Books on libertarianism


As a political and cultural tradition, libertarianism has always offered the publication of a large number of books.

Probably the most straightforward series of books is that by Cato Institute scholar David Boaz.   In 1996, The Free Press published a duet of books:  “Libertarianism: A Primer” to be accompanied by a long collection of essays edited by Boaz “The Libertarian Reader“.  In 2015, Boaz rewrote and updated the primer with “The Libertarian Mind“, now published by Simon & Schuster.  I will give a more detailed review soon on my Book Review blog on Google’s Blogger.

Boaz’s narratives are rather straightforward and stick to basic principles, like non-aggression, freedom to contract, personal responsibility, and the idea that clear boundaries in the rule of law should exist when rights come into conflict.  He pays more attention to “gay rights” in the second version, but still emphasizes the idea of marriage as a private contract, an idea already gaining traction with other libertarian-oriented writers (like Jonathan Rauch) in the 1990s.


Of course, the best known writer might have been former Libertarian Party candidate Harry Browne (“How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World“) but Charles Murray may have been the most provocative.  In 1997, he had written the little missive “What It Means to Be a Libertarian“,  but in 2012 he wrote the stunning “Coming Apart“, where he analyzed the breakdown of “social capital”, which he says is particularly harming lower income or working class communities (he examined the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia).   In fact, Boaz seems to share Murray’s concerns about voluntary social cohesion, pointing out that community-centered or “fraternal” companies and organizations (like in life insurance) have tended to serve special needs of people better than government.

My own series of “Do Ask, Do Tell” books has a history that somewhat parallels Boaz’s.  My first book came out about a year after Boaz’s “Primer”, and I was writing it at about the same time.  And my DADT III book was written about the same time as Boaz’s “rewrite”.  There are major differences.  My books have a lot of personal narratives, which Boaz does not (although the essays do).  Curiously, Boaz calls the third book “A Manifesto for Freedom”, and my first book (in 1997) was often called “The Manifesto” by friends.  I spend much more attention to the motivations others have for interfering with personal lives and expressions and demanding loyalty and solidarity with “the group”, even in areas like the military draft as well as public health.

One could even say that Jack Andraka’s “Breakthrough: How One Teen Innovator Is Changing the World” is a libertarian book, when it comes to the spirt of innovation.

(Published Friday, March 20, 2015 at 11:30 PM EDT.)

One thought on “Books on libertarianism”

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