With Christmas fast approaching, it’s not too late to get yourself or someone else these inspiring books. We listed the top 15 books throughout history that are perfect for promoting the values of freedom!
15) The Republic and The Laws by Cicero (Oxford Edition)
This two in one brings you the legendary works of the famed Roman statesman, Marcus Tullius Cicero. In the first book, The Republic, Cicero lays out the importance of civic virtue, an appraisal of Roman republicanism, and the need for a healthy balance between monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy.
The sequel, The Laws, is one of the very first philosophical treaties on natural law. His work would go on to inspire notable enlightenment thinkers and founding fathers such as John Locke and Thomas Jefferson.
14) Second Treatise of Government by John Locke
John Locke is one of the most influential philosophers in classical liberal, libertarian, and conservative thought. The second of his two treatises gives one of the best arguments for private property and representative democracy, as well as a critique of monarchism on the grounds of natural law.
Locke also gives his own theory of the social contract that is somewhat similar but also strikingly different to that of Hobbes. And his theory of natural rights would go on to find it’s way to be engraved in our constitution as “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
13) The Law by Frederic Bastiat
Bastiat remains revered in libertarian circles as his timely classic The Law gave one of the most powerful defenses of private property in the 19th century. Bastiat target is “legal plunder” or what we know as “expropriation” or “eminent domain.”
For the French philosopher, the law’s sole duty is to protect our Lockean rights. When it’s used to forcibly redistribute our possessions, “the law has been used to destroy its own objective: It has been applied to annihilating the justice that it was supposed to maintain; to limiting and destroying rights which its real purpose was to respect. The law has placed the collective force at the disposal of the unscrupulous who wish, without risk, to exploit the person, liberty, and property of others.”
12) The Federalist Papers
If you’re somebody like me who loves to read something without the archaic language, then you’ll love this (A bit pricier but still very affordable). Regardless, the Federalist Papers were quintessential in the formation of the US Constitution. In it, you’ll find the great works of our Founding Fathers, James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton.
11) Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville
Alexis de Tocqueville was amazed at America’s culture and political environment. The Frenchmen wrote one of the most cherished books in our history, Democracy in America. He gives his appraisal of American republicanism, civil society, and individualism.
Tocqueville’s aim was to show why the representative republic established by our founders succeeded so well but achieved abysmal results in Revolutionary France. Along the way, he gives important commentary on the dangers of democracy and the tyranny of the majority and much more.
10) Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke
Speaking of the French Revolution, Edmund Burke was another critic who denounced the French experiment from the beginning but was a supporter of the American cause. Burke gives his own answer to Tocqueville’s inquiry. The Irishman is considered one of the founders of modern conservativism and would inspire FA Hayek’s theory of spontaneous order. (According to Hayek however, “Edmund Burke remained an Old Whig to the end and would have shuddered at the thought of being regarded as a Tory.”)
Reflections not only gives a critical analysis of the French Revolution but also offers us a timely lesson to heed radical change to existing social orders such as many on the left attempt to do. (If you are to judge a book by its cover, I assure you the actual cover of the link looks a lot better than the one shown. This is just the e-book cover)
9) Our Republican Constitution by Randy Barnett
A good segue into more contemporary literature is with the renowned libertarian legal scholar, Randy Barnett. In Our Republican Constitution, Barnett takes aim at the Rousseauian view of the constitution which views “we the people” as the will of the people.
Instead, the Harvard graduate gives an individualist take which interprets the constitution as protecting fundamental rights of the people. He goes on to give a great historical analysis of this issue and offers a way to restore our republican constitution.
8) The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek
One of the defining books in modern libertarian and classical liberal philosophy is Hayek’s Road to Serfdom. It cannot be exaggerated how influential this book has been in contemporary politics. The Austrian economist was a major intellectual throughout the cold war, fighting against socialism alongside Milton Friedman.
Published towards the end of World War 2, Hayek gives a passionate attack against the collectivism of socialism and fascism and offers a great defense of the rule of law and economic liberty.
7) Free to Choose by Milton Friedman
Milton Friedman’s bestseller inspired millions with his television series Free to Choose: A Personal Statement. The book gives a novel adaption of the show as Friedman gives one of the best critiques of government intervention in the economy.
From the minimum wage to rent ceilings, Friedman gives scathing criticisms of well-intended government policies hurting rather than helping the ones that need it. Friedman presents us the power and efficiency markets can fulfill that government cannot.
6) Be the Solution by Michael Strong and John Mackey
Michael Strong and John Mackey are successful entrepreneurs whose mission is to promote socially conscious capitalism. Michael has created many successful charter school programs in multiple states in efforts to reform the American education system and Mackey is the co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods. Together they created Freedom Lights Our World (FLOW), a non-profit dedicated to “Liberating the entrepreneurial spirit for good.
The subtitle of their book highlights how ambitious they are, Be the Solution: How Entrepreneurs and Conscious Capitalists Can Solve All the World’s Problems. The duo is the lead authors but it also features contributions by Muhammad Yunus, Hernando de Soto, Don Beck, and others.
This book is for those who’ve seen the improbability of achieving reform with conventional politics and instead prefer a more entrepreneurial way of promoting liberty. In essence, the title accurately sums it up, “be the solution;” embody the liberal philosophy. The book shows how “conscious capitalists” and market-based policies can solve an array of problems such as poverty and environment degradation.
5) Your Next Government? by Tom W Bell
Tom W. Bell is a legal scholar at Chapman University who specializes in copyright law. Here, however, Bell introduces us to a world of imagination that’s already becoming a reality. The modern state may be a thing of the past in favor of special autonomous zones. These include special economic zones, free trade zones, housing co-op’s, homeowner associations, LEAP (Legal, Economic, Administrative, Political) zones, etc. Governments all around the world are devolving power to private interest.
And it works. Better than government too. Will we live to see a world of stateless “free cities?” Maybe so. Between the Honduran ZEDE program and the success of Chinese SEZ’s, Bell shows us the trends that should get libertarians excited for. This covers only part one of the book though.
Part two gives us a philosophical defense of consent based jurisprudence. Tom argues that consent is crucial to all forms of ethical philosophy, whether teleological, deontological, utilitarian, or whatever; consent matters. He introduces graduated consent theory (something anarchists and social contract theorists should seriously consider), gives a contractarian interpretation of the constitution that seeks to promote the consent of the government, and argues for not just a polycentric legal order but an “autocentric” one, where, “[Law] has individual choice at its center).
Part 3 concludes with how we can put all of this into practice to form a more voluntary society. Your Next Government? is a book for everyone to seriously consider. The libertarian revolution may already be happening quietly.
4) The Voluntary City
The Voluntary City is a great book that contains contributions from various authors such as Alex Tabarrok, Spencer MacCallum, Fyodor Doevtosky, and many more. A great complimentary book to Your Next Government? it contains various essays of what a voluntary, stateless society may look like.
Drawing from historical and real-world examples, The Voluntary City shows how a polycentric legal order would work, the chaos that won’t happen by getting rid of zoning laws, how entrepreneurial communities (entrecomms) are superior to a democratic or any form of political governance, how public goods can be provided adequately by private interests, and a lot more!
3) The Machinery of Freedom by David Friedman
The son of Milton Friedman, David Friedman gives a more radical guide to capitalism than his minarchist father. Friedman gives a consequentialist defense of a fully voluntary society and shows how fundamental functions of government can be fulfilled private institutions.
Friedman gives a great description of how a stateless society would work, how a polycentric legal order would function, and how this stateless society could defend themselves against aggressive states. This book is seriously underrated as Rothbard heavily dominates the anarcho-capitalist literature but this book surpasses anything he has written on the subject.
2) Money: Free and Unfree by George Selgin
All this stuff on political philosophy is great but it’s time to delve more into economics. A crucial question that needs to be answered is how should money work in a free society? George Selgin, a monetary expert at the CATO Institute and editor-in-chief at Alt-M argues that a free society would be a free banking society.
Selgin goes on the attack and blames most of our country’s financial troubles on the increasing centralization of the banking and currency. The remedy is to return money back to the free market. Money: Free and Unfree may be the best book in libertarian monetary economics in recent time.
1) Blockchain Revolution
No liberty wishlist could be complete without one mention of cryptocurrency. The power of the technology is beyond simple comprehension. The need for central banks, banking, or maybe even government itself, can be replaced by cryptocurrency and blockchain technology.
The DAO for instance, a decentralized autonomous organization, is a stateless entity that gets rid of hierarchical management. The philosophy and technology behind it are similar to that of cryptocurrency which seeks to get rid of financial middlemen; decentralizing to direct relationships without the need of someone in between or higher up to facilitate them.
In the bestseller, Blockchain Revolution, Don and Alex Tapscott show How the Technology Behind Bitcoin Is Changing Money, Business, and the World. Their book is one of the best on the subject.