Inside the Library of Duke College Republicans

Which thinkers shape the belief set of Duke College Republicans?  Who are young, well-educated Republicans turning to for ideological guidance?

The Duke College Republicans official website directs its members and any visitors to several expected places: their leadership, contact information, etc.

The library is a more interesting and unexpected part of their website.

With no introduction to the larger framework (is this the recommended reading list for current Duke CRs?  Are these the texts they think will convert the politically undecided?) they jump into to an endorsement of six texts.  Their analysis is available at their website.  My own (personal) analysis is listed below.

1.  Inventory of the Duke College Republicans, 1965-1984

Having not read this inventory, I’ll skip straight over it and move onto…

2.  The Conscience of a Conservative, Barry Goldwater

I hope that Duke CR will adopt Goldwater’s social liberalism and join with Duke Democrats to fight the marriage amendment in North Carolina, and that, like Goldwater, they will vocally oppose those within their own party who deny that LGBT individuals ought to be equally respected under the law.

On economic issues, Goldwater was once on the far right of his own party, but Goldwater’s rhetoric on the flat tax would fit right in to 2011 Republican debates.  “Old-school” Republicans were once firm advocates of progressive taxation; the Earned Income Tax Credit, which sends cash back to the working poor (and a big reason why so many low-income Americans don’t pay any net federal income tax) was created by Gerald Ford and then expanded considerably by Ronald Reagan.

Although Goldwater’s views are moving increasingly into the party mainstream, they remain as radical as ever.  The European Sovereign Debt Crisis is a reminder that every country should be concerned over the long-term with running a balanced budget; running a balanced budget, though, is not the least bit incompatible with having a state that invests adequately in education, research,  and infrastructure, one that fights poverty and works in the interest of all of its citizens.  Norway and South Korea are, even in 2010, running budget surpluses, and the United States, despite having one of the smallest social safety nets of any OECD country ranks 30th of 32 in terms of deficit as a percentage of GDP.  The United States is also the only one of the 32 countries not to have universal health care. No wealthy country in the globe has experimented with types of government Goldwater endorses.  Is that because if they did so, they would cease to be wealthy?  This is speculation, but I venture to say the answer is a firm yes.

3.  Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand

Atlas Shrugged is relevant to understanding contemporary America if  you are of the opinion that society’s most productive citizens are being bled to death by government leeches.   If you consider the direction that U.S. policy and economics have headed over the last forty years, Atlas Shrugged is about as relevant for understanding the problems with American government as Beetle Bailey is to understanding the U.S. military.

4.  Courage and Consequence, Karl Rove

Goldwater and Rand are both fairly commonly cited authors amongst members of the conservative right.  Karl Rove is a thinker that I’m surprised to hear that a young Republican would go on record as admiring.

If I were going to write a biography of Karl Rove I might call it “Lying and Cheating without regard for Consequence”

For the sake of brevity, this is nowhere need an exhaustive list. Karl Rove….

5.  The Second Treatise of Government, John Locke

I’ll skip over this to head right on to…

6.  Brave New WorldAldous Huxley

To the members of Duke College Republicans, Brave New World is “A distopian novel which explores the darker sides of welfare states” [sic].



The goals of the programs that (usually critics) refer to as  the “welfare state” are varied, but in general, they are (1) motivated by the idea that citizens all have fundamental dignity and deserve that basic rights like food and an education be fulfilled, (2) try to  help lift people out of poverty and improve socioeconomic mobility.

Put simply, the “welfare state” thinks that not all inequalities caused by capitalism (or crony-capitalism) are ethically justifiable, and is interested in mitigating the quality of life difference between the richest and the poorest members of society.  In A Brave New World the government poisons its citizens before they are born to guarantee that they can never leave a predetermined socioeconomic class, and conditions members of lower classes to dislike books and flowers.

Did whoever even put together the library even read Brave New World?

Published by Elena Botella

Elena Botella is a Duke Undergraduate in the Class of 2013, majoring in Economics and Math.

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