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Introducing The Free Man's Library

July 23, 2009

Tags EducationFree MarketsMedia and CultureEntrepreneurship

The Free Man's Library is a descriptive and critical bibliography of works on the philosophy of individualism. I have applied the term "individualism" in a broad sense. The bibliography includes books which explain the processes and advantages of free trade, free enterprise and free markets; which recognize the evils of excessive state power; and which champion the cause of individual freedom of worship, speech and thought. Such a compilation seemed to me to be increasingly urgent because so few writers and speakers on public questions today reveal any idea of the wealth, depth and breadth of the literature of freedom. What threatens us today is not merely the outright totalitarian philosophies of fascism and communism, but the increasing drift of thought in the totalitarian direction. Many people today who complacently think of themselves as "middle-of-the-roaders" have no conception of the extent to which they have already taken over statist, socialist, and collectivist assumptions — assumptions which, if logically followed out, must inevitably carry us further and further down the totalitarian road.

One of the crowning ironies of the present era, in fact, is that it is precisely, especially in America, the people who flatteringly refer to themselves as "liberals" who have forgotten or repudiated the essence of the true liberal tradition. The typical butts of their ridicule are such writers as Adam Smith, Bastiat, Cobden ("the Manchester School"), and Herbert Spencer. Whatever errors any of these writers may have been guilty of individually, they were among the chief architects of true liberalism. Yet our modern "progressives" now refer to this whole philosophy contemptuously as "laissez faire." They present a grotesque caricature of it in order to refute it to their own satisfaction, and then go on to advocate more and more governmental power, more centralization of government in Washington, fewer and fewer powers for the States or localities, more and more power for the President, more and more discretionary power for an appointed bureaucracy, and less and less power for Congress, which is usually ridiculed by our self-styled "liberals," and given to understand that its sole function is to "support the President" — in other words, to act as a rubber stamp. And none of this group seem to recognize that they differ from the totalitarians only in that the totalitarians want unlimited government power, complete centralization, unlimited power in the President or "Leader," and no legislature at all except as window-dressing, or as sycophants to proclaim the greatness of the Leader.

This present-day reversal of the traditional vocabulary in itself sets up great obstacles to the compilation of a bibliography of freedom. But these difficulties and obstacles go much further, of course, than those created by a reversal in the popular meaning of the word "liberalism." "Oh, Liberty!" Madame Roland is said to have exclaimed as she passed a statue to that goddess on her way to the guillotine, "what crimes are committed in thy name!" Looking at the world today, we are tempted to stress the intellectual crimes committed in the name of liberty as much as the moral crimes. Never were men more ardent in defense of "liberty" than they are today; but never were there more diverse concepts of what constitutes true liberty. Many of today's writers who are most eloquent in their arguments for liberty in fact preach philosophies that would destroy it. It seems to be typical of the books of our intelligentsia to praise one kind of liberty incessantly while disparaging or ridiculing another kind. The liberty that they so rightly praise is the liberty of thought and expression. But the liberty that they so foolishly denounce is economic liberty. They dismiss this contemptuously as "laissez faire" — a phrase, as I have already pointed out, which they almost always use in a merely invidious rather than in any seriously descriptive sense. In fact, no literature is more soaked in semantics than that concerning freedom. "Freedom" and "liberty" are the honorific terms for the liberties that the particular writer is defending; "laissez faire" or "license" are the disparaging terms for the liberties he is decrying.

Unfortunately the authors who have fallen into this practice include some of the finest minds of our generation. (I think particularly of Bertrand Russell and the late Morris Cohen.) Such writers seem to me to be at least in part reflecting an occupational bias. Being writers and thinkers, they are acutely aware of the importance of liberty of writing and thinking. But they seem to attach scant value to economic liberty because they think of it not as applying to themselves but to businessmen. Such a judgment may be uncharitable; but it is certainly fair to say that they misprize economic liberty because, in spite of their brilliance in some directions, they lack the knowledge or understanding to recognize that when economic liberties are abridged or destroyed all other liberties are abridged or destroyed with them. "Power over a man's subsistence," as Alexander Hamilton reminded us, "is power over his will." And if we wish a more modern authority, we can quote no less a one than Leon Trotsky, the colleague of Lenin, who in 1937, in a moment of candor, pointed out clearly that, "In a country where the sole employer is the State, opposition means death by slow starvation: The old principle: who does not work shall not eat, has been replaced by a new one: who does not obey shall not eat."

Liberty is a whole, and to deny economic liberty is finally to destroy all liberty. Socialism is irreconcilable with freedom. This is the lesson that most of our modern philosophers and littérateurs have yet to learn.

I write all this to explain why certain books which some readers might expect to find in this compilation will not be found here. They may say some eloquent and even true things about liberty; but their net influence is not on the side of liberty. The test I have tried to apply here is whether any book, regardless of the reservations I may personally have on the position it takes on this issue or that, is still on net balance on the side of true liberty.

I have long contemplated a compilation like the present one. But I kept postponing the task because it seemed too formidable. My hesitation was broken at last when a friend informed me of the existence of a 95-page pamphlet published by the Individualist Book Shop of London in 1927, which might be the kind of bibliography I had in mind. I immediately sent to London for this book, and quite as promptly received a copy from Miss Marjorie Franklin, General Secretary of The Society for Individual Freedom. Miss Franklin warned me, however, that not only had the pamphlet been long out of print, but that I was getting a "precious file copy." I read this pamphlet with satisfaction and delight. If it could not be republished simply as it stood, it was at least the ideal nucleus to build around. It was both scholarly and penetrating; its standards of selection were at once discriminating and catholic; its judgments were sound, and it was written with charm.

The pamphlet was anonymous; but I learned by inquiry that it had been prepared by Professor W. H. Hutt, the British economist, now Dean of the Faculty of Commerce at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Professor Hutt informed me in correspondence, however, that while he was responsible for the greater part of the pamphlet he "did everything in collaboration with" the late Francis W. Hirst, the well-known British Liberal and former editor of The London Economist, "and if there is any acknowledgment in the preface, his name should be mentioned as well as mine."

This compilation and discussion for the Individualist Bookshop had only one major defect: it was more than a quarter of a century old. But this defect, it seemed to me at first, could very easily be remedied. It would simply be necessary to drop one or two score of its 166 entries (because they were books now obsolete or superseded), to shorten the comments on some of the rest, and to add a score or two of entries to cover the important libertarian books that had been published in the nearly thirty years since 1927.

The work of elimination proved no more difficult than I had supposed. But the work of addition took on a far different aspect. I was surprised to find, for example, that even some of the classics of freedom and individualism — the relevant works, say, of Milton, Montesquieu, Burke, de Tocqueville and Lord Acton — had been omitted. These gaps were of course easily filled. Much more formidable was the task of selecting from the mass of books published since 1927.

This raised many problems. I will expand on only one by way of illustration. This was the problem of whether to include or exclude the more important works that have appeared in the last quarter-century denouncing the immorality or warning against the internal or external perils of communism. The Hutt pamphlet had been mainly devoted to books expounding the positive philosophy of freedom and individualism. Yet it had freely listed the books primarily critical of socialism. On the same principle there was every reason for including the books critical of communism. The two terms were used by Karl Marx, in fact, interchangeably. The Russian Communists still call their domain the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Communism is not merely the logical and inevitable end-product of socialism; it is also another name for a socialism that is really complete. We must subscribe, in short, to the definition of Bernard Shaw that "A communist is nothing but a socialist with the courage of his convictions."

Yet the decision to add the leading anti-communist books not only swelled the dimensions of this bibliography, but presented a problem of another kind. The authors who attack socialism have generally based their criticism on the explicit premises of a free, competitive, private enterprise. But probably a good half of the books of the last quarter-century which attack communism do so on the basis of socialist assumptions. They attack Russian communism as a "betrayal" of true socialism. (The works of Arthur Koestler are an outstanding example.) They attack even Stalinism as a betrayal of "true Leninism." In fact, most of the best known anti-communist books, including some that are admirable in other respects, attack the end-product without seeming to realize that it is socialist ideals that inevitably create this end-product. The authors of these books attack the despotism in Russia, for example, without recognizing that you cannot carry out the centralized economic planning of socialism without despotism. They attack the communist suppression of freedom of speech and thought without recognizing that once you give government complete power over jobs and employment — the power to promote or demote, to hire or fire, to say, in short, whether a man is to live or starve — you at the same time give government complete power to control or suppress speech and thought. They fail to recognize that in prescribing the means they are prescribing the end. They fail to recognize that the immorality and the intellectual and spiritual suppression that they denounce flow inevitably out of the centralized economic planning and governmental omnipotence that they applaud.

Yet some anti-communist books of disillusioned communists who are still socialists or planners are among the most eloquent and powerful denunciations that have yet been written on the end-products of communism. I have therefore decided to include them, often accompanied by a warning against acceptance of their premises.

This decision to include anti-communist volumes, as I have indicated, created as many problems as it solved. It substantially increased the length of this book. I soon found that by adding one book after another to my list I had raised the number of entries from 166 in the original Hutt bibliography, notwithstanding my numerous omissions from it, to a new total of more than 550. As a result of these inclusions other decisions were forced upon me. My original purpose had been to offer my own judgments of all the works included, except when I was satisfied with those given in the Hutt pamphlet. But as my ideas expanded concerning the volumes that ought to be included I was forced by sheer growth of number to fall back in many cases, as the reader will see, on the judgments of others. This decision was forced for a double reason. It was as impracticable as it would have been supererogatory to read through from cover to cover each of the 400 or so additional volumes listed in order to write a half-dozen lines about it. I found, in addition, that even where I had read a substantial part of a book, or even where I had read it through — but years ago — my present memory did not leave me with sufficient confidence in my own judgment of it. In these cases I have fallen back upon critics whose judgments seem to me to deserve confidence, or writers who have spoken with special authority or justness on the book in question. In some cases I have also added such judgments in the hope of reinforcing my own.

By following this eclectic procedure I have of course lost whatever advantages might have accrued in the following compilation from a completely uniform style and uniform standard of judgment. But such a disadvantage, it seems to me, is more than compensated by greater comprehensiveness than I could otherwise have achieved. And I early decided that the application of a uniform standard was in any case next to impossible. The reader will find in the following compilation books of very different "weights." He will find the works of Locke and Adam Smith and Mill cheek by jowl with modern books just out last year. He will find the works of the great pioneers and trail blazers next to popularizations written mainly for beginners. I do not know how this kind of heterogeneous mixture can be avoided if this book is to fulfill the functions for which it is designed. For it is designed to guide the reader not merely to the great classics on liberty and individualism, but to introductory works.

A further word should be said here regarding the standards I have applied in deciding whether or not a given work should be included in this compilation. I already see myself being buttonholed occasionally by some angry reader who asks: "Why on earth did you include Pumpernickel's book in your bibliography? Don't you know that on page 155 he writes this outrageous sentence — ?" And then my questioner will probably quote or misquote some pronouncement that I do not at all feel like defending. In an effort to answer as many as possible of such objections in advance, I should like to say here that the inclusion of a book in this bibliography certainly does not imply that I myself subscribe to every doctrine or sentence in that book or that I think every opinion it enunciates is an essential part of the libertarian or individualist tradition. What inclusion does imply is that in my judgment the book, to repeat what I have said earlier, makes on net balance a factual or theoretical contribution to the philosophy of individualism, and that at least some readers may derive from it a fuller understanding of that philosophy.

The inclusion of any book in this list, in brief, implies recommendation. Therefore, with few exceptions, I have confined myself to making or quoting comments which emphasize the merits of a book rather than its defects. A primer, for example, may ably serve its modest purpose without necessarily constituting a major contribution to the subject with which it deals. A book may contain, in parts, collectivist or confused thinking and still be one from which a student of liberty could greatly profit. In my comments, therefore, I have tried to keep reservations, misgivings and objections to a minimum.

Nor is the reader to take the amount of space devoted to the discussion of any book as a necessary measure of my own judgment regarding its relative merit or importance. A classic may be so well known, and there may be so many sources from which a reader can learn about it, that a few lines of comment may be sufficient for the purpose of this bibliography. Another work, less meritorious and less important, may yet rightly, for some special reason, call for longer comment. But I cannot do better here than to quote with approval a footnote in the Hutt bibliography on the lengthy entries under the name of Auberon Herbert: "It may seem incongruous to give far more space to Auberon Herbert than to Locke or Bentham. But the object of making this list is to put information before the student, and, if important matter is neglected or inaccessible, it needs more space than is required by works known, by name at least, to 'every schoolboy.'"

With some reluctance, however, I have made it a general rule to exclude pamphlets from my list, notwithstanding the many admirable ones that have appeared in recent years. I have done this not only because their inclusion would have swollen this bibliography far beyond useful dimensions, but because it is usually so difficult for readers to obtain pamphlets, particularly after they have been allowed to fall out of print, that their inclusion might too often merely arouse a curiosity that could not be satisfied. I must add, in fact, that in spite of my general rule against including pamphlets, I have felt simply compelled to make a few exceptions because of their outstanding importance.

This points to one of the insoluble problems of the bibliographer in dealing with practically any great subject. He finds it next to impossible to draw sharp boundaries, to be completely consistent, to defend confidently his every inclusion or omission. If he tries to make his list "complete," his task becomes a labor of Sisyphus; and even if he were to succeed, his list would be unmanageable and useless to most readers. If he makes his bibliography "selective," he is inevitably accused of being arbitrary or capricious in his selections.

I became increasingly conscious of this dilemma as my work proceeded. I am aware that for a great number of readers the more than 550 entries here may seem more bewildering than helpful. The device of marking with an asterisk those books "specially recommended" would, I fear, have created more problems than it solved. Therefore, for the sake of those who would appreciate the guidance of a shorter list, I have resorted to a practice that has become a traditional annual event with many American book reviewers, and drama and motion picture critics. I have compiled a list of "the best ten." This, of course, adds the limitations of an arbitrary number to the other arbitrary factors in selection. To make my task just a little less provocative of indignation, I have in fact compiled two lists of ten — first, the "ten best" historic classics on liberty and individualism; and secondly, the "ten best" contemporary works.

Here is the list of "classics" in chronological order:

  • John Milton, Areopagetica
  • John Locke, Second Treatise on Government
  • David Hume, Essays Moral, Political and Literary
  • Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations
  • Edmund Burke, Works
  • Frederic Bastiat, Economic Sophisms
  • Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America
  • John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
  • Herbert Spencer, The Man vs. the State
  • Lord Acton, Essays on Freedom and Power

Here are the "ten best" contemporary works, in alphabetical order:

If the reader is tempted to smile at the presumption and crudity of selecting a list of the "ten best" works in this field, either classic or contemporary, he may at least be assured that I smile with him. If he is unhappy about the particular selection even within the arbitrary number of ten, I may add that I am a little unhappy about it myself — though perhaps not for his reasons.

In restricting the list of classics to ten, I have been forced to leave out Montesquieu's Spirit of the Laws, the writings of Jefferson, the speeches of Cobden, Calhoun's A Disquisition on Government, the writings of Jacob Burckhardt, and the essays of William Graham Sumner — all of which would have been included had my list been slightly larger, and one or two of which, no doubt, some readers will think should have been included in my list of ten at the expense of one or two already there.

I am sorry that in the case of Burke I have felt compelled to list his collected works rather than any particular book or speech. This is because his finest aphorisms and most luminous passages on liberty are scattered throughout his work and have not been satisfactorily extracted and collected, to my knowledge, in any single volume. Many of us have been brought up to believe that, although Burke may have begun as a liberal (as exemplified in his speech on Conciliation with America), he ended as a vehement reactionary (as in his Reflections on the Revolution in France). Yet any open-minded reader, even though he is opposed to Burke's main conclusions on the French Revolution, as William Hazlitt so strongly was, will agree with the latter that "in arriving at one error [Burke] discovered a hundred truths." Therefore, Hazlitt considered himself "a hundred times more indebted to [Burke] than if, stumbling on that which I consider as the right side of the question, he had committed a hundred absurdities in striving to establish his point." We, too, I think, must agree, as Hazlitt did, with the judgment that in political philosophy Burke "was the most eloquent man of his time; and his wisdom was greater than his eloquence."

Burke in his later years was certainly a conservative; and the prominent inclusion of his works in a bibliography of freedom may seem to some readers, accustomed to associate the case for freedom with the case for "liberalism," to call for explanation. But there is no necessary conflict between intelligent conservatism and real liberalism. On the contrary, at least in the peculiar climate and conditions of the present age, they have come to mean nearly the same thing.

Historically, the liberals fought against government tyranny: against governmental abridgment of freedom of speech and action; against governmental restrictions on agriculture, manufacture, and trade; against constant detailed governmental regulation, interference and harassment at a hundred points; against (to use the phrases of the Declaration of Independence) "a multitude of new offices" and "swarms of officers"; against concentration of governmental power, particularly in the person of one man; against government by whim and favoritism. Historic liberalism called, on the other hand, for the Rule of Law, and for equality before the law. The older conservatives opposed many or most of these liberal demands because they believed in existing governmental interferences and sweeping governmental powers; or because they wished to retain their own special privileges and prerogatives; or simply because they were temperamentally fearful of altering the status quo, whatever it happened to be.

Those who flatteringly call themselves "liberals" today, and to whom confused opponents allow or even assign the name, are for nearly everything that the old liberals opposed. Most self-styled present-day "liberals," particularly in America, are urging the constant extension of government "planning." They constantly press for a greater concentration of governmental power, whether in the central government at the expense of the States and localities, or in the hands of a one-man executive at the expense of any check, limitation, or even investigation by a legislature. And they look with favor on an ever-growing bureaucracy, and on the spread of bureaucratic discretion at the expense of a Rule of Law. Those who oppose this trend toward a new despotism, on the other hand, and plead for the preservation of the ancient freedoms of the individual, are today's conservatives. The intelligent conservative, in brief, is today the true defender of liberty.

This conclusion should not seem too paradoxical. It was always possible to reconcile intelligent conservatism with real liberalism. There is no conflict between wishing to conserve and hold the precious gains that have been achieved in the past, which is the aim of the true conservative, and wishing to carry those achievements even further, which is the aim of the true liberal. Burke not only recognized that these two aims were compatible; he summed up that compatibility in one of his memorable aphorisms: "A disposition to preserve and an ability to improve, taken together, would be my standard of the statesman."

Let us go on, after this long digression, to consider the list I have put forward of the "ten best" contemporary books on the philosophy of individualism.

My contemporary list is even more unsatisfactory to me than my historic one, especially in what I am forced to exclude. My reasons for including each of the twenty books in the two lists will be found under the entry for that book in the bibliography that follows. However, I should perhaps say a word in explanation of the fact that there are three entries under the name of Professor Hayek. Hayek's The Road to Serfdom is the most acute and impressive analysis of the modern drift to totalitarianism that has been written in our time. It deserves a place in any contemporary list, no matter how short. His essays collected under the title of Individualism and Economic Order have been included in the list chiefly because of the leading essay, Individualism: True and False, which no open-minded individualist can read without having his ideas enlarged and clarified; for true individualism certainly does not consist in mere eccentricity, intransigence, or contempt for voluntary social cooperation. It is the mistaken association of these qualities with "individualism" that has given that philosophy a dubious reputation with many who would otherwise be won to it. Professor Hayek is not the author of the third volume, Economics and the Historians; he is simply the editor and one of the contributors. The selection of this short book from among some excellent economic histories is perhaps arbitrary; but it performs, better than any other work I know of, the negative function of informing the reader how grossly some of the most celebrated economic historians of the last half century or more have misrepresented the meaning of the Industrial Revolution and the growth of capitalism.

Those who think my contemporary list unbalanced can substitute for Hayek's Individualism and Economic Order, say, Max Eastman's Reflections on the Failure of Socialism, or Walter Lippmann's The Good Society (at least the first half of that book).

To offer an abbreviated list of "best" books is one thing; to suggest a "reading course" is quite another. It is not always advisable for the novice to begin with the masterpieces; he must be educated to the point where he can understand and appreciate them. But this is a subjective problem in which no two readers are likely to be in precisely the same position; and the ideal reading program should be individually tailored to fit a particular reader's requirements. A major purpose of the present extensive bibliography, in fact, is to act as a guide to the reader in making his own individual choices. The tyro will learn more or faster from one set of books, the proficient from another.

Bearing in mind these reservations, however, some readers may still find it helpful if I suggest at least one "introductory course." Fortunately this task is not too difficult, because the finest books of the past and present are usually as distinguished for lucidity as for wisdom. So even an introductory course could easily be built exclusively from our two lists of the "ten best." An introductory course of five books, for example, might be this: The reader might begin with (1) a contemporary book, F.A. Hayek's The Road to Serfdom. He might then read in this order: (2) John Stuart Mill's classic essay On Liberty; (3) Ludwig von Mises' Socialism; (4) Hayek's essay Individualism: True and False, or Max Eastman's Reflections on the Failure of Socialism; and (5) Ludwig von Mises's Human Action.

The most formidable books on the foregoing list, in length and difficulty, are the two volumes by von Mises. For readers to whom this program may seem too arduous or ambitious, therefore, I suggest this introductory list of only three books, each short and relatively simple: (1) Hayek's The Road to Serfdom; (2) Mill's Liberty; (3) von Mises's short collection of essays, Planning for Freedom.

The reader should be able to steer his own course from there on, a process in which I hope this bibliography will still prove helpful.

The main purpose of this bibliography, to repeat what has already been said in substance, is to bring to the attention of the modern reader the most important, useful or available books in the true liberal tradition — the tradition of free trade, free enterprise, free markets; of limited and decentralized government; of freedom of speech, of religion, of the press, and of assembly; of security of person and private property — the tradition, in brief, of the freedom and dignity of the individual.

Now this tradition, rich and deep and noble as it is, is being treated by most present-day intellectuals almost as if it had never existed. When they speak of it, they usually speak merely of some grotesque caricature in their own minds, which they contemptuously dismiss as "laissez faire" or "the Manchester School." Yet as Friedrich Hayek has pointed out in The Road to Serfdom (p. 13), what the modern trend to socialism means "becomes clear if we consider it not merely against the background of the nineteenth-century, but in a longer historical perspective. We are rapidly abandoning not merely the views of Cobden and Bright, of Adam Smith and Hume, or even of Locke and Milton, but indeed one of the salient characteristics of Western civilization as it has grown from the foundations laid by Christianity and the Greeks and Romans. Not merely nineteenth- and eighteenth-century liberalism, but the basic individualism inherited by us from Erasmus and Montaigne, from Cicero and Tacitus, Pericles and Thucydides, is progressively relinquished."

This bibliography, I hope, will help to clarify as well as to mobilize the case for individualism and true liberalism. It is designed to strengthen individualists in their knowledge and convictions, to place in their hands the intellectual weapons that will help them to combat the totalitarian trend. It is designed, also, to call attention to the richness of the truly liberal tradition, to the excellent books and the many noble minds that have helped to shape it.

But this compilation would fail of part of its purpose if it gave readers the impression that the literature of freedom and individualism is already so rich that it does not need to be supplemented and expanded. On the contrary, there are deplorable gaps in this literature, particularly in recent writing. It would take me too far out of my way to try to call attention in detail to these gaps. The task, moreover, would be odious. Frankly, I have occasionally included a book in the following list because, in spite of serious shortcomings, it happens to be the only book which covers some special subject from the libertarian point of view. But it is my hope that this bibliography will indirectly call attention to some existing gaps, and thereby stimulate the writing of better books to fill them.

It is partly, in fact, in the hope that it may encourage translations that I have listed a number of books in French and German that have not yet been made available in English.

A similar hope may be expressed about pamphlets. There are many of the first rank, some by the same author, some on different phases of the same subject, that urgently need to be brought together and made permanently available in book form.

As a final word, I must emphasize again my sad discovery that a bibliographer's lot is not a happy one. If he is "selective," his selections are likely to be called arbitrary, subjective and capricious. If he seeks to be "comprehensive," his troubles multiply beyond counting. In the present case, I have been constantly troubled by the problem of exactly where to draw my boundary lines. This is essentially a bibliography on the philosophy of individual freedom. A few economic classics and a few contemporary economic analyses and textbooks are included because they either explicitly or by logical implication support this philosophy. But other economic volumes, which considered purely as technical economic analysis are as good as, or perhaps in some respects even better, than some of those included, have been omitted either because most of their discussion is only remotely relevant to a libertarian philosophy or may even veer off to support a socialist or statist philosophy. Yet between the easily classifiable cases there are any number of borderline cases in which the decision to include or exclude is very difficult and cannot fail to be in some respects arbitrary.

An essential part of the philosophy of individualism, again, is the doctrine of the Rule of Law. This calls for the inclusion of some works on jurisprudence. But at exactly what point does one stop? And so for a score of other fields. The philosophy of individualism can be reflected in works on jurisprudence, on administrative law, on politics, on ethics, on general economics, on agriculture, on labor relations, on interest rates, on money and banking policy, and so on. How much weight should one attach to the technical excellence or importance of works of this type in their special fields as compared with that of an individualistic philosophy which may merely be implied in such works?

I have found no satisfactory answer to questions of this sort, no clear-cut pigeonholes that satisfy my bibliographic conscience. In any case, the process of compiling a critical bibliography is at best an art and can never be reduced to an exact science. It is at the mercy of accident and subject to the limitations of the compiler. I shall not be completely astonished to find, for example, after this book has been printed and bound beyond alteration, that I have omitted an entry or two from sheer oversight. In still other cases, when some kind lady corners me at a social gathering and asks with a puzzled expression, "Why did you leave Professor X's book out of your list?", I may have to reply, as the great Samuel Johnson had the courage to do to a woman who asked him to account for an error in his dictionary: "Ignorance, madame. Pure ignorance."

Fortunately for readers and writers alike, a book not free from shortcomings may still perform a useful and necessary function; and it is in the belief that this volume will prove helpful not merely to individual readers, but to the great cause of human liberty itself, that it is put forward.

A word should perhaps be added about the title of this bibliography. In calling it The Free Man's Library, I do not, of course, mean to imply that books on the philosophy of individualism, or in defense of personal liberty, are the only books that a "free man" should carry on his shelves. The free man is free to take all human knowledge for his province. His full library, let us hope, will contain the Bible and Shakespeare, Homer and Plato, and other well-chosen selections from the world's treasuries of drama, fiction, poetry, history, art, philosophy and science.

By The Free Man's Library I mean to indicate merely the books that a man may wish to know about, to read or have in his home specifically in his role as a free man — as a man who wants to understand how he may best restore, preserve, or increase his own freedom and the freedom of others. In the same way we should expect a bibliography called "The Physician's Library" to be confined to the books that a physician should know about or read in his special capacity as a physician, and a bibliography called "The Engineer's Library" to be confined to the books that a man should know in his capacity as an engineer. But neither the physician nor the engineer, let us hope, will be solely a physician or an engineer, but will have the range of intellectual interests that we associate with a liberal education and a broad, humane culture. And the "free man," we may hope also, whatever his special calling, will have the same wide range of intellectual interests, the same broad, humane culture, for these are among the finest fruits of freedom; and it is partly because it has these fruits that freedom is so precious.

This article is taken from the introduction to Henry Hazlitt's The Free Man's Library: A Descriptive and Critical Bibliography (1956).
 

 


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