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.
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.
Author, economist, and theologian Mary Hirschfeld of Villanova University talks about her book, Aquinas and the Market, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Hirschfeld looks at the nature of our economic activity as buyers and sellers and whether our pursuit of economic growth and material well-being comes at a cost. She encourages a skeptical stance about […]
On First Looking into the Wealth of Nations, with Sarah Skwire
Locke published the Two Treatises as a moral justification of violent resistance against tyranny—and the Hebrew Bible was vital to this endeavor.
I recently received this email from a self-styled “anti-school teacher.” Reprinted unchanged with permission of the author, Samuel Mosley.
Dear Professor Caplan,
My name is Samuel Mosley. I studied economics at Beloit College, my advisor was a former graduate student of yours, Laura Grube.
I recently read The Case Against Education and it explained so much of what I see. Like many new graduates who do not know exactly what they want to do but want to do something that helps people, I became a teacher right after college. I have spent the last year teaching math at a high school in Chicago. Observing how unlikely it was that the decisions we make increase our students human capital, I wondered how it could be of benefit to the students. Your book helped me answer that question.
Robert Shrimsley has an amusing piece in the Financial Times, which discusses virtue signalling:
Virtue-signalling, for those who have never felt drawn to the term, is the apparently modern crime of trying to be seen doing the right thing.
The implication is that the virtue-signaller does not really believe what they are saying but simply wishes to be admired as a good person. It is most often used against celebs who identify with more fashionable or liberal political causes such as feminism, gay rights, racial diversity or concern about climate change.
He then makes this astute observation:
Tellingly, it is never deployed by people who support those causes and who, like Extinction Rebellion in this case, might object to faux sympathisers. It is instead the insult of choice for people who don’t want to have to engage with the issue itself. In truth, what the critic dislikes is rarely the signalling; it is the virtue.
I sympathize with Shrimsley, as people often accuse me of virtue signalling because I worry about issues ranging from global warming to the rise of right-wing authoritarian nationalism. Of course I also take lots of politically incorrect positions, such as favoring fiscal austerity, the elimination of minimum wages, etc. But that doesn’t stop people from being convinced that my views are fake.
When the Constitution was written and ratified there was no free-floating principle of sovereign immunity, but now the Supreme Court has recognized one.
Here are one personal reminiscence about Alice Rivlin and one thought about a 1993 or 1994 Wall Street Journal op/ed she wrote.
At the December 1988 American Economic Association Meetings, Alice was on a panel with Martin Feldstein and Mike Boskin. The chair was Joe Stiglitz and the discussants were Joe Pechman, George Break, and John Shoven. The topic was “Tax Policy for the Next Administration.”
In her comments, Alice said that when she was involved with budgets in the 1970s, the federal deficits through most of that time were not large but in the 1980s they were. She said that we needed tax increases but it was hard to see why we didn’t have these same controversies in the 1970s: we hadn’t needed tax increases then. The answer to that seemed obvious to me and so I stuck up my hand and was called on. I quoted Alice’s statement and then said words to the effect:
It seems obvious to me why the difference between the 1970s and the 1980s. In the 1970s we had high inflation, especially in the last half of the 1970s, combined with a highly graduated (progressive) income tax system. So those two factors together acted like a large money machine for the feds and that’s why they never needed to talk about raising taxes. What do you say to that?
Alice’s answer was terse and memorable: “Well, there’s that.”
The Works of John Robinson, Pastor of the Pilgrim Fathers, with a Memoir and Annotations by Robert Ashton, 3 vols (London: John Snow, 1851). Vol. 1.
That the Division of Labour is Limited by the Extent of the Market
Finally, a narrative account of the United States for students that comprehends the flaws, but also the greatness, of a self-governing nation.
With the completion of a draft of Liberty Fund's new translation of Frédéric Bastiat's economic treatise on Economic Harmonies we have invited a group of scholars who know Bastiat and his work to reassess his contributions to economic theory some 160 years after the book's first appearance in 1850-51. Bastiat is widely known for his brilliant economic journalism (the series of Economic Harmonies) but less so for his contributions to economic theory. As an economic theorist, Bastiat has suffered from being misunderstood (even by his colleagues and contemporaries), neglected and forgotten (by most economists since his death), being subjected to abusive or dismissive criticism (Marx and Schumpeter), and being damned with faint praise (Hayek). David Hart, the Academic Editor of Liberty Fund's Bastiat translation project, argues that out of a list of 18 or so key economic ideas Bastiat can be said to have made significant contributions to 11 of them, and so must be considered a serious economic theorist. He is joined in the discussion by Donald J. Boudreaux, professor of economics at George Mason University; Jörg Guido Hülsmann, professor of economics at the University of Angers in France; and Joseph T. Salerno, academic vice president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute and the editor of the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics, and professor emeritus of economics in the Lubin School of Business of Pace University in New York City.
See the Archive of "Liberty Matters".
The Best of the OLL No. 74: John Millar, “Circumstances which tend to increase the power of the Sovereign” (1771) (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2017).
In 1960, Ronald Coase published what would become one of the most cited articles in economics and contribute to his receipt of a Nobel Prize. Coase’s point was both simple and revolutionary. First, he noted, externalities—costs from economic activity borne by people not directly involved in that activity—are reciprocal: for example, a factory’s pollution that spreads to a homeowner’s backyard is a problem only because it affects the homeowner’s backyard. If, in the above example, the factory or the backyard were in different places, then there would be no externality. Second, he showed that if there were no transaction costs—the costs of completing a bargain, such as finding willing buyers and sellers, negotiating costs, and enforcement costs—the externality would be corrected by the most efficient solution, and the initial allocation of property rights would not matter.
Until the so-called Keynesian revolution of the late 1930s and 1940s, the two main parts of economic theory were typically labeled “monetary theory” and “price theory.” Today, the corresponding dichotomy is between “macroeconomics” and “microeconomics.” The motivating force for the change came from the macro side, with modern macroeconomics being far more explicit than old-fashioned monetary theory about fluctuations in income and employment (as well as the price level). In contrast, no revolution separates today’s microeconomics from old-fashioned price theory; one evolved from the other naturally and without significant controversy.
The strength of microeconomics comes from the simplicity of its underlying structure and its close touch with the real world. In a nutshell, microeconomics has to do with supply and demand, and with the way they interact in various markets. Microeconomic analysis moves easily and painlessly from one topic to another and lies at the center of most of the recognized subfields of economics. Labor economics, for example, is built largely on the analysis of the supply and demand for labor of different types. The field of industrial organization deals with the different mechanisms (monopoly, cartels, different types of competitive behavior) by which goods and services are sold. International economics worries about the demand and supply of individual traded commodities, as well as of a country’s exports and imports taken as a whole, and the consequent demand for and supply of foreign exchange. Agricultural economics deals with the demand and supply of agricultural products and of farmland, farm labor, and the other factors of production involved in agriculture.
There are numerous illustrations in the British edition of the Frederick Douglass. They are of three types: pictures of famous abolitionists, Douglass visiting graves and memorials of those who had struggled against slavery, or horror pictures of the treatment of slaves.
Written as a doctoral dissertation under Friedrich Hayek at the London School of Economics in the early 1930s, the book covers the history of free banking in the 19th century and reviews the theoretical arguments both for and against the idea of free banking.
Societies are made of more than one individual. If a ruler governed only one individual, it would be easy to find whether or not he is a tyrant: just ask his single subject. Does “society” love its ruler? But in any actual country, the fact that a minority or even a majority of the ruled supports a ruler does not mean that he is not a tyrant. That a society must not be conceived as a single individual is a central feature of the methodological individualism used by economics to analyze society.
These considerations were illustrated by a response to a tweet where I had called Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbán a tyrant. Somebody replied:
Have you ever asked some hungarians [sic] what they think of him? They adore him. He’s no tyrant. Angela Merkel is one.
The understanding missing here is that society is composed of individuals who are not necessarily unanimous and that a tyrant can be supported by a large part of the population. My correspondent also does not appear consistent when he adds that Angela Merkel is a tyrant, for surely some Germans adore her.
David Davenport discusses how we lost "the cool, deliberate sense of the community" in making public policy and embraced the war metaphor.
The State: Its History and Development viewed Sociologically, authorized translation by John M. Gitterman (New York: B.W. Huebsch, 1922).
Effective nonprofit giving on the Right means searching for the best balance between ideas, policies, and patience.