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3 must-read books on the intellectual origins of libertarianism


Blaze Books sat down with Georgetown Law Professor, libertarian lawyer extraordinaire, and one of the chief litigators of the Affordable Care Act, Randy Barnett, in order to get his book recommendations on a variety of subjects near and dear to readers' hearts. Below is the second set in a multi-part series, in which Barnett gives us his three best books on the intellectual origins of libertarianism, and some commentary on each of the titles he selected. In case you missed it, be sure to check out part I of our series, in which Barnett gave us his three must-read books on the Constitution.

1. The System of Liberty: Themes in the History of Classical Liberalism by George H. Smith

Modern libertarianism traces its roots to classical liberalism that is today all but forgotten or distorted by "progressive" philosophers and historians. This book dispels the myths to identify what the old liberals really argued for, and how.

2. Libertarianism: A Primer by David Boaz by David Boaz

A basic introduction into modern libertarian thought, beginning with its roots, by one of the leaders of the modern libertarian movement. Serious but accessible.

3. Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement by Brian Doherty

The true and sometimes strange story of how the modern libertarian movement developed in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. I was there, and this book is very accurate -- warts and all.

4. BONUS: Radical Abolitionism: Anarchy and the Government of God in Antislavery Thought by Lewis Perry

Image Source: Lorne Bair Rare Books.

Shows how abolitionist arguments led many to adopt radical antistatist positions that form the basis of modern radical libertarianism. If you like Lysander Spooner, then you will enjoy this story.

Randy E. Barnett is the Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Legal Theory at the Georgetown University Law Center, where he directs the Georgetown Center for the Constitution. Before teaching, he was a criminal prosecutor in Chicago with the Cook County States Attorney's Office. In 2004, he argued the medical marijuana case of Gonzales v. Raich in the U.S. Supreme Court; and in 2012, he represented the National Federation of Independent Business in its challenge to the Affordable Care Act. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in Constitutional Studies in 2009.

Professor Barnett’s publications includes more than one hundred articles and reviews, as well as ten books, including Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty (Princeton, expanded edition, 2014), A Conspiracy Against Obamacare: The Volokh Conspiracy and the Health Care Case (Palgrave, 2013); Constitutional Law: Cases in Context (Wolters Kluwer, 2d ed, 2013), Oxford Introductions to U.S. Law: Contracts (Oxford, 2010), Contracts: Cases and Doctrine (Aspen, 5th ed. 2012), and The Structure of Liberty: Justice and the Rule of Law (Oxford, 1998), which was translated into Japanese.

You can read more about Randy Barnett at his website.

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