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Libertarianism: A Primer Paperback – February 4, 1998
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Libertarianism used to be just a topic at your high school Government Club. But since all those Ayn Rand-niks are now in Congress, it's become a bigger deal. This book is an admirably clear exposition of the position--defined by David Boaz as "the view that each person has the right to live his life in any way he chooses so long as he respects the equal rights of others"--which is useful to both adherents and those who merely want to "know the enemy." Of course, a lot of questions are left unanswered: Do I have to obey speed limits? Is it OK for me to drive on the left as long as I promise to swerve when I see you coming? Aren't there a lot of valuable enterprises that couldn't be achieved by individual effort alone, but only with a degree of government compulsion, including the federal highway system, public parks, and public libraries? --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
This book is more substantial if less elegantly written than Charles Murray's What It Means to Be a Libertarian (Forecasts, Nov. 18). Boaz, executive v-p of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, reaches back to religion and theorists like David Hume and Adam Smith to explore the roots of libertarianism. Boaz, like Murray, may be too optimistic in his assumption that private charity will supplant government assistance; however, he argues cogently against government excess. Government intervention (taxation, bank insurance, Medicare, etc.), he maintains, can diminish virtues like thrift and self-reliance. Libertarianism, he stresses, enhances individual dignity and pluralism; though he opposes laws based on race, he suggests, intriguingly, that Social Security discriminates against blacks because they have lower life expectancies. Predictably, Boaz argues that free markets enhance economic productivity and employment, and that government programs perpetuate bureaucratic and special interests. Among his proposals: end corporate and farm welfare; chop defense spending in half; abolish numerous federal agencies; privatize government programs. He proposes privatizing the Social Security system and offering tax-free Medical Savings Accounts in which unused money allocated for health insurance could be redirected to savings accounts.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
For someone completely new to libertarianism looking to get started, I would recommend Murray's book first, then David Boaz's Primer, and finally Boaz's Libertarian Reader.
In this book, author David Boaz tackles many modern day issues from a Libertarian viewpoint. The main theme of the book is the importance of property rights. Boaz explains that the first property right is the ownership of self. Without ownership of self, the ownership of anything else is meaningless. If you are willing to accept his thesis and read further, you will find that private property is the basis of the free market, and the free market is what makes human freedom possible.
Markets just naturally churn out what we want, because they are rewarded for doing so. An entrepreneur that provides a needed good or service can then provide his family a better life. Whereas the bureaucrat's motivation is to make his position and staff more powerful. His salary won't be tied into the success or failure of any given project. But the entrepreneur must live and die according to our fancy. The entrepreneur may be inept and fail to achieve what we want, but other venture capitalists will take his place until the thing is done right. When the government fouls up some needed service or good, they scream for a budget increase, as if our stinginess is the real culprit for their ineptitude.
Some have argued that Libertarianism is inevitable, because the Internet and technology will render government powerless to control the mechanizations of society. I am not so optimistic. Most people think that the money coming from government is free. They tell me that they couldn't afford education if the government didn't step in and provide it. These are people who live in $100,000 houses, drive $20,000 cars and pay a mountain of taxes. Someday, maybe people will realize that they are paying for these things anyway, until then, the rest of us can enjoy reading books like Libertarianism: A Primer, by David Boaz.
But the ideas are still here, and they are well presented with strong arguments for all of the typical libertarian core issues- downsizing of government, privitization of services, legalization of drugs, open borders, free-market protection of the environment, etc, etc.
I consider myself a libertarian, although I'm still not sure whether I agree with all the mainstays of hardcore libertarianism. This book provides a balanced, moderate approach without coming across as either too conservative or too wild-eyed-and-fringe. Charles Murray's book has more intellectual weight, but I also recommend this book for a deeper understanding of the historical background of truly freedom-oriented politics.
Libertarianism espouses the freedom of the individual, harkening back to the bedrock philosophy of this country's founders. Boaz describes Republicans as your father - always telling you what to do because he knows best; and Democrats as your mother - wiping your nose and trying to do everything for you because you can't handle it. Libertarians, says Boaz, want to treat you as an adult.
Perhaps the best thing about this book is that it gives you a different perspective from which to look at today's most contentious issues. What you discover is that we assume a whole lot that we shouldn't - frequently what we assume in an argument about how the Government should handle something is that they should be handling it in the first place! Boaz and Libertarians argue that in all but a tiny handful of instances the answer is absolutely not.
Highly recommended for anyone who is frustrated with the current system and is looking for a more satisfying alternative, or for anyone who just wants another perspective on our system.
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