The Cost of Rights: Why Liberty Depends on Taxes

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9780393320336: The Cost of Rights: Why Liberty Depends on Taxes

To "fight for your rights," or anyone else's, is not just to debate principles but to haggle over budgets.

The simple insight that all legally enforceable rights cost money reminds us that freedom is not violated by a government that taxes and spends, but requires it―and requires a citizenry vigilant about how money is allocated. Drawing from these practical, commonsense notions, The Cost of Rights provides a useful corrective to the all-or-nothing feel of much political debate nowadays (The Economist).

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Review:

Whittle away the dense academic prose, and the message of The Cost of Rights is disarmingly simple: as Robert A. Heinlein once put it, "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch." If legal rights are to be considered meaningful, argue coauthors Stephen Holmes and Cass Sunstein, the existence of a government is required to first establish and then to enforce those rights. Running a government costs money; therefore, paying taxes is necessary in order to support the communal infrastructure that upholds individual rights. Each of the book's 14 chapters is essentially a variation on this theme, considering the proposition with regard to property rights, the effect of scarcity upon liberty, or the ways in which religious liberty contributes to social stability, all leading back to the conclusion that "government is still the most effective instrument available by which a politically charged society can pursue its common objectives, including the shared aim of securing the protection of legal rights for all."

From the Back Cover:

All legally enforceable rights cost money. A practical, commonsense notion? Yes, but one ignored by almost everyone, from libertarian ideologues to Supreme Court justices to human rights advocates. The simple insight that rights are expensive reminds us that freedom is not violated by a government that taxes and spends, but requires it - and requires a citizenry vigilant about how money is allocated. Laying bare the folly of some of our most cherished myths about rights, this groundbreaking tract will permanently change the terms of our most critical and contentious political debates.

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