Category Archives: book

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

Theory and History

Theory and History

Theory and History

Ludwig von Mises’ last book is an examination of social sciences as they are and as they should be. Mises characteristically spends time excoriating historians who pretend to be economists. His main effort, however, is on the proper delineation between psychology, economics, thymology, and, of course, history.

For those who have read Human Action, the distinction between historical science and economic science is well known. When a so-called economist models the price of onions in Venice in the 1850s, he is not furthering economic knowledge, but simply using mathematics to relate what happened in the past. That this work provides no economic insight and has no predictive power is a central theme of Theory and History.

Furthermore, Mises attacks supposed economic theories that are actually theories of history, and bad ones at that. He embarrasses Marxism for its foundational beliefs that technology determines the social state of affairs and that history is on an inevitable trend towards a final state of socialism. With his typical dry humor, Mises tears apart collectivist ideologies, though some may seem obscure to a modern reader.

On the other hand, his work on thymology is immortal. Continue reading