The Free Society, by Laurence M. Vance: Orlando, Vance Publications, 2018, 468 pages, paperback.
Americans often boast that they live in a free country. Our national anthem says we live in the “land of the free,” and another popular patriotic song contains the line, “at least I know I’m free.”
But how free are we really? According to conservative Christian libertarian writer Laurence M. Vance in his latest book, The Free Society, Americans live in a “relatively free” society. As Vance notes in the summary of the book on the back cover,
Most Americans think they live in a free society. They think that because they can find fifty varieties of salad dressing at the grocery store, choose from among a hundred types of wine at the liquor store, select a television channel from over 1,000 choices, download any movie or song they want from the Internet, and sit at home for hours playing the latest video game that they live in a free society. They are oblivious to the extent of government encroachment on their freedoms. They are complacent when it comes to government edicts. And they are ignorant as to what a free society really means.
So what, then, is a “free society”? In his typical clear, detailed manner, Vance explains this in The Free Society.
The Free Society is a collection of 127 of Vance’s essays, written between 2005 and 2017. The book is divided into seven chapters, each chapter containing essays related to the particular chapter title.
Chapter 1, “Libertarianism: Theory,” provides the reader an introduction as to what is, and is not, libertarianism. Vance makes clear that just because someone smokes pot, owns an AR-15, or lives an “alternative” sexual lifestyle does not mean he is a libertarian. As Vance writes in one of the essays in Chapter 1,
I am a libertarian. I subscribe to the non-aggression principle that says, in the words of Murray Rothbard: “The only proper role of violence is to defend person and property against violence, that any use of violence that goes beyond such just defense is itself aggressive, unjust, and criminal. Libertarianism, therefore, is a theory which states that everyone should be free of violent invasion, should be free to do as he sees fit except invade the person or property of another.”…
I am a libertarian. I am not a libertine. I am not a hedonist. I am not a moral relativist. I am not a devotee of some alternative lifestyle. I am not a revolutionary. I am not a nihilist. I neither wish to associate with nor aggress against those who are. I believe in the absolute freedom of association and discrimination.
Chapter 2, entitled “Libertarianism: Practice,” offers libertarian views on various hot-button issues in America, such as education, healthcare, poverty, foreign policy, and the economy.
In Chapter 3, “Libertarianism vs. Liberalism/Conservatism,” Vance compares the libertarian views on the aforementioned issues to those proffered by liberals and conservatives, who both feel that society’s problems should be solved by some sort of government program or intervention. A libertarian, Vance explains, is opposed to the solutions given by both liberals and conservatives, since government has no business trying to “solve” society’s problems with taxpayers’ money and government agencies.
In Chapter 4, “Discrimination and Free Association,” Vance addresses an issue that many on the Left and Right often feel warrants government regulation: businesses discriminating. In a free society, writes Vance, business owners should be able to discriminate against anyone for any reason or for no reason at all, regardless if it is bigoted, racist, intolerant, or just plain stupid. The government should not use force to make people not discriminate, as that goes beyond the proper role of government.
Chapter 5, “Victimless Crimes,” deals with issues such as soliciting prostitution, drug use, and gambling, which Vance calls “vices.” Vices are not crimes, he writes, and therefore government should not attempt to regulate or criminalize such behaviors.