Swift combines wit, humour and venom in this collection of satires that attack everything from organized religion to politicians and fellow writers. The 18th-century language and references to now-obscure people and issues do not hinder this book’s continued relevance and, in my opinion, even enhance the timelessness of Swift’s observations–one of my favourite parts of reading very old literature is realizing how little people’s basic natures change with the passage of time.
Why I read it: One of Dad’s coworkers cited “A Modest Proposal” as his all-time favourite piece of literature, which made me curious to read it. Also, I’ve been meaning to read Gulliver’s Travels for quite a while and I thought it was in this collection (which it wasn’t).
I made a couple picture quotes for this book:
This series of essays starts out strong, with the author daring to question the hallowed concept of democracy and finding it severely lacking in several easily demonstrable ways. However, common sense and strong opinions can only take you so far when it comes to formulating complicated theories of politics and economics. As Hoppe’s ideas became more and more bizarre, I became increasingly angered by his failure to provide convincing supporting arguments or hard data of any kind. I couldn’t figure out why an obviously intelligent academic would present his opinions so insultingly, through shallow reasoning, cheap rhetoric and gross oversimplification. After quite a lot of teeth gnashing, I finally realised the problem was identified right in the first sentence of the book’s introduction: the essays were originally speeches written for Libertarian conferences. The whole point was to fire up sympathetic audiences, not necessarily to convince anyone of anything. I wish I’d known this ahead of time, because maybe then I’d have been spared the prospect of Hoppe’s horrifying “solution” to the problem of democracy: an “anarchic” private law society, overseen by military-grade private insurance corporations.
[Why I read it: it came up in conversation with my brother.]