The best books about libertarian philosophy

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been interested in human freedom, and both intrigued and cautious about the path offered by the libertarians. In my book, I finally worked out for my own benefit what is alive and what is dead in their ideals – and the various flavors in which those ideals are available. They have important insights, but too much of what they are selling is snake oil. Until now there hasn’t been any critical introduction to libertarianism for the general reader. This book aims to supply that.


I wrote...

Burning Down the House: How Libertarian Philosophy Was Corrupted by Delusion and Greed

By Andrew Koppelman,

Book cover of Burning Down the House: How Libertarian Philosophy Was Corrupted by Delusion and Greed

What is my book about?

Today’s libertarians argue that freedom is best promoted by crippling the capacity of the state. It is a dangerous delusion. I show how Hayek’s sensible critique of socialist central planning degenerated into the dangerous fantasies of Rothbard, Nozick, Rand, and Koch. Climate change denial has its roots in bad philosophy. This book aims to be the antidote for anyone who feels drawn to that philosophy.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World

Andrew Koppelman Why did I love this book?

In the last couple of centuries, the human race became fabulously rich. McCloskey shows that this wasn’t because of capital accumulation, expanded trade, or colonial exploitation. Rather, a new respect for the liberty and dignity of ordinary working folk begot enormous innovation. We need to stop sneering at the bourgeoisie. She is a wonderful storyteller, and this big book (the last of three big volumes) is a fast read. I discovered that a lot of the history I learned in high school about the rise of the modern economy was wrong. She also offers some important insights into how capitalism makes us better people. I’m not as suspicious of regulation as she is, but she gets so much right that it hardly matters. 

By Deirdre Nansen McCloskey,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Bourgeois Equality as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

There's little doubt that most humans today are better off than their forebears. Stunningly so, the economist and historian Deirdre McCloskey argues in the concluding volume of her trilogy celebrating the oft-derided virtues of the bourgeoisie. The poorest of humanity, McCloskey shows, will soon be joining the comparative riches of Japan and Sweden and Botswana. Why? Most economists from Adam Smith and Karl Marx to Thomas Piketty say the Great Enrichment since 1800 came from accumulated capital. McCloskey disagrees, fiercely. "Our riches," she argues, "were made not by piling brick on brick, bank balance on bank balance, but by piling…


Book cover of Free Market Fairness

Andrew Koppelman Why did I love this book?

Tomasi offers a new synthesis of Rawlsian high liberalism and market-oriented libertarianism, which he calls "market democracy." It treats capitalistic economic freedoms as crucial elements of liberty, but demands that institutions be designed so that their benefits are shared by the least fortunate citizens. His central focus is the value of entrepreneurial activity as a moral ideal. I have a lot of disagreements with this book, but without its smart provocations I might not have written my own.

By John Tomasi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Free Market Fairness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Can libertarians care about social justice? In Free Market Fairness, John Tomasi argues that they can and should. Drawing simultaneously on moral insights from defenders of economic liberty such as F. A. Hayek and advocates of social justice such as John Rawls, Tomasi presents a new theory of liberal justice. This theory, free market fairness, is committed to both limited government and the material betterment of the poor. Unlike traditional libertarians, Tomasi argues that property rights are best defended not in terms of self-ownership or economic efficiency but as requirements of democratic legitimacy. At the same time, he encourages egalitarians…


Book cover of The Road to Serfdom

Andrew Koppelman Why did I love this book?

The classic exposition of the idea that central governmental economic planning will inevitably be wasteful and tyrannical. Hayek today is caricatured by both right and left, but he is not the minimal state absolutist that both sides often take him to be. Hayek thinks that the way to attack poverty is not redistribution – there isn’t yet enough wealth in existence to give everyone a decent life – but the opportunities created by free markets. Another impetus for my own work was reading this book and discovering that I agreed with him much more than I had expected to. 

By F. A. Hayek, Bruce Caldwell (editor),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Road to Serfdom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An unimpeachable classic work in political philosophy, intellectual and cultural history, and economics, "The Road to Serfdom" has inspired and infuriated politicians, scholars, and general readers for half a century. Originally published in 1944 - when Eleanor Roosevelt supported the efforts of Stalin, and Albert Einstein subscribed lock, stock, and barrel to the socialist program - "The Road to Serfdom" was seen as heretical for its passionate warning against the dangers of state control over the means of production. For F. A. Hayek, the collectivist idea of empowering government with increasing economic control would lead not to a utopia but…


Book cover of Principles For A Free Society: Reconciling Individual Liberty With The Common Good

Andrew Koppelman Why did I love this book?

This is the best contemporary introduction to the way in which laws that facilitate market transactions promote peace and prosperity. When philosophy students are introduced to libertarianism, they typically read Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia, but Epstein’s book is more illuminating and more carefully argued. As with Hayek, I didn’t read this in a friendly spirit, but I was persuaded by the big picture. We disagree about details – a lot of details – but the basic story is sound.

By Richard A. Epstein,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Principles For A Free Society as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The countrys leading libertarian scholar sets forth the essential principles for a legal order that, in an age of limited government, balances individual liberty against the common good.. Richard Epstein, one of our countrys most distinguished legal scholars, sets out an authoritative set of principles that explains both the uses and the limits of government power. Drawing on the work of multiple disciplines, this book offers a thoroughly realized blueprint to guide us through political conflict in the troubled times ahead. }As government budgets come under political fire and free-market ideals spread, the legal and social principles of libertarian thought…


Book cover of Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement

Andrew Koppelman Why did I love this book?

This is the indispensable book if you want to know what libertarianism is and where it came from. It is filled with more entertaining eccentrics than a Dickens novel. My book focuses on philosophical arguments for a minimal state, but I couldn’t get very deep into the historical background: who was making those arguments and what moved them to do it. One of the pleasures of intellectual history is encountering minds that are weird and surprising (not necessarily in a bad way), and Doherty offers a lot of them.

By Brian Doherty,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Radicals for Capitalism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On Wall Street, in the culture of high tech, in American government: Libertarianism-the simple but radical idea that the only purpose of government is to protect its citizens and their property against direct violence and threat-has become an extremely influential strain of thought. But while many books talk about libertarian ideas, none until now has explored the history of this uniquely American movement-where and who it came from, how it evolved, and what impact it has had on our country. In this revelatory book, based on original research and interviews with more than 100 key sources, Brian Doherty traces the…


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Book cover of The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever

Michael Bungay Stanier Author Of The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever

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Why am I passionate about this?

Coaching is a wonderful technology that can help people be a force for change… and is often wrapped up in mystic and woo-woo and privilege that makes it inaccessible and/or unattractive to too many. I want being more coach-like—by which I mean staying curious a little longer, and rushing to action and advice-giving—to be an everyday way of being with one another. Driven by this, I’ve written the best-selling book on coaching this century (The Coaching Habit) and have created training that’s been used around the world by more than a quarter of a million people. I’m on a mission to unweird coaching.

Michael's book list on unexpectedly useful books about coaching

What is my book about?

The coaching book that's for all of us, not just coaches.

It's the best-selling book on coaching this century, with 15k+ online reviews. Brené Brown calls it "a classic". Dan Pink said it was "essential".

It is practical, funny, and short, and "unweirds" coaching. Whether you're a parent, a teacher, a leader, or even a coach, you can stay curious longer.

By Michael Bungay Stanier,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Coaching Habit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Look for Michael's new book, The Advice Trap, which focuses on taming your Advice Monster so you can stay curious a little longer and change the way you lead forever.

In Michael Bungay Stanier's The Coaching Habit, coaching becomes a regular, informal part of your day so managers and their teams can work less hard and have more impact.

Drawing on years of experience training more than 10,000 busy managers from around the globe in practical, everyday coaching skills, Bungay Stanier reveals how to unlock your peoples' potential. He unpacks seven essential coaching questions to demonstrate how-by saying less and…


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Interested in liberty, libertarianism, and totalitarianism?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about liberty, libertarianism, and totalitarianism.

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