Everyone comes to an understanding of liberty through a slightly different route, which is one reason why there need to be so many varieties of primers available, and why people continue to write them.
The newest one has the potential to become a classic among a certain type of reader, a business owner who seeks to understand his or her place in the world, and to be inspired to help bring about the type of world that is necessary in order for business to make a valued contribution to society.
The book is Inclined to Liberty, and its author is Louis Carabini, the founder of the precious-metals-trading firm Monex. In fact, as a means of promoting this wonderful book, a special website has been created to draw new readers to it. It is InclinedtoLiberty.com. This is an excellent site to recommend to any businessperson you know.
The book is divided into many small chapters, each of which takes only a few minutes to read. The topics are the burning ones of the day, each touching on an issue that is critical to the survival of freedom. Carabini deals with the place of entrepreneurship, private property, the legitimacy of profit, the urge to coercively redistribute wealth, the impulse to tax and regulate, inflation and monetary theory, and other such issues.
The answers he provides are the ones that you wished you had at your fingertips in casual conversation with people who toss off statist bromides they have absorbed from the media or the classroom. He deals with the facts, data, some history, and clear theory to establish not only the case for freedom but also the massively important contribution of enterprise and commerce to the very existence of civilization.
I get the impression that this book is the work of a lifetime of arguments and annoyances that have long confronted the author in many situations: dinner parties, business meetings, civic meetings, and the like. What he has done here is provide rational responses to relentless anticapitalistic propaganda, which in itself is an important contribution.
But there is more here. This book serves to provide a kind of framing-up of how the real world works, in terms that speak directly to the individual engaged in business. Such a person isn’t especially interested, at first, in learning the details of abstract economic theory or in learning a correct approach to economics. Authors such as Henry Hazlitt, Ron Paul, and Murray Rothbard have already written those books.
Carabini has written a work for those who aren’t particularly political or even that inquisitive about economic theory as such. It is for businesspeople who seek to understand their place in the world, people who are sometimes hit with core questions that lead to self-doubt. He leaves them seeing their role as positive for their employees and also for society at large. They are constantly told that they are selfish and a drain on society; he helps them see that they are society’s benefactors who are doing good by doing well.
As with any great primer, there are also contributions to broader understanding here. The way the author sees it, there are two general approaches to social affairs:
There are those inclined to liberty — freedom of the individual to live his or her life in any peaceful way. And there are those who are inclined to mastery — permitting others to live their lives only as another sees fit.
There is a massive historical infrastructure behind the idea that all social interactions are based on either force or free will, dating even to the ancient world. But it is a lesson that is still unlearned — or rather, it is casually denied by people who recommend what they call humane social policies. Surely the rich should give to the poor. Surely luxury must relent in the face of necessity. Surely those who start life with a boost from wealth or social position should assist those who have neither.
One can multiply these claims without limit, all with an eye to fairness, equality, safety, security, humanitarianism, and so on. There are many things to say about each claim — for example, that the political means to achieve them often yield the opposite effect. But one point avoided by those who recommend such ideas is that every "humanitarian" policy put into effect makes society more violent.
They deny this, of course, but violence is intrinsic to their chosen means. They must pass laws enforced by bureaucrats who are empowered to force people to do things they wouldn’t do voluntarily, and to take property from those to whom it belongs and give it to those who didn’t earn it. This requires violence and the threat of violence, since every edict of the state is ultimately enforced by this means and no other. These impulses increase the role of the master-slave relationship in society and diminish the extent to which society is made up of people involved in voluntary pursuits. Society under the control of the redistributionist mindset will be a police state.
This is the hardest subject to get left-liberals to discuss, because it is a point that they do not want to face, since no leftist genuinely believes in the police state. They like to change the subject or focus on the problem rather than their proposed means of solving it. Carabini has come up with a thousand ways to get them to face it, and he reduces the point to the broad claim that there are only two ways to think about social affairs: liberty or mastery.
The life of a person involved in business is all about service and persuasion. The businessperson is dependent on workers who want to be there rather than somewhere else, upon consumers who are willing to trade money for a product, on suppliers who are willing to sell — at all levels, business depends on human volition. What Carabini has done is explain that this impulse can be expanded into an overall worldview, made consistent and carried to its fullest to create a massively productive and free society.
The book is not intended to be the first and last book on the topic. Its purpose is to introduce a tendency of thought and to provide the raison d’être for enterprise. In that sense, it is an important confidence booster for people involved in commerce, providing answers to their colleagues who criticize freedom, and pointing to other resources.
In this sense, I regard this book as written not so much for students (though they would find it valuable) but for mature adults who have been too busy to think much about economics and politics. The author shows them that now is the time to develop a coherent view of society.