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  • Writer's pictureMark Walmsley

Don't Burn This Book by Dave Rubin Summary

Updated: Mar 8, 2021


Don't Burn This Book Mockup

This book tells one man’s journey from young progressive star to political free-thinker.

He also provides the tools you need to avoid the crowds and think for yourself in an age to tribal outrage. In doing so it reveals the truths that make Western Civilization great that we need to understand and defend. Key insights:

  1. It’s okay to question your political beliefs and change your mind

  2. A classic liberal emphasis on securing individual freedom by limiting the power of government

  3. Stop hating Western Civilization, America, and straight white men

  4. Progressives see a world of victims versus oppressors, conservatives see civilization vs barbarism, and libertarians see individual liberty vs Government coercion

  5. Relax – you’re not a Nazi. Being called a ‘name’ is an ad hominem attack and proof those so labelling have no argument

  6. Never surrender to the mob – make your stand calmly and logically, but don’t risk your livelihood

  7. Learn to spot fake and biased news from media companies whose motives are profit not truth

  8. Seek alternative viewpoints from the left, center, or right as needed

  9. Since life isn’t an imminent catastrophe (as the left think), move on and do great stuff

  10. Change starts with you – find a way to make a difference in your little part of the universe

Book details

Full title: Don’t Burn This Book: Thinking for Yourself in an Age of Unreason, by Dave Rubin.

Length: 240 pages, or 5 hours and 46 mins on Audible

Buy the book (USA): Amazon (book, Kindle, Audible)

Buy the book (AUS): Amazon (book, Kindle, Audible), Booktopia (book, eBook, audio-book)


Key insight 1: It’s okay to question your political beliefs and change your mind

Before we this key insight I’d like to explain the origins of the political terms ‘left’ and ‘right’. After storming the Bastille in 1789 the National Assembly gathered as the revolution’s government to write a new French constitution. A key issue the assembly debated was how much power the king should have. Would he have the right to an absolute veto? Those who thought yes sat on the right of the president of the assembly, and those who thought no — the more radical view — sat on the left. In other words, those who wanted to stay with tradition were on the right, and those who wanted more change were on the left. Now on with the show.


Rubin was once a man of the left – a leading figure as part of his Young Turks program. He had cause to question the left when co-host Cenk Uygur launched a scathing attack on David Webb, a black African American conservative commentator during an episode, in calling him an Uncle Tom who’d betrayed his roots in order to succeed in white society. However Rubin and Webb were old friends and Rubin knew none of this was true. When he observed Ben Affleck haranguing Sam Harris after the later tried to distinguish between Islam as a religion, and Muslim’s as people; and the left’s reaction to the Charlie Hebdo assassinations, Rubin started to ask questions.


After interviewing mostly progressive thinkers early in the Rubin Report, in 2016 he interviewed African American conservative Larry Elder, and he openly admits to this being the best and worst moment of his career. Elder corrected him on police shootings, systemic racism, the burden of fatherless families, and the impact of the welfare state. After discussing police racism associated with Freddie Gray’s death in a Baltimore police van, Elder said:

“Baltimore is a city that’s forty-five percent black. The city council is one hundred percent Democrat. The majority of the city council is black. The top cop at the time was black. The number two cop was black. The majority of the command staff was black. The Mayor is black. The Attorney General is black. And yet here we are talking about [police and systemic] racism? It’s absurd.”

Elder then talk about how children’s outcomes are better when there is a father present in the family, a statement Rubin agreed with based on his own experience, but which wasn’t a progressive view. Cue Rubin:

“Now he really had me. Saying that a family is better off with a father shouldn’t be controversial and it certainly isn’t racist. But my side, the left, had made it both. According to talkpoverty.org, a project of the Center for American Progress, the media narrative around two-parent families ‘is racist and homophobic. It needs to stop.’ Meanwhile, sociology professor Jessie Daniels from NYU claimed that ‘the white nuclear family is one of the most powerful forces supporting white supremacy.’ She went on to argue that ‘forming a white family’ and having ‘white children’ perpetuates racism and is ‘part of the problem.’”

After the interview Rubin agreed to publish the whole episode without editing out the bad bits, knowing he’d experience humiliation at the hands of memes, clips, and Youtube clips titled ‘Conservative hero demolishes lefty snowflake’. Rubin writes in his book of this moment:

“To be crystal clear: everything that happened during this interview was totally my fault. Elder owned me and I deserved it. Before then, like so many of my peers on the left, I’d assumed there was only one answer to society’s ills – and that it was to be found on my team’s side of the court. This wasn’t a well-thought out political position, but it’s the one I’d held until this eye-opening conversation. My thinking was that Elder had won fair and square and I needed to honor his victory, no matter how uncomfortable. Plus, whether I liked it or not, this devastatingly embarrassing moment was everything The Rubin Report was meant to be about – pushing personal and political growth through conversation.”

Rubin was trying to reconcile the left’s position with what kind of systemic racism occurs to blacks in a black, Democratic controlled city? And how can a two-parent family be a bad thing?


This section of the book had me thinking about how our political views change with age. The below chart is based on 41,995 adults voting at the UK election in 2019, and although an extreme example influenced by the Brexit vote, you’ll find similar political trends in most Western countries.

chart

At the time of his Elder interview Rubin was 40, which as you can see in the chart above is when folks are moving from more progressive (Labour and Lib Dem in the UK election) to conservative (Conservative and Brexit Party) views. However, Rubin defines himself as a Classic Liberal which we’ll discuss below.


But two key questions remain here. Firstly, why do younger folks swing so hard to the progressive left? And why as they age do they swing to the conservative right?


Key insight 2: A Classic Liberal – what’s that?

In a chapter titled ‘Think Freely or Die’, Rubin talks about the merits of thinking for yourself on each issue rather than have your opinions prescribed for you by the group you associate with. It’s difficult with no road map to follow, but liberating. From Rubin:

“Although this might sound scary, it’s actually incredibly liberating. See free-thinking is fluid. Unlike our bloated political system, it’s creative and keeps your mind agile. In fact, the tribal political game and free-thinking are at complete odds with each other. One requires conformity, while the other is impossible to pigeonhole. The more I learned to consider each individual political issue on its merits, without the influence of progressive groupthink, the better I felt – the more enlightened I felt. I didn’t want to be part of a group that relies on the whims and emotions of the masses anymore.”

Rubin then talks about how he more closely aligns with a Classical Liberalism political world view. What’s that you ask? It’s defined as ‘a political philosophy and ideology belonging to liberalism, in which primary emphasis is placed on securing the freedom of the individual by limiting the power of the government.’ Or more simply, live and let let. Rubin notes that classical liberalism was the philosophy of key enlightenment thinkers including John Locke, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, and Thomas Jefferson. He’s Rubin again:

“Putting the individual above the group not only empowers you to live your life as you see fit, but it also neutralizes the bigotry of stereotyping – ‘black people are lazy! Mexicans are criminals! Jews are cheap!’ etc. Think about yourself right now. Do you represent all white people, or black people, or straight people, or gay people? No, of course not. You only represent yourself.
Segregating Americans into identity groups – the very essence of bigotry – has been fully embraced by modern progressivism, which has nothing to do with classical liberalism. Progressivism has traded a love of individual rights for paternalistic, insincere concern for the collective. It judges people based upon their skin color, gender, and sexuality, thus imagining them as competitors in an Oppression Olympics in which victimhood is a virtue. We no longer accept that ‘all men are created equal.’”

Rubin gives a sample of what thinking for himself looks like by going through 9 current issues as summarized below.


1. Drugs. Rubin notes that some drugs have much larger impacts on broader society than just harm to the user. Consider the personal health harm associated with smoking, versus the broader crime associated with hard-core narcotics. He advocates for giving representative government the power to make the decision on which are permitted and which aren’t on behalf of all society.


2. Gay marriage. Not surprisingly since Rubin is gay he believes in gay marriage under a live and let philosophy. He doesn’t believe we should use Government power to force Christian photographers, bakers, or singers to have to take photos, bake cakes, or perform at openly gay weddings. Live and let live cuts both ways.


3. Immigration. Rubin believes in borders where at the personal, family, state or nation level. A just as he wouldn’t fly to say the UK and demand citizenship with all the associated benefits of health, education, and welfare; he doesn’t expect folks to do the same in the US.


4. Abortion. Recognizes the choice is between the rights of the mother versus the rights of the unborn baby. Believes a 12 week limit is the optimal compromise supporting the mother initially, and then the baby. He notes that babies born premature at 24 can survive outside the womb, so he disagrees with abortion after that time.


5. Free speech. Rubin notes there are already limits on free speech such as falsely shooting fire in crowded places (people get injured), inciting violence against others, or falsely slandering a person’s reputation. All other speech should be protected. He notes the remedy to abhorrent speech is more free speech, because it acts like a disinfectant. The solution to folks sprouting racist, homophobic, xenophobic, etc speech is the condemnation of said speech by our fellow citizens. Society regulates this very well, but only if it is allowed to occur. De-platform, or cancel the speech; and society cannot regulate it any more.


6. Gun control. Supports the Second Amendment right for people to keep and bear arms; subject to appropriate background checking first.


7. Trans issues. Rubin believes every human being has a right to modify their body however they see fit, but only when they achieve adulthood. This is based on the scientific fact that the brains executive decision making functions aren’t close to developed till age 18, and only fully formed at age 25.


8. Economics. Supports a smaller government funded by lower taxes across the board with 0% tax for the very poor, and slightly higher taxes for the very rich. He notes that as it currently stands, the top 1 percent already pay 90% of federal taxes, while the lowest 10 percent effectively pay no tax.


9. Foreign policy. Rubin supports a strong military in line with President Reagan’s ‘Peace through Strength’ policy. He also notes that politicians consistently saying they are anti-war, or won’t get involved, are more likely to embolden potential adversaries. Imagine the impact on crime if police said they wouldn’t arrest criminals. Or the school bullies behavior if you say you won’t defend yourself by fighting back. Same thing.


You can see in the above a mixture of progressive, conservative, and libertarian approaches to current issues; in line with his approach of treating each topic on its merits.


Key insight 3: Stop hating Western Civilization, America, and straight white men

Rubin opens a chapter with the title above by saying that America is the greatest country in the history of the world. Now as an Australian I could debate this in terms of current performance, but there is no doubt that the American founding fathers brought about a new type of constitutional representative government for nation states that has been copied around the world. And in doing so it has lifted billions out of poverty and advanced the human condition immeasurably.


Unless of course, you listen to celebrities like Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer, and Katy Griffin; or politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, or Rashida Tlaib; in which case America is literally the worst country in the world. But is this the case? And if so, why it is that world’s poorest are desperate to flee corrupt and authoritative governments to immigrate to the USA (and many other western nations). Rubin again:

“This is particularly important, because many authoritarian dystopias do exist in today’s world, and current left-wing thinking risks importing their flawed principles, such as communism and socialism, into our country. This would be a huge mistake, because without American ideals such as free speech, freedom of religion, and free markets, we’d risk the sort of violence and oppression that’s been playing out on the streets of Hong Kong. As I write this, thousands of people have spent months protesting for their freedoms against China’s encroaching communist party. … Proving how envied the US model is, Hong Kong protestors even sang the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ and begged Donald Trump to intervene in their plight.”

Rubin summarizes the stories of Christian Brigitte Gabriel – persecuted in war-torn Lebanon; and Ayaan Hirsi Ali – persecuted in both Somalia and the Netherlands. Both ladies eventually immigrated to America to make better lives for themselves as did most of the ancestors of America (author plug… and Australia). Rubin goes to note we should respect the contribution of previous generations who literally built the society we enjoy now; both physically in terms of infrastructure, but also the social institutions that make up our countries. As he talks about this I’m reminded of the quote by Edmund Burke – a prominent English Member of Parliament who criticized his countries actions towards the then American colonies. Burke’s famous quote on the inter-generational aspect of society was:

“Society is a partnership in all science, a partnership in all art, a partnership in every virtue and in all perfection. As the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.” Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790.

Burke, like Rubin, realized we need to thoughtfully improve on the society we were gifted by our parents, not take radical actions which could undermine it. Ill-considered change is more likely to take us backwards than enhance our well-being. We owe the next generation who will take over society this diligence.


Rubin is particularly scathing on modern identity politics which categorizes and judges people on immutable characteristics – in direct contradiction with Dr Martin Luther King’s direction to judge each other based on the content of our characters, not the color of our skin. Rubin again:

“People who buy into hating white men are prime examples of what Friedrich Nietzsche (another white man) referred to when he said: ‘whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.’ In other words, today’s progressives have now become the sexists and racists they’ve claimed to hate.
Yes, the system loves to spin you a different narrative, but that’s what I’m here for. To give you truth bombs. So let me blow up that myth right now. If you work hard and are nice to people, nobody will give a flying fcuk about your sexuality, your race, your gender, or whether you’re an atheist, polysexual vegan with blue hair. Seriously. Nothing is holding you or anyone else back. Especially not straight white men.”

As proof of the merits of Western Civilization inspired America Rubin offers the success of various so-called minority group individuals (to which I’ve added a few):

  • President Barack Obama. First black president worth $40 million

  • Mary Barra. Woman CEO of General Motors worth $60 million

  • Ellen DeGeneres. Lesbian TV host worth $77 million

  • Judge Judy Sheindlin. Woman judge worth $147 million

  • Tim Cook. Openly gay CEO of Apple worth $500 million

  • Susan Wojcicki. Woman CEO of Youtube worth $500 million

  • Rihanna. Black immigrant singer and world’s richest female musician worth $600 million

  • Jay-Z. Black hip-hop singer worth over $1.0 billion

  • Michael Kors. Gay fashion guru worth $1.0 billion

  • Kanye West. Black entertainer worth $1.3 billion

  • Megan Ellison. Lesbian film mogul worth $1.5 billion

  • Jennifer Pritzker. Transgender philanthropist worth $1.8 billion

  • Michael Jordan. Black sportsman worth $2.1 billion

  • Peter Thiel. Gay technology entrepreneur worth $2.3 billion

  • Oprah Winfrey. Black, one-woman media empire worth $2.5 billion

  • David Steward. Black founder of World Wide Technology and worth $4.0 billion

  • Robert Smith. Black chemical engineer and investor worth $5.0 billion

If straight white men are trying to hold back colored minorities with different sexuality they are not doing a very good job of it. Perhaps those desperate to immigrate to Western countries like America realize these countries aren’t the racist, homophobic, sexist, patriarchal, or tyrannical regimes that progressives would have us believe.


Other insights from Don't Burn This Book

4. Kling’s three primary political languages. In his The Three Languages of Politics, Arnold Kling identifies the three primary languages as follows. Progressives (called Liberals in USA but not elsewhere) see the world as a battle between victims and oppressors. Conservatives see the world as a battle between civilization and barbarism. And Libertarians see the world as a battle between liberty and coercion at the hand of the state.


5. Relax – you’re not a Nazi. The ad hominem attack is a logical fallacy in which someone attacks their opponent’s character or personal traits in an attempt to undermine their argument. You see this when folks stretch all reality and accuse ordinary people of being Nazi’s. Relax, you’re probably not one; but if you’re being accused of being one it likely means you have the better ideas or arguments.


6. Never surrender to the mob. If you have an informed opinion on something, don’t be afraid to share it in a wise and thoughtful manner. If that lands you in a storm stand tough, don’t apologize, and accept you might lose some progressive friends. The good news is that you’ll be respected and welcomed by those supposedly ‘alt-right’ types for having intellectual integrity.


7. How to spot fake news. The internet’s rise has collapsed media company profitability forcing them to more aggressively chase smaller audience demographics. This is most visible with CNN chasing the progressive left, and FOX the center right. To spot fake news look at different sources, beware simple narratives (live is never that simple), look for reporters pushing opinions and interpretations over objective facts.


8. Seek alternative viewpoints. There are many progressive voices in society, indeed most voices are progressive. But if you look around you’ll find many intelligent voices from across the political spectrum including Sam Harris (philosopher, neuroscientist), Bret Weinstein (Jewish biologist), Thomas Sowell (black economist), Ben Shaprio (Jewish commentator), and Rubin’s personal mentor, Jordan Peterson (Canadian psychologist). Or watch the Rubin Report on Youtube for free-thinking discussions on many topics.

9. Life isn’t an imminent catastrophe – move on, do great stuff. When the standard of living has never been higher we’re acting as if the world is coming to an end. Psychologists call this catastrophizing. We need to stop it. A Cornell University study in 2018 concluded that ‘people are more likely to regret not being all they could have been, more than all they should have been.’ Progressive are telling us we should worry about this crisis or that. Ignore them, and focus on being all you could be in your life to the benefit of family, friends and community around you.


10. Change starts with you. Rubin believes that change happens when the little people start doing amazing things. He cites the role Jordan Peterson has had in transforming the lives of people through his 12 Rules for Life book and speaking tour. But Rubin believes we each have the capacity to make the world a better place in some way that reflects our individual capabilities and circumstances.


Why you should read this book if you’re under 30

This book provides a fresh perspective for young adults trying to make sense of the current political landscape; and encourages them to treat each issue on its merits.


Since it is told through the eyes of a progressive pin-up-boy who decided to do his own research and form his own opinions, it provides readers with the confidence to follow their own path and decouple ones opinions from any polarized tribe.


Relationship to other Eruditeable books

#2 – Factfulness. This book provides further information on how to think about current problems; and how well global prosperity has improved, and continues to improve.


#6 – The Righteous Mind. This book will goes into much greater depth on different types of political morality and in particular the differences between those on the left and right.


#7 – Emotional Agility. This book will help you better manage emotional situations in your day to day life, including those involving political situations.


#9 – A Little History of Philosophy. This book delves into greater depth on the different philosophers that have made up thinkers across the political spectrum.



#18 – Sapiens. This book provides a detailed look at human history which includes many of the foundational events that make up our political current landscape.


Book resources

About the author

David Rubin (born 1976) is an American political commentator, former comedian, YouTube personality, and talk show host. He is the creator and host of The Rubin Report, a political talk show on BlazeTV and YouTube. His show was formerly part of The Young Turks Network and Ora TV. He previously hosted The Ben and Dave Show and The Six Pack (leading LGBT programs).


Rubin grew up in a secular Jewish household in Long Island, New York, and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Binghamton Uni. He interned on The Daily Show with Jon Steward, before doing stand-up comedy and co-founding several NY comedy clubs. Rubin publicly came out as gay in 2006 and married his producer in 2015. He has toured globally with Jordan Peterson as part of his 12 Rules for Life tour. Don’t Burn This Book is his first published work.


External links

Youtube video


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