Liberty Fund

Liberty Fund was founded in 1960 by Pierre F. Goodrich, an Indianapolis lawyer and businessman, to the end that some hopeful contribution may be made to the preservation, restoration, and development of individual liberty through investigation, research, and educational activity.


Great books are the repository of knowledge and experience. Liberty Fund seeks to preserve the wisdom and learning of the ages and to strengthen our understanding and appreciation of individual liberty and responsibility.

For over four decades, Liberty Fund has made available some of the finest books in history, politics, philosophy, law, education, and economics—books of enduring value that have helped to shape ideas and events in man’s quest for liberty, order, and justice.

Featured Book The Law of Nations Treated According to the Scientific Method

By Christian Wolff
Translated by Joseph H. Drake (1934)
Translation revised by Thomas Ahnert
Edited and with an Introduction by Thomas Ahnert

Christian Wolff’s The Law of Nations is a cornerstone of eighteenth-century thought. A treatise on the philosophy of human action, on the foundations of political communities, and on international law, it influenced philosophers throughout the eighteenth-century Enlightenment world. According to Knud Haakonssen, general editor of the Natural Law and Enlightenment series, “before Kant’s critical philosophy, Wolff was without comparison the most influential German thinker for several decades as well as a major European figure.”


The Law of Nations Treated According to the Scientific Method

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These resources are designed to further Liberty Fund’s educational activities. They include classic works in the tradition of limited government, as well as lively current discussions of how classical-liberal principles apply in today’s world.

EconTalk September 25, 2017

Philip Auerswald on the Rise of Populism

cities%20and%20ruins.jpg Author and professor Philip Auerswald of George Mason University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the rise of populism in the United States and throughout the world. Auerswald argues that the rise of cities and the productivity of urban life has created a divergence in experience and rewards between urban and rural areas around the world. Auerswald ties these changes to changes in voting patterns and speculates about the sources of the increasing productivity of metropolitan areas.


Time: 1:19:40

Law & Liberty September 25, 2017

Economic Equality as a Prerequisite for American Constitutionalism

Ganesh Sitarman raises the issue of U.S. constitutionalism and economic inequality in a recent New York Times op-ed piece. The piece, in turn, summarizes the main theme of his book, The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution: Why Economic Inequality

OLL | Quotations April 20, 2010

Yves Guyot on the violence and lawlessness inherent in socialism (1910)

Yves Guyot

OLL November 21, 2011

Orations vol. 3 (Marcus Tullius Cicero)

The Orations of Marcus Tullius Cicero, trans. C.D. Yonge (London: G. Bell and Sons, 1913-21). Vol. 3.

Law & Liberty September 22, 2017

Justice Scalia and How Originalism Fits into the Fabric of the Law

In my last post, I explored whether Justice Scalia was an old or a new originalist, concluding that he was a new originalist in one way, but an old originalist in another way.  In this post, I want to

OLL | Liberty Matters September 2, 2017

Peter Boettke, "Hayek's Epistemic Liberalism" (September, 2017)

Peter J. Boettke, Professor of Economics and Philosophy at George Mason University, argues that is a common trope to claim that F. A. Hayek experienced a crushing defeat in technical economics during the 1930s.  At the beginning of the decade, Hayek emerged in the British scientific community as a leading economic theorist. Yet by the end of the decade Hayek was supposedly defeated in his debate both with Keynes and with Oskar Lange and Abba Lerner over market socialism. However, this narrative reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the teachings of economics from the classical to the early neoclassical economists.  Economic life from Adam Smith to J. S. Mill never was treated as taking place in an institutional vacuum.  Instead, law, politics, and social mores all constituted the institutional background against which economic life played out. As Boettke argues in the Lead Essay, Hayek’s epistemic institutionalism, as articulated in the 1930s and 1940s, provided the foundation for his own reconstruction and restatement of liberal political economy as evidenced in The Constitution of Liberty (1960) and Law, Legislation and Liberty (1973-79). Recognizing this aspect of Hayek’s thought is a first step to recognizing his broader contributions to economic science and the art of political economy. Boettke is joined in this discussion by Steven Horwitz, the John H. Schnatter Distinguished Professor of Free Enterprise in the department of economics at Ball State University, Roger Koppl, professor of finance in the Whitman School of Management of Syracuse University, and Adam Martin is a Political Economy Research Fellow at the Free Market Institute and an assistant professor in the department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at Texas Tech University.

EconLog September 23, 2017

Reply to Bryan on utilitarianism, by Scott Sumner

Bryan Caplan has responded to my recent post on liberalism and utilitarianism. I agree with his first criticism:

First, if "Liberalism is what happens when you are optimizing for a safe environment, and illiberalism is what happens when you optimize for thriving in an unsafe environment," are we talking about selfish optimization or social optimization? If the former, then how does being rich make caring about outsiders "selfishly optimal"? If the latter, then it sounds like utilitarianism requires illiberalism in unsafe environments.

Mea culpa. I unthinkingly adopted the term "optimizing", which was used by Scott Alexander. I should have used something like "operating". Thus militarism is what you get when you are a tribe operating in a world of lots of other aggressive militaristic tribes. Norway and Switzerland is what you get when you are operating in a region with lots of peaceful, free-trading EU nations. Non-utilitarian illiberalism occurs when countries keep acting like they are in the dangerous world of the Stone Age, (or Middle Ages), even though they live in the 21st century. (See North Korea.)

Liberty Review September 14, 2017

Max Scheler and Adam Smith on Sympathy

ADRIANA ALFARO ALTAMIRANO THE REVIEW OF POLITICS, Volume 79, Issue 3 ABSTRACT: Recent efforts to theorize the role of emotions in political life have stressed the importance of sympathy, and have often recurred to Adam Smith to articulate their claims. In the early twentieth-century, Max Scheler disputed the salutary character of sympathy, dismissing it as an […]

EconLog September 24, 2017

America's middle class: 50 years of amazing progress, by Scott Sumner

You see a lot of hand wringing about the plight of America's middle class, so I thought I'd check the data. But which data? You might start with average incomes, but these are skewed by the rapid growth in income of the top 1%. So most experts believe that median income is a better metric. The next question is household income versus family income. I choose family for two reasons:

  1. The data series for family income goes way back, whereas household income starts being collected in the mid-1980s.

  2. Households include single individuals, whereas families are multi-person households. I was technically "poor" from age 18 to 26, but I don't think anyone was too concerned about my plight. Nor should they have been. I was a household, but not a family. I think when people talk about the plight of the middle class they tend to envision families.

Law & Liberty September 25, 2017

The People Don’t Know What’s Best for Them

Former Prime Ministers of the Duchy of Luxembourg did not usually bestride the world like colossi, at least not until the advent of the European Union. This, indeed, is one of the great advantages of that Union, at least to

EconLog September 25, 2017

Friedman on Trump, by Alberto Mingardi

GettyImages-524806308-300x196.jpg Jeffrey Friedman has published a series of posts, on the Niskanen Center's blog, on Donald Trump and "populism". Friedman's work (consider for example his excellent book on the financial crisis, co-written with Wladimir Kraus) is always thoughtful. In this series of posts, he goes beyond the mere expression of moral outrage at Trump (which is kind of a sport for all those who don't like him), in an attempt to understand where he--or, better, his voters--really comes from.
He so sums up his posts:

He [Trump] didn't come from Mars, and his success isn't inexplicable. To the extent that the explanation isn't that his supporters are crazy or evil, then we have to recognize that something else is at work: that he seems, to many people, to be a politician who finally does what politicians are supposed to do.

Friedman speaks of "socio tropic nationalism" to describe Trumpism. In another post, he pointed out that:

sociotropic voting originally meant economic voting that's guided by perceptions of the state of the economy as a whole, not by voters' own financial situation. As opposed to "pocketbook voters"--who vote their economic self-interest--sociotropic citizens vote for what they think will serve the economic interests of everyone, or the majority, or those who most need help, in their society.

The sociotropic understanding of voting flies in the face of academic orthodoxy in economics, but this orthodoxy is a mere dogma. There's no reason to think that people are everywhere and always self-interested. The assumption of self-interest does make sense as a starting point in analyzing economic behavior, because in modern societies, people are taught that self-interest is acceptable in their employment, business, consumer, and financial affairs. But they're taught the opposite when it comes to government affairs. The standard, culturally accepted view is that public policy should advance the common good. So it's not surprising that when non-economists talk about politics, the common good is what they talk about.

OLL | Quotations March 10, 2014

Simeon Howard on liberty as the opposition to "external force and constraint" (1773)

Simeon Howard on liberty as the opposition to “external force and constraint” (1773)

Law & Liberty September 25, 2017

Desiccated by Judicial Dereliction

Originalism is a two-way street. Judges wishing to interpret the Constitution in accordance with its original public meaning must not import into their decisions policy proscriptions not actually derived from the text and structure of that document. Just as important …

EconLog September 22, 2017

Cold James Buchanan, by David Henderson

I'm about 60 percent of the way through Nancy MacLean's Democracy in Chains, a book that many critics have commented on.

On p. 32, Professor MacLean writes:

His bearing was "austere," a later colleague explained; while he was "a good person"--a man of integrity--he was also "one of the coldest people I have ever met."
Her footnote references this article in the New York Times.

My mileage varied a good bit. I've been cleaning my campus office at the Naval Postgraduate School in preparation for my retirement next Friday. I came across a James Buchanan file that I thought I had had in my downtown office that burned down in February 2007.

In it was a letter from Jim, which I received at age 20 in response to one I had written him. By the way, I had written him only about a week or so earlier.

Here's the letter:

Sept 1971 letter to DRH.pdf

And here's a highlight from the letter, some advice he gave a 20-year-old stranger that went well beyond what I asked for:

Incidentally, in a discussion last month, several of us agreed that now would be an excellent time for some student to take the procedure used in that appendix and apply it to the US national debt and see how the situation has changed since, say, 1960. This could be done easily, and it might well snake a publishable note for, say, the National Tax Journal.

Unfortunately, I didn't take it, which is true of lots of advice I was given at that age.

OLL | Liberty Fund Books September 12, 2017

Encyclopedic Liberty: Political Articles in the Dictionary of Diderot and D’Alembert (Denis Diderot)

d'Alembert and DiderotThis anthology is the first endeavor to bring together the most significant political writing from the entire twenty-million-word compendium known as The Encyclopedia. It includes eighty-one of the most original, controversial and representative articles on political ideas, practices, and institutions, many translated into English for the first time. The articles cover such topics as the foundations of political order, the relationship between natural and civil liberty, the different types of constitutional regimes, the role of the state in economic and religious affairs, and the boundaries between manners, morals, and laws.

OLL | Quotations March 23, 2008

Shakespeare has King Henry IV reflect on the reasons for invading the Holy Land, namely to distract people from domestic civil war and to "march all one way" under his banner (1597)


OLL | Images of Liberty April 12, 2016


TempestShakespeare is one of  the authors whose name is inscribed on the walls of the King Henry IV, King Lear, and the Tempest.

OLL December 28, 2011

Beowulf (original lang.) (Beowulf)

Beowulf, edited with Textual Foot-Notes, Index of Proper Names, and Alphabetical Glossary, by A.J. Wyatt. (Cambridge: at the University Press, 1894).

Liberty Review August 19, 2017

Democracy and Unfreedom: Revisiting Tocqueville and Beaumont in America

SARA M. BENSON SAGE JOURNALS, Volume 45, Issue 4 Abstract: This essay reexamines the famous 1831 prison tours of Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont. It reads the three texts that emerged from their collective research practice as a trilogy, one conventionally read in different disciplinary homes (Democracy in America in political science, On the Penitentiary in criminology, […]

OLL | Quotations August 3, 2016

The Levellers’ Declaration of Independence (March 1647)

William Walwyn

Law & Liberty September 22, 2017

A Sturdier Side to the Seventies

For many people, the 1970s were a time when things began to fall apart—the era of Jimmy Carter, earth tones, the oil embargo, drugs. Yet as a new book reveals, “the Me Decade” was also, at least in certain safe

OLL | Liberty Fund Books July 14, 2017

The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 3: Economic Sophisms and “What is Seen and What is Not Seen” (Frédéric Bastiat)

Economic SophismsVol. 3 of a 6 vol. collection of the works of the 19th century French political economist Frédéric Bastiat. This volume contains the complete collection of Economic Sophisms, a third of which have never been translated before; as well as a new translation of What is Seen and What is Not Seen. A detailed glossary and several Appendices contain information about the people, institutions, and ideological issues of his day.

Additional information about the Bastiat translation project can be found at the Bastiat Project Summary page.

Liberty Review September 23, 2017

Individualistic values, institutional trust, and interventionist attitudes

HANS PITLIK and MARTIN RODE JOURNAL OF INSTITUTIONAL ECONOMICS, Volume 13, Issue 3 Abstract: A popular explanation for economic development is that ‘individualistic values’ provide a mind-set that is favorable to the creation of growth-promoting institutions. The present paper investigates the relationship between individualistic values and personal attitudes toward government intervention. We consider two key components […]

OLL November 21, 2011

The Poetical Works of John Milton (John Milton)

Milton Poetical WorksThe Poetical Works of John Milton, edited after the Original Texts by the Rev. H.C. Beeching M.A. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1900).

EconLog September 24, 2017

Abraham Lincoln on the Theory of Public Choice, by David Henderson

We then, do not say, nor need we say, to maintain our proposition, that Bank officers are more honest than Government officers, selected by the same rule. What we do say is that the interest of the Sub-Treasurer is against his duty--while the interest of the Bank is on the side of its duty. Take instances--a Sub-Treasurer has in his hands one hundred thousand dollars of public money; his duty says--"You ought to pay this money over"--but his interest says, "You ought to run away with this sum, and be a nabob the balance of your life." And who that knows anything of human nature, doubts that, in many instances, interest will prevail over duty, and that the Sub-Treasurers will prefer opulent knavery in a foreign land, to honest poverty at home? But how different it is with a Bank. . . . Its interest therefore is on the side of its duty--is to be faithful to the Government, and consequently, even the dishonest amongst its managers, have no temptation to be faithless to it.This is from a speech given by Abraham Lincoln on December 26, 1839 in Springfield, IL.

I highlight it because it's on the back cover of the June 1993 issue of the Journal of Political Economy. From sometime in the 1970s to sometime in the 1990s, the JPE had a quote on the back cover of virtually every issue. I once suggested one that got used. This one was suggested by Milton Friedman.

Liberty Review September 19, 2017

Economic Development, Mobility, and Political Discontent: An Experimental Test of Tocqueville’s Thesis in Pakistan

ANDREW HEALY, KATRINA KOSEC and CECILIA HYUNJUNG MO AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENCE REVIEW, Volume 111, Issue 3 Abstract: We consider the thesis of Alexis de Tocqueville (1856) that economic development and increased mobility may generate political discontent not present in more stagnant economies. For many citizens, as they become aware of the potential for improved living standards, their aspirations may […]