So you’ve got the basics of libertarianism down. Taxation is theft, the market does things better than the state, etc, etc. There’s still much more to be discovered, however, whether it be more sophisticated ethical arguments, or historical examples that bolster your intuitions. This list of books will expand your knowledge and understanding of the rich political philosophy that is libertarianism.
The Problem of Political Authority: An Examination of the Right to Coerce and the Duty to Obey by Michael Huemer
The first section of The Problem of Political Authority is a systematic critique of social contract theory. There is also a good discussion on why humans are biased toward authority. The 2nd part of the book argues that an anarchical society would not be chaos, but is something that should be aimed for. This book should top the list for any libertarian reader.
Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis by Ludwig von Mises
In this book, Mises attacked the various strains of socialism that existed at the time. Along with a plethora of arguments against socialism, you’ll read about the famous Economic Calculation Problem that centralized states face.
The Machinery of Freedom: Guide to a Radical Capitalism By David Friedman
Friedman lays out his entire argument for his brand of anarcho-capitalism. He addresses the hard questions and covers many common objections to anarchy. Reading an economist’s perspective on these things is always insightful. Rather than appeal to rigid ethical principles, Friedman argues a market of law would produce better results than a centralized state would.
The Case Against Education By Bryan Caplan
Caplan exposes the utter failures of our education system, and argues subsidization of education is an immense loss to society. He makes us all question why schooling is seen as such a prized institution in modern culture.
Private Governance: Creating Order in Economic and Social Life by Edward Stringham
This is an examination of historical and modern examples of private institutions providing governance when states were either too inept or corrupt. Examples include stock markets which developed in private clubs largely without the aid of state enforcement of contracts, governance on the western frontier, and modern dispute resolution agencies. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
The Not So Wild, Wild West: Property Rights on the Frontier By Terry Anderson and Peter Hill
Anderson and Hill take a close look at how property rights were formed and enforced on the frontier with very little, and sometimes no state assistance. They also debunk the idea that the west was an extremely deadly place with constant shootouts.
The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates by Peter Leeson
Leeson documents the governance of pirate ships during the height of pirating. He shows that while externally parasitic, pirates almost always organized themselves in a voluntary manner, and because of this, they utilized written constitutions, checks on power, and democracy decades before the American experiment in limited government.
The Enterprise of Law: Justice Without the State by Bruce Benson
This book covers a lot, but my favorite section was the documenting of how all the various sectors of the production of law converted from private to public in the last few centuries. Despite the modern rhetoric, it never seemed to actually be because of some pursuit of the “greater good”, but instead was usually just special interests pursuing their own desires.
Primal Prescription: Surviving the “Sick Care” Sinkhole by Doug McGuff and Robert Murphy
The first half of the book is what interested me. The authors document how very far from a free market the U.S. healthcare industry is and has been for decades. Major intrusion began as early as the late 1800s. So much for the myth that “free market healthcare doesn’t work.”
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt
Haidt explores why people tend to have certain political inclinations. This book really helped me to have empathy for people of all views. It also reinforced my suspicions that folks usually arrive at their opinions first and then seek rational justifications when necessary.
You can read more from Andrew Kern on Think Liberty here.