Freedom in Chains: The Rise of the State and the Demise of the Citizen

James Bovard, Author St. Martin's Press $26.95 (326p) ISBN 978-0-312-21441-8
Bovard (Lost Rights) throws more red meat to angry libertarians in this antigovernment jeremiad. While he provides some frightening examples of how governments--mostly the U.S. federal--do more harm than good, his passion leads him to some hyperbolic conclusions. There are many passages that will make readers--not only welfare-state liberals but also moderate Democrats and Republicans--wonder whether they live in the same country as Bovard. One of his biggest targets is the notion of state sovereignty: ""The doctrine of `sovereignty' often does nothing more than provide a respectable gloss for some people's lust to control other people's behaviors, or to seize the fruits of other people's labor."" That last clause is telling, for it could just as well be turned against Bovard. It is precisely to stop nongovernmental entities (e.g., factory owners) from seizing the fruit of other people's labor (e.g., factory workers) that so many of the regulations and laws Bovard decries (e.g., a minimum wage or corporate taxes) were instituted. But Bovard is well-read and makes entertaining use of Rousseau, Hegel, Hobbes (he's very fond of Leviathan) and other thinkers. He's also consistent and intellectually honest enough to follow his own ideology to its logical conclusion about, for instance, marijuana (legalize it, he says). Few readers will agree with Bovard that the dominant spirit in America today is one that idolizes the state, but most will find that he makes a rousing theoretical case against statism. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/04/1999
Release date: 01/01/1999
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 978-0-312-22579-7
Ebook - 978-1-250-09540-4
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