JustKidding, a friend, reader and frequent commentator on this site was recently asked, in another forum, to provide a list of Libertarian readings that might help someone get an idea of what Libertarians are all about. He was kind enough to forward his response to me, and I think it is well worth repeating here. I have included links for those works that are available on line.
Here are some books that I would recommend. They are not all the most scintillating books, but they will get you started:
1. An easy start to learning about libertarian philosophy (or classical liberalism, as it is also called) is to read almost anything by Frederic Bastiat, a nineteenth century philosopher. He is generally concise and easy to understand, something not all philosophers can say.
a. The Law
b. What is seen and what is unseen
c. The petition of the candlestick makers
2. One thing that most libertarians believe is that the use of government force is inherently immoral, and that in only a few cases is that immoral quality outweighed by the near-universality of the benefits (some level of national defense and law enforcement, for example). However, most libertarians also believe that, even if it weren’t immoral for government to use force to do “good things,” it is impossible for the government to coordinate the resources necessary for it to do what it claims to want to do.
a. I, Pencil, Leonard Read (discusses the enormous amount of info needed to make a simple pencil)
b. The Use of Knowledge in Society, by Fredrich Hayek (this is a little more complicated reading than I, Pencil, but addresses the same principles in a much more powerful fashion)
3. The environment is one area where people usually assume that the government has to step in or we humans will destroy everything, but humans are possibly not that destructive, and government can also be devastating to the environment.
a. Free Market Environmentalism, by Terry Anderson
b. The Skeptical Environmentalist, by Bjorn Lumborg
4. There is a lot written about the natural inclination of government towards being bought off by interest groups (economists call it rent-seeking), but much of it is pretty complicated. Here is one that isn’t:
a. Beyond Politics, by William Mitchell and Randy Simmons
5. There are some libertarian books that are just a fun read
a. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein (a sci-fi book about a moon colony – very good)
b. Fair Play, by Steven Landsburg (non-fiction, but written by an economist who writes in a very easily understood and entertaining way)
6. Finally, if you like these books, and want something a little more in-depth and complicated, try:
a. The Road to Serfdom, by Fredrich Hayek
b. The Fatal Conceit, by Fredrich Hayek
c. The Mystery of Capital, by Hernando de Soto
I hope that helps!