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 third set deals with the topics of money, greed, equality, envy, and charity. Sound money is both the offspring and the vehicle of liberty. It facilitates trade, allows for economic calculation, and serves as a hedge against the uncertain future. And yet, just as in the case of liberty, its relatively abstract nature often makes people insufficiently appreciative of its benefits. This lack of appreciation is particularly dangerous when it is motivated and reinforced by the vices of greed and envy. These, in turn, are often rationalized as a desire for material equality, but while certain kinds of equality are necessary to enjoy the advantages of monetary exchange, the kind referred to here is not to be found among them. This is why it is crucial to make the relevant conceptual distinctions, and aphoristic pithiness may turn out to be particularly helpful in this context. It may also help illuminate the relationship between moneymaking and charitable giving, which is at the heart of the much misunderstood issue of efficiency and equity.

Money, Greed, Equality, Envy, and Charity

A civilized person believes that what matters is not whether wealth is equally distributed, but whether it is justly acquired. A barbarian believes that the latter depends on the former.

A fool believes that people are free when they are all equal. A person of reason believes that people are equal when they are all free.

A foolish egalitarian wants to empower the state to prevent the market from making the rich richer. A smart egalitarian wants to empower the market to prevent the state from keeping the poor poor.

A “just tax” is something akin to an “affectionate rape”.

A libertarian does not oppose the welfare state because he does not care about the poor, but because he cares about them too much to believe they deserve being caught in the web of lies, empty promises, perpetual dependence, hate-mongering, and cultural degradation created by self-serving, power-hungry crooks.

To seek charity is to be temporarily helpless. To feel entitled to charity is to be permanently helpless.

Voter: someone smart enough to manage his country, but not smart enough to manage his wallet.

Welfare statism: the notion that the best way to gain the political support of those deprived of income is also to deprive them of dignity.

Whenever one feels like saying “the money that billionaire spent on his fleet of yachts could have been used better by the “public sector””, one should ask oneself when was the last time one heard of a billionaire buying an army of tanks and a set of nuclear weapons.

Where there is spontaneous inequality of wealth, there is relative poverty. Where there is spontaneous or enforced equality of wealth, there is absolute poverty. Thus, there can be no society without poverty, but only a spontaneously unequal one can successfully deal with its worst kind.


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