My Libertarian Books for the Holidays

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Okay, your
overcoat is hung up and dripping on the floor, you’ve sat down in
front of the warm fireplace. Of course, your first thought is what
do you want to read. Perhaps something deep enough to help you forget
the cold chill in your bones while you dry off:

Republicanism:
A Shared European Heritage
(Cambridge U. Press, Vol. I–2002,
Vol. II–2005) by Martin van Gelderen and Quentin Skinner (editors).
If there is one work that you want to have on hand about the history
of Republicanism, this is it! It is comprehensive, as one would
expect with Quentin Skinner’s involvement over many years in the
evolution of this project. The
details of the Anglo-European experiences in Republican theory and
practice are fully laid out here by specialists in English, Dutch,
French, Italian and Polish history as well as Jewish and Aristotelian
sources. It is a must read.

Radicals
for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian
Movement
(PublicAffairs, 2007) by Brian Doherty. Okay, okay,
this won’t be out until February of next year, but you can
pre-order. Based
on original research and interviews with more than 100 key sources,
Brian Doherty of Reason magazine traces the evolution of
the libertarian movement through the life stories and historical
events that altered the course of the movement from the New Deal
through the culture wars of the 1960s to today’s most divisive political
issues.

George
Mason, Forgotten Founder
(U. of North Carolina Press, 2006)
by Jeff Broadwater is a welcome addition to the literature on the
“Founding Fathers”. One of the American Revolution’s most important
theoreticians, Mason helped to raise a militia and draft the influential
Virginia Declaration of Rights as well as the state constitution.
Mason’s leadership at the Constitutional Convention shaped the U.S.
Constitution, although he ultimately (albeit unsuccessfully) urged
that Virginia refuse to endorse it. He believed that, absent a bill
of rights, the proposed Constitution did not sufficiently safeguard
minority rights, and he feared that the central, federal government
it sought to establish would be too powerful and offer too much
temptation to corruption. Broadwater also helps to resolve the issue
of Mason’s stand regarding slavery. Mason was an ardent opponent
of slavery, regarding it, in Broadwater’s words, “as a moral
evil, debasing the souls of slave owners and storing up wrath against
the entire nation for a final day of judgment.” Mason would
speak out strongly and repeatedly against slavery during debates
at the Constitutional Convention and opposed the move to count slaves
for purposes of determining representation.

The
Constitutionalist Revolution: An Essay on the History of England,
1450–1642
(Cambridge U. Press, 2006) by Alan Cromartie is
an examination of constitutional ideas during the crucial period
from the mid-fifteenth century to the time of Charles I, showing
how the emergence of broad claims for common law shaped England’s
cultural development.

The
Tyrannicide Brief
(Vintage Books, 2006) by Geoffrey Robertson
is the first biography of John Cooke, Charles I’s prosecutor during
the English Civil War, and who was executed for his efforts. A defender
of the Levellers, of common law rights and innovator in jurisprudence,
it is time for this well-deserved biography.

The
Sage of Sugar Hill: George S. Schuyler and the Harlem Renaissance

(Yale U. Press, 2005) by Jeffrey Ferguson is a welcome contribution
to our understanding of this black libertarian intellectual journalist
and novelist.

A
History of the French Anarchist Movement, 1917–1945
(Greenwood
Press, 2002) by David Berry. Anarchists sought to clarify anarchist
theory regarding the nature of 20th-century revolutions and to integrate
anarchism more fully into the broader socialist and trade union
movements. They organized large campaigns and their analyses of
developments on the left and in the trade union movement were often
more prescient than those of the socialists and communists.

The
New Agrarian Mind: The Movement Toward Decentralist Thought in Twentieth-Century
America
(Transaction Publishers, 2004) by Allan Carlson.
Ralph Borsodi, Louis Bromfield, Herbert Agar and “The Twelve Southerners”
are all discussed in this work on the Southern Agrarian movement
and the efforts in promoting decentralism from the early to mid-1900′s.
Many of these figures were central to the gradual evolution of libertarianism
from the left to the right during this period.

The
Rebuke of History: The Southern Agrarians and American Conservative
Thought
(U of N Carolina Press, 2000) by Paul V. Murphy.
The Southern Agrarians were a group of literary theorists
and historians who gathered at Vanderbilt University in the 1920s.
Murphy follows the Agrarians and their thought into the middle part
of the twentieth century, demonstrating how the arguments made by
John Crowe Ransom, Alan Tate, Donald Davidson, et al. in their famous
collection of essays I’ll Take My Stand contributed to the
emergence of conservatism in the 1950s.

D.M.
Bennett, The Truth Seeker
(Prometheus Press, 2006) by Roderick
Bradford. This biography of the embattled free speech advocate,
D.M. Bennett, founder of the infamous journal, The Truth Seeker,
and known as the “American Voltaire”, is a real treat. If
you are unfamiliar with the American freethought movement, his life
will come as a complete surprise. His publications were censored,
prohibited at newsstands, and denied access to the US mail. Bennett's
prominent role in the National Liberal League, affiliation
with abolitionists, suffragists and the National Defense Association
(forerunner of the ACLU) are also examined.

Community
Associations: The Emergence and Acceptance of a Quiet Innovation
in Housing
(Greenwood Press, 2000) by Donald R. Stabile.
While I have some trepidations about quasi-municipalities such as
homeowner associations, this is an excellent examination of the
amazing growth of this new sociopolitical phenomenon. Community
Associations (CAs) have increased in number from 500 in 1960 to
205,000 in 1998. This book explores the issues surrounding this
housing innovation and provides a history of community associations
and the process of trial and error in the design of CAs.

Sex
Radicals and the Quest for Women’s Equality
(U of Illinois
Press, 2003) by Joanne E. Passet includes some of the most up-to-date
information on important feminist figures like Mary Gove Nichols,
associate of Josiah Warren and Stephen Pearl Andrews, one of the
leaders of individualism and the free love movement in antebellum
America to the continuing effort to promote an acceptance of personal
freedom until the end of the 19th century. The connections to the
spiritualist and abolitionist movements are examined as well.

Anarchism:
A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, Vol. I
(Black
Rose Books, 2004) by Robert Graham and Maurice Spira is a good,
mostly left-anarchist overview with essays going back to an ancient
Taoist text, “Neither Lord Nor Subject” up to 1939 (Vol.
II will cover later texts when it is published). For
those who are unfamiliar with anarchist thought, this is a good
place to begin.

Cuban
Anarchism: The History of a Movement
(See Sharp Press, 2001)
by Frank Fernandez and Charles Bufe. The Cuban libertarian movement
was perhaps the most vibrant in all of Latin America. At the height
of their influence in the 1920s, Cuba’s anarchists dominated the
unions, provided free nonreligious schools for poor children, provided
meeting places for Cuba’s working class, organized campesinos into
unions and agricultural collectives, and published newspapers and
magazines across the island. Later, they would take an active part
in the resistance to the Machado, Batista, and Castro dictatorships.

Orgasms
of History: 3000 Years of Spontaneous Insurrection
(AK Press,
2002) by Ives Fremion and Guillaume Keynia. This is an introductory
People’s History (somewhat poorly translated from the French) of
riots, uprisings, revolutions and social groups springing up seemingly
from nowhere. Our standard histories tend to treat these as oddities,
if mentioned at all. From the Cynics & Spartacus through the
Levellers, Diggers & Ranters to the Revolution of the Carnation,
the San Francisco Diggers, Red Guard of Shenwulian, Brethren of
the Free Spirit, Guevara, the Provos & the Metropolitan Indians.
Nearly 100 episodes of revolt and utopia which popped up without
a plan or a leader from the ancient Greeks to the present.

December
5, 2006

Kenneth
R. Gregg (send him mail) writes
from Las Vegas where dreams, sometimes, come true. He blogs at CLASSical
Liberalism
, Spencer
Heath
, Charles
T. Sprading
, and at Liberty
& Power
.

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