Thursday, November 28, 2013

Freedom in an Unfree World

Government regulations, taxes, international crises, burning issues, social restrictions … You can feel enclosed by despair. Harry Browne’s 1973 classic How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World explores fifteen common traps that people allow to limit their personal freedom. Browne (1933–2006) was the Libertarian Party candidate for President in 1996 and 2000. He made his name in 1970 with How You Can Profit from the Coming Devaluation. Browne followed that with other books on investment strategy, and eventually on political theory. Like many libertarians, he was influenced by the ideas of Ayn Rand.

Browne follows the hierarchy of philosophy, getting to politics by way of metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics.
I bought it in 1973; and 
got it autographed in 1995.

The first snare is the Identity Trap. Things have identities and so do people. We generally do well enough with physical reality. Our personal problems are another matter. Browne delineates two aspects of the Identity Trap: “(1) believing that you should be someone other than yourself; and (2) the assumption that others would do things in the way you would.” Browne also juxtaposes the Intellectual and Emotional Traps. Morality becomes a trap for people who accept some given universal or absolute system without investigating what morality is and why they need it and then discovering and developing their own.

Forty years after the publication of this book, with sales of over 50 books by and about Ayn Rand at 40 million copies, it is easy enough to find self-interested people. Millions of them still feel trapped by government, by regulations, taxes, and burning issues. They seek solutions in political groups, protests, and campaigns to find freedom by denouncing oppression. It cannot work. Browne demonstrates better ways for you to find freedom for yourself by untangling yourself from the Government Trap, Group Trap, the Utopia Trap, the Burning Issues Trap, and the Rights Trap. Identify the true costs and potential benefits of your previous investments in people and society and you can get out of the box of false certainty.

In Part II, Browne suggests ways to gain freedom from government, bad relationships (including a bad marriage), family problems, financial insecurity, and exploitation on the economic treadmill.

In Part III, he ties the arguments together to outline the steps that you can take to make your life what you want, according to your own morality.

The book is easy to read. It is plain and conversational. The insights are deep, cogent, and prescient. For all the headline news, not much has changed in forty years, except perhaps that life has gotten better, a claim that finds no resonance with those who are trapped by taxes, regulations, bureaucracies, an invasion of illegal aliens, unwarranted searches by unconstitutional agencies engaged in shakedowns and shoot-ups, to say nothing of the immanent collapse of civilization whether or not Iran gains atomic weapons. But that is why this book was written. Anyone who wants to discover their self-interest and live their own life will find this book to be time well invested with a man who knew a lot about investments.


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