63 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2000
As an introduction to libertarianism, David Boaz's "Libertarianism: A Primer" is often compared with Charles Murray's "What It Means to Be a Libertarian" which also came out in 1997. They are both excellent, but completely different in style and approach. Where Murray's book is "a personal interpretation," David Boaz ranges widely, with lots of references to the many contributors to libertarian thought. Murray's book is more concise and a quicker read, but Boaz packs in a lot more material, making a more overwhelming argument. Both are modern explanations of libertarianism, with refined arguments benefiting from the experience and academic developments of recent years.
For someone completely new to libertarianism looking to get started, I would recommend Murray's book first, then David Boaz's Primer, and finally Boaz's Libertarian Reader.
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 1999
Boaz's introduction to libertarianism, while not a hefty work of scholarship on the position, certainly qualifies as a stimulating encapsulation. To be fair to critics of libertarianism, Boaz's book passes over some of the darker implications of an unyielding libertarian perspective. This book is also a foil to the shorter but more challenging What It Means to Be a Libertarian by Charles Murray in that it only lays out the starting points of certain political positions, neglecting more idiosyncratic variants. To its credit, the book addresses the confused and out-dated concept of the political spectrum and outlines why libertarians are beyond left and right. More discussion in this area could possibly move us beyond quibbles over where to spend all of our tax dollars and instead question the proper relationship between government and the individual. In sum, a good introduction for those unfamiliar with libertarianism and concerned about the current structure of our political dialogue.
76 of 91 people found the following review helpful
Growing up, I never questioned whether the government should provide education or old age pensions. When America rebelled against Hillary Clinton's health care initiative, I slowly realized that other government services that I took for granted also began as a political proposal. I asked myself why it may be good for government to control education, but not health care. It was that kind of question that led me to read a whole host of books that ask the same question. The latest being, Libertarianism: A Primer.
In this book, author David Boaz tackles many modern day issues from a Libertarian viewpoint. The main theme of the book is the importance of property rights. Boaz explains that the first property right is the ownership of self. Without ownership of self, the ownership of anything else is meaningless. If you are willing to accept his thesis and read further, you will find that private property is the basis of the free market, and the free market is what makes human freedom possible.
Markets just naturally churn out what we want, because they are rewarded for doing so. An entrepreneur that provides a needed good or service can then provide his family a better life. Whereas the bureaucrat's motivation is to make his position and staff more powerful. His salary won't be tied into the success or failure of any given project. But the entrepreneur must live and die according to our fancy. The entrepreneur may be inept and fail to achieve what we want, but other venture capitalists will take his place until the thing is done right. When the government fouls up some needed service or good, they scream for a budget increase, as if our stinginess is the real culprit for their ineptitude.
Some have argued that Libertarianism is inevitable, because the Internet and technology will render government powerless to control the mechanizations of society. I am not so optimistic. Most people think that the money coming from government is free. They tell me that they couldn't afford education if the government didn't step in and provide it. These are people who live in $100,000 houses, drive $20,000 cars and pay a mountain of taxes. Someday, maybe people will realize that they are paying for these things anyway, until then, the rest of us can enjoy reading books like Libertarianism: A Primer, by David Boaz.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on October 27, 2000
Although not a hard-hitting manifesto like Charles Murray's What It Means To Be A Libertarian (one of my favorite books), Libertarianism: A Primer provides an excellent overview of the intellectual development of libertarianism. It's a much more historically oriented book than Murray's, a study of people as much as a study of ideas, from Adam Smith to Murray Rothbard and Ayn Rand.
But the ideas are still here, and they are well presented with strong arguments for all of the typical libertarian core issues- downsizing of government, privitization of services, legalization of drugs, open borders, free-market protection of the environment, etc, etc.
I consider myself a libertarian, although I'm still not sure whether I agree with all the mainstays of hardcore libertarianism. This book provides a balanced, moderate approach without coming across as either too conservative or too wild-eyed-and-fringe. Charles Murray's book has more intellectual weight, but I also recommend this book for a deeper understanding of the historical background of truly freedom-oriented politics.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2005
How refreshing! A political philosophy that puts its faith in the ability of people to accomplish things without the oversight of some gargantuan government. Boaz does a wonderful job of laying out the basic ideas of Libertarianism without getting at all technical.
Libertarianism espouses the freedom of the individual, harkening back to the bedrock philosophy of this country's founders. Boaz describes Republicans as your father - always telling you what to do because he knows best; and Democrats as your mother - wiping your nose and trying to do everything for you because you can't handle it. Libertarians, says Boaz, want to treat you as an adult.
Perhaps the best thing about this book is that it gives you a different perspective from which to look at today's most contentious issues. What you discover is that we assume a whole lot that we shouldn't - frequently what we assume in an argument about how the Government should handle something is that they should be handling it in the first place! Boaz and Libertarians argue that in all but a tiny handful of instances the answer is absolutely not.
Highly recommended for anyone who is frustrated with the current system and is looking for a more satisfying alternative, or for anyone who just wants another perspective on our system.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on October 20, 2004
I was quite fed up with America's two party system, and the anti-American machine that went along with disagreeing with its politics. I was tired of seeing a trend of big government destroy the voice of the individual. I was sick of seeing the mob rule of democracy decide who would rule us for the next term. I knew what I believed but wanted a name for it. I've since found this name in many theories, one such theory is Libertarianism. David Boaz writes with phenomenal clarity on the basics and in depth look at what it means to be a libertarian. He takes many questions that might be asked in our two party system and applies them to libertarianism, and shows how libertarians would handle those questions. If you are looking for a new name to what you believe, and/or if you're a student of government I recommend this book.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2006
In Libertarianism: A Primer, David Boaz presents the basics of this philosophy of freedom in clear, understandable, and compelling language. I recently read that over 600 Libertarians are now serving in elected office across the country, a fact that speaks powerfully of the disgust Americans increasingly feel with Big Brother in Washington. Read this book as an education in the liberties this country used to have, what has been taken away from us by both Democrats and Republicans, and what we can have again if we motivate ourselves to action.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 1999
Boaz effectively combines historical and current events with principles of economics and law to present a thorough, air-tight case for libertarianism. In his book, Boaz takes us through the evolution of libertarianism, discusses the libertarian virtues of individualism, limited government, free markets, spontaneous order, etc., and applies them to contemporary issues -- social security, education, racism, poverty, etc. Boaz proves overwhelmingly that the libertarian beliefs of freedom and individualism are the way to go in the next century. A must read for anyone interested in politics, philosophy and economics.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2000
This book is exactly what the title states, "A Primer". This is not a complete text of Libertarian ideas or philosophy. It is a well written introduction to Libertarian principles. After reading this book, you are much better prepared to read more extensive Libertarian texts that go more in depth into the defense of Libertarian ideas. The book does give sources for most quotes and statistics, but does not provide a complete citation which makes it difficult to check out the accuracy. Overall, this book is worth reading and will wet your appetite for Libertarian ideas.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 19, 2006
Well written and very logical. David Boaz states his case well but doesn't try to "sell" his philosophy. He provides a good definition of what a Libertarian is, and isn't. He leaves the decision up to the reader - are you a Libertarian? Many people hear the tag "Libertarian" and have a (negative) knee jerk reaction without understanding what the term "Libertarian" really means. These are the people who really need to read this book. Also, people who consider themselves Libertarians should read this book to solidify their philosophy.