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Friday, October 28, 2011 by Gabriella Wheeler

Voices from the Liberty Movement Why Liberty: Personal Journeys Toward Peace & Freedom

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 freedom.

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.

DECEMBER 7, 2010 by Arnold Kling

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 civilians.

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.

January 08, 2011 | by James P. Gray

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!

But what 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.

So 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' regulators."

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 regulators.

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.