DOASKDOTELL BOOK REVIEW of David Boaz’s Libertarianism books (2)


Author (or Editor):  Boaz, David

Title: Libertarianism: A Primer and The Libertarian Reader

Fiction? Anthology?   A (2nd Book)

Publisher: The Free Press

Date: 1996

ISBN: 0-684-83198-8 and 0-684-83200-3

Series Name:

Physical description:

Relevance to DOASKDOTELL: libertarianism

Review: David Boaz is Executive Vice-President of the Cato Institute in Washington, DC. Cato is a libertarian think-tank which tends to advocate pragmatic, free-market approaches to public policy problems without always insisting of libertarian ideological purity. It's views tend to be very similar to my own (as in my own DADT book). Hence Boaz's writings and anthology-editing (including his earlier 1993 collaboration with Crane, Market Liberalism) were very valuable to me in writing my own book.

In a sense, these two books compose one opus, Boaz's definitive work to date. Between them, over 300,000 words of text (mine as about 180,000). The Reader, of course, is a collection of essays dating back to ancient times (there is a passage from the Bible, in I Samuel, and a passage by Taoist philosopher and poet Lao-tzu of the 6th Century, B.C.! The Reader is set up a bit like a philosophy text book, with sections and authorial commentary to outline each major concept.

Boaz emphasizes several grand themes. The most important may be self-ownership and natural rights of man, well developed in the earlier portions of the Primer. Harry Browne has sometimes mentioned this in various speeches (and it is developed fully in Browne's own writings in practical applications). Another would be spontaneous order, and civil society. Freedom begets wealth and tends, of its own accord, to become a natural antidote to poverty, even before voluntary charity, let alone government programs.

Boaz's organization of his work gives him the opportunity to explore the same concepts from multiple angles and logical hierarchies, a situation in argument I have encountered a lot in my own writing.

Boaz does not seem to be as concerned with the arcane details of various controversial policy issues ("gay rights," tort reform, term limits) as with presenting the broad historical sweep of what he sees as a grand philosophical and political tradition which is not so recent as most activists think. His treatment of "family values" is terse but pointed (compared to me, Sullivan, and, say, George Gilder). My treatment, by way of comparison, was to emphasis the psychological roots of the same philosophy.



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