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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 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #158,089 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

What Everyone Needs to Know

WHAT EVERYONE NEEDS TO KNOW About This Series

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

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The structure of Brennan's book, a series of questions grouped by topic, make it a very useful reference.
Paul A. Mastin
This little volume of the Oxford Press 'What Everyone Needs to Know' series is a very complete statement of Libertarian principles.
Gderf
If you are interested in understanding the basis of Liberal thought in modern America, pick up this easy to read book.
Edward J. Barton

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 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Edward J. Barton TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 16, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Brennan's Q&A format, taking the reader through the history, foundational beliefs and modern application and issues of the Libertarian movement is well written and relatively easy to digest. He looks at Libertarianism in light of the 2008 and forward US political and international climate, and the contemporary and relevant cites and examples will resonate with most readers. The book covers the Libertarian positions on "What" it is, Human Nature, Ethics, Government & Democracy, Civil Rights, Economic Freedom, Social Justice and Contemporary Issues. If you are interested in understanding the basis of Liberal thought in modern America, pick up this easy to read book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Glenn Corey on August 5, 2013
Format: Paperback
This book could serve as an excellent introduction to libertarian ideas and the libertarian approach to government, society, and politics. It is ideal for people who are undecided about their political leanings, those interested in learning more about libertarianism from a libertarian, and those who are already comfortable with libertarian ideas but want something more structured. It could be used as a sort of guide or reference for basic answers to most of the major questions that arise in conversations about libertarianism (or any political philosophy). Both libertarians and non- or antilibertarians could benefit from reading it. As noted by other reviewers, the Q&A format and straightforward, conversational tone make the book very accessible.

However, I did have some problems with the book. One is related to something the other three-star reviewer pointed out, which is that the author does not represent the full spectrum of views held by libertarians on some views. That reviewer noted the author's omission of libertarians who are opposed to abortion; my issue has to do with public education. The question asked is this: "What would libertarians do about failing public schools?" The answer, while good enough as far as it went, failed to mention the solution that a growing number of people are going for: home- or unschooling. The homeschooling movement has gained much more widespread acceptance in recent years simply because it has shown to work so well for many families. I don't think there is a major institution of higher education now in this country that doesn't accept homeschoolers. In fact, a growing demographic group of homeschoolers is that of public school teachers who are homeschooling their own children.
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