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Realizing Freedom: Libertarian Theory, History, and Practice Hardcover – July 16, 2009

4.7 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Tom Palmer has the ability to make the complex understandable and to go to the heart of the most difficult problems. He is a valuable resource for journalists and others in search of historical and economic scholarship and philosophical insight, especially about the impact of government intervention and the reasons for respecting the freedom and responsibility of individuals."
ABC News

"Much of this book is devoted to lively defenses of classical liberal and libertarian rights theory against critics and false friends of many sorts. Even more interesting than these sharp rejoinders, though, is Palmer's reframing and recharacterization of that rights theory. Drawing on his extraordinary interdisciplinary learning, Palmer offers a sociologically, institutionally, and historically informed libertarianism--one that is true to the rich legacy and tradition of classical liberalism."
Tomlinson Professor of Political Theory, McGill University; author, The Multiculturalism of Fear

"Tom Palmer has been one of liberty's most eloquent and learned spokespersons for many years. It is a joy to have so many of his lucid, readable, and trenchant essays, written over most of those years, between one set of covers. The essays are independent of each other, enough so that you can sit down and read one here, one there, without needing to know also the hundred or two hundred pages in between. Whatever sort of essay you pick, I guarantee you a good read."
University of Waterloo; author, You and the State: A Short Introduction to Political Philosophy and The Libertarian Idea

"Tom Palmer has been long involved in fighting the battle of ideas; in confronting collectivism, extensive government intervention, and the suppression of human freedom and economic prosperity. This book should be read by all who care about freedom. It is important to remind each generation that freedom can never be taken for granted. Collectivist, anti-libertarian ideologies did not cease to exist at the moment the Iron Curtain fell."
President of the Czech Republic



From the Back Cover

"The libertarian conception of individual autonomy is often attacked as fostering narrow and selfish individuals who take scant notice of the larger world around them. Tom Palmer's great contribution in this collection of essays is to lay those misconceptions to rest. He shows how autonomous individuals use their powers to promote exchange and cooperation, which enrich all facets of social life. He exposes the cultural imperialists whose high-falutin' rhetoric is all too often the prescription for economic protectionism and social stagnation. He reminds us yet again that individual liberty is our most precious social good."
--Richard A. Epstein
James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law, University of Chicago; author of Simple Rules for a Complex World.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Cato Institute; 1 edition (July 16, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935308114
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935308119
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,571,278 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Libertarian scholar and activist Tom G. Palmer has carried the ideas of liberty to some of the most oppressed and dangerous parts of the planet. He smuggled books, photocopiers, and faxes into the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact nations and has taught and lectured in Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other countries. He earned his B.A. in liberal arts from St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, his M.A. in philosophy from The Catholic University of America, and his D.Phil. in politics from Oxford University. He is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, in Washington, D.C., where he was previously vice president for international programs, and is vice president for international programs, where he directs platforms and active programs of book publishing, summer schools, and policy conferences in 15 languages. He serves on the boards of a number of organizations and is active in several charitable groups.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Tom Palmer masterfully examines the ideas of liberty in Realizing Freedom: Libertarian Theory, History, and Practice. The breadth of this examination is remarkable. As the volume's subtitle suggests, the essays discuss both the theoretical and the practical, and Palmer effectively engages the reader regardless of whether he is writing for an academic or popular audience.

Readers with a general interest in political theory, economics or history will enjoy essays like "Twenty Myths about Markets," in which the author considers and answers common ethical and economic critiques of market economies. Another piece, "Why Socialism Collapsed in Eastern Europe," reflects on socialism's failed promises and its profound effect on the political culture of that region. The serious student of political philosophy ought to read "No Exit: Framing the Problem of Justice," wherein Palmer conducts a serious and rigorous analysis of John Rawls' theory and draws attention to some of its potentially illiberal implications.

Those more steeped in libertarian or classical liberal thought may appreciate "What's Not Wrong with Libertarianism," in which Palmer discusses the relationship between a theory of rights and the importance of evaluating consequences. While some critics charge that it is contradictory to promote a theory of natural rights and then employ empirical evidence to support those rights claims, Palmer deftly makes the case for compatibility and highlights the poor assumptions of such criticism. In an included book review, Palmer assesses an attempt to hijack the term "libertarian" by a proponent of "radically egalitarian redistribution." This book review, titled "John Locke Lite," illustrates Palmer's ability to communicate complicated theory clearly and convincingly.
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Format: Hardcover
Dr. Palmer's book, Realizing Freedom, is sure to become a must-read for all students of liberty, no matter their age. It accomplishes two distinct and particularly meaningful tasks in its exploration of the topic of freedom that fit its incredibly apt title. On the one hand, Palmer helps the reader realize the meaning of freedom by offering some of the most coherent and logical defenses of liberty against common misunderstandings and inaccurate arguments. On the other hand, Palmer lays out a sound strategy for realizing freedom in our life-time, not merely as an intellectual construct for academics to argue over, but as a value that guides policy decisions and right of people everywhere to enjoy.

The first task of explaining the meaning of freedom and defending it from common criticisms, is what most people will take away from the book and is one of its very clear purposes. Palmer clearly lays out just what the concept of freedom entails in all of its aspects from the structure of the book, anticipating many questions that readers would normally have. What's more, Palmer takes on some of the most difficult problems facing the philosophy of freedom and answers them head on from everything such as the Marxist conception of class conflict and the dominance of Rawlsian political theory today.

The second accomplishment of the book may be an indirect effort on Palmer's part, or at least something that seems to be pushed toward the end, but Palmer offers the reader a clear conception of how to realize freedom in our lifetime. Instead of relegating his work to the intellectual debates of what liberty would be in a hypothetical world, he presents freedom as something that we should and could see if properly defended and promoted in the real world.
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Format: Hardcover
In our time, the open society around the world has come under severe attack including in the United States, going back to at least Franklin Roosevelt's administration and continuing more recently with the administration of George W. Bush (who relied on state intervention "to save the free market" sic) and that of Barack Obama. Individual rights are being replaced by affirmative action; private property is undermined by socialist ecology; the war on drugs is destroying individual liberties; state education (as opposed to "public education" because private education is also for the public) has turned into indoctrination; public expenditure, federal debt and fiscal deficits are increasing at an exponential rate; compulsory bailouts with other peoples' resources are paving the way for another crisis; legislation is on its way to intensify socialized medicine; the so-called Social Security program will soon go bankrupt; the monetization of debt and the manipulation of interest rates by the Federal Reserve are destroying the dollar; and there are always new wars to fight in the name of security.

In this climate of affairs nothing could be more timely than the collection of brilliant and provocative papers by Dr. Tom G. Palmer, Realizing Freedom: Libertarian Theory, History and Practice, published by the Cato Institute. Civilization means understanding and endorsing certain values and principles, which in turn depends on an open debate of ideas. This collection of essays provides a unique and insightful perspective on classical liberalism. Palmer's arguments are powerful and combine the abstract with the tangible in unusually well written and thoroughly researched essays. They are a philosophical feast, touching on a board range of topics. It is an honest and outspoken voice.
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