The subjects dealt with in this book, are Liberty, Law, Rights, Democracy, Government. They are subjects with which all freedom loving citizens (especially those in the fields of politics and journalism) should concern themselves.
Essay No. 1 - “On Liberty”:
In a speech to the Virginia Convention, on June the 16th, 1788, James Madison said: “I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” Lurking dangers to our liberty exist, not only to “insidious encroachment,” but, as Louis D. Brandeis, pointed out, after echoing Madison’s view, the greatest danger exists in “men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.” More dangerous, still, is for the rest of us to fall asleep ...
Essay No. 2 - “The Law”:
Law is a body of rules, whether proceeding from formal enactment or from custom, which a particular state or community recognizes as binding on its members or subjects. A question however arises. On whose authority are these rules to be law? Prior to the 18th century it was on the authority of a divinely appointed king; during the 18th and 19th centuries in England it was on the authority of the landed aristocracy; in the 20th century it has been the people, in fact, I submit, the politicians who “manage” to get themselves elected; now, having entered the 21st century, it’s hard to say whose in charge, maybe no one, and maybe, that’s the way it ought to be.
Essay No. 3 - “The Common Law”:
Common law comes about at the root levels of society: it is not law that is imposed by some authority from on high. The development of common law was essentially a private affair concerning millions of people throughout dozens of generations and stretching across several centuries. It is a process that is self adjusting and which goes on everyday unnoticed, without great expense to the state and without fractionalizing society.
Essay No. 4 - “On Legislation”:
A person or group of persons, surprisingly easily, can make another or others do what is wanted. One way is by negotiation and accommodation, viz. by contract, that is to say, to trade with them. Another way is to command that which is desired to be done and back it up with the threat of brute physical force: that is to use coercion: that is what we call legislative law: that is the dark side of the law.
Essay No. 5 - “On Property Rights”:
The right to possess and use property is a legal concept. It is a right which can only be lawfully obtained through the creation of the property itself, or more commonly in advanced societies, through a voluntary exchange between people by way of contract —
Essay No. 6 - “On Rights”:
If fundamental rights are encroached upon to any significant degree — and this is in their nature — a peaceful social structure in which we would all like to operate will collapse. In the wake of such a collapse, many will suffer deprivation, misery and death. These rights are “inalienable,” or as the French in 1789 defined them, “natural and imprescriptible,” because they are essential to people as they go about caring for themselves and their family.
Essay No. 7 - “Criminal Law & Drugs”:
The conclusion to be reached — and this assumes one has some familiarity with what is going on in our streets and courts today — is that anti-drug laws not only do not help at getting at the real cause of what drives people to abuse themselves with poisonous substances; but that anti-drug laws exacerbate the problem. Never mind that our government is spending our scarce resources on an unwinnable war with drugs — anti-drug laws create crime and corruption; they prevent sensible medical use of certain of these drugs; and they promote state activity that infringes on our constitutional rights of liberty and privacy.
Essay No. 8 - “Crime & Punishment”:
The Criminal Code is the same beast that came into being over a hundred years ago, and, since, has grown even more into an agglomeration of forbidden acts and transactions as has been dreamt up by successive political conclaves. It is, without a doubt a hodgepodge, a farrago, an unmethodical assemblage, a galimatias. It is full of repeating and disjointed sections most all of it written in arcane language which confuses and confounds the most experienced magistrates. The average officer of the law can not work with it. And as for the chances of the citizenry, whom the code is meant to govern, coming to an understanding of what acts are criminal and what are not; well — forget it: there is absolutely no chance.
Essay No. 9 - “On Democracy”:
Democracy is only compatible with a free economy; it can only exist, in substance, in an economy of ideas. Like a fish to water, democracy can only exist in a total atmosphere of freedom of action; it is completely incompatible with a system that provides for a governing authority with coercive power. If one accepts (anarchists, for example, do not) that a government, to some extent or other is necessary for a civilized society, then it is to be recognized that the business of governing (as apart from the business of electing representatives) cannot be conducted in a democratic manner.
Essay No. 10 - “The Theory of Government”:
In dealing with the question — What is the purpose of government? I am obliged to point out its loftiest duty: and that is to instill, primarily by example, the great personal virtues that need to be prevalent in the huge herd that is to be governed. Necessary not only so we can all get along better with one another, but, primarily — and here I refer directly to the Confucian notion of good government — so as to make the governed follow its legitimate directives, willingly and without the expense and destruction of compulsive government force.
Essay No. 11 - “Politics & The Lie of Legitimacy”:
... doctors, lawyers and other professionals spend years before they become licensed to deal with the problems of a particular individual. Any fool with a glib tongue and the right connections might end up with the government levers in his hands and thereby effect the welfare of hundreds of thousands of people. Persons should not be allowed to stand for political offices (which offices for this purpose should be graded in some fashion) unless and until they are tested in such things, as for example, elementary principles of political philosophy and constitutional law.
Essay No. 12 - “The Siren’s Song”:
While the political process is the center-piece of socialism there is one halting problem — the political process does not work. The collectivists, while pointing to the financial obstacles existing in a capitalistic system, create in their collectivist system a whole host of “cultural obstacles.” Special interests — elitist minorities whose goal it is to coerce the dispersed majorities for preferment on arbitrary grounds — move in and the resulting situation is perpetual unrest.