Monday, 3 March 2008

Reading lists

I'd like a wee bit of help here, if you'd be so kind.

I was discussing with an economist friend the other night one of the main reasons for any genuine freedom party, which I maintain is to do whatever one can to help bring about the cultural change necessary for a free society.  In other words, to help foment the necessary revolution inside people's heads.  One means among many by which a genuine freedom party can help effect this change, I argued, is to light a flame for liberty's luminaries in the country's reading public by using the platform politics gives for publicity to promote heroes like Rand, Mises, Bastiat and Jefferson. My friend asked what he should read to get himself on the right track and I naturally told him to start with Atlas Shrugged -- if that doesn't persuade you, I said, nothing I can say ever will.

"But that's fiction," he protested, with the horror only an economist could muster for books that are chock full of good stories instead of charts and equations.  What can I read in non-fiction, he asked -- something shorter and easier and simpler for someone like him on which to get started?

Naturally, I had plenty of suggestions -- just as you will, dear reader -- and as I was making a list for him he pointed out that one simple thing Libertarianz can do is to post a reading list at the Libertarianz site to get people started on their own individual road to intellectual liberation.  At that my own light-bulb finally came on.  Of course!  What a great idea!

So here's where you can help.  What particular intellectual ammunition do you think should be included in such a list?  I've got my own ideas that I'll be recommending to the Libertarianz webmaster, but what books, articles or blog posts would you suggest be included there as a necessary part of any newbie's principled libertarian reading list.

Let me know your suggestions in the comments, and I'll start posting the bare bones of a worthwhile reading list later this afternoon or early tomorrow.  Just to get you started, here's a reading list for would-be Objectivists suggested by the Ayn Rand Institute -- many of which should be included -- and here's a reading list for "New Age Tories," most of which should not.


  1. Much of Rothbard's stuff is very good...despite PC's knee jerk reaction and illogical bias against him.

    The Incredible Bread Machine by Grant, Economics in one lesson by fact just go to the Mises web site and down load stuff for is all pretty good and gives a much broader scope of Libertarianism then PC'S fixation with Rand (who is very good too - but despite PC's bias, she is not the last word on the topic...and beating the drum so loudly for her does tend to put some of the rest of us off - a cult is a cult no matter which side of the debate it comes from).

  2. This is an awesome idea. I actually e-mailed the LibertariaNZ president myself asking about books I could read to help me further understand Libertarian principles and he replied with a few. I asked for books that would be good for someone "interested in Libertarian ideas, wanting to learn more", so this seems like the kind of material you want.

    (General libertarian ideas) - The Libertarian Primer - by David Boaz
    (Deeper philosophy) - The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged - by Ayn Rand
    (Light reading) - Eat the Rich - by PJ O'Rourke

    I've also read a couple of books advocated at The Advocates, Libertarianism in One Lesson and Healing our world: In an age of aggression.

    Also, Craig Milmine actually sent me to your blog, as I asked if there was any NZ specific material (most I find is American).. He suggested your site and the Free radical.

  3. I would start with Anthem - especially for students and younger people.

    It's easy to read, and short, and the basis of it all, I think.

    David Kelly's A Life of One's Own is good too. It's hard to make an argument against the welfare state without appearing to be a conservative wingnut. That book helps.

  4. For the complete individualist

    "Money and Power" and "Propaganda; The Formation of Men's Attitudes", both by Jacques Ellul


  5. I reckon the following list would be an ideal intro:

    - Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
    - The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
    - Objectivism - The Philosophy of AynRand (Leonard Peikoff)
    - Capitalism, The Unknown Ideal (Ayn Rand)

    - Various Free Radical Issues
    - PC's Cuecard Libertarianism posts

  6. I'd make the first reading something short and snappy. And it doesn't get much shorter or snappier than Bastiat's candlemaker essay, surely one of the wittiest and insightful essays available.

  7. Some of the good suggestions are only suitable for those already hooked onto libertariansim. They have already had the 'revolution inside their heads'.

    What you want is to fire them up in the first place. THAT is the challenge. You want something subtle to pique their interest - you don't want to knock them over the head and put them off.

    Now look at my intelligent homey at blogblog - there's a challenge!

  8. The "Virtue of Selfishness" probably condenses most anyone might want to know. From there they should know whether or not they want to plough through the "deeper philosophy".

  9. "Economics in one lesson", Hazlitt

    "How I found freedom in an unfree world", Browne

    Fun to start with. Plenty to think about.


  10. Anonymous

    I like Rothbard too. Lots of good reading there.

    I never understood why he and Rand fell out. They sure did not get on.

    On another matter, why did Murray reckon the USA was the agressor regarding the Cold War? I have not read his comments on this aspect and was wondering whether he was taken out of context. What was he getting at?


  11. I like matt b's idea of Bastiat's petition of the candlemakers. Anything by Bastiat would be good. I would add the Friedmans; David's The Machinery of Freedom and Milton's Capitalism and Freedom along with Hayek's The Road to Serfdom.

  12. No Rothbard, please. The insanity about US aggression and unilateral Cold War disarmament, and cheering on the Vietcong, overshadows anything of worth that he wrote, IMHO.

    Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson, David Boaz' Libertarianism Primer and Frederic Bastiat's The Law are all excellent introductions. Those are mostly economic. For the "social freedom" side, you can't go past "Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do" by Peter McWilliams.

  13. Richard McGrath4 Mar 2008, 08:19:00

    I got started with Rothbard's "For A New Liberty" although parts of it are anarchist (competing governments and police forces) rather than libertarian.

  14. ....and you have a problem with that?!?!

  15. "The Incredible Bread Machine by Grant, Economics in one lesson by Hazlett"

    I'll second that. As well as Bastiat and later Boaz. As someone her said, start them off with short, light stuff.

    For more Objectivist stuff I would go straight to Tibor Machan, Tara Smith, David Kelly, Pekioff.

    As for Rand, I cannot abide her fiction. Her non-fiction - i.e. "Capitalism the Unknown Ideal" - is better.

  16. The Liberal Tide: From Tramnny to Liberty by Jim Peron.The book with the most copies availible in NZ.


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