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Libertarianism: What Everyone Needs to Know Paperback – October 15, 2012

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1st edition (October 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019993391X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199933914
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 0.7 x 5.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #250,303 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

What Everyone Needs to Know


Who it's for:

Busy people with diverse interests, ranging from college students to professionals, who wish to inform themselves in a succinct yet authoritative manner about a particular topic.

What's inside:

An incisive approach to a complex and timely issue, laid out in a straight-forward, question-and-answer format.

Meet Our Authors

Top experts in their given fields, ranging from an Economist correspondent to a director at the Council on Foreign Relations, you can trust our authors’ expertise and guidance.

Popular Topics in the "What Everyone Needs to Know" Series

  • International Politics
  • Environmental Policies
  • World History
  • Sciences & Math
  • Religion & Spirituality

From Booklist

Live and let live is the basic premise behind libertarianism. But how does that translate in politics, economics, social policy, and modern culture? Brennan, ethics and economics scholar, offers a very clear and concise explanation of libertarianism, its historical roots, and its increasing relevance to contemporary politics. Libertarianism is a political philosophy that puts respect for individual liberty at the center of a just society, with no exceptions to the principle that all human relations should be voluntary. Brennan debunks popular misconceptions from the equating of libertarianism with conservatism to the assumption that most libertarians are followers of Ayn Rand. Noting the range of beliefs among libertarians, Brennan details basic support for individual freedom, including same-sex marriage, reproductive rights, and open borders, and opposition to drug laws, foreign interventions, and regulations. Brennan details disagreement with the Tea Party and Occupy movement and presents libertarianism as an alternative to Democrats and Republicans. A fascinating primer on a philosophy that is gaining attention. --Vanessa Bush

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 17 customer reviews
Quick, easy, and interestingly informational read! :)
It's worth reading straight through, but each short chapter can also stand alone, particularly the latter chapters addressing specific contemporary issues.
Paul A. Mastin
This book is a good explanation of a difficult topic.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Paul A. Mastin TOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 1, 2012
Format: Paperback
I'll start with full disclosure. I am a libertarian. I have little patience for the statism coming from the Rs and Ds. I have run for office as a Libertarian a couple of times. So I was predisposed to like Jason Brennan's Libertarianism: What Everyone Needs to Know. But, subjectivity aside, I think Brennan provides a terrific, accessible guide to modern libertarian political thought.

The structure of Brennan's book, a series of questions grouped by topic, make it a very useful reference. It's worth reading straight through, but each short chapter can also stand alone, particularly the latter chapters addressing specific contemporary issues. Covering libertarian foundations, political theory, economics, and modern problems, Brennan lays out the basics of libertarianism.

Starting with the basics, Brennan gives the core of what libertarianism is about: individual liberty, mutual consent, cooperation, tolerance, mutual respect, volunteerism, equality, responsibility, and radical freedom. Answering the criticism that libertarians are too reliant on market solutions without acknowledging market failure, he points out that government also fail, and that while market failures eventually self-correct, government failure becomes entrenched. Although markets and governments both fail, we should favor free markets and not government intervention, as governments stifle freedom and exercise their monopoly on coercive power. Whether the issue is civil rights, poverty, the environment, crime, or international trade, government intervention, Brennan argues, is always the wrong choice. He lays out the arguments in deceptively simple terms, but in such a way that demands further study and response.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By coltrane on April 16, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In Libertarianism: What Everyone Needs to Know, Jason Brennan offers a clear, straightforward, and readable introduction to the libertarian political perspective, carefully acknowledging along the way the range of differing opinions held by libertarians on key issues (with an exception, see below). The book is written in an easily referenceable question-and-answer format, and is divided by topic. The chapters and even individual questions can be consulted in any order, independently of the rest of the book. To this end, in the course of answering a particular question, Brennan helpfully cites other places in the book that give a more in-depth look at something perhaps only briefly mentioned. The author can be commended as well for often introducing anti-libertarian perspectives or objections without providing any direct libertarian rebuttal. In this way, the book serves to familiarize the reader with both the libertarian viewpoint on various political, social, and economic topics as well as common rejoinders or alternative takes from non- or anti-libertarians. Brennan deftly wields thought experiments and examples to illustrate how otherwise abstract ideas can be practically applied. On the negative side, I would like to have seen footnotes with explicit references included throughout the book. For example, Brennan cites many studies, statistics, and ideas directly, and although he sometimes gives the reader enough information to go off of in their own search, the sheer number of such instances leaves this reader desiring the inclusion of footnotes to assist in locating these. However, Brennan provides an excellent selection of texts and articles for further reading at the end of the book, divided into specific subcategories.Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gderf on March 25, 2013
Format: Paperback
This little volume of the Oxford Press 'What Everyone Needs to Know' series is a very complete statement of Libertarian principles. The clarity helps me to restate my own ideas.
The case for libertarianism is well made. Liberty is found more in market societies, not in socialist economies. Government failure has proven more damaging than market failure.
Three types of libertarians are defined: classic liberals, hard libertarians and neoclassic liberals. A major premise favoring libertarianism is Lord Acton's premise that power corrupts.
There's a good discussion defining negative and positive liberties. Libertarians deplore use of violence. The civil rights movement implies violence to promote noble objectives. Tyranny of the majority is a predominant factor of our current popular democracy. A libertarian president would reduce spending. A no growth economy is a zero sum game.

Brennan states the libertarian belief that consent, not force should be the main principle of governance. He emphasizes tolerance for feminism and freedom of choice, including freedom to make bad decisions. Private enterprise transfers resources from non-profitable to profitable enterprise, government does the opposite. Redistribution is, at best, a short term solution.
Property rights solves problems. The "tragedy of the commons" is due to overuse when people think that others bear the cost.

The book is especially good on the history of Libertarian and associated thought. Adam Smith, Milton Friedman, Ron Paul and many others are included. It contrast libertarian ideals with the rest of the social spectrum including especially John Rawls and Ayn Rand.
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