What It Means to Be a Libertarian

What It Means to Be a Libertarian

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by Charles Murray

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Charles Murray believes that America's founders had it right--strict limits on the power of the central government and strict protection of the individual are the keys to a genuinely free society. In What It Means to Be a Libertarian, he proposes a government reduced to the barest essentials: an executive branch consisting only of the White House and…  See more details below


Charles Murray believes that America's founders had it right--strict limits on the power of the central government and strict protection of the individual are the keys to a genuinely free society. In What It Means to Be a Libertarian, he proposes a government reduced to the barest essentials: an executive branch consisting only of the White House and trimmed-down departments of state, defense, justice, and environment protection; a Congress so limited in power that it meets only a few months each year; and a federal code stripped of all but a handful of regulations.

Combining the tenets of classical Libertarian philosophy with his own highly-original, always provocative thinking, Murray shows why less government advances individual happiness and promotes more vital communities and a richer culture. By applying the truths our founders held to be self-evident to today's most urgent social and political problems, he creates a clear, workable vision for the future.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
For Murray, author of the controversial tome The Bell Curve (Free Pr., 1994), a libertarian supports the reduction of government. Government should be smaller, less intrusive, and less expensive. One of the interesting things about this philosophy is that few Americans would dispute the worth of these goals. No one who fills out an IRS form needs to be convinced of the clumsiness of federal bureaucracy. But taxpayers split with the ideal when it comes to deciding what government functions to eliminate. In addition, many do not believe the libertarian agenda to be practical, or even possible, at this point in history. Murray addresses these objections and sets his political ideas in a historical and sociological framework. He traces his general principles to the founding fathers, particularly Jefferson, who believed that limited government was intimately connected to the success of individual liberty. Murray adds sociological and psychological support for the reevaluation of personal freedom as a basic human need. Though the arguments are ultimately unconvincing, they have an undeniable appeal and deserve to be heard. What It Means To Be a Libertarian is a sober and intelligent work, well read by the author and judiciously abridged. Highly recommended for most public and academic libraries.John Owen, Advanced Micro Devices Technical Lib., Sunnyvale, Cal.

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What It Means to Be a Libertarian: A Personal Interpretation 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jazzlover More than 1 year ago
Charles Murray is the greatest social scientist since Alex de Tocqueville and his rock solid research has documented the failure of Liberal/Progressive policies over four generations in America.   far from a polemicist, as stated by the buffoons at "PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, Murray's explanation of libertarianism's core positions and beliefs is written in an elegant and easy-to-follow prose style that belies his standing as  as an accomplished academic.  Dr. Murray's publications avoid the often poorly written and edited qualities that characterize most books and articles from academic authors.  The fact that in this book Murray explains the principles that have made America the last, best hope of humankind makes it all the more valuable.
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Mr. Murray's book would have been much more accurate if it had been titled 'What It Means To Be A Conservative Libertarian.' This book accurately describes the mindset of many conservatives coming into libertarianism and is also typical about what turns off liberals to libertarianism. Mr. Murray's scholarship starts shakey when he starts with remarking how 19th Century 'Socialism' started the 'mocking of freedom.' His omitting the whole cadres of anti-state socialists prior to Marx' pro-state socialism is just a bit too much. Indeed, the first usages of 'libertarian' were used to name early French anti-state socialists like Proudhon and Bakunin. Even today 'libertarianism' in Europe often means a form of anarchistic, anti-establishment socialism. 'Socialism's' original meaning was voluntary social power as opposed to hierarchic, status quo, state establishment power and state imposed privilege. Mr. Murray misses entirely the origins for popular sceptism of late 19th Century Classic Liberalism. The hypocrisy became more and more apparent as the poverty increased amidst the progress of technological capacity and the fortunes of the economic elite. Mr. Murray totally ignores the effect of America's closing Frontier, Spencer's betrayal between his 1851 and 1890 editions of his Social Statics, of Henry George's Progress & Poverty. Murray's book perpetuates the mystery of the cleavage of Classical Liberalism by not even mentioning the conflict between absolute rights to fruits of labor and absolute state titles to monopolize landed natural resources. This book will not satisfy libertarians who are concerned with monopoly state-capitalism. The core value of civil society, of full libertarianism, is 'equal liberty.' Personal freedom must be balanced against not infringing your neighbor's 'equal right to liberty.' The right to life and liberty doesn't mean a whole lot without an equal right to live *somewhere.* Nor does it mean much without the unconditional right to keep the full fruits of one's labors. Economic monopoly rent-seekers and rent-takers 'tax' productivity as much as politicians' taxes. Thus, the justified scepticism of liberals and progressive libertarians. Saying 'freedom is a birthright' is a simplistic omission of all the contractualists since Locke right up to Narveson. It ignores the unavoidable metaphysical choice for every human; when one approaches social contact, one makes a choice to treat the other humans as prey/predators or as equally free traders/neighbors. This inescapable choice, conscious or subconscious, is the key to humanity's dual nature. 'Natural rights' are somewhat of a contradiction because man has two exclusively different natures. The choice to treat others as civil equals is the de facto covenant to join civil society. Of course, this would require a deeper understanding of libertarianism as 'Equal Liberty' instead of 'don't intitiate force.' The libertarian ethic is not 'thou will not initiate force.' This is only a secondary derivation on which conservative libertarians prefer to dwell. Ask yourself just exactly what such force 'infringes.' It would infringe 'equal liberty.' Equal Liberty is the core ethic. Formal political government's only just basis is to protect Equal Liberty. Public supply of goods and services such as roads are in order to protect the equal freedom of people to travel to markets, employment, natural resources. The alternative of anarchist zero government vs small government is a bogus choice. The true alternative is between citizen self government and politician delegated government. The Public Good is Equal Liberty. As long as no one is hurt on a net economic basis, the government may supply goods and services. The government should only levy user fees on the Common