LIBERTARIANISM: A Primer by David Boaz


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From theoretical roots to contemporary policies, Boaz, who is executive vice president of the Cato Institute, a conservative think tank, presents a solid introduction to a trendy ideology. The end of libertarianism is individual freedom, its Antichrist the state, and its mantra the market. Unlike those who bash government simply to further their own interests, Boaz understands the substantive implications of the libertarian merger of natural-rights liberalism and capitalism, and he embraces them. He recognizes that liberty (which calls for maximizing individual choice) is not synonymous with democracy (which is a process of social choice) and promotes the former as the overriding concern. He rejects the government intervention in private lives favored by conservatives just as adamantly as the government intervention in the market favored by 20th-century liberals. There are some odd omissions, however: Public goods are discussed without accounting for national defense, and the role of government (or lack thereof) in the economy without mentioning the provision of money. A more serious omission is the absence of the ultimate critics of government, the 19th-century anarchists, from Boaz's version of intellectual history. No doubt they are ignored because the anarchists included private property and other elements of capitalism in their pantheon of coercive institutions. Boaz simply defines coercion as a function of government and thereby anoints capitalism as a coercion-free form of social organization. Sliding by the more encompassing anarchist critique with an assumption rather than an argument leaves the libertarian infatuation with capitalism open to question. Despite struggling with tunnel-vision, Boaz tries to be an intellectually honest cheerleader for capitalism and produces a work that should be taken seriously.

Pub Date: Jan. 15th, 1997
ISBN: 068484768X
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Free Press