A Book That Actually Changed My Mind: The Problem of Political Authority by Michael Huemer

The Problem of Political Authority, by Michael Huemer, is the rare book that actually changed my mind… at least somewhat. It’s a book arguing for anarcho-capitalism: we shouldn’t have a government. Like most libertarians (people who believe in maximizing freedom and minimizing government force) I’ve never believed anarcho-capitalism, though ideal, was possible. Huemer convinced me that we’ll probably see it eventually, and maybe even during my lifetime.

Huemer starts off by arguing that government is unjust. He uses simple, intuitive examples to make his points. For example, if someone mugged you but said they’d give the money to charity, would you say that was ok? Most people would say no. If the government forcibly takes your money for charity, however, most people say that’s okay. What are the justifications for that belief in political authority? Huemer examines them one by one and convincingly debunks them.

The second section of the book explains how anarcho-capitalism would actually work: private security services and arbitration instead of courts, for example.

The final part of the book argues convincingly that anarcho-capitalism is actually much more likely to come about than we believe. There have been enormous historical revolutions and trends which all point in the direction of anarcho-capitalism. For example, changing beliefs about the justification/glorification of violence and the transition of most of the world from monarchy to democracy in just two centuries.

I have a couple of concerns about the book, however:

  1. I was least convinced by his argument that countries wouldn’t need a military so much if they just minded their own business (e.g. maybe 9/11 wouldn’t have happened if the US acted like Switzerland). There are plenty of examples of that not helping, however, e.g. Putin’s Russia invading Georgia and Ukraine; and the Jewish experience over the last few millennia.
  2. Why is the book so expensive? $73 for an ebook? This book should be priced much lower so the masses can read it.

I read this book because I’d seen multiple people recommend it as the best libertarian or anarcho-capitalist book they’d ever read, and now I can say that it’s one of the best books on governance I’ve read. Every libertarian and anarcho-capitalist should know these arguments.

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