Leef, George, Freeman
Libertarianism Today by Jacob Huebert Praeger * 2010 * 254 pages $44.95
Reviewed by George Leef
Libertarianism is attracting more attention than ever. As the economic and social damage done by Leviathan increases exponentially Americans are coming to understand that government power is the root of our many troubles. The idea that a consistent philosophy based on freedom and peaceful cooperation among all people is the only path out of the wilderness is spreading.
That has defenders of the mega-state worried. For them it would be catastrophic if people began thinking that they'd be better off with a minimal state. In recent months they've written several vicious, intellectually dishonest attacks on libertarianism. Those are desperate rearguard actions, however. The case for libertarianism has always been overwhelming, and in Libertarianism Today, Jacob Huebert advances it in a remarkably effective way.
Huebert, a lawyer and former FEE intern, understands that the libertarian philosophy will only spread through persuasion, and every page of the book is written with that in mind. He wants readers who are uncertain about libertarianism (or hostile to it) to see that it is nothing more than the consistent application of rules for living that nearly all of us accept in our relationships with others. "In everyday life," he writes, "people understand and follow this basic libertarian rule. If you want something and it belongs to someone else, you have to persuade him or her to give or sell it to you - you cannot steal it or threaten to hit the other person over the head if they refuse to part with it. If you do not like the books your neighbor is reading, or the religion he is practicing, or most anything else he is doing in the privacy of his own home, too bad - you cannot go force others to do what you want them to do."
Exactly. FEE's founder Leonard E. Read stated it clearly in the title of one of his books, Anything That's Peaceful Huebert gives much credit to Read for helping to keep the libertarian philosophy alive during the period of government idolatry after World War II.
Most of the book is devoted to specific issues in which people are (or at least ought to be) fed up with the mega-state and receptive to libertarian alternatives. But before getting into those issues, Huebert clears up some serious misunderstandings. Political writers often convey the notion that libertarianism is "an extreme form of conservatism," and Huebert takes pains to show that libertarians are not conservatives of any sort. Nor are they liberals, as that term is now used. Both conservatives and liberals eagerly turn to government coercion on a wide array of policies. …