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Top Ten Books of Liberty

Update: My article, The Greatest Libertarian Books, appeared on LewRockwell.com on Monday, August 7, 2006. See discussion here.


In my article, I mentioned:

Something about Friedman's Machinery always bugged me - maybe it was the way he noted that Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson is "reputed" to be a good introductory book on economics, but "I have not read it" - as if he does not need to. From someone with degrees only in physics and chemistry, I suppose I would have expected a bit more humility; and his over-reliance on "law and economics" has always made Friedman seem just a tad too much the dilettante and Austro-cynic for my taste.

I remember one other thing I had seen that bolstered this impression: his Blogger profile states: "I am an academic economist who teaches at a law school and has never taken a course for credit in either field."


The September 2006 issue of Liberty has the feature "The Ten Best Libertarian Books": "Milton Friedman, Lew Rockwell, David Boaz and Liberty's editors and contributors celebrate ten intellectual achievements that helped to produce the modern libertarian movement." Yes, Lew Rockwell is in there (with an essay on Mises's Human Action). Here are the ten:

  • Hayek, The Road to Serfdom
  • Rand, Atlas Shrugged
  • Mises, Human Action
  • Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom
  • Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty
  • Rand, The Fountainhead
  • Nozick, Anarchy State and Utopia
  • Mises, Socialism
  • David Friedman, The Machinery of Freedom
  • Isabel Paterson, The God of the Machine

Not a bad list, if a bit predictable. There are some I'd take off, or move to a much lower place, and others I'd include. I would remove both by Hayek: I could not finish either. I found Serfdom obvious and boring, and Constitution just boring. But I'm probably in the minority on this assessment; and Serfdom did have a big influence. I would also take out The Fountainhead; Atlas is enough. And I'd remove Paterson too; again, another one I could not get through. Too many metaphors; too nonrigorous. This is the worst choice for the list, in my view.

A glaring omission from the list is Rothbard. For A New Liberty should be there, if not Ethics of Liberty and Man Economy and State. Also, Hoppe's A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism should definitely be there.

Other possible candidates for the list? How about The Law by Bastiat? The Tannehills' The Market for Liberty? Even Bruce Benson's The Enterprise of Law. And perhaps a couple that are not explicitly libertarian but are very good on the issues of federalism and constitutionalism, such as Kilpatrick's The Sovereign States or Felix Morley's Freedom and Federalism.

And there are many more, such as some listed in the bibliographies at LRC--see especially the bibliographies by Hoppe, Gordon, and Rockwell.

So, Misesians--what are your top 10? The Comments Field awaits you!


Stephan Kinsella

Stephan Kinsella is an attorney in Houston, director of the Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom, and editor of Libertarian Papers.