Preface

Liberty is the central element of human nature. It is the essence of will, the source of creativity, and a prerequisite of virtue. As such, it is also the driving force of civilization and the foundation of any working society. And yet, being an abstract concept, its precise nature is often inadequately understood. This is unfortunate, since, while liberty can work its miracles when used by those who understand it only on an intuitive level, it remains fragile until it is comprehended on a deeper, philosophical level as well.

Luckily, there exists a substantial literature whose aim is to promote this second, more robust kind of understanding. The present book aspires to contribute to the literature in question, especially to this branch of it, represented by names such as Frederic Bastiat, H. L. Mencken, and Henry Hazlitt, that puts particular emphasis on the pithiness and lucidity of the conveyed message.

This is where the form of aphorism, with its motto of maximum content in minimum space, becomes particularly useful, especially given the information age’s healthy preference for brevity. The beauty of an aphorism is that it does not have to sacrifice brevity for depth, just as liberty does not have to sacrifice efficiency for equity: their best features reinforce one another rather than being opposed. Perhaps in this sense liberty is the most  aphoristic  of  human  qualities  and the  aphorism  is  the  most  libertarian of literary forms.

The following collection of aphorisms is grouped into six sets of topics, all related to the overarching topic of liberty and useful in highlighting its various facets. Such  an arrangement is based on my belief that the elusive nature of liberty and its unique significance can be fully appreciated only by investigating the concept in question from a variety of perspectives.

The first set is centered on the topics of economics and entrepreneurship. Economics is a sound understanding of the logic of human action, while entrepreneurship is a sound application of the logic of human action. In other words, economics explains the impassable limits imposed upon human liberty by the ineradicable scarcity of resources, while entrepreneurship demonstrates the scope of productive activities and beneficial goals that can be accomplished within those limits. Thus, economics explains the logical relationship between liberty and prosperity, while entrepreneurship demonstrates how to make the most of it. Both topics have to be properly understood if one is to properly appreciate the blessings of liberty: that is, benefit from the endless wealth of opportunities that it offers  without at the same time expecting it to deliver the impossible.

Entrepreneurship, Business, Economics, and Politics

A bad economist believes that he knows what to do to make the world prosperous. A good economist believes that he knows what to do to let the world make itself prosperous.

A bad economist believes that pay can be legislated. A good economist believes that legislation can be paid for.

A bad economist believes that prices should be policed by the state. A good economist believes that police should be priced by the market.

A businessman calls himself boss, but his goal is to serve others. A politician calls himself servant, but his goal is to boss others.

A fool believes in designing markets. A person of reason believes in marketing designs.

A fool believes that the market makes profits corrupting. A person of reason knows that it makes corruption unprofitable.

A fool deplores the fact that automation destroys jobs. A person of reason delights in the fact that it makes jobs less automatic.

A good economist believes that his role is to improve the public’s understanding of the market. A bad economist believes that his role is to improve the market’s understanding of the public.

A good economist believes that the ones best suited to deal with the problem of scarcity are entrepreneurs. A bad economist believes that it’s the economists.

A “guaranteed profit” is something akin to a riskless danger.


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