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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Book review: Libertarianism in One Lesson

I just finished reading a book called Libertarianism in One Lesson by David Bergland - "Why libertarianism is the best hope for America's future" oh myyyyyyyyy god, I am so excited! Nah, I'm actually sitting in the computer lab, maybe seemingly glaring at the computer screen. Apparently I look very serious when I'm on the computer, no matter what I am doing (on Facebook, etc.).

Overall, I find it to be a very good book - easy to read, simple, and to the point. It probably is too basic for most well-versed libertarians (and political aficionados in general) . There are eighteen chapters, and in each one, the author explains the libertarian reasoning for why we believe in handling the topic of that chapter (e.g. education) in a certain way. Chapters one through six are more introductory in nature because, ya know, when trying to explain to some people for the first time what exactly libertarianism is, they sometimes are like, "That sounds like feudalism."

Or their reaction is similar to this.

Face it, libertarianism is kind of hard to explain without sounding like a nut - most people have been raised to believe that government is virtuous, efficient, and all-powerful. Any problems? Then bring it up to the government! They can fix anything! Aw hell, if that was the case, I would not be a libertarian. Just look around you, people believe only government can "end" poverty or do deep-space exploration. For the less naive, they might think government does a better job than the private sector. The rest of the chapters actually cover different topics: the problem, (if applicable) what may have caused it, and a libertarian solution. Chapter eighteen is an exception, and instead, answers different problems from a conservative, liberal, and libertarian point of view.

Look how shiny AND AMERICAN this is!
Even though this is a very simple read, you might learn something new or from a different viewpoint. This is a very nice book to give to your friends who want to learn more about libertarianism.

First off, I will get the bad things I have to say about this book off my chest...Luckily, there is only one, and it is not even that bad. Some of the things Bergland claims are a bit sketchy, but I am pretty sure (and hope) they are mentioned in more detail in his "Suggested Reading" section in the back.

The biggest revelation I got from reading this was actually from nearly the very beginning of the book.

"People frequently say, "There ought to be a law," or "The government ought to take action." What they are really saying is that legislators should make certain rules, attach penalties to them, and send out men with guns to enforce those rules. They are also saying that people who disagree with their proposed rules should be punished - by fines, jail time, or death - if they violate them. People rarely talk about laws in such grim, stark terms. But behind, every law laws the treat of force. That's what makes it a law (Bergland, 19)."

That really got to me. Who, in passing, ever thinks of laws in that way? I certainly never thought that consciously about it before. Every law your government passes is a threat against you. Now that doesn't sound so cheerful. I think writing that down just ruined my entire day. Thanks a lot, reader. It only makes sense to blame you because if it weren't for you, I wouldn't even have an incentive to create a blog.

If you read this book, you will discover that Bergland seems to have a favorite catchphrase: "Utopia is not an option." He explains certain fallacies that anti-libertarians commit, one of them being the Utopian Fallacy - no matter what form of government we are under or which party is in control, we are never going to experience a perfect world. Meaning that if someone tries to disprove your political beliefs by saying, "But that means there will still be people who are struggling to afford food!", then that's not a very good way of invalidating whatever you just said.

Do y'all know of any other good introductory libertarian books?

My blog may not be a book, but I nevertheless enjoy passive income all the same.

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  1. One of the greatest takeaways from this book for me: The Fallacy of the PANG Principle. We must cast out the notion that People are no Good. Harry Brown's 2000 Quotes book is a good intro as it covers his eloquent and concise soundbites on the Libertarian argument on most issues.

  2. Re: laws as the threat of force... well, what's the alternative? *No* force? How would anyone enforce (heh) rules? And we *would* need rules even in a stateless society.

    I think force is at the end of any rule-breaking regress (because eventually you get to initiation of force). Surely we want to optimize the force as a deterrent, but zero force is no deterrent at all, when you come right down to it.

    1. Well, of course, I am assuming, because the author is writing on libertarianism instead of anarchism, that because laws are the threat of force, we should have fewer of them. For example, why do we feel the need for the government to threaten a person with a fine, time in jail, etc. for an activity that harms no other person than potentially yourself (drug use, drinking raw milk, and so on).

      That's the way I took it. Maybe I don't like people smoking pot, but if I wanted the government to make it illegal, it would mean that they would have to threaten the liberty of other people who enjoy smoking - or injecting ;) - it. What I took away from the whole threat of force thing is to think twice about an issue before voting it into law.

      What you mention about "rules in a stateless society" and "zero force is no deterrent at all" intrigues me...I'll need to look into those more and write a future post on them.