Column on A Small Pleasure of Book Production

A Small Pleasure of Book Production

Tibor R. Machan

One of my books is a collection of prominent essays by mostly contemporary libertarian political-economic thinkers. Its title, The Libertarian Reader (1982), was so well chosen that years later someone quite prominent, David Boaz of the Cato Institute, also used it for a collection of essays he put together, The Libertarian Reader (1998). (Just in case you didn’t know, in the publishing world it is acceptable to make us of the titles of already published books.)

One of the hopes of authors and editors of books is of course that these will be bought and read, not to mention in huge numbers. But unless one is a famous author or so dedicated to learning of the fate of one’s works, it is rare that one learns whether they have made the rounds. (In the academic world, of course, professors often assign books they have written or edited in their classes, although such self-dealing is widely frowned upon.)

I do know that another book of mine was at least considered for display in a movie or TV program because some years ago I received a form letter asking that I give permission for a producer to do just that with my The Pseudo-Science of B. F. Skinner, originally published by Arlington House of New Rochelle, NY (later reprinted by the University Press of America) and once reviewed very favorably in by Robert W. Proctor and Daniel J. Weeks in The American Journal Of Psychology (Summer 1990). But I never learned if this ever came to pass.

But a few days ago I was watching the coverage of the Republican presidential primaries and as I looked at the bookshelf behind Representative Ron Paul as he was being interviewed, I noticed that The Libertarian Reader was among the books on his shelves. Well, that was gratifying, so much so that I paused my TV and took a picture of it all with my cell phone camera. (It didn’t come out well but still, there it is, in living, albeit blurry, color.)

Of course, Ron Paul is known as a libertarian–he once was nominated for president by the national libertarian party. I think I even met him once when he visited Auburn, Alabama, where the Ludwig von Mises Institute has its headquarters–Paul is close to the folks at that think tank. So it would be easy to indulge in some fantasies about how he may actually have read and been influenced by some of the works collected in my book, although that would be a bit over the top. It is much more likely that he has read into another work I edited, namely, The Libertarian Alternative, published by Nelson Hall Co. of Chicago back in 1973. That was my very first book and came about because Nelson Hall just started out and sent out a notice to academics around the country, soliciting submissions of book ideas. I jumped at the chance and lo and behold got the idea accepted and the volume published. (As the later collection, this one also contains some really fine essays on libertarian political philosophy and jurisprudence.)

So although my books, now numbering in the several dozens–with around 50 featured at Amazon.com–aren’t so popular and prominent as those by Milton Friedman, F. A. Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, or even Richard Epstein, at least one managed to surface in a prominent enough place, suggesting that some others might have done likewise. Not that I wrote or edited them for fame and fortune–though I wouldn’t shy from these were some to have helped to achieve them–it is still quite gratifying to see at least one make it center stage in a popular forum.

Like with happiness, so with fame and fortune, they better be the side effects of one’s dedication and passion. That way even if one fails to make it big with one’s writings, one will at least have had the satisfaction of having contributed to a good cause, namely, the exploration of the subject matter of the works one has produced.

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