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I think there may be: each book's page at Amazon.com includes its own sales rank (at Amazon.com itself)and thus provides us with a rough way to judge the culture as a whole, as well as the progress of reason within that culture. Similar tours could be made of Amazon's sites in Britain, France, and Germany, and also of Barnes and Noble's online sales efforts and those of whoever else provides sales rankings.
As of November 22, 2002, here is a sample of what I found:
Stupid White Men, Michael Moore 26
Slander, Ann Coulter 138
The Joy of Cooking 202
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 468
9-11, Noam Chomsky 626
Atlas Shrugged (mass market paperback edition) 1,081
The Fountainhead (mass market paperback edition) 1,246
The No-Spin Zone, Bill O'Reilly 1,329
The Road to Serfdom, Friedrich Hayek 2,052
Economics In One Lesson, Henry Hazlitt 2,455
Atlas Shrugged (hardcover) 2,839
Free to Choose, Milton and Rose Friedman 6,473
The Joy of Sex (hardcover) 7,369
Les Miserables (Signet edition) 8,142
The Fountainhead (hardcover) 9,371
Atlas Shrugged (quality paperback) 15,267
A Theory of Justice< John Rawls 16,438
Anarchy, State, and Utopia, Robert Nozick 17,546
Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon 20,972
All Too Human, George Stephanopoulos 23,068
The Fountainhead (quality paperback) 29,765
Loving Life, Craig Biddle 31,830
Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand 32,954
It Takes a Village, Hillary Rodham Clinton 49,968
Earth in the Balance, Al Gore 82,379
Some interesting things to be observed here. In the cases of both Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, the hardcover edition outsells the quality paperback edition. That tells me that quite a lot of readers find permanent value in those books. I included Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow because it was popular and influential when I discovered Ayn Rand in the 1970s--and all three American editions of Atlas Shrugged, as well as Les Miserables, outsell Pynchon.
It was nice to see The Joy of Sex make the list, although I'm certain that number in its sales ranking is purely coincidental.
Hayek and Hazlitt outsell Hillary Clinton and Al Gore--and so do Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff.
So at first glance--and this is only a first glance--there does appear to be plenty of room for optimism. Our next task is to get Noam Chomsky out of there.
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