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Anti-libertarianism: Markets, philosophy and myth Kindle Edition

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Length: 168 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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"A lively and engaging imminent critique of "economic libertarianism . . . if there were any lingering plausibility in the view that a free market rooted in individual property rights maximizes individual liberty, Haworth puts a final nail in the libertarian coffin."-Alan Wertheimer, University of Vermont

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  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 514 KB
  • Print Length: 168 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0415082544
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Up to 4 simultaneous devices, per publisher limits
  • Publisher: Routledge (27 Sept. 2006)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000FA5W3U
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,351,939 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

If philosophy is the analysis of arguments, their internal structure and the presuppositions upon which they are based, then its value lies in the wider implications of that exercise for theory and practice. That is how see it at any rate, and it is, perhaps, especially true in the case of my own subject, political philosophy. My books are as follows.

1. Anti-Libertarianism: Markets, Philosophy, and Myth: In this, I examine and dismantle the 'neo-liberal' philosophical theories which dominated so much political and economic policy during the 1980s. Critics have said: 'a powerful and compelling critique' (Res Publica); 'spirited, intelligent and continually engaging' (International Journal of Philosophical Studies); and 'a withering critique of the "invisible-handism" that seduced the 1980s. (New Statesman).

2. Free Speech: An evaluation of the main arguments surrounding the idea that we have a right to free speech. One critic described it as: 'a very important contribution' to the literature. (Mind)

3. Understanding the Political Philosophers: From Ancient to Modern Times: This book is both philosophical and historical. I discuss the arguments advanced by the major philosophers of the western political tradition while, at the same time, setting them within the context of the historical events by which they were motivated to write. One critic said that he became so absorbed in the text, 'that he found himself reading it for pure intellectual pleasure'. (Times Higher Education Supplement)

4. Free Speech: All That Matters: As I write (October 2015), this has just been published. It is a short introduction aimed at the intelligent general reader.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By DEG on 5 May 2013
Format: Paperback
Myth, as Plato knew, is a powerful tool in the hands of the philosopher who would be king. His "noble lie" of the base metals was designed to reconcile those without privilege or education to their lot. The mythologies of libertarianism - of the "assertively right-wing pro-free market" type - are, Haworth argues, every bit as insidious, and designed to serve a similar end; to justify the crass materialism and gross inequalities that are the legacy of the New Right project in such a way as to secure the allegiance even of its dispossessed. It is indicative of the power of these myths that they have encouraged the rich to feel morally self-righteous about being rich, whilst convincing many of the ever poorer that nothing can be done - by anyone other than themselves - to meliorate their poverty.

This is a powerful and compelling critique of libertarianism which sets out to expose such mythologies for what they are. For Haworth, it is through the fabrication of myths, rather than by developing rationally compelling arguments, that the New Right has set about its beatification of free market capitalism: that is, it has set about convincing us that our wants needs and interests are circumscribed and satisfied by the operation of unconstrained market capitalism, and that individual liberty consists of no more than the absence of deliberate interference aimed at preventing us from doing or getting whatever it is that we want to do or get. Libertarians seek to manipulate us, after Mandeville's fable, into seeing ourselves as (busy) "bees" whose "private vices" will generate all that can be hoped for in the way of "public benefits".
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 8 reviews
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Commendably informed and restrained 27 Feb. 2013
By Eric - Published on
Format: Paperback
Any attempt to systematically debunk libertarianism may seem like swatting the proverbial fly with a sledgehammer for the average reader, but it is a necessary exercise nonetheless. Though Haworth's book was published nearly two decades ago, and the star has since fallen on libertarianism, the putative damage has been done: the worst income inequality since the 1920's, unprecedented environmental disaster, the monetization of every aspect of social life, the proletarianization of the middle class, the de-funding of essential public utilities--you name it. Diligently and with surprisingly simple counterexamples, Haworth deconstructs the metaphysical foundations of libertarian thought to show that the entire edifice of the movement is but a sandcastle, beginning with the atomistic prejudices behind Nozick's account of voluntary exchange (as if, whenever I encounter anybody anywhere, the first thing I think is, "What's in it for me?"), and ending with a takedown of Hayek's quasi-Hegelian theory of "spontaneous order" (essentially guilty of the naturalistic fallacy, cast in sociological terms). In all, Haworth demonstrates how the libertarian theory of a just society cannot flow from its account of human dignity, and therefore is riddled with some daunting (if not fatal) contradictions. "Anti-Libertarianism" supplies you with the tools you need for debate, be it with some idealistic Rand-nerd, Cato Institute-think-tanker-in-training fellow students out on the quad, or at the Thanksgiving dinner table with your Fox News-addled get-yer-gov'ment-hands-off-my-Medicare relatives. Concise, clearly written, and superb.
15 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Nice try 28 Jan. 2006
By M. A. Krul - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this book Alan Haworth, of the University of North London, attempts to take on libertarianism. Some might say that this hardly needs further elaboration. But Haworth makes a good case that some of the libertarian tenets, such as the "invisible hand" theory of Adam Smith, are far more widespread and far too often considered self-evident than they deserve.

His criticism, however, is sorely lacking in understanding of his opponents. His dissection of Hayek's internal inconsistencies is excellent, but he never makes clear why Hayek's criticism of planned economies is necessarily relevant to libertarianism. Haworth also fails to properly understand the modern views of libertarian economic arguments, such as the necessity of "internalizing" things like pollution, instead ridiculing the libertarians for presumably forgetting all about this obvious rejoinder. Last but not least, his tone is condescending and childish, and this does not really help anyone's case, even if I feel (as one strongly opposed to libertarianism) that it might be deserved.

On the plus side, Alan Haworth's book is very useful for a memory refresher on the central tenets of libertarianism's conception of freedom (a conception too little attacked generally), and his destruction of Robert Nozick's mystifications of "innate rights" is well-done.

All in all, worthwhile, but certainly not the book you should get if you aren't familiar with libertarianism already, since there's a lot of straw in Haworth's version of it.
54 of 83 people found the following review helpful
Lamentably Ignorant and Splenetic 6 Nov. 2003
By JCL - Published on
Format: Paperback
In this book Alan Haworth tends to sneer at libertarians. However, there are, I believe, a few sound criticisms. I have always held similar opinions of Murray Rothbard's and Friedrich Hayek's definitions of liberty and coercion, Robert Nozick's account of natural rights, and Hayek's spontaneous-order arguments. I urge believers of these positions to read Haworth. But I don't personally know many libertarians who believe them (or who regard Hayek as a libertarian).
Perhaps the most useful response is to challenge some of Haworth's other views. He uses 'right-wing' to mean something like unregulated property matters. By analogy, I take 'left-wing' to mean unregulated personal matters. As libertarians want both areas unregulated they fit better on an unregulated-regulated axis, with extreme state regulation in both areas as an opposite. So the market is not the central tenet of libertarianism (contra p. 36). Libertarianism embraces all voluntary behaviour not imposing on others, including charity such as the Good Samaritan's (which example Haworth would twist to defend state intervention [pp. 100-103]).
Haworth denies that liberty is "'essentially" negative' (p. 47). But surely liberty is, analytically, about the absence of constraints. More precisely here, it is about people not being constrained by other people. To avoid confusion, I call this 'interpersonal liberty'. Hence falling into a pit does not reduce interpersonal liberty (contra p. 49) but being pushed in does, unless that is part of defence, restitution, or retribution (so it is false that 'coercion and [interpersonal] liberty stand opposed' [contra p. 46]).
Though sometimes bad at expressing it, libertarians have a good grasp of interpersonal liberty as 'persons not (proactively) imposing on each other'. Such an account of liberty does not mention private property, though normal observance entails it. The market restricts one's licence (to impose) rather than certain (interpersonal) liberties (contra p. 54). Haworth's unseen p trespassing child does impose (contra p. 97): by flouting the owner's choices, thus attacking liberty. By contrast, Haworth lacks any clear grasp of interpersonal liberty and hence libertarian acquisition, so cannot understand why state-expropriated utilities are illiberal (p. 10). He writes of 'liberalism' as though ignorant of classical liberalism (p. 27) (and of the 'true levellers' as though ignorant of the, libertarian, levellers [p. 10]). Perhaps that is why he sees no connection between liberty and the market.
Libertarians do not believe the market to be 'the perfect moral order' (contra p. 3), merely better than state aggression. And lack of libertarian rights does not entail lack of moral obligation (contra pp. 78-9). To accept a right to liberty is not, ipso facto, to 'confuse questions concerning rights with questions concerning freedom' (contra p. 11): following Karl Popper's epistemology, libertarians can simply conjecture the desirability of libertarian rights (viewing these as compatible with the market and utility, for conceptual and empirical reasons). Haworth writes nothing to refute this.
There are many completely unargued assertions. Exactly how does democracy respect choice better than the market (p. 17)? (If 'democratic' means to 'facilitate self-determination for autonomous beings' [p. 102], then I guess the market is 'democratic'.) How are 'huge capitalist corporations' not merely successful but 'coercive' (p. 101)? How does so-called 'equal opportunities legislation' protect 'the property women hold in their persons' (p. 142 n. 4) rather than being female privilege?
Typical libertarian views, whether right or wrong, are unknown or ignored on many issues. Libertarians typically think that: people command ever better market wages by selling only their labour (contra p. 21); unemployment is due to state benefits (contra p. 99) and depressions to inflated money and state profligacy (contra p. 100); the state undermines public goods (contra p. 92) and equality (contra p. 131); extorted transfers will harm the poorest in the long term (contra p. 109); state medicine (contra pp. 82-4) and state education (contra p. 132) not only violate liberty but are more expensive and inferior.
Haworth misunderstands how states impose pollution and merely ignores market-justice arguments (p. 113). Nuclear waste would not be in free-market lakes (contra p. 111) because damaged third parties could sue using contingency fees (though choosing some pollution, as city-dwellers do, is hardly intolerable).
He even scores some clear own goals: it recently took New York's state-licensing to curtail ethnic hairdressing (contra p. 87); and voluntary discrimination (i.e. freedom of association) is not state-imposed segregation, which is what killed Bessie Smith (contra p. 140, n. 9).
Overall, this book contains too many of Haworth's prejudices and too little careful consideration of the relevant arguments.
3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Too Academic and "Stuffy" to convince many Libertarians 8 Aug. 2012
By Matthew D Folger - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm as opposed to Libertarianism as any person, because I recognize the mass of sophistry, obfuscation, and rhetorical mind-warping that it is in favor of the ruling finance elite and against average working people.

That said, this book is something of a paradox. It is an exquisite breakdown and deconstruction of all the sophistry that lays the foundation for Libertarianism; and yet, it does it in such high-level language and discourse, through logical analysis spoken with a Brahmin-tongue, that who is this Author trying to convince?

If Libertarians were well read in terms of: philosophy, history, economics, civics, moral philosophy, then they wouldn't be Libertarians, now would they? Yet, this book caters to such an audience, an audience of world-wise Libertarians; a group that largely doesn't exist due to the fact that the concept is completely oxymoronical.

For example we have paragraphs like this:

"According to Austin 'our common stock of words embodies all the distinctions men have found worth drawing, and the connections they have found worth making, in the lifetimes of many generations', and the method he consequently recommends involves `field work', the careful description and classification of these in order to `dispose of the problem of Freedom' (1970: 183). This means that the whole thrust of Austin's argument runs in a direction quite contrary to that of Berlin's. For Austin, the distinctions embodied in `our common stock of words' are diverse and manifold. They are `likely to be more numerous, more sound... and more subtle, at least in all ordinary and reasonably practical matters, than any you or I are likely to think up in our arm-chairs of an afternoon' (1970: 182), all of which renders the likelihood of construing freedom on a single model extremely low. It also means that the Austinian negativist - the `weak' negativist, as I shall call the proponent of this type of theory - has no need to speak in terms of `spheres' or `areas' at all. Where such terms are employed by this type of theorist, if they are, they need be no more than illustrative metaphors. We don't have to take them any more seriously than that. In contrast to Austin, as noted, Berlin stresses the notions of the area and the preventing obstacle a great deal. Are we to take this equally metaphorically? I think not, and for the purposes of my own argument I shall interpret Berlin as advancing a form of what I shall call `strong' negativism. Before I say why, just to make sure that I've made the point clear, let me summarize what I take the distinction between `weak' and `strong' negativism to be." (pg. 43)

Are you convinced yet?

This is the problem, the entire book is written like this, and it might have been fantastic if there were a lot of philosophy majors that were Libertarians, but that is obviously not the case for the very reason that those that make it their task to understand the truth are seldom fooled by such transparent politically motivated ideology and sophistical word-games.
If you would like to hear a deconstruction of Libertarianism on this type of astral plane of pure logic and theoretical argumentation, then this book is good. If you're a Libertarian then this book is probably not going to make any sense to you and you're better off reading something else.
23 of 47 people found the following review helpful
An excellent book. 29 Jan. 2001
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is very informative book. After finishing this book you will learn that: Their critique of the State ultimately rests on a liberal interpretation of liberty as the inviolable rights to and of private property. They are not concerned with the social consequences of capitalism for the weak, powerless and ignorant. Their claim that all would benefit from a free exchange in the market is by no means certain; any unfettered market system would most likely sponsor a reversion to an unequal society with defense associations perpetuating exploitation and privilege. If anything, anarcho-capitalism is merely a free-for-all in which only the rich and cunning would benefit. It is tailor-made for 'rugged individualists' who do not care about the damage to others or to the environment which they leave in their wake. The forces of the market cannot provide genuine conditions for freedom any more than the powers of the State. The victims of both are equally enslaved, alienated and oppressed
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