Introduction to the Study of Liberty - Works to Begin with

About this Collection

The following texts have been selected as being particularly appropriate for those who are new to the study of individual liberty, limited government, and the free market. These works have been written as introductory works or for a broader reading public. Some appeared as newspaper or magazine articles, and some as lectures or talks. It is hoped that these works will lead the reader to explore more of the Online Library of Liberty. Clicking on the author’s name will take you to that author’s bio page which contains a list of other works by that author. One can also explore the OLL by historical period, discipline or subject area, topics, and debates.

Titles & Essays

The Complaint of Peace

Desiderius Erasmus (author)

The Reformation scholar Desiderius Erasmus portrays Peace visiting to earth to deliver her verdict on the human race. She chastises kings and princes, church leaders, noblemen and ordinary soldiers alike for betraying their Christian…

Economic Harmonies (FEE ed.)

Frédéric Bastiat (author)

This is the translation by the Foundation for Economic Education of Bastiat’s longest and best known work Economic Harmonies. A new translation of this work by Liberty Fund is in progress. See the Summary of the Bastiat Project for…

Economic Sophisms (FEE ed.)

Frédéric Bastiat (author)

The Foundation for Economic Education’s translation of Bastiat’s series of short essays in which he tries to correct common misunderstandings about the free market.


Hearts and Flowers

By: Sarah Skwire

Valentine’s Day is all but guaranteed to inspire some kind of case of the feels. Some of us love the hearts, flowers, and the unbridled romance of it. Some of us can’t stand it and flee like a vampire exposed to light. Some of us…


In The Reading Room with Plato

By: Aeon J. Skoble

When recommending books that have been around for ages, it’s not uncommon to be faced with questions from skeptics. Why, they wonder, should I bother reading that old thing when there’s all this new stuff to read? I suspect there…
The Law (FEE ed.)

Frédéric Bastiat (author)

The translation by the Foundation of Economic Education of one of Bastiat’s most famous pamphlets, written as part of his opposition to the growth of socialism in France in the 1840s and where he states that “the state is the great…

Lectures on Modern History

John Emerich Edward Dalberg, Lord Acton (author)

These are the lectures given by the great English classical liberal historian, Lord Acton, in the academic years 1899-1901 at Cambridge University. It is a survey of modern history from the rise of the modern nation state to the…

Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle

Lance Banning (editor)

An anthology of primary sources which documents the first great party struggle in American history between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists over the proper construction of the new Constitution, political economy, the…

The Man versus the State, with Six Essays on Government, Society and Freedom (LF ed.)

Herbert Spencer (author)

This volume contains the four essays that Spencer published as The Man Versus the State in 1884 as well as five essays added by later publishers. In addition, it provides “The Proper Sphere of Government,” an important early essay by…

On Liberty and The Subjection of Women (1879 ed.)

John Stuart Mill (author)

Mill had been somewhat coy about publishing The Subjection of Women during his lifetime because he feared the condemnation of his peers for daring to apply the general notions of individual liberty which he had clearly spelled out in…


Our Thanksgiving Menu at the Reading Room

By: Sarah Skwire

Pull up a chair and feast on this menu of Thanksgiving reading from the OLL!
Pictures of the Socialistic Future

Eugen Richter (author)

Pictures of the Socialistic Future is Richter’s satire of what would happen to Germany if the socialism espoused by the trade unionists, social democrats, and Marxists was actually put into practice. It is thus a late 19th century…

A Plea for Liberty: An Argument against Socialism and Socialistic Legislation (LF ed.)

Thomas Mackay (author)

This collection of essays was originally published in 1891 in response to a collection of Fabian Essays on Socialism which advocated policies which would eventually lead to the modern welfare state. The theoretical and empirical…

Selected Essays on Political Economy (FEE ed.)

Frédéric Bastiat (author)

The Foundation for Economic Education translated some of Bastiat’s most famous pamphlets, written as part of his opposition to the growth of socialism in France in the 1840s. The volume contains “What is Seen and What is Not Seen”, “…

Self Help; with Illustrations of Character and Conduct

Samuel Smiles (author)

An early Victorian self-help book that combines Victorian morality with sound free market ideas into moral tales showing the benefits of thrift, hard work, education, perseverance, and a sound character. Smiles drew upon the personal…

Socialistic Fallacies

Yves Guyot (author)

Guyot wrote sseveral books attacking socialism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Here he provides a brief history of socialist ideas, especially utopian thinking from Plato to Paraguay, and an extensive critique of modern…

The Society of Tomorrow

Gustave de Molinari (author)

In this vision of a future society, the Belgian laissez-faire economist Molinari suggests how many, if not most, public goods could be provided by the free market or by radically decentralized local governments.

The State

Anthony de Jasay (author)

The State is a brilliant analysis of modern political arrangements that views the state as acting in its own interest contrary to the interests of individuals and even of an entire society.

Read the Liberty Classic on this title from…

The Tyranny of Socialism

Yves Guyot (author)

One of several books Guyot wrote attacking socialism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In this volume, in the tradition of Bastiat, he criticises what he calls “socialistic sophisms,” socialistic legislation, strikes,…

“The Use of Knowledge in Society” (1945)

Friedrich August von Hayek (author)

One of Hayek’s most important contributions to economic theory is his demonstration of the part prices play in disseminating widely diffused knowledge about consumer demand and the availablility of economic resources in order to make…

Where and Why Public Ownership has Failed

Harriet Franc Baker (translator)

One of several books Guyot wrote attacking socialism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In this volume, drawing upon his experience as the French Minister for Public Works, Guyot discusses the differences between public and…