Public Policy Hooligan Reviewed by San Diego’s Bob Sale

 Bob Sale, a Canadian drummer living in San Diego, kindly posted a review of Public Policy Hooligan on Amazon yesterday:

Memoirs of A(nother) Superfluous Man 

It’s always a joy and personally helpful to read the memoirs and realization of the imperative for individual liberty from someone who’s been at the center of the storm. Such books are not as common as I would like, but I love them when I find them. (Hence, my lifting the title of Albert Jay Nock’s brilliant autobiography). From his time as a Boy Scout to his travels with the great books (and his discovery of Thoreau) to his travels to Eastern Europe behind the Iron Curtain (which he excerpted today in an essay), you see the wheels turning and find yourself thinking Yes, I agree, Yes I know that feeling, Yes, he’s right.

I can’t say that Bovard would appreciate the allusion to Nock, but it is interesting in that I think I first read his essays in The Freeman (back in the 80s or 90s) and maybe when the Future of Freedom Foundation got started in the 90s, and I see that the struggle for liberty is always (or at least seems to be) an uphill battle, if not a matter of banging ones head against the wall, and so there is a feeling of superfluity in much of it. But like Nock said, the important ideas need to be hung out there for people to do with them what they will. Bovard’s done this consistently over the years. This is the first of his books I’ve read (I’m embarrassed to admit) though I will buy Attention Deficit Democracy next.


JPB: Albert Nock was a helluva writer and his book, Our Enemy, the State, helped pave the way for the great libertarian revival of the late 20th century.   He had one of the best single sentence summaries of U.S. trade policy: “The primary reason for a tariff is that it enables the exploitation of the domestic consumer by a process indistinguishable from sheer robbery.”  Nock perfectly captured how the expansion of government power corrupts ethics: “As government consolidates and strengthens, the power of independent moral judgment in the citizenry weakens.”

I used this Nock line as the header quote for my 1995 book, Shakedown: How Government Screws You from A to Z: “How little important it is to destroy a government, in comparison with destroying the prestige of government.”

When I first read Nock’s Memoirs of a Superfluous Man in the early 1980s, I thought he was too cynical.   I still think he occasionally errs on the pessimistic side but he hit far more bullseyes than did the vast majority of American writers in the first half of the 20th century.

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