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 second set deals with the relationship between liberty and its main enemies: authority and power. All human beings are equal in liberty, and thus no individual has the right to use his liberty to curtail the liberty of others, nor can he delegate such a right to anyone else. And yet, there exists a widespread belief that such a delegation is permissible and even beneficial. This belief is the foundation and lifeblood of what is commonly known as politics. By dividing humankind into rulers and ruled, the phenomenon of politics reveals itself as clearly incompatible with the aforementioned principle of equality of liberty, which hints at its essentially destructive and corrupting nature. A thorough understanding of this nature is needed if the phenomenon in question is to be successfully rejected as an antiquated, uncivilized, and highly pernicious form of decision making, and subsequently replaced by peaceful, voluntary, and contractual alternatives.

Liberty, Authority, and Power

A barbarian believes in coercion as a means to establish cooperation. A civilized person believes in cooperation as a means to eliminate coercion.

A barbarian believes in the benevolence of power. A civilized person believes in the power of benevolence.

A barbarian believes that liberty erodes community. A civilized person knows that liberty creates community.

A collectivist in a libertarian society may be an odd duck, but an individualist in a statist society can only be a milk cow.

A consistent freedom lover is an anarchist in the making.

A democratic state is a device for feeding off society by pitting it against itself.

A democratic state is a device whereby everyone gets a chance to assert his nuisance value on a social scale.

A democratic statist is someone who believes that individual liberty consists in participation in the process of collective self-enslavement.

A fool believes that individual liberty can be established by means of political power. A person of reason believes that political power can be abolished by means of individual liberty.

A fool believes that liberty comes from participation in power. A person of reason knows that it comes from dissipation of power.

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