Freedom! is a ten chapter rant by Adam Kokesh that makes brief libertarian commentary on war, taxes, the environment, and many other topics. In the style of a political rally keynote, Kokesh attacks statism from a number of angles. His focus does not seem to be to educate the reader with an organized presentation of libertarianism, but instead to inspire them with a rapid tour of libertarian ideas.
His message is generally on point, taking a pure anarcho-capitalist position on most issues. He rightly identifies government as the primary cause of pain and suffering in society. He points out a number of ways in which government makes the world worse off by citing problems caused by war, soldiers, government police, government courts, prisons, eminent domain, government schools, government intervention in medicine, welfare, prohibition and other government machinations.
One place where he seems to trip up is on the environment, saying:
“Thus, it is wrong to pollute in a way that spoils natural resources others could use or enjoy. It is wrong to claim land in order to prevent its use. It is wrong to limit access to natural resources for those who would put them to good use.”
Well, that’s three strikes in a row. If Kokesh uses virgin land as a garbage dump, he is spoiling a natural resources that others might have enjoyed. People could have used it to have a picnic, but Kokesh decided to use it for something else first. Well, according to libertarianism, Kokesh has not done anything wrong. There is nothing inherently better about using the land for one purpose over another. All that matters is that when Kokesh started polluting, nobody else was using the land for something else.
Is it wrong to claim land to prevent its use? Not necessarily. Perhaps a scientist wants to study how a certain biosphere evolves without human interference. He could erect a wall around the area and prevent people from using it for other purposes, and that is okay. What is not okay (and perhaps this is what Kokesh meant), is for the government to arbitrarily declare that certain resources are off limits.
Is it wrong to limit access to resources to those who would put them to good use? Again, not necessarily. Isn’t limiting access what property rights are all about? Not to mention, who is to decide what a good use is? Is Kokesh going to defend Eminent Domain? I doubt it, but this statement needs serious clarification.
Later in the book, Kokesh has a similar misstep on the environment, saying:
“There are no more precious resources for humanity than those essential to all life on earth. We all have a right to breathe the air, drink the water, take nourishment from the earth, and put to use all manner of natural resources, so long as we do not interfere with anyone else’s access to these resources.”
Using resources necessarily interferes with everyone else’s access to those resources. There is no excuse these days for associating the Lockean proviso with libertarianism. Not to mention that subjective value theory explains that there is no way to objectively state that air and water are the most precious resources. Kokesh should just delete these sentences.
There are other things that were not great about the book. Attacking GMOs because they are scary science instead of attacking GMO companies for using government to promote their product. Insinuating that bureaucrats in the government courts are all consciously trying to enslave people, or that governments and banks encourage tax slaves to take on debt as a way to make them dependent on their jobs. While it is true that the system is bad and full of bad people, the world is much more complex than that. He also implies at one point there is some legitimate form of IP, without really explaining what he means. There is also a very out-of-place section on sexual assault. There is certainly something to be said about how government increases rape and other problems related to sexual assault, but Kokesh doesn’t take the time to say it, so that section would be better left out.
Regardless, this book can be recommended for several reasons. First, there are likely a number of budding libertarians who would feel empowered by reading it. Second, Kokesh often hits close to the mark on what libertarianism is all about, for example he says that “Freedom is what you have when no one is forcing their will on you.”
There is more to the book than just libertarianism and Austrian economics. Kokesh dives into pyschology and life coaching. He muses about eternal life through technology. He mentions localization without really explaining how it is supposed to work. However, the main message is clear: government is the great enemy of individual liberty. Libertarians should pursue every strategy to bring an end to statism. Once we do, it will usher in a new era of peace and prosperity.
A relentless and well-founded attack on statism. Four Murrays.