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The Fragility of Freedom
We live in one of the freest and most prosperous societies in the history of mankind. Do you ever wonder why we are so fortunate?
Referencing the work of over fifty great political philosophers and economists, The Fragility of Freedom explores the theory that underpins our systems of liberty, prosperity and justice. It examines how progress has been constrained by the errors of the dominant political ideologies of the twentieth century; how opportunities have been squandered.
It proposes a moral society, based on the principle of subsidiarity, in which individuals take responsibility for themselves and their families, where voluntary organisations thrive, and the State plays a limited role.
For a free pdf copy of the Prologue to The Fragility of Freedom, download here.
More about The Fragility of Freedom
For thirty-five years, I managed the professional services consultancy, Fenwick Software, which I founded in 1976. Its culture is built on the principles of classic liberalism. Its employees are granted autonomy and responsibility for their own actions, are provided with opportunities to grow, and are encouraged to apply their skills to help each other and to deliver value for their clients.
In 2011, I established an employee-shareholder scheme and sold seventy-five percent of the business in equal parts to five key staff, one of whom, Greg Galloway is now CEO. The firm is thriving and the culture is being maintained under his leadership.
In retirement, I have been devoting my time to writing. In The Fragility of Freedom, I explain how the coercive and regulatory powers of the state have been captured by powerful sectional interests for their own economic benefit, leading to corruption in public life and crony capitalism in business. Civil virtues have declined throughout the community. Leaders in politics, religion, business and the trade unions have been exposed as corrupt and self-serving; they have abused positions of trust. Promises politicians have made may be impossible to fund.
The Fragility of Freedom is my quest to identify what is wrong and to suggest ways to put things right. The book reviews the cultural heritage of our Western Civilisation - liberty, prosperity and free enterprise. It discusses the consequences of socialism, the welfare state, distributive justice and unsound money. Replete with quotations from over fifty philosophers and economists, it introduces readers to some of our great thinkers. It equips readers to engage in informed debate and to challenge conventional wisdom.
I recommend that the role of the state be limited to functions that cannot be achieved by lower orders of organisation. I propose a moral society based on the principle of subsidiarity in which individuals take responsibility for themselves and their families, and behave as good citizens within their community.
The Fragilty of Freedom and Liberty at Risk are published by Connor Court.
Liberty at Risk
Liberty at Risk tackles today's political problems,
and challenges conventional thinking
Our wonderful, free and prosperous society is being threatened by ideologies, from within and without, that compromise the reasons for its success. If we wish to convince others that our ideology is superior, then firstly we must understand its concepts and its roots, and secondly we must live its truth.
More about Liberty at Risk
Liberty at Risk: Tackling Today’s Political Problems is a compilation of twenty-three commentaries on current affairs from a libertarian perspective.
It is a companion to my previous work - The Fragility of Freedom: Why Subsidiarity Matters.
Libertarianism is the political philosophy of individual liberty. It is based on the principle of private property and founded on natural rights theory as expounded by John Locke in the seventeenth century. The essential elements of the libertarian creed are self-ownership, private property and the free market. In practice, this leads to a society of co-operation, tolerance and mutual respect; a preference for voluntary organisations; and a minimal role for the state.
Wherever this ideology has been tried, mankind has flourished. Per capita incomes have risen multiple times; longevity has increased by many years; education has become universally available; women have been treated equally; there has been more time devoted to culture and the arts; and there has been noticeable increases in civility. Elsewhere, throughout history, only small ruling elites led the good life; the majority led a precarious and unpleasant existence.
Unfortunately, over the past hundred years the social democratic welfare state has inhibited progress in the West, and now theocratic Islamists are creating mayhem in the Middle East.
Our wonderful, free and prosperous society is being threatened by ideologies, from within and without, that compromise the reasons for its success. If we are to succeed in our battle with competing ideologies, then we need to acquire an appreciation of the legacy of our Western Civilization and be determined to live up to its ideals.
“Peter Fenwick challenges our perception of society’s status quo. He does not espouse a new age philosophy, but uses the philosophies of the 18th and 19th century libertarians whose thinking influenced our democracies in their infancy.
He questions the distortions of their ideals that are now causing rifts and failures in our modern day world. While our current politicians, bureaucrats and business leaders maybe beyond change, these essays provide food for thought to stimulate the next generation to change our world for a better future.
Topics such as the role and responsibilities of government, the distortion of crony capitalism, the rights of lobby groups to peddle self-interest, tolerance, entrepreneurs, caliphates, the role of the family, accepting responsibility……the list goes on. But in itself it provides a curriculum for any University, year 11 or year 12 current affairs or philosophy program that all of us would love to join.”
Dr Hugh Seward
CEO, AFL Medical Officers Association
Adjunct Senior Research Fellow at Monash University
Chairman of the Council of Geelong College
“Fenwick explores how the principles of libertarianism have been undermined by the rise of the welfare state and the increasingly interventionist governments of Western democracies. He writes of crony capitalism; the decline in civil virtues; how governments repeatedly attempt to solve social issues by regulation; and the rise of jihadist Islamism.
If you like food for thought, then this book is a feast! But it's not burgers and fries; rather it's a collection of small, appetising and healthy entrees that will whet your appetite for the main course - Peter Fenwick's book The Fragility of Freedom - Why Subsidiarity Matters.”
Principal Consultant, Plans to Reality
"Never has a book been more timely and welcomed than Liberty at Risk: Tackling Today’s Political Problems. Australian Peter Fenwick addresses some of the most important and vexing problems of today in 23 short chapters. The answers rest on the foundations of Classical Liberalism and Austrian free market economics and the reader will be reminded of work of the great Henry Hazlitt. An excellent introduction for the uninitiated."
Dr. Mark Thornton
Senior Fellow, Ludwig von Mises Institute
Book Review Editor, Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics
“Peter Fenwick writes what so many of us think - he poses commonsense responses to even the most complex economic and political issues. In essence, a free market, and the freedom of individuals to act responsibly on their own behalf, should result in a better outcome for all.
Sadly, ego, pride and greed come into play, and these forces cannot operate as they should. If only politicians and big business could/would read Peter's work, examine history and learn from it, then inevitably our world would be a better place.
We probably recognize that the moral goals of the welfare state are not all wrong. It is the questions of what constitute our inalienable rights, and the methods used to ensure those rights, which distinguish libertarianism from socialist democracy.
What needs to be determined is to what extent the goals of the welfare state in terms of ensuring shelter, basic income, education, health (etc.) should constitute essential rights of the individual. And further, having been so determined - they should be guaranteed as a universal right to all, not selectively and inefficiently delivered by a bloated bureaucracy.
At least, if each of us reads Peter’s work, and seriously take responsibility for ourselves and our families, and deliberates the notion of balance and fairness, then the notion of changing the world one person (our self) at a time, may make it that better place for all of us.”
Susan M. Renouf
Executive Director, Renouf & Associates
“Launched at a time when disenchantment with our current politicians and our current democratic process has plumbed new depths, Fenwick’s analyses of the assaults upon our freedoms and quality of life resulting from ‘crony capitalism’ and the failure to achieve a genuinely free market are particularly timely.
As we brace ourselves for what promises to be a torturous election process, where the sole vision for our society appears to be the re-election of existing politicians, it is perhaps increasingly important to reflect on the kind of community we really want.
This volume will be a timely and valuable aid to such reflection.”
Director, Parsifal Research Pty Ltd
I love it – Liberty at Risk illustrates so many important principles of libertarianism with reference to current affairs and basic good common sense too. It is exactly the sort of book that will reach out to people who unbeknown to themselves are instinctively libertarians - people who understand that the good life comes from the lived experience not subservience to government.
I was particularly taken by the line, "If we wish to convince others that our ideology is superior, then firstly we must understand its concepts and its roots, and secondly we must live its truth". Magnificent. This book will go a long way to helping us understand liberal roots and concepts.
Professor Sinclair Davidson
The Fragility of Freedom Book Launch
On the 1st December 2014, one hundred and seventy friends gathered at The Wheeler Centre to hear the Hon. Jim Carlton AO launch my first book, The Fragility of Freedom: Why Subsidiarity Matters.
Jim Carlton’s career included being a management consultant with McKinsey, the Minister for Health in the Fraser government and the Secretary General of the Australian Red Cross. With John Hyde and Peter Stack he formed the Crossroads Group which promoted the free market cause within the parliamentary Liberal party. He was awarded an Order of Australia in 2001.
Introducing him, Lindsay Moore said, “Given his background, there would be few better equipped to form a view on The Fragility of Freedom and none more appropriate to launch this important book.”
Here is an edited video of the launch, produced by the talented Chris ‘Topher’ Field.