I purchased this book soon after it came out, just because, well, it is by Ron Paul who is of course plain awesome :) But then I procrastinated on reading it because I felt like since it is an introduction to libertarian philosophy, I probably wouldn’t learn anything new from it. But it was on my “need to read” pile and since I have some other heavier reading to do, I decided to just go for it. So…
I would highly recommend Liberty Defined for anyone, regardless of your background in libertarianism, or lack thereof.
Ron Paul’s disadvantage in the presidential debates is that his answers are too complex for a 30 second answer. I’ve had people tell me that his ideas are too simplistic for the realities of our world, but I think this is because he doesn’t have the time to fully present his philosophy. So for those who are sincerely interested in understanding his position on a variety of issues, you must read Liberty Defined. Don’t judge the man without reading this book. For those who are already agree with his stance, this is also a valuable book for several reasons.
1) This book is a great reference when considering different issues. I can totally see myself going back to Liberty Defined and reading specific chapters when I encounter a challenge or question concerning that subject. It is a good refresher for those topics that might not come up much and that we might be a little rusty on. The format of the book is especially conducive to this use, as Ron Paul has already neatly organized each topic so that you can quickly locate everything he says about the issue in one chapter instead of reading pages and pages to find scattered references or statements. If you don’t read it through once, you won’t know what topics he addresses, so it won’t really be very helpful for you in the future.
2) This would be an excellent book to give to others as an introduction to libertarian philosophy. As mentioned above, this book is crucial to understanding why Ron Paul believes what he does. And regardless of the man, it is an introduction to the idea of liberty. So if you want to give someone a broad overview of what it means to believe in liberty, this is the book for them. :) It doesn’t come across as intimidating or daunting, and the format works great because someone can easily read it one chapter at a time and be able to take something away from it. Ron Paul is also very good at making his ideas understandable and accessible, so it isn’t like reading Mises.
While I want to write about every single topic he covered, that is unnecessary because there’s already a book covering it :) I will just mention one of the many things that I gleaned from Liberty Defined. In the chapter on Civil Disobedience Ron Paul starts it by saying, “I strongly believe in the principle of peaceful civil disobedience.” He goes on to explain that he personally has not decided to take this route, instead he has “chosen to promote change through education and political action.” But this does not undermine the validity of civil disobedience. He reminds us that “what tactic one chooses is strictly a personal choice.” This is something we need to keep in mind. Just because someone is promoting liberty in a way different than what we have chosen does not mean that they aren’t also contributing to the cause. It does no good to work for the cause of “liberty” but not allow people the liberty to choose how to further that end. Ron Paul also stays true to the non-aggression principle by emphasizing peaceful civil disobedience. “Those who resist the state nonviolently, based on their own principles, deserve our support. The opposite approach to protest is the use of violence. Violence is a terrible agent of social change.” When I’m brave enough to tell someone I’m an anarcho-capitalist, the inevitable reaction is, “oh, you mean the people wearing black who blow buildings up?” And then I explain the essential difference, that anarcho-capitalists reject the use of force and violence against others. An anarcho-capitalist would never advocate the destruction of another person’s property. They would not support aggressive violence (as opposed to defensive violence) as the answer to any problem, no matter how tyrannical the state might be.
To promote liberty we must never compromise on the principle of non-aggression and the right of every single human being to life, liberty, and property. Never. This is the only way we will ever be free from oppression, injustice, and tyranny.