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 An Essay on the Life of the Honourable Major-General Israel Putnam

By David Humphreys
Edited and with a Foreword by William C. Dowling

David Humphreys was aide-de-camp to Washington during the American Revolution. His Life of Israel Putnam, originally published in 1788, has rightly been described as “the first biography of an American written by an American.” It is, as William C. Dowling observes, “a classic of revolutionary writing, very readable and immensely interesting in what it says about the temper of the new republic in the period immediately after the American Revolution.” The subject—General Israel Putnam—is remembered to history and legend as exclaiming: “Don’t fire ’til you see the whites of their eyes!” to American soldiers at the Battle of Bunker Hill. As Professor Dowling notes, “All the episodes are retold—Bunker Hill, the Battle of White Plains, the crossing of the Delaware, the Battle of Princeton—but from the perspective of one who was there throughout, and who always permits us to see Putnam as the sort of character by whom history is, in the last analysis, made.” Humphreys wrote the biography when formation of the Society of the Cincinnati, composed of men who were officers in the Revolution, “focused debate in the new republic about the competing claims of individual liberty and the good of the community.”


An Essay on the Life of the Honourable Major-General Israel Putnam

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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 November 21, 2017

Originalism and Proportionality Analysis

One of the important differences between American constitutional law and the constitutional law of much of Europe and of many countries throughout the world is the use of proportionality analysis.  Proportionality analysis can be thought of in several ways, but …

EconLog November 21, 2017

Ryan Murphy on government effectiveness and growth, by Scott Sumner

A decade ago I wrote a paper that looked at several definitions of neoliberalism, and found that what I called "egalitarian neoliberalism" was especially closely correlated with civic virtue. This model was based on the various indices of economic freedom, with the sign on size of government inverted (so that bigger government was a plus, not a minus as in the typical economic freedom indices). For example, the (high trust) Nordic countries gravitate toward models that combine free markets and large government.

Ryan Murphy has a very interesting new paper that explores these ideas in much more depth. He constructs an index of "State Economic Modernity" (SEM) by subtracting size of government in the Fraser Index of Economic Freedom of the World (EFW) from the component that measures rule of law and property rights. Again, the highest values of this SEM index tend to occur in the Nordic countries. He rightly points out that this measure makes more sense than "state capacity", which doesn't tell us what governments are actually doing:

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Law & Liberty November 22, 2017

Understanding the Rise of Zimbabwe

Editor’s note : The first installment of a three-part series.

The first political leader of any consequence whom I ever met (and I have not met many since) was Ian Smith, Prime Minister of the pariah state of Rhodesia, as

Liberty Review November 5, 2017

Marsilius of Padua on Representation

MULIERI, A. HISTORY OF POLITICAL THOUGHT, Volume 38, Number 4 Abstract: The concept of representation plays an important role in Marsilius of Padua’s major work, the Defensor Pacis. Yet, with a few notable exceptions,Marsilius’ concept of representation has received relatively little attention among recent scholars. The main purpose of this article is to fill this gap […]

EconLog November 20, 2017

How Corporate Income Taxation is Misunderstood, by Contributing Guest

by Richard McKenzie

"Don't tax me, don't tax thee, tax the man behind the tree!"
~ The late U.S. Senator Russell Long (D-LA)

trade.jpg Republicans are being excoriated by pundits, journalists and Democrats for proposing to lower the corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. The critics claim the reduction is an unjust and extravagant tax break for President Donald Trump and his rich business compatriots. The reduction will transfer the country's tax burden onto the backs of the middle-class and lower-income groups, or so we are told.

The critics, however, don't appreciate two major problems with corporate taxes:

First, the critics fail to grasp the wisdom in a widely repeated tenet of public finance economics: Corporations don't pay taxes, people do. This is to say that while corporate taxes are directly drawn from corporate profits, those taxes must ultimately come out of the pockets of real people - and the real people affected are not just stockholders whose dividends are undercut by the tax.

OLL | Quotations March 10, 2014

Horace Say on "I, Pin" and the international division of labor (1852)

Horace Say on “I, Pin” and the international division of labor (1852)

Law & Liberty November 21, 2017

Contra Criminalization

This month’s Liberty Forum essay offers a thoroughly sensible take on a continuing and deepening problem afflicting the United States. Robert VerBruggen offers readers an excellent overview of the depth and breadth of the problem. The toll of opioids is …

EconTalk November 20, 2017

Tim Harford on Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy

50%20Inventions.jpgFinancial Times columnist and author Tim Harford talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about Harford's latest book, Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy. Highlights include how elevators are an important form of mass transit, why washing machines didn't save quite as much time as you'd think, and the glorious illuminating aspects of light throughout history.


Time: 1:08:50

OLL November 21, 2011

Some Love Songs (Francesco Petrarch)

Some Love Songs of Petrarch, translated and annotated with a Biographical Introduction by William Dudley Foulke (Oxford University Press, 1915).

OLL | Images of Liberty April 12, 2016

Shaftesbury's Illustrations

shaftesbury.illustrationThe The Characteristicks of Men, Manners, and Opinion (1737), included a number of illustrations in the book in order to complement the text. The exact meaning of these illustrations is not entirely clear. The illustration to the left is from the frontispiece of vol. 1.

Law & Liberty November 22, 2017

Don’t Make Anti-Opioid Laws the Villain Here

Advocacy of legalized narcotics is not new, but Jeffrey Miron’s recent formulation, “Legalizing Opioids Would Dramatically Reduce Overdoses,” combines ignorance and skewed accounting. When assessing the damage associated with the use of powerful narcotics, Miron looks to restrictions on availability …

EconLog November 22, 2017

International Adoption: The Personal Side, by Bryan Caplan

Arthur Brooks' personal experience with international adoption beautifully complements the science:

When the moment of truth came, my name was called, I entered the room, and a Chinese official plopped a baby into my arms. I braced myself, and -- nothing happened. She didn't cry. She didn't scream. She just held onto my shirt with her tiny fists and stared up at my face. To me it was as if we had been together since the moment of her birth.


Today, my daughter is a freshman in high school. She spends too much time on Instagram but is killing it in her classes. And what about our giving experiment? In truth, I don't know or care what my daughter has done for my income or health. But my happiness? It spikes every time she looks at me and I remember the magic day we met.Despite this, international adoption has become less common.  And governments around the world are to blame:

OLL | Liberty Matters November 1, 2017

Peter Boettke, "Gordon Tullock and the Rational Choice Commitment" (November, 2017)

Liberty MattersThis month's discussion looks at the work of the political economist Gordon Tullock who saw himself very much in the tradition of Mises – a praxeologist who from a methodologically individualistic perspective would study human action across all social arrangements.  Tullock's subject matter was humanity in all settings, and that included not just markets, but non-market settings such as law, politics, and charity.  Along the way he made fundamental contributions to the theory of bureaucracy, constitutional construction, judicial decision-making, voting behavior, lobbying, scientific organization, redistribution, and even sociobiology. The Lead Essay is by Peter J. Boettke, University Professor of Economics and Philosophy at George Mason University, and he is joined by Peter Kurril-Klitgard, Professor of Political Theory and Comparative Politics at the Dept. of Political Science of the University of Copenhagen, David M. Levy, Professor of Economics at George Mason University, and Michael Munger, director of the PPE Program at Duke University and professor of political science, economics, and public policy.

See the Archive of "Liberty Matters".

OLL | Liberty Fund Books November 21, 2011

Revolutionary Writings (John Adams)

AdamsRevThis volume contains the principal shorter writings in which Adams addresses the prospect of revolution and the form of government proper to the new United States. There are pieces on the nature of the British Constitution and the meaning of rights, sovereignty, representation, and obligation.

EconLog November 21, 2017

Summers on Growth, Trade, Immigration, Marshall Plan, and Tax Cartels, by David Henderson

Larry Summers recently gave a speech at an event hosted by the Center for Global Development. It's quite good. His understanding of the big picture on economic growth is very impressive, as is his numeracy. What's a little surprising is his admission about some pretty awful bureaucratic incentives (although I'm glad he admitted it). And he gets the Marshall Plan wrong.

First, the great news on standards of living in the world:

Fifty percent is the growth that has been achieved in a variety of six-year periods in China over the last generation and in many other countries, as well. And so if you look at material standards of living, we have seen more progress for more people and more catching up than ever before. That is not simply about things that are material and things that are reflected in GDP. The primary message of the Global Health 2035 Report that I coauthored several years ago and that Amanda Glassman and others from CGD were involved in was that if current trends continue, with significant effort from the global community, it is reasonable to hope that in 2035 the global child mortality rate will be lower than the US child mortality rate was when my children were born in 1990. That is a staggering human achievement.

OLL | Quotations March 10, 2014

Macaulay argues that "the main end" of government is the protection of persons and property (1839)


OLL November 21, 2011

The Shi King, the Old “Poetry Classic” of the Chinese (Misc (Confucian School))

shi.kingThe Shi King, the Old “Poetry Classic” of the Chinese. A Close Metrical Translation, with Annotations by William Jennings (London: George Routledge and Sons, 1891).

Law & Liberty November 21, 2017

A New Mission for Conservative Public Interest Litigation

I used to be in the public interest litigation business, back in the premodern era. My comments here briefly summarize an outsider’s observations on what I think has changed in public interest law and what its role should be in

EconLog November 21, 2017

Himmelfarb on why intellectuals hate capitalism, by Alberto Mingardi

It is not the fault of capitalism that the common man does not appreciate uncommon books. ~Ludwig von Mises


There are many gems in Gertrude Himmelfarb's Past and Present. The Challenges of Modernity, from the Pre-Victorians to the Postmodernists.

One is a 1952 essay on "American Democracy and Its European Critics". In that essay, in comparing Tocqueville's reading of America with Harold Laski's (in The American Democracy), Himmelfarb notes perceptively that critics of American culture tend to see that "the incubus of Big Business lies heavily upon the whole country, stifling individual expression and corrupting individual tastes".

But we know well that successful enterprises, cultural enterprises included, basically provide people with something that they want. Himmelfarb knows this, too.

OLL November 21, 2011

Money and the Mechanism of Exchange (William Stanley Jevons)

money.mechanismMoney and the Mechanism of Exchange (New York: D. Appleton and Co. 1876).

Liberty Review November 9, 2017

‘A Burthen Too Heavy For Humane Sufferance’: Locke on Reputation

STUART-BUTTLE, T. HISTORY OF POLITICAL THOUGHT, Volume 38, Number 4 Abstract: Locke emphasized that a concern for reputation powerfully shaped the individual’s conduct. Most scholarship suggests that Locke portrayed this phenomenon in negative terms. This article complicates this picture. A concern for reputation served a constructive role in Locke’s theory of social development, which offered a […]

Law & Liberty November 21, 2017

How Two Governments Protect Liberty Better than One

The happy paradox of constitutional federalism is that two sets of government can protect liberty better than one.  This promotion of liberty depends on a federalism of different governmental spheres laid down in the Constitution itself. The Constitution enumerates and

OLL | Quotations March 10, 2014

Milton on Eve's discovery of the benefits of the division of labor in the Garden of Eden (1667)

John Milton