Below, see a correspondence I had with a reader whose identity I am keeping anonymous who wants to introduce friends to libertarianism, along with my response. If anyone has other suggestions in this regard, please send them to me.
Sent: Friday, August 15, 2014 6:42 PM
Subject: Advice on introducing libertarian ideas to a friend
Dear Professor Block,
I wanted to start by telling you how much I admire you and your indespensible work. Men like yourself, Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Stephan Kinsella, George Reisman, and Robert Higgs are doing a wonderful job carrying the torch of libertarianism from where Murray Rothbard left off. It is because of you and men like you that I began trying to form a consistent worldview based on the NAP. I had always been a “libertarian” in the loose sense of the word; being generally opposed to leftist social programs and wars or civil rights violations on the right. But your work and the work of others forced me to examine my convictions and carry my worldview to its logical conclusion: Austrian anarcho-capitalism. My inquiries into these ideas have been entirely self motivated; I have no formal education beyond high school and my parents have never been too concerned about political theory. So having works like yours readily available to me online made an enormous difference for my personal development, and I just wanted you to know that I greatly appreciate it. Thank you, Professor Block. For your consistency, your prose, your sheer volume of work, and your courage in pursuing truth for the sake of truth.
With all of that said, I wanted to ask your advice on helping a friend discover the great ideas and great thinkers behind the libertarian movement. He has always been generally receptive to my positions on most issues but was never interested in the philosophical, moral, economic, or utilitarian justifications behind them. But he is a black man with family roots in central Missouri, and the current situation in Ferguson has spurred his interest in my beliefs.
He asked me to recommend some books for him to read. I have a small but growing library of libertarian nonfiction (philosophy, economics, polticial theory, revisionist history), including but not limited to:
-Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt -The Revolution: A Manifesto by Ron Paul -End the Fed by Ron Paul -Liberty Defined by Ron Paul -Organized Crime by Thomas DiLorenzo -The Real Lincoln by Thomas DiLorenzo -Lincoln Unmasked by Thomas DiLorenzo -Defending the Undefendable by Walter Block (my copy is well read and appreciated, I’m sure you’d be happy to know) -Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature and Other Essays by Murray Rothbard -For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto by Murray Rothbard -Man, Economy, and State with Power and Market by Murray Rothbard (obviously, I’m not going to start him off with Rothbard’s magnum opus; I myself still have trouble wrapping my head around a lot of it) -The Road to Serfdom by FA Hayek -The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History by Tom Woods -Against the State: An Anarcho-Capitalist Manifesto by Lew Rockwell
So, I guess my question would be, which of these books do you think serves as a good introduction to libertarian thinking? If I were to recommend a single book to start with, which would be best? How about if I expanded it to five of the above, to lend to my friend as a primer on libertarianism? I don’t want to bombard him with thick literature off the bat, but I also want to make sure his initial exposure to these ideas on an intellectual level is consistent and that it covers a wide range of issues. Do I start with a “watered down” but easier to digest take, like that of Dr Paul’s? Or just dive right into Rockwell or DiLorenzo’s characterizations of the state, which might be shocking to someone new to liberty?
I’d be extremely grateful for any insight you might be able to provide.
As for myself, I plan on tackling the following soon:
Democracy: The God that Failed by Hans-Hermann Hoppe The Ethics of Liberty by Murray Rothbard Crisis and Leviathan by Robert Higgs
I hope to get as much out of them as I believe I have from the other works listed.
Introductions to libertarianism:
Albright, 2013; Block, 1976; Huebert, 2010; Rand, 1957; Rockwell, 2014A, 2014B; Rothbard, 1973, 1982;
Albright, Logan. 2013. “Libertarianism in One Sentence.” November 22; http://mises.ca/posts/blog/libertarianism-in-one-sentence/?utm_source=Ludwig+von+Mises+Institute+of+Canada+Daily+List&utm_campaign=6c4f4db8fe-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_6c2fea3584-6c4f4db8fe-209944333#comments
Block, Walter E. 2008 . Defending the Undefendable. Auburn, AL: The Mises Institute; available for free here: http://mises.org/books/defending.pdf
Huebert, Jacob. 2010. Libertarianism Today. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger; http://www.amazon.com/Libertarianism-Today-Jacob-H-
Rand, Ayn. 1957. Atlas Shrugged, New York: Random House.
Rockwell, Jr., Llewellyn H. 2014A. Against the State: An Anarcho-Capitalist Manifesto. Rockwell Communications LLC; http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KN0K6EM/ref=as_sl_pd_tf_lc?tag=lewrockwell&camp=213381&creative=390973&linkCode=as4&creativeASIN=B00KN0K6EM&adid=0DPBHVW4EYKWN86D77DV&&ref-refURL=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.lewrockwell.com%2F%3Fpost_type%3Darticle%26p%3D499066%26preview%3Dtrue
Rockwell, Jr., Llewellyn H. 2014B. “What Libertarianism Is, and Isn’t.” March 31; http://www.lewrockwell.com/2014/03/lew-rockwell/what-libertarianism-is-and-isnt/
Rothbard, Murray N. 1998  The Ethics of Liberty, New York: New York University Press. http://www.mises.org/rothbard/ethics/ethics.asp
Rothbard, Murray N. 1973. For a New Liberty, Macmillan, New York; http://mises.org/rothbard/newlibertywhole.asp
Here is more: http://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2012/06/30-day-reading-list-that-will-lead-you.html12:57 pm on August 30, 2014 Email Walter E. Block