Marc Guttman, editor
Cobden Press, 20258 Highway 18, Suite 430-500, Apple Valley, CA 92307 from Amazon
It's hard to imagine what the common ground would be, when the people in
the discussion include medical doctors, lawyers, a manufacturing CFO,
an activist jailed during South Africa's apartheid era, a Norweigan
electrical engineer, a computer scientist from Zimbabwe, a
home-schooling mom, a Mexican investment banker, a paramedic whose
property fight went all the way to the Supreme Court, and a wholesaler
dealing in native American crafts and arts. To further complicate the
picture, they all started out in very different places. Some were
Democrats, some Republicans, some Communists, others totally
unpolitical, and yet here they are, all in one compendium telling their
stories of why they now feel that Libertarianism is the path to
There are so, so many books out there that talk about the principles
behind the Libertarian ideal, with focus on a "purist" way of thinking
and a somewhat algorithmic/mechanical feel that reduces reality to
economic formulas, and seems to push out all but the "true believers,"
but this book is very different.
Sure, there's philosophy thrown in but the core of the book is the
personal stories. Who the people were, what happened to them, what they
saw around them, and what they lived through that convinced them to
rethink everything they thought they knew.
Mark Twain is reported to have said "It's not the things you don't know
that get you into trouble, it's the things you know for sure that ain't
so." The writers in this edition have all been through a growth
process, one that made them look closely at their beliefs, at what they
were sure they knew, either from an intellectual perspective, or because
life threw them some very nasty curve balls which forced them to do so.
The writing styles are very different, the situations are very
different, but as the reader goes through the book, the core principles
of Liberty are seen in all facets, through many varied lenses: different
countries and cultures, different socio-economic categories, different
races, religions, and educational levels, viewed through old and young
eyes. Personally, I doubt a book specifically on Libertarianism could
do as thorough a job of laying out all the key elements of Liberty and
why they are important, not only to folks here in the US but to those
around the world.
The book is Why Liberty, compiled by Marc Guttman. The 54th chapter comes from Vince Miller, a Canadian, who writes,
My own experience suggests maybe an innate sense of justice is required.
What makes some people take action when they see an act of injustice
while others stand idly by and watch--seemingly disconnected?
Sounds like what a progressive might say. In fact, my chapter in the
book is entitled "From Far Left to Libertarian." Like a number of
others in the book, I started on the left, and my chapter briefly
explains my journey.
When you read the book, you will perhaps be surprised by the number
of women and the number of non-American libertarians. There are only a
couple of stereotypical think-tank types. Instead, most are ordinary
I think that the most common trait is a willingness to go one's own
way politically. In terms of the Five-Factor personality theory, I
continue to believe that a necessary condition to be a libertarian is to
be low on agreeableness. This trait could be compartmentalized (you
might be agreeable in other areas, but not in politics), but it is more
likely to be a more pervasive part of your personality.
It took Marc a long time to get this book from concept to final
publication. I can feel his pain there. Three out of my five books
came out long after I had put them into near-final format. But the
result is a book that may help explain some of the current political
ferment. Most of these libertarians are people that I had never heard
of, but they all are quite articulate. If the book had not supplied
biographical information, it would be pretty hard to tell the Ph.D's
from the dropouts. Although many of the 54 are self-taught, they are
better read than someone who considers himself an intellectual because
he has a fancy degree and goes to the New York Times web site every day.
The response to last week's column asking our politicians to dare to
lead and dare to lose was substantial, and mostly positive. The column
closed by commenting that there is nothing wrong with our country that
cannot be resolved by us once again becoming Americans!
does that really mean? The column last week also said that we became
great by our own grit, and by respecting and enforcing private property
rights and free trade, and that's certainly true. But fundamentally none
of these things would have been effective without liberty. Therefore,
when it comes down to it, the strength of America is our liberties.
that necessarily brings up the question, what is liberty, and why is it
so important? The formal definition generally is that liberty gives a
person freedom from despotic or arbitrary rule or control. More
specifically, liberty gives a person freedom from undue interference by
government or anyone else. To look at the impacts of liberty in more
depth, I recommend that you read the recently-released book "Why
Liberty: Personal Journeys Toward Peace and Freedom," (Cobden Press,
Apple Valley, 2010). This book, edited by Marc Guttman, provides the
opportunity for 54 different authors to tell their stories about how
liberty works where virtually nothing else does.
The first story was written by an African American who discusses a
time when he raised his voice in anger while arguing that since blacks
had been taken advantage of for so many years, somebody had to pay!
Whereupon an older black man, who eventually became his mentor, simply
smiled and said: "I don't want nobody's help. Just get out of my way and
I can do it myself."
The author never forgot those words, and by
following them, he became successful. Then as he grew older, those words
became his mantra, because he realized the truth that only he could
effectively control his own destiny. And that is what liberty allowed
him to do.
Over the years we have taken these stories for granted, and that has
led us astray. The problem is that any approach without liberty is
inherently self-defeating. For example, for several important reasons,
government programs are simply not the same thing as parents or caring
private charities. First, they have no flexibility and really cannot
discriminate between people who really need a helping hand, and those
who are simply lazy or gaming the system. Furthermore, the people
administering the government programs really do not have a viable
incentive even to make these important distinctions. Why? Because no one
really owns the money that the government programs give out; they
simply control it.
Private charities are run differently than
government programs because they are evaluated by results, not by
intentions. Thus in virtually all cases, private charities, which are
run by people with liberty, results-oriented flexibility and
accountability, yield much better results. One huge example of this is
the Orange County Rescue Mission, which is a private organization
previously discussed in this column. No government program I am aware of
has ever come close.
Another difference between government and private programs is that
people who are receiving assistance from private charities are
constantly mindful that the generosity comes from somewhere, and it is
not their right to receive it. Thus there are much greater feelings of
"please" and "thank you" with a private charity, instead of with
government programs, where people continually and self-righteously shout
about their "rights."
In a similar fashion, the liberty of free
trade allows deals to be struck that benefit both sides. This, in turn,
breeds a sense of interdependence and trust, and allows those parties to
bypass inefficient, protective and often stodgy government
bureaucracies. John Stossel illustrated this fact quite well in one of
the chapters when he said: "Once established players capture a licensing
board, they tend to use their power to stifle competition and keep
newcomers out. Every day businesses are killed by 'consumer protection'
Stossel went on to cite examples of two elderly ladies who liked to
knit sweaters and mittens in the comfort of their homes, and then sell
their products in local markets, and of another lady trying to stay off
welfare by baking muffins at home and selling them door to door to her
neighbors. But the authorities closed all three of them down. Why? No
businesses were allowed in the home, because they might "disrupt the
neighborhood." Of course, this action worked to the detriment of those
ladies, as well as their customers, but protected the established
businesses, who, in turn, provided support for the government
In case after case it is shown that the one thing big
government is really good at is increasing the intrusion and size of
government. That reality also carries over into our political world, as
shown by the fact that neither of the two main political parties really
ever campaign under the slogan: "If you want something, work and save
for it until you can buy it for yourself." To the contrary, all we seem
to hear is: "If you want something, vote for us and we'll make others
work and save and pay for it."
But the one-word slogan for the Libertarian Party is "liberty."
Unlike the two main political parties, what Libertarians promote is not
"warm and fuzzy," or based upon the philosophy of what I call "poor
baby," but it works. And America will only regain its greatness when we
finally go back to it!
JAMES P. GRAY is a retired judge of
the Orange County Superior Court, the author of "A Voter's Handbook:
Effective Solutions to America's Problems" (The Forum Press, 2010). He
can be contacted at JimPGray@sbcglobal.net or through his website at http://www.JudgeJimGray.com.