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.
Concretely I mean that the bizarre 18th-century idea of liberalism—which is the theory of a society composed entirely of free people, liberi, and no slaves—gave ordinary people the notion that they could have a go. And go they did. In the earliest if hesitatingly liberal societies such as Britain and France, and among the liberi in societies still fully dominated by traditional hierarchies such as Russia and much of Italy, or the slave states of the United States, the turn of the 19th century saw a sharp rise of innovation. “Innovation” means new ideas in technology and organization and location, ranging from the electric motor to shipping containers to opening a new hairdressing salon in town, or to moving to Chicago away from Jim Crow and sharecropping. Since 1800, with no believable signs of letting up, it has improved the material lives of the poorest among us by startling percentages—4,300 percent in some places (that factor of 44), or 10,000 percent including improvements in quality, or at worst 1,000 percent worldwide by conventional measures including stagnant places, in a world in which rises of 100 percent had been rare and on Malthusian grounds temporary.
Nobody stopped to think these films were not just comedy, but also stories about a coming class conflict in America.
Does this Maryland cross violate our Constitution? That very question is currently before the Supreme Court.
David Henderson argues that blackmail should be legal. I’m not so sure.
One pair that I would like to hear from on this are Georgetown University philosophers Jason Brennan and Peter Jaworski. They wrote a book titled Markets Without Limits. The description of their book on Amazon states their thesis: “the question of what rightfully may be bought and sold has a simple answer: if you may do it for free, you may do it for money.” Although I haven’t read the book, a friend who has read the book carefully tells me that this thesis is an accurate summary of their message.
I’m often sympathetic to that argument, as in the case of donating a kidney for transplant. But I’m not sure it’s always true. It is legal to say to a politician, “I’ll vote for you if you change the zoning rules for a piece of property I own.” But if you say, “I’ll give you a million dollars if you change the zoning for a piece of property I own”, that’s bribery, isn’t it? As a society, we’ve decided to ban the industry of “corrupting politicians.” Is blackmail an industry worth banning?
Historian Jessica Riskin of Stanford University talks about her book The Restless Clock with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. What is the difference between human beings and machines? How has science thought about this distinction? When do we have agency and when are we constrained? Riskin discusses these issues and the implications for how we think about ourselves and the growth of artificial intelligence.
Since the boundaries of left and right are always changing, a court focused on retaining its political capital would have the constancy of a weather vane.
On the One and Good; being the Treatises of the Sixth Ennead, translated from Greek by Stephen Mackenna (Boston: Charles T. Branford, 1918).
In this Liberty Fund book the editor has compiled some of the more important writings on economics before the appearance of Smith’s Wealth of Nations in 1776. It is particularly strong on the French contribution. Not all the pieces in this volume have been put online for reasons of copyright.
The Best of the OLL No. 47: Wilhelm von Humboldt, “Of the Individual Man” (1792) (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2013).
Steven Smith talks with Richard Reinsch about his provocative thesis that a modern form of paganism is becoming public orthodoxy.
Benjamin Constant, The Liberty of Ancients Compared with that of Moderns (Unknown, 1819).
"DNA is the only thing that makes a substantial difference, accounting for 50 per cent of the variance in psychological traits. The rest comes down to chance environmental experiences that do not have long-term effects."—Robert Plomin, Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are
After decades of studying the heritability of psychological traits, Robert Plomin argues that analysis of DNA can help predict individual characteristics. By the same token, interventions in our environment, including parenting styles and variations in education, have little or no long-term effect.
Plomin’s ideas have the potential to disturb many standard political views. For example, conservatives argue that poverty can be cured by encouraging people to finish high school and get married before having children. Progressives argue that poverty can be alleviated by spending more on education. But if Plomin is correct, then attempts to use environmental interventions to influence behavior or ability are equally unlikely to prove successful.
Occupational licensing is dangerous and we should almost always rely upon certification.
HANS-BERND SCHÄFER, RAM SINGH THE JOURNAL OF LAW AND ECONOMICS, Volume 61, No. 3 Abstract: In this paper, we model and examine the effects of two salient features of eminent-domain law and its use. First, the compensation is less than full. Second, the government is not a perfect agent of society. Once these features are taken […]
In his latest column for Bloomberg, “Seven Lessons About Blackmail,” economist Tyler Cowen takes up the issue of blackmail. What motivated it, of course, as he makes clear, is the recent controversy involving Amazon’s Jeff Bezos’s allegation that the National Enquirer has blackmailed him.
Although Tyler recognizes that a case needs to be made that blackmail should be illegal, he doesn’t do justice to the issue. His only statement on the issue in his piece, other than a brief mention that Jeff Bezos is one of the good guys, is this:
Finally, most people now have a new and better sense of why blackmail should be illegal. Economists have long faced an embarrassing question: If it helps deter undesirable actions, what exactly is wrong with blackmail? The traditional answer has long been that laws against blackmail prevent would-be blackmailers from investing too much time and energy into digging up evidence of wrongdoing. Yet those hardly seem like major costs, no more than police patrols would be.
Perhaps a better objection to blackmail is that it distracts everyone’s attention, degrades public discourse and, in the largest sense, works against the possibility of second chances in life. Of course there should be debate about what constitutes good and bad conduct. But the focus should be on what people did or did not do, and not so much about the drama of how the information was obtained.
"Expansion: The Water-Cure method of extorting from Uncle Sam the confession that an Empire is better than a Republic."
"Expansion" The Public (January 31, 1902)
Kant’s Prolegomena and Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science, trans. with a Biography and Introduction by Ernest Belfort Bax (2nd revised edition) (London: George Bell and Sons, 1891).
A much-maligned trade pact that needed to be updated, NAFTA now faces an uncertain future.
The Soliloquies of St. Augustine, translated into English by Rose Elizabeth Cleveland. With Notes and Introduction by the Translator (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1910).
Once we indulge the taste to take away simply because others have, there is no end but desolation.
If public goods exist, the prime instance must be the fight against real epidemics—epidemics of infectious diseases—and the fight against antibiotic resistance. Recall that the economic definition of a “public good” is a good (or service) that everybody wants, is non-rival in consumption (all consumers can consume it simultaneously), and from which consumers cannot be excluded. The usefulness of government in providing (or financing) public goods does not imply that it should be given carte blanche to trample on individual choices and individual liberty.
Regarding epidemics, compulsory vaccination may be less effective than the authoritarian mind imagines, as a recent article in The Economist suggests (“The Campaign Against Vaccination,” January 19, 2019). Compulsory vaccination raises systemic issues about individual liberty. It provokes resistance that might actually lead to lower levels of vaccination. As for the anti-vaxxers’ campaigns, they represent a dangerous populist retreat from reason. Being suspicious of authority is good, but it does not imply rejecting modern science—provided the primacy of individual choices is admitted.
The rise of antibiotic resistance is another impending, and perhaps worse, problem. Because of antibiotic overuse, antibiotic resistance kills at least 700,000 people each year in the world (see Brianna Abbott, “Superbug from India Spread Far and Fast, Study Finds,” Wall Street Journal, January 7, 2019).
MUNGAN, MURAT C. JOURNAL OF INSTITUTIONAL AND THEORETICAL ECONOMICS JITE, Volume 173, Issue 1 Abstract: People have subjective valuations of privacy. Thus, absent further considerations, efficiency requires that a person be afforded privacy if, and only if, his subjective valuation of privacy exceeds the social value of the information that would be disclosed through a violation […]
The 1978 Airline Deregulation Act partially shifted control over air travel from the political to the market sphere. The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), which had previously controlled entry, exit, and the pricing of airline services, as well as intercarrier agreements, mergers, and consumer issues, was phased out under the CAB Sunset Act and expired officially on December 31, 1984. The economic liberalization of air travel was part of a series of “deregulation” moves based on the growing realization that a politically controlled economy served no continuing public interest. U.S. deregulation has been part of a greater global airline liberalization trend, especially in Asia, Latin America, and the European Union.
Network industries, which are critical to a modern economy, include air travel, railroads, electrical power, and telecommunications. The air travel sector is an example of a network industry involving both flows and a grid. The flows are the mobile system elements: the airplanes, the trains, the power, the messages, and so on. The grid is the infrastructure over which these flows move: the airports and air traffic control system, the tracks and stations, the wires and cables, the electromagnetic spectrum, and so on. Network efficiency depends critically on the close coordination of grid and flow operating and investment decisions.
The public's authentic position about any number of issues may be corrupt—Adam Smith may guide us through the alternative.
Matthew McCaffrey, assistant professor of enterprise at the University of Manchester, explores the economic and political work of the "forgotten giant" of economics, the Indiana-born Frank Fetter. At the height of his career in the early 20th century, Fetter was one of the most respected, cited, and debated economists in the United States. He taught for over 40 years at prestigious universities, including Stanford, Cornell, and Princeton, and his research appeared in practically every major publication in economics and political science. yet today he is virtually forgotten outside a small group of Austrian economists. In his opening essay, McCaffrey explores two aspects of his thought in particular: his contributions to theoretical economics and their relationship to Austrian ideas, and his political views as they relate to the philosophy of classical liberalism. He is joined in the discussion by Geoffrey M. Hodgson, Research Professor of Business Studies in the University of Hertfordshire, Peter Lewin is Clinical Professor in the Jindal School of Management, University of Texas, Dallas, and Joseph T. Salerno, professor of economics in the Finance and Graduate Economics Department in the Lubin School of Business of Pace University in New York.
See the Archive of "Liberty Matters".