Book Recommendations

libertarian books

List of books to learn more about libertarianism and Austrian economics.

Anatomy of the State
by Murray Rothbard

Murray Rothbard was known as the state’s greatest living enemy, and this book is his most succinct and powerful statement on the topic. He explains what a state is and what it is not. He shows how it is an institution that violates all that we hold as honest and moral, and how it operates under a false cover. He shows how the state wrecks freedom, destroys civilization and threatens all lives and property and social well being, all under the veneer of “good intentions.”

Economics In one lesson
by Henry Hazlitt

Economics in One Lesson is an introduction to economics written by Henry Hazlitt and first published in 1946. It is based on Frédéric Bastiat‘s essay Ce qu’on voit et ce qu’on ne voit pas (English: “What is Seen and What is Not Seen”).

The “One Lesson” is stated in Part One of the book:

The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.

Part Two consists of twenty-four chapters, each demonstrating the lesson by tracing the effects of one common economic belief, and exposing common economic belief as a series of fallacies.

Among its policy recommendations are the advocacy of free trade, opposition to price controls, an opposition to monetary inflation, and opposition to stimulative governmental expenditures:

There are men regarded today as brilliant economists, who deprecate saving and recommend squandering on a national scale as the way of economic salvation; and when anyone points to what the consequences of these policies will be in the long run, they reply flippantly, as might the prodigal son of a warning father: ‘In the long run we are all dead.’ And such shallow wisecracks pass as devastating epigrams and the ripest wisdom.

Man, Economy and State with Power and Market
by Murray N. Rothbard

Murray N. Rothbard’s great treatise Man, Economy, and State and its complementary text Power and Market, are here combined into a single edition as they were written to be. It provides a sweeping presentation of Austrian economic theory, a reconstruction of many aspects of that theory, a rigorous criticism of alternative schools, and an inspiring look at a science of liberty that concerns nearly everything and should concern everyone.

From Rothbard, we learn that economics is the science that deals with the rise and fall of civilization, the advancement and retrenchment of human development, the feeding and healing of the multitudes, and the question of whether human affairs are dominated by cooperation or violence.

Economics in Rothbard’s wonderful book emerges as the beautiful logic of that underlies human action in a world of scarcity, the lens on how exchange makes it possible for people to cooperate toward their mutual betterment. We see how money facilitates this and allows for calculation over time that permits capital to expand and investment to take place. We see how entrepreneurship, based on real judgments and risk-taking, is the driving force of the market.

Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis

Ludwig von Mises’s Socialism is the most important critical examination of socialism ever written.

Socialism is most famous for Mises’s penetrating economic calculation argument. The book contains much more, however. Mises not only shows the impossibility of socialism: he defends capitalism against the main arguments socialists and other critics have raised against it. A centrally planned system cannot substitute some other form of economic calculation for market prices, because no such alternative exists. Capitalism is true economic democracy.

Socialism addresses the contemporary issues of economic inequality and argues that wealth can exist for long periods only to the extent that wealthy producers succeed in satisfying the consumers. Mises shows that there is no tendency to monopoly in a free market system.

Mises analyzes reform measures, such as social security and labor legislation, which in fact serve to impede the efforts of the capitalist system to serve the masses.

Socialism is a veritable encyclopedia of vital topics in the social sciences, all analyzed with Mises’s unique combination of historical erudition and penetrating insight.

Against The State
by Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr

Against the State: An Anarcho-Capitalist Manifesto diagnoses
what is wrong with the American political system, and tells us in no
uncertain terms what is required to stop leviathan. Rockwell’s
prescription is radical, calling for the wholesale realignment of society away from the state and toward voluntary order. As the book
incontrovertibly shows, the overwhelming problems that confront us
today are no accident. They stem from the nature of government itself.
Only peaceful cooperation grounded in individuals, families, civil
society, and markets can rescue us from our present plight.

Against the State applies Murray Rothbard’s unique
combination of individualist anarchism and Austrian economics to
contemporary America. Fueled by an out-of-control banking system, the
American Über-State has become in essence fascist. We cannot escape our
predicament through limited government or traditional political means:
government is incapable of controlling itself. Only a purely private
social order can save us, and Rockwell succinctly sets out how an
anarcho-capitalist society would work. 

In 190 short pages, Rockwell has created nothing less than the modern
manifesto for today’s anarcho-capitalist movement. This is the
must-read book of 2014 for libertarians interested in real arguments for
creating a peaceful, voluntary, free-market society.

The Ethics Of Liberty
by Murray N. Rothbard

Murray Rothbard’s greatest contribution to the politics of freedom is back in print. Following up on Mises’s demonstration that a society without private property degenerates into economic chaos, Rothbard shows that every interference with property represents a violent and unethical invasion that diminishes liberty and prosperity.

First published in 1982, The Ethics of Liberty is a masterpiece of argumentation, and shockingly radical in its conclusions. Rothbard says that the very existence of the state — the entity with a monopoly privilege to invade private property — is contrary to the ethics of liberty. A society without a state is not only viable; it is the only one consistent with natural rights.

When it first appeared, the book was ignored by the scholarly world. Robert Nozick’s treatise, taking a much softer view, was heralded instead. Nozick has since moved on to social democracy. Meanwhile, Rothbard’s primary philosophical work went out of print and then virtually disappeared. Foreign-language editions have appeared, but the English version was unavailable.

But times have changed. For believers in liberty, Rothbard is an invaluable intellectual asset. At last, his most rigorous argument is available again, and in the stirring prose he is famous for.

In this volume, Rothbard first familiarizes the reader with Natural Law theory. After this ethical introduction, he goes on to address numerous ethical issues, showing how liberty is in the right in every case. In the final two sections, Rothbard enumerates the state’s role in society as inherently anti-liberty, and details the structure of alternate theories of liberty.

What Has Government Done To Our Money by Murray N. Rothbard

When this gem first appeared in 1963, it took the form of a small paperback designed for mass distribution.
Innumerable economists, investors, commentators, and authors have learned from this book through the decades. After fifty years, it remains the best book in print on the topic, a real manifesto of sound money.
Rothbard boils down the Austrian theory to its essentials. The book also made huge theoretical advances. Rothbard was the first to prove that the government, and only the government, can destroy money on a mass scale, and he showed exactly how they go about this dirty deed. But just as importantly, it is beautifully written. He tells a thrilling story because he loves the subject so much.
The passion that Murray feels for the topic comes through in the prose and transfers to the reader. Readers become excited about the subject, and tell others. Students tell professors. Some, like the great Ron Paul of Texas, have even run for political office after having read it.
Rothbard shows precisely how banks create money out of thin air and how the central bank, backed by government power, allows them to get away with it. He shows how exchange rates and interest rates would work in a true free market. When it comes to describing the end of the gold standard, he is not content to describe the big trends. He names names and ferrets out all the interest groups involved.
Since Rothbard’s death, scholars have worked to assess his legacy, and many of them agree that this little book is one of his most important. Though it has sometimes been inauspiciously packaged and is surprisingly short, its argument took huge strides toward explaining that it is impossible to understand public affairs in our time without understanding money and its destruction.

Democracy The God That Failed by Hans-Hermann Hoppe

This sweeping book is a systematic treatment of the historic transformation of the West from limited monarchy to unlimited democracy. Revisionist in nature, it reaches the conclusion that monarchy, with all its failings, is a lesser evil than mass democracy, but outlines deficiencies in both as systems of guarding liberty. By focusing on this transformation from private to public government, the author is able to interpret many historical phenomena, such as rising levels of crime, degeneration of standards of conduct and morality, the decline in security and freedom, and the growth of the mega-state.

In addition, Hoppe deconstructs the classical liberal belief in the possibility of limited government and calls for an alignment of anti-statist conservatism and libertarianism as natural allies with common goals. He defends the proper role of the production of defense as undertaken by insurance companies on a free market, and describes the emergence of private law among competing insurers.

The author goes on to assess the prospects for achieving a natural order of liberty. Informed by his analysis of the radical deficiencies of social democracy, and armed with the social theory of legitimation, he forsees secession as the likely future of the US and Europe, resulting in a multitude of region and city-states. Democracy-The God that Failed ( is a brilliant and unflinching work that will be of intense interest to scholars and students of history, political economy, and political philosophy.

The Road To Serfdom by Friedrich A. Hayek

The Road to Serfdom (GermanDer Weg zur Knechtschaft) is a book written between 1940 and 1943 by Austrian British economist and philosopher Friedrich Hayek. Since its publication in 1944, The Road to Serfdom has been an influential and popular exposition of market libertarianism. It has been translated into more than 20 languages and sold over two million copies (as of 2010). The book has also made a significant impact on twentieth-century conservative and libertarian economic and political discourse, and is often cited today by commentators.

The Road to Serfdom was to be the popular edition of the second volume of Hayek’s treatise entitled “The Abuse and Decline of Reason”, and the title was inspired by the writings of the 19th century French classical liberal thinker Alexis de Tocqueville on the “road to servitude”. In the book, Hayek “[warns] of the danger of tyranny that inevitably results from government control of economic decision-making through central planning.”[6] He further argues that the abandonment of individualism and classical liberalism inevitably leads to a loss of freedom, the creation of an oppressive society, the tyranny of a dictator, and the serfdom of the individual. Hayek challenged the view among British Marxists that fascism (including National Socialism) was a capitalist reaction against socialism. He argued that fascism, National Socialism and socialism had common roots in central economic planning and empowering the state over the individual.

The book was first published in Britain by Routledge in March 1944, during World War II, and was quite popular, leading Hayek to call it “that unobtainable book”, also due in part to wartime paper rationing. It was published in the United States by the University of Chicago Press in September 1944 and achieved great popularity. At the arrangement of editor Max Eastman, the American magazine Reader’s Digest published an abridged version in April 1945, enabling The Road to Serfdom to reach a wider popular audience beyond academics.

Human Action A Treatise On Economics by Ludwig Von Mises

Human Action: A Treatise on Economics is a work by the Austrian economist and philosopherLudwig von Mises. Widely considered Mises’ magnum opus, it presents the case for laissez-fairecapitalism based on praxeology, or rational investigation of human decision-making. It rejects positivism within economics. It defends an a prioriepistemology and underpins praxeology with a foundation of methodological individualism and laws of apodictic certainty. Mises argues that the free-market economy not only outdistances any government-planned system, but ultimately serves as the foundation of civilization itself.

The Economics and Ethics of Private Property by Hans-Hermann Hoppe

Austrian economics puts private property at the center of its analysis of value, price, and exchange. Respect for private property is also implied by the fundamental moral principle, “Do not steal.”

Hans-Hermann Hoppe has devoted his life’s work to the economics and ethics of private property. This book collects some of Hoppe’s most important essays on this topic. Hoppe, a leading student and colleague of Murray Rothbard whose works have been translated into a dozen languages, explores the economic, ethical, sociological, and historical aspects of private property, showing how property rights are vital to all aspects of society: employment, interest, money, banking, trade cycles, taxes, public goods, war, imperialism, and the rise and fall of civilizations.

Barron’s writes that “Hoppe’s writings are like a laser beam…. Be prepared for arguments that push you beyond your limits.” Hoppe carefully and consistently draws out the implications of property rights, and the state’s violation of the private property order, for society and prosperity. The book is filled with insights that push the reader to imagine a fully free, private, and successful social and economic order.

Theory Of Socialism And Capitalism by Hans-Hermann Hoppe

Here is Hans Hoppe’s first treatise in English — actually his first book in English — and the one that put him on the map as a social thinker and economist to watch. He argued that there are only two possible archetypes in economic affairs: socialism and capitalism. All systems are combinations of those two types. The capitalist model he defines as pure protection of private property, free association, and exchange – no exceptions. All deviations from that ideal are species of socialism, with public ownership and interference with trade.

Within the structure of socialism, he distinguishes the left and right version. “Conservative” socialism favors high regulation, behavioral controls, protectionism, and nationalism. The “liberal” version tends more toward outright public ownership and redistribution.

The consequences of socialism vary based on their degree and kind, but they have similarities: high costs, resource waste, low growth.

This treatise has long been out of print, but is now available again for use in comparative-systems classes and for an orientation to the theory of economic systems. The theoretical apparatus is Rothbardian to the core, and its main contribution is to provide an organizing principle for understanding the structure of real-world economies as measured against pure types.

tour de force.

This edition preserves the formatting from the original publisher, for reasons of citation. Though it was published by a major academic publishing house, the visuals are not what they might have been. Nonetheless, the book is well cited and this edition makes it possible to navigate those citations.

Denationalisation Of Money The Argument Refined

What if the government let anyone use a currency of his or her choosing? What if the government permitted entrepreneurs to innovate in the monetary sector, by creating digital currencies or minting commodity money?

This sort of privatization of money is precisely what F.A. Hayek argues for in his masterful Denationalisation of Money.

Hayek wrote this near the end of his career, after thinking through all the economic arguments for monetary reform and examining the political viability of various proposals. He shows the essential nonviability of government money, and calls for a completely free market in the production, distribution, and management of money.

This book is the very core of the Hayekian approach to monetary policy, and the book that drew the world’s attention to this radical thinker following his Nobel Prize in economics. The argument is substantively similar to Mises’s, but rather than arguing for a gold standard, Hayek argues for utter abandonment of governmental attempts to reform money. The result: competitive private currencies that permit the market alone to choose the dominant currency the world over.

In the digital age, his argument takes on new significance, as experimentation in digital currencies continues apace and the harm of inflation takes its toll in new and painful ways.