A Libertarian Syllabus
by Daniel McCarthy by Daniel McCarthy
A friend of mine who is involved in youth politics asked me to put together a curriculum for Ron Paul libertarians, a four-year course of study that will take students from the basics of free-market economics and the Constitution into the deeper waters where theory, history, and policy meet. Here’s the tentative curriculum I’ve come up with:
- Ron Paul — The Revolution: A Manifesto
- Barry Goldwater — The Conscience of a Conservative
- Tom Paine — “Common Sense,” “The Crisis”
- The Federalist (selections)
- The Anti-Federalist Papers (selections)
- The Constitution of the United States of America
- Douglas Hyde — Dedication and Leadership
- Henry Hazlitt — Economics in One Lesson
- Murray Rothbard — What Has Government Done to Our Money?
I’m fairly confident in this first-year syllabus. Arguably I ought to add Thomas Woods’s The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History and Kevin R.C. Gutzman’s The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution, but I wanted to restrict myself mostly to primary sources. The Federalist, Anti-Federalist, and Paine selections, plus the Constitution itself, will give students a basic feel for what was at stake in the Revolutionary War and the struggle over ratification. Hazlitt’s book is a terrific economic primer. Hyde’s very short book is an activist’s handbook. The Paul and Goldwater books both establish the essential character of the movement. And Rothbard’s brief book is a good introduction to Dr. Paul’s thinking on monetary policy.
This isn’t as much reading as it might look like, since most of these texts aren’t long.
- Faustino Ballv — Essentials of Economics
- Frdric Bastiat — The Law
- Israel Kirzner — Ludwig von Mises
- Andrew Bacevich — American Empire
- Ron Paul — A Foreign Policy of Freedom
- Justin Raimondo — Reclaiming the American Right
The Law is basic enough that it could be included in Year 1, but I actually think it’s better to have some grounding in economics before reading The Law. The Ballv and Kirzner books will serve as the student’s introduction to specifically Austrian economics. Bacevich’s book is still, to my mind, the best general introduction to what’s wrong with American foreign policy that’s on the market. And since Bacevich is a conservative Catholic and former Army colonel, it’s not easy to dismiss him as an anti-American leftist. His book provides scholarly support for the views expressed in Ron Paul’s collection. Justin Raimondo’s book, meanwhile, ties things together, showing how the Right was drawn into supporting an interventionist foreign policy and the beginnings of the Old Right’s comeback in the early 1990s.
- Friedrich Hayek — The Road to Serfdom
- Murray Rothbard — America’s Great Depression
- Albert Jay Nock — Our Enemy, the State
- Chalmers Johnson — Blowback
- Ludwig von Mises — Liberalism
Now we’re getting into deceptively deep waters. Hayek and Rothbard make a good unit, since both show the relationship of economic crisis and the growth of state power. Rothbard’s book provides answers to the usual Keynesian and left-liberal arguments that we need the Federal Reserve to stave off another depression, while Hayek spells out where state economic interventionism leads. Liberalism is a relatively easy-going introduction to Mises and sets out the positive case for classical liberalism. Johnson’s Blowback picks up the foreign-policy thread from the last year’s syllabus, showing how foreign-policy interventionism gives rise to terrorism, or “blowback” in the CIA’s term. Nock’s short but deceptively dense book presents a general case against state action. On reflection, this course fits together better than I originally thought it did.
- Murray Rothbard — Man, Economy, and State
- Hans-Hermann Hoppe — Democracy: The God That Failed
- Michael Scheuer — Imperial Hubris
- Robert Pape — Dying to Win
Now we’re into some very long texts. I originally had Ludwig von Mises’s Human Action listed in place of Rothbard’s Man, Economy, and State, but I decided that the latter would be somewhat easier going on the students, and it’s a fine summation of Austrian economics in its own right. Hoppe’s book builds upon Rothbard and applies his thoughts to controversial policy questions such as immigration. Scheuer and Pape complete the student’s basic training in foreign policy, presenting some hard realities about war, nation-building, occupation, and terrorism.
I welcome everyone’s feedback on this list. As I say, it’s a rough draft, and I’d like to fine-tune it. There are many other libertarian and conservative books that I’d like to include, but these seem like the best fit for what my friend has in mind. I may have overlooked something important, however, so feel free to make other suggestions.