My forthcoming book

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Going to the bank to ask for a loan.


George's book is not that expensive.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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  • 2 weeks later...

I read "The Case Against God" about 17 years ago and then loaned it out to a girl I was dating. Never saw it again.

I need to call her and get that book back.

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George H. Smith, on 31 Mar 2013 - 02:31, said:

My forthcoming book from Cambridge University Press, which should be available in a few weeks, may be pre-ordered on Amazon.


George, that is VERY exciting. Congratulations!


Thanks, Roger. I got a copy of the book on Friday. It looks good, and I only found a couple minor typos (both having to do with commas). I don't know if Amazon has received copies yet, but they sent notices to customers who pre-ordered stating that they expected the books soon.


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Hi George.

I know this is my first post here; I post on ObjectivismOnline regularly. But I like this forum and had been meaning to register.

Anyhow, funny story:

I used to be a Christian. I graduated from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary about nine years ago with an M.Div. in theology. My particular focus and interest was in apologetics. I was familiar with your book "Atheism: The Case Against God." It was regarded back then (and I'm sure now, still) as one of the best books promoting atheism. (Yes, even Christian apologists regarded you highly, even while thinking you were mistaken.) I had glanced through it, but I spent more time with Michael Martin's book, because I had a Reformed view of theology and was very interested in presuppositional apologetics and was keyed in to the debate (or non-debate) with Greg Bahnsen. I was planning to read your book fully at some eventual time.

Long story shortened. About two years after graduating seminary, I renounced religion. (Not because of any atheist books or arguments at the time. Or, at least, not directly. I'm sure they did have an influence.) I was always a libertarian, even while religious. I eventually started reading Rand and became a student of objectivism.

Seeing that you post here, and now knowing your own objectivist interests/views, I had one of those come-full-circle moments. Anyway, I'm glad to find you once again on the this side of rationality. I'll put your new book at the top of my list and order it within two weeks. Thanks for your work.

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I just put in my order. Amazon said it had only one left in stock. And it still says real time updates eh?

There are no reviews yet.

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  • 1 month later...

Good morning, George. In the advertisement for your book you write, Concepts such as order, justice, rights, and freedom have imparted unity to this diverse political ideology by integrating context and meaning. The following article reminds me of your idea. I would enjoy reading your thoughts about the below article on Objectivist Living. Today, I bought your hard copy for $74.75 on Amazon, though the soft cover was much less. I hope you get the lion's share.

Peter Taylor

The Daily Debate - The Libertarian Utopia‏ by Robert Tracinski 6/10/2013

The "Libertarian" Utopia

Last week, I linked to a challenge from Michael Lind, who argued that libertarianismby which he means a radical pro-free-market, small-government agendais not "credible" because no one has ever implemented it.

This argument doesn't exactly make sense even on its own terms. You can see the non sequitur when Lind compares the libertarian utopia to Communism.

"If socialism is discredited by the failure of communist regimes in the real world, why isn't libertarianism discredited by the absence of any libertarian regimes in the real world? Communism was tried and failed. Libertarianism has never even been tried on the scale of a modern nation-state, even a small one, anywhere in the world."

But having been tried and demonstrably failing is very different from not having been tried at all. An idea that has not been tried is one that just might work.

But there is no reason to analyze the argument on its own terms, because Lind's question displays an astonishing ignorance of economic and political history, as I described in passing last week.

Now I find that Lind's argument has been taken up by E.J. Dionne, who hopes that Lind's challenge "will shake up the political world."

"In his bracing 1970s libertarian manifesto 'For a New Liberty,' the economist Murray Rothbard promised a nation that would be characterized by 'individual liberty, a peaceful foreign policy, minimal government and a free-market economy.'

"Rothbard's book concludes with boldness: 'Liberty has never been fully tried in the modern world; libertarians now propose to fulfill the American dream and the world dream of liberty and prosperity for all mankind.'

"This is where Lind's question comes in. Note that Rothbard freely acknowledges that 'liberty has never been fully tried,' at least by the libertarians' exacting definition."

Dionne is committing several forms of sleight of hand here. First, notice that "libertarian," in this context, is a modern term for an old idea. Modern libertarianism, which dates back to the 1960s, has three elements: free-market economics; civil liberties (including opposition to drug prohibition and other attempts to legislate personal morality); and an anti-interventionist foreign policy. Dionne is primarily interested in discrediting the economic aspect of libertarianism, but that is a policy that has a much older name. It used to be called laissez-faire, and if you name it in those terms, it's clear that it has been tried.

That brings us to the other form of sleight of hand, where he quotes Milton Friedman about how we've never "fully" tried libertarianism. Well, no, not "fully," nor have we ever had "full" laissez-faire. But for a lot of America's history we've gotten close enough that it would count as a libertarian utopia compared to today.

What would you take as the central planks of a laissez-faire platform?

Well, there would be no central bank empowered to print money. We can check off that box: the Second National Bank was shot down by President Andrew Jackson in the 1830s, and we didn't have a true, modern central bank until the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913.

A laissez-faire society would definitely be on the gold standarda libertarian obsessionand America did remain on the gold standard even after the creation of the Fed. The gold standard was temporarily suspended by President Roosevelt in 1933, which put an immediate end to the Great Depression. No, wait, I'm sorry, the depression lasted another decade. A modified gold standard was re-established after World War II and lasted until Nixon killed it for good in 1971. Which also led immediately to runaway prosperity. No, wait, it led to runaway inflation.

Our ideal laissez-faire society would have no federal income taxwhich America didn't have until we amended the Constitution to allow it in 1913.

There would be virtually no regulations on business. There would be no antitrust laws (as there were not before 1890) and no EPA (created by executive fiat in 1970). It would be like the Lochner Erafrom the late 19th century into the 1930swhen even state-level regulations, such as minimum wage laws or regulation of work hours, were struck down by the Supreme Court as an infringement of economic liberty.

There would be no public schools, which were rare in the U.S. up to the 1850s, didn't really take off until the 1890s, and were not compulsory everywhere until 1918. Even then, management of the schools would be left to state and local governments and there would be no cabinet-level Department of Education, as there wasn't until 1980.

The federal government would not be involved in subsidizing higher education or guaranteeing student loans, which it didn't do until about 1965, and which was dramatically expanded in the 1990s. Which may explain why tuition has skyrocketed since then.

Above all, the perfect laissez-faire society would have no welfare state. There would be no unemployment benefits (as there weren't before 1932), no Social Security (as there wasn't before 1935), no Social Security disability (1956), no food stamps (1964), and no Medicare (1965).

As for the non-economic agenda of libertarianism, I suppose you could cite the absence of prohibitions on drugs up through 1914, though the War on Drugs that we know today was another wonderful innovation of the Nixon administration, dating to 1970.

And in foreign policy, there was a time when our default policy was not to "entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of [foreign] ambition, rivalship, interest, humor, or caprice." Those words were written by an American statesman with a distinguished military record and a widely popular career in politics. You may have heard his name: General George Washington.

Now here's where we get to Dionne's last big sleight of hand. Part way through, he realizes he can't ignore this history, so he shifts his argument. Instead of arguing that laissez-faire isn't credible because it hasn't been tried, which was Lind's argument, he switches to arguing that laissez-faire has been tried but didn't work.

"We had something close to a small-government libertarian utopia in the late 19th century and we decided it didn't work. We realized that many Americans would never be able to save enough for retirement and, later, that most of them would be unable to afford health insurance when they were old. Smaller government meant that too many people were poor and that monopolies were formed too easily."

Fair enough. You might argue that this previous American system had problems that needed to be solved, or that the small-government attitudes that dominated from America's Founding up through the 19th centuryAlexis de Tocqueville observed that "you hear it as much from the poor as from the rich"were right for the time but are not right for our current circumstances. I would argue that this is true for Washington's non-interventionism, which made more sense when oceans were harder to cross and most of the world was still ruled by monarchs. The fact that I'm so much more of a hawk and an interventionist is a big part of the reason why I don't call myself a "libertarian," even though I agree with the free-market and civil-liberties aspects of their platform.

But here's what you can't plausibly argue. You can't argue that laissez-faire is not a credible political philosophy, that it has not been tried to any substantial degree, or that it has not been a success. The nation's first 150 years, the years that we were closest to laissez-faire, saw America's development from a small colonial backwater to a global superpower with the most prosperous economy in all of human history. Yes, people in 1913 were much poorer than they are today, but that's not the relevant standard. The relevant standard is that the common man was much better off than he had ever been before. The situation of the average person had improved at least as much from 1813 to 1913 as it has from 1913 to today.

If someone come up with a proposal to go back to a de facto gold standard, radically cut income taxes, eliminate Social Security and Medicare and the rest of the welfare state, get the federal government out of education, and shutter the EPA, I'm pretty sure E.J. Dionne would denounce him as a libertarian fanatic. But that person would just be advocating a return to the way America was from its founding up through the 1920s (which explains the current surge of interest on the right in Calvin Coolidge).

All of this is to say that America was a "libertarian utopia," or darned near to it by today's standards, for the first 150 years of its existence, which is at least a half century longer than it has been a modern welfare and regulatory state.

Entitlements are currently the biggest item in the federal budget, but up through the 1950s, 80% of federal spending was on defense. Today, defense is down to 20%, so it is just in the past fifty years that the basic priority of the federal government has shifted from national defense to entitlements. It is this modern welfare state that is of relatively recent vintageit is not quite as old as the Baby Boomersand it has produced the result we can see both here and in Europe: out-of-control government spending that leads to spiraling debt.

Given this crisis, I would argue that it is the modern welfare and regulatory state that need to prove its credibility.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Ba'al Chatzaf wrote on another thread:

If the Canadians got that far -without- a revolution is it just possible that our revolution was not necessary?

end quote

And I answered that I agree. But the time frame to liberty would have been longer. England and the whole British Empire became free in time. It would be interesting to see a side by side timeline comparing America’s freedom to Britain’s and then our re-march to statism in the 1900’s as compared to Britain’s. That might be worth a few paragraphs in the next Ghs book. I can’t wait.

Ba’al also mentions that the American Civil War was not necessary. With no Civil War when would the south have abolished slavery? I think so, around 1900 and certainly by now, but I think there would still be second class citizenship for blacks in the south. Ironically, everyone else might be freer today if the south had not openly rebelled. Would there have been a much more vocal opposition to Progressivism today, from the south?

I received George’s book, shrink wrapped on July 2nd, which was incredibly fast. My doctor recommended “Freakanomics” and I ordered it two weeks before I ordered “The System of Liberty,” and I have still not received the freakin’ book.


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I think your speculative timeline is plausible.Britain abolished slavery in 1833, and took measures to suppress the slave trade previous to that.

Slavery was the dealbreaker for the United States. Without allowing slavery, the revolution may not have succeeded or the Republic been born. But in allowing it the Republic could not be sustained.

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Daunce wrote:

I think your speculative timeline is plausible . . . . But in allowing it the Republic could not be sustained.

end quote

My idea is merely an extension of Ba'al Chatzaf’s hypothesis but thanks! Our own contributions, Carol, just might sound reasonable to the great one for a few paragraphs or a chapter.

Ludig von Mises and F.A. Hayak are briefly mentioned near the end of George’s current book but his primary history in this book stops short of the Civil War and more modern times.

I think the same chapter in his next, hypothetical book could also discuss the idea of the un-sustain-ability of our Republic if no Civil War had occurred. I think it would have.

Another idea George has had is to make the Constitution work as it was intended which most certainly would not require a violent revolution. A philosophical/political science revolution would be required. I still have high hopes that Objectivism, Rand Paul, The Supreme Court, The Tea Party movement and a constitutional convention, will be the impetus for that peaceful revolution. What is stopping this new wave is under informed voters, the inertia within a citizenry (which may still have a majority who want more freedom, which George brilliantly illustrates,) an entrenched class of government workers, past Supreme Court decisions, and progressives who want to destroy freedom.

It is 92 here but the grass needs cutting. I am free to move about the yard.


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Just had a thought. |If the \revolution had not happened in 1776, it might have been the Southern colonies that rebelled against England, later, as the end of slavery approached!

Reasonable speculation?

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By the way, there was slavery in Canada until 1833, and the differences from the US are interesting to this "What-if" line of discussion. First, the numbers of slaves were very low and had dwindled further by the time of Emancipation. Second we seemed to be "kinder gentler" slaveowners, needing no gang system of labour control as on the \Southern plantations, Slaves were mostly domestic servants, labourers on farm smallholdings, or skilled artisans. They were allowed to become literate and marriages were legally recognised. Third, successive legislation had improved their lot and reduced the opportunities for slaveholding.So by 1833 slavery's guns had been pretty much spiked.

(Paraphrase from Wiki. I am leaving out the practices of the aboriginal nations among whom slavery was endemic).

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Never heard this. Were they from Africa?

Some were, mostly brought in by the French in the 1600s or by British colonial administrators (but not settlers) in the 1700s.The the fleeing Loyalists brought their slaves after the Rev War. \however there is not much documentation and distinctions between slaves (who were usually referred to as servants, anyway) and indentured servants were not clearly marked.
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Thomas Jefferson’s Tea Party Speech

Feature Article by Robert Tracinski, July 4, 2010

Originally published in TIA Daily.

Editor’s Note: At the Jefferson Area Tea Party’s Independence Day celebration in Charlottesville, Virginia, we were favored by a surprise visit from our most famous local celebrity, the Sage of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson. Mr. Jefferson came to read the Declaration of Independence to our audience, but after he was done, our emcee, radio talk show host Joe Thomas, asked the third president if he could favor us with his views on today’s Tea Party movement. Here is what Mr. Jefferson said.—RWT

A little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.1 What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?2

Our grievances we have [set forth] with that freedom of language and sentiment which becomes a free people, claiming their rights as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their chief magistrate. Let those flatter, who fear: it is not an American art.3

Lay down true principles and adhere to them inflexibly. Do not be frightened into their surrender by the alarms of the timid.4

Our legislators are not sufficiently apprised of the rightful limits of their power; that their true office is to declare and enforce only our natural rights and duties, and to take none of them from us. No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another; and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him. The idea is quite unfounded, that on entering into society we give up any natural right.5

If we are made in some degree for others, yet in a greater [degree] are we made for ourselves. It were contrary to feeling and indeed ridiculous to suppose a man has less right in himself than one of his neighbors or all of them put together. This would be slavery and not that liberty which the Bill of Rights has made inviolable and for the preservation of which our government has been changed.6

I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground: That “all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States or to the people.” To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition. Certainly no such universal power was meant to be given them. It was intended to lace them up straitly within the enumerated powers.7

It would be a dangerous delusion were a confidence in the men of our choice, [our representatives], to silence our fears for the safety of our rights: that confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism—free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence. In questions of powers, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.8

I think, myself, that we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious.9

When we consider that this government is charged with the external and mutual relations only of these states, we may well doubt whether our organization is not too complicated, too expensive; whether offices or officers have not been multiplied unnecessarily. Considering the general tendency to multiply offices and dependencies, and to increase expense to the ultimate term of burden which the citizen can bear, it behooves us to avail ourselves of every occasion which presents itself for taking off the surcharge; that it may never be seen here that, after leaving to labor the smallest portion of its earnings on which it can subsist, government shall itself consume the residue of what it was instituted to guard.10

[in short,] we [must] prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people, under the pretense of taking care of them.11

The earth belongs to each generation during its course, fully and in its own right. The second generation receives it clear of the debts and encumbrances of the first, the third of the second, and so on. For if the first could charge it with a debt, then the earth would belong to the dead and not to the living generation. [Thus], no generation can contract debts greater than may be paid during the course of its own existence.12

We are overdone with banking institutions which have banished the precious metals and substituted a more fluctuating and unsafe medium.13 Paper is poverty. It is only the ghost of money, and not money itself.14

I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution. I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government to the genuine principles of its Constitution; I mean an additional article, taking from the federal government the power of borrowing.15

A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned—this is the sum of good government.16

A little patience, and we shall see the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles.17 Here will be preserved a model of government, securing to man his rights and the fruits of his labor, by an organization constantly subject to his own will.18

The kind invitation to be present at [your] celebration of the anniversary of American Independence is most flattering. In the bold and doubtful election we [made] between submission or the sword, [it is] a consolatory fact, that our fellow citizens continue to approve the choice we made. May it be to the world, what I believe it will be—to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all—the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that that mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God.19

The flames kindled on the fourth of July, 1776, have spread over too much of the globe to be extinguished by the feeble engines of despotism; on the contrary, they will consume these engines and all who work them.20

For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.21

1. Letter to James Madison, 1787, 2. Letter to William Stephens Smith, 1787, 3. A Summary View of the Rights of British America, 1774, 4. Letter to Samuel Kercheval, 1816, 5. Letter to Francis W. Gilmer, 1816, 6. Letter to James Monroe, 1782, 7. Opinion on Creating a National Bank, 1791, 8. Kentucky Resolution, 1798, 9. Letter to William Ludlow, 1824, 10. First Annual Message to Congress, 1801, 11. Letter to Thomas Cooper, 1802, 12. Letter to James Madison, 1789, 13. Letter to Abbe Salimankis, 1810, 14. Letter to Edward Carrington, 1788, 15. Letter to John Taylor, 1798, 16. First Inaugural Address, 1801, 17. Letter to John Taylor, 1798, 18. Letter to William Plumer, 1815, 19. Letter to Roger C. Weightman, 1826, 20. Letter to John Adams, 1821, 21. Letter to Roger C. Weightman, 1826.

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Nice quotes Peter, but you have evoked one of my pet peeves about the modern American system, which is originalism. Your nation was founded by the most brilliant and most moral men of their time, giving you timeless ideals and principles. But they were not clairvoyants. If they could see lesser men trying to figure out what they really intended for the Thirteen Colonies three hundred years ago, and apply that to present-day America, they would be aghast.

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