71R Book Review: Arguments for Liberty

71 Republic Editor Max Bibeau reviews the book Arguments for Liberty edited by Aaron Ross Powell and Grant Babcock.


Arguments for Liberty edited by Aaron Ross Powell and Grant Babcock was a challenging and intriguing read. The book is organized into 9 chapters, each chapter written by a different follower of a different moral philosophy. The authors first describe the core ideas of the philosophy, then link the philosophy to libertarian ideals. While not for the faint of heart, the authors in this book delve deep into moral and ethical theory and make thorough connections between their respective moral theories and liberal political ideas. In complete honesty, this book is a difficult read. The theories are very complex, and sometimes difficult to follow. However, while occasionally hard to understand, the amount of knowledge I gained from this 370-page book is difficult to fully express.

Going into this book, I was experienced in the ideas of Objectivism and had occasionally looked into Utilitarian and Kantian ethical theory as well. By the end of the book, I can confidently say that my current understanding of the theories I had looked into before was drastically expanded, and the theories I had never looked into before were presented to me in coherent and logically sound formats. There were 3 chapters in this book that stood out to me the most, that I would highly recommend any person interested in ethical theory read: Utilitarianism written by Christopher Freiman, Objectivism written by Neera Badhwar, and Ethical Intuitionism by Michael Huemer.

The Utilitarianism chapter stood out to me in its simplicity. Utilitarianism is one of the most simple and commonly held moral philosophies in our world, however, it can sometimes be difficult to make a strong connection between it and libertarian ideas. This chapter does an amazing job of both demonstrating real life examples of free market libertarianism serving Utilitarian ideas, and also defending the liberal ideas of libertarian ideas themselves in Utilitarian terms.

The Objectivism chapter was an interesting experience for me. As someone who has been heavily influenced by Ayn Rand, and considered himself somewhat proficient in her thinking, I was skeptical of the value this chapter would give me. Those questions, however, were quickly dispelled, as I realized that the author of this chapter was presenting Objectivist ideas that I had only vaguely understood before, and was elaborating on them in order to assist in the understanding of them. I can confidently say that I learned much more from this chapter than I could ever have hoped before reading it.

The Ethical Intuitionism chapter was different for me, as it was one of the only ideas in the book that had never been presented to me before. I was completely new to the idea and had no clue what to expect. This chapter blew my mind. It presented a completely new side of ethics I had never even thought about before and instantly had me dying to read more into it. I plan on reading much more about the concept in the future.

Overall, this book was an enjoyable and extremely educational read. After reading this book, I feel much more confident discussing ethical theory with others, and more confident in my own abilities to understand morality as a whole. Certain chapters in this book, specifically the Ethical Intuitionism chapter, have motivated me to read further into ethics, and to understand the ideas more as a whole. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about morality, regardless of political leanings. I would also caution potential readers, however, as this book is not a casual read. It often takes focus and concentration to fully understand the complex ideas presented in the book.

To buy the book, you can purchase it directly from the Cato Institute HERE, or from Amazon HERE.

  1. Now I want to read the book! Great review. Thank you.


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