Libertarianism: A Primer (Paperback)


By David Boaz

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About the Book
Tens of millions of Americans, from Generation X-ers to baby boomers and beyond, are rediscovering libertarianism, a visionary alternative to the tired party orthodoxies of left and right. In 1995, a Gallup poll found that 52 percent of Americans said "the federal government has become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens." Later that year, The Wall Street Journal concurred, saying: "Because of their growing disdain for government, more and more Americans appear to be drifting -- often unwittingly -- toward a libertarian philosophy."

Libertarianism is hardly new, but its framework for liberty under law and economic progress makes it especially suited for the dynamic new era we are now entering. In the United States, the bureaucratic leviathan is newly threatened by a resurgence of the libertarian ideas upon which the country was founded. We are witnessing a breakdown of all the cherished beliefs of the welfare-warfare state. Americans have seen the failure of big government. Now, in the 1990s, we are ready to apply the lessons of this century to make the next one the century not of the state but of the free individual.

David Boaz presents the essential guidebook to the libertarian perspective, detailing its roots, central tenets, solutions to contemporary policy dilemmas, and future in American politics. He confronts head-on the tough questions frequently posed to libertarians: What about inequality? Who protects the environment? What ties people together if they are essentially self-interested? A concluding section, "Are You a Libertarian?" gives readers a chance to explore the substance of their own beliefs. Libertarianism is must reading for understanding one of the most exciting and hopeful movements of our time.

Libertarianism: A Primer is now available in these translations:

For information on translating and publishing Libertarianism: A Primer in other languages, contact Aaron Powell at
About the Author
Cato's executive vice president David Boaz is a provocative commentator on a broad range of political and cultural issues; he has played a key role in the development of the Cato Institute and the libertarian movement. He is the author of The Libertarian Reader and co-editor of the Cato Handbook for Congress.

He is a leading authority on domestic issues like education choice, drug legalization, the growth of government, and the rise of libertarianism and is a frequent guest on national television and radio shows.
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What Others Have Said
"In an age in which the end of big government is used by politicians as a pretext for bigger, and worse, government, it is refreshing to find a readable and informative account of the basic principles of libertarian thought written by someone steeped in all aspects of the tradition. David Boaz's Primer unites history, philosophy, economics and law—spiced with just the right anecdotes—to bring alive a vital tradition of American political thought that deserves to be honored today in deed as well as in word."
—Richard A. Epstein, University of Chicago

"These days, you can't understand politics—and why so many Americans are so unhappy with it—without knowing what libertarianism is all about. The backlash against government is more than just a gut feeling; it is a philosophy, and one that demands to be reckoned with. For anyone who wants to explore the ideas that are energizing the right and exasperating the left, David Boaz's clear and often passionate book is the place to begin."
—Jonathan Rauch, Author, Demosclerosis