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 Colonial Origins of the American Constitution

Edited and with an Introductory Essay by Donald S. Lutz

This landmark collection of eighty documents created by the American colonists—and not English officials—is the genesis of American fundamental law and constitutionalism. Included are all documents attempting to unite the colonies, beginning with the New England Confederation of 1643.


Colonial Origins of the American Constitution

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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.

Law & Liberty July 25, 2017

Nancy MacLean’s Ad Hominem Ad Hominem

A market that rewards victims generates demand for offenses, so it is scarcely surprising that Nancy MacLean, author of an intellectual biography of James M. Buchanan, feels offended. This is the essence of her answer to charges that she distorted

EconTalk July 24, 2017

Sally Satel on Organ Donation

kidney.jpgSally Satel, psychiatrist and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the challenges of increasing the supply of donated organs for transplantation and ways that public policy might increase the supply. Patel, who has received two kidney donations, suggests a federal tax credit as a way to increase the supply of organs while saving the federal government money. She also discusses the ethical issues surrounding various forms of compensation for organ donors.


Time: 1:00:12

EconLog July 25, 2017

Do you really want to include capital gains?, by Scott Sumner

I frequently argue that income is a meaningless concept, as it includes capital gains (and losses) in asset values. Indeed the problem is even more basic, as income mixes labor income and all investment income, which is like adding apples and oranges. No, it's even worse, like adding strawberries and watermelons, and talking about the number of "fruit".

Because income is a meaningless concept, income inequality is also meaningless. But let's say I'm wrong, and let's assume that capital income actually measures something interesting. What then? In that case, the income of the top quintile would almost certainly be highly cyclical. Consider the following graph, showing the total stock market capitalization in the US:

Screen Shot 2017-07-07 at 9.00.53 AM.png
Notice that stock market capitalization fell by 23.4% of GDP between 2001 and 2002, and by 44.5% of GDP between 2007 and 2009. What happens when stock market capitalization falls by nearly a quarter?

Let's consider the top quintile of the population, which owns the vast majority of stocks. Capital losses of 23% of GDP would sharply cut into their income from other sources. The top quintile earns about 55% of total income, or 43% after taxes and transfers. If the income inequality data were accurate, it should show a huge drop in the share of income earned by the top quintile, any time the stock market crashed. But we don't see that---income shares are pretty stable from year to year.

Liberty Review July 24, 2017

Libertarianism and Basic-Income Guarantee: Friends or Foes?

JUAN RAMÓN RALLO JOURNAL OF BUSINESS ETHICS Abstract: The Basic-Income Guarantee is a governmental programme of income redistribution that enjoys an increasing predicament among academic and political circles. Traditionally, the philosophical defence for this programme has been articulated from the standpoint of social liberalism, republicanism, or communism. Recently, however, libertarian philosopher Matt Zwolinski also tried to […]

Law & Liberty July 23, 2017

Why the Academy Will Remain Mostly Unwelcoming to the Right

Chris Eisgruber, the President of Princeton University, recently expressed concern that universities are perceived “right or wrongly, as blue dots”in a politically divided America and thus said that universities must be concerned with political diversity. Some other university leaders

OLL | Liberty Matters July 5, 2017

Matt Zwolinski, "William Graham Sumner – Liberty's Forgotten Man" (July 2017)

Liberty Matters History has not been kind to the legacy of William Graham Sumner. In his time (1840-1910), Sumner was one of the most prestigious and widely read libertarian intellectuals in the United States. Beyond his more technical academic work Sumner also wrote passionately and voluminously in defense of laissez faireon a wide range of social issues. His popular critique of protectionism, "The –ism Which Teaches that Waste Makes Wealth" (1885) and his denunciation of imperialism in "The Conquest of the United States by Spain" (1898) are two of his most impressive polemical works. Sumner's most sustained investigation of questions of economic policy and distributive justice appeared in a collection essays What Social Classes Owe to Each Other (1883) which includes his most famous single essay – "The Forgotten Man" (1884). Unfortunately, Sumner's intellectual legacy suffered essentially the same fate as that of his contemporary Herbert Spencer, and for much the same reason. From near-ubiquity and respectability, Sumner's ideas have descended into obscurity and disrepute. To the extent he is remembered at all today, it is mostly for his alleged "social Darwinism." In this essayMatt Zwolinski, professor of philosophy at the University of San Diego, examines the charge of social Darwinism, and, more generally, the nature of Sumner's views on redistribution and our responsibilities toward the poor and vulnerable, and concludes that the charge of social Darwinism is mistaken as applied to Sumner, whi is a principled libertarian, not a social Darwinist. Moreover, he is a libertarian who took special pains to demonstrate the ways in which a regime of liberty is especially beneficial to society's most vulnerable members. Matt is joined in the dicussion by Phillip W. Magness, a historian based in the Washington, D.C. region, Robert Leroux, professor of sociology at the University of Ottawa, and Fabio Rojas, professor of sociology at Indiana University.

See the Archive of "Liberty Matters".

OLL | Quotations March 8, 2009

Frédéric Bastiat on the state as the great fiction by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else (1848)


OLL November 21, 2011

The Texts of Taoism, Part I (Lao Tzu)

The Sacred Books of China. The Texts of Taoism. Part I: The Tao Teh King. The Writings of Kwang Ze Books I-XVII, trans. James Legge (Oxford University Press, 1891).

Law & Liberty July 25, 2017

Political Institutions Can’t Foster Virtue, They Can Only Channel Vice

In the July Liberty Forum essay, Joseph Postell boldly takes on the core problem of representative government: how a representative legislature can be made to serve the common good instead of the parochial interests to which its members are tied. …

OLL | Images of Liberty April 12, 2016

Amagi Symbol: Liberty Fund's Logo


We believe that the first written reference to the concept of liberty is the ancient Sumerian cuneiform symbol "amagi" which Liberty Fund uses as its logo.

Urukagina, the leader of the Sumerian city-state of Girsu/Lagash, led a popular movement that resulted in the reform of the oppressive legal and governmental structure of Sumeria. The oppressive conditions in the city before the reforms is described in the new code preserved in cuneiform on tablets of the period: "From the borders of Ningirsu to the sea, there was the tax collector." During his reign (ca. 2350 B.C.) Urukagina implemented a sweeping set of laws that guaranteed the rights of property owners, reformed the civil administration, and instituted moral and social reforms. Urukagina banned both civil and ecclesiastical authorities from seizing land and goods for payment, eliminated most of the state tax collectors, and ended state involvement in matters such as divorce proceedings and perfume making. He even returned land and other property his predecessors had seized from the temple. He saw that reforms were enacted to eliminate the abuse of the judicial process to extract money from citizens and took great pains to ensure the public nature of legal proceedings.

In this important code is found the first written reference to the concept of liberty (amagi or amargi, literally, "return to the mother"), used in reference to the process of reform. The exact nature of this term is not clear, but the idea that the reforms were to be a return to the original social order decreed by the gods fits well with the translation. 

EconLog July 21, 2017

Frank Knight on John B. Watson, by David Henderson


I dug out of my library a famous unpublished (until 1991) 1932 mimeograph (those under age 45 should look up that term) article by Frank H. Knight. The article is titled "The Case for Communism: From the Standpoint of an Ex-Liberal." It's for a blog post I'm thinking of writing. A friend gave me my copy in about 1970. It's a speech he gave to the University of Chicago's Communist Club and National Student League.

Here's a fun passage:

The dictatorship of the [Communist] Party once established, and given a monopoly of propaganda, the problem of controlling the proliferation of romantic myths, of unifying and stabilizing and concentrating on one system at a time should be simple in the extreme. One of the greatest of modern scientific developments is waiting to serve the regime in this regard and save the world from turmoil. I refer, of course, to psychology in its applied aspect. In this connection we may thrill with patriotism as well as hope. No other country has approached our own in the succession of peerless psychologists we have given to the world. To name but a few: P.T. Barnum; Jay Gould; Mrs. Mary B.G. Eddy; Mrs. Aimee S. McPherson (notice the due representation of both sexes); Billy Sunday; Goat-gland Doc Brinkley; and coming to our own home town, our own dear Big Bill Thompson, Balaban, and Katz, and WGN. As a climax to this glorious series I would name Dr. John B. Watson. It is not necessary to prove that he is the world's greatest psychologist; he admits it. And besides, doesn't he draw $40,000 a year [DRH note: this is over $700,000 in 2017 dollars] for his psychologizing? Speaking for myself, I must express chagrin that it is so little. A man who can stand before the cream of the intelligentsia and exhort them to believe that they do not believe, but only react, to think that there is no such thing as thinking, but only muscle-twitching, that the whole idea of struggle and error is an error against which we must struggle until we see that seeing is an illusion, and illusion likewise an illusion--in short, one who repeats that "I am not saying anything, and you are not hearing anything, the gears are in mesh, nothing more," and makes them like it and pay to hear it--I say such a man should be worth at least $1,000,000 in any properly ordered civilization. One of the first acts of justice of the Communist dictatorship will undoubtedly be to give such a man a task which is not an insult to his powers. . . .

Law & Liberty July 21, 2017

The Odour of Sanctity

Simone Veil, the French politician most responsible for the passage of the law to legalise medical termination of pregnancy in France, died recently at the age of 87 in what I would be tempted to call, if France were not

OLL | Liberty Fund Books November 21, 2011

Democracy in America: Historical-Critical Edition, vol. 4 (Alexis de Tocqueville)

A new 4 volume edition of Tocqueville’s classic text De la Démocratie en Amérique. The original was published in two large volumes, the first in 1835, the second in 1840. The first volume focused primarily on political society; the second, on civil society. The online version of Liberty Fund’s edition contains only the English translation of the French critical edition. Vol. 4 contains Parts III and IV and numerous appendices.

Law & Liberty July 24, 2017

“We Shall Fight on the Beaches”

Some of the most amazing things about Dunkirk, the lauded new movie written and directed by Christopher Nolan, are the things that are not in the film. Dunkirk dramatizes what was considered at the time a massive failure —

OLL | Quotations March 16, 2008

Aristotle insists that man is either a political animal (the natural state) or an outcast like a "bird which flies alone" (4thC BC)


OLL | Images of Liberty April 12, 2016

Bach, Music, and Liberty

Among the names engraved on the limestone walls of the Luther's Hymns and Bach's Chorals. We exhibit here some of the melodies from those works.

Bach, Music, and Liberty 1A moving hymn by Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott, was put to Johann Sebastian Bach. The themes of faith and freedom have spoken powerfully to Protestants ever since:

A stronghold sure our God remains,
A shield and hope unfailing;
In need His help our freedom gains,
'er all we fear prevailing.
Our old malignant foe
Would fain work us woe.
With craft and great might
He doth against us fight;
On earth is not one like him.

Bach, Music, and Liberty 2This score at the left is from The Hymns of Martin Luther.

OLL | Quotations September 20, 2009

Charles Darwin on life as a spontaneous order which emerged by the operation of natural laws (1859)


OLL November 21, 2011

The Little Clay Cart (King Shudraka)

The Little Clay Cart [Mrcchakatika] A Hindu Drama attributed to King Shudraka, translated from the original Sanskrit and Prakrits into English Prose and Verse by Arthur William Ryder, Ph.D. (Cambridge Mass.: Harvard Univesity, 1905).

Law & Liberty July 21, 2017

Rousseau’s Contrarian View of the Marketplace of Ideas

The idea of the “marketplace of ideas” in which truth wins out through competition with error has a strong tradition in the U.S. Suggested in nascent form by Milton and Mill, US Supreme Court decisions appeal to it in free

Liberty Review June 23, 2016

Freedom as Independence

CHRISTIAN LIST AND LAURA VALENTINI ETHICS 126.4 (2016). DOI: 10.1086/686006 Abstract: Much recent philosophical work on social freedom focuses on whether freedom should be understood as noninterference, in the liberal tradition associated with Isaiah Berlin, or as nondomination, in the republican tradition revived by Philip Pettit and Quentin Skinner. We defend a conception of freedom that […]