Category Archives: book

Review of Liberty: A Path to its Recovery

liberty_aptirF. A. Harper’s book Liberty: A Path to its Recovery is an attempt to define liberty and a call to reverse the growth of government. Published in 1949, the evils of the state that Harper refers to may seem quaint compared to the economic havoc wreaked by modern governments, but the general principles still apply.

Harper says that, “Liberty exists when a person is free to do whatever he desires, according to his wisdom and conscience.” This is a good definition for freedom, which is often conflated with liberty. Actually, Harper’s discussion of liberty is much more instructive than his actual definition, as he digs into the fact that liberty is related to how people interact and that people who live in solitude have complete liberty:

“If he is prohibited from doing this, by another person or by any combination of persons who are not direct parties to the deal, his liberty is thereby transgressed. And further, it makes no difference, so far as liberty is concerned, under what name the act of prohibition is paraded; or whether it is by a corporation, a cooperative, a labor union, a trade union, the government, or what not.”

Despite the flavor of anarchy in the above quote, Harper explicitly calls for limited government. He simply assumes that limited government produces the “optimal” level of liberty without Continue reading

Review of Libertarian Quandaries

libertarian_quandriesJakub Wisniewski‘s book Libertarian Quandries is a thoughtful and accurate account of the libertarian ethical system. Though the language is a bit academic at times, the chapters are short and pithy. This makes the book an excellent choice for those who are familiar with libertarianism and want to take their understanding and arguments to the next level.

Wisniewski addresses a wide range of objections to libertarianism, be they economic, ethical, or simply a question of what is practical. Similarly, he mounts a calm but relentless attack on arguments in favor of government. Ancaps will appreciate his consistent anarchist message, while libertarians who are still holding on the idea of limited government will find some interesting food for thought.

That said, there are a few things that call for clarification: Continue reading

Review of Ethics: A Very Short Introduction

ethics_avsi

In his book, Ethics: A Very Short Introduction, Simon Blackburn takes the reader on a semi-structured tour of various ethical topics. He tackles a variety of bad ideas that have made their way into the ethical arena and spends the majority of the book focused on putting them down. Blackburn mostly refrains, however, from developing or advocating any particular ethical theory.

Surprisingly, given the title, the book is not overly friendly to the uninitiated. The reader is often expected to already be familiar with major ideas, figures, and schools of thought in ethics and philosophy. While in the beginning Blackburn does do a good job explicitly motivating why ethical systems are important, by spending the bulk of the work on focused on flawed systems, the book might be discouraging to individuals looking for an ethical system to live by. Blackburn does drop a few hints at what he thinks a good ethic might look like, but sadly it seems to be some sort of democratic socialism.

The book is structured into three sections. The first Continue reading

Review of Trick or Treatment

trick_or_treatmentTrick or Treatment by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst is a book that explains how ineffective medical techniques were until medical professionals adopted a scientific approach to testing treatments, and reviews how various alternative medicines have performed under the scrutiny of high-quality modern clinical trials.

This book will be interesting to ancaps for two reasons. The first is that those of us who were not raised libertarian but had to go through the world-shattering process of learning it as adults tend to be vulnerable to people peddling bad medical advice and bogus treatments. This book will help protect you from charlatans and snake-oil salesmen.

The second reason is that it contains interesting historical facts about how government has impeded progress in the medical field, adding to its already-unfathomable death toll. Continue reading

Review of A Spontaneous Order: the Capitalist Case for a Stateless Society

spontaneous_order_chase_rachelsIn his book, A Spontaneous Order: The Capitalist Case for a Stateless Society, Chase Rachels does an excellent job conveying insights from both libertarianism and economics. He uses clear explanations of basic concepts and persuasive examples for applications. He relentlessly identifies aggression as the root cause of society’s problems, and the state as the primary source of aggression. Most importantly, the book is permeated by a Rothbardian hatred of the state, which will make it an enjoyable read for any ancap.

Rachels makes frequent use of long passages quoted from other works. Thankfully these are drawn from some of the best sources on libertarianism and economics: Continue reading

Sapiens

sapiens_coverSapiens is a high level summary of human history. It takes a look at not just our species of humans, but also the human species that our ancestors drove into extinction. While this book is not written from an anarcho-capitalist perspective by any stretch of the imagination, it should still be an enjoyable read for most ancaps for two reasons. First, without really intending to, it nicely summarizes the progress humans have made in our never-ending quest for freedom. Second, though the author cannot seem to help occasionally giving undue credit to government, the book conveys enough skepticism towards the state that an ancap can still appreciate the good parts.

From an anarcho-capitalist perspective, Sapiens is a book about capital accumulation, though it does not really  know it. It begins 70,000 years ago Continue reading

The Ultimate Resource 2

The Ultimate Resource 2

The Ultimate Resource 2

Many works on economics are depressing. This is because economic analysis properly starts with the ideal economy: a free market of individuals producing all the wonders one can imagine. It then analyzes the ways in which government prevents these good things from happening in the real world. The reader is then left to contemplate his own dismal existence in comparison to what might have been. Notable exceptions include I, Pencil and Julian Simon’s book The Ultimate Resource 2.

Simon’s book is uplifting because instead of comparing reality to an anarcho-capitalist society, it compares the real world to popular, but imaginary, dystopias. He dismantles the alarm around overpopulation, resource depletion, and other doomsday scenarios with solid economic analysis and historical evidence. Furthermore, he explains how all of these supposed problems are solved efficiently and elegantly by the free market.

This book is ultimately a happy tale of human progress. Despite the seemingly limited supply of natural resources and the counter-productive efforts of government, people continue to have more access to food, water, clean air, and other things that make their lives better. Every resource that people desire has been on a trend towards greater abundance. This is not in spite of population growth, but because of it. As Simon says:

“More people, and increased income, cause resources to become more scarce in the short run. Heightened scarcity causes prices to rise. The higher prices present opportunity and prompt inventors and entrepreneurs to search for solutions. Many fail in this search, at cost to themselves. But in a free society, solutions are eventually found. And in the long run the new developments leave us better off than if the problems had not arisen. That is, prices eventually become lower than before the increased scarcity occurred.”

Simon cautions that although this trend is prominent in historical surveys, it is not inevitable. Continue reading