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Libertarianism: What Everyone Needs to Know (What Everyone Needs to Know)by Jason Brennan
Synopses & Reviews
When CNBC reporter Rick Santelli angrily called for a 'tea party' from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in February 2009, the specific target of his wrath was a new government program to help distressed homeowners with crushing mortgages. Yet there was also a more general target: the government's increasing involvement in the economy following the 2008 financial crash. By spring 2009, the state had extended its reach deep into the nation's private banking system, assumed control of a significant portion of the auto industry, and passed a stimulus plan of nearly a trillion dollars. Advocates of limited government saw this as disastrous, and Santelli's impassioned rant captured their reaction perfectly.
Santelli was also drawing from an American political tradition with deep roots. Popular hostility toward an overweening state extends back to the nation's founding, with critics of the state always seeing it as an enemy of liberty. In the mid-twentieth century, this longstanding impulse evolved into both a coherent political philosophy and a political movement: libertarianism. Most tend to associate libertarianism with a two central principles. The first is the sanctity of personal freedom, a concept which encompasses everything from reproductive rights to drug legalization to gay rights to banning military drafts. The second is the superiority of free market capitalism over all other forms of economic systems. For such a system to function effectively, the role of the state in the economy must necessarily be minimal. Yet as Jason Brennan shows in this highly engaging and wide-ranging primer, libertarianism is far more than this. He covers its history, its philosophical tenets, disputes within the movement, the views of its critics, and its current political fortunes. He also focuses on specific issues like altruism to immigration. Finally, he looks beyond the U.S. and shows how libertarianism has attracted followers in liberalizing states throughout the world.
In the last few years, libertarianism's popularity has grown at an explosive rate. In a recent CNN poll, 63 percent of Americans agreed that the government is doing too much and that more issues should be left to individuals and businesses. In that same poll, 50 percent said that government should not try to promote traditional values. Ron and Rand Paul's success and the Republican's dogmatic opposition toward all forms of government intervention also speak to libertarianism's increasing influence. For anyone interested in the philosophy and the movement, Libertarianism: What Everyone Needs to Know is the perfect introductory overview.
"Freedom to live your life as you see fit does not seem like a controversial political stance at first, or even a political stance at all, until it is applied to civil rights, economic freedoms, and social justice. Application of this basic tenet of libertarianism is what Brennan (A Brief History of Liberty) aims to do here, beginning with an explanation of the political philosophy itself — an umbrella term for several ideologies constructed from the premise that each individual is a sovereign entity — then systematically describes what would reasonably follow when the ideas are consistently applied to politics or life. In Brennan's formulation libertarianism is a legitimate political alternative to the prevailing American two-party system: surprising to left, right and center alike. Libertarianism isn't a radical philosophy with outlying political proposals; at times its stances align with liberals, on expansion of human rights and civil liberties, and at times with conservatives, on promoting small businesses. Brennan structures his book as a series of plausible queries and hypothetical scenarios, but his attempts to counter criticisms read more as evasions or appeals to abstractions. Instead of being able to pick this up and read clean, concise answers, readers will be left with more unanswerable questions. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Historically, Americans have seen libertarians as far outside the mainstream, but with the rise of the Tea Party movement, libertarian principles have risen to the forefront of Republican politics. But libertarianism is more than the philosophy of individual freedom and unfettered markets that Republicans have embraced. Indeed, as Jason Brennan points out, libertarianism is a quite different--and far richer--system of thought than most of us suspect.
In this timely new entry in Oxford's acclaimed series What Everyone Needs to Know, Brennan offers a nuanced portrait of libertarianism, proceeding through a series of questions to illuminate the essential elements of libertarianism and the problems the philosophy addresses, including such topics as the Value of Liberty, Human Nature and Ethics, Economic Liberty, Civil Rights, Social Justice and the Poor, Government and Democracy, and Contemporary Politics. Brennan asks the most fundamental and challenging questions: What do Libertarians think liberty is? Do libertarians think everyone should be selfish? Are libertarians just out to protect the interests of big business? What do libertarians think we should do about racial injustice? What would libertarians do about pollution? Are Tea Party activists true libertarians? As he sheds light on libertarian beliefs, Brennan overturns numerous misconceptions. Libertarianism is not about simple-minded paranoia about government, he writes. Rather, it celebrates the ideal of peaceful cooperation among free and equal people. Libertarians believe that the rich always capture political power; they want to minimize the power available to them in order to protect the weak. Brennan argues that libertarians are, in fact, animated by benevolence and a deep concern for the poor.
Clear, concise, and incisively written, this volume explains a vitally important philosophy in American history--and a potent force in contemporary politics.
About the Author
Jason Brennan is Assistant Professor of Ethics, Economics, and Public Policy at Georgetown University. He is the author of The Ethics of Voting and co-author of A Brief History of Liberty. He also writes for the popular blog Bleeding Heart Libertarians.
Table of Contents
1. What is libertarianism?
2. Why do we need to know about libertarianism?
3. What are the different kinds of libertarians?
4. Are libertarians right-wing conservatives?
5. Are libertarians left-wing liberals?
6. Is libertarianism a new political view?
7. How did libertarianism develop?
8. What are the moral foundations of libertarianism?
THE VALUE OF LIBERTY
9. What do libertarians think liberty is?
10. Why do libertarians think liberty is important?
11. Do libertarians think liberty is the only value?
12. What is the "presumption of liberty"?
13. What rights do libertarians think we have?
14. Do libertarians think rights are absolute?
15. Do libertarians think the consequences matter?
HUMAN NATURE AND ETHICS
16. Do libertarians believe everyone is selfish?
17. Do libertarians think everyone should be selfish?
18. Do libertarians have an overly optimistic view of human nature?
19. Are libertarians moral relativists or moral skeptics?
20. Are libertarians individualists?
21. Are libertarians all atheists?
22. What economic rights do libertarians think we have?
23. Are libertarians only concerned about economic issues?
24. Why do libertarians favor strong economic liberty and private property rights?
25. Do libertarians think property rights are absolute?
26. Why are libertarians so concerned about economic growth, prosperity, and wealth?
27. Why do libertarians want open markets and free trade?
28. Are libertarians just out to protect the interests of big business?
29. What do libertarians think about union rights?
30. Why do libertarians oppose socialism?
31. Why are libertarians against rent control and minimum wage increases?
32. Why don't libertarians want government to set prices?
33. Do libertarians oppose all regulation?
34. Why do libertarians think government regulation frequently makes things worse?
35. Do libertarians think markets always work? Do libertarians deny the existence of market failures?
36. Why do libertarians tend to oppose eminent domain laws?
37. What do libertarians think about civil liberties?
38. What is the libertarian view of free speech?
39. What do libertarians think about abortion?
40. Are libertarians for or against capital punishment?
41. Why are libertarians in favor of drug decriminalization?
42. Why do libertarians support same-sex marriage?
43. Why do libertarians oppose the draft?
44. What do libertarians think we should do about historical and current racial injustice?
45. What do libertarians think about gun control?
46. What do libertarians think about mandatory national service?
47. What do libertarians think about gambling?
48. What do libertarians think about pornography?
49. Are libertarians soft on crime?
SOCIAL JUSTICE AND THE POOR
50. Do libertarians only care about the rich?
51. What is social justice?
52. Do most libertarians reject social justice?
53. Do all libertarians reject social justice?
54. What do libertarians think about economic equality?
55. What would libertarians do about the poor?
56. What do libertarians believe about foreign aid to the world's poor
57. Why don't libertarians favor an extensive welfare state?
58. How could social justice possibly be achieved without an extensive welfare state?
59. Do libertarians think all problems can be solved with charity?
60. Do libertarians think the poor are to blame for their own poverty?
GOVERNMENT AND DEMOCRACY
61. How do libertarians define "government"?
62. Why do libertarians dislike "big government"?
63. Are libertarians anarchists?
64. Do libertarians think politicians are selfish and evil?
65. What is "government failure"? What is the libertarian view on it?
66. Do libertarians favor democracy?
67. Do libertarians think democracy makes us more free?
68. Why do libertarians tend to think voters are ignorant and irrational?
69. What is the libertarian view of civic virtue and good citizenship?
70. What do libertarians think about the Constitution?
71. Are libertarians nationalists or cosmopolitans?
72. Why do libertarians want to open borders and open immigration?
73. Why do libertarians oppose interventionist foreign policy?
74. What would libertarians do about the war on terror?
75. Why do libertarians oppose the Transportation Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security?
76. What would libertarians do about pollution?
77. What would libertarians do about overfishing and overforesting?
78. What would libertarians do about the sick who cannot afford health care?
79. What would libertarians do about public schools?
80. What would libertarians do to fix the economy?
81. Are libertarians in favor of allowing organ sales?
82. Do libertarians think all taxation is theft and slavery?
83. How would libertarians reduce crime?
84. What would libertarians do about the financial crisis?
85. Do libertarians think markets will solve all problems?
86. Didn't libertarian housing policies cause the financial crisis?
87. What do libertarians think about campaign finance reform?
POLITICS: YESTERDAY, TODAY, TOMORROW
88. How much influence does libertarianism have in contemporary politics?
89. Is libertarianism a popular view?
90. Are Tea Party activists libertarians?
91. What organizations do libertarians support?
92. Did the United States begin as a libertarian country but move away from libertarianism?
93. Which country is the most libertarian? Is it the United States?
94. Which states in the US are the most and least libertarian?
95. What percentage of Americans are libertarian?
96. Are libertarians utopian?
97. Is libertarianism feasible?
98. Why are some libertarians trying to move to form their own private countries or take control of certain states?
99. Is the US becoming more or less libertarian?
100. Is the world becoming more or less libertarian?
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