So one of the things that's been interesting is to hear reactions to Loughner's reading list, particularly the Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf duo. There have been some interesting reactions ranging from "those two don't make sense together" to "of course they do - they're all socialism so he's a left-winger".
I own the Communist Manifesto, all three volumes of Capital, and several other Marx and Engels volumes, as well as one old philosophical volume by Lenin that I picked up at a library book sale. Marxist books, for some reason, are pretty easy to own and buy, and nobody would see Marx on my shelf and assume I'm a communist (those who would assume that probably already thought I was a communist when they saw Keynes on my shelf... I keep my Keynes much more accessible and within arms reach than my Marx).
But Mein Kampf is different. People don't just have Mein Kampf lying around, you know? But that introduces a very interesting question - what would or should one think if they saw Mein Kampf sitting on someone's shelf? I think it would be somewhat surprising and something of a novelty, but I don't think most people would assume you're a closet neo-Nazi. There's kind of a weird taboo about that one, although it's never completely beyond the pale. And yet when we see it on Loughner's list, the assumption is he had it because he agreed with it. Is that true at all? Who knows. It's doubtful anyone will forcefully probe the issue.
I, for one, have been interested in buying Mein Kampf before from the bookstore, but I couldn't quite bring myself to getting it. I was especially interested in picking it up after reading Adam Tooze's book on the Nazi economy, but I never managed to get it to the checkout line. There's something weird about buying that book. And yet it offers a window into the mind of one of the most destructive and important figures of the twentieth century. It should be a book that people want to objectively devour, just like non-communists will familiarize themselves with Capital. I'm not sure there's anything else to say about the matter except that "Nazis are different".
Do any readers own Mein Kampf? Has anyone read any substantial portion of it? What about the Zweites Buch? How did you acquire it? Did you just waltz into the Barnes and Noble and unflinchingly bring it to the check-out?
UCB Astronomy Graduate Students on Geoff Marcy
6 hours ago