Liberty.Me was kind enough to publish a collection of essays I put together about a year ago in book form. Better Off Free spans a decade of my life, and in many ways tracks my intellectual journey. It was fun to compile and I hope it’s enjoyable to read. Special thanks to my good friend Zak Slayback for his fine editing work.
You can buy it in paperback on Amazon.
Alternatively, you can download the PDF, ePub, or Mobi file from Dropbox here.
I share the introduction to the book below, to give you an idea what it’s all about.
Better Off Free – Introduction
This book does not present one unified thesis or argument, as it is a collection of articles and blog posts spanning nearly a decade and many different topics. There is, however, a central theme that runs through it and loosely ties the essays together. That theme is simple: freedom is better than force.
The moral and practical reasons for the benefits of freedom and the dangers of force are explored from various angles throughout the book. You can think of each essay as an individual point about this or that topic, standing alone with its own color, and the book as a blank canvass. As each point dots the backdrop, you begin to see when you back up something of a single image, like an impressionist painting.
The essays are ordered and sectioned to provide some kind of flow and structure, but it ought not to be taken too seriously. The order is almost a reverse-chronology of my own intellectual journey. It begins with the most radical ideas, and works backwards through how I came to them.
I began exploring economic thinking, which helped me see the folly of central planning and the power and beauty of spontaneous order. Section 3 is mostly concerned with these ideas. Along the way, I was surprised to find that some of the same principles overlapped with the moral order. Section 2 deals with the moral side of freedom.
Economics is not a normative discipline, but once the paradigm shattering nature of economic thinking permeated my brain, it turned me into a relentless questioner, which bled into all aspects of my life. I began to see the state as not only very inefficient and ham-fisted, but as deeply inhumane. This was not an easy evolution. I was dragged, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, kicking and screaming to the radical conclusion that the state is a clumsy and barbaric farce at best, and a tool for the deepest evil at worst.
This was a rather depressing realization at first. It took time and intellectual effort to work out what, exactly, the implications of my newfound radicalism were for my own life and work. It took time to see the beauty of unplanned order more than the folly of states, and the empowering nature of human coordination instead of fear of it being disrupted. Section 1 is, more or less, where I arrived.
I’ve always wanted to make people’s lives better. I started in humanitarian missions but wanted to do something on a more fundamental level – teach a man to fish and all that. I entered politics, thinking that’s what creates the policies and institutions we live under. I was wrong; politicians are followers and lagging indicators, not the creators of institutional change. I explored policy research and education and the popularization of economic thinking, which felt far more productive. I’m now in the realm of entrepreneurship, seeking to create the kind of alternatives that theory and history show to be better than the state-dominated status quo.
The journey is not over, nor will it ever be. This book shares points along the path that led me to a major transition from asking what works for society to seeking what works for myself in my own individual life. How can I be free?
Understanding the larger economic and social systems around us is incredibly valuable and instructive, not to mention enjoyable work, but at some point it comes back to you. Is your hope for a fulfilling life in the hands of other people and powers, or your own? What keeps you from being free?
I will only add one final disclaimer. Section 2 uses religious language and references, primarily Christian, as many of the essays were written for Christian audiences. If that’s not your thing, you can ignore the religious terminology and, I think, the arguments still stand. If you value life and find violence distasteful for any reason, the ideas in that section will hold true.
I hope you enjoy this collection of ideas. Many of them were originally published elsewhere in magazine or blog format for places like the Mackinac Center, the Western Standard, The Freeman, The Values & Capitalism Project, Libertarian Christians, the Mises Institute, Laissez Fare Books, Liberty Magazine, the Libertarian Alliance, and others. Thanks to these publications and so many other organizations and individuals that have helped me along my intellectual adventure.