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Freedom in Chains: The Rise of the State and the Demise of the Citizen Paperback – May 19, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Bovard (Lost Rights) throws more red meat to angry libertarians in this antigovernment jeremiad. While he provides some frightening examples of how governments?mostly the U.S. federal?do more harm than good, his passion leads him to some hyperbolic conclusions. There are many passages that will make readers?not only welfare-state liberals but also moderate Democrats and Republicans?wonder whether they live in the same country as Bovard. One of his biggest targets is the notion of state sovereignty: "The doctrine of 'sovereignty' often does nothing more than provide a respectable gloss for some people's lust to control other people's behaviors, or to seize the fruits of other people's labor." That last clause is telling, for it could just as well be turned against Bovard. It is precisely to stop nongovernmental entities (e.g., factory owners) from seizing the fruit of other people's labor (e.g., factory workers) that so many of the regulations and laws Bovard decries (e.g., a minimum wage or corporate taxes) were instituted. But Bovard is well-read and makes entertaining use of Rousseau, Hegel, Hobbes (he's very fond of Leviathan) and other thinkers. He's also consistent and intellectually honest enough to follow his own ideology to its logical conclusion about, for instance, marijuana (legalize it, he says). Few readers will agree with Bovard that the dominant spirit in America today is one that idolizes the state, but most will find that he makes a rousing theoretical case against statism.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This author comes highly touted by the mainstream conservative press, and with good reason. Bovard, a journalist best known for his influential Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty (St. Martin's, 1994), sets forth a passionate indictment of the state's coercive powers over the people. He is especially critical of the "Peter Pan" theory of good government and other political illusions fostered by the state. Bovard reviews 200 years of political philosophy and makes effective use of extreme examples of government programs and regulations to drive home his essential message. Although his argument is bipartisan in its critique of the state's excesses and excuses, the overall effect is one of polemical overkill. Still, this is a well-researched book that can serve as a sampling of libertarian thought for many libraries.?Thomas A. Karel, Franklin & Marshall Coll. Lib., Lancaster, PA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (May 19, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312229674
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312229672
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,576,017 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

James Bovard is the author of Public Policy Hooligan (Kindle version 2012), Attention Deficit Democracy (St. Martin's/Palgrave, 2006), and eight other books. He has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Playboy, Washington Post, New Republic, Reader's Digest, and many other publications. His books have been translated into Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, and Korean. He is a contributing editor for the American Conservative and a regular contributor to the Future of Freedom monthly, published by the Future of Freedom Foundation.

The Wall Street Journal called Bovard 'the roving inspector general of the modern state,' and Washington Post columnist George Will called him a 'one-man truth squad.' His 1994 book Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty received the Free Press Association's Mencken Award as Book of the Year. His Terrorism and Tyranny won the Lysander Spooner Award for the Best Book on Liberty in 2003. He received the Thomas Szasz Award for Civil Liberties work, awarded by the Center for Independent Thought, and the Freedom Fund Award from the Firearms Civil Rights Defense Fund of the National Rifle Association.

His writings have been been publicly denounced by the chief of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, the Postmaster General, and the chiefs of the U.S. International Trade Commission, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as by many congressmen and other malcontents.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Sean Riley on March 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
After reading Lost Rights, I couldn't wait to read this book. This book is an outstanding follow-up, with more insight into the evolution of government power. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in political science, philosophy, law, or really just interested on how the world works. If every American read this book, the Democrats and the Republicans would be relegated to third-party status practically overnight. The government is one thing if nothing else- coercive power over the individual. Upon that understanding we should make one thing clear: that the more power that is given back to the individual, the better we shall be able to live our own lives without a "nanny state" to watch behind our backs to make sure we don't do something "wrong", like ingest politically incorrect substances. It is in this spirit that I give this book my highest praise. It is worth every penny.
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44 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Bryan Carey VINE VOICE on August 21, 1999
Format: Hardcover
James Bovard explains, point blank, how the United States government has grown into an uncontrollable monster, negatively impacting each and every one of us, and taking away many basic rights that were once taken for granted.
There is no denying that power corrupts. Give a politician the authority to pass one oppressive law and, eventually, more and more oppressive laws will follow. Government has become increasingly intrusive, unethical, and dishonest over the years as more and more special interest legislation has made its way through congress.
This process did not take place overnight and it will not be eliminated overnight. Americans must work for change first on the local level, leading up to the state and national levels. We must act quickly before it is too late. I hope that many people will read this book and take action. A totalitarian United States government is closer than we think.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By J. Lovin' Tool on March 31, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Once you read this book you'll have a tough decision to make: What will you do with the information? Will you muster the courage to start resisting tyranny while there's still some hope for a rebirth of liberty here in the U.S.?
If you're in America, you do not live in a free country. If you have any doubt about that, you must read this book, and with it, I would recommend "Why Government Doesn't Work," by Harry Browne and "Your Money or Your Life," a brand new book by Sheldon Richman.
While the Federal Government is distraction you with Kosovo and our new gauranteed-to-be-protracted war on terrorism, the IRS is tooling up do to more of what it's been doing for years, invading your privacy and controlling your life. The elephant/donkey boondoggle does not have your best interest in mind at all. You must put your best interest up front, especially when you vote. VOTE LIBERTARIAN!
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Kearney on July 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
...Freedom In Chains is a hard hitting book that explains thedifference between democracy and liberty and how statist politiciansand intellectuals have perverted the definition on liberty. Instead of the right to be left alone and doing what one pleases so long as no one else's rights are interfered with, statists have twisted it into something else. Government declares that there is a crisis or unmet need that requires taxation or intrusive laws that decrease our freedom in the guise of taking care of us. If you are a libertarian, Bovard's Freedom In Chains will remind you why you are one, if you are not a libertarian, it will hard not to become one after reading this book. It will really make you think hard about the role of the state and its citizens.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Barron Laycock HALL OF FAME on January 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
According to perpetual social and political critic James Bovard, the power inherent in government is alive and well; unfortunately, as he reminds us, they are not always necessarily accomplishing the people's will. Thus we find ourselves in circumstances in which governments are both larger and more powerful than ever before, while the individual citizen's ability to control and influence the course of his or her own life and liberty is becoming more and more problematic. In this stirring expose, the author explores how the federal government increasingly poses a threat to destroy individual rights and liberties in an attempt to preserve the fiction of government as superceding the citizen. Bovard wonders along with us how this state of affairs has managed to occur, and takes a thoughtful and impressive tour of the history of government control over individual liberties in an attempt to better understand it, and the future it presents for our cogitation.
Long before it was either fashionable or popular, conservative author Bovard was railing against the accumulating power and privilege of the crony-based capitalists who now seem to control the country. Here he draws blood from a dissection of the notion of state sovereignty, which he contends amounts to nothing so much as a glossy justification for the power elite's lust for ever-increasing power and privilege. Especially egregious in the author's view is the way the doctrine is being used to justify the behavior of others, to limit their rights to protect themselves, or to keep the fruit of their own labor. Indeed, all of this is food for thought.
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