Book Review: The Patriot’s Toolbox (2010)

Eighty principles for restoring liberty and prosperity
by The Heartland Institute
Reviewed by Brian Wright

The Patriot's ToolboxBack in the late 1970s the so-called Craniacs— Libertarian Party (LP activists, led by Ed Crane, rooted to funding by Kansas oil billionaire Charles Koch—were on the march (to influence party policy on a broad range of issues). I recall, then, one young political journalist in the Crane/Koch camp writing for the magazine, Libertarian Review, a column something like, “Garbage Can Libertarianism.” Of course this phrase was pejorative and targeted at the sorts of libertarians who identified with more down-to-earth economic policies—such as privatization of city services (such as garbage collection)—advocated by the Reason Foundation and Reason magazine.

Well the chickens have come home to roost. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Libertarian Review and the Crane Machine, in the 70s while they were seeking control of the LP, were reasonably passionate advocates of all three legs of their slogan: free market economics, civil liberties, and a noninterventionist foreign policy. The Crane Machine and its wonks morphed into the Cato Institute, also financed substantially by Koch money, whose slogan is similar: individual liberty, free markets, and peace. In my humble opinion, Cato, like Reason, has done a fair to middlin’ job of furthering the cause of liberty by influencing public policy. Still, to my mind, neither organization has gotten beyond its primary mission, which is to serve concentrated corporate power.

I won’t call Cato or Reason or the Heartland Institute—Joe Bast, the president of HI and editor of Patriot’s Toolbox, and his organization fit a similar corporate-apologetic mold—”garbage-can” libertarian think tanks. (Besides, as corporate-centric think tanks, they even retain a lot of fine humanitarian qualities; they certainly aren’t evil statist-collectivists or incipient fascists.) Let’s just say their focus is more on economic rationality than on a passion for freedom and justice for the regular guy… unless the regular guy is doing something related to business. So they’re soup can libertarians as opposed to garbage can ones. 🙂

All this is leading to my two and only caveats about the Patriot’s Toolbox: its failure to identify monstrous aggression by the state upon individuals for their private choices—chiefly via the War on Drugs (WOD)—and the monstrous aggression by the federal state upon human beings around the world through the Anglo-American Fascist Global Empire. Note that both of these gargantuan ongoing atrocities inflicted on humankind—the WOD and the WOP (war on people)—benefit a large number of corporate-welfare recipients, such as oil dynasties like Koch Industries. So the Patriot’s Toolbox treads lightly there, actually it doesn’t tread at all.

[I suppose if you were to take a poll of people who identify themselves as Tea Party-ists—the target audience of The Patriot’s Toolbox—a large percentage would be pro-WOD and pro-WOP; they’re not against giving money to the government, just don’t give it to black people or Mexicans. Okay, that’s uncharitable. Back on the public policy recommendations of Toolbox, you realize nothing analyzed or recommended adversely affects the bottom lines of global oil and fossil-fuel industries. Global warming: a myth. Oil profits: not so big after taxes. Clean coal: you betcha. Mercury in fish: not to worry. Perhaps the arguments are good, my sense is the arguments are shaded or biased to the desired conclusions… rather like government-funded scientists.]

But leaving aside for the moment the central contradiction of the right wing of the libertarian movement—corporate privilege bestowed by the state—Toolbox is a fine effort. With the above caveats, virtually all of the 80 recommendations for public policy will produce a more benevolent, prosperous, and free society for the great majority of Americans. Will the typical Tea Party-ist take the time to read and analyze material from a think tank? Maybe. Most of the Tea Party-ists I’m familiar with are more into politics than economics: they want to end the income tax, restore the 2d amendment, excise the federales from just about everything… per the Eighth and Ninth Amendments of the Constitution.

Here is the promotional material from the Heartland Institute:

On February 19, 2009, CNBC commentator Rick Santelli stood on the trading floor of the Chicago Board of Trade and called for a “new tea party” to protest out-of-control spending by politicians in Washington. Little did he know that his words would become the rallying call for millions of Americans, many of them getting involved in politics for the very first time.

The Heartland Institute was there from the start. We helped the Santelli video “go viral.” Our staff helped organize the first Tea Party events in Washington DC and Chicago. We supplied speakers and promotional support to scores of Tea Party events around the country. And in recent months, we’ve distributed tens of thousands of free copies of our Legislative Principles booklets to activists, candidates for office, and civic and business leaders.

So here’s our next big thing: The Patriot’s Toolbox, a 263-page book that consists of eight chapters, each presenting ten principles for free-market reform in clear and precise English. Each chapter originally appeared in the Legislative Principles series, which means they are specially designed and edited to meet the needs of busy elected officials and opinion leaders. No rhetoric, no history lessons, and no long-winded lectures. Just solid facts backed up with bibliographies.

The Patriot’s Toolbox gives the new patriots of the Tea Party movement the intellectual ammunition they need to take their country back! It is exactly what the movement needs right now to build and explain its vision of a better country with less government and more individual freedom.

The Heartland Institute hopes to put hundreds of thousands of copies of The Patriot’s Toolbox into the hands of grassroots activists in the coming months. We need your help! Visit or call 312/377-4000 and request a free copy of the book, and let us know how we can work together to help get the ideas out. Because we don’t want to sell books. We want to help take our country back!

Please forward this message to anyone you know who supports the Tea Party movement or just wants to know more about free-market solutions to social and economic problems. Thanks!

Fair enough, and I wish them well. I’ve heard from several quarters that the Tea Party is advocating a full libertarian agenda; the thieving murderous neocons are as frightened of SunFLOWerthe Tea Party Movement as the thieving collectivist Obamanons. And well they should be. Put the Patriot’s Toolbox in the category of intellectual ammunition and a launch pad for further thought. It can only be a good thing, now. Note, if you use this link the book comes as a free PDF download.

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