Primer on liberty

A place where I'm building a shortlist for a primer on liberty.


I, Pencil by Leonard Reed

Why I Am Not a Conservative by Hayek

The Rise, Decline, and Reemergence of Classical Liberalism by Amy H. Sturgis

The Pretense of Knowledge by Hayek

The Intellectuals and Socialism  by Hayek

Candlemakers' Petition by Bastiat

Why Capitalism Is Worth Defending, Anthony Gregory, July 29, 2011

John Stossels's article on (extracts)

Teach Your Children Well by Joseph Sobran


Raw material (in no particular order)

The Rise, Decline, and Reemergence of Classical Liberalism by Amy H. Sturgis

Samuel Freeman, ‘Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View’, Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 30, No. 2 (Spring, 2001), pp. 105-151

Why I Am Not a Conservative by Hayek

What Is Classical Liberalism? by John C. Goodman

Why Capitalism Is Worth Defending, Anthony Gregory, July 29, 2011

Essays on Liberty vol 1 (PDF)

Four Essays on Liberty (1969) by Berlin

The Foundations of Liberal Policy

Roderick T. Long in ‘Austro-Libertarian Themes In Early Confucianism’ in the Journal of Libertarian Studies Volume 17, no. 3 (Summer 2003), pp. 35–62  = 



Essays by Hayek

The Economics of Abundance 
The Moral Imperative of the Market 
Planning, Science, and Freedom 
The British Genius for Compromise 
Socialist Calculation 
Down with Legal Tender 
The Meaning of Competition 
What Price a Planned Economy? 
Decline of the Rule of Law 
Substitute for Foreign Aid 
Mises As We Knew Him 
The Pretense of Knowledge 
A Free-Market Monetary System
Monetary Theory and the Trade Cycle 
The Intellectuals and Socialism 
Engineers and Planners 
The Mythology of Capital 
Reflections on the Pure Theory of Money of Mr. J.M. Keynes 
Investment that Raises the Demand for Capital 
The Skillful Professor Rothbard 

CCS reader:

Lawrence W Reed
Ayn Rand
Frederic Bastiat
Leon Louw
Leonard Reed
Gene Smiley
Swaminathan Aiyar
Parth J Shah & HB Soumya
JH Harris
Paul Feine
Ila Patnaik
Parth J Shah
Fred Smith Jr
Bhaskar Roy
Mayank Singhal
Brian Kantor
W Duncun Reekie
W Duncun Reekie
Parth J Shah
Sauvik Chakraverti
Gurcharan Das
Rob Norton
Lawrence Reed
Swaminathan Aiyar
Jagdish Bhagwati
John Stossel
Burton Fulsom
Sauvik Chakraverti
Surjit Bhalla
Swaminathan Aiyar
Israel Kirzner
Seetha Parth asarthy
Parth J Shah
SV Raman
Tyler Cowen
James L Doti
Milton Friedman
Nigel Ashford
JH Harris
Lawrence Reed



  • "What Is Still American in the Political Philosophy of Thomas Jefferson?" by Joyce Appleby in The William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., 39 (April 1982). Appleby reveals the liberalism of Jefferson, who was strongly influenced by the French liberal Destutt de Tracy, and critically examines competing interpretations of Jefferson as a "classical republican."
  • On Classical Liberalism and Libertarianism, by Norman P. Barry (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1987). A useful overview of liberalism that includes modern figures.
  • Western Liberalism: A History in Documents from Locke to Croce, ed. by E. K. Bramsted and K. J. Melhuish (New York: Longman, 1978). A valuable selection of original sources on liberal thought; includes translations of French, German, and Italian works.
  • New Individualist Review (1961-1968; reprint; Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1981). Contains excellent essays on the lives and thought of influential classical liberals, including Benjamin Constant and Wilhelm von Humboldt (both by historian Ralph Raico).
  • The Origins of English Individualism, by Alan Macfarlane (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1978). Macfarlane, an anthropologist and historian, demonstrates that individualism and the market order are not recent inventions, but have roots stretching far back into history. This work overturns the traditional division of the history of the west into starkly distinguished "feudal" and "capitalist" periods.
  • The Levellers in the English Revolution, ed. by G. E. Aylmer (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1975). Valuable collection of documents in the history of liberalism; includes Richard Overton's important essay, "An Arrow Against All Tyrants," which presents the case for each person's "self ownership" as a foundation for property rights.
  • The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, by Bernard Bailyn (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1967). Bailyn shows the sources of American Revolutionary thought, placing special emphasis on the libertarian ideas of Trenchard and Gordon.
  • Capitalism and a New Social Order: The Republican Vision of the 1790s, by Joyce Appleby (New York: New York University Press, 1984). An important contribution to our understanding of the liberal, anti-statist program of the Jeffersonian Republicans. Appleby has refuted the interpretations of the Jeffersonians as "classical republicans" uninfluenced by the ideas of liberalism.
  • The Transatlantic Persuasion: The Liberal Democratic Mind in the Age of Gladstone, by Robert Kelley (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1969). An examination of cosmopolitan liberalism and the movement for free trade.
  • Benjamin Constant and the Making of Modern Liberalism, by Stephen Holmes (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984). A sympathetic study of a great French liberal thinker.
  • The British Political Tradition,vol. 1, "The Rise of Collectivism," 1983; vol. 2, "The Ideological Heritage," 1983; vol. 3, "A Much Governed Nation," parts 1 and 2, 1987, by W. H. Greenleaf (New York: Methuen). A magisterial work on the development of British political thought, framed by the conflict between libertarianism and collectivism. Important for understanding the development of liberalism in English speaking countries.
  • Individualism and Nationalism in American Ideology, by Yehoshua Arieli (Baltimore: Penguin, 1966). Arieli shows the growth of Lockean liberalism in the new American republic and the later conflict between statist nationalism and liberalism.
  • Cato's Letters, ed. by Ronald Hamowy (Indianapolis: Liberty Classics, 1994). This is a newly edited and annotated edition of the enormously important set of pamphlets and essays by the radical Whig authors John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, who popularized the classical liberal ideas of John Locke. These essays were especially important in the spread of revolutionary ideas in America.
  • The Scottish Enlightenment and the Theory of Spontaneous Order, by Ronald Hamowy (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1987). A valuable overview of the scientific advances made toward our understanding of social order by the thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment, including Adam Ferguson, Bernard Mandeville, David Hume, and Adam Smith.
  • economics
  • The Fallacy of the Mixed Economy, by Stephen Littlechild (Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, 1979; 2nd ed., London: Institute of Economic Affairs, 1986). A short and readable critique of economic policy.
  • Principles of Economics, by Carl Menger (1871; New York: New York University Press, 1981). The classic statement of economic theory by the founder of the Austrian school of economics. 
  • Tomorrow, Capitalism, by Henri Lepage (La Salle, Ill.: Open Court, 1982). An exciting introduction to the new political economy; Lepage provides a very readable introduction to the economics of property rights, public choice economics, the "new economic history," resource economics, and more. 
  • The Wealth of Nations, by Adam Smith (1776; Indianapolis: Liberty Classics, 1981). The classic work on economics that changed the world. Demonstrated the value of division of labor, market exchange, and the spontaneously ordered "great society."
  • A Treatise on Political Economy, by Jean-Baptiste Say (1821; New York: Augustus M. Kelley, 1971). The classic treatise of the leading French economist. Includes the statement of "Say's Law," which demonstrates that there can be no general "overproduction" in a market economy with a free price system, as each good produced creates effective demand for other goods.
  • Human Action, by Ludwig von Mises (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1949; 3d rev. ed., Chicago: Henry Regnery Co., 1966). The masterwork of one of the greatest of the Austrian economists; starts with first principles and proceeds to such topics as the price system, monetary economics, business cycles, and economic calculation.
  • Economics in One Lesson, by Henry Hazlitt (1946; rev. ed., New Rochelle: Arlington House, 1985). A very readable introduction to economic thinking, focusing on the crucial insight of the "seen and the unseen."
  • University Economics: Elements of Inquiry, by Armen A. Alchian and William R. Allen (3d ed., Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1972). This well written and accessible textbook is undoubtedly one of the best available introductions to economics. It is thorough, clear, and concise.
  • Free to Choose, by Milton and Rose Friedman (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986). A strong statement of personal and economic liberty by two leading defenders of individual liberty. 
  • Man, Economy, and State, by Murray N. Rothbard (Los Angeles: Nash Publishing, 1972). A comprehensive treatment of economics, from the most basic level to price theory, monopoly, monetary theory, and more. In the tradition of Human Action by Ludwig von Mises, Man, Economy, and State is a rare thing in modern economics — a systematic treatise.
  • The Economic Way of Thinking, by Paul Heyne (6th ed., New York: Macmillan, 1991). Heyne's widely used textbook is a helpful overview of economic science and an accessible introduction to economic analysis.
  • Economic Sophisms, Frederic Bastiat (1845; Irvington-On-Hudson, N.Y.: Foundation for Economic Education, 1968). This witty and brilliant collection of essays explodes myth after myth about protectionism, subsidies, and other forms of state interventionism. 
  • The Economics of Rights, Co-operation and Welfare, by Robert Sugden (New York: Basil Blackwell, 1986). A valuable introduction to game theory and an exciting treatment of the spontaneous emergence of cooperation; suggests that order can emerge without an overarching and coercive ordering power. 
  • Price Theory, by David Friedman (2d ed., Cincinnati: South-Western Publishing Co, 1989). This is probably the most fun intermediate textbook in economics; Friedman uses colorful examples and a lively style to make understandable complex insights in economics. This book is very useful for understanding how markets work and how economics can help us understand institutions such as law, voting, and marriage.
  • Capitalism, by Arthur Seldon (Cambridge, Mass: Blackwell, 1990). Seldon offers a powerfully argued case for the free market.
  • Capitalism and Freedom, by Milton Friedman (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962). A clear statement of the economics of the free society, including the relationship between "economic" liberty and "civil" liberty.
  • In Pursuit of Happiness and Good Government, by Charles Murray (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988). The author of Losing Ground, having criticized statist institutions, turns his attention to an exposition of the form of a free society.
  • The Twilight of Authority, by Robert Nisbet (New York: Oxford University Press, 1975). The renowned sociologist looks at the replacement of forms of social authority by the "authority" of the state. Examines the atomizing effects of statism and the debilitating effects of militarism and collectivism.
  • Selected Essays on Political Economy, by Frederic Bastiat (Irvington-on-Hudson, N.Y.: Foundation for Economic Education, 1964). This edition includes the French liberal and free-trade leader's brilliant essays on "What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen," "The Law," and "The State."
  • The Foundations of Bioethics, by H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986). A full-scale treatment of problems in bioethics, this work begins by laying a groundwork for rights that is universal and can offer common ground for a great diversity of moral viewpoints.
  • Benjamin Constant: Political Writings, ed. by Biancamaria Fontana (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988). This collection of writings by the great French political philosopher includes his seminal essay, "The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with That of the Moderns," which defends modern liberty against the claims of the coercive communitarians. An effective response to modern coercive communitarians in political thought like Alasdair Macintyre, Michael Sandel, and Charles Taylor.
  • Our Enemy, the State, by Albert Jay Nock (1935; reprint, New York: Libertarian Review Foundation, 1989). Nock's book is a persuasive presentation of the predatory theory of state power. This edition also includes the eloquent essay, "On Doing the Right Thing."
  • The God of the Machine, by Isabel Paterson (1943; reprint, New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1993). A devastating critique of collectivism and defense of individualism.
  • A Commentary and Review of Montesquieu's Spirit of Laws, by Destutt de Tracy (1811; New York: Burt Franklin, 1969). This work, translated by Thomas Jefferson, offered a strong liberal statement of the principles of government, in the form of a criticism of Montesquieu.
  • Social Statics, by Herbert Spencer (1850; New York: Robert Schalkenbach Foundation, 1954). A classic statement of liberal rights theory based on the "law of equal freedom"; includes his important essay, "The Right to Ignore the State."
  • The Logic of Liberty, by Michael Polanyi (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1951). A noted scientist looks at the spontaneous and "unplanned" growth of science and draws inferences for the free and spontaneous development of other social orders. A classic of social theory.
  • Second Treatise of Government (or An Essay Concerning Civil Government), by John Locke (1690; student edition, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988). The classic statement of individual rights, justly acquired property, and limited government.
  • The Limits of State Action, by Wilhelm von Humboldt (1854; 1969; reprint, Indianapolis: Liberty Classics, 1993). The work that profoundly influenced Mill's essay, On Liberty. Humboldt's work is remarkable for its statement of the relationship between freedom and the development of personality.
  • Liberalism, by Ludwig von Mises (Kansas City: Sheed Andrews and McMeel, 1978; Irvington-on-Hudson: Foundation for Economic Education, 1985). A strong statement of liberal principles by a prominent Austrian economist and liberal thinker.
  • Anarchy, State, and Utopia, by Robert Nozick (New York: Basic Books, 1974). The book that helped to launch the recent revival of political philosophy. A rewarding work, especially interesting for its analysis of rights as "side constraints."
  • Persons, Rights, and the Moral Community, by Loren E. Lomasky (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987). Lomasky's work is at the center of a major current controversy in moral and political theory: the status of rights and the relationship of the individual to the community. Lomasky presents a liberal, individualistic theory of rights based on an understanding of persons as "project pursuers." Highly recommended for students in moral and political philosophy, social theory, and political science.
  • The Man versus the State, by Herbert Spencer (1884; Indianapolis, Liberty Classics, 1982). A warning against encroaching statism and the "New Toryism" by an English classical liberal.
  • The Road to Serfdom, by F. A. Hayek (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1944). One of the books that launched the modern classical liberal/libertarian movement. Looks at the relationship between economic statism and liberty, concluding that the two are incompatible. Hayek received the Nobel Prize for economics in 1974.
  • For A New Liberty, by Murray Rothbard (New York: Collier Books, 1978). A sweeping case for liberty, drawing from history, moral and political philosophy, and economics.
  • The State, by Franz Oppenheimer (New York: Free Life Editions, 1975). Shows how the state is rooted in conquest and perpetuates conflict.
  • The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism, by F. A. Hayek (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988). An excellent introduction to the thought of one of the century's preeminent social thinkers, this work spans economics, history, philosophy, ethics, and more. Controversial and very interesting.
  • The Counter-Revolution of Science: Studies in the Abuse of Reason, by F. A. Hayek (1952; reprint, Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1979). A seminal study of the roots of socialism in a fatal misunderstanding of social processes. An important work in intellectual history and a serious contribution to the study of our society.
  • The Lysander Spooner Reader, ed. by George H. Smith (San Francisco: Fox & Wilkes, 1992). Lysander Spooner was an abolitionist enemy of slavery, constitutional scholar, and opponent of state power. This volume includes Spooner's "Essay on the Trial by Jury," arguing for the rights of juries to nullify unjust laws, his famous "No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority," and his brilliant argument for personal liberty, "Vices Are Not Crimes."
  • The Ethics of Redistribution, by Bertrand de Jouvenel (1951; reprint, Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1990). Jouvenel shows not only how disappointing the results of coercive redistribution are, but how income redistribution has come to mean "far less a redistribution of free income from the richer to the poorer, as we imagined, than a redistribution of power from the individual to the State." This book is very important for understanding the modern welfare state.
  • The Ethics of Liberty, by Murray N. Rothbard (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1982). This work is an attempt to provide a synthesized ethical foundaton for the free society, dealing with both general principles and specific problems.
  • Envy, by Helmut Schoeck (Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1987). Schoeck provides an important and comprehensive sociological study of envy as a force generating social conflict.
  • In Defense of Modernity: Role Complexity and Individual Autonomy, by Rose Laub Coser (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991). Coser presents a powerful defense of modern liberal society against its coercive-communitarian critics. This book is usefully read in conjunction with the essays of Benjamin Constant.