One of the most important tasks that I would like to see this site accomplish is the dissemination of knowledge. Throughout history there have been numerous contributors to the cause of liberty. Some of those fine individuals saw fit to frame their thoughts, arguments, and wisdom in written form for the betterment of posterity. I find that utilizing these powerful texts is a wonderful way to advance thought and expand the mind’s plain of consideration. As I have the opportunity to complete each of the many books on my reading list it is my intention to provide you with my impressions of each manuscript. Perhaps doing so will prompt you to discover the book for yourself, or encourage discussion of books we have had the mutual pleasure (as I hope the case will be) of reading. To kick things off, I will begin with the latest book I’ve been able to check off of my list.
Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom by Ron Paul
In Congressman and Dr. Ron Paul’s latest book he tackles alphabetically 50 of the issues that he believes are the most important to the cause of liberty. Each of the 50 issues commands its own chapter, beginning with Abortion and ending with Zionism. The format of this book enables a more in depth look at the issues, unlike Rep. Paul’s The Revolution: A Manifesto which provides a more general, wide angle view of the liberty message. While the format breaks the content up, the underlying message of individual liberty and freedom still pulls everything together nicely. Dr. Paul makes it clear how each issue relates to the central theme.
Relating his personal experiences as well as citing numerous sources Dr. Paul builds a solid case for each of the issues he touches upon. Some of the issues are more riveting then others, and some seem to have a stronger personal significance to the author. In the very first chapter, dealing with the subject of abortion, Dr. Paul relates his experience as an OB/GYN resident during the 1960s in a time when abortion was still illegal. He tells how he witnessed both sides of the issue, giving a powerful account of a 2lb newborn who was left in a bucket, crying and struggling to breathe while it was ignored by the medical personnel until the crying eventually stopped. He went on to describe in another room how a premature baby was delivered and how everything possible was done to save the life of this child, while the other was simply left to die. It is clear that the moral implications of this had a profound effect on Dr. Paul’s view of the abortion issue. He explained how abortion allows for a subjective view of human rights and personal liberty. It allows a human to arbitrarily decide the worth of another human life based solely on its developmental state. This concept stands in glaring contradiction to the principles of liberty, which are based on all people being of equal worth, regardless of age, race, gender, or any other characteristic.
The book touches on a mix of issues, some of them being of a more political nature such as taxes, monetary policy and terrorism, as well as a number of moral and intellectual issues that play into politics and government like demagogues, envy, moral hazard, the noble lie, etc… These intellectual topics all provide a new prospective on the political system and encourage further thought on how it works, how it became what it is today, and how we can steer it back to its original purpose. They are what really make this book interesting. Many talk about the political issues, but few challenge the intellectual principles in the way Ron Paul does in this book.
The chapter on moral hazard was particularly interesting to me. Rep. Paul explains that the term originated as an insurance term which referred to the change in ones behavior after acquiring insurance. In other words the tendency for someone who has insurance to engage in risky behavior is greater than it would have been previous to owning insurance. The modern meaning, according to Dr. Paul came into being in the 1960s and is used to describe the unintended ramifications of governmental interference in the free market. He presents a case for the definition of moral hazard being widened to include the unforeseen consequences of all government policies. This is a fair argument given that we can see the moral repercussions of government action nearly everywhere we look. Welfare is a good example. It breeds reliance on government to provide for all needs. The idea of providing for those less fortunate is a noble endeavor — that is unless the government is doing it. First, the government does not have the Constitutional authorization to offer handouts to anyone. While the cause may be noble, the execution and consequences are not. Nothing is free and government welfare is no exception. The government does not produce anything; therefore anything it gives it must have first taken. So we see how a morally attractive policy results in stealing from many either in the form of direct taxation or inflation to benefit the few. This same concept can be applied to those at the opposite end of the wealth scale who benefit from so-called “bailouts”. I would suggest that a significant majority of the issues we face today are a result of the moral hazard created by well-intentioned policy.
I enjoyed reading this book greatly. As someone who has been closely following Ron Paul since the early stages of his 2008 Presidential bid I was already well acquainted with his positions. The added insight and background information provided in this book gave me a more thorough understanding of those positions and provided a peek into Dr. Paul’s personal experiences that I felt added a powerful new dimension to the subject matter. For someone who is relatively new to Dr. Paul’s ideas, this book provides a very good granular look at the issues and does well to answer more specific questions related to them. For readers seeking a more general overview, I would recommend reading The Revolution: A Manifesto first.
While some parts may border upon dull depending on the interests of the reader this book is an excellent read for anyone interested in a Constitutionally limited government, and the principles of liberty. Dr. Paul provides a smart, well developed premise and succeeds in pulling all 50 topics together as they relate to liberty in a way that any reader can understand. This book is recommended highly!
For more about Ron Paul: Who is Ron Paul?
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Based on a work at http://www.considerliberty.com.
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