Reviews Of Books Related To Libertarianism

Part of the "Critiques of Libertarianism" site.

Last updated 02/18/11.

This section is intended to house reviews of books (or films) that show libertarianism in an unfavorable light. Either the reviews themselves may be unfavorable about libertarian works, or the works themselves may be unfavorable to libertarianism.

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"What It Means to Be a Libertarian: A Personal Interpretation", by Charles Murray.
"Libertarianism: A Primer", by David Boaz

The Libertarian Conceit
Jedediah S. Purdy's The American Prospect article that reads Boaz and Murray in light of a Isaiah Berlin's views of such pseudoscientific analyses of politics. He excoriates their typically slippery libertarian arguments.
Their Libertarianism -- and Ours, by Ellen Willis.
A scathingly sarcastic review of the hidden assumptions underlying the arguments of these libertarians. A DISSENT book review.
The Other L-Word, by Jacob Weisberg.
A casual set of comments on the inherent contradictions in these libertarian views. A Slate book review.
Too Easy and Too Free: A Review of Murray's Libertarianism
by Ronald W. Dworkin. Even with extreme generosity, Murray is found to fail badly, a foolish pollyanna.

"The Bell Curve", by Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein.

Academic Nazism
by Steven J. Rosenthal. A well-referenced short summation of the extensive flaws of The Bell Curve. Part of the Stalking The Wild Taboo site.
The Bell Curve Flattened
by Nicholas Lemann. Subsequent research has seriously undercut the claims of the controversial best seller. A Slate article.
Myths about The Bell Curve
by Steve Kangas. Part of the excellent Long FAQ On Liberalism.
Charles Murray Gets Trapped In The Ghetto.
A Salon Magazine article that describes Murray's inconsistencies in "Losing Ground" and "The Bell Curve".

For critical books, see: "Inequality by Design : Cracking the Bell Curve Myth" and "Measured Lies : The Bell Curve Examined".

Works by Amartya Sen, which contradict libertarian notions on poverty, famine, freedom, and development.

Sen's Sensibility
James North clearly summarizes Amartya Sen's "Development As Freedom", and shows why it is more relevant than other notions of liberty or freedom.
A Third Way For The Third World
Akash Kapur's review of "Development As Freedom", Amartya Sen's most important work, that relates freedom to economic development and political liberty of ALL individuals.
Why People Go Hungry
Kenneth Arrow's review of Amartya Sen's Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation. Agrees with the point that "failure of market power" is precisely what chooses the victims of famine.
In Pursuit of Fairness
Ian Hacking's review of Amartya Sen's Inequality Reexamined. Exposes the hidden premises involved in discussions of equality, and presents the many dimensions along which equality should be considered.

"Economic Thought Before Adam Smith" by Murray Rothbard.

An Austrian (Mis)Reads Adam Smith: A Critique of Rothbard as Intellectual Historian
Peter Hans Matthews and Andreas Ortmann say "Rothbard's book [Economic Thought Before Adam Smith] suffers from logical flaws, selective and incomplete textual evidence, a misunderstanding of Das Adam Smith Problem and the relevant literature..." etc.

"Money For Nothing: Politicians, Rent Extraction, And Political Extortion" by Fred S. McChesney

Public Choice Theory Criticized - McChesney, Money for Nothing.
Albert Foer's American Antitrust Institute review summarizes Public Choice theory as presented in McChesney's book, and ends with a clear presentation of the conflict of this Public Choice theory with reality.

"Atlas Shrugged", Ayn Rand

Big Sister is Watching You
by Whittaker Chambers. The 1957 National Review book review of Atlas Shrugged. Wants to be sympathetic, but just can't: the book was just too awful.
Review of "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand.
Rob Slade's Internet Review Project review casts a quizzical eye on the absurdities of Atlas Shrugged. Many amusing comments on this bizarre ideological heroic fantasy.
Ayn Shrugged: A Look At The Work Of Ayn Rand
A harsh review of "Atlas Shrugged" that points out the "weird, pathological agendas and bad writing."

"Ayn Rand: A Sense Of Life"

TV guide review of "Ayn Rand: A Sense Of Life"
by Ken Fox. A dead-accurate and scathing review both of the movie and Rand's "importance". A lot said in few words.
Liberty Online's review of "Ayn Rand: A Sense Of Life"
by R. W. Bradford. A libertarian critic of Rand decries its propagandistic nature, its lies of omission and commission.

"Ayn Rand and the World She Made", Anne Conover Heller
"Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right", Jennifer Burns

NEW 5/10: Capitalism's Wicked Witch
Allen Barra's Daily Beast review of Anne Conover Heller's "Ayn Rand and the World She Made" and Jennifer Burns' "Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right".
NEW 8/10: Wealthcare: the Cult of Ayn Rand
Jonanthan Chait's big-picture view of Objectivism's influence after reading the two Rand biographies.

"Free Space", Brad Linaweaver & Edward E. Kramer, eds.

Libertarians in Space
by Martin Morse Wooster. A scathing review of the poor showings of libertarianism in Science Fiction, from Liberty Unbound , a sympathetic source.

"More Guns, Less Crime", John R. Lott, Jr.

Do more guns cause less crime?
Tim Lambert's thorough critique of John Lott's More Guns, Less Crime. Shows clearly the errors of scholarship, measurement, statistics, and logic.
NEJM Book Review of "More Guns, Less Crime".
David Hemenway's New England Journal Of Medicine review of John Lott's More Guns, Less Crime. See also the followup correspondence by Lott and Hemenway.
John Lott's More Guns, Less Crime: An Alternate Q&A
Part of the Handgun Control site. Describes recent statistics that refute Lott's conclusions.

"The Militia And The Right To Bear Arms", H. Richard Uviller and William G. Merkel

NEW 3/07: Review of "The Militia And The Right To Bear Arms"
Daniel Smith lauds Uviller and Merkel's historical legal analysis of the 2nd Amendment, which thoroughly refutes Sanford Levinson and other individual rights claimants.

"Cyberselfish: A Critical Romp Through the Terribly Libertarian Culture of High-Tech", Paulina Borsook

The collected reviews of Cyberselfish.
Paulina's book web site attempts to collect all the reviews, favorable and unfavorable.

"The Myth Of The Rational Voter", Bryan Caplan

NEW 8/07: The Myth of Bryan Caplan's Seriousness
Steven White eviscerates "The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies" with the strategy from the emperor's new clothes.
NEW 8/07: Who's Afraid of Democracy?
"... many conservatives would favor free markets without democracy"
NEW 8/07: Bryan Caplan's Curiously Elitist Capitalism
"... claims the credentials of a scientist but is really far too ideological to be called one."

"Overdose: How Excessive Government Regulation Stifles Pharmaceutical Innovation", Richard Epstein

NEW 7/07: To Lose Trust, Every Day
Arnold Relman review's Richard Epstein's "Overdose: How Excessive Government Regulation Stifles Pharmaceutical Innovation". It turns out to be an aggressive rehash of the unsual industry claims. Money line: "Is all this really the expression of a great legal mind? Instead of reasoned arguments based on the facts about the development, the marketing, and the medical use of pharmaceuticals, we get only readings from Epstein's client's playbook, which relies heavily on deception, secrecy, and the tired tactics of name-calling."
NEW 12/07: Overdose: How excessive government regulation stifles pharmaceutical innovation
In this Journal Of Clinical Investigation review, David B. Ross politely points out that Epstein has written the worst sort of blatant industry advocacy, blythely ignoring the realities of the market for drugs.

"The Mind of The Market", Michael Shermer

NEW 1/08: Review Of Michael Shermer's The Mind Of The Market
Skeptics who love Shermer for his skepticism have difficulty with Shermer's libertarianism. Dan Schneider epitomizes this love/hate relationship.
NEW 3/08: Shermer's The Mind of The Market
Libertarian Tim Sandefur finds both Shermer's libertarianism and skepticism disappointing and unconvincing.

"The Rational Optimist", Matt Ridley

NEW 6/10: The Man Who Wants To Northern Rock The Planet
Matt Ridley's Rational Optimist is telling the rich what they want to hear
Matt Ridley joins the ranks of cornucopian libertarians with a similarly error-ridden and cherry-picked set of arguments.
NEW 6/10: Matt Ridley: Optimism without limits
Liz Else, associate editor at NewScientist, shows skepticism of the Rational Optimist. Follow the link to the experts criticisms where failed banker Ridley defends himself by claining the experts are in it for the money: a standard denialist tactic from policy entrepreneurs who ARE in it for the money.
NEW 6/10: Serial Mistake-Makers on Climate Change (Part I): On Matt Ridley and Bjorn Lomborg
Serial Mistake-Makers on Climate Change (2)
Howard Friel, who wrote The Lomborg Deception, points out the weak basis of the arguments in Matt Ridley's : a circle jerk of industry-funded pseudoscience PR and bad references.


Lies, Damned Lies and the Litany
Jim Norton's large collection of hostile reviews of Bjorn Lomborg's The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World. Lomborg's book is a classic example of accusing opponents (environmentalists) of one's own sins. It's a piece of brownlash propaganda that takes a severe and well-deserved drubbing.
The Libertarian Quartet.
Richard Epstein criticizes the deductive absolutism of Randy E. Barnett's "The Structure of Liberty: Justice and the Rule of Law". See especially the part about Coase's lighthouse example.
Fuzzy Logic
Lynn Scarlett reviews Richard Epstein's criticisms of "libertarian absolutists" in his Principles for a Free Society: Reconciling Individual Liberty with the Common Good.
Welfare vs. Privatization: the Truth Starts Here
Ian Montgomerie's review of The Economics of the Welfare State by Nicholas Barr. Undercuts libertarian arguments about optimality of markets.
Get Uncle Sam off my back! and other misguided impulses.
Gary Kamiya's review of A Necessary Evil" by Garry Wills. Praises the debunking of many Revolutionary Era myths of the Founders and Constitution exploited by anti-governmentalists.
Just Deserts
Amartya Sen's review of Peter Bauer's Equality, the Third World, and Economic Delusion. Sen provides a careful rebuttal of Bauer's conservative arguments about economic equality (which libertarians also use frequently.)
Children's Rights versus Murray Rothbard's The Ethics of Liberty
John Walker credibly dissects some ludicrous Rothbard drivel about self-ownership to back a less tenable pro-life position.
The Pinnochio Theory
Richard Barbrook's very harsh review of Kevin Kelly's "Out of Control: the New Biology of Machines".
Old Rules for the New Economy
J. Bradford DeLong's criticisms of the economic naivete of Kevin Kelly's "New Rules for the New Economy".
Market Myths: The Failings of Conservative Economics
James K. Galbraith reviews Selling the Free Market by J. Aune; One Market Under God by Thomas Frank; and After Progress by Norman Birnbaum. Three books critical of the propaganda that markets solve all.
Ask a Silly Question
David Gordon, of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, judges that Virginia Postrel doesn't have a hairy enough chest to be a true libertarian in this scathing review of her book "The Future And Its Enemies".
The God That Fails
George Scialabba's The American Prospect review of Charles E. Lindblom's "The Market System: What It Is, How It Works, and What To Make of It". He finds it a very even-handed presentation, that does not minimize the benefits or harms that the market system creates.
Economics In One Lesson
Brad DeLong's review of Henry Hazlitt's Economics In One Lesson. Brad explains at length why this brilliant libertarian classic is damaging to young brains. Simply put, it ignores the premises and history of economics; and the ideological blinders are so strong that Hazlitt's quotes and summaries are sometimes dishonest.
NEW 9/06: The Virtue of Sycophancy (1)
The Virtue of Sycophancy (2)
Cringe and Win! - The 5 Most Embarrassing Moments in "PARC"
Daniel Barnes evaluates James Valliant's book "The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics".
NEW 9/10: An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought
Tony Endres' scathing review of Rothbard's magnum opus. "Rothbard has produced two volumes which are highly jaundiced and purblind." From History of Economics Review.

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Copyright 2007 by Mike Huben ( ).
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