What I’m Reading: Against the State: A Libertarian Manifesto

Against the State: A Libertarian Manifesto, by Lewellyn Rockwell. I felt this work had several good points. It has one of my favorite summations of the principles of libertarian anarchism:

The anarcho-capitalist society demands of the public only that it acknowledge the basic moral ideas common to just about everyone: do not harm innocent people, and do not steal. Everything we believe follows from these simple principles.”

He also sums up my journey over the past few months – “What’s the difference between a minarchist and an anarchist? About six months.” I’m about three months in to looking at these issues in depth, and may be running a bit ahead of schedule!

I was also disappointed in his long section on environmentalism, which seemed to spend much more time demonizing the environmentalist movement and trivializing the issues environmentalists find concerning than it did in discussing how an anarchist society can provide effective solutions on these issues. He clearly falls in the “drill, baby, drill” camp of environmental policy, and seems to see no value personally in preserving wilderness. Toward the end of the chapter, he does briefly acknowledge that some may want to preserve wilderness, and that libertarianism provides an effective mechanism to do so through collective purchases of the land, but his attitude that this is a silly waste of money still seems to leak through. He also tied the environmental movement directly to Nazis, an argument that will be much more effective in driving people who care about the environment away from libertarianism than it will be in bringing new people to the movement.

I felt his chapters on war and the war on drugs were much stronger (probably because I agree with him on these!). He strongly argues against the racism inherent in the war on drugs. He also advances arguments that the war on drugs harms people far beyond those who end up imprisoned, stating that it has been used as the primary excuse in widespread restrictions on civil liberty and our right to privacy.

Overall, I felt the book provided a pretty basic overview of libertarian thought. This is unfortunate, because I feel like its tone makes it an ineffective book in bringing new people to the movement. Its arguments will already be familiar to anyone who has explored libertarian anarchism to any real degree.

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