Realizing Freedom: Libertarian Theory, History, and Practice

Realizing Freedom: Libertarian Theory, History, and Practice

Realizing Freedom: Libertarian Theory, History, and Practice

Realizing Freedom: Libertarian Theory, History, and Practice


What is freedom? How is freedom related to justice, law, property, peace, and prosperity? Tom Palmer has spent a lifetime-as a scholar, teacher, journalist, and activist-asking and answering these questions. His best writings are now collected in Realizing Freedom: Libertarian Theory, History, and Practice. Palmer's work ranges from the theory of justice to multiculturalism, democracy and limited government, globalization, the law and economics of patents and copyrights, among many other topics. These essays have appeared in scholarly journals and in such newspapers as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and London Spectator. His work is accessible to scholars and thoughtful citizens alike. Palmer has smuggled photocopiers and fax machines into the Soviet Union; organized movements against the draft, taxes, censorship, and victimless crime laws; and ceaselessly promoted freedom in the most hostile locations, from communist Europe and China to Iraq to the halls of academe.


On the 23rd of March, 1775, Patrick Henry mounted the pulpit of St. John's Church in Richmond, Virginia, to deliver his famous “Give Me Liberty” speech before the delegates to the Virginia Convention. His topic was the undecided question of war for independence and freedom. He understood that the issue was one that required thought, debate, and high seriousness—in a word, theory. As he stated:

The question before the house is one of awful moment to
this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less
than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to
the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the
debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at
the truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold
to God and our country.

But he also knew that theoretical speculation alone was not sufficient; theory without history is blind. History is the key to understanding the affairs of mankind:

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that
is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of
the future but by the past.

Neither contemplation nor observation, however, is sufficient to secure justice and liberty. Ideas and policies do not implement themselves. For that, action—practice—is required:

Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish?
What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as
to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid
it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take;
but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

This book is about the theory, the history, and the practice of liberty. It consists of a selection of the essays, long and short, that . . .

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