Column by Lawrence M. Ludlow
Exclusive to STR
The new book by Trevor Z. Gamble – The Secrets to Nonviolent Prosperity (published in paperback and Kindle editions, 2011) – provides a welcoming introduction to ideas that go a long way toward resolving many of our contemporary problems and the deeper concerns behind them. Like many of us, the author realizes that something is amiss in the world. Then he takes us on a journey to find out what is wrong and how it relates to our understanding (or misunderstanding) of politics, economics, human rights – and ultimately, the idea of freedom itself.
Mr. Gamble opens his book like the 12th Century thinker, Bernard of Chartres, by acknowledging his debt to writers who came before him – political scientists, psychologists, and economists who enabled him, in effect, to stand on their shoulders so that he can see a bit farther than they did. And the first thing he sees is that we can do away with the tiresome convention of thinking about politics in terms of “left” and “right” with all of the name-calling that goes with it. And it’s not enough, says the author, to point to the villains of history to find out why things have gone wrong. After all, every nightmare-toting dictator in the history of the world was able to get there because he (or she) had plenty of followers willing to do the dirty work. In other words, it’s not just them….
In his next chapter, Gamble identifies the concept of “human rights” as a basic source for gaining insights into and unraveling the problems that surround us. He explains and adopts the excellent definition of rights laid out by Murray Rothbard and Hans-Hermann Hoppe: self-ownership. Consequently, he defines the most important human right as the right of ownership that one has over one’s own body. Better yet, he explains that it is the only self-evident “right” that we can have, and from it, he deduces our ethical concepts of rights to personal property and the constellation of ideas that come into play with that realization. In doing so, he explores the non-aggression axiom that lies at the basis of all fruitful and peaceful human interactions – stressing, as he does so, the inviolability of all human beings as ends in themselves.
Once he has marked out this intellectual and ethical territory, he goes on to explore topics such as equality, property rights, government entitlements, collectivism, majority-rules politics, the natural environment, Third World poverty, and related issues. This would be a daunting task if he didn’t do two things that make his book particularly enjoyable to read.
· First he enlivens his narrative by breaking it up with fascinating quotations from figures that loom large in literature, politics, and history. What makes his use of these quotations especially useful, however, is how and when he inserts them into the text. These quotes appear in the most unexpected places, and they call a complete halt to our thinking – forcing us to engage our minds and question our assumptions. The reader is continually shocked by the unsavory pedigree of words uttered by a number of “favorite” American icons. At other times, these quotations simply reinforce what Mr. Gamble has attempted to explain. All of them, however, are delightful in the context of the narrative and well worth the price of the book.
· Second, he ends each chapter with a section entitled “I Object!” It’s the author’s way of entering into a dialog with readers who may disagree strongly with the things he has been writing. By including these objections, Mr. Gamble anticipates some of the most common complaints that can be registered against his viewpoint, and he addresses them fairly. This alone sets him apart from writers who are so convinced of their brilliance that they can’t imagine anyone disagreeing with them about anything.
Once we are grounded in the ethics of self-ownership and non-aggression as the bases for constructive human relationships, Mr. Gamble’s remaining chapters address the following topics:
· Money, central banking, hard currency, debt, and the source of inflation and economic manipulation
· Taxes and their meaning in our lives and in our relationship with others
· The real meaning of profits, capitalism, democracy, and the nation-state
· The how and why of bailouts, price fixing, tariffs, innovation, labor unions, Social Security, and tax-funded undertakings
The penultimate chapter is one of my favorites. The author devotes it to dispelling a good number of commonly held myths. Among them are favorites such as the following:
· Self-sufficiency (a favorite of nationalists)
· Local buying (its good and bad points)
· Inequality and its value to us
· The idea that one person’s loss is another’s gain
· Free trade and its imposters
· Employers as tyrants
· The meaning of capitalism vis-à-vis communism
In his final chapter, Mr. Gamble asks a thought-provoking question: what should we do? He clearly wishes to see improvements come quickly, but how are we to accomplish change? Hint: not by depending upon promises by politicians. After exploring a number of different approaches to change, he seems to choose the route that all of us are capable of enacting – changing how we ourselves interact with others and calmly discussing our insights with friends and acquaintances. This is not a call for destroying or compelling or storming or squatting. It is a call to reasoned discussion and an invitation to make changes in our own lives – including how we interact with our own children.
And that brings us back to where we began, doesn’t it? After all, if we can raise a generation of children who have been respected and treated as inviolable human beings, won’t they be able to stand on our shoulders and see even farther than we do? And if you are passionate about human rights and liberty (but find it difficult to express yourself), The Secrets to Nonviolent Prosperity can do your talking for you. Try it, and see for yourself.