Liberty Fund

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.

Now available in paperback: On Religion, by Benjamin Constant. (Hardcover coming soon.)


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.

Featured Book On Religion

By Benjamin Constant
Translated by Peter Paul Seaton Jr.
Introduction by Pierre Manent

This is the first full-length English translation of Benjamin Constant’s massive study of humanity’s religious forms and development, published in five volumes between 1824 and 1831. Constant (1767–1830) regarded On Religion, worked on over the course of many years, as perhaps his most important philosophical work. He called it “the only interest, the only consolation of my life,” and “the book that I was destined by nature to write.”


On Religion

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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.

Law & Liberty January 19, 2018

How the Press Spins a Partisan Act of Obama Holdovers

Resignations in protest aren't always what they seem, and they mean a lot less when they come from individuals whose terms expire in a few months.

EconLog January 19, 2018

A Golden Journey, by Bryan Caplan

Here's the speech I delivered at my in-laws 50th anniversary party a couple of weeks ago.  It's anecdotal, but I think social science fans will enjoy it.


On New Year's Day, 1968, a young couple married in Bucharest, Romania.  Their names were Corneliu Dumitru Mateescu and Maria Teodora Ghitza.  I wasn't there, but I hear it was a three-day Old World extravaganza of feasting and dancing. Despite disapproval from the Romanian Communist Party, Cornel and Maria celebrated an old-fashioned church wedding.  At the time, I suspect that loyal Communists were saying, "Well, it's only a wedding.  It's not like they're going to reject everything we stand for."

But let's back up. Corneliu, the groom, was born in the mid-1930s.  He was the cherished only child of two loving parents who worked hard to give him an idyllic childhood.  But then the war came.  Daily life was a struggle.  By the war's end, young Corneliu was a refugee - fleeing the city to escape the bombing.  When peace finally came, it was the peace of the Red Army.  The Communists soon closed Corneliu's school, where he had been educated by German monks - "the Brüder."  When he reached adulthood, Corneliu was drafted and sent away from home.  But he persevered, eventually earning a top job with the electric authority - about as high as anyone in Romania could rise without joining the Communist Party.

OLL | Quotations May 28, 2006

In Shakespeare's Henry V the king is too easily persuaded by his advisors that the English economy will continue to function smoothly, like obedient little honey-bees in their hive, while he is away with his armies conquering France (1598)


EconLog January 17, 2018

Carillion and the reputation of privatisations, by Alberto Mingardi

"Privatisations" were done to make again room for the private sector, and for government officials to stop managing a particular business. In reality, of course, the boundaries may be blurred...

UK construction.jpeg Instances of classical liberal-leaning (critics would say: neo-liberal) government were very few in the 20th century. Margaret Thatcher's one was perhaps the most spectacular, as England really walked a long way in the direction of the command-and-control economy. Thatcher's privatisations were the first and as a political leader she cast a long shadow: so that even today, twenty-eight years after she left office, she is regularly evoked in broader debates over the balance between the public and the private sector.

Carillion, a British big construction company that grew enormously in a bunch of different businesses active in public procurement, is now filing for liquidation. In England's cultural climate, which is by no means friendly to conservatives at this moment, this bankruptcy is revitalising those on the left who want to do away with the Iron Lady's legacy. It is probably, by all means, "the end of the love affair between governments and private contractors".

Liberty Review January 21, 2017

The Commonwealth of Bees: On the Impossibility of Justice-Through-Ethos

CambridgeCoreGERALD GAUS SOCIAL PHILOSOPHY AND POLICY, Volume 33, Issue 1-2 Abstract: Some understand utopia as an ideal society in which everyone would be thoroughly informed by a moral ethos: all would always act on their pure conscientious judgments about justice, and so it would never be necessary to provide incentives for them to act as […]

OLL November 21, 2011

The Free Sea (Hakluyt trans.) (Hugo Grotius)

GrotiusFreeSeaThe Free Sea, trans. Richard Hakluyt, with William Welwod’s Critiuqe and Grotius’s Reply, ed. David Armitage (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2004).

EconLog January 18, 2018

The Big Victims of Drug Prohibition, by David Henderson

Never forget consumer surplus.

Steven Landsburg is critical of co-blogger Scott Sumner's proposal to give preference in licensing legal marijuana sellers to those who were previously convicted of marijuana offenses. Scott calls this "affirmative action for drug pushers." Actually, though, his quote about the policy he favors does not mention drug dealers. (The word "pushers" is a misnomer; almost no one who sells drugs "pushes" them.)

Here's the relevant passage that Scott quoted:

In Los Angeles, residents with past marijuana convictions will not only be allowed to buy licences to sell the drug, but will be given priority. Under the city's "social-equity programme", low-income Angelenos who have previous marijuana convictions or who have lived in areas with disproportionately high rates of arrest for marijuana offences will be given preference when licences to open marijuana retail businesses are granted. Oakland, San Francisco and Sacramento have introduced similar initiatives.
We can be sure that many of these convictions, possibly most, were for dealing or producing illegal marijuana. But I would bet that some of them were for simply using marijuana. And even some of the convictions for dealing might have been against users who were heavy users. The police and prosecutors tend to regard being caught with large amounts of marijuana as prima facie evidence that one is a dealer; sometimes, though, some of these people might simply have been stocking up.

OLL | Liberty Fund Books November 21, 2011

Fugitive Essays: Selected Writings of Frank Chodorov (Frank Chodorov)

ChodorovA collection of Chodorov’s essays selected from The Freeman and Human Events and other publications.

Law & Liberty January 18, 2018

Juries Judge the Law As Well

No doubt that it is the duty of judges to say what they believe the law is, but that does not mean they are the only ones - juries have their role to play.

OLL | Quotations August 26, 2014

Arthur Seldon on the problem of "who guards us from the guardians"? (1990)


Law & Liberty January 19, 2018

Un-strange Virtues Celebrated in Stranger Things

The heroes are suspicious of big government and corporations, but in a world where liberalism has not yet curdled into speech codes and racial hectoring.

OLL | Liberty Matters January 2, 2018

Nicholas Capaldi, "The Place of Liberty in David Hume's Project" (January, 2018)

Liberty MattersNick Capaldi, the Legendre-Soulé Distinguished Chair of Business Ethics in the School of Business of Loyola University, New Orleans, outlines David Hume's ambitious "Project" with a list of 8 "theses", the last of which states that "Liberty is the Central Theme." Capaldi's gloss on this thesis is "The ultimate ontological reality is the individual human agent; there is no institution or practice that transcends the individual; the legitimacy of any practice is based on the acquiescence of individuals.  Acquiescence is not consent. There is no philosophical argument for liberty: it is the default position.  Given its unique history, England was able to preserve and elaborate this insight in large part because of its inherent disposition to distrust abstractions – this is the British Intellectual Inheritance, and Hume's philosophical practice as well as his History is the only meaningful kind of account that can be given." Capaldi is joined in this month's discussion by Daniel Klein who is professor of economics and JIN Chair at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University; Chandran Kukathas who holds the Chair of Political Theory in the Department of Government at the London School of Economics; Andrew Sabl who is Orrick Fellow and Visiting Professor in the Program on Ethics, Politics and Economics, Yale University; and Mark Yellin of Liberty Fund.

See the Archive of "Liberty Matters".

EconLog January 18, 2018

A tax by any other name . . . , by Scott Sumner

When the Supreme Court narrowly upheld the health insurance mandate part of Obamacare, John Roberts suggested that the penalty for not buying health insurance could be viewed as a tax.

I'm not qualified to offer an opinion as to whether that decision was correct from a legal perspective, but economists don't see much difference between regulations and taxes. A fine for speeding, or for double parking your car, looks pretty similar to a $4/pack tax on cigarettes, which might be viewed as a "fine" for smoking.

Suppose the Supreme Court had said that a health insurance mandate was unconstitutional. The government could achieve the same effect with a combination of taxes and subsidies. If the penalty for not buying health insurance had been $2500 per household, then the government could impose a lump sum tax of $2500 on all households in America. Then they could offer a $2500 subsidy to all households that purchased health insurance. For those with health insurance, the tax and subsidy would exactly offset--the government could inform those households to not even bother paying the tax and collecting the subsidy. Those without health insurance would be paying a $2500 tax to the government--exactly equivalent to the health insurance penalty under the mandate.

Today, many states are contemplating using a similar subterfuge to undo one of the most important parts of the recent tax bill, the $10,000 limit on the deductibility of state and local taxes. One idea is to have higher income people donate $X to various state health and education programs, and then receive an equivalent tax credit. The donation would effectively serve as a tax payment, and yet it could be deducted from federal income taxes (unlike with SALT payments). And these "donations" wouldn't really be charity in any meaningful sense. People donating the money are no worse off than if they did not donate the money. The alternative was paying the same amount in taxes.

Because legal definitions often don't coincide with economic definitions, there is plenty of room for gaming the system. If states find a way around the $10,000 cap in SALT deductions, it would be a major setback for tax reform, and also further balloon an already excessive budget deficit. This is an issue to watch.

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Liberty Review January 8, 2018

Individualism, Collectivism, and Trade

Experimental EconomicsAIDIN HAJIKHAMENEH, ERIK O. KIMBROUGH EXPERIMENTAL ECONOMICS Abstract: While economists recognize the important role of formal institutions in the promotion of trade, there is increasing agreement that institutions are typically endogenous to culture, making it difficult to disentangle their separate contributions. Lab experiments that assign institutions exogenously and measure and control individual cultural characteristics can allow […]

OLL | Quotations March 10, 2014

Mary Wollstonecraft's "I have a dream" speech from 1792

Mary Wollstonecraft

Law & Liberty January 18, 2018

Making Politics Possible Again

Those who fear that the good ideas Trump champions will be tainted by his unsavory character are not thinking politically.

OLL | Quotations March 10, 2014

Spooner on the "natural right to labor" and to acquire all one honestly can (1846)

Lysander Spooner

Law & Liberty January 18, 2018

Understanding Love and Marriage with Rousseau

Reading Rousseau may help us sort out our love lives, but we have to think like the ancients to make good on his ideas.

OLL November 21, 2011

The Texts of Taoism, Part I (Lao Tzu)

Tao Te KingThe Sacred Books of China. The Texts of Taoism. Part I: The Tao Teh King. The Writings of Kwang Ze Books I-XVII, trans. James Legge (Oxford University Press, 1891).

EconLog January 19, 2018

Are the Tax Cuts and Increased Wages and Bonuses Connected?, by David Henderson

They might be.

Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus Center has an excellent piece at Reason on the connection, if any, between the recent cut in the corporate income tax rates and the spate of bonuses, pay increases, and increases in employer contributions to employee 401(k)s. Her article is titled "Is Tax Reform Already Working?"

First, she lays out some basic facts:

The legislation, which permanently slashed corporate tax rates from 35 percent down to 21 percent, was only signed into law last month. But more than 100 companies have already indicated that they will make big moves to benefit workers and the economy--including raising wages, handing out bonuses, granting 401(k) increases, and committing to increased capital investment--while citing the law's reduction in the corporate income tax rate as at least part of the reason.
Here's a list of over 200 companies that have made these pro-employee moves; the list is compiled by Americans for Tax Reform, an organization that strongly favors the tax cut.

OLL November 21, 2011

“The Use of Knowledge in Society” (1945) (Friedrich August von Hayek)

Friedrich Hayek“The Use of Knowledge in Society,” American Economic Review, XXXV, No. 4; September, 1945, pp. 519–30.

OLL | Quotations April 2, 2015

Under Magna Carta the King cannot impose taxes without the approval of the "common counsel" of the kingdom (1215)

King John

OLL | Images of Liberty April 12, 2016

Algernon Sidney (1622-1683) and the Thomas Hollis Library of Liberty

AlgernonSidney_Hollis_facingL300-medium AlgernonSidney_Hollis-facingR300 This is part of an ongoing series which will examine the imagery created by the English publisher Thomas Hollis (1720-1774) to embellish and advertise his reissue of classic works by 17th century republicans and radicals who were active during the English Revolution and its aftermath. He called this series his "Library of Liberty" and volumes began to appear in the 1760s and were sent to libraries and individuals in Europe and the American colonies. The volumes were beautifully bound in red leather and had liberty symbols embossed on them (such as the phrygian or liberty cap and a dagger (in reference to Brutus' slaying of the tyrant Julius Caesar)). It was Hollis' intention to make these books, which he thought were so important to the understanding of liberty, catch the attention of the eye as well as the mind.

EconTalk January 15, 2018

Bill James on Baseball, Facts, and the Rules of the Game

baseball%20numbers.jpg Baseball stats guru and author Bill James talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the challenges of understanding complexity in baseball and elsewhere. James reflects on the lessons he has learned as a long-time student of data and the role it plays in understanding the underlying reality that exists between different variables in sports and outside of sports. The conversation closes with a discussion of our understanding of social processes and the connection to public policy and the ideologies we hold.


Time: 1:02:20

Liberty Review January 5, 2017

Cartas Españolas de Jean-Baptiste Say: Evidencias Para el Estudio de la Circulación de Ideas Económicas

JOSÉ M. MENUDO Journal of Iberian and Latin American Economic History, Volume 34, Issue 2 Abstract: Este trabajo transcribe cinco cartas inéditas dirigidas a Jean-Baptiste Say por Manuel María Gutiérrez, Álvaro Flórez Estrada y el Marqués de Valle Santoro, respectivamente. Esta correspondencia acredita la proximidad de los autores españoles a las obras canónicas de la […]