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On Mars 

Thanks to Felix Salmon, MemeFirst is coming up with some answers on the issue of “really important privately owned companies” (see below). Of the answers so far, I think Mars is perhaps the best bet.

The left has better books 

Right Wing News has come up with a completely unscientific list of the books that have most influenced right-wing bloggers. Some of it was fairly predictable (Hayek, Friedman, Rand, Orwell), but I wouldn’t have reckoned on Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or Thucydides (although I’m aware that Donald Kagan is big in some neocon circles).

I wonder what an equivalent left-wing list would contain (I’m sure it would score higher in the literary stakes). I’d certainly expect Orwell as the only writer in both camps, although the books might be different (perhaps Homage to Catalonia rather than 1984 or Animal Farm). With my old left upbringing, I’d hope to see Zola’s Germinal, some Dickens, Malcolm X and perhaps even some (early) Howard Fast.

There would also be a group of books that have not stood the test of time and are in some cases embarrassing. But they certainly helped form me. Think of Red Star Over China, Ten Days That Shook the World, Wretched of the Earth. I’m unsure, however, what the more contemporary touchstones would be. Suggestions?

Significant and private  

Steve Bowbrick makes a provocative point: “Homework: make a list of very large privately owned companies (Bertelsmann?). Now make a list of really important privately owned companies – ones that can move cultures and economies over the long term (clue: there aren’t any).”

I have to confess I’m scratching my head to think of a counter example.

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