Natural rights philosopher Tibor Machan provides a powerful, enormously sophisticated defense of individualism

Book Review of 

PRIVATE RIGHTS AND PUBLIC ILLUSIONS
by Tibor Machan
(reviewed by Jim Powell, April 1995) 

For some two decades, Tibor Machan has courageously defended natural rights and radical individualism in the most hostile arenas--university philosophy departments. Roman Christians had it easier when they got tossed to lions. But anyone who has seen Machan speak knows he's a formidable gladiator. 

With a single deft stroke on page one, Machan seizes the intellectual offensive against those who seem to believe that only laws and bureaucrats can make life better: "The first point to be noted when we reflect on this proliferation of a faith in rendering everything a public concern is that the state or government is but a small feature of any society suitable for human community... only a totalitarian government aims to take on every possible concern of the citizenry." 

Machan shines as he exposes embarrassing contradictions of egalitarianism. Example: "If welfare and equality are to be primary aims of law, some people must necessarily possess a greater power of coercion in order to force redistribution of material goods. Political power alone should be equal among human beings; yet, striving for other kinds of equality absolutely requires political inequality." 

I look forward to the day when he spends more time on a manuscript, because it can be hard going, and he deserves a much wider audience. If you keep plowing through the thickets in this book, you'll discover rewards aplenty. I mean really wonderful, blazing insights. You've got to see him run circles around the biggest brains the egalitarian, tax-and-spend welfare state can throw at us. 

Machan shows how you can elegantly rebut the most seductive appeals of the welfare state. For example, promises to guarantee the "positive freedom" of decent living standards: "positive freedom can only be secured via the full protection of the right to negative freedom [from coercion]. This is because only when the latter is fully secured are human beings going to be most willing and able to provide both for themselves and for others--including the specially needy--the values for our lives."

Again and again, Machan adroitly puts adversaries on the defensive. For instance: "Instead of accepting the elitist view that some aspects of human life (namely, those having to do with the mind, intellect, or spirit) are more noble than the rest and so should be above government regulation... If business is to be regulated, why not ballet?" 

Machan provides a rigorous moral case for natural rights, individualism and capitalism. He picks apart the most revered adversaries from Ivy League egalitarians like John Rawls to statist flacks like Ralph Nader. Machan doesn't nip at the edges of the welfare state--he takes a meat ax to it. This is a thinker who really knows his business. 


1995 LAISSEZ FAIRE BOOKS . Republished by permission 
Private Rights and Public Illusions
(paperback) 379p. Available  HERE.
Dr. Machan's blog is here.

of related interest:
Books by Tibor Machan,
Classical Individualism,
Public Policy and the Quality of Life,
Books on Liberty ,
About that "Gap" between Rich and Poor
and Illiberal Egalitarianism in America
 
  

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