book reviews

Libertarianism Books
Reviewed by: T.J. Nelson

Libertarians believe in greater expansion of personal freedoms and less government intervention in economic affairs. Because America is restricted to a two-party system, libertarians usually do not form a separate party (although there is something that calls itself a Libertarian Party), but generally vote Republican in national elections. Many of our most creative writers, scientists, and economists have been libertarians. Modern-day libertarians rightfully consider themselves to be the true heirs of Thomas Jefferson and Adam Smith. Conservatives share most of their beliefs, but consider libertarians to be a bunch of pot-smoking hippies. (It's not true: we are not, like ... fffff ... hippies, man.)

Libertarian Anarchy:
Against the State
by Gerard Casey
Continuum, 2012


S tates are criminal organizations,” says Gerard Casey. “All states.” That people find this hard to accept is a testament to how well we've all been brainwashed. No one wants to admit that they've been brainwashed by their own government. But in 2008, for those who were paying attention, the last piece of the puzzle fell into place.

That piece is the realization that democracies invariably turn into socialist states. Even the most carefully crafted document in the world, the American Constitution, could not prevent the socialists (who still deny that that's what they are) from turning the voters into dependent children. The transformation of a once-proud people from strong, self-reliant individuals into babies crying for their free stuff from the government is a sad—and sickening—sight.

We all watched in awe as that single Chinese student faced down his government's tanks at Tiananmen back in 1989. That kid reminds us of a fundamental truth: for a country to be free, the individuals have to have courage. There's still time to turn America around, but it will be difficult, and courage is hard to come by when any attempt to fix things is met with personal vilification and loss of one's job and career.

If we can't fix it, the American government must inevitably collapse into anarchy or dictatorship, as all socialist governments before have done. To many of us, having lived under a government that gropes at our genitalia in the airports, consumes and destroys half the nation's wealth, spends almost twice as much as it takes in, creates one phony crisis after another, starts wars it can't finish (and then deliberately loses them), lies to us about practically everything, and most recently set up a state-controlled health care system complete with Stalinistic death panels (a concept that was initially ridiculed, but which is now generally acknowledged, even by the Left, to be inevitable), ... whew... well, after all that, anarchy suddenly doesn't sound so bad at all.

But what would an anarchist country look like? Whoever would strip-search our grandmothers for explosives at the airport? Who will put the fluoride and chlorine in our water? Who would build the roads, educate the children, arrest the criminals, and bomb our enemies? Casey explains, in this intelligent, philosophical, and occasionally witty book, how a libertarian anarchy would work, and why an anarchy, despite its scary name, is not only nothing to be feared, but may be the best of all possible worlds.

What It Means to Be a Libertarian:
A Personal Interpretation
by Charles Murray
Broadway Books, 1997


A s our government gets bigger, Americans lose more and more freedom. Each crisis--and there seems to be an endless supply of them--is an excuse for people to expand the reach of government: to create new entitlement programs, to bail out more corporations, or to intervene in some foreign country. Yet the loss of freedom and the increased dependence on government that this produces impoverish us financially, weaken our individual moral fiber, and increase the probability of the next crisis.

Charles Murray, co-author of The Bell Curve, argues that only when government is pared down to its barest essentials can people truly have freedom. This freedom would enrich our lives and give us pride in our individual existence and a sense of responsibility. Says Murray: "Responsibility is not the 'price' of freedom, but its reward. Responsibility is what keeps our lives from being trivial." Only when you are free, says Murray, can you accomplish something. By convincing us that we are no longer masters of our own fate, big government deprives us of the very thing that makes us human. "To take personal responsibility," says Murray, "is to infuse freedom with life."

When the hard numbers are calculated, says Murray, government programs almost always have had the same result: billions of dollars spent with no measurable result. Though Murray's ideas are inspiring, he will need data, graphs, and ironclad econometric results to convince committed skeptics. Unlike his earlier battle over IQ, this is one well worth fighting.

A Primer
by David Boaz
Free Press, 1997


C learly-written introduction to the basic principles and historical roots of libertarianism. Most people should already know most of what's in this book, unless they slept through high school civics class. Boaz succinctly describes the philosophy of the Cato Institute, the famous libertarian think-tank. The writing is clear—but gaah, dull.

Update: Boaz has revised this book. It's now titled The Libertarian Mind: A Manifesto for Freedom and it's vastly improved.

The Freedom Outlaw's Handbook
179 Things To Do 'Til the Revolution
by Claire Wolfe


A merica is at that awkward stage," says Claire Wolfe, "[where] it's too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards." While others talk about freedom in the abstract, Claire Wolfe gives us 179 concrete ways to be free. Anyone who's lived in one of the unfree states has likely forgotten, or has never known, what being free feels like. Even though the writing style in this book is almost as bad as the cover illustration, this book will help you remember. Compared to the idiocy we're bombarded with elsewhere, this is like a breath of fresh air.

The Virtue of Selfishness
by Ayn Rand


A lthough altruism pretends to be a moral value, says Ayn Rand in this short collection of essays, it makes the beneficiary of the act the only criterion of moral value, and therefore evades the task of defining a moral code. Only behavior based on objectively defined standards, and not simply helping anyone who has their hand out, says Ayn Rand, can ever be truly ethical.

Rand uses the contrast between "selfishness" and "altruism" to explain the relationship of an individual to society. One problem with this approach is that "altruism" is not really a philosophy of life; the supposed morality of altruistic behavior is only a reaction to what some people saw as insufficient attention being paid to the well-being of one's fellow citizens. Like its opposite, "selfishness," it is merely reactionary and, therefore, perhaps, an uninspiring basis for a moral philosophy.

However, even though we may quarrel with the terms in which Rand frames the arguments, this does not diminish the basic point that altruism is also a spear designed by people to prod you into doing things that benefit them: a way of tricking you into making your values subservient to theirs, and your actions subservient to their selfish needs and whims. To live a virtuous life, one must have the courage to act "selfishly," that is, to assert your right to act independently without having to sacrifice to whichever special interest group happens to grab society's attention: not so much to make society's actions subservient to your values, but to recognize that acting in your own enlightened self-interest is the only way to avoid becoming evil or becoming somebody else's cannon fodder. Thus, Ayn Rand regarded "selfishness" as liberation from the tyranny of a greedy society. Ayn Rand, a resolute atheist, says that society is no better than religion as a compass for ethical values.

Ayn Rand also argues forcefully against compromising one's moral principles. To accept that there can be shades of gray in ethical issues, says Rand, is no better than saying that values are subjective and relative. It would be, as Ayn Rand puts it, a "revolt against the absolutism of reality." In other words, something is either right or it is wrong, and an individual must exercise the moral courage to find out which it is.

The Law
by Frédéric Bastiat
Von Mises, 2007


D espite the title, the theme of this 61-page pamphlet is not the law, but its nemesis: freedom. It's a brilliant and prophetic defense of classical liberalism, inspired by the American Declaration of Independence. Government, writes Bastiat, is a system of legal plunder that erases the distinction between justice and injustice. Bastiat says there are some who wish to put an end to lawful plunder, and some who wish to take part in it. The latter willingly confuse what is lawful with what is legitimate so they may participate in the plunder.

This book is available free at The book is essential reading for anyone calling themselves politically literate. Grab a copy and give it to your kids before they get brainwashed by those who would use the "law" to enslave them to gain power for themselves.

For some reason, while reading this book I kept hearing the tune that goes "Offit de low, indy ... low un." Don't let that happen to you. This book is a breath of fresh air for anyone who believes in freedom.

See also Books by Murray N. Rothbard
See also Atlas Shrugged