Brian Doherty is a senior editor at Reason magazine. His articles, essays, and reviews have appeared in dozens of magazines, newspapers, and books, including the Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Mother Jones, and The Weekly Standard. He is also the author of This is Burning Man: The Rise of a New American Underground. He lives in Los Angeles.
"Freewheeling" suggests a more whimsical book than readers actually get with this serious, comprehensive history of libertarianism, a political philosophy of minimal government intrusion into private lives. With their opposition to government, regulations, and taxes, libertarians may sound like modern conservatives, but they are a different breed: conservatives often hope to legislate morality, an intervention that libertarians despise. Libertarian journalist Doherty (senior editor, Reason) is an advocate whose passion should have been tempered by a cold-hearted editor willing to blue-pencil endless details about magazine circulations and which hotel hosted which meetings. Such minutiae, which contribute to the book's great length, will try the unobsessed reader. The familiar names-Milton Friedman, F.A. von Hayek, Ayn Rand-are here, along with the less well known, such as Laura Ingalls Wilder's daughter Rose. Libertarians as an organized party have barely made a dent in U.S. elections, but their ideas have strongly influenced successful politicians. Thus, this scholarly and far-reaching account is necessary for collections of modern American history and politics.-Michael O. Eshleman, Kings Mills, OH Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Modern libertarians see themselves as the loyal opposition to the totalitarian tendencies of centralized power, in an American tradition reaching back to the anti-Federalists. Doherty's astute history shows where that consensus comes from and where it fractures along personal, political and practical lines. As a procapitalist and antistatist philosophy, libertarianism has had its greatest impact in economics. But Doherty shows that modern libertarianism since the 1940s, and increasingly since the 1980s, has been politically and ideologically influential, too. Whether believers in a small state regulating only contracts and national defense, or no state at all (like self-described "anarcho-capitalist" Murray Rothbard), libertarians have rooted themselves in a number of institutions-from schools, publications and think tanks to the Libertarian Party, the country's third-largest ticket. Reason magazine senior editor Doherty conveys an insider's understanding in clear, confident prose. However, his sympathies resist questioning the fundamental assumption uniting diverse ideas, personalities and institutions: the belief in the power of completely unfettered markets to bring about the best possible society. Though partisan and sometimes hagiographic, Doherty's well-researched history avoids polemics in outlining a vital political orientation that cuts across the political spectrum. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.