David Boaz

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David Boaz in 2013

David Boaz (August 29, 1953June 7, 2024) was the executive vice president of the influential libertarian U.S think tank the Cato Institute. He played a key role in the development of the Cato Institute and the libertarian movement.


  • A Justice Department survey reports that 70 percent of those arrested for serious crimes are drug uses, which may mean that "drugs cause crime." A more sophisticated analysis suggests that the high cost of drugs, a result of their prohibition, forces drug users to turn crime to support an unnecessarily expensive habit.
    Drug prohibition, by giving young people the thrill of breaking the law and giving pushers a strong incentive to find new customers, may actually increase the number of drug users. Moreover, out policy of pressuring friendly governments to wipe out drug cultivation has undermined many of those regimes and provoked resentment against us among their citizens and government officials.
    We can either escalate the war on drugs, which would have dire implications for civil liberties and the right to privacy, or find a way to gracefully withdraw. Withdrawal should not be viewed as an endorsement of drug use; it would simply be an acknowledgment that the cost of this war- billions of dollars, runaway crime rates and restrictions on our personal freedom — is too high.
  • One difference between libertarianism and socialism is that a socialist society can't tolerate groups of people practicing freedom, but a libertarian society can comfortably allow people to choose voluntary socialism. If a group of people — even a very large group — wanted to purchase land and own it in common, they would be free to do so. The libertarian legal order would require only that no one be coerced into joining or giving up his property.
  • Libertarianism offers an alternative to coercive government that should appeal to peaceful, productive people everywhere.
    No, a libertarian world isn't a perfect one. There will still be inequality, poverty, crime, corruption, man's inhumanity to man. But, unlike the theocratic visionaries, the pie-in-the-sky socialist utopians, or the starry-eyed Mr. Fixits of the New Deal and Great Society, libertarians don't promise you a rose garden. Karl Popper once said that attempts to create heaven on earth invariably produce hell. Libertarianism holds out, not the goal of a perfect society, but of a better and freer one. It promises a world in which more of the decisions will be made in the right way by the right person: you.
  • In the libertarian view, all human relationships should be voluntary; the only actions that should be forbidden by law are those that involve the initiation of force against those who have not themselves used force—actions like murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping, and fraud. Libertarians believe this code should be applied to actions by governments as well as by individuals.
    • Libertarianism: A Primer, Free Press, (1998) p. 2
  • Libertarians see the individual as the basic unit of social analysis. Only individuals make choices and are responsible for their actions. Libertarian thought emphasizes the dignity of each individual, which entails both rights and responsibility. The progressive extension of dignity to more people — to women, to people of different religions and different races — is one of the great libertarian triumphs of the Western world.
  • Libertarianism is not libertinism or hedonism. It is not a claim that "people can do anything they want to, and nobody else can say anything." Rather, libertarianism proposes a society of liberty under law, in which individuals are free to pursue their own lives so long as they respect the equal rights of others. The rule of law means that individuals are governed by generally applicable and spontaneously developed legal rules, not by arbitrary commands; and that those rules should protect the freedom of individuals to pursue happiness in their own ways, not aim at any particular result or outcome.
    • "Key Concepts of Libertarianism" (1 January 1999)
  • Libertarians have always battled the age-old scourge of war. They understood that war brought death and destruction on a grand scale, disrupted family and economic life, and put more power in the hands of the ruling class — which might explain why the rulers did not always share the popular sentiment for peace. Free men and women, of course, have often had to defend their own societies against foreign threats; but throughout history, war has usually been the common enemy of peaceful, productive people on all sides of the conflict.
    • "Key Concepts of Libertarianism" (1 January 1999)
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