Many are familiar with the long intellectual tradition of progressivism within academia. While progressive ideas may hold true, it is important students are exposed to the full breadth of knowledge academia holds. Without ideological diversity, students lose the critical thinking skills to discern between important ideas. Who I think should be included in the libertarian canon is merely a sample, but sufficient enough for readers to get their feet wet in libertarianism. My methodology is multidisciplinary, ranging from literature, to economics and more. All of the figures in this article are a product of my own research and I have never been formally taught any of them in school, which is why it is doubly important this message is expressed. Besides, one of the main tenets of libertarianism is self-directed education.
Firstly, let’s discuss literature. My favorite author, George Orwell was a libertarian socialist. Another author, Ayn Rand, was a libertarian capitalist. I’ve read both 1984 and Animal Farm by George Orwell and enjoyed them, thoroughly. Both were a critique of the overreach of government and totalitarianism. Some readers believe Snowball and Napoleon from Animal Farm represent dictators, Stalin and Trotsky.
Orwell also coined such phrases as “The real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries but between authoritarians and libertarians,” and “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” In short this man stood up for and advocated what he believed in: libertarianism.
As for Ayn Rand: I listened to half of her audiobook, Anthem. The book is written in first-person, plural pronouns. Individuality in the book is deemphasized. In fact, individuality is an important theme in her books and her philosophy, which she called “Objectivism.” Though I disagree with major components of Objectivism — it believes altruism is evil — I appreciate that it stresses capitalism, individualism and limited government. I’ve been learning a lot about Ayn Rand’s work through her think tanks and through Yaron Brook, businessman and president of the Ayn Rand institute.
Economics is where the vast majority of libertarian theories arises. It goes without saying that I believe students should study the works of F.A. Hayek and Ludwig von Mises. As Hayek says, “The argument for liberty is not an argument against organization, which is one of the most powerful tools human reason can employ, but an argument against all exclusive, privileged, monopolistic organization, against the use of coercion to prevent others from doing better.” Despite these economists’ long accolades and contributions to society, my favorite economist is someone else, an obscure economist from Virginia.
I first became a fan of economist Bryan Caplan when I was googling “libertarian quizzes,” several years ago. From there, I became curious about his work, watching lectures, interviews and debates he participated in. I eventually bought two of his books, “The Case Against Education” and “Open Borders”. Caplan’s statistics were educational and pointed to an idea he called “signalling,” the idea that education’s mere purpose is to convey intelligence, conformity and conscientiousness. In Open Borders, he explained a philosophical thought experiment — my favorite — about a man named Marvin. I had emailed Dr. Caplan last summer, out of sheer curiosity, about his positions of abolishing the FDA and anti-discrimination laws, ideas he’s defended in the past. He answered my emails, thanking me for emailing him, along with a link for senior economics students, using statistics to convey why the general public is not bigoted. Overall, it was an interesting read, but I’m not sure if I’m ready to repeal anti-discrimination laws just yet, but he definitely deserves to be in the canon.
Overall, this is a sampling of who should be in the libertarian canon. You are free to research, enjoy and discern between opinions. I hope this article helps someone in exploring libertarianism, even if they decide libertarianism is not for them.
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Samara Karow is a contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.