In a recent post at LewRockwell.com, Robert Wenzel offered a "30 day reading list" designed to introduce the basic tenets of libertarianism by offering a daily article to read for a month. For anyone interested in learning a lot more about libertarianism in a short period of time, I highly recommend taking Wenzel's offer.
And while I am at best a lightweight compared to Wenzel, who runs one of the best read libertarian blogs in the world, I thought I'd do something similar and offer my own introduction to libertarian philosophy.
First of all, I used to be your fairly typical conservative Republican, with some minor libertarian sympathies. I read the writings at Cato and Reason, and while both organizations are loaded with incredibly talented writers and researchers, their utilitarian and at times compromising demeanor turned me off. It wasn't until I discovered the ethical and philosophical underpinning of libertarianism, through hardcore libertarians like Murray Rothbard and Ludwig von Mises, that really lit that spark and led to me read voraciously, challenge my own thoughts, and slowly become more and more libertarian.
Libertarian philosophy rests on a major concept — self-ownership — that necessarily leads to other philosophies, like the non-aggression principle, property rights, and individual liberty. Thus, as long a person doesn’t murder, rape, burglarize, defraud, trespass, steal, or inflict any other act of violence against another person’s life, liberty, or property, libertarians hold that the government should leave him alone. Fundamentally, the strength and power of libertarianism comes from this ethical, rather than empirical, defense of individual sovereignty. Libertarian philosophy attempts to come up with a framework that defends individual rights for their own sake, analyzes what the proper role of force is in society, and reasons that law and morality mean little if they are not universally applied to all individuals in society. Because of this, libertarians reject the state from a moral and philosophical position, and either aim to limit it to it a few specific functions or abolish it all together.
And with that out of the way, here is a list of articles, short books, and long essays that I think provide a great summary of libertarianism.
The Non-Aggression Axiom of Libertarianism, by Walter Block
The Philosophy of Ownership, by Robert Levefre
Rothbardian Ethics, by Hans-Hermann Hoppe
If Men Were Angels, by Robert Higgs
Proving Libertarian Morality, by Stefan Molyneux
The State, by Franz Oppenheimer
No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority, by Lysander Spooner
The Law, by Frederic Bastiat
Ending Tyranny Without Violence, by Murray Rothbard
How and Why the State Destroys Society, by Frank Chodorov
Entwined intimately with libertarian philosophy is a defense of the market economy, again based not on practical reasons (though markets have shown to be the most effective way of decreasing poverty and increasing standards of living), but because it is a natural extension of individual liberty and property ownership. Libertarians embrace the market because it provides individuals the opportunity to maximize their interests by engaging in mutually-beneficial trade with another, provides order through the profit-and-loss/price signals, and reject state intervention because it tends to harm this unbelievably complex and decentralized coordination that markets create.
Economics in One Lesson, by Henry Hazlitt
Planned Chaos, Ludwig von Mises
What Has Government Done to Our Money?, by Murray Rothbard
An Introduction to Austrian Economics, by Thomas C. Taylor
An Introduction to Economic Reasoning, by David Gordon
Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics, by George Reisman
No, the Free Market Did Not Cause the Financial Crisis, by Thomas Woods
Recession and Recovery, by Robert Higgs
There are, of course, many objections raised to libertarianism on issues of practicality. How would roads be provided without a state? Environmental protection? Money? Regulations? Welfare? Education? Healthcare? Law and order? Security?
Practical Problems and Solutions:
Law, Property Rights, and Air Pollution, by Murray Rothbard
The Privatization of Roads and Highways, by Walter Block
The Private Production of Defense, by Hans-Hermann Hoppe
Private Law Society, by Hans-Hermann Hoppe
Welfare Before the Welfare State, by Joshua Fulton
Practical Anarchy, by Stefan Molyneux
The Not So Wild, Wild West, by Terry Anderson and P.J. Hill
Education: Free and Compulsory, by Murray Rothbard
Top Ten Objection to Libertarian Anarchism, by Roderick T. Long
Arguments Against Anarchy, by Jarret B. Wollstein
What Has Government Done to Our Money?, by Murray Rothbard
A Four-Step Health-Care Solution, by Hans-Hermann Hoppe
Who Will Regulate the Regulators?, by Thomas DiLorenzo
And finally, the most important issue facing the U.S. and the libertarian movement in general: war and peace. As the great classical liberal Randolph Bourne said, "war is the health of the state." Not only does war kill, injure, and displace human life and destroy wealth and property, but it diverts production from what the market and consumers want to what politicians, lobbyists, and generals want. War has traditionally been the number one contributor to the growth of state power, for it is during wartime that states justify the most amount of secrecy, expansion, and obedience. War, like any force or violence, is only justified in self-defense.
War and Peace:
War, Peace, and the State, by Murray Rothbard
War is a Racket, by Major General Smedly Butler, USMC
How the Swiss Opted Out of War, by Bill Walker
Imagine an Occupied America, by Ron Paul
Stopping the Next Hitler, by Bill Walker
God of the Machine, by Isabel Paterson
Why Libertarians Oppose War, by Jacob Huebert
The War Prayer, by Mark Twain
Robert Higgs and the 'Ratchet Effect', by Daivd Beito