A narrative history of the pursuit of liberty features biographical profiles of sixty-five heroes and heroines who have advanced the cause of freedom in the world, from ancient times to the present day.
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Jim Powell believes that worthwhile abstract ideas are best promoted by the study of the lives of those who embodied them. In The Triumph of Liberty, Powell, a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, uses capsule biographies of 65 heroes and heroines as the building blocks for a grand narrative history of liberty, stretching from ancient times to the present. Their stories make clear that liberty begins with an idea: that people are born with a natural right to liberty, the opportunity to pursue one's dream and live in peace.
Powell's list of freedom fighters includes the predictable standard bearers (Thomas Jefferson, Adam Smith, John Locke, Martin Luther King), as well as a few refreshing surprises. Rose Wilder Lane, for example, known to many readers primarily because of her famous pioneer mother, Laura Ingalls Wilder, was one of the most successful freelance writers of the early 20th century. In her writings, she proclaimed the evils of collectivism and advocated natural rights. Friedrich Schiller, the German poet and dramatist, thematically prioritized the importance of freedom in many of his literary works, while Maria Montessori radically declared assisting the individual fulfill their destiny as the purpose of education.
Although Powell exhibits an interdisciplinary perception of freedom (in the forms of literature, music, political science, visual arts, etc.), his perspective remains exclusively Western. Consequently, readers hoping for a broader global examination, including, for example, Ghandi or Cesar Chavez, will find his interpretations limited. Powell's table of contents may also frustrate. Organized conceptually (Natural Rights, Toleration, Peace, Self-Help), rather than chronologically or alphabetically, it fails to assist the reader hoping quickly to locate a particular individual; only his bibliography, located at the back of the book, provides a listing of the individuals portrayed. Nevertheless, Powell's biographies, each six to seven pages, effectively convey to the reader what liberty means and how it is advanced. --Bertina Loeffler SedlackAbout the Author:
Jim Powell graduated from the University of Chicago with a BA in history. There, as an editor of New Individualist Review, he helped publish articles by future Nobel Laureates F. A. Hayek, Milton Friedman, and George J. Stigler. He has written for several dozen publications, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Esquire. He has lectured in several countries as well as at Harvard and Stanford universities. He is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and is editor of Laissez Faire Books. Powell lives with his family in Westport, Connecticut.
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