An Introduction to the Study of Liberty - Works to Begin with - Online Library of Liberty
Nineteen titles, including works by Erasmus, Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, J. S. Mill, Lord Acton, Herbert Spencer, Thomas Mackay, Friedrich Hayek and Leonard Read
"The following texts have been selected as being particularly appropriate for those who are new to the study of individual liberty, limited government, and the free market. These works have been written as introductory works or for a broader reading public. Some appeared as newspaper or magazine articles, and some as lectures or talks. It is hoped that these works will lead the reader to explore more of the Online Library of Liberty."
Classics of Liberty - Online Library of Liberty
More than 35 titles, including works by Hugo Grotius, Edward Coke, John Lock, Frédéric Bastiat, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Voltaire, William Godwin, Lord Acton, David Hume, Thomas Hodgskin, J. S. Mill, John Milton and Ludwig von Mises
"The following texts have been selected for being among the most important and influential books in the development of the idea of individual liberty, limited government, and the free market. Each author is represented by only one title in order to have as broad a range of authors as possible."
Freedom vs. Liberty
, by Joseph R. Stromberg
, 10 Jul 2001
Delves into the etymology of the English words "freedom" and "liberty"
"'Liberty' derives from Latin libertas, from liber, 'free.' ... English got 'liberty' as Norman-French liberté libertas, an abstract noun deriving from liber, which also gives us 'liberal,' 'liberate,' and other words. ... Even so, 'freedom' seems a bit more world-bound or concrete than 'liberty.' The latter conjures up the abstract public liberty in relation to the state. ... Freedom might well be the very 'thing' it is most important not to lose."
How Much Do You Know About Liberty? (a quiz)
, The Freeman
, Jun 1996
A 20-question quiz (with answers) on various topics related to liberty in the history of the United States
"What method of resolving disputes did trial by jury replace? ... What bulwark of American liberty do we owe to the Antifederalists? ... How many slaves were liberated by Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation? ... When and why did organized crime get started in the United States? ... What effect did the New Deal have on the Great Depression? ... Which three twentieth-century presidents promised to keep America out of war—but maneuvered in?"
Related Topics: U.S. Bill of Rights
, Compulsory Education
, Federal Reserve System
, Free Trade
, John Hancock
, Warren G. Harding
, Abraham Lincoln
, Right to Trial by Jury
How To Sell Liberty
, by Jarret B. Wollstein
, Jun 1998
Discusses eight principles of effective salesmanship and how to apply them to market liberty
"Although liberty is beneficial to nearly everyone, because of political biases, your personal style, and other factors, you are not going to be able to sell everyone. ... Similarly, when you are selling liberty, you need to talk about how liberty will benefit your audience. Liberty is one product that benefits every honest person, so it can be sold to nearly everyone. ... Explain that liberty and the free market are intelligent compassion – compassion that really works."
In Pursuit of Liberty
, by Jarret B. Wollstein
, May 1997
Primer on liberty concepts, including voluntary vs. coercive associations, individual rights, government and possible future improvements in the status quo
"Liberty is the freedom to act as you please so long as you don't coerce others. ... Liberty is as much a requirement of our psychological nature as food and air are requirements of our biological nature. When liberty is denied, economies stagnate, cultures deteriorate, science declines, living standards fall, and the human spirit languishes. Liberty is essential for any decent and humane society."
Kennedy's Libertarian Revolution: Lawrence's reach
, by Randy E. Barnett
, National Review Online
, 10 Jul 2003
Comments on the Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas
invalidating sodomy laws and in particular on Justice Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion
"Contrary to what has been reported repeatedly in the press, the Court in Lawrence did not protect a 'right of privacy.' Rather, it protected 'liberty' — and without showing that the particular liberty in question is somehow 'fundamental.' ... Liberty, not privacy, pervades this opinion like none other, beginning with the very first paragraph ... Liberty is — and has always been — the properly defined exercise of freedom that does not violate the rights of others."
, by Floyd A. 'Baldy' Harper
, 4 Sep 1957
Speech to the Mont Pelerin Society; Harper first offers his definition of liberty, then explores "adulterated" definitions, its relation to morals, moral law and basic humans rights, ending with his hope for the cause of liberty
"Liberty stems from liber, which means to be free. ... Liberty is the absence of coercion of a human being by any other human being; it is a condition where the person may do whatever he desires, according to his wisdom and conscience. This means to have liberty one must be free without qualification or modification, so far as his social relationships are concerned."
So What If Freedom Isn't Free?
, by Sheldon Richman
, 31 May 2013
Examines the "Freedom isn't free" assertion from the viewpoint of free will, negative or positive rights, resource scarcity and common usage
"Protecting one's (negative) social freedom may require the use of scarce resources, and in that sense freedom indeed is not free. ... I find that the phrase is more commonly used as a demand that we unquestioningly accept any state-imposed burdens placed under the national-security rubric. It's an emotional appeal intended to take the place of cool consideration. It's a blank check for the state."
The Abstract Concept of Human Liberty
, by Robert LeFevre
, The Freeman
, Dec 1982
Discusses how people may be interested in other people, events or things but only a few are interested in ideas, and how each group of people tends to view liberty from those perspectives
"... it seems to me that only that remnant which has taken the time to study freedom as an abstraction, as a body of thought, has any real comprehension of what it is all about. ... Human liberty is an abstraction. It is a concept not yet attained in any final way. Indeed, it will probably never be attained as a total condition, for there will always be malfunctioning human beings, just as there are well-functioning children who know nothing at all of any abstraction until they are taught."
The History of Freedom in Antiquity
, by John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton
, 26 Feb 1877
Surveys the ancient history of liberty, both from the side of rulers (despots, Solon, Pericles, Roman Republic and Empire) and philosophers (Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics), and the later influence of Christianity
"In every age [liberty's] progress has been beset by its natural enemies, by ignorance and superstition, by lust of conquest and by love of ease, by the strong man's craving for power, and the poor man's craving for food. ... By liberty I mean the assurance that every man shall be protected in doing what he believes his duty, against the influence of authority and majorities, custom and opinion. ... Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end."
The Idea of Liberty is Western
, by Ludwig von Mises
, American Affairs
, Oct 1950
Argues that the "idea of liberty is and has always been peculiar to the West", meaning primarily the cities of ancient Greece, and discusses "liberty" as viewed by Harold Laski, contrasting, for example, life under Stalin with Italy under fascism
"What gives to the individuals as much freedom as is compatible with life in society is the operation of the market system. The constitutions and bills of rights do not create freedom. They merely protect the freedom that the competitive economic system grants to the individuals against encroachments on the part of the police power."
The Indivisibility of Liberty
, by Mary J. Ruwart
, 23 Apr 2008
Discusses how advocating that others be deprived of some liberties results in negative repercussions on our own liberties
"Liberty requires respect for the personal choices that others make. In the long run, our liberties cannot be maintained if we violate the liberties of others. In trying to control others, we will eventually find ourselves controlled. ... Liberty is indivisible. It's the one thing we can't have unless we are willing to give it others."
The Moral Case for Freedom Is the Practical Case for Freedom
, by Sheldon Richman
, 27 Dec 2013
Considers whether it is reasonable to make distinctions between ethical and practical arguments for freedom
"... we must inquire whether libertarian concerns are really divisible into a concern with duties (deontology), say, regarding individual rights and a concern with practical consequences. ... Some libertarians often say they would favor freedom even if it did not promote good things like prosperity because people have a right to freedom that is unrelated to its consequences. (Of course, they don't believe that freedom could have bad consequences. But is that just a happy coincidence? ...)"
To Defeat the Assault on Liberty, Our Appeals Must Be Moral
, by Jim Powell
, 13 May 2013
Argues, by providing several historical examples, that "compelling moral appeals for liberty" are needed to confront various current problems such as government spending and debt, higher taxes and disregard of constitutional limits on executive power
"American liberty is under assault now more than at any time since the 1930s, because of runaway spending, soaring debt, ever higher taxes, proliferating regulations, implementation of Obamacare and the president's disregard for constitutional limits on his power. ... In recent times, Ronald Reagan stood out as a rare leader who could express moral appeals for liberty. He said, for instance, 'Only when the human spirit is allowed to invent and create, only when individuals have a personal stake in their success — only then can societies remain dynamic, prosperous and free.'"
, by Deirdre N. McCloskey, Cato Policy Report
, May 2006
Offers an apologia (formal defense) of capitalism, in particular of the phrase "bourgeois virtues" as being neither a contradiction in terms nor a lie
"The combination of longer and richer lives since 1800 is one reason that liberty has spread. There are by now many more adults living long enough lives sufficiently free from desperation to have some political interests. The theory that economic desperation leads to good revolution is, of course, mistaken, or else our freedoms would have emerged from the serfs of Russia or the peasants of China, not from the bourgeoisie of northwestern Europe, as they did in fact."
Conscience on the Battlefield
, by Leonard E. Read
Pamphlet written in 1951, during the Korean War, updated with prologue in 1981; Read recalls the 1918 incident when the troopship he was on was sunk by a German submarine and wonders about his thoughts if he were dying (in 1951) on a Korean battlefield
"You are saying that wisdom is generated by the mere act of giving some person or persons a monopoly of coercion. If this be true, why do you not accept the Russian arrangement and be done with it? Does it really matter whether an American or a Russian has a gun in your back? I thought you were fighting for freedom. Isn't it possible that the way to advance freedom is to behave like free men rather than like regimented men?"
Frederic Bastiat, Ingenious Champion for Liberty and Peace
, by Jim Powell
, The Freeman
, Jun 1997
Lengthy biographical essay, covering those who influenced Bastiat as well as those influenced by him, his writings (including correspondence with his friend Félix Coudroy), his roles in the French Constituent and Legistative Assemblies and his legacy
"Bastiat recognized that revolutionary violence occurred not because there was too much freedom but because there wasn't enough. 'Can we imagine citizens, otherwise completely free,' he wrote to Félix Coudroy, 'moving to overthrow their government when its activity is limited to satisfying the most vital, the most keenly felt of all social wants, the need for justice? We have tried so many things; when shall we try the simplest of all: freedom?'"
Related Topics: Claude Frédéric Bastiat
, Richard Cobden
, Foundation for Economic Education
, Benjamin Franklin
, Free Trade
, Henry Hazlitt
, Gustave de Molinari
, Jean-Baptiste Say
, The State
Give Me Liberty
, by Rose Wilder Lane
Originally published as an article titled "Credo" in the Saturday Evening Post
; describes her experiences in and history of Soviet Russia and Europe, contrasting them with the history of the United States, emphasizing the individualist themes
"When I asked myself, 'Am I truly free?' I began slowly to understand the nature of man and man's situation on this planet. I understood at last that every human being is free; that I am endowed by the Creator with inalienable liberty as I am endowed with life; that my freedom is inseparable from my life, since freedom is the individual's self-controlling nature. My freedom is my control of my own life-energy, for the uses of which I, alone, am therefore responsible."
Related Topics: Individual Liberty
, American Revolutionary War
, U.S. Bill of Rights
, Democratic Party
, Economic Resources
, Thomas Jefferson
, Nonviolent resistance
, Personal Responsibility
, Political Parties
, Republican Party
, United States
Interview with Karl Hess
, by A. Lin Neumann, Reason
, May 1982
Topics discussed include the Republican Party, National Review, AEI, Goldwater, Rothbard, anarchism, the Vietnam War, Carter and Reagan, fascism, urban enterprise zones, the environment, and authoritarianism vs. freedom
"Well, I'd say very little except to make the plaintive point that they're casting their lot with authoritarianism and that, although I can understand that they intend to be the authoritarians this time, I suggest that they would be happier if they cast their lot on the side of freedom. That's all. It seems to me that in the long run the greatest thing you can say about freedom is that you feel better when you're free. It's a more enjoyable state of life than to be either a slave or a master. Now there may be a lot of other high-falutin' reasons, but it's the only one I could talk to people at NR about."
Related Topics: Karl Hess
, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
, Barry Goldwater
, Personal Responsibility
, Ronald W. Reagan
, Republican Party
, Franklin Delano Roosevelt
, Murray N. Rothbard
, United States
Libertarianism Is the Key to Our Future
, by Jacob G. Hornberger
, Future of Freedom
, Jul 2006
Examines three reasons (freedom, morality and pragmatism) that suggest that Americans will eventually return to their libertarian heritage
"Almost everyone prizes the concept of freedom. Yet relatively few people in history have realized it. ... Americans honestly believe that, unlike most people throughout history, they are living lives of freedom. They are not aware that they are actually living lives of unreality and self-deception. That's not to say that Americans don't value freedom. On the contrary, it is among their highest values. "
Perspective: The Road Ahead
, by John T. Flynn
, The Freeman
, Oct 1995
From Forgotten Lessons: Selected Essays of John T. Flynn, 1949; enumerates a set of principles that Flynn thought were crucial to reversing the direction the United States was in (mixing capitalism with socialism)
"We must put human freedom as the first of our demands. There can be no security in a nation without freedom. Let us work to make our country a more bountiful home for all to live in, but the first and indispensable test of every plan must be whether it will impair our freedom. A better life for all, yes—but not at the expense of our liberties."
Robert A. Heinlein's Soaring Spirit of Liberty
, by Jim Powell
, The Freeman
, Jul 1997
Biographical essay, including multiple quotes from fellow authors and significant excerpts from Heinlein's novels and stories
"Narrator John Lyle tells how he developed a philosophy of freedom. 'I began to sense faintly that secrecy is the keystone of all tyranny. Not force, but secrecy, censorship. When any government ... undertakes to say to its subjects, "This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know," the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything—you can't conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.'"
Related Topics: Robert A. Heinlein
, Right to Keep and Bear Arms
, No Free Lunch
, J. Neil Schulman
, Science Fiction
Robert Nozick and the Value of Liberty
, by Aaron Ross Powell, 21 Jun 2011
Responds to Stephen Metcalf's essay "The Liberty Scam", published on Slate.com
"... libertarians don't believe that liberty is the primary value, we believe that liberty is the primary political value. ... The beauty of liberty is that it allows each of us to pursue our own ends and strive for whatever we value. The curse of liberty is that our striving takes place among a great many fellow strivers, many of who are headed in directions we find elitist or prole, dangerous or dull, distasteful or uninspired. The difference between Nozick's vision and Metcalf's is that Nozick embraces that wonderful chaos, provided it happens within a framework of respected rights."
Shall Liberty or Empire be Sought?
, by Patrick Henry
, 5 Jun 1788
Speech to the Virginia Ratifying Convention; criticises several clauses of the proposed Constitution and warns about the possibility of a U.S. President becoming even worse than a king
"When the American spirit was in its youth, the language of America was different; liberty, sir, was then the primary object. We are descended from a people whose government was founded on liberty; our glorious forefathers of Great Britain made liberty the foundation of everything. That country is become a great, mighty, and splendid nation; not because their government is strong and energetic, but, sir, because liberty is its direct end and foundation."
The Politics of Étienne de La Boétie
, by Murray N. Rothbard
Introduction to the 1975 edition of The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude
, translated by Harry Kurz; summarises the key insights of La Boétie's work
"And reason, La Boétie adds, teaches us the justice of equal liberty for all. ... Therefore, 'there can be no further doubt that we are all naturally free,' and hence it cannot be asserted that 'nature has placed some of us in slavery.' Even animals, he points out, display a natural instinct to be free. But then, what in the world 'has so denatured man that he, the only creature really born to be free, lacks the memory of his original condition and the desire to return to it?'"
The Top 25 Liberty Songs
, by Bill Winter, Libertarian Party News
, Aug 2001
List of 25 "Liberty's Best Songs" chosen from over 200 suggestions, and a supplementary list of 25 runners-up
"... songs that celebrate human freedom, civil liberties, resistance to tyranny, or just plain old all-American 'I did it my way' individualism. ... Sunshine ... My Life ... 911 is a joke ... Get Up, Stand Up ... Liberty ... Something for Nothing ... 1% ... Taxman ... Copperhead Road ... America ... The Plan ... People Want to Be Free ... I Want To Be Free (That's the Truth) ... Capitalism ... My Way ... Inside Four Walls ... The Coalition to Ban Coalitions ... Freedom of Speech ... The Trees"
Why Are We Afraid To Be Free?
, by Butler Shaffer
, 27 Nov 2001
Examines the question of how to bring about freedom in individuals' lives, discussing how government influences people to be in conflicted states and how one must look within oneself and act accordingly to begin to be "free"
"Let me begin by distinguishing the concepts 'freedom' and 'liberty.' Freedom is a state of mind that is not in conflict or contradiction, a mind that has integrity (i.e., is integrated into a consistent whole). Liberty describes a social system in which free men and women live and cooperate with one another. Because their minds are free of conflict, their relationships with others tend to be peaceful and respective of one another's autonomy."
Why the Republicans Are Doomed
, by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
, 21 Feb 2007
Discusses recent Republican behavior at both the presidential (George W. Bush) and grassroots level, arguing that they take their societal view from Hobbes
"Republicans ... can’t even fathom the truth that liberty is the mother, not the daughter, of order. ... Freedom, to them, is not a right but something conferred as a reward for good behavior. ... But these days we see all around us how liberty generates order and how this order is self-sustaining. ... We benefit daily, hourly, minute-by-minute, from an order that is not imposed from without but rather generated from within ..."
Winning the Battle for Freedom and Prosperity
, by John Mackey
, Jun 2006
Updated from speech given at FreedomFest 2004; after a brief background on himself, Mackey criticises the freedom movement from a marketing and branding perspective and suggests a different approach by de-emphasising some issues and prioritising others
"The freedom movement must embrace the ideals of love, caring, and compassion, and return these words to their true meanings. ... Spreading freedom through the world is the most loving, caring, and compassionate thing we can do for people. True freedom allows people to create prosperity and gives them the opportunity to move up Maslow's hierarchy of needs towards self-actualization. True freedom gives us the opportunity to take social responsibility and to work towards making the world a better place."
Related Topics: Libertarianism
, Educational Freedom
, Free Market
, Health Care
, Individual Liberty
, Life Extension
, Personal Responsibility
, Ayn Rand
Escape From Leviathan: Liberty, Welfare, and Anarchy Reconciled
, by Jan Clifford Lester
, 21 Jun 2000
Excerpts from each major section of the book available at Libertarian Alliance website; contents: Introduction - Rationality - Liberty - Welfare - Anarchy
For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto
, by Murray N. Rothbard
Partial contents: The Libertarian Heritage - Property and Exchange - The State - The Problems - Involuntary Servitude - Personal Liberty - Education - Welfare and the Welfare State - The Public Sector - War and Foreign Policy - A Strategy for Liberty
Liberty: A Path to Its Recovery
[PDF], by Floyd A. 'Baldy' Harper
, Hans F. Sennholz
(Foreword), Foundation for Economic Education
Partial contents: The Nature of Liberty - Forms of Liberty - Liberty and Charity - Government in a Liberal Society - Democracy and Liberty - Liberty and Peace - A Measure of Liberty - The Extent of Lost Liberty - Special Privilege - Recovering Liberty
- ISBN 0910614954: Paperback, Foundation for Econ Education, 2nd edition, 1993
Liberty Against Power: Essays by Roy A. Childs, Jr.
by Roy A. Childs, Jr.
, Thomas S. Szasz
(Foreword), Joan Kennedy Taylor
(Editor), 1 Dec 1994
19 essays on political philosophy, policy analysis and book and music reviews; topics include capitalism, objectivism, libertarianism, property rights, the draft and the war on drugs
, by John Stuart Mill
Contents: I. Introductory - II. Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion - III. Of Individuality, as One of the Elements of Well-Being - IV. Of the Limits to the Authority of Society over the Individual - V. Applications
Planning for Freedom: And Sixteen other Essays and Addresses
by Ludwig von Mises
Partial contents: Planning for Freedom - Middle-of-the-road Policy Leads to Socialism - Laissez Faire or Dictatorship - Stones into Bread, The Keynesian Miracle - Lord Keynes and Say's Law - Inflation and Price Control - Profit and Loss
Speaking of Liberty
by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
, Ludwig von Mises Institute
, Dec 2003
Partial contents: Economics: The Marvel That Is Capitalism - Why Austrian Economics Matters - War: Free Trade versus War - Ludwig von Mises: Mises and Liberty - Ideas: An American Classical Liberalism - The Sinful State - Interviews and Tributes
The Art of Being Free: Politics versus the Everyman and Woman
by Wendy McElroy
Sections: The Theoretical Footing of Freedom - Applying Theory to Issues - Principles Work People - Getting There from Here - Conclusion
The Constitution of Liberty
by Friedrich A. Hayek
Partial contents: Part I: The Creative Powers of a Free Civilization - II: Freedom and the Law - Coercion and the State - The Safeguards of Individual Liberty - III: Freedom in the Welfare State - The Decline of Socialism and the Rise of the Welfare State
The Discovery of Freedom: Man's Struggle Against Authority
by Rose Wilder Lane
Partial contents: One: The Old World - The Pagan Faith - Communism - The Living Authorities - The Planned Economies - War - Two: The Revolution - The First Attempt - The Second Attempt - The Feudal System - The English Liberties - The Third Attempt
The Passion for Liberty
by Tibor R. Machan
, Aug 2003
Partial contents: Opposing Senses of Freedom - Why Capitalism Squares with Morality - Immigration Into a Free Society - Military Defense of the Free Society - Liberty: Economic Versus Moral Benefits - Reflections On the Right to Private Property
Toward Liberty: The Idea That Is Changing the World
by David Boaz
(Editor), Cato Institute
, Apr 2002
Partial contents: Ideas and Consequences - Economic Growth - The Welfare State - The Regulatory State - A World in Transition - Foreign Affairs - Trade and International Finance - Law and Liberty - Democracy and Culture