How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World: A Handbook for Personal Liberty

Harry Browne

Book cover

This book has about equal parts wisdom and foolishness. Harry Browne was once the libertarian candidate for president (well after writing this book). So, perhaps it was fitting that I read this book in the form of a PDF that someone had posted for free on the internet. (Ha!)

The book is generally about personal responsibility–taking stock of what you are doing in the world, figuring out whether it makes sense for you, and if not, taking responsibility for changing it. His attitude has a definite affinity with Stoicism–rigorously assessing which things are under your control and which are not, and focusing your energies on the former. But, like the author of “The Road Less Traveled,” a somewhat similar book that I recently read, Browne doesn’t make reference to Stoicism or really any external touchpoints. It’s forgivable given the book’s colloquial style, but I think Browne also likes to portray himself as someone who just worked a bunch of stuff out himself. (Which, who knows, maybe he is.)

There is also what I would call a bunch of dumb libertarian stuff. He professes himself unable to comprehend why people would want a government to do things that they hadn’t already privately contracted to do, as though there were no such things as market failures or collective action problems. He sets unrealistically high bars for government success; at one point, he essentially says that police are worthless because they can’t stop every crime from happening. Interestingly, he talks a fair amount in the book about how it is worthless to be involved in politics, and about how marriage is a terrible idea, but in an afterword he mentions that he both ran for president and got married! It’s definitely to his credit that he does own up to changing his mind on these things. The reasons he expresses, particularly for marriage, are very much “normal” reasons. Essentially, it seems like practice ended up trumping theory.

My Goodreads rating: 3 stars