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What It Means to Be a Libertarian
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What It Means to Be a Libertarian

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  300 ratings  ·  39 reviews
Charles Murray believes that America's founders had it right--strict limits on the power of the central government and strict protection of the individual are the keys to a genuinely free society. In What It Means to Be a Libertarian, he proposes a government reduced to the barest essentials: an executive branch consisting only of the White House and trimmed-down departmen ...more
ebook, 196 pages
Published September 22nd 2010 by Broadway Books (first published 1996)
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Nov 30, 2008 Jenny rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: freedom lovers and big government haters
Recommended to Jenny by: me, myself and i
Shelves: politics
A basic primer I can let anyone borrow when they don't get it. Just kidding! I like that anyone could pick this up and see what us Libertarians believe, since not everyone knows.
Jarrod Jenkins
Charles Murray of The Bell Curve fame (which I haven't read as of the writing of this review) offers his summary of what it means to be a Libertarian. In short, Libertarians want as small a government as possible with as much individual liberty as possible. This way, people are free to pursue their own paths and attempt to maximize their own happiness. The requirement of such freedom is that each person must assume full responsibility for his actions. E.g. you can consume all the drugs you want ...more
I liked this book for a few reasons, and was really turned off by it for a few others. I approached the book genuinely interested in learning more about the Libertarian perspective. Obviously this book is only one man's opinion, but in key places he is careful to describe how other self-identifying Libertarians, conservative or liberal, come down on the issues. Written almost 20 years ago, a number of the messages in the book -- for example, government does poorly what private industry does well ...more
Charles Murray's short book on libertarian is a personal synopsis or, better yet, a precis of the libertarian experience. It is divided into three sections: 1) "The Framework" where he describes the principles of limited government - its purposes and constituent make up; 2) "How Would It Work?" being a more practical commentary on how citizens could manage their personal and public affairs under limited government; and, 3)"Is It Possible?" considering the circumstances under which we might retur ...more
I picked up this book because I knew that I was Libertarian, but wasn't sure what that really meant. I have taken tests in school to see where I fall in this political mess and got the same results. Libertarian. Ok. What the heck does that mean? Hence, why I picked up this seemingly dry-looking non-fiction, political book. I want to know what people are talking about. I want to be able to hold a "political" conversation. I want to be more present in what's going on around me. So I read.

Murray ha
Justin Tapp
Since the M. Douglas Meeks' book I just reviewed made an argument that classical liberalism was incompatible with Christian thought, I wanted to read a modern espousal of the philosophy of classical liberals and then use it as a springboard for general comparison of Christian views on political economy. (I could compare philosophies better if I had read these books in an e-book format where my notes could be saved in the cloud for all time. One book's binding fell apart while reading it.)

John Maniscalco
This book elegantly presents the argument for a Libertarian society.

Charles Murray argues that since government is the only entity that has police power, it is the only entity that achieves its end through force. Where a salesman or service provider has to persuade people to purchase products and competes for your business in an open market, the government forces people to comply with laws and punishes those that do not. Murray goes on from there to explain the essential tenants of libertariani
Kyle Thompson
Very good book about libertarianism. Throughout the book Murray goes through how he, and other libertarians, feel the government should be run as well as what has to be done to get government to this "Utopian" view, I guess you could say . He does not go into a few topics, the one I remember off the top of my head that he didn't, was national security. That kind of disappointed me because I would have liked to of known what Murray and other libertarians think about it, especially considering the ...more
This concise explanation of Murray's personal view of Libertarianism shares a great deal of content with his later book on fixing the welfare state (the name of which escapes me). Having read the other book first, this book lost some of its impact. Like Murray's other writings, this book provides an introduction to a multitude of topics without addressing any particular issue in great detail. There were a number of ideas, new to me, that made this book interesting. Using trend lines over the pas ...more
This is a manifesto. It lays out a plan for returning to the kind of government we had for the first century of our country's existence, and makes the case for why that is the right thing to do.

Having recently read Murray's other work, I found this to be the logical next step in his thinking.

In "Losing Ground" he showed that the introduction of massive social programs in the mid sixties not only didn't work, but caused significant harm to the populations that were supposed to be helped.

In "Pur
Charles Murray is an unassuming man when you see him in public and if you did not know who he is you would never believe that it is he who started two of the great public policy debates of the past 15 years. First, he wrote Losing Ground and it was a wakeup call to all who believe in the gospel of social engineering. In his erudite and sober style he lay bare all the waste and fraud and pain caused by the social engineering of the past twenty years and showed so with ample, and sometimes laborio ...more
Bryan Cutsinger
What does it mean to be a Libertarian?

Ask several self-identifying Libertarians this question and you are bound to receive a wide array of answers ranging from the commonplace – lower taxes and less regulation – to the radical – the abolition of all government. It is this this question Mr. Charles Murray sets out to answer in his book “What It Means to Be a Libertarian: A Personal Interpretation”.

The essence of Murray’s argument is, “…only freedom enables human beings to live fully human lives
Rob Dewitte
Someone prone to hyperbole is almost brought to tears in reading the final chapters, which outline Murray's reasons for optimism that his framework for returning vast swaths of American life to the realm of the private individual and the freedom of association has even a prayer at being adopted in whole or in part. He published the book in 1996, and just 13 years later, there is less chance than ever--indeed, maybe even zero chance--that a return to limited government in America is possible, at ...more
I started the book started with high hopes on my part to understand a more efficient way to run our government as well as alternatives to the current mess. I was not disappointed until Mr. Murray could not help himself and started peppering the last 30 pages with his social point of view which honestly is completely irrelevant to the book. Much like he did in the Bell Curve, he used parts of the book to antagonize his critics which leaves the reader with a bitter taste in their mouth. Overall a ...more
Bill Zawrotny
I would like to think that I live in a world where I mention in this review how awesome it was to read a book that not only lays out most of my political views fairly accurately (with a huge exception in connection with drug legalization), but that also explains why our country would be better off with much smaller government, and my friends on the left and right would then read the book with an open mind. But I know that is unrealistic. So all I can say is that this was an excellent primer on l ...more
The book is fairly general, thou this being said I found it to be nothing short of cogent, and would recommend it to any looking for the big ideas of Libertarianism in a short but well written format.

I must confess I was sympathetic to a Libertarian view before reading this book; at this point I would not only have to say I am a Libertarian, but I almost find it hard to believe that people would at least in principle disagree with the the points of this book. That is not to say some disagree may
The arguments solidify my thinking sufficiently to persuade me to change my voter registration. In keeping with the spirit, the ideas are fully conveyed in less than 140 small pages. The only barrier for me previously was that of the drug-free attitude. However Murray shows proves the failure of the drug enforcement efforts and more importantly the inapplicability to any individual parent's goal of keeping THEIR child from the effects. I could write so much more, but why -- it is so well put in ...more
This is a pretty good introduction to libertarian thought, though I believe Ron Paul's "The Manifesto" is the more important and compelling read. This book is a bit dated and he is much too optimistic about our nation's desire to return to the freedom that our founders left for us.

There are definitely important ideas in this book, and it is worth reading, but it isn't a primary resource in my opinion. Murray is also much too soft in his libertarian ideals than I believe we should be.
Basics of libertarian thought. 168 pages, published 1997. Quick and easy read . . . unless you're a control freak . . . of any political stripe. So, if you're mad at Democrats for what they want the government to force you to do, or if you're mad at Republicans for what they want the government to force you to do, then read this book. The winds of freedom will blow through your mind. You may even be motivated to scream F-R-E-E-D-O-M (a la Braveheart) when you're done.
This is definitely an opinion book. I liked some of the ideas he had in here, but others were just ridiculous. I know I sound pessimistic, but I really highly doubted that some of the ideas would ever pass by with people....

...the beginning was rather dry. It got better once he started using examples.
As the title suggests, this book doesn't simply explain what libertarianism is, it also explains the meaning behind it--the reasons and implications of being libertarian. While not an exciting read, I still recommend it to both libertarians and non-libertarians because of the clear logic it contains.
Cortney R
Murray details the viewpoint of a classical liberal, or libertarian. He warns that he doesn't consider himself a Libertarian with a capital 'L' but a libertarian nonetheless. He quickly touches on issues and gives a quick interpretation. It's a quick read and very enlightening.
Trey Palmer
A basic overview of a libertarian's viewpoint, with general recommendations about reducing the government's role in our personal lives. The sources and acknowledgements section has valuable suggestions for further reading. A short read and well worth the effort.
John Hamilton
Essentially my bible on current affairs and politics. Should be canonized along with all other scripture. I took copious notes on virtually every page. I want my kids to read this and memorize passages by heart. Oh, did I mention I really liked this book?
Good, informative book about basic libertarian philosophy. I recommend it to anybody who wishes to learn more about it. It offers good points and insights into some of the problems that American needs to deal with.
Maryc Cody
This book helped me to understand what Libertarians believe and why. It was very well written and enlightening. I highly recommend it for those interested in Libertarianism or the political process.
Nov 15, 2008 Kurt rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who doesn't know what it means to be libertarian.
Recommended to Kurt by: no one
Didn't really impart anything new about libertarianism...if anything it reinforced my anarchist social bent and my socialist economic leanings.
David Robins
Libertarian principles explained and expounded. Has a blind spot for tax-funded school vouchers, though (but oddly not for healthcare).
Understanding the libertarian view helped me better understand some of the founding principles of the United States. An interesting read.
Brian Koenig
Great description of what the modern Libertarian party is. The further I read, the more I realized how Libertarian I really am.
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  • Libertarianism: A Primer
  • For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto
  • The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise, and Progress
  • The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism
  • Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement
  • The Conservative Mind
  • The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America
  • The Austrian Theory of the Trade Cycle and Other Essays
  • Knowledge And Decisions
  • Omnipotent Government
  • Hidden Order: The Economics of Everyday Life
Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 The Curmudgeon's Guide to Getting Ahead: Dos and Don'ts of Right Behavior, Tough Thinking, Clear Writing, and Living a Good Life Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America's Schools Back to Reality Apollo: The Race To The Moon Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980

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“it is said that roosters think the sun rises because they crow. Politicians are much the same.” 2 likes
“The entry of government into social insurance and then into a broader range of social interventions has caused incalculable human suffering. It has not produced a society in which fewer people are dependent than would otherwise have been the case. The welfare state has artificially, needlessly created a large dependent class. At the bottom is the underclass, stripped of dignity and autonomy, producing new generations socialized to their parents’ behavior.” 1 likes
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