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Libertarianism, from A to Z

3.2 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
ISBN-10: 0465019439
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Editorial Reviews


Kevin M. Murphy, George J. Stigler Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, Booth School of Business, the University of Chicago
"In Libertarianism, from A to Z, Jeff Miron provides a much needed introduction to Libertarian thinking. In the process, he demonstrates the power of economic analysis. His book provides a much needed lesson in how to reach a conclusion rather than start with one. Students and pundits could benefit greatly from reading Miron’s work and following his example."

Brink Lindsey, Vice President for Research, Cato Institute
"In clear, common-sense prose, Jeffrey Miron looks at government policies from A to Z. To all of them he applies one simple test: do the benefits of government action outweigh the costs? And most of the time, he concludes the answer is no. Whether or not you always agree with him, you'll find your own thinking sharpened by his insistent, incisive skepticism."
“An excellent small volume that explains the libertarian approach and philosophy as it applies to a wide variety of issues and topics…With its wealth of information, this book deserves a place on the shelves of all academic libraries…Essential.”


About the Author

Jeffrey Miron is a senior lecturer and the Director of Undergraduate Studies at the Harvard economics department, a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, and the former chair of the Boston University economics department He has appeared on CNN, Fox, CNBC, Bloomberg, and PBS’s “News Hour,” and his writing and opinions appear frequently in media outlets such as the New York Times, Forbes, and cnn.com. He lives in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (May 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465019439
  • ASIN: B004NSVG94
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,640,002 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A to Z provides an acceptable, contemporary introduction to libertarian thinking. I picked it up (Kindle version for Blackberry) after being favorably impressed with the author's speaking ability from listening to a Cato podcast. As a speaker, Mr. Miron is easy to listen to, and as a writer, he's easily read. The book's chief strength is the use of concise, clear language and straightforward reasoning throughout. Its style makes for light reading suitable for that plane ride to the political convention of your choice, and most readers will easily finish it within a few hours. It makes little or no overt effort to proselytize the reader to its libertarian point of view, cites little or no actual evidence in support of its suppositions, draws few contrasts with competing political philosophies, and makes little effort to comment on current events. The "A to Z" organizational principle is not the most effective way to present a political philosophy, but is at least handy for locating topics of interest. Although I skimmed some topics, as a whole the writing remains consistently engaging from start to finish, and reads effortlessly with relatively little repetition. All in all, it is worth reading if your summer reading list includes works on political philosophy and you are interested in a high-level view of libertarianism as it exists today.
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Format: Hardcover
Jeffrey Miron is Director of Undergraduate Studies at Harvard's economics department. He's also an outspoken libertarian (see http://www.amazon.com/Drug-War-Crimes-Consequences-Prohibition/dp/0945999909/ ).

This book is not intended as a top-heavy (theoretical) exposition of libertarianism. It's meant to introduce readers to the coherent fundamentals of libertarian thought.

Topics dealt with include everything from abortion and taxpayer subsidized sports stadiums to the sale of human body parts and global warming.

I highly recommend this book, whether you're a libertarian or not, and perhaps especially if you're not, because it provides a very clear, unambiguous looking glass into the mind of the libertarian.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm a libertarian and an economics buff, and so I was pretty excited about this book, especially when I saw it being touted by some of my favorite economist bloggers. Well, it's very disappointing.

The book is setup sort of like an encyclopedia, where each entry is a short explanation of the libertarian arguments surrounding an issue. The problem is that the arguments are presented without supporting evidence, and without bothering to rebut the most obvious objections and counter-arguments from the other side (the other side being those who see government intervention to be the ideal tool to solve any societal or economic problem). As a result, even those of us who are already in the libertarian camp will tend to find the book unpersuasive. It certainly will not convert any non-believers.
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Format: Hardcover
The most serious drawback to Miron's book is that which may influence its popularity, namely it's size. Admirable, indeed, is Miron's attempt at brevity however the absence of any sort of bibliography, footnotes, endnotes or textual notes is a glaring omission that simply cannot be overlooked in light of some of the astounding claims that the author makes. That he seems to flip flop like a fish out of water is also problematic.

For example, Miron writes that "corruption arises mainly because of laws that impede private profit opportunities or interfere with mutually beneficial exchange (p.49)" Considering the longstanding corruptness of the U.S. government I find this statement nearly as difficult to accept as Miron's belief that politicians, bemoaning corruption, pass laws seeking to curtail it (p.48).

In discussing discrimination Miron believes (p.58) that "discrimination is unlikely to be substantial in market economies because employers, lenders, universities, and others who discriminate put themselves at a competitive disadvantage." One wonders if Miron believes that discrimination would be less rampant than it is today without the institution of anti-discrimination laws.

Concerning campaign finance regulation Miron states (p.30) that "neither theory nor evidence indicates that spending has a large impact on a candidate's electoral success" but then acquiesces that spending is "only one part of winning elections." I'm left wondering what role he really sees campaign finance playing in the election process.

"Laws against violence and theft," he writes, "do not forbid mutually beneficial exchange or interfere with purely voluntary actions, while prohibitions do" (p.61).
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1 Comment 10 of 13 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
Libertarianism, A to Z is a quick, and simple read, useful for a reference. Miron does explain that the book is to be used as a reference and admits that it is not a deep and penetrating document attempting to expose the philosophical views of the Libertarian though, but it does an effective job at quickly explaining to the reader the mainstream view of Libertarianism. The book often overlaps in many areas--something that the author also admits--so it can, at times, be quite dull; nevertheless, the book is a great first read for anyone who would like understand what a Libertarian believes. The author states that the book is based off of consequential Libertarianism, rather than rights-based Libertarianism, so Miron supports his arguments with numerous hard facts of why the libertarian view of non-interventionism is often more beneficial than the modern ways of interventionism. Overall this books a quick read that can enlighten one to the mainstream views of Libertarianism; but in order to expand further one must read more literature on Libertarianism--this book is not enough for a deep understanding.
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