Tag Archives: book review

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 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 David Friedman’s “Machinery of Freedom”

The Machinery of Freedom by David Friedman

The Machinery of Freedom by David Friedman

David Friedman recently published the third edition of Machinery of Freedom, his classic book on anarcho-capitalism. Even after 40 years it is still a great read for both fledgling and seasoned libertarians.

Friedman does his best work using economics to describe how, and why, anarcho-capitalist institutions could, and should, be developed. He gives an excellent historical examination of Iceland, which had a legal system that showed how some libertarian ideas would work in practice. In Chapter 37, he also has some wise words for radicals about civil disruption, discussing how shock tactics and property damage will only instill in people a desire for strong government. He warns that anarchists should avoid traditional revolutionary techniques used by those who want to usurp government power because the same strategy does not work for destroying government power all together. It should be noted that this book is not just an historical tour of libertarianism. Friedman includes many modern topics, including crypto-currencies and anonymous online markets.

Rather than take a broad look at the different areas where Friedman shines on well traveled topics (global warming, private courts, market derived law) and nit-picking other areas (pollution, foreign policy, writing style), this review will focus on the implications Machinery of Freedom has for libertarian ethics. This is because the most important contribution of his book 40 years later is not the libertarian answers he was able to find but rather those questions that he has been unable to identify solutions for after all of these years. In this way, Friedman lays out clear challenges to young libertarian thinkers who are working on the next generation of libertarian insights.

Friedman’s challenge consists of two fundamental problems with principled libertarianism that, even after 40 years, no one has answered to his satisfaction. Continue reading

Review of “Freedom!” by Adam Kokesh

freedom_bookFreedom! 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. Continue reading

Review of “The Problem of Political Authority”

tpopaIn his excellent book, The Problem of Political Authority, Michael Huemer takes a methodical and relentless approach to analyzing whether government is justified in doing things that ordinary people are not. People should not steal, but what about taxes? People should not brutalize potheads, but what about those who become federal prisoners for recreational drug use?

Concluding that government has no such authority, Huemer recommends a system where such authority is unnecessary. He explores the alternative of anarcho-capitalism and shows that even though anarcho-capitalism is not perfect, it is superior in every way to statism. Huemer makes the point that it is important not to compare some ideal anarchy with obviously flawed states, such as the USSR, but to compare the best realistic government with a realistic system of anarchy. (p185)

For those already on friendly terms with anarcho-capitalism, this book is still a worthwhile read if only for its lucid deconstruction of social contract theory. It knocks down each variation of the social contract, which is sure to be useful when talking to the kind of people who heard something about a social contract and assumed the debate was over. Continue reading