Thursday, August 23, 2018

Real Dissent

Real Dissent: A Libertarian Sets Fire to the Index Card of Allowable Opinion
© 2014 Tom Woods
356 pages

Note: I read this in August 2016, but the review of it languished as a draft.

In most presidential elections, 2016 being an obvious outlier, Americans are presented with that most exhilarating of choices: a career bureaucrat-politician wearing a red tie, and a career bureaucrat-politician wearing a blue tie. Coke or Pepsi,  behold the variety! Tom Woods contends that the range of media-approved opinion available to Americans today is small enough to fit on an index card -- one that should be set fire to. Real Dissent is written as the match.  The book collects over a decade's worth of Woods' political debate and writing, organized into categories on war, markets, monetary policy, and other material, chosen with an eye for conversations and opinions that push the envelope -- and addressed to Americans of all political stripes.

Although the political parties gamely put on a show every two years about social issues and spending, in practice little changes regardless of who is in power. Both parties reliably support military excursions abroad, resulting in a state pf permanent war and an omnipresent surveillance state. Both are enthusiastic proponents of regulating every facet of American lives, increasing  costs and frustration, but despite their track record will still announce themselves champions of the people.   The problem goes beyond politics, however, as the traditional media tends to walk hand in hand with DC. The wars which have permanently mired American lives and resources in the middle east were promoted by the media, and views outside the establishment are only mentioned to quickly dismissed so the grey-suited grownups and go back to whether DC should bomb the Iranians or just starve them.

Woods' declared goal in destroying imposed restrictions on thought implies that he isn't merely writing to libertarians. He frequently highlights books that transcend party lines, and gives special place to Bill Kauffman, whose screenplay of Copperhead  saw a community stressed and destroyed by a feud between  two good if disagreeable men. The tragedy of of Copperhead was born because those men placed ideology above their relationship to one another as neighbors. Woods' section on the Federal Reserve includes many overtures to progressives,  as do his writings on the problems of centralization in general. He also attempts to appeal to conservatives' better angels, using the anti-war writings of the traditionalist godfather, Russell Kirk, to offer reproach..

Although the last American election saw two populist candidates challenge and -- in Trump's case, rout -- the establishment candidates,  neither of the populist figures is particularly promising  for the future of American politics given the short-lived nature of populist movements.    Personally, as much as I dislike the establishment, I don't like its present challengers much better. In a culture flooded with toxic politics, the peaceful clarity of libertarianism, rooted in as sensible and humane a conviction as we can ask for --  the golden rule --   would be welcome.


  1. Unfortunately I think we're both stuck with the two party system for the foreseeable future. I keep hoping that various parties self-destruct but they keep limping along and people keep voting for them. I think the only thing we can hope for at a national level at least is that things are not as bad as they *could* be! But at least we can hope (that word again) that your present administration is an aberration that might prompt a root and branch examination of the whole system.

    1. We did avoid a nuclear confrontation with the Kim cult. But the tariffs, a trade war against Europe AND China, the sanctions on Russia and Iran that only make people defensive about their government and hateful toward the's also so stupid, but completely par for the course for DC.

    2. i don't know about the nuclear holocaust: it's not in the papers much, but who knows what evil lurks in the minds of Kims...

    3. That problem is a long way from being resolved, but I think China will have to be the one to address it. They're the ones with millions of starving Kim captives right across the river from them, and they're the ones responsible for making the Kim cult a thing in the first place.

    4. yeah, but you know how that goes: if it costs money, either don't do it or blame it on someone else: guess who...


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