The main idea of this book is to thoroughly describe the main points of libertarian ideology and discuss contemporary issues, problems, and solutions that could be derived using consistent application of this ideology.
- The Coming Libertarian Age
This chapter is an attempt to explain libertarianism as philosophy of freedom and define link of freedom with economic prosperity based on historical data. It is also about libertarianism as specifically American philosophy based on national character of Americans as children of immigrants creating the new world from a scratch. It also discusses contemporary decline of American creed and political fights between conservatives and liberals currently under way. Author presents fundamental ideas of Libertarianism and positions this philosophy in 2-dimensional space of Economic Freedom and Personal Freedom versus one-dimensional left-right continuum typically used. In this space Libertarianism is high on both dimensions while Conservatism is high on Economic Freedom and low on Personal and contemporary Left Liberalism is high on Personal and low on Economic Freedom. Author believes that eventually people prefer Freedom in all areas so Libertarianism will grow to be the dominant ideology of America.
- The Roots of Libertarianism
This is review of history of Libertarianism starting with 6 century BC Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu, then it goes into discussing old testament where God cautions people against kings, and finally it is looking at relatively contemporary ideas of Pluralism, Religious Tolerance, and Natural Laws. Review of contemporary history of implementation of these ideas is based on European and especially English and American history as it should be, because nowhere else they had any serious influence until very recently. In view of this history author discusses classical Liberalism of XIX century and its decline at the beginning of XX century. Final discussion is about Ayn Rand as promoter of Libertarianism in Philosophy, popularization of these ideas among population, and impact of Austrian School of Economics that provided strong support to the idea of freedom as the only effective method to achieve economic prosperity.
- What Rights do We Have?
This is discussion about rights and from libertarian point of view the valid rights relate to right for self-ownership and what people can or cannot do to each other without violating these rights. Author reviews not only libertarian position of basic self-ownership right, but also alternatives: rights by some people over others from monarchy when a king is the owner of everybody to communism when formally everybody owns everybody. For libertarians rights means first and foremost equality of rights, but only as equality before the law and equality of opportunity, but not equality of results. The right for private property augments the most important right for self-ownership because the property is extension of self. However original acquisition of property is treated in completely fantastic way as a right of the first comer to declare whatever is not owned by anybody as his property. Author also provides details of Nozick’s theory of justice:
- Person who acquires a holding in accordance with principle of justice in acquisition is entitled to this holding.
- Person who acquires a holding in accordance with principle of justice in transfer, from someone else entitled to the holding, is entitled to the holding.
- No one is entitled to a holding except by applications of 1 and 2
The complete principle of distributive justice would say simply that a distribution is just if everyone is entitled to the holdings they possess under the distribution
Author supplements libertarian definition of natural rights with the Nonaggression Axiom: No one has the right to initiate aggression against the person or property of anyone else.
Through the balance of the chapter author discusses application of natural rights and their limitations.
- The Dignity of Individual
This chapter starts with discussion of trust and complex network of associations to assure validity of this trust as basis of contemporary economy using example of worldwide ATM network. From here analysis goes to individual as the basic unit of libertarian social analysis. It goes through history of expansion throughout American history of notion of individual with rights to all human beings and then reviews contemporary condition of individual in American society and attacks against individual rights from all kinds of collectivists who seek to establish group rights as superior to individual’s.
- Pluralism and Toleration
Pluralism here includes moral pluralism when morality of individuals derived from diverse religious and philosophical backgrounds. Contrary to both liberal and conservative attitudes libertarians believe that the only legitimate role for government is to establish such rules of interaction that everybody could practice his/her morals without interfering with others. Such rules necessarily should include religious tolerance and separation of conscience and state,
- Law and the Constitution
The libertarian attitude to law is based on simple rules: Do not hit other people, do not take their staff, and keep your promises. Author also provides a bit more sophisticated requirements for laws based on Hayek’s “Constitution of Liberty”:
- The laws must apply to everyone including rulers
- No one is above the law.
- Power should be divided.
- The law should be made by one body and administered by other.
- The independent judiciary should control administration of the law
- The administrators of the law should have minimal discretion.
The following up after these definitions is the review of contemporary conditions in USA demonstrates significant deviations from these rules, rending contemporary America in material breach of the Constitution.
- Civil Society
Libertarians believe that government should be limited and main support for human’s pursuit of happiness should come from the Civil Society defined as pretty much all voluntary associations either commercial or not. Author reviews different types of voluntary association and their various functions including all sorts of cooperation, mutual aid, and charity.
- The Market Process
This is about libertarian attitudes to the Market. It is reviewed as usual in relation to dominant ideas of XX century: socialism and central planning. Author expresses the Hayekian idea of impossibility of central planning at the society level and posits that planning is possible and necessary at the low level of complexity such as individual enterprise. From this point of view he reviews usual market related issues: information processing and coordination, division of labor, competition, entrepreneurship, prices including price controls, economic growth, jobs, regulation, taxation, and free trade. Finally he takes page from Frederic Bastiat and discusses “what is seen and what is unseen”.
- What Big Government is all About
Author reviews growth of government and increased prosperity of bureaucracy in Washington and concludes that it is not different in any way shape or form from all other governments in the world history, which in their essence are just a group of bandits. The democratic character of American government does not make it into “government of us”, but rather just provide people with a limited choice of which group of bandits would use direct violence to satisfy their needs for the next period of time. One of the most important points libertarians make is that people incorrectly assign government characteristics of benevolent individuals, when in reality it is just a bunch of politicians and bureaucrats as flowed as any other group of humans and not particularly different from groups of politicians and bureaucrats in control of corporations. He also reviews process of special interests obtaining what they want because of government’s ability to concentrate loot by taking so little from many that they would not resist and gives it to a few making it highly justifiable for a few to fight for. It leads inevitably to situation when everybody is a loser and everybody is a winner of this redistribution process except from politicians and bureaucrats with sticky fingers who are winning all the time. There is also a very interesting reference to work of Amilcare Puviani who identified 11 strategies governments use for robbing people without igniting any serious resistance. Author also discusses tremendous support provided to politicians and bureaucrats by intellectuals in art, education, entertainment, science, and other areas of intellectual pursuit that has little or no value on the free market and exchange for a share of the loot. Without such support allowing building ideological justifications the robbery on existing scale would not be possible. The final point in this chapter is that government based parasite economy is growing exponentially and getting close to choking real economy by the minute.
- Contemporary Issues
Here author reviews contemporary issues the libertarians have to deal with if they to achieve success. Number one is to restore economic growth, which he believes could be done by adhering to libertarian principles: individual responsibility, rule of law, and property rights. The second most important is cutting budget, meaning decrease in size in power of government. After that author goes through the list of issues from inequality to healthcare and presents brief libertarian recommendation for each of them.
- The Obsolete State
Here author discusses what he believes is incorrect notion of market failure. Too often people understand this term as failure of market supply them with what they want at price they would agree to pay. When it does not happen they ready to ask government to interfere and provide goods and services using force either via nationalization, or price control, or subsidy, or something else of this nature. Author quite reasonably points out that typically when it happens people do not really get what they want, instead they get government created low quality and insufficient quantity goods and services that could not match similar goods and services provided by market. He provides laundry list of such situation in education, healthcare, and other areas where people run away from government to market sometimes even if they have to run to the dangerous black market where government could use violence against them just for participating in this market.
- The Libertarian Future
The final chapter formulates the believe in bright libertarian future that is getting closer and closer with each government failure to deliver on its promises and each increase in deprivation caused by government takeovers of various areas economy. Author makes important point that libertarians do not believe and do not suggest utopia as it did communists and socialists of all types. Libertarians propose framework for free people going about their business with voluntary exchange and cooperation, the situation that inevitably becomes framework for utopia the form and details of which is not possible to imagine.
MY TAKE ON IT:
I consider my ideology as closed to libertarianism as I can possibly be close to ideology of any other human being who is not I at this time (I would definitely have a huge fight with me as I was at some other times of my life). However I am the Equal Rights Libertarian meaning that I do not except idea of validity and fairness of current distribution of private property especially for natural resources. I believe that whatever this distribution is it is much more result of violence, banditry, and robbery, than some idealistic original discoverer of use for some natural resources and therefore owner of property on this resource with consequent fair transfer from hand to hand over generations. However I do not believe that this existing unfairness could be somehow corrected by additional acts of banditry and robbery in transferring and/or redistributing these property rights. As to nationalization of property history decidedly demonstrated that violent transfer of resources into hands of bureaucrats and politicians would do nothing but create more misery and suffering for vast majority of people. So my remedy is to leave property owners in control of their property, but declare equal rights of everybody for natural resources, and not as formality, but as practical method of providing everybody with something to trade on and live off with people who use less than average being able to sell these rights to people who use more than average. I believe that it would make everybody property owner and therefore defender of property, free markets, and ideologically libertarian. Without some kind of similar reform vast majority of people, who do not have any property to speak of and who had to sell their labor for living at exceedingly lower price because of competition from automation, would never support libertarian idea of sanctity of private property, rule of law, and free market all of which for them are nice thing in theory, but having no relation to their real live on practice. .