Recommended libertarian books

Some time ago we talked about adding a list of recommended libertarian books to the LPSF website, with a similar format to our current list of charities ("non-government solutions", where each entry is accompanied by a list of LPSF members who recommend it), and linking them to Amazon, to encourage more book sales that will earn us commissions from Amazon. I told Rob I'd volunteer to compile this list.

  So, if you have pro-freedom libertarian books you'd like to recommend, please respond to this message with your lists. If possible, include both title and author, with an eye to making sure they are spelled correctly, to avoid any confusion. I will likely be going onto Amazon and looking for the titles in order to find graphics and links when putting together the list.

  I propose to put the list in order of how many people recommend each book, with books having the same number of recommendations being listed in alphabetic order within that group. It occurred to me that perhaps we might also want to include a brief description of each book. If we do that, the next question is whether these descriptions should be straightforward descriptions, or personal testimonials from recommenders. Also, should we have a rule that people making recommendations have actually read the book in question? That might tend to give our list more validity in the eyes of potential readers, but could be too restrictive. Another question -- should we have any loose voluntary guidelines for determining what constitutes a "libertarian book"? What do you all think?

  Anyway, here are my initial recommendations of books I've actually read that would seem to fit into a fairly narrow definition of libertarian (books I would say have a pretty strongly libertarian point of view):

"Healing Our World" - Dr. Mary Ruwart
"Unintended Consequences" - John Ross
"Community Technology" - Karl Hess
"Feeling Your Pain" - James Bovard
"Atlas Shrugged" - Ayn Rand
"The Fountainhead" - Ayn Rand
"Anthem" - Ayn Rand
"1984" - George Orwell
"Animal Farm" - George Orwell
"Give Me A Break" - John Stossel
"Parliament Of Whores" - P.J. O'Rourke
"The Law" - Frederic Bastiat
"The Road To Serfdom" - Friedrich Hayek
"The First Circle" - Alexander Solzhenitsyn
"Cop To Call Girl" - Norma Jean Almodovar
"The Other Path" - Hernando de Soto
"Pallas" - L. Neil Smith
"A Drug War Carol" (graphic novel) - Susan W. Wells (illust. Scott Bieser)

  Using a broader definition (books that I think have a fairly libertarian message but are perhaps somewhat less directly libertarian -- and it's not necessarily an easy line to draw!), I would also recommend the following books I've actually read:

"The Whiskey Rebellion" - William Hogeland
"Imperium" - Robert Harris
"This Is Burning Man" - Brian Doherty
"The Grapes Of Wrath" - John Steinbeck
"The Ethical Slut" - Dossie Easton & Catherine Liszt
"Uncle Tom's Cabin" - Harriet Beecher Stowe
"Out Of Mao's Shadow" - Philip P. Pan
"Thomas Paine" - Craig Nelson
"One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" - Ken Kesey

  Books I *haven't* actually read, but would am comfortable recommending based on what I've heard or know about them or their authors, include:

"The God Of The Machine" - Isabel Patterson
"The Black Book Of Communism" - Stephane Courtois, Mark Kramer (Translator), Jonathan Murphy (Translator), Karel Bartosek, Andrzej Paczkowski, Jean-Louis Panne, Jean-Louis Margolin (Contributors)
"Human Action" - Ludvig von Mises
"For A New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto" - Murray Rothbard
"Radicals For Capitalism" - Brian Doherty
"Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical" - Chris Sciabarra
"Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do" - Peter McWilliams

  So, send in your lists and thoughts on this topic!

Love & Liberty,
        ((( starchild )))

Thanks, Starchild. I like your list, and can think of a few additions.
I'm very enthusiastic about Kevin Carson's Organization Theory: A
Libertarian Perspective. Carson's left-libertarianism should be
especially appealing in the Bay Area; Carson provocatively calls himself
a "free-market anti-capitalist." There are of course lots of economics
books, but Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson is an excellent


  Here are three that I read almost religiously when in high school/college:

    1. Man vs. the State----Herbert Spencer
    2. The State of the Union--- Albert Jay Nock
    3. Rights of Man-----Thomas Paine
  Also, Bastiat's 'Law' which was included on your list!

Thanks for your suggestions, Mike!

  By the way, for anyone submitting book recommendations, if you see books in other peoples' lists which they also wish to recommend, please include these books and their authors individually in your own list. Also, please do put your submissions in the form of a list (one per line), rather than mentioning them in a paragraph (or if you want to write some commentary about your choices, just make sure you also list them separately). Although I forgot to do this myself, putting your suggestions in alphabetical order by title is also encouraged. These practices should make it easier for me when I get around to posting the list of recommended books and tallying recommendations.

  I'd also appreciate peoples' thoughts on the questions I posed in my last message, which were:

(1) Should we include a brief description of each listed book?
(2) If so, should it be a straightforward description, or a first-person testimonial by one of the recommenders?
(3) Should people recommend only books they've actually read, or any books?
(4) Should we have any rules, or suggested guidelines, regarding what constitutes a libertarian book, or just rely on individual judgement?

  If there appears to be a lack of consensus, or not much in the way of feedback materializes, I suggest we make these questions an agenda item for the next meeting at which our agenda isn't full of more pressing matters. Personally I don't have any strong feelings one way or the other on any of the four questions, I just want to see us adopt a particular approach in order to be deliberate and consistent.

Love & Liberty,
        ((( starchild )))

Thanks, Eric! Are you submitting these books as recommended titles? Also are you a current LPSF member? You don't have to live in the city in order to be one, but I think our plan was to list books on the website recommended by members, although I could be mistaken.

Love & Liberty,
        ((( starchild )))


How can the LPSF defend its recommendation of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" as recommended reading material when Harriet Beecher Stowe, the book's author, was a racist nonpareil, who wanted Africans barred from entering America and wanted African-Americans shipped out of America to a colony in Liberia? How can the LPSF defend its position of being anti-war while simultaneously promoting the pro-war propaganda known as "Uncle Tom's Cabin"? How can the LPSF defend its position of being pro-peace while promoting a book that has, for over one hundred-and-fifty years, sparked regional hatred, regional stereotypes, racial hatred and outright ignorance of this period of American history? How can the LPSF champion sexual freedom while simultaneously promoting a book written by an author who, like Lincoln, was against amalgamation of the races? Such questions will not come from the educated-ignorant, whose knowledge of this period of American history is limited to the government-approved reading material used in classrooms throughout the country, but will present a significant challenge to the LPSF representative who encounters queries from a prospective LPSF member, whose knowledge of this period of American history goes beyond the mythology that is taught as historical fact in government schools. Forgive me if I am missing the finer points of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," as it's been decades since I read this government-approved reading material; nevertheless, because "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is a tool employed to brainwash generations of students into believing a virtuous, selfless North waged a righteous war against a morally-depraved South to free slaves and to justify the deaths of some 700,000 people and to justify the rape, pillage and total destruction of southern cities and civilians, both black and white, I strongly recommend "Uncle Tom's Cabin" not be included on the LPSF booklist.

If I'm wrong about Stowe's hatred of Africans and African-Americans and she really did have the best interests of slaves at heart, wouldn't it have been easier, more effective and far less destructive for Stowe to have pointed her self-righteous northern fingers at the northern slave-owners and northern slave-traders, who existed within her own culture, than rallying against the distant, morally-wretched southern slave owners?

After England lost control of the American colonies, all slaves who were sold to northern and southern slave-owners were sold by international slave-traders from the North, with Boston Harbor being one of the main ports-of-entry for slaves into America. At its inception, the northern 'abolition of slavery' was a measure used to prevent the entry of Africans into northern states as a strategy to benefit wage-seeking white labor. In various northern states and at least one western state, state laws prevented African-Americans from entering those states without first posting a bond that granted limited entry. This 'abolition of northern slavery' did not free existing adult-aged northern slaves; instead, they remained slaves till death or until they were freed from northern bondage and sold for profit to southern slave owners.

"Race prejudice seems stronger in those states that have abolished slavery than in those where it still exists, and nowhere is it more intolerant than in those states where slavery was never known." --Alexis De Tocqueville, “Democracy in America”

As a side note, one of the problems with the word 'radical', as in the 19th-century word 'radical abolitionist', is that some 21st-century readers, especially those with a bias toward mainstream, 21st-century American-European liberalism, will attach positive or negative meaning to the word that Stowe never intended.


Don Fields

Hello Don,

Thank you for your spirited e-mail and your contribution to the topic of books on the LPSF website. What LPSF voted to do, to make the website interesting, promote libertarian ideas, and raise a few dollars through the Amazon book program is as follows: Members of LPSF can post their own personal book favorites that they personally feel promote libertarian views. They can include one or two lines briefly describing the book, and how the book promotes libertarianism.

Therefore, LPSF as an organization, is not recommending any books. True to libertarian principles, we will try to avoid censoring the members' choices; unless the choices appear to several of us obviously having no possible redeeming value as a libertarian book.

I would say that Uncle Tom's Cabin as a libertarian book is a stretch! As I opined yesterday, so is Grapes of Wrath. However, if Starchild, who recommended both books, can in a couple of sentences briefly tell visitors to the website why these books promote libertarianism, I personally do not feel these particular books should trigger our censorship of Starchild's choice.



Dear All

I vote for Das Kapital by Karl Marx - Friedrich Engels - Serge Levitsky it's a
good primer for learning how to not like capitalism - afterall it's on the White
House book of lists.....and if it is good enough for the White House it should
be good enough for us...

Snark snark snark...

Ron Getty

Exactly, Ron! That is why I believe it is important to accompany your recommendation with a couple of lines indicating why you are recommending the book.


Dear Marcy;;

You mean - because I said so won't do??? Hunh! - read'm or else!!!

Ron Getty

Dear Ron,

No, not "because I said so", but "because I suggest so, and here is why." My thinking is 1) If we can't justify our recommendation in a couple of sentences, then the book might be a stretch as a libertarian idea, 2) Do we really want long winded justifications on the website? Does the website visitor?


Dear Marcy;

Justification? We ain't got no justification. We don't need no justification. I
don't have to show you any stinking justification.

Quote from the straight to video movie to be soon released: Treasure of the
Sierra Madre Justification......

Ron Getty

Whew!! Thank goodness this one is not colorized!!



  I'm surprised by your vehement reaction against "Uncle Tom's Cabin". As I discussed on this list at the time, I just read this book a few months ago (listened to it, technically speaking), and found it impressive. Let me see whether I can address some of your criticisms.

  First of all, my understanding is that in mid-19th century America, even caucasian people who weren't for slavery nevertheless opposed racial mixing, and that Harriet Beecher Stowe's desire to ship people of African descent back to Africa was also quite commonly held, perhaps even the majority view. I've read that Abraham Lincoln himself favored this "solution". Although repugnant by today's standards, the idea must have had a certain appealing simplicity at the time to people thinking in "us/them" group terms rather than considering people as individuals, that is to say, "We brought them over here against their will, we should just send them back where they came from." Not entirely unlike, "We marched into Iraq, we can just march out again", if there had been U.S. government soldiers in Iraq for hundreds of years instead of just seven. Both approaches dovetail nicely with the nationalist notion that this is "our" country, and that's "their" country, and each should stick to its own.

  I suspect that, as you say, the fact that it's been decades since you read this book may be unfairly coloring (forgive the pun) your perceptions of it. Stowe did not come across to me as a racist -- quite the contrary. Her African-American characters seem every bit as well-rounded and fully human as the caucasian characters. Nor can I think of any way in which the book promotes negative regional stereotypes. There are sympathetic white southern characters, and the hypocrisy of northern opposition to slavery in conjunction with northern racism is not at all overlooked. Stowe herself spent time living in the South (Florida), and her father a preacher was strongly affected by pro-slavery riots where they lived in the north (Ohio), according to her Wikipedia entry (

  Nowhere in "Uncle Tom's Cabin" that I recall is violence against slave-owners ever used, nor is war ever promoted. In fact the book has a strongly pacifist Christian message, with Quakers being positively portrayed, and the characters depicted as most good and noble shown responding to injustice with kindness and forbearance rather than opposing it with force (hence the negative way in which 'Uncle Tom' has come to be seen as a name to apply to those who are toadying sell-outs).

  In short, I would encourage you to give Stowe's polemic anti-slavery novel another look, and not rely on public perceptions or how it has been used politically.

Love & Liberty,
        ((( starchild )))