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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: #909,402 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Alexander Pitsinos on September 2, 2009
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 Verified Purchase
Liberty is hard to describe to modern Americans. Tom Palmer does it well. I would give his book five stars for excellent content, but subtract one for its being a collection of previous essays, dating from the present back to 1981. They’re all good, but the later ones are better (he’s thirty years older), and there is necessarily some repetition.

Liberty is a difficult subject these days because a majority of Americans seem to confuse it with either personal license or laissez faire economics. The Libertarian political party is certainly related to liberty, but is not the same thing. Finally, the term liberal, which originally denoted a resistance to special legal privilege, has come to be associated with an element of the Democratic Party that called itself Progressive when it originated in the Republican Party with Teddy Roosevelt, and which might now more accurately be described as communitarian. (We are all in this together. We must decide by majority vote how to live, with government as the coercive mechanism) Those of us who consider ourselves friends of liberty are reduced to calling ourselves Classical Liberals if we don’t wish to identify with all the aspects of the Libertarian, or any other, Party.

The first point to make is that liberty is not based on imagined isolated individuals. Its modern version began in the nascent free cities of Medieval Europe where the merchants and artisans created well documented (not merely hypothetical) social contracts regulating their relationships with each other and with their rulers, usually kings. Their, and our, liberty is an intensely social relationship of mutual tolerance and respect. It is the “mutual enjoyment of equal freedom” dependent on a respect for strong law to prevent violence of one upon another.
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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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