Journal of Libertarian Studies

Austro-Libertarian Themes in Early Confucianism

The Journal of Libertarian Studies

When scholars look for anticipations of classical liberal, Austrian, and libertarian ideas in early Chinese thought, attention usually focuses not on the Confucians, but on the Taoists, particularly on Laozi (Laotzu), reputed author of the Taoist classic Daodejing (Tao Te Ching). For example, David Boaz’s Libertarian Reader is subtitled “Classic and Contemporary Writings from Lao-tzu to Milton Friedman.” In Libertarianism: A Primer, Boaz identifies Laozi as the “first known libertarian.” No Confucian thinker makes an appearance in either work. Murray Rothbard likewise declares, in the first chapter of his History of Economic Thought: “The Taoists were the world’s first libertarians, who believed in virtually no interference by the state in economy or society, and the Confucians were middle-of-the-roaders on this critical issue”— coming from Rothbard, this characterization of Confucianism amounts to irrevocable damnation and consignment to outer darkness.

Volume 17, Number 3 (2003)


Long, Roderick T. "Austro-Libertarian Themes in Early Confucianism." Journal of Libertarian Studies 17, No. 3 (2003): 35–62.

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