on July 11, 2012
Whether you are an activist, voter, businessperson, property owner, sportsman, scientist, student, charity organizer, parent - in short, if you are a living human being - you will find Brian Phillips' "Individual Rights and Government Wrongs" to be a powerfully useful tool in the cause of standing up for your rights.
How do you get from abstract concepts and ideas about rights to the concrete, practical details of how government policies impact people's daily lives? That's what Brian does in this book!
As I was reading the book, I was amazed to see just how radically it expanded my knowledge of the application of the principle of individual rights. It was Brian's method of illustrating those applications that made this posssible. He presents a wide variety of real-life examples of various situations where a government can either violate your rights or uphold them - and shows the consequences of either course of action in each. By this means, Brian shows how the facts of actual reality give rise to specific principles. This allows Brian to explain various facets of a specific theory of individual rights - thus showing how that theory is grounded in actual reality.
It also enables Brian to show just exactly what does and does not actually qualify as a "right".
And he does all this without resorting to impenetrable gobbledy-gook, government-speak and legalese!
The specific theory of individual rights referred to by Brian is Ayn Rand's and is discussed by her in her essay, "Man's Rights" - originally published in her book "The Virtue of Selfishness". While Rand laid out the basics of her theory in her essay, Brian really fleshes it out by showing how every aspect of human existence demonstrates the need for individuals to have rights. Brian also brings his experience as an activist in Houston, Texas - where he helped to defeat the implementation of zoning - to bear in this book.
The book is organized in four sections, entitled "Life", "Liberty", "Property" and "Pursuit of Happiness". Under these headings, Brian presents applications of individual rights that may surprise you. For instance: who do you think would make a better "steward" of the environment: the government or individual property owners? I was shocked to learn that pollution has actually increased since the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. What does that say about this agency's effectiveness? Private property owners, on the other hand, have a much more effective motive for keeping their land, air and water clean: their own self-interest. Those who seek to derive income from their property have the profit motive, as well. Brian contrasts the `publicly-owned' and tightly-regulated waterways of the US, which often suffer from extreme and extensive pollution, with privately-owned streams in places like Scotland, where sport fishing is big business and no one wants to fish in a stream that is not clean and well-stocked. Yet the environmentalists' stock answer to such situations is always more government power and less property rights. If private property is so effective at controlling pollution, what does this say about the motives of the environmentalists?
"Individual Rights and Government Wrongs" is full of such revelations. Reading the book will radically alter the way you look at the idea of "rights". I consider it required reading for anyone who cares about freedom.
P.S. - When I first posted this review I was not aware that Amazon required me to disclose that I received a free copy of the ebook in return for my original version of this review - which I wrote when the book was first published. Hey, I had to read it before I could review it, right? Anyway, I'm editing this so I can fix that. Also, I have made another small edit in the body of the review, itself.
on February 24, 2012
Brian Phillips offers a broad survey of so many ways in which government violates individual rights, but he doesn't stop at simply pointing out they myriad ways in which citizens are wronged by government. He also offers practical (and moral) solutions for the problems he identifies. The solutions offered are drawn from both the lessons of history and a vision for how a fully free society should operate.
Readers who are well-read students of Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism will be familiar with some of the topics covered in the book, but there is enough new material/historical anecdotes to make the book both a great review of material one has read in the past, as well as a presentation of new arguments with facts to back them up.
Mr. Phillips' treatment of the issue of zoning alone is worth buying a copy of this book. In my opinion, it is the best section of the book, as one might expect given the author's bio.
on July 22, 2012
I thought Brian Phillips' book was wonderful and could hardly put it down. I was familiar with the basic concepts but was so enriched by all the practical examples he gave and learned a great deal. What I loved most was the fact that he didn't write it for the intellectually elite; he wrote it so that any layperson could fully grasp the problems and their solutions. I was actually brought to tears a couple times it is so brilliant. I read Henry Hazlitt's book "Economics in One Lesson" right before this. It is a good stepping stone to Brian's book, which takes the concepts further and deeper, but certainly no prerequisites are needed to fully understand Individual Rights and Government Wrongs. I especially enjoyed the chapters on racism, lobbyists and special interest politics. I will recommend this book to everyone I know. Good job, Brian.