We present a series of recommended reading for anyone to understand and appreciate the classical liberalism philosophy and economics underlying the Libertarian Party. This includes a broad view of what a Libertarian should know, from anarchist theory to more conventional ideas on minimal government, as well as historical and strategic views on politics and power from other perspectives.
Where possible, we include an online reading or PDF download link in each title. Newer works typically are not available for free download and we link to an example of an online store record in those cases.
INTRODUCTION TO LIBERTARIANISM
An Introduction to the Libertarian Party – Wes Benedict
“For Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Independents, and Everyone Else.” The central thesis to this text, written by the executive director of the Libertarian Party is, “don’t hit people and don’t take their stuff.” Benedict here notes that the Non-Aggression Principle cherished by Libertarians is founded upon the property rights championed by John Locke.
The Libertarian Mind – David Boaz
Written by the long executive vice-president of the Cato Institute, this book provides a contemporary view on the classic ideas of libertarian philosophy – that of personal and economic freedom.
Why Liberty – Tom Palmer
A collection of student essays on libertarianism, this compendium is an introductory text for those who wish to gain an understanding of the Libertarian Party platform.
FREEDOM! – Adam Kokesh
Kokesh may be a controversial figure in many circles, but this text is a solid introduction to the basic concept of a truly voluntary society, stripping away the pretensions of the state.
The Declaration of Independence
A powerful statement of liberty castigating the abuses of the British government against the American colonies and affirming the natural right of secession from tyranny.
A Summary of the Rights of British America – Thomas Jefferson
Written when Jefferson was but 31 years of age, this pamphlet propelled Jefferson to fame and established him as a thought leader in the time of the Revolution. Lamenting the abuses of British power in Colonial America, Jefferson argued for a return to the core values of Anglo-American culture.
The Federalist Papers
A series of speeches and essays by the advocates of the Constitution that elaborate upon the essential elements of the newly drafted federal Constitution, and demonstrated the intent of the Framers.
The Anti-Federalist Papers
A series of speeches and essays by the opponents of the Constitution that identify potential flaws and opportunities for tyranny within the federal Constitution, some of which were addressed by the Bill of Rights and some of which were not and have now come to pass.
The Law – Frédéric Bastiat
A pamphlet published by the noted French economist and statesman in reaction to the 1848 revolutions in Europe, rebutting the fallacies of socialism and describing its inevitable decay into authoritarian communism.
On Liberty – John Stuart Mill
The quintessential text of liberalism, influencing both classical and modern liberal thought.
Second Treatise of Government – John Locke
Another seminal work in liberal political philosophy, this text formed the foundation of American society by asserting the protection of property rights as an essential function of government to protect individual liberty.
History of Political Philosophy – Leo Strauss
A massive tome, this monumental work provides a sound understanding of the works of our greatest political thinkers throughout the ages. This text covers the full spectrum of political philosophy, not just classical liberalism.
The Prince – Niccolo Machiavelli
Given that this is one of the most infamous works on political philosophy, spawning the term “Machiavellian,” you might be surprised at the ethics and relative pragmatism actually described in the text. While hardly libertarian in theory, this work explores the nature of a state ruler and advocates against excessive force and infringements on liberty as a practical matter.
Leviathan – Thomas Hobbes
Another famous work of political philosophy, this text paints a bleak picture of human nature left unchecked. It is a fundamentally anti-libertarian work that makes the case for an authoritarian state and a “social contract” to justify it. Modern dictatorships and authoritarian republics alike rely on Hobbesian philosophy, so it is important to understand.
For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto – Murray Rothbard
Written by one of the key figures underlying the modern liberty movement, this book proposes a once-and-for-all escape from the two major political parties, the ideologies they embrace, and their central plans for using state power against people. Libertarianism is Rothbard’s radical alternative that says state power is unworkable and immoral and ought to be curbed and finally abolished.
The Ethics of Liberty – Murray Rothbard
Another significant work from Rothbard, this book makes the case that every interference with property represents a violent and unethical invasion that diminishes liberty and prosperity. The conclusion is quite radical: Rothbard argues that the state should not exist at all. This and related works are necessary to understand the views of anarcho-capitalists within the Libertarian Party.
Vices are not Crimes: A Vindication of Moral Liberty – Lysander Spooner
Written by a famous anarchist and abolitionist, this point paper makes the case that is it unethical for the state to enforce laws against victimless crimes – “vices.”
A New Dawn for America: The Libertarian Challenge – Roger MacBride
Written by a former Libertarian candidate for the presidency, this short book expounds upon the Libertarian Party platform and is as true today as it was when it was written in 1976.
Beyond Democracy – Karel Beckman and Frank Karsten
This book challenges the mainstream consensus that democracy is the pinnacle of political organization. The authors make the case that that democracy, in contrast to popular belief, does not lead to freedom, civilization, prosperity, peace, and the rule of law, but the opposite: to loss of freedom, social conflict, runaway government spending, a lower standard of living and the subversion of individual rights. They offer as an alternative a society based on individual freedom and voluntary social relations.
US AND WORLD GOVERNMENT
Tragedy & Hope 101: The Illusion of Justice, Freedom and Democracy – Joseph Plummer
Ever wonder why deeply unpopular policies enjoy bipartisan support and survive from administration to administration? Based on the research of respected historian Carroll Quigley, Tragedy and Hope 101 reveals an unimaginably devious political system, skillfully manipulated by a handful of elite, which is undermining freedom and democracy as we know it.
The Revolution: A Manifesto – Ron Paul
This book provides a stinging rebuke of the current system of politics in the US, calling out that there is very little difference between most mainstream candidates for president, thus leaving them to argue about little more than who said what when. Ron Paul also makes the case for true free trade as opposed to the conventional managed trade agreements.
They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-1945 – Milton Mayer
This book takes a close and personal look into the democratic rise of fascism and national socialism in 20th century Germany, humanizing a political setting that most see as a remote and ultimate evil.
Creating the New City of Sandy Springs: A 21st Century Paradigm – Oliver Porter
This book covers how the city of Sandy Springs, Georgia was founded in 2005 without any public funding allocated. It explores how contracting and private industry was used to develop the infrastructure of the city in the context of the residents’ discontent with Fulton County services prior to incorporation.
Public/Private Partnerships for Local Government – Oliver Porter
This book explores the broader concept of how contracting and partnerships with private industry can be used to provide municipal services through a competitive bidding process. It uses Sandy Springs, Georgia as the model to show that private industry can be used for all aspects of city services, with the exception (for Georgia constitutional reasons) of public safety.
Economics in One Lesson – Henry Hazlitt
A key introduction to economics targeted at non-economists, written by a disciple of free market economist Ludwig von Mises.
An Inquiry into Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations – Adam Smith
The essential text on free market economics, better known simply as “The Wealth of Nations,” which establishes the fundamental principles of capitalism and free markets within the framework of classical liberalism.
Eat the Rich: A Treatise on Economics – P.J. O’Rourke
With his typical irreverent flair, P. J. O’Rourke leads you on an hysterical whirlwind world tour from the “good capitalism” of Wall Street to the “bad socialism” of Cuba in search of the answer to an age-old question: “Why do some places prosper and thrive, while others just suck?” Despite (or maybe because of) the humor, it is a serious economic text that backs up the claim to be “A Treatise on Economics.”
Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy – Thomas Sowell
Thomas Sowell presents a deep dive into free market economics in plain language. He addresses everything from incentives and the role of prices, to international trade, monetary policy, and the banking system. Sowell shows how so many government programs, enacted with the best of intentions, run afoul of simple economic truths and, as a result, often do far more harm than good.
The Creature from Jekyll Island – G. Edward Griffin
A book framed as a detective story that traces the history of the Federal Reserve, revealing how the American government has used the Reserve as a way to deceive taxpayers and control the global economy.Where does money come from? Where does it go? Who makes it? The money magicians’ secrets are unveiled. Here is a close look at their mirrors and smoke machines, the pulleys, cogs, and wheels that create the grand illusion called money.
Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis – Ludwig von Mises
Exactly what it says in the cover – a thorough critique of socialist economics and their impossibility to execute in practice. He asserts that a centrally planned system cannot substitute some other form of economic calculation for market prices, because no such alternative exists. Mises also offers a defense of free market economics against common socialist critiques.
The Road to Serfdom – Friedrich Hayek
Hayek’s classic work makes a passionate case that every step away from the free market is a compromise undermining liberty and that free market capitalism is the only economic system compatible with human dignity and prosperity.
The Machinery of Freedom – David Friedman
Friedman introduces in his text a practical view of anarcho-capitalism – a truly private society without a state – arguing from a “consequentialist” perspective that the state is both unnecessary for achieving a desirable society and that it in fact makes the world worse through its actions. He presents a “grab bag” of ideas to dismantle to state piece by piece. While not all (perhaps not even most) Libertarians are anarchists, understanding anarcho-capitalism is critical to understanding the guiding star for libertarianism.
The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves – Matt Ridley
Matt Ridley counters the prevailing pessimism and cynicism of our current day with a refreshing view on human progress. Fundamentally, this book is about the key role of trade, and especially free trade, in enabling progress and a better standard of living.
The Book of Satoshi – Phil Champagne
The founder of Bitcoin is as virtual as his (or their?) currency. This books collects all the known writings of the individual or group known as Satoshi Nakamoto, and provides the fundamentals of Bitcoin technology targeted at non-technical laymen.
MILITARY AND FOREIGN POLICY
The Art of War – Sun Tzu
The classic Chinese text on military tactics and strategy, still as true today as it was 2500 years ago.
On War – Carl von Clausewitz
Written by an officer in the Prussian Army during the Napoleonic Wars, this text is at the heart of American military policy.
The Clausewitz Delusion: How the American Army Screwed Up the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – Stephen Melton
Written by a retired US Army officer, this book criticizes the US Army’s uncritical reliance on Clausewitz’s military philosophy, tactics, and strategy which led to operationally sound yet strategically disastrous results during the Bush and Obama administrations.
The Influence of Sea Power on History: 1663-1780 – Alfred Mahan
It is impossible to overstate the influence of this text on the US Navy. In this book, Mahan advocates for a strong navy by analyzing the historical influence of sea power on foreign policy.
The 48 Laws of Power – Robert Greene
“Amoral, cunning, ruthless, and instructive, The 48 Laws of Power is the definitive manual for anyone interested in gaining, observing, or defending against ultimate control. ” This book is a distillation of many of our other recommended works on power into 48 essential laws.
War is a Racket – Major General Smedley Butler
A blunt deconstruction of the glory of war from a Marine officer. To quote the opening lines: “WAR is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.”
The Terror Timeline – Paul Thompson
“Year by Year, Day by Day, Minute by Minute: A Comprehensive Chronicle of the Road to 9/11–and America’s Response.” This book explores the many converging threads that led to the 9/11 terrorist attack and its aftermath.
Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand
“Who is John Galt?” This massive book has been an inspiration to many to discover libertarian ideals. Set in a dystopian collectivist future (not unusual for Rand’s works) it primarily serves as a platform for Rand to present her philosophy of Objectivism – rational selfishness. While Objectivism and much of what Rand presents remain controversial and polarizing to this day, it is an unabashed advocate for free markets and capitalism.
Live Free or Die – John Ringo
This book is a science fiction tale that explores alien first contact in the near future in a context drawing a lot of inspiration from the losing side of European imperialism. The author’s libertarian ideals, as demonstrated by the main character, are blatant yet refreshing, and offer a sharp indictment of business as usual in Washington DC. The second and third books of the series somewhat diverge from the libertarian themes but are still enjoyable science fiction.
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress – Robert Heinlein
A science fiction classic, this book is noted for exploring libertarian ideals via the plot of a lunar independence movement – including a computer technician, an agitator, an academic, and a rogue A.I. – revolting from Earth control.