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Top Five Libertarian Books

Dr. Stephen Davies describes the difficulty in selecting the top five libertarian books, and therefore, decides to select two books for his first book recommendation. Below are his recommendations:

  1. On Liberty by John Stuart Mill & The Sphere and Duties of Government by Wilhelm von Humboldt
  2. The Use of Knowledge in Society by Friedrich Hayek
  3. The Structure of Liberty by Randy Barnett
  4. Norms of Liberty by Douglas B. Rasmussen and Douglas J. Den Uyl
  5. Robust Political Economy by Mark Pennington

Top Five Libertarian Books

If you are asked to name the top five libertarian books or pieces of writing, the first thing to say is this is a really difficult task because there are so many wonderful things to choose from. So, for one thing, I'm going to cheat slightly and have two in one. My first choice would be two works, which are both very short and very similar. John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, and Wilhelm von Humboldt's The Sphere and Duties of Government. Humboldt's work in particular is one of the classic defenses of minimal government and individual autonomy.

My second choice would be almost anything by Friedrich Hayek. If I had to pick a particular Hayek work that I would recommend people to read, it would be his essay “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” which I think contains the core of his insights into spontaneous order and the knowledge problem. Another book I would recommend is Randy Barnett's The Structure of Liberty, which I think is a wonderful systematic exposition of libertarian legal thought.

A very good work of philosophy, which I would also recommend, particularly if you’re interested in moral philosophy, is Norms of Liberty by Douglas Den Uyl and Douglas Rasmussen. And finally, I would recommend a book which is in fact just come out, which is Robust Political Economy by the young British academic Mark Pennington.

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1 Comment

  1. russellherbst

    Out of the five I have read the first two (or one). These make great primary documents in teaching situations.

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