Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Libertarianism, from A to Z
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on June 3, 2010
A to Z provides an acceptable, contemporary introduction to libertarian thinking. I picked it up (Kindle version for Blackberry) after being favorably impressed with the author's speaking ability from listening to a Cato podcast. As a speaker, Mr. Miron is easy to listen to, and as a writer, he's easily read. The book's chief strength is the use of concise, clear language and straightforward reasoning throughout. Its style makes for light reading suitable for that plane ride to the political convention of your choice, and most readers will easily finish it within a few hours. It makes little or no overt effort to proselytize the reader to its libertarian point of view, cites little or no actual evidence in support of its suppositions, draws few contrasts with competing political philosophies, and makes little effort to comment on current events. The "A to Z" organizational principle is not the most effective way to present a political philosophy, but is at least handy for locating topics of interest. Although I skimmed some topics, as a whole the writing remains consistently engaging from start to finish, and reads effortlessly with relatively little repetition. All in all, it is worth reading if your summer reading list includes works on political philosophy and you are interested in a high-level view of libertarianism as it exists today.
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on June 14, 2010
I'm a libertarian and an economics buff, and so I was pretty excited about this book, especially when I saw it being touted by some of my favorite economist bloggers. Well, it's very disappointing.

The book is setup sort of like an encyclopedia, where each entry is a short explanation of the libertarian arguments surrounding an issue. The problem is that the arguments are presented without supporting evidence, and without bothering to rebut the most obvious objections and counter-arguments from the other side (the other side being those who see government intervention to be the ideal tool to solve any societal or economic problem). As a result, even those of us who are already in the libertarian camp will tend to find the book unpersuasive. It certainly will not convert any non-believers.
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on August 1, 2010
The most serious drawback to Miron's book is that which may influence its popularity, namely it's size. Admirable, indeed, is Miron's attempt at brevity however the absence of any sort of bibliography, footnotes, endnotes or textual notes is a glaring omission that simply cannot be overlooked in light of some of the astounding claims that the author makes. That he seems to flip flop like a fish out of water is also problematic.

For example, Miron writes that "corruption arises mainly because of laws that impede private profit opportunities or interfere with mutually beneficial exchange (p.49)" Considering the longstanding corruptness of the U.S. government I find this statement nearly as difficult to accept as Miron's belief that politicians, bemoaning corruption, pass laws seeking to curtail it (p.48).

In discussing discrimination Miron believes (p.58) that "discrimination is unlikely to be substantial in market economies because employers, lenders, universities, and others who discriminate put themselves at a competitive disadvantage." One wonders if Miron believes that discrimination would be less rampant than it is today without the institution of anti-discrimination laws.

Concerning campaign finance regulation Miron states (p.30) that "neither theory nor evidence indicates that spending has a large impact on a candidate's electoral success" but then acquiesces that spending is "only one part of winning elections." I'm left wondering what role he really sees campaign finance playing in the election process.

"Laws against violence and theft," he writes, "do not forbid mutually beneficial exchange or interfere with purely voluntary actions, while prohibitions do" (p.61). If this statement is true, are we to assume that robbery, rape, murder and other forms of violent crime are not "purely voluntary actions"? Shockingly, the author goes on to suggest (p.61) that speed limits, for example, are a prime example of policies that encourage disrespect for the law. He then proceeds to champion them in his discussion of externalities ("when the actions of an individual or group impact third parties in ways other than market transactions...") (p.75). Is he, therefore, proposing the enforcement or the elimination of speed limits and does he even know what he believes?

In a final, glaring example of this books' shortfall(s) on page 66 the author writes, in a discussion of employee drug testing and prohibition that "one motivation offered for drug prohibition is that drug use allegedly lowers employee productivity. The evidence does not support this contention..." However, returning to the author's discussion of externalities (p.76), he writes "watching late-night TV means less sleep and lower workplace productivity the next day, which can adversely affect one's co-workers." The absurdity of these two statements when viewed in relation to one another must surely be evident.

Had this been the first book on Libertarianism that I'd read I can assure you that it would have also been the last. Fortunately, I've read a good number of books on Libertarian ideology and might suggest, instead, The Libertarian Reader: Classic and Contemporary Writings from Lao Tzu to Milton Friedman or Libertarianism: A Primer- both excellent books by David Boaz and available from Amazon.com. It is possible that, had the author fleshed out some of his ideas and been (presumably) more concerned with content than format and size, this book might be a worthy contribution to Libertarian belief. As it stands, however, I've found that it sadly misrepresents the ideology of Libertarianism and offers little in the way of furthering what I believe is it's very worthwhile agenda.
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VINE VOICEon February 17, 2014
Useful predominantly as a reference for libertarian views on various topics, Libertarianism from A to Z suffers from an encyclopedic layout where, instead of being narrative, it takes each issue alphabetically and discusses them from a libertarian point of view. This will be useful for someone looking to understand the general positions of libertarians on many issues and topics, but makes for a pretty disjointed read. A better reference than a read.
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on September 14, 2011
With the current political climate being what it is, the author makes a strong statement for smaller government. The format is easy to follow and is informative reading for anyone wanting an over-view of the libertarian's perspective of government. It provides food for thought and can also be used to create meaningful dialogue about the role of government in our society today.

The author, Jeffrey A. Miron, is the Director of Undergraduate Studies at the Harvard economics department and has appeared on major television stations. His writings have also been published in the New York Times and Forbes.
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on February 26, 2012
Libertarianism, A to Z is a quick, and simple read, useful for a reference. Miron does explain that the book is to be used as a reference and admits that it is not a deep and penetrating document attempting to expose the philosophical views of the Libertarian though, but it does an effective job at quickly explaining to the reader the mainstream view of Libertarianism. The book often overlaps in many areas--something that the author also admits--so it can, at times, be quite dull; nevertheless, the book is a great first read for anyone who would like understand what a Libertarian believes. The author states that the book is based off of consequential Libertarianism, rather than rights-based Libertarianism, so Miron supports his arguments with numerous hard facts of why the libertarian view of non-interventionism is often more beneficial than the modern ways of interventionism. Overall this books a quick read that can enlighten one to the mainstream views of Libertarianism; but in order to expand further one must read more literature on Libertarianism--this book is not enough for a deep understanding.
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on July 23, 2012
Miron's approach is to explain why many popular activities of government are unlikely to achieve their intended results. To his credit, he is completely open about this; it is nothing more than a cost-benefit analysis, in keeping with his profession as a professor of economics.

Our expectation is therefore that, if Miron were to find some government program that *did* achieve its intended goals, he would favor it. Now, a libertarian would predict that such cases will be few and far between, but Miron condemns us to an infinite continuation of analyses of specific cases, including the continuing need to refute arguments that old or present programs can be made to work by tinkering. Principles? What are principles?

It is significant that, in his dictionary format, Miron does not see the point in even mentioning terms such as Rights or Freedom. He does address this topic under the unlikely heading Consequential vs Philosophical Libertarianism, in which he concludes that philosophical libertarians are also really only just pragmatists at heart; they have just generalized the utility argument. Miron: "... the philosopical libertarian assertion that policy should protect individual rights is really a statement that adhering to this principle promotes human happiness, or social progress, or something."

Coming from a purported libertarian, that's pretty bad!

Miron would have done better titling his book something like The Pragmatics of a Libertarian. It outlines some libertarian perspectives, but it fails completely as an introduction to libertarian principles.
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on August 9, 2015
This is a gutless, communitarian, bookkeeper's view of libertarianism presented in a simple-minded, philosophically naïve way for people who cannot think abstractly. Look elsewhere for deep thought. Miron is swimming in the kiddie pool.
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on October 23, 2012
A quick read with lots of information by a professor. He teaches at George Mason University & is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute which is a libertarian think tank. You can dip into it on any page & learn a lot.
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on March 24, 2011
A journey accross a number of issues from a libertarian viewpoint. Some are thought through with greater clarity and depth than others. if you are a grandparent - this is an invaluable gift for the 18 year old starting to more critically assess their political beliefs and philosophy. And a good primer in any library
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