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.

Now available: Studies on the Abuse and Decline of Reason, by F. A. Hayek.


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 Studies on the Abuse and Decline of Reason

By F. A. Hayek
Edited by Bruce Caldwell

F. A. Hayek never published the grand project he conceived in a letter to Fritz Machlup in 1939. As described in the introduction, this work would “incorporate intellectual history, methodology, and an analysis of social problems, all aimed at shedding light on the consequences of socialism.” He told Machlup that “a series of case studies should come first, . . . leading to the fundamental scientific principles of economic policy and ultimately to the consequences of socialism,” and the work would “form the basis of a systematic intellectual historical investigation of the fundamental principles of the social development of the last hundred years.” (Introduction, p. 1)


Studies on the Abuse and Decline of Reason

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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 April 16, 2018

Jerry Muller on the Tyranny of Metrics

Tyranny%20of%20Metrics.png Historian and author Jerry Muller of Catholic University talks about his latest book, The Tyranny of Metrics, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Muller argues that public policy and management are overly focused on measurable outcomes as a measure of success. This leads to organizations and agencies over-focusing on metrics rather than their broader mission. The conversation includes applications to education, crime, and health care.


Time: 1:04:45

Law & Liberty April 18, 2018

Is Partisan Gerrymandering of Congressional Elections Unconstitutional Under the Original Meaning?

Professor Ned Foley argues that the Constitution limits congressional gerrymandering. Why is this?

EconLog April 18, 2018

How People Get Good at Their Jobs: IDF Edition, by Bryan Caplan

Case Against Ed.jpg Email from EconLog reader Joshua Fox, reprinted with his permission.  There's no reason, of course, that you couldn't have a similar job training model without the injustice of conscription.

Bryan, I loved The Case Against Education.

Further support for your thesis comes from the Israel Defense Forces, where twenty-year-olds control air traffic, direct large organizations, and develop software.

In civilian life, such levels of responsibility would require  an advanced  education. 

The IDF sorts  candidates partially by their formal schooling. But since the process starts in the beginning of the  senior year, and certainly before matriculation tests are finished, academic progress is not the most important criterion.

Law & Liberty April 16, 2018

Originalism’s Circle of Life

A core aspect of the new originalism is best understood as a shift to originalism as a theory of law.

OLL | Quotations August 11, 2014

Destutt de Tracy on the mutually beneficial nature of exchange (1817)

Destutt de Tracy

OLL November 21, 2011

An Arrow against all Tyrants (Richard Overton)

arrow.against.tyrantsAn Arrow against all Tyrants (1646)

Law & Liberty April 18, 2018

Blurred Lines in Contemporary Warfare

There seems to be an inevitable erosion of limits to military power in the United States, and Rosa Brooks helps us understand how this happened.

OLL November 21, 2011

The Predictions of Hamilton and Tocqueville (Viscount James Bryce)

tocqueville.hamilton.predictionsThe Predictions of Hamilton and Tocqueville. John Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science, ed. Herbert B. Adams. 5th Series, no. IX (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, 1887).

Law & Liberty April 17, 2018

How Judicial Review Creates Incentives for Reckless Legislation

When legislators know that judicial review will save them from hard calls about the laws they vote on, no end of mischief follows.

EconLog April 17, 2018

Divine Clarity, by Bryan Caplan

My favorite passage from Ali Rizvi's The Atheist Muslim:

[M]ost moderately religious people, especially here in the West, approach their religious scriptures very differently from how they would read, say, Alice in Wonderland, or this book you're reading right now.  As I write this, I am making a conscious, deliberate effort to be as clear as I possibly can and minimize any potential ambiguity.  I know I will not be given the luxury of generous "interpretation" beyond what these words say at face value.  I will literally be held to a much higher standard as a writer than God himself.  It isn't uncommon for critics of Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris to quote decontextualized excerpts from their writings to accuse them of being bigots, while also hurling the same accusation at those who don't adequately "interpret" verses in the Quran that endorse in plain language the beheading of disbelievers or beating of wives.  In a 2014 tweet, Reza Aslan gave Harris some unsolicited advice: "If you're constantly having to explain away horrid things you've written, don't write them in [the first] place."  Note that this is from a man who has partly made a career out of constantly explaining to people why violent passages in the Scripture don't really mean what they say.The book was a birthday present from my courageous friend, Ish Faisal of Ex-Muslims of North America.

Law & Liberty April 16, 2018

John C. Calhoun, Madisonian Manqué

His institutional innovations were geared toward preserving slavery.

EconLog April 16, 2018

Thinking About War, by Contributing Guest

by Pierre Lemieux

A war, even a just war, becomes a reason or an excuse for your own state to increase its power over its own citizens--against you.
gas mask.jpg
As the scientific study of the social consequences of rational or incentivized individual actions, economics can help us think about war and even about the morality of war. Here are a few ideas.

It seems that war has always existed, and that Rousseau's idyllic savage never did. In Constant Battles: The Myth of the Peaceful, Noble Savage, Steven A. LeBlanc provides archeological evidence of primitive tribes regularly fighting over resources. (I owe this reference to Daniel J. D'Amico, who, some years ago, directed a Liberty Fund conference on statelessness.) Our hope for the future is that cooperation through trade (if allowed to flourish), the limitation of power, and the enrichment of peaceful peoples will reduce the frequency of wars. But they are unlikely to disappear. Free and rich societies, if they still exist, will always be tempting prey. The empowerment of irrational religious ideologies only gives another justification for war.

Many theorists sympathetic to anarcho-capitalism believe that protection against foreign states is the chink in the armor of ordered anarchy. In Social Justice and the Indian Rope Trick, Anthony de Jasay suggests that anarchic societies may survive only "in relatively geographical remoteness that isolates them from other societies." He invokes David Hume's belief that quarrels between different societies could give rise to government. But even if the state should not exist at all, there are things it should still do to substitute for the private institutions it displaced. Defense against aggression by foreign states is the paradigmatic case, at least if the aggressor would violate individual preferences more than the current state. In this sense, the state is justified in waging defensive wars.

Law & Liberty April 17, 2018

The Solid Ground of Mere Civility: A Conversation with Teresa Bejan

Teresa Bejan discusses with us how early modern debates over religious toleration are an example of how we can disagree well.

Liberty Review April 12, 2018

Reapplying behavioral symmetry: public choice and choice architecture

MICHAEL DAVID THOMAS PUBLIC CHOICE Abstract: New justifications for government intervention based on behavioral psychology rely on a behavioral asymmetry between expert policymakers and market participants. Public choice theory applied the behavioral symmetry assumption to policy making in order to illustrate how special interests corrupt the suppositions of benevolence on the part of policy makers. Cognitive […]

Law & Liberty April 17, 2018

The Emoluments Folly

Using the Emoluments Clause to sue the President reinforces congressional weakness, and there is a better way.

OLL | Quotations March 10, 2014

Hugo Grotius on the natural sociability of humans (1625)

Hugo Grotius

OLL November 21, 2011

The Early Christian Attitude to War (John Cecil Cadoux)

early.christian.attitude.warThe Early Christian Attitude to War: A Contribution to the History of Christian Ethics, with a Foreword by the Rev. W.E. Orchard, D.D. (London: Headly Bros, 1919).

EconLog April 16, 2018

Default or High Inflation?, by David Henderson

I was on a discussion on Facebook yesterday with an economist about default and high inflation.

This economist and I agree that the U.S. federal government has an enormous deficit and debt problem in its future. What we disagreed about is whether there's much difference between the feds defaulting on their debt or creating high inflation. He saw not much difference. I see a lot.

That motivated me to go back to an article that San Jose State University economist Jeff Hummel and I had published in Independent Review back in 2014 that, for some reason, I don't seem to have posted about here. It's titled "The Inevitability of a
U.S. Government Default
." In it, we argue that the feds are likely to default, that money creation as an alternative is not likely to get them out of their fiscal fix, and that default is actually better economically than massively high inflation.

I recommend that you read the whole article if you want both to comment and to maximize the probability that I will pay attention to your comment.

OLL | Quotations August 26, 2014

Arthur Seldon on the problem of "who guards us from the guardians"? (1990)


Law & Liberty April 16, 2018

Lee Edwards’ Just Right and the Lessons of Movement Politics

In his new memoir, Lee Edwards offers insight into the history of conservatism, but what he leaves unsaid about the movement matters as well.

Law & Liberty April 16, 2018

When “Auxiliary Precautions” Undermine Republican Character

Is it possible that the courts - one of our most important "auxiliary precautions" - are undermining republican liberty?

Liberty Review January 17, 2017

How Power Affects People: Activating, Wanting, and Goal Seeking

ANA GUINOTE ANNUAL REVIEW OF PSYCHOLOGY, Volume 68 Abstract: Sociocognitive research has demonstrated that power affects how people feel, think, and act. In this article, I review literature from social psychology, neuroscience, management, and animal research and propose an integrated framework of power as an intensifier of goal-related approach motivation. A growing literature shows that […]

OLL | Liberty Matters March 1, 2018

Henry C. Clark, "How Radical Was the Political Thought of the Encyclopédie?" (March, 2018)

Liberty MattersIn this month's discussion Henry C. Clark, who is a visiting professor in the Political Economy Project at Dartmouth College and the editor and translator of Denis Diderot's Encyclopedic Liberty (Liberty Fund, 2016), explores some of the currents of political thought which swept through the massive 17 volume Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers which appeared over a 15 year period between 1751 and 1765. In his lead essay he argues that, although it offended at times the Church and the French government, it could be read in ambiguous ways. The influences of John Locke, Voltaire, and Montesquieu are assessed and he concludes that the Encyclopédie was "not so much an ideology as a quarry" from which different readers were destined to draw different kinds of inspiration. Hank is joined in this discussion by Dan Edelstein who is William H. Bonsall Professor of French, Stanford University; Andrew Jainchill, Associate Professor, Department of History, Queens University, Kingston Ontario; and Kent Wright, Associate Professor School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, Arizona State University.

See the Archive of "Liberty Matters".

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 | Liberty Fund Books November 21, 2011

The Crisis of the Seventeenth Century (Hugh Trevor-Roper)

TrevorRoperCrisisThe Crisis of the Seventeenth Century collects nine essays by Trevor-Roper on the themes of religion, the Reformation, and social change. As Trevor-Roper explains in his preface, “the crisis in government, society, and ideas which occurred, both in Europe and in England, between the Reformation and the middle of the seventeenth century” constituted the crucible for what “went down in the general social and intellectual revolution of the mid-seventeenth century.” The Civil War, the Restoration, and the Glorious Revolution in England laid the institutional and intellectual foundations of the modern understanding of liberty, of which we are heirs and beneficiaries. Trevor-Roper’s essays uncover new pathways to understanding this seminal time. Neither Catholic nor Protestant emerges unscathed from the examination to which Trevor-Roper subjects the era in which, from political and religious causes, the identification and extirpation of witches was a central event.

Law & Liberty April 18, 2018

Explaining the New Illiberal Liberalism

What might explain the rise of illiberal views among putatively liberal people?

OLL November 21, 2011

The Theory of Interest (Irving Fisher)

theory.interest.fisherThe Theory of Interest, as determined by Impatience to Spend Income and Opportunity to Invest it (New York: Macmillan, 1930).

Liberty Review January 28, 2017

Robust Political Economy Revisited: Response to Critics

MARK PENNINGTON CRITICAL REVIEW, Volume 28, Issue 3-4 Abstract: Robust political economy is the attempt to theorize about political institutions in such a way as to guard against the knowledge and incentive problems that we can expect will threaten the public good in the real world. An implication of this attempt is the need to […]