BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

Oh, and this ...

I may have mentioned being a bit on the obsessive-compulsive side, and every once and a while this will manifest in my reading choices. I just recently transferred the books from the boxes under my desk (where "recently read" stuff goes before it gets "filed" on a shelf, which is why there's typically a significant lag between when books in my LibraryThing catalog get their "finished" tag and their "filed" tag) onto a cleared-out shelf, and found that I had space for a smallish book. All the stuff that I am currently reading would be too big to fit, so I was in a bit of a quandary. However, in the process of digging out the front bathroom (a long story), I uncovered a number of books "abandoned" a couple of years back when that got turned into "storage", and among those was David Bergland's Libertarianism In One Lesson, which was just about the right thickness needed for the shelf. So, to the top of the reading priority list it went, and I pretty much blew through it in 3 sessions over the course of the weekend.

Now, I realize that this is sounds like "I wouldn't have read this otherwise", but that's not really the case. I'd picked this up back when I was very active in the local Libertarian Party, and it was just something "to get around to". Frankly, I have recently been trying to avoid "political" books, as they've been tending to get me upset ... and this is no exception to that rule. If one is of a Libertarian "personal freedom" bent, one can not help to feel how doomed we are as a people given the way our government has been wiping its ass with the Constitution over the past fifty years or so (heck, it could be argued that said ass-wiping started with Lincoln, but that's another story), and any book that systematically puts forth what SHOULD be happening is likely to highlight the vast discrepancies between where we're heading and where we really ought to want to go!

Bergland has been involved in the Libertarian Party pretty much from its start, and was the V.P. candidate on the 1976 ticket. This book is something of an "evolving document", the copy that I have is the 8th edition (from 2000), and it's now available in a much-revised 9th edition, and the focus of the book seems to be frequently updated (since its early-80's origin) to reflect the current trends and issues ... which is a good thing for a book like this, obviously.

Organized somewhat like a collection of "position papers", the books gives some basic background on Libertarianism, its philosophical foundations, etc., and then starts dealing with particular subjects, from health care to prohibition, from 2nd Amendment rights to education, and so forth. There is one key phrase that Bergland uses throughout which is "Utopia is NOT an option." ... as it seems that the most frequent arguments that come up against Libertarian ideas are based on totally unattainable Utopian ideals. Either you have personal freedom or you don't, in the real world the "don't" side of the equation leads down a road of ever-increasingly coercive government and not to some perfect State. The other key concept is the old adage that "there is no free lunch", as everything needs to be paid for at some level, and either you pay for what you need/use/want or you are ultimately having the government steal it (via the threat of armed violence, aka the IRS) from somebody else. You can pretty much peg the Libertarian stance on any issue by triangulating from these two catch-phrases.

Personally, I do not agree with everything in this book. I think that Bergland's stance about borders (totally open) is suicidal as a society (I tend towards the "Heinlein Libertarian" camp which is strongly Libertarian for those who qualify ... citizens who have proven their responsibility ... but defensive to those outside of the culture). Unfortunately, this is pretty much the problem that the L.P. has in general ... while folks might agree with 75% of the Libertarian ideal, the remaining 25% becomes fodder for mocking and out-of-context attacks. This is why the phrases "There is no free lunch." and "Utopia is not an option." become so useful, as they focus in on the reasons that one might support stuff that on the surface looks a bit "iffy". I did, however, want to send copies of this off to my "elected representatives" (like it would do any good with that bunch of leftist yahoos) as soon as I finished reading it!

Anyway, the book is currently in print, but not in the stores (as far as I can tell), and Amazon has copies via secondary vendors going for as little as a buck (the new 9th edition is at full cover at $11.95). If you have any interest in personal freedom and limiting the choking hold that the government has on us, I'd highly recommend picking up a copy.

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Tags: book review

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