Read Libertarianism: A Primer by David Boaz Online


Tens of millions of Americans, from Generation X-ers to baby boomers and beyond, are rediscovering libertarianism, a visionary alternative to the tired party orthodoxies of left and right. In 1995 a Gallup poll found that 52 percent of Americans said "the federal government has become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordTens of millions of Americans, from Generation X-ers to baby boomers and beyond, are rediscovering libertarianism, a visionary alternative to the tired party orthodoxies of left and right. In 1995 a Gallup poll found that 52 percent of Americans said "the federal government has become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens." Later that year, The Wall Street Journal concurred, saying: "Because of their growing disdain for government, more and more Americans appear to be drifting—often unwittingly—toward a libertarian philosophy." Libertarianism is hardly new, but its framework for liberty under law and economic progress makes it especially suited for the dynamic new era we are now entering. In the United States, the bureaucratic leviathan is newly threatened by a resurgence of the libertarian ideas upon which the country was founded. We are witnessing a breakdown of all the cherished beliefs of the welfare-warfare state. Americans have seen the failure of big government. Now, in the 1990s, we are ready to apply the lessons of this century to make the next one the century not of the state but of the free individual. David Boaz presents the essential guidebook to the libertarian perspective, detailing its roots, central tenets, solutions to contemporary policy dilemmas, and future in American politics. He confronts head-on the tough questions frequently posed to libertarians: What about inequality? Who protects the environment? What ties people together if they are essentially self-interested? A concluding section, "Are You a Libertarian?" gives readers a chance to explore the substance of their own beliefs. Libertarianism is must reading for understanding one of the most exciting and hopeful movements of our time....

Title : Libertarianism: A Primer
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780684847689
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 320 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Libertarianism: A Primer Reviews

  • Athan Tolis
    2019-02-17 07:22

    I was given this book by somebody who loved it and I promised to read it.I must confess that I approached it with prejudice. I've never met a poor libertarian, my prejudice is that libertarianism is a philosophy of convenience for the rich. The way I see it, the minority of people who pay tax directly (we all do indirectly) need to feel good about something. And this is a philosophy that helps them stand for a set of ideas, rather than merely be indignant about being "soaked" on tax.I was so prejudiced about the whole thing, I bought a book by a Nobel Prize winning economist / historian / philosopher about the role of institutions (for example: the government) and read it first. I thought it would educate my mind on the subtleties of the issues I'd confront in any book about libertarianism and give me a bank of ideas to compare with as I'm reading.I needn't have. David Boaz' "primer" is not an ambitious book. It never goes deep enough into issues that you could vehemently oppose. Equally, it does not build its arguments on an axiomatic basis; so you can't go through and look for errors in logic that isn't there. This is a presentation of a bunch of ideas. "Primer" is probably overselling it, much as it says so on the cover.I am not exposed to philosophy, so I hate taking literally what "popular philosophy" books have to say. The history of the various ideas will inevitably be interpreted from the angle of the author and important thinkers will invariably be mixed with less important thinkers who are closer to the ideas of the author. If this author did so, he certainly did it without me noticing. It was fun to read what he had to say.That said, he completely failed to change my mind on any of my prejudices. How do I know? Easy: on the back of the book there is a questionnaire that helps you decide if you are a libertarian or not. I don't think I'd have answered any of the questions differently before and after having read the book, and I indeed remain of the opinion that this is a philosophy of convenience for taxpaying Americans.Which brings me to the first major benefit I gleaned from reading this book. I finally understood why libertarianism is big in America and nonexistent everywhere else:As the author argues, and from having lived there I'd have to agree, in America people who are free-thinking about the economy tend to be conservative about personal liberties. They call themselves the "conservatives." And people who are free-thinking about personal liberties tend to be anti-market when it comes to the economy. They are, of course, the "liberals." What here in Europe you'd call normal (even if we don't necessarily practice as we preach) is difficult to find in America as an ideology. But Americans call it libertarian. Over here there's no point giving it a name. We may not truly practice this combination of free markets and personal freedom around here, but we all advocate it.It's actually easy to see why things are different in America, and this is me talking now, not the book: in America, personal liberties are de facto significantly more circumscribed and under attack. Much as Americans are free to carry guns (or perhaps because they do) your life can be under threat if you perform abortions, for example. Some states will lock you up forever after the third petty crime. The percent of Americans in jail is a vast multiple of what it is in any European nation. A cop catches you speeding around here in the UK, you actually don't have to show him your driver's license. You have 48 hours to present it to the cop shop of your choice. No American believes me when I say that, he's thankful if he does not get splayed on the hood of his car. This week, French cops are refusing to police riots in Brittany because they're scared. Peaceful "occupy Wall St." protesters got pepper spray in their face. Better not to get into Wikileaks, drones etc. Meanwhile, the US government taxes much less than any European government (at 25% of GDP between state and federal, significantly less than half of French or Italian tax, for example, and two thirds as much as British or German) so the economy is vastly "to the right" of Europe, with many "natural monopolies" fully privatised. The most celebrated Democrat president of the last 50 years got rid of the Glass Steagall act, allowed pharmaceutical companies to advertise drugs on TV and on his last day in office pardoned the country's most famous tax dodger. So there is a distinct "losing side" in America: the "liberals." It's game set and match, really.As a result, the axis along which the friction occurs is between the losing "liberals" and the winning free-market / lower personal liberties "conservatives."The a la carte fellows who don't want either package and want low government involvement in the economy and more personal freedoms have a name in America, they call themselves the "libertarians." They tend to be rich, because the poor are too busy, of course. That's the first thing I learned from this book and it makes good sense, much as it is very obviously a sweeping generalisation. But it explains a lot.The other idea I found appealing in this book is the idea of "natural rights." Yes, I'm revealing that I know diddlysquat about philosophy, but that probably makes me the target reader. As a young student I was told that the mathematics is out there and all we humans have to do is go discover the theorems. We're not making them, we merely go find them. So we now have proofs that you can pack spheres particularly well in 24 dimensions, that you can color a map with 4 colors, that there are 52 types of finite groups and no more. The book argues that we have natural rights and all we have to do is go find them. We set up courts and we grope toward the truth. Sounds awesome to me. Don't know if it's wrong or right, on the other hand. Maybe it's fanciful. David Boaz states it as an axiom, but God knows he needs to do better than that.Similarly, the author argues that in a free economy every time I transact with you by definition we must both be winners, otherwise the transaction would not occur. So a market economy works via billions of such win-win transactions and gets us to a place where a planned economy could never go. Yes, agreed, but a second year course in Economics in every single university in the world has a few weeks dedicated to stuff that people cannot achieve in this manner. Dunno, air traffic control. The author is rather pathetic when he goes looking for examples that defy this theory. Yeah, congratulations, there's a country where people got together and built lighthouses, but it was the country that controlled the seven seas for a few centuries.More to the point, yes, I see where the author is coming from. But he has not made me move from where I started. He states that restaurant owners should be allowed to admit smokers. I have not met anybody who is not extremely happy about the smoking ban. Maybe not at first, but pretty much everybody I know has turned on this issue. The state got involved and stopped people from harming themselves in public places. It was necessary for somebody to nudge us that way (and I'm sorry I'm borrowing the hyper-popular term) but now car companies don't fit an ashtray as standard anymore, and that's because this small nudge (there I go again) has moved us all to a better place.I'm a mathematician, that's proof by counterexample. QED, baby.Regardless, I enjoyed the book. It's far too prosaic for me to award it more than three stars, but it informed me, it entertained me and it made me think. Bring on Nozick! He won't be as easy to dismiss.

  • Josh
    2019-02-02 05:33

    If you're looking for a well-written introduction to libertarianism this is your book.

  • Clinton
    2019-02-01 13:28

    It'll change the way you think. If it doesn't, you either already voted for a Libertarian (or, failing that, Ron Paul) or you're not a rational person.

  • Chimeddolgor Ch
    2019-02-13 06:09

    Либертари үзлийн талаар ойлголттой болмоор байвал энэ номыг уншаарай. Өнөөгийн нийгэм улс төрийг маш тодорхой, цэгцтэй, баримттай нь тайлбарласан байгаа. Би багшийн шаардлагаар уншсан (нуугаад яахав хха).

  • JP
    2019-01-24 05:22

    A must-read for any libertarian or anyone who describes themself as "conservative on economic issues, but against social control." Quite different from Murray's book (released also in 1997), Boaz concentrates on the development of the libertarian thought and then on practical issues. Boaz does a great job of tearing apart anyone's claim that we should all be equal, showing that the equality would unbalance itself very quickly. With the exception of equality of rights, libertarians realize that equality is not going to happen because we all desire and assess differently. Perhaps the most prominent problem with our present government involves the understanding of "rights." The Founders indicated that all rights not expressly given the federal government are not given at all. Today, people claim all sorts of false constitutional rights and judges grant them. Boaz shows many examples where judges and legislators defend additional rights and take property wrongfully. The critics of the Bill of Rights claimed that it might be interpreted as an exhaustive list. Indeed, judges tend to look there rather than to the express powers when deciding constitutional authority. An interesting argument is that all rights are actually property rights, whether as self-ownership, by rightful acquisition, or based on being the first to add one's labor to something (i.e. create, discover, or homestead). Under this definition, a right of free speech becomes a right of use of means of distribution. Boaz outlines additional separations beyond that of church and state, including family and state, and art and state. Boaz points out the difference between law and legislation and how the latter is used to achieve so many deleterious effects. He addresses the variety of property takings by the government, ranging from taxation to inflation. Boaz finishes his work with a number of policy stances: against the draft, against being the world's police force (and showing that we are not needed in most situations), for the value of charity, against the evils of price controls (rent control, farm subsidies, and minimum wages), against taxation, and against regulation. He makes a concise argument about the benefits of foreign trade and debunks the myth of the trade balance. He also points out that there has been no intellectual debate about this for a long time -- it's the special interests that make ludicrous claims. Finally, Boaz ends by pointing out that new information technology and the global economy are bringing about much of what Smith and others would want. In other words, some things are beyond government control.

  • Gabriel Galvão
    2019-01-30 08:24

    Fine book. For non-Americans it might be uninteresting at times. The lack of distinction between both the natural-rights libertarians and the consequentialist ones annoyed me (the book portraits pretty much the natural-rights flavor of libertarianism). Other than that, an easy, interesting read, overall.

  • Isaac
    2019-01-23 05:18

    Juicy wholesome libertarian nuggets that are well seasoned and easy to swallow.Five stars because:The book does what it sets out to do.Uses a variety of examples.Objectively describes each political philosophy in the four quadrant spectrum.Beastly further reading lists.Is trying to persuade and offer solutions, not point fingers and dig up dirt.Makes me want to read more about conservatism, liberalism, and socialism, not avoid them.Check it out.Please and thank you.

  • Julie
    2019-02-16 07:11

    Although I strongly disagree with the political and philosophical concepts behind Libertarianism, this is an excellent book for those wanting to get insight into the Libertarian movement.

  • Literary Chic
    2019-01-26 13:13

    I'm finally done! I've been picking away at this one for a couple months. A good friend of mine is running for local office and is a libertarian. In support of him, I thought I should be more informed about his party. This book is very well researched but tends to be a little over wrought with statistics. (Please don't send me comments for or against any political topic. This book's sole purpose on my shelf was to be informed during dinner with a friend.)

  • Joe
    2019-02-16 05:10

    A primer on libertarianism that seems to assume the reader has never read another book in their life, and has precisely no idea about libertarianism. A basic philosophical analysis is offered as the basis of the entire outlook, and yet little support is offered for the natural property rights thesis, instead choosing to essentially describe the - hugely controversial - notion as self-evident. This is followed by an incredibly facile history of everything which desperately tries to mould virtually everything good which has ever happened into a result of libertarianism, and everything bad to state power.The subsequent economic discussion is little better, reading like the ravings of a teenager who read about the ideas of Adam Smith on Wikipedia and consequently assumes that they are an expert on all things economic. If you're literally looking for an easy, unsophisticated and uncritical introduction to libertarianism from a dogmatic follower, this will do. For anything else, move on.

  • James
    2019-02-11 11:22

    This is an essential primer of libertarian ideas starting with the premise that "Libertarianism is 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." David Boaz has, in a positive way, written an introduction to libertarian thinking. Starting with a brief history of the roots of libertarianism he puts forward libertarian principles in chapters highlighting the nature and source of individual rights, morals and ethics, toleration, the role of the constitution and law, and civil society and the economics of the free market. He shows how libertarians reject big government and deal with other current issues. The book concludes with a guide for further reading that provides the reader sources for more thorough information about libertarianism. I found this was one of the best introductions to the libertarian view of life that I have read.

  • Sean Rosenthal
    2019-01-18 13:09

    Interesting Quote: "How could the U.S. Constitution be improved?...Someone has suggested that on top of the safeguards against excessive government already in the Constitution-the structure of enumerated and limited powers, the Bill of Rights, the Ninth Amendment clarifying that all other rights are retained by the people, the Tenth Amendment reserving unenumerated powers to the states or the people-one more layer be added: an amendment reading, 'And we mean it.'" -David Boaz, Libertarianism a Primer

  • Malin Friess
    2019-02-05 07:18

    I give Libertarianism the book 3 stars. It wasn't nearly as entertaining as hearing Dr. Ron Paul go on about the nasty Federal Reserve, shutting down the Dept of Education, or going back on the gold standard, legalizing pornography and marijuana, or how building a fence in Texas is dangerous because it might be keeping American's in. We will leave it up to the straw poll and the people of Iowa to decide...

  • Dan
    2019-01-23 08:14

    Excellent introduction to both classical and modern libertarian thought, principles, etc. I particularly like that Boaz differentiates the political theory and philosophy from that of the pop culture, godless, capitalistic, cynical version espoused by Ayn Rand and her followers. He also delves into some of the varied paths taken by different libertarian thinkers, some of which diverge quite a bit from each other, yet still relate back to the core principle of individual freedoms.

  • Sam Motes
    2019-01-27 08:28

    This book does a good job of describing the Libertarian platform based on personal freedom, respect for the rights of others, and small government. It despises the big government social programs of the Democrats and the conservative attack on personal freedoms of the Republicans so it is not left or right leaning by definition. It builds on the Objectivism ideas proposed by Ann Rand and the policy stances of Milton Freedom to build the historical beginnings of the party.

  • Manunderstress
    2019-02-02 07:16

    A good intro to libertarian thought and argument, although from a decidedly libertarian view. The book seeks to persuade, and does so effectively much of the time, but there are places where it is not too difficult to see that the subject has been over-simplified. That said, this book and the libertarian argument in general is quite seductive and should have you reevaluating old musty long-held assumptions in no time.

  • Don
    2019-01-22 13:19

    This was a good book that was very informative on the basic aspects of Libertarianism. If you are someone like me, one who really does not swing far right or left, believes in small government,social human rights, and liberty this may be a good read for you. It is very detailed and I found that it was easy to get bogged down in some spots. Overall, "Libertarianism: A Primer" is worth checking out.

  • Charlie
    2019-02-14 11:20

    I give credit to this book for being the first book I read about libertarianism, but that's about it. It's just ok, and if memory serves correctly, Boaz makes the rather laughable assertion that perhaps government could be paid for in the absence of taxes with "a lottery." I wish he had made more of a case for anarchism as opposed to minarchism, but then again, I believe Boaz is a minarchist, so perhaps that's asking too much.

  • Dan Robert
    2019-01-18 10:21

    A good, solid overview of the principles of libertarianism with its focus on personal freedom and respect of others coupled with a desire for smaller government whose responsibility should remain with the protection of everyone’s human rights and not much else. While there seems to be a hint of rose-tinted glasses here and there, this is a sincere explanation of the basic tenets which make one think a lot about the so-called “benefits” of big government.

  • Mike
    2019-01-18 06:31

    This book taught me that libertarianism is not an evil corporate system that will convert all roads into toll roads, and make me pay my fire department before services can be rendered. It also taught me that my inclination to be left alone might not be misanthropy, but an expression of the individual liberty that is my birthright. Sweet!

  • Megann Zeigler
    2019-01-21 08:18

    Very interesting concept. Truly the way we all should live. Interesting that it was written in 1995 and we are in worse trouble now than then. Such a sad state of affairs our country is in and there are ways out just not the governments ways. People really do need to wake up and smell the roses as we watch our country go down the drain.

  • Russ
    2019-01-22 06:27

    Is there a third way in American politics? This book provides a solid explanation of the third way. Everyone asks what a libertarian is and why I choose to be one. This book provides the answers. It isn't worth reading if you're not open minded. Some of the presentation is dated like race relations and marriage. It is perhaps the best explanation of libertarianism that I've read.

  • Ivanildo Terceiro
    2019-02-12 09:09

    De longe a melhor introdução ao pensamento libertário.

  • George
    2019-02-06 07:11

    A terrific introduction to the political philosophy of libertarianism.

  • Jay
    2019-01-23 05:05

    More detailed explanation of the libertarian political philosophy. A truly enlightening book.

  • Ahonsi
    2019-02-03 05:29

    Murray Rothbard's For a New Liberty appears to be the better introduction to libertarianism. Had I not read that book first, then Boaz's probably won't have been so sleep-inducing.

  • Heather
    2019-01-18 13:27

    Skip the introduction as it is a bit dated, but the principles in the book are timeless.

  • Leslie
    2019-02-09 12:05

    An easy and comprehensive explanation on Libertarianism, especially the chapter on current issues.

  • Nedland P.
    2019-02-10 13:24

    Good introduction to libertarian ideals.

  • Keith Haley
    2019-02-13 06:12

    This book is n excellent source for thinking poeple in this country.