Rebirth of Reason

War for Men's Minds

How Are We Doing?
by Craig Ceely

We accuse each other of being overly optimistic or overly pessimistic, of being too gloomy or of holding to pie-in-the-sky dreams. One wonders, how can we tell, we Objectiivsts, how we may be doing in the war of ideas? Is there an objective way to judge such progress?

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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