David Boaz discusses his book ‘The Libertarian Mind’ at the National Constitution Center

Posted on February 16, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

David Boaz discusses his book ‘The Libertarian Mind’ on Real Clear Radio Hour with Bill Frezza

Posted on February 15, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Nation’s Libertarian Roots

Where better than Philadelphia on Presidents’ Day to talk about liberty and reviving the American tradition of freedom and limited government.

Thomas Jefferson said that when he wrote the Declaration of Independence in June of 1776, he had no book or pamphlet at hand but simply set down “an expression of the American mind.” With its foundation on the equal and inalienable rights of all people, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the Declaration also reflects the libertarian mind.

Indeed, the principles of the Declaration are so closely associated with libertarianism that the Chinese edition of my previous book, Libertarianism: A Primer, features a cover photograph of the famous room in Independence Hall, complete with Windsor chairs and green tablecloths.

Libertarianism is the philosophy of freedom. It has, in different form throughout history, inspired people who fought for freedom, dignity, and individual rights — the early advocates of religious tolerance, the opponents of absolute monarchy, the American revolutionaries, the abolitionists, antiwar advocates and anti-imperialists, opponents of National Socialism and communism.

America is a country fundamentally shaped by libertarian values and attitudes.”

Libertarians believe in the presumption of liberty, that is, that people ought to be free to live as they choose unless advocates of coercion can make a compelling case. It’s the exercise of power, not the exercise of freedom, that requires justification. The burden of proof ought to be on those who want to limit our freedom.

We should be free to live our lives as we choose so long as we respect the equal rights of others. The presumption of liberty should be as strong as the presumption of innocence in a criminal trial, for the same reason. Just as you can’t prove your innocence of all possible charges against you, you cannot justify all of the ways in which you should be allowed to act. If we followed the presumption of liberty, our lives would be freer, more prosperous, and more satisfying.

America is a country fundamentally shaped by libertarian values and attitudes.

Throughout our history, most voters and movements have agreed on the fundamentals of classical liberalism or libertarianism: free speech, religious freedom, equality before the law, private property, free markets, limited government, and individual rights. The broad acceptance of those values means that American liberals and conservatives are fighting within a libertarian consensus. We sometimes forget just how libertarian the American political culture is. But social scientists know.

In their book It Didn’t Happen Here: Why Socialism Failed in the United States, the sociologists Seymour Martin Lipset and Gary Marks write, “The American ideology, stemming from the Revolution, can be subsumed in five words: antistatism, laissez-faire, individualism, populism, and egalitarianism.” Similarly, Samuel Huntington of Harvard wrote, “Prevailing ideas of the American creed have included liberalism, individualism, equality, constitutionalism, rights against the state. They have been opposed to hierarchy, discipline, government, organization, and specialization.”

Reflecting those ideas, especially as laid out in the Declaration, the founders created a Constitution of delegated, enumerated, and thus limited powers. Unfortunately, as Georgetown law professor Randy Barnett has written, “what was once a system of islands of powers in a sea of individual liberty rights at both the state and the national levels, has become islands of rights in a sea of state and federal power.”

As government has exceeded its constitutional powers, there has been a remarkable surge in libertarian thinking. A series of CNN polls found that total support for a combination of libertarian positions had risen 30 percent between 2002 and 2012. Journalists now talk about a libertarian faction in Congress and in the electorate. Libertarian organizations are booming.

And no wonder. In the last few years politicians have given us many reasons to doubt the wisdom and efficacy of big, activist government. Endless wars. Economic collapse. Corporate bailouts. The highest government spending and national debt ever. An unimaginable level of spying on citizens.

I believe that the simple, timeless principles of the American Revolution — individual liberty, limited government, and free markets — are even more powerful and more important in the world of instant communication, global markets, and unprecedented access to information, a world that Jefferson or Madison could not have imagined. Libertarianism is the essential framework for a future of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Posted on February 15, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

David Boaz’s upcoming appearance is promoted on Westwood One’s The Jim Bohannon Show

Posted on February 14, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

David Boaz discusses his book ‘The Libertarian Mind’ on WWL’s The Think Tank with Garland Robinette

Posted on February 12, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

The Libertarian Mind Available at Many Retailers

The Libertarian Mind may be out of stock at Amazon, but the Kindle is selling pretty well (numbers change constantly, of course):

Libertarian Mind #1 on Kindle

It’s also available at other online retailers, brick-and-mortar stores (walk down the block, why don’tcha), and the Cato Institute. There are links to some of those outlets here.

Posted on February 11, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

David Boaz discusses his book ‘The Libertarian Mind’ on Blog Talk Radio’s Tracey and Friends

Posted on February 11, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Talking Libertarianism with Reason.tv

Thanks to Nick Gillespie and Reason.tv for allowing me to talk at length in this interview about my path to libertarianism, self-evident truths, Ayn Rand, Rand Paul, and a lot of other topics related to The Libertarian Mind. About one hour:

There’s a mostly accurate transcript here.

You can find the transcript of last night’s Reddit AMA here.

The Libertarian Mind is out of stock at Amazon! Of course, you can still get it on Kindle. Or you can buy it at many other fine bookstores, both storefront and online, some of which are linked here.

Posted on February 11, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Black History Is American History

Some people think libertarians only care about taxes and regulations. But I was asked not long ago, what’s the most important libertarian accomplishment in history? I said, “the abolition of slavery.”

The greatest libertarian crusade in history was the effort to abolish chattel slavery, culminating in the nineteenth-century abolitionist movement and the heroic Underground Railroad. It’s no accident that abolitionism emerged out of the ferment of the Industrial Revolution and the American Revolution.

How could Americans proclaim that “all men are created equal … endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” without noticing that they themselves were holding other men and women in bondage? They could not, of course. The ideas of the American Revolution — individualism, natural rights and free markets — led logically to agitation for the extension of civil and political rights to those who had been excluded from liberty, as they were from power — notably slaves, serfs and women. As the great English scholar Samuel Johnson wrote in 1775, “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of Negroes?”

The world’s first antislavery society was founded in Philadelphia that same year. Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, yet he included a passionate condemnation of slavery in his draft of the Declaration of Independence the following year: “[King George] has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him.” The Continental Congress deleted that passage, but Americans lived uneasily with the obvious contradiction between their commitment to individual rights and the institution of slavery.

Racism is an age-old problem, but it clearly clashes with the universal ethics of libertarianism and the equal natural rights of all men and women.”

As the idea of liberty spread, slavery and serfdom came under attack throughout the Western world. During the British debate over the idea of compensating slaveholders for the loss of their “property,” the libertarian Benjamin Pearson replied that he had “thought it was the slaves who should have been compensated.”

In the United States, the abolitionist movement was naturally led by libertarians. Leading abolitionists called slavery “man stealing,” in that it sought to deny self-ownership and steal a man’s very self. Their arguments paralleled those of John Locke and the libertarian agitators known as the Levellers. William Lloyd Garrison wrote that his goal was not just the abolition of slavery but “the emancipation of our whole race from the dominion of man, from the thraldom of self, from the government of brute force.”

Frederick Douglass likewise made his arguments for abolition in the terms of classical liberalism and libertarianism: self-ownership and natural rights. After the Civil War, he continued his fight for equal freedom, campaigning against Southern states’ efforts to avoid following the new constitutional amendments. And he applied his belief in liberty and equal rights universally: He backed women’s suffrage, saying “we hold woman to be justly entitled to all we claim for man.” He defended Chinese immigrants, pointing out that there are “no rights of race superior to the rights of humanity.” In Great Britain he joined campaigns for free trade and Irish freedom.

Just as a better understanding of natural rights was developed during the American struggle against specific injustices suffered by the colonies, the feminist and abolitionist Angelina Grimké noted in an 1837 letter, “I have found the Anti-Slavery cause to be the high school of morals in our land — the school in which human rights are more fully investigated, and better understood and taught, than in any other.”

Racism is an age-old problem, but it clearly clashes with the universal ethics of libertarianism and the equal natural rights of all men and women. As Ayn Rand pointed out in her 1963 essay “Racism,”

Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage … which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.

What Locke, Garrison, Douglass and many others were fighting for is the ethical basis of libertarianism, a respect for the dignity and worth of every individual. This is expressed in the philosopher Immanuel Kant’s dictum that each person is to be treated not merely as a means but as an end in himself.

Black history is American history, a story of oppression and liberation rooted in the libertarian idea of individual rights. Much of the progress we have made in the United States has involved extending the promises of the Declaration of Independence — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — to more and more people. The emphasis on the individual mind in the Enlightenment, the individualist nature of market capitalism and the demand for individual rights that inspired the American Revolution naturally led people to think more carefully about the nature of the individual and gradually to recognize that the dignity of individual rights should be extended to all.

The struggle for freedom is never finished. Today libertarians work for economic freedom that would mean more growth and more jobs, for the freedom for all families to choose better schools for their children, for an end to the counterproductive war on drugs and for criminal justice reform. Respect for the dignity of each person is the foundation of moral and social progress.

Posted on February 11, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

The Parasite Economy and The Libertarian Mind

In The Libertarian Mind, which is officially published today, I have a chapter titled “What Big Government Is All About” that aspires to be applied Public Choice analysis. Much of it relates to what I think Jonathan Rauch first called “the parasite economy,” the part of the economy that involves getting through government what you can’t get through voluntary market processes. Reason.com has just published an excerpt from that chapter, with a few recent examples added, such as these all-too-typical stories:

Lobbying never stops. One week in December, the Kaiser Health News reported that “growth opportunities from the federal government have increasingly come not from war but from healing.” That is, “business purchases by the Department of Health and Human Services have doubled to $21 billion annually in the past decade.” And who showed up to collect some of the largesse? Well, General Dynamics was having trouble making ends meet with defense contracting, so suddenly it managed to become the largest contractor to Medicare and Medicaid. “For traditional defense contractors,” wrote Kaiser Health, “health care isn’t the new oil. It’s the new F-35 fighter.”

Of course, the old F-35, despite a decade or more of running behind schedule and over budget, is still doing pretty well. That same week Congress passed the $1.1 trillion “Cromnibus” spending bill, including $479 million for four F-35 fighters from Lockheed that even the Pentagon didn’t want. The Wall Street Journal reported that the bill “sparked a lobbying frenzy from individual companies, industries and other special interests”—pretty much the same language you could have read in earlier stories about Porkulus and Obamacare. Every provision in the bill—from the $94 billion in Pentagon contracting to $120 million for the Chicago subway to an Obamacare exemption for Blue Cross and Blue Shield—has a lobbyist or several shepherding it through the secretive process.

And I also talked about the parasite economy on John Stossel’s television show last Friday night:

For more on the parasite economy, and everything else you wanted to know about libertarianism, read The Libertarian Mind.

Posted on February 10, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

About David Boaz

Click here to learn more.