We spend a lot of time in the Hall arguing with each other, and that's good. I've learned a lot that way and enjoyed the back and forth. However, occasionally I get into an argument where, by the end of it, I feel like I understand my interlocutor less than when I started.
So, for a few posts, I'd like to focus on finding and establishing some common ground. For this first one, I'd like to talk about the sources of our beliefs. I assume everyone has been influenced by their experiences, but those are not easily shared. Hence, I'd like to focus on books, essays, articles, movies, songs, anything we can link to or directly share in some way.
For me, John Locke's Second Treatise of Civil Government has been influential, and the basic ideas of natural rights and social contract are very appealing to me. Embarrassingly, I have to admit I've never read the whole thing, only summaries and commentaries. However, it's not terribly long, so I've made reading it one of my goals for the spring. Wikipedia has a decent treatment, I think.
Another important influence has been Frederic Bastiat's The Law. It's a short read, and the bumper sticker summary might be something like "All Government Is Violence: Vote for Less." ("Vote for the minimum necessary" would be more accurate, but that's getting too long to fit on a bumper sticker readable by anyone but the worst tailgater.)
Finally, Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, which I read a couple of decades ago and should read again. Two much more recent books that have influenced me are Milton Friedman and Anna Jacobson Schwartz's A Monetary History of the United States (summarized here on Wikipedia) and Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson.
Yeah, it's mostly old stuff. I am an ex-Progressive; there came a point now about 15-20 years ago where I decided I was no longer a Progressive, but didn't know what I was. (I still haven't quite worked that out.) I did admire the Declaration of Independence, so I started with the Revolutionary period and started reading. Those ideas still make the most sense to me.
What have been some important sources of your political beliefs?