12 Best Books About Libertarianism Update 05/2022

Every libertarian should read and has read certain texts, yet those circles do not perfectly intersect. For well-rounded thinkers, here are 13 diverse reading recommendations.

Economic Sophisms– Frederic Bastiat

The Law, a stinging critique of the threat that socialism offers to justice and the rule of law, is the most famous work of the great French liberal and economist Frederic Bastiat. But in Economic Sophisms, a collection of essays methodically documenting and criticizing the economic mistakes perpetrated by his fellow lawmakers in the French National Assembly, he produced another magnificent achievement.

Sophisms features a satirical “Petition From the Manufacturers of Candles, Tapers, Lanterns…and Generally of Everything Connected with Lighting” to the French legislative, requesting that the government block unfair international competition from a less expensive source of light – the sun. In many subjects, he was ahead of his time, and he used wit, humor, and acute analysis to brutally destroy erroneous arguments for protectionism, socialism, and redistribution.

Basic Economics+Applied Economics– Thomas Sowell

Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell is one of the most accessible introductions to the economic method of thinking and how it can be applied to a wide range of real-world issues. Don’t be put off by its brick-like proportions; it’s written in straightforward English with common sense. If you don’t finish everything in one sitting, it’s highly readable and easy to consume in chunks. If you finish the book and wish to learn more, Sowell’sApplied Economics can help you “think beyond stage one.”

Beyond Politics: The Roots of Government Failure– Randy Simmons

The most essential branch of economics for understanding how and why governments function is public choice. Public Choice is essentially the science of political skepticism: it examines how democratic incentives govern the decision-making of politicians, bureaucrats, voters, and special groups using economic analysis.

Beyond Politics, by Randy Simmons, is the greatest and most accessible survey of Public Choice, describing in clear and real terms what the government can and cannot do, as well as the consequences of trying to do so nevertheless.

The Problem of Political Authority– Michael Huemer

Philosopher Michael Huemer examines the flimsy underpinnings of government’s most basic ideas in this essay. Huemer demonstrates that the authority of the state is a chimera by carefully tracing the implications of basic moral tenets that nearly everyone accepts: there is no way to get from the ethical rules that govern how individuals should treat each other to a system that empowers a few people — “the state” — with the privileged moral position to issue coercive commands while imposing the moral duty to obey them on everyone else. Huemer lays down the gauntlet, questioning the entire premise of political authority, as well as the special standard by which government activities are judged.

The Myth of the Rational Voter– Bryan Caplan

Selfishness, corruption, and lobbying aren’t the main reasons why democracies adopt bad policies; it’s the voters themselves. Bryan Caplan presents the overwhelming empirical evidence that voters are not just uninformed of the most basic concepts of law, governance, and economics, but also willfully illogical in their choices. In other words, voters are not only mistaken, but also passionately and systematically mistaken.

Worse, Caplan demonstrates that these issues are inherent in the democratic system: voters have no motivation to be conscientious, well-informed, or level-headed, and politicians have every incentive to foment prejudice and take advantage of voters’ ignorance. The only definite method to limit the damage that foolish voters can cause is to limit the scope of democratic power.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments– Adam Smith

Although everyone is familiar with Adam Smith’s magisterial workThe Wealth of Nations, his first book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, is critical in providing the ethical, psychological, and sociological foundations for his later work in economics and philosophy. Today, Adam Smith is often vilified as the patron saint of greed and selfishness, but Moral Sentimentsdemonstrates that Smith had a sophisticated and deep grasp of human nature, our urges for virtue and vice, and the spirit and sympathies that enable humans to flourish.

In many ways, this work, which was published in 1759, was far ahead of its time, forecasting later breakthroughs in social science, moral philosophy, and social psychology. It is, however, chock-full of deep and useful insights for any student of human nature. If Smith seems intimidating at first, Russ Roberts’How Adam Smith Can Change Your Lifeis a short and easy introduction to some of the ideas in Moral Sentiments.

The God of the Machine– Isabel Paterson

The God of the Machine, along with Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, F.A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, and Rose Wilder Lane’s The Discovery of Freedom, was one of four books published during World War II that launched the modern libertarian movement and helped turn the intellectual tide against collectivism.

Paterson laid up a forceful and timely defense of individualism, the free market, and limited government at a time when socialism and fascism were conquering entire continents. The book re-centered the topic of human history on its fundamental subject: the individual, by exploring the significance of individual freedom in the rise and fall of civilizations.

No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority– Lysander Spooner

In 1867, legal thinker Lysander Spooner published this withering critique of the United States Constitution. It is still considered one of the most incisive and serious critiques of the American government and federal power. Spooner demonstrates why the Constitution, as a “contract” between “we the people,” has no enforceable authority. It could only bind and apply to those who were genuinely alive at the time of its adoption, he maintained, and then only to those who explicitly consented to it. As a result, seceding from the union of states is “not treason.”

No Treason is also one of the most widely cited books among individualist anarchists. “But whether the Constitution truly be one thing, or another, this much is evident – that it has either sanctioned such a government as we have had, or has been helpless to prevent it.” Any anarchist worth his or her salt knows Spooner’s pithy critique of the Constitution by heart. It is unsuited to exist in any circumstance.”

Radicals for Capitalism– Brian Doherty

Radicals for Capitalism is a massive tome that condenses decades of liberal and libertarian history into a single volume.

Senior editor Brian Doherty of Reason magazine goes to great lengths to capture the various influences and factions within the libertarian movement. Friends of liberty will learn and appreciate a lot from the eyewitness histories and personal descriptions of the motley group who founded and constitute the current American libertarian movement in this book, which is an essential element of any library on American political history.

Democracy in America– Alexis de Tocqueville

Alexis de Tocqueville traveled to the United States to research prisons for the French government, but he ended up examining America’s free society in action and making his most significant contributions. For nine months, De Toqueville travelled the United States, examining how the country’s political, economic, religious, and social institutions collaborated to nurture human cooperation, and how this process resulted in a thriving social order.

“America’s early and quick rate of economic development and its functional social order emerged from a living spring of thriving civil society,” writes Daniel J. D’Amico. Early Americans had a variety of opportunities to practice the art of association thanks to their families, clubs, churches, and numerous community groups.”

The essay, which was initially published in 1835, has remained influential and perceptive accounts of American society and culture — it has been dubbed “the best book ever written on America” — but more crucially, it illustrates the principles that underpin social order. “The science of association is the mother science in democratic countries,” De Tocqueville observed, “and the success of all the others rests on the progress of that one.”

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress– Robert Heinlein

The setting of this novel is a futuristic society in which a lunar colony revolts against Earth’s sovereignty. It is largely recognized as one of the best science fiction novels of all time, but its vivid depiction of a dystopian future and treatment of libertarian concepts make it an indispensable addition to any libertarian library. The novel’s characters span from self-proclaimed anarchists to would-be authoritarians, and it touches on libertarian concepts like spontaneous order, natural law, and individualism. Harsh Mistress went on to receive a number of accolades, including the Hugo Award for best science fiction novel.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich– Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

“The days flew quickly in the camp, and before you could say ‘knife,’ they were gone.” The years, on the other hand, never passed; they never moved a second.”

In this short novel, Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn depicts a typical day in the life of a prisoner in Stalin’s Siberian gulags, including the terrible cold, widespread starvation, savage punishments, impotence, despair, and terror. Solzhenitsyn spent ten years in the gulag for insulting Stalin, and his personal experience adds a layer of poignancy to the drama. The Soviet Union’s gulags and slave labor camps churned out tens of millions of people, with over one million of them dying. Ivan Denisovich contributes to humanizing an ocean of horror and human suffering that all too easily becomes a jumble of numbers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.