“Liberty Defined” by Ron Paul

“Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom” (2011) by physician, author,Texas congressman, and 2008 presidential candidate Ron Paul presents “thoughts on a series of controversial topics that tend to confuse people” (page xvii).

Paul begins by defining liberty as “to exercise human rights in any manner a person chooses so long as it does not interfere with the exercise of the rights of others” (page xi), with the understanding that “It permits people to work out their problems for themselves, build lives for themselves, take risks and accept responsibility for the results, and make their own decisions” (page xii).

Of the 50 issues that Paul covers, here are some of his more surprising and thought-provoking assertions:

* Bipartisanship: We don’t need more “bipartisanship,” we need more confrontation! “When the ideas of both parties are bad, there is really one hope: that they will continue fighting and not pass any new legislation” (page 20).

* Democracy: Democracy = mob rule.America’s goal should be spreading liberty, not democracy. “No system of government is a good one once the government grows too big and powerful. If the government is small and unintrusive, the form of government doesn’t matter that much. No one is seeking to overthrow the monarchy of Liechtenstein, for example” (page 63).

* Marriage: There is controversy over the definition of marriage only because the government requires a license to get married and does not allow us to designate Social Security beneficiaries.

* Patriotism: “Patriotism never demands obedience to the state but rather obedience to the principles of liberty” (page 218).

* Prohibition: “Government should not compel or prohibit any personal activity when that activity poses danger to that individual alone” (page 229).

* Public Land: The federal government owns more than a third of the land in our country, and most of it is not part of a national park. We should turn millions of acres over to the states, sell the land, and use part of the money to cover the national debt.

Paul concludes with a list of ten principles of a free society, but there are a few issues missing from the discussion, such as the role of the United Nations and the Border Patrol (citizen militia). Remarks about “Earmarks” (guaranteed federal expenditures) are buried in “Executive Powers,” and are limited to the observation that “Voting against an earmark doesn’t save a dime – it only allows the executive branch to decide how the money will be spent, which is a clear responsibility of the Congress under the Constitution” (page 116).

“Liberty Defined” has short chapters that are easy to read, backed by rational arguments and a compelling libertarian viewpoint. But the book seems like a political textbook or manifesto: because the issues are arranged alphabetically, there is no sense of priorities; and the writing is a little impersonal, with few of Paul’s personal experiences to connect with readers.

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