July 20, 2012

Key passages from "The Art of Being Free"

Here are some key passages from The Art of Being Free:


  • I do not believe freedom or justice are august concepts to be immortalized in awe-inspiring statutes. Freedom and justice belong on the streets and in the gutters, because that is where real people live as they rush from home to work, from work to pick up their children. I want a theory and reality of freedom that is based upon and within the average working person.
  • Since childhood, one of my favorite quotations has been a passage from Louisa May Alcott's novel Little Women. The character Jo reads aloud from a short story she has written: "And the good fairy said, &#8216I won't leave you money or pretty dresses, but I will leave you the spirit to seek your fortune from your own efforts.'"
  • If La Boetie is right: If freedom is a natural human urge, then nature herself argues the logic of not cooperating with tyranny. There is something within both man and beast that resists the tension of a leash. Rather than break the tension by attacking whomever holds the reins, La Boetie told people to just let the tension go slack. Refuse both violence or submission. Simply say no. In that word, freedom lives.


  • Civil and economic rights are not separable. Both are human rights and dependent upon each other. It makes no sense to tell a free man that he has freedom of speech, but no similarly unrestricted right to use his own labor to make goods that he can freely sell. Both acts are peaceful expressions of his own body. Being able to use his tongue to speak out is no more sacrosanct than being able to use his hands to contract labor on his own terms.


  • Chattel slavery was driven from North American soil almost 150 years ago. A more subtle form of slavery has arisen. Politicians declare themselves to be protectors of individual rights, but governments at all levels -- local, state and federal -- claim an ever-increasing percentage of society's money and liberty. The government is assuming the role of thief and slaveholder. Your property and the exercise of your faculties and time are not mere societal niceties; they are your life.

Social Change

  • The main advantage of a decentralized system of decision-making may well be its ability to adjust constantly and quickly to shifting circumstances. Where social engineering demands a stable future and a godlike knowledge of the present, spontaneous order recognizes and embodies the inevitability of change and the inadequacy of human knowledge.


  • We should yank theory out of academia and throw it back into the streets, where it belongs. It belongs there, alongside truth, because that is where injustice happens, it is where the marketplace feeds people, it is where those who struggle are seeking answers to why the world is falling apart. Theory and principles were never meant to be the playthings of an elite class who tell the masses that they are too ignorant to understand sophisticated concepts like justiceeconomics or even their own self-interest. Justice, economics and the public good must be fed through their own elite understanding and regurgitated in understandable form. Yet the elites do not even know what the price of bread is.
  • The more clearly you think, the freer and richer life will be.
  • Standing up for yourself can be frustrating and unpleasant. The world can brutalize people intellectually as surely as it does physically. For friendship and solace, for knowledge and companionship, it is not possible to say enough about the benevolence of books.


  • We are lied to as a matter of policy by politicians who vow on Bibles and the Constitution to protect our interests. It is in their interest to have us believe the economy is going through a little burble, but otherwise, it is just peachy. And for them, I am sure it is. I am sure their children don't lack for medical care, the best food, new shoes... These people tell the lumpenconsumeriat, "Pay no attention to that printing press behind the curtain, so that you don't understand that the inflated U.S. currency has rendered every dollar you possess worth only a fraction compared with a few years ago."

Medical Reform

  • Monopoly, legal privileges, the rise of PPPs, the use of tax dollars to create disease and eliminate competition, the peddling of pharmaceuticals through government agencies... these issues must be prominent in any productive discussion of the medicalization of everyday life. If the discussion focuses on corporate greed, then the therapeutic state will have merely entered a new phase...


  • The passport has grown into what is arguably the single most powerful tool of totalitarian America, second only to law enforcement itself. It no longer pretends to protect individuals; not a single terrorist has been apprehended as a result of passport checks. But it does cement the totalitarian state. The mandatory passport should be reviled and rejected as an abuse of human rights and common decency. A nation that requires one cannot be free.


  • The goal of a police state is not the free flow of civil society, but the polar opposite: social control. The goal of a police state is to preserve and augment its own political power. Because civil society considers government to be its servant, rather than its master, civil society constitutes a direct threat to the police state. Thus, the two are at war with each other and cannot coexist. This characteristic distinguishes the police state from limited government: It wages war upon civil society, upon peaceful expression and behavior. In doing so, it wages war on individuals.


  • One of the political beauties of libertarianism is that it is a populist ideology. It deals with fundamental rights that are possessed by all human beings; it defends everyone's life, liberty and property equally. It says to the poorest, most-disadvantaged person in society, "You have the same due process rights as a billionaire." Libertarianism is a profoundly nonelitist. It is profoundly the politics of the everyman.

The State

  • The state can still disappear. For many people, the state disappears in the conduct of their private lives with family and friends, in which the bonds of affection and trust have nothing whatsoever to do with government law. When they read bedtime stories to their children, plan a birthday party for a relative or simply have a cup of coffee with a friend... here the state is nowhere to be seen.

1 comment:

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