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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A collection of libertarian thought and philosophy, March 18, 1997
By A Customer
For years now, I have been collecting an assortment of my favorite essays in a handful of binders. Photocopys, internet downloads, you name it. When I came upon a particularly good essay that captured my political philosophy, I stuffed it into my little binder.

I always wondered: why doesn't somebody take this collection of essays and put them into a book?

Well, David Boaz has apparently beaten me to it in his collection of libertarian thought and philosophy, The Libertarian Reader. Not only are many of my favorite essays here, but a couple more that I've never read before. (Apparently, Mr. Boaz has been collecting essays longer than I have.)

This book is essential for a number of reasons. For the curious, The Libertarian Reader offers an introduction to the ideas of free markets, private property rights, and individual rights and freedoms. For the veteran, The Libertarian Reader puts a nice hardbound cover on years of ideas, allowing people like me to throw away the old mangled binders of paper.

The essays in The Libertarian Reader are brief and concise. For people looking for a quick introduction to the libertarian thoughts, each individual essay can easily be read in 15-minute sittings. Some of the biggest names in history, literature and economics are included here, including Ayn Rand, Thomas Jefferson, John Stuart Mill, Frederick Douglas and Adam Smith.

Whether you're new to libertarian ideas, or an old veteran of liberty, The Libertarian Reader, and the companion book, Libertarianism: A Primer, also by David Boaz, are must reads for political junkies and lovers of freedom everywhere.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Valuable Addition to Any Political Science Library, March 15, 2004
By 
Timothy Walker (Orlando, Florida USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Libertarian Reader: Classic and Contemporary Writings from Lao Tzu to Milton Friedman (Paperback)
If you are looking for a quick introduction to the principles and practices of the Libertarian Party, avoid this book; a good search engine and some basic research skills are all you need. If instead you're searching for a deeper understanding of the philosophy of liberty, then I can suggest no better starting point.
The book itself is a collection of short essays from a wide range of contributors to the libertarian tradition, from political economists and philosophers (such as Locke, Mill, and Adam Smith) to some perhaps more surprising sources (like the Old Testament and the Tao Teh Ching). These essays are grouped around broad themes - "individual rights", "free markets", "skepticism about power" - certainly a boon to students, but also an aid to the casual reader. Should a particular topic or thinker pique your interest, a lengthy essay called "The Literature of Liberty" catalogs the sources as it closes the book.
Whether reading this book will convince you to join the Libertarian Party, or send money to the Cato Institute, is a matter open to debate; indeed, some critics rightly point out elements of "big L" Libertarianism that are at odds with "small l" classical liberal thought. My own hope is that reading these essays will give you not only a better understanding of the founder's intent, but also a clearer vision of a better possible future - a freer, saner world. How we get there, if we get there, remains to be seen.
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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Signpost I Was Looking For, December 22, 1999
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A couple of years ago I got interested in libertarianism and had to scrounge for a reading list. Where to get started? Then this book came out, exactly what I had been looking for. While one might quibble about the choice of authors (e.g. I would have preferred P.J O'Rourke or Dave Barry over the humorless Ayn Rand), it is obviously impossible to put in one volume all the great libertarian thinkers, let alone all the great works. This book does an excellent job, and includes in an appendix a list of further recommended reading for which there wasn't room. This was the signpost that I needed, and I still refer to it frequently. The companion volume, The Libertarian Primer, of which Boaz is author rather than editor, is also good and an easier read
That it came out so late (1997) reflects libertarians' tendency to arrogance, underestimating the need to market their abstract product and educate the populace. The Cato Institute, of which Boaz is vice president, is now rapidly making up for lost time.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The ideal plane book to expand one's mind, January 15, 2001
By 
Auren Hoffman (San Francisco, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Libertarian Reader: Classic and Contemporary Writings from Lao Tzu to Milton Friedman (Paperback)
This is a good intellectual book that covers writings from past and present thinkers like John Locke, Thomas Paine, and Milton Friedman. This is not a fast read -- but the good thing is that you can pick and choose what chapters to read. This is the ideal plane book for someone that wants to expand the mind.
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33 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Anthology Capturing the Essence of Libertarian Thought, July 27, 2003
This review is from: The Libertarian Reader: Classic and Contemporary Writings from Lao Tzu to Milton Friedman (Paperback)
~The Libertarian Reader: Classic and Contemporary Writings from Lao-Tzu to Milton Friedman~ is a fascinating primer on libertarian thinking throughout the ages. I being of a classical conservative mind, hope to offer a fair critique of both this book and libertarianism in general. I acquired it during my pre-law days when studying political theory. Anyway, David Boaz has assembled an anthology of political and philosophical writings gleaned throughout history of what he deems to be libertarian thought. The introductory section entitled "Skepticism About Power" puts forward the crux of libertarian thought, namely skepticism of concentrated power and an affinity for the principle of subsidiarity and the widespread dispersal of power. In sum, libertarians affirm Lord Acton's axiom that "power tends to corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Boaz tosses in a selection from the Scriptures, in 1 Samuel 8, which shows the consequences of the ancient Israelites insisting on a monarchy. Here, the prophet Samuel warned of the consequences of absolutism that would ensue, but they the people would not relent and God through his permissive will relented and gave them their monarchy. James Madison's poignant Federalist #10 is included and correlates the founder's reverence of liberty with libertarian thought. Boaz infers the continuity of mainstream libertarianism with the 'classical' liberalism of yesteryears. Not surprisingly, advocates of free-markets and opponents of statism are among the cast of characters featured in his selections. Economists like Adam Smith, Frederic Bastiat, F.A. Hayek and Ludwig von Mises grace the pages. Frenchmen Bertrand de Jouvenal offers a poignant critique of redistribution, which was gathered from the pages of "The Ethics of Redistribution." Some egalitarian levelers, anarchists, and other assorted radicals like Lysander Spooner and social Darwinist Herbert Spencer are featured as well.

With regards to foreign policy issues, the essays featured seem to acquiesce with the sentiments of the founding fathers, which may be summed up in the dictum of Jefferson: "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none." These essays advocate strategic disengagement, a policy of strategic independence, which is commensurate with the prevailing foreign policy of armed neutrality espoused in the early years of the American republic. One essayist, namely Ted Galen Carpenter, works alongside Boaz at the Cato Institute, and offers a sensible assessment of our entanglement with the UN and its negative long-term consequences. However, libertarianism may be shallow in some respect on international affairs, hence their affinity for Richard Cobden whom Boaz featured. Cobden's fanciful screed entitled "Commerce is the Grand Panacea" acts as if free trade amongst the nations will whimsically do away with war. For political realists, this is a bit of well wishing that doesn't mesh too well with reality or history.

Thus far I've been dispassionate for the most part, but now let me toss in a monkey-wrench in regards to Boaz's selection of libertarian icons. Many contributors selected never identified themselves libertarians as such. Moreover, some were avowed opponents of libertarianism. In the 1950s, economist F.A. Hayek deplored those who would assign the libertarian appellation to him. He insisted that he was an "Old Whig, with emphasis on Old." Likewise, Ayn Rand too, had bad things to say about libertarians of her time, yet many in libertarian circles strangely have an affinity for her crude, materialistic objectivist philosophy. Some of the philosophical and theoretical underpinnings of libertarianism (visible in the schisms of 19th century classical liberalism) planted the seeds of what mutated into modern, permissive liberalism with its penchant for radical secularizing and egalitarian leveling. Some of these flaws are manifest in the nineteenth century selections featured in this book. Granted, some libertarians (i.e. paleolibertarians) are openly appalled at these dark facets of modernity that I'm about to describe. Generally, many libertarians have a dogmatic affinity for an abstract liberty, a tendency to reject a transcendent moral order, a penchant for crude utilitarian reductionism, and some even find all forms of coercion appalling, apparently even the social stigmatism of family, tradition and societal custom. (BTW If you think this is an overstatement than read Harry Browne's _How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World_.) Murray Rothbard was adamant that libertarians aren't libertines. However, as libertarian writers prattle off screeds like _Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do_ and _XXX: A Woman's Right to Pornography_ advocating an unfettered market for drugs and sex, it seems the more libertine side of libertarianism is apparent. Those avowed libertarians that retort, "I'm against these things," probably favor Edmund Burke over Thomas Paine, and might as well rally to the conservative camp if they do an accurate self-assessment. Furthermore, many libertarians devalue both community and the nation-state, and question the sovereignty of states to regulate immigration while they long for a borderless world of hyper-atomized individuals engaged in economic transactions. That "globalization" is a cousin of "internationalism" remains a fatal concession and they have to tacitly admit it. Some libertarians in their theorizing have a tendency to supplant the marketplace in place of civil society. In doing so, they adhere to a dictum that can be surmised as "everything inside the market and nothing outside the market," thus turning Mussolini's statist mantra on its nose. "Ideas have consequnces," as Richard Weaver observes, and naturally the liberalism of Paine, Spencer, Mill and yes even Locke gave way to modern liberalism and the perils of modernity.

I was once an avowed libertarian, but with a kick; I fancied myself as "a conservative with a libertarian bent." As conservative thinker Russell Kirk surmises, many nominal conservative youths flirt with libertarianism, but anyone who thinks seriously about politics falls away from the shallow philosophy. Nevertheless, there is much in libertarian thought to be admired, though they're not always the exclusive harbingers of all these good ideas they espouse. It's also real easy to maintain "ideological purity" on economic issues, for example, when you're not in power. Libertarians particularly those affiliated with the Cato Institute are aligned with the Old Right in an effort to unleash what we might characterize as a "devolution revolution." Such a move would effectively restore the 10th Amendment and federalism commensurate with original intent of the U.S. Constitution's framers. (Neoconservatives however are too apt to constitutional compromise.) Anyhow, for accomplishing his task of making an anthology offering a cross-section of libertarian thought, I'll give Boaz a thumbs up and a five-star rating despite my misgivings about libertarianism.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful, but maybe a tad overambitious, August 25, 2005
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This review is from: The Libertarian Reader: Classic and Contemporary Writings from Lao Tzu to Milton Friedman (Paperback)
This collection of libertarian literature is a good first look at the wondrous world of anti-statist thought. It seems particularly apt for college students and other young people, yearning for meaningful ideas through the maze of collectivist propaganda.

Nevertheless, it does have one sin: it is at once too broad and too narrow. Too broad because it covers too much ground and, at times, complex arguments are deprived of part of their explanatory power. Too narrow, because there are some significant omissions. In particular, I would have liked to see more examples of contemporary anarcho-capitalist theory (e.g., David Friedman).

Notwithstanding that qualm, I found this volume extremely helpful.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Cream of Libertarianism, September 4, 2008
By 
Maria Folsom (East Glacier Park, Montana USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Libertarian Reader: Classic and Contemporary Writings from Lao Tzu to Milton Friedman (Paperback)
As other reviewers have written, this book is a great representation of Libertarian thought throughout the ages. This does not mean that these great writers AGREE with one another. In fact, Boaz collects essays that disagree with each other in certain detail, and that conflict with my own Libertarian-world-view on certain points. This is part of the beauty of the book. Boaz contrasts these ideas within a framework of a unified philosophy. The book 'hangs together' despite the differing interpretations.

A wonderful and beautiful collection of writings! Intelligent, prosaic, logical, spiritual, and even humorous!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and highly varied selections, May 26, 2014
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This book is an excellent compilation of highly varied readings which speak to the political philosophy of Libertarianism starting with I Samuel 8 pointing out the origin of kings is basically idolatry. That is something to really consider: how can a person of faith or of no faith want or need a king? How can a Christian or other faith based person tolerate a king/president/prime minister, etc when God is supposed to be their leader? How can an atheist refute the existence of a benevolent or malevolent god by their own authority and knowledge and yet submit to a king/president/prime minister or other such oligarch? How do we tolerate someone ruling over us when our "natural rights" as humans is self determination and liberty? Can we live without government? Certainly not because we now number in the millions upon hundreds of millions but I do believe that if we had faith in our god(s) or even just in ourselves we wouldn't allow oligarchs to rule. We would have a smaller, less expensive, much more efficient government that would be in existence only to serve us and provide justice in conflicts. Our leaders would be trustees accountable to the electorate instead of self-indulgent thieves taking the very life out of us and our children because we lack faith in ourselves.

This is just the first selection. Books could be written in response to any one of the fascinating readings in this book. It is a fabulous primer for those interested not just in the Libertarian party but also those interested in developing a coherent political philosophy of their own. A thoughtful reading of this book may or may not change your party affiliation but it will wake you up.
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5.0 out of 5 stars This book is very helpful for anyone who wants to understand libertarianism., August 8, 2013
This review is from: The Libertarian Reader: Classic and Contemporary Writings from Lao Tzu to Milton Friedman (Paperback)
I read this book in high school, I felt like it made libertarianism an accessible topic. It went a long way for me in helping me understand both the main viewpoints of libertarians and the roots of libertarian thought. In particular I liked the Ayn Rand interviews they included. Ayn Rand is a polarizing figure and sometimes her writing style is difficult to understand. The interviews showed me a clear picture of who she was and what she believed in.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Reads like a textbook (as expected), June 12, 2013
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This review is from: The Libertarian Reader: Classic and Contemporary Writings from Lao Tzu to Milton Friedman (Paperback)
Very good source for the philosophy of Libertarianism. I am still reading it when I find time in the day.
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