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Customer reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars

Henderson writes with a smooth, pleasing pen. Clear, touching and persuasive. Each abstract idea illustrated with personal anecdotes or stories. Presents the libertarian case with determination without arrogance.

1. The joy of freedom
2. Hooked on economics
3. We won, but...
4. You belong to you
5. Your right to property
6. Freedom of association
7. Free markets versus discrimination
8. The joy of capitalism
9. Whose income?
10. Meet Francois Melese
11. Markets virtues and community
12. A tour of Washington
13. Let's take a shot at taxes
14. The social security crisis
15. Free and healthy at half the cost
16. Freedom and education
17. The environment: own it and save it
18. Freedom in our time

Henderson mentions his arguments are fundamentally utilitarian. I agree. This weakens his conclusions, since this avoids, and cannot have a moral basis. He quotes - ''Hayek once wrote that it was the socialists' courage to be utopian that captured the imagination of the intellectuals. These intellectuals then transmitted these socialist ideas to the culture generally.'' (345)

Hayek understood the appeal was more than material abundance.

In contrast, Bastiat in his famous essay, The Law, states on the first page 'Life is a gift from God'. In the last page -

''let them end where they ought to have begun—reject all systems, and try liberty—liberty, which is an act of faith in God and in His work.'' This provides Bastiat with a logical premise, a power of reason, that a simple appeal to 'joy' doesn't have. Bastiat's claim is based on human life as sacred. Henderson's claim looks to human feeling (joy) as fundamental. No one can (successfully) change human feelings into sacred ones without God.

The title ''The Joy of Freedom'' is really a personal testimony. Henderson explains several times his love of freedom from his youth on. Not all share this fundamental quality. If one does not want freedom, or maybe even detests it, this work will not reach the heart.

From Robert Nisbet's ''Twilight of Authority'' -

''From the Forward - Nisbet (and Tocqueville) see ''alienated individuals, that is, people lacking moral compass and thus any purpose or sense of direction beyond that provided by the cash nexuses. . . . As such they are in danger of losing their freedom to the allurements of a paternalistic state. . . . The tendency of the centralizing state as it is found in democracies is to make permanent children of its citizens.'' People who are 'permanent children' cannot feel 'joy of freedom'.

The education system adopted in the nineteenth century was ''the Prussian system and for the same reasons the prussians adopted it: to teach obedience and limit learning. . . . Here is what Gatto says of the famous philosopher John Dewey, a fan of the Prussian system: He advocated that the phonics method of teaching reading be abandoned. . .because reading hard books produces independent thinkers, thinkers who cannot be socialized very easily.'' (311)

This is not the opinion of one who who loves freedom.

(See the work of Isaiah Berlin - ''The roots of romanticism''; J. L. Talmon; Mark Lilla - ''The Stillborn God'' also explains the deeper issues. Also - ''Reaching for Heaven on Earth: The Theological Meaning of Economics'' by Robert H. Nelson. Nelson had similar experiences as Henderson. However, he reaches deeper and broader to find the forces that drive cultures. Also, ''Memoirs of a Superfluous Man'' - Albert Jay Nock; ''Judgements on History and Historians'' - Jacob Burckhardt)
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3 helpful votes
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on October 21, 2001
As a professional economist who is constantly looking for better ways to communicate the essence of economics to non economists, I couldn't be more enthusiastic about Henderson's The Joy of Freedom. Without mind numbing diagrams and equations, Henderson conveys more economic understanding than any of the standard text books I know--and I know a lot of them, having written a few myself. And it is not just economic concepts and the standard perspective on economic efficiency that he communicates so compellingly. With a personal story beautifully woven into the narrative, Henderson shows how humane and socially concerned economists can be (and generally are). Read this book and find out that economists can be passionate in wanting to make this world a better place, and have real guide posts in going about it, guide posts that elevate the ideal of freedom to the central organizing principle. The next time I teach a principles courses I'm going to do my students a tremendous favor by using David Henderson's The Joy of Freedom: An Economists Odyssey as the main text.
31 helpful votes
32 helpful votes
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on January 28, 2002
Buy this engaging book if for no other reason than to read the author's lucid explanation of the federal health care cost mess. Before reading it, I thought that health care economics was incredibly complicated, "solved" only by policy wonks with piles of regulations. However, David Henderson shines the light of free-market thinking onto the issue, illustrating how we can be "free and healthy at half the cost". He is especially compelling answering fears that deregulation will lead to a two-tier health care system, one for the rich and another for the poor. In fact, I am now convinced that getting the government out of this business will increase access to doctors, medicines, and good care by consumers at all income levels.
3 helpful votes
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on October 31, 2001
David Henderson is my friend and I helped him with this book, so I suppose I'm biased. But my familiarity can help you decide whether to buy this book or not.

The Joy of Freedom is the work of an exceptional teacher who has a skill for communicating economic concepts. It is the result of his lifelong desire to understand the world, to better himself, and to help others. As the reader, we walk side by side with David as he struggles to understand complex and important issues. He tells us stories from his life, from childhood through his successful career as an economist. The result is an interesting, easy-to-read, understandable, and enjoyable book about some of the more pressing problems of our time. How many other books can make that claim?

If you care about your personal retirement assets, your ability to get good health care, the education of yourself or your children, your rights and security, the inner workings of the government, the laws of economics, discrimination, or the environment, this book has something for you. You don't have to agree with everything Dr. Henderson says. In fact, because he is such a good thinker and communicator, his path of discovery should help you on your own, whatever course it may take.

Charles L. Hooper, coauthor Making Great Decisions in Business and Life
17 helpful votes
18 helpful votes
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on December 24, 2009
This is the kind of book that should have been required reading in high school, maybe even as required textbooks all across America!

I found "The Joy of Freedom" to be very informative, practical, educational and intellectual on all things regarding to economics and public policy. The author paints a clear and easy to understand picture as he "walks you" through his life's journeys.

This would be my third time reading this out of pleasure as well as for current public policies that are pertaining to today's events (today is December 24, 2009, the day the House and Senate voted on a huge mistake...the Health Care Bill). I find myself constantly referring back to pages and pages of information as bad policies continue to roll off the steps of Capital Hill...!
1 helpful vote
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on January 4, 2002
I heard Mr. Henderson on a talk show, and was impressed. I have long been a fan of Friedman, starting with Capitalism and Freedom. This book is in the same vein. Well-written, good arguments, and debunks alot of what passes for good ideas. I would recommend it to any business or non-business person who has an interest in recognizing the wrong path on which our government is travelling.
2 helpful votes
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on January 6, 2002
This is not a deep scholarly tome - although well researched - but it goes through a number of areas and explains why the free alternative (as opposed to the regulated or non-market alternative) will always cost more and do less. It is fun to read and very informative. It pops out facts and logic in a wonderful way.
3 helpful votes
4 helpful votes
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on March 3, 2004
The Joy of Freedom is like Atlas Shrugged in that reading both books ignites a passion for liberty in me. Henderson, like Rand, is a zealous advocate of freedom. The difference between the two books and their authors, however, is that Rand tends to be combative whereas Henderson tends to deliver a pleasant message.
Henderson tells of his intellectual journey as a free-market economist and libertarian. Along the way he applies the principles of freedom and free-market economics to the vital issues of the past, present, and future. "This book", he writes, "is about freedom, about how well freedom works and how government, by crushing freedom, messes up our lives."
Henderson didn't take economics until his final year of college. His evaluation of introductory economics: "The course was a profound disappointment." The text and the lectures did not raise questions that were interesting to him about how markets work. The model of "perfect competition" turned him off, as it does many students. Fortunately, Henderson attended lectures by economist Harold Demsetz who did explain how markets work, which rekindled Henderson's interest in economics.
What sort of questions does Henderson find interesting? In 1969 he asked Hubert Humphrey: "Then how do you reconcile your belief in the Thirteenth Amendment [prohibiting slavery] with your belief in the draft?" Henderson devotes an entire chapter to property rights and emphasizes their efficacy throughout. He poses the following scenario: "You walk by a yard and see someone painting a house. Pointing a gun at him is another man who orders the first man to stop painting." Then he asks: "Who is in the right?" Henderson might alter your view of the world. Consider this way of thinking about taxes: "Imagine that a thief takes your money at gunpoint, uses your money to buy a steak, and then brings the steak to your house and gives it to you." His question is: "Would you say that he didn't steal from you?" He even dares to ask: "Should we have taxes at all?" He raises the question of why the standard of living in the U.S. rises despite the shortcomings of government schools. About schools, he also asks: "If you went to a government school, or if your children go to a government school, is `exciting' the first adjective, or even the fifth adjective, you would use to describe the experience?" Concerning the environment, he asks: "How far could we go in the direction of using private property to solve environmental problems?"
A reader of this book can expect to encounter many thought-provoking points as well as serious contributions to policies on social security, health care, education, and the environment.
3 helpful votes
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on January 9, 2002
There is a saying that people don't care what you know until they know that you care. In "The Joy of Freedom," Dr. Henderson not only articulates what he knows, he demonstrates that he cares.
I've been an advocate of freedom for many years and the last thing I need to read is another primer on why the free market is better than the heavy hand of government intervention. This intellectual argument has been won many times over, but we still live in a world dominated by pro-interventionist view points. Why is this? Because trying to win people's minds without also winning their hearts is futile. This is where we as freedom advocates have so often failed. We have been so busy concentrating on the intellectual arguments that we have forgotten that we are trying to appeal to people. Human beings that need to be reassured that we have values that they share and that we care about the same things that they care about.
This is where "The Joy of Freedom" is so wonderful. We don't just see into the author's mind, we also see into his heart. This book is not just an intellectual argument for freedom, but is also David Henderson's personal story and that is what sets the book apart from and clearly above other books that cover similar material.
I'm certain that there isn't a single economic explanation in this book that I've haven't heard before (as I said, I've been around this topic for awhile), but I still loved this book because it touched me on a personal level. I think it will also personally touch many readers for whom the intellectual arguments are new territory.
To David Henderson I can only say, "Thank you for sharing."
6 helpful votes
7 helpful votes
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on December 19, 2001
In the mid-80s, I took a casual poll of free market leaders:
What are the top-five free-market books for a novice to read?
Every one of them put Henry Hazlitt's "Economics in One
Lesson" on his or her list, typically at the top.
If I were to repeat the poll now, I suspect Hazlitt's classic
will have a contender for first place, my friend David
Henderson's "The Joy of Freedom."
Henderson seduces the reader with his personal stories,
like why as a college kid in Canada he resigned from
a great summer job measuring trees. His stories are
so much fun to read that learning economics kinda
sneaks up on you.
Indeed, it's Henderson's charm that is the anti-dote
for what von Mises called the "Anti-Capitalist Mentality."
(BTW, Mises' book of that title was on many 'top-five'
lists, and Bastiat's "The Law" was on every list.)
You'll want an extra copy or two of "Joy of Freedom"
for lending to friends who do not share your love of
freedom, especially those who will even argue about its
17 helpful votes
18 helpful votes
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