, and all other Leftists, today and in the past. For free people, such as Americans in their original constitutional republic, self-government means the moral government of ourselves. Bad people cannot be free; they do too much damage to their society.

C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis

Soft Despotism

Nefariously, the welfare state destroys the bonds of community, the "natural ties" and "local affections," as Wiker calls them. We won't need husbands and fathers because the State will provide. We won't need wives and mothers because the State will provide. Instead of depending on your immediate family, extended family, friends, acquaintances, and neighbors, you will rely on bureaucrats.

That is what Tocqueville called "soft despotism." I'll let Tocqueville explain what that term means:

“An immense tutelary authority is elevated, which alone takes charge of assuring their enjoyments and watching over their fate. It would resemble paternal power if, like that, it had for its object to prepare men for manhood, but on the contrary, it seeks only to keep them fixed irrevocably in childhood; it likes citizens to enjoy themselves provided that they think only of enjoying themselves. It willingly works for their happiness, but it wants to be the unique agent and sole arbiter of that. It provides for their security, foresees and secures their needs, facilitates their pleasures, conducts their principal affairs, directs their industry, regulates their estates, divides their inheritances. Can it not take away from them entirely the trouble of thinking and the pain of living?

“So it is that every day it renders the employment of free will less valuable and rarer; it confines the action of the will in a smaller space and little by little steals the very use of it from each citizen.

“Thus, after taking each individual by turns in its powerful hands and kneading him as it likes, the sovereign extends its arms over society as a whole. It covers its surface with a network of small, complicated, painstaking, uniform rules through which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot clear a way to surpass the crowd. It does not break wills, but it softens them, bends them, and directs them. It rarely forces one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one's acting. It does not destroy; it prevents things from being born. It does not tyrannize; it hinders, compromises, enervates, extinguishes, dazes, and finally reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which government is the shepherd.”

Scroll to Continue
Alexis de Tocqueville

Alexis de Tocqueville

Tyranny Comes to America

Tyranny comes to America through the federal government bureaucracies when they take the authority once reserved for parents, families, local school boards, towns, counties, state legislatures, and Congress.

This development makes the politically connected powerful at the expense of those who aren't; makes politics have an outsized power that other institutions of society should temper; gives total control to people with totalitarian designs.

Bureaucracies naturally look to preserve and expand their own power, not serve the people. As the Anti-Federalists put it, it is only natural that “every man, and every body of men, when invested with power, are ever supposed to increase it.”

Leftists love centralized power because they want to use it to reach down into every hamlet of America to force people to change their habits, customs, conventions, speech, thoughts, and beliefs. It is harder to persuade decent folks to support killing babies or glorifying perverts than it is to find one judge who will decide for hundreds of millions of people new rights and new wrongs.

Patrick Henry argued against giving courts the power to strike down laws made by elected legislatures. Because if you allow that, the courts can run amok, as if "There is no power above them to control their decisions. The laws cannot control them. They are independent of the people, the legislature, and every power under heaven."

Patrick Henry

Patrick Henry

Economic Freedom vs. Socialist Serfdom

As Wiker says, “Our preoccupation with material comfort leads us along a road to serfdom, wherein we willingly embrace a servile state: security and comfort at the expense of liberty. It is no accident that the servile State is always a secular state. It involves excluding religion and shrinking human beings to pleasure-driven creatures easily controlled from above."

Hilaire Belloc wrote: "The control of the production of wealth is the control of life itself." That is why socialist political/economic systems are so dehumanizing. The evil ideology of the Left creates profound psychological change and horrendous damage to the souls of men.

Economic freedom is a moral good because it is wise for each person to grow up into an individual who can provide for himself at least the necessities of life.

Socialists promise a dream and deliver a nightmare, again and again, by, as Benjamin Wiker writes, “micromanaging the details of everyone’s life with all the blundering inefficiency, confusion, unintended consequences, and plain idiocy that have made the name ‘bureaucrat’ a term of infamy.”

Hilaire Belloc

Hilaire Belloc

Progressive Vice vs. Conservative Virtue

The principal progressive vice is pride, pride in the belief that no people who have gone before us, and positively no supernatural being, knows better than we do.

The most essential and noble conservative virtue is humility, humility that we conserve the wisdom and experience of the past and place ourselves below eternal truths to which we should strive to obey.

Conservatives thus have their minds most in tune with the Cosmos as it is.

Benjamin Wiker wonderfully explains the world in Jane Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility: “Those of sense are guided by reason and the prudent traditions of society. They are not unfeeling but realize feelings need guidance. Those drenched in sensibility live a life defined by the passions of the moment. For them, to feel is everything.”

Ayn Rand pictures the most degraded person morally and intellectually as a college professor spouting nonsensical theories that pile vitriol on the business class that ultimately pays his salary and which funded his marvelous college environs. Such professors are poseurs who, while quite well-fed from the profits of capitalism, call for socialism to ‘virtue signal.’ They do not engage in charity themselves. They live off of the people they hate on; they hold in contempt men who can actually produce needful things while being useless themselves except for talking. As Ayn Rand says, “the professor acts as if he does not know that before money can be plundered, it first must be made by someone or some group of individuals.”

Jane Austen

Jane Austen

10 Books Every Conservative Must Read

According to Benjamin Wiker, the 10 Books Every Conservative Must Read are The Politics by Aristotle; Orthodoxy by Gilbert Keith Chesterton; The New Science of Politics by Eric Voegelin; The Abolition of Man by Clive Staples Lewis; Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke; Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville; The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay; The Anti-Federalists; The Servile State by Hilaire Belloc; and The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich August von Hayek.

Related Articles