When I started The Libertarian Reader, I was intrigued but not necessarily excited. The general topic seemed interesting, but, as I stated in my post on my political positions, I don’t consider myself a libertarian. So, I wasn’t quite sure how applicable it would be to me.
However, based on my commitment after reading When Breath Becomes Air to read different books than I normally would, I went ahead and read it.
And wow, I am so glad that I did. The Libertarian Reader, a collection of libertarian works collected and edited by David Boaz, is well-worth reading if you fall anywhere between libertarian and conservative on the political scale.
Summary of The Libertarian Reader
It’s difficult to summarize The Libertarian Reader because it’s an anthology of such a diverse array of libertarian thought.
It includes samples of writings from authors like Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, Charles Murray, and Adam Smith. It even includes a passage from the Bible! 1 Samuel Chapter 8 to be specific.
In it, Boaz was able to cover just about every strain of libertarianism, and every aspect of politics that libertarian writers have been concerned about. Which is to say, basically all of them. The Libertarian Reader covers “Skepticism about Power,” “Individualism and Civil Society,” “Individual Rights,” “Spontaneous Order,” “Free Markets and Voluntary Order,” “Peace and International Harmony,” and “The Libertarian Future.”
In it, Boaz not only provides a well-curated set of writings to show the libertarian and conservative viewpoints for each subject. He additionally provides short introductions that show his viewpoints on the subject and introduce the reader to how libertarians generally view it.
The combination of diverse material, excellent curation and introductions by Boaz, and great topic selection makes The Libertarian Reader a great book for the budding libertarian.
Analysis of The Libertarian Reader
I’ve been indirectly exposed to libertarian thoughts, especially the more mainstream ones found in this book, through past books and quotations that I’ve read and analyzed.
Some, like Atlas Shrugged, The Virtue of Selfishness, and Jefferson’s quotation on the tree of liberty are obviously more libertarian.
Others, like The Federalist Papers and Anti-Federalist Papers, Capitalism and Freedom, and The Road to Serfdom are ones that I thought were somewhat libertarian, but not necessarily definitely so.
Others, like Charles Murray, who was the author of The Bell Curve, and HL Mencken, who was an author who had a great quotation on “raising the black flag” that I analyzed, are authors that I never would have thought would be libertarian in outlook.
However, after reading The Libertarian Reader, I can see why Boaz included all of them as libertarian works. Despite their diverse leanings, all the authors noted above espoused ideas related to individual liberty, decentralized authority, and/or free markets. Given that those principles are the bedrock of libertarian political philosophy, their inclusion in The Libertarian Reader makes sense.
Furthermore, through including such a wide array of source material, Boaz is able to present the shades of libertarianism and show the reader that it’s not necessarily the die-hard philosophy that libertarianism is known for.
In my view, that makes libertarianism more approachable. I like politicians like Rand Paul because of their views on why it’s important to protect natural rights and not trust the government. But, because I’d always associated libertarianism with the hardliner material that’s present in most online resources, I have so far been hesitant to embrace their ideology.
The Libertarian Reader might change that. As Republicans have grown more in favor of Big Government, nanny-state ideas like banning e-cigs and passing unconstitutional red flag laws, I’ve found myself drifting more and more towards libertarianism. Boaz and his excellent book might have advanced that process.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a libertarian, you should give The Libertarian Reader a quick read. It’s fun and interesting material that won’t take too long and is certainly well worth reading. Especially if it exposes you to ideas that you might agree with but have so far avoided because of stereotypes about those ideas, as I had.
Check it out and let me know what you think!
By: Gen Z Conservative