Review of Ron Paulís Liberty Defined
by Gary Gibson
The Daily Reckoning
Paul seems too good to be true. For decades he has championed the
cause of liberty and sound monetary and geopolitical policy. He
has done this in the very heart of the Leviathan state even as the
federal government has accelerated its expansion in the postwar
years. Further Dr. Paul has repeatedly presented his case in print
in clear language. Liberty
Defined is the latest timely addition to those efforts.
is one weve seen before in books like Libertarianism A to
Z. In Liberty Defined, the introduction lays out the overarching
principles of liberty and anti-authoritarianism. The book itself
then devotes each chapter to an individual issue, starting with
abortion, then moving through things like Austrian economics, capital
punishment, evolution and creation, global warming, hate crimes,
Keynesianism, taxes, unions and much more. The chapters are fairly
short at just a few pages each, written in clear language that seeks
to discuss and educate. Each chapter is a delight to read, particularly
for lovers of liberty, but even when you dont fully agree
with Dr. Paul, youll find his position compelling and his
honesty and consistency incredibly refreshing.
Austrian School or Austrian economics
Dr. Paul writes, is not something I ever expected would enter
into the vocabulary of politics or media in culture. But since 2008,
it has. Reporters use it with some degree of understanding, and
with an expectation that readers and viewers will understand it
too. This just thrilling to me, for I am a long-time student of
the Austrian tradition of thought.
And no doubt
many readers will share Dr. Pauls joy. They will also note
that it is Dr. Paul himself who has been tirelessly campaigning
for the free market principles of the Austrian School for the past
several years. He tells about the founder of the Austrian School,
Carl Menger (1840-1921) who wrote that economic value extends
from the human mind alone and is not something that exists as an
inherent part of goods and services; valuation changes according
to social needs and circumstances. We need markets to reveal to
us the valuations of consumers and producers in the form of the
price system that works within a market setting.
Dr. Paul notes
that Keynes entire agenda presumes the existence of
a wise activist state that is involved in every level of economic
life. Liberty was not an issue that concerned him.
School, however, believes, We are not cogs in a macroeconomic
machine; people will always resist being treated as such.
is certain to make people on both sides of the left-right political
debate uncomfortable. Dr. Paul decries the welfare state beloved
by those on the left, but repeatedly shows that such a state is
just the other side of the coin of the interventionist foreign policies
of those on the right. Dr. Paul himself is a man of religious and
spiritual conviction, but he also doesnt shy away from analyzing
how the neoconservatives of the modern right use adulterate religion
and patriotism to garner support for their imperialist adventures.
of religious beliefs being the cause of war, it is more likely that
those who want war co-opt religion and falsely claim the enemy is
attacking their religious values. How many times have we heard neoconservatives
repeat the mantra that religious fanatics attack us for our freedoms
and prosperity? Neoconservatives use religion to stir up hatred
toward the enemy.
Dr. Paul also
isnt given to idealism. He admits, for example, that a truly
libertarian position would have porous borders, but he points out
that that just isnt possible right now. He notes that even
in a stateless society, all property would be privately owned and
those property-owners at the borders would have the right to decide
who cross their land. Dr. Paul handles the issue deftly and his
proposals of work permits and conditional green cards as opposed
to deportation, among other things, struck even this anarcho-capitalist
leaning reader as reasonable.
And Dr. Paul
is certainly no anarchist, but he is close enough for government
work. He is the kind of politician even an anarcho-capitalist could
love. Dr. Paul is well versed in the dangers of governments and
their tendencies to grow; yet he thinks there is room in the world
for a minimal amount of government. Its a delicate balance.
He pulls it off with aplomb. In the chapter on prohibition he says:
should not compel or prohibit any personal activity when that activity
poses danger to that individual alone. Drinking and smoking marijuana
is one thing, but driving recklessly under the influence is quite
another. When an individual threatens the lives of others, there
is a role for government to restrain that violence.
today is involved in compulsion or prohibition of just about everything
in our daily activities. Many times these efforts are well intentioned.
Other times they result from a philosophic belief that average people
need smart humanitarian politicians and bureaucrats to take care
of them. The people, they claim, are not smart enough to make their
own decisions. And unfortunately, many citizens go along, believing
the government will provide perfect safety for them in everything
they do. Since governments cant deliver, this assumption provides
a grand moral hazard of complacency and will only be reversed with
either a dictatorship or a national bankruptcy that awakens people
and forces positive change.
Defined is layered with a practical view of the political
realities, but it never fails to stay true to its moral core. Dr.
Paul repeatedly points out that many of his solutions which
ultimately come down to the federal government getting out of the
way simply wont be applied because the federal government
is just too intertwined with the problem.
But Dr. Paul
never wavers. With the fearlessness for which he has become famous,
Dr. Paul continues to assault all the bad central planning policies
and popular misconceptions that allow them to continue even in the
face of failure.
did change with the publication of The General Theory. Keynes
gave the governments of the world a seemingly scientific rationale
for doing what governments wanted to do anyway.
On unions and
government labor laws:
power, gained by legislation, even without physical violence, is
still violence. The laborer gains legal force over the employer.
Economically, in the long run, labor loses.
only it were so easy to help the working class. Just dictate wages
and everyone will be financially better off. Unfortunately, this
leads to disastrous results, whether its the prolonging of
the economic mess as it did in the 1930s or the tragic results in
American industry that were witnessing today.
good is it to mandate a $75 per hour wage if there are no jobs available
at that price? What good is a minimum wage of $7.50 if it significantly
contributes to overall unemployment?
to the economic argument explaining the shortcoming of labor unions
and minimum wage laws is that its heartless and unfair not
to force fairness on the ruthless capitalists. But true
compassion should be directed toward the defense of a free market
that has provided the greatest abundance and the best distribution
of wealth of any economic system known throughout history.
on taxes, however, is probably the best (and certainly this reviewers
favorite). It sums up so many of the important themes: private property,
liberty versus coercion, public education, economic misallocation,
and the voracious appetite of the state.
are the price we pay for civilization, according to Oliver
Wendell Holmes. This claim has cost us dearly
If we as a nation
continue to believe that paying for civilization through taxation
is a wise purchase and the only way to achieve civilization, we
I am tempted
to quote the chapter in its entirety, but at this point I would
simply urge you to buy the book so you can read it there, along
with the rest of this wonderful work.
is the managing editor for Whiskey
and Gunpowder. He joins the Whiskey staff as a long-time
fan and reader of both Whiskey and Gunpowder and The
Daily Reckoning. A graduate of Fordham University, Gary now spends
his days reading about and writing on limited government, sound
money, personal responsibility and resource investing.
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