Learning About Liberty

The Hayek-Keynes rap by EconStories.

For students beginning to learn about libertarianism, there are some superb resources online for free from the Adam Smith Institute and elsewhere.

Books:

A Beginner's Guide to Liberty is the ideal starting point. With essays from contemporary British and American thinkers on topics ranging from How markets work to Sex, drugs and liberty, it is the perfect primer to start with.

In Freedom 101, Madsen Pirie takes on 101 of the most common criticisms of liberty and free markets and demolishes them, one page at a time.

The Condensed Wealth of Nations takes the most important sections of Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations and explains them clearly and consisely.

Austrian Economics: A Primer gives a comprehensive introduction to the Austrian School of economics, made famous by FA Hayek and Ludwig von Mises, which emphasises the importance of individuals and the limits of knowledge in economics and offers an alternative explanation for booms and busts to the mainstream view.

Further reading:

Adam Smith is widely considered to be the father of modern economics, and his two great works The Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments are foundational to the liberal tradition.

There are many kinds and degrees of classical liberalism, but JS Mill's On Liberty is a superb introduction to liberalism in general.

Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt is considered by many to be the best introductory book on free market economics with an Austrian school tint. Written more recently, Gene Callahan's Economics for Real People is another good primer and incorporates Austrian views as well.

FA Hayek's two most popular books are The Road to Serfdom (£) and The Constitution of Liberty (£). The former argues that abandoning individual liberty will eventually lead to a tyrannical state and was enormously influential when it was published in the 1940s. The Constitution of Liberty outlines Hayek's views of society and political philosophy, and is a thought-provoking introduction to the idea of spontaneous order.

Hayek's essay The Use of Knowledge in Society is a cornerstone of individualist thought, emphasising the limits of knowledge in social, economic and governmental actions.

Milton Friedman's Free to Choose and Capitalism and Freedom are both excellent introductions to the work of arguably the 20th Century's most influential libertarian. (The TV series accompanying Free to Choose is available to stream for free here.)

Blogs:

The Adam Smith Institute Blog is a popular forum for discussion of current affairs and the application of libertarian ideas to the modern world. It is updated several times a day.

Marginal Revolution is the blog of US economists Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok, of George Mason University, and one of the most popular economics blogs in the world.

Samizdata is one of the longest-running UK blogs and continues to provide a witty, diverse selection of views from across the pro-liberty spectrum.

Cafe Hayek is run by Russ Roberts of EconTalk fame (see below) and Don Boudreaux, and gives an entertaining and informative take on the day's news from a Hayekian perspective.

Hit & Run is an acerbic blog on American politics by the people at Reason Magazine, with frequent reports of the drug war and political corruption in the US.

Media:

LearnLiberty is a collection of short and informative videos explaining key concepts in classical liberal thought.

The ASI's YouTube channel collects lectures given at Adam Smith Institute events on subjects such as libertarian foreign policy, the roots of the financial crisis and the freedom to smoke.

EconTalk is a terrific regular podcast by George Mason University's Russ Roberts, in which he interviews a writer or economist about their work.

Other resources:

Mises.org is the best online resource for Austrian school economics, with thousands of full books and articles by people like Hayek, Mises and Murray Rothbard available for free download.

Libertarianism.org is a new website that aims to be the best resource online for all things libertarianism.

About the Institute

The Adam Smith Institute is the UK’s leading libertarian think tank...

Read more