The Reading Room

The OLL blog explores the fascinating, vital, and often surprising texts and people that fill our library. Come talk in our library!

The Best of the OLL No. 58: Léon Faucher,“Property I” (1852)

By: Léon Faucher

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. This article was written when the memory of the socialist experiments of the 1848 Revolution were…

The Best of the OLL No. 59: Louis Wolowski and Émile Levasseur, “Property II” (1864)

By: Louis Wolowski

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. This essay was written some 10 years after that of Léon Faucher when some of the heat felt in 1852…

The Best of the OLL No. 57: John Stuart Mill, “The Spirit of the Age” (1831)

By: John Stuart Mill

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. This extract includes the first and fifth parts of a long essay which appeared in The Examiner…

The Best of the OLL No. 56: Hugo Grotius, “The Preliminary Discourse Concerning the Certainty of Right” (1625)

By: Hugo Grotius

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. At the beginning of his book on The Rights of War and Peace Grotius wrote a short “Prolegomena”…

The Best of the OLL No. 54: James Harrington, “The Commonwealth of Oceana” (1656)

By: James Harrington

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. A thematic list with links to HTML versions of the texts is available here. Harrington provides a…

The Best of the OLL No. 55: Herbert Spencer, “Political Retrospect and Prospect” (1882)

By: Herbert Spencer

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. In this chapter Spencer applies his theory of militant and industrial types of society to predicting…

The Best of the OLL No. 53: Gustave de Molinari, “Of the Liberty of Government” (1849)

By: Gustave de Molinari

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. A thematic list with links to HTML versions of the texts is available here. In this chapter Molinari…

The Best of the OLL No. 52: Condorcet, “Tenth Epoch. Future Progress of Mankind” (1794)

By: Marie-Jean-Antoine-Nicolas Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. A thematic list with links to HTML versions of the texts is available here. Condorcet wrote this…

The Best of the OLL No. 50: Condorcet and Olympe de Gouges, “The Rights of Women” (1790-91)

By: Marie-Jean-Antoine-Nicolas Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet and Marie-Olympe de Gouges

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. A thematic list with links to HTML versions of the texts is available here. Some liberals were…

The Best of the OLL No. 51: Percy Bysshe Shelley, “On Liberty” (1810-22)

By: Percy Bysshe Shelley

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. This collection of Shelley’s writings contains his “Declaration of Rights” (1812), numerous poems on…

The Best of the OLL No. 49: “The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen” (1789)

By: Georg Jellinek

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. A thematic list with links to HTML versions of the texts is available here. The French Declaration…

The Best of the OLL No. 21: Jeremy Bentham, “The Greatest Happiness of the Greatest Number” (1830)

By: Jeremy Bentham

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. In this extract Bentham defines the two principles on which he bases his political theory, namely…

The Best of the OLL No. 48: J.S. Mill, “Utilitarianism” (1863)

By: John Stuart Mill

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. Mill’s classic statement of the utilitarian position appeared in 1861 in a series of articles in…

The Best of the OLL No. 25: Estienne de la Boétie, “The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude” (1552)

By: Etienne de la Boétie

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. Boétie asks one of the most profound questions of political theory, why does the majority obey the…

The Best of the OLL No. 47: Wilhelm von Humboldt, “Of the Individual Man” (1792)

By: Wilhelm von Humboldt

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. A thematic list with links to HTML versions of the texts is available here. Humboldt’s book The…

The Best of the OLL No. 45 [George Mason], “The Virginia Bill of Rights” (June, 1776)

By: George Mason

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. A thematic list with links to HTML versions of the texts is available here. George Mason (1725-1792)…

The Best of the OLL No. 42: Sir Edward Coke, “Petition of Right” (1628)

By: Sir Edward Coke

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. A thematic list with links to HTML versions of the texts is available here. The Petition of Right…

The Best of the OLL No. 43: “The Habeas Corpus Act” (1679)

By: OLL Editor

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. A thematic list with links to HTML versions of the texts is available here. Parliament passed the…

The Best of the OLL No. 44: “The English Bill of Rights” (1689)

By: OLL Editor

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. A thematic list with links to HTML versions of the texts is available here. The English Bill of…

The Best of the OLL No. 46: David Hume, “The Progress of English Liberty” (1761)

By: David Hume

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. A thematic list with links to HTML versions of the texts is available here. In vol. 2 of his History…

The Best of the OLL No. 41: “Magna Carta” (The Great Charter) (1215)

By: OLL Editor

41: “Magna Carta” (The Great Charter) (1215) The document known as Magna Carta was an agreement signed between King John and his feudal nobles in 1215 settling disputes they had had about taxation and the exercise of political power…

The Best of the OLL No. 40: Thomas Jefferson, “The Declaration of Independence” (1776)

By: Thomas Jefferson

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. A thematic list with links to HTML versions of the texts is available here. The Declaration of…

The Best of the OLL No. 39: Adam Smith, “Of the Character of Virtue” (1759)

By: Adam Smith

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. A thematic list with links to HTML versions of the texts is available here. In a section in the…

The Best of the OLL No. 37: Montesquieu, “Of the Constitution of England” (1748)

By: Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. This influential chapter from “Spirit of the Laws” is a very good example of Montesquieu’s…

The Best of the OLL No. 38: Daniel Webster, “Speech on the Draft” (1814)

By: Daniel Webster

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. A thematic list with links to HTML versions of the texts is available here. Daniel Webster gave a…

The Best of the OLL No. 36: Lord Acton, “Inaugural Lecture on the Study of History” (1895)

By: John Emerich Edward Dalberg, Lord Acton

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. A thematic list with links to HTML versions of the texts is available here. Lord Acton’s inaugural…

The Best of the OLL No. 35: James Madison, “The Utility of the Union As a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection” (1788)

By: James Madison

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. A thematic list with links to HTML versions of the texts is available here. Madison’s essay on…

The Best of the OLL No. 34: James Mill, “The State of the Nation” (1835)

By: James Mill

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. This is an essay Mill wrote for the London Review in which he surveys “the state of the nation” and…

The Best of the OLL No. 33: Mary Wollstonecraft, “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman” (1792)

By: Mary Wollstonecraft

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. A thematic list with links to HTML versions of the texts is available here. This is a chapter from…

The Best of the OLL No. 32: Richard Overton, “An Arrow against all Tryants and Tyrany” (October, 1646)

By: Richard Overton

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. A thematic list with links to HTML versions of the texts is available here. This is a pamphlet…

The Best of the OLL No. 31: Samuel anoints Saul the First King of Israel (c. 1,000 B.C.)

By: Samuel

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. A thematic list with links to HTML versions of the texts is available here. This is part of First…

The Best of the OLL No. 27: Israel Kirzner, “Efficiency, Coordination, and the Market Economy” (1963)

By: Israel M. Kirzner

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. This is a chapter from Kirzner’s book Market Theory and the Price System (1963) in which he…

The Best of the OLL No. 28: Norman Barry, “Hayek’s Theory of Spontaneous Order I: Economic Orders” (1982)

By: Norman P. Barry

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. A thematic list with links to HTML versions of the texts is available here. This is part of a…

The Best of the OLL No. 29: Norman Barry, “Hayek’s Theory of Spontaneous Order II: Legal Orders” (1982)

By: Norman P. Barry

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. A thematic list with links to HTML versions of the texts is available here. This is part of a…

The Best of the OLL No. 30: Richard Cobden, “On the Total and Immediate Repeal of the Corn Laws” (January 1846)

By: Richard Cobden

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. This is a speech Cobden gave in Manchester 12 days before PM Robert Peel announced the abolition of…

The Best of the OLL No. 26: Lao Tzu, “The Tao of Governing” (6thC BC)

By: Lao Tzu

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. A thematic list with links to HTML versions of the texts is available here. This is a collection of…

The Best of the OLL No. 24: Lysander Spooner, “Vices are Not Crimes” (1875)

By: Lysander Spooner

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. This is a pamphlet Spooner published in 1875 in which he argued that “vices” should not be punished…

The Best of the OLL No. 22: Herbert Spencer, “The Right to Ignore the State” (1851)

By: Herbert Spencer

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. This is a chapter from Spencer’s book Social Statics where he explores the furthest reaches of the…

The Best of the OLL No. 23: Abbé de Condillac, “On Value and Trade” (1776)

By: Étienne Bonnot, Abbé de Condillac

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” a collection of classroom-friendly excerpts from some of the most important material in the OLL.

This extract consists of two chapters from Condillac’s book Commerce and…

The Best of the OLL No. 17: Milton Friedman, “Capitalism and Freedom” (1961)

By: Milton Friedman

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. This essay is by the American economist Milton Friedman in which he makes the case that political…

The Best of the OLL No. 18: Friedrich Hayek, “Kinds of Order in Society” (1964)

By: Friedrich August von Hayek

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. This essay is by the Austrian economist and social theorist Friedrich Hayek in which he gives one of…

The Best of the OLL No. 19: Israel Kirzner, “Entrepreneurial Activity and the General Market Process” (1963)

By: Israel M. Kirzner

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. This essay is by the Austrian economist Israel Kirzner who is best known for his pioneering work on…

The Best of the OLL No. 20: Jean-Baptiste Say, “Of the Demand or Market for Products” (1819)

By: Jean-Baptiste Say

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. This essay is by the French political economist Jean-Baptiste Say who argued in what later became…

The Best of the OLL No. 16: Leland Yeager, “The Positive Case for Free Trade” (1954)

By: Leland B. Yeager

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. This essay is by the American economist Leland Yeager who has written on monetary policy and…

The Best of the OLL No. 15: Anthony de Jasay, “Liberalism and Democracy” (1985)

By: Anthony de Jasay

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. This essay is by the Anglo-Hungarian economist Anthony de Jasay on the political economy of modern…

The Best of the OLL No. 12: F.A. Hayek, “The Use of Knowledge in Society” (1945)

By: Friedrich August von Hayek

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. This one comes from an influential article by Hayek from 1945 in which he demonstrates the part…

The Best of the OLL No. 13: Immanuel Kant, “The Principles of Political Right” (1791)

By: Immanuel Kant

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. This essay is by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant who makes a strong case for the equality of…

The Best of the OLL No. 14: Paul Heyne, “Economics Is a Way of Thinking” (1995)

By: Paul Heyne

This essay is by the American economist Paul Heyne who explains in a mere 5 pages how to think like an economist. Anyone can learn to think like an economist, and we think this might be the best introduction to the process. (Well,…

The Best of the OLL No. 11: William Graham Sumner, “The Conquest of the United States by Spain” (1898)

By: William Graham Sumner

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. This one comes from a lecture given by William Graham Sumner, “The Conquest of the United States by…

The Best of the OLL No. 2: Vicesimus Knox, “The Prospect of Perpetual and Universal Peace” (1793)

By: Vicesimus Knox

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. This one comes from Vicesimus Knox’s sermon “The Prospect of Perpetual and Universal Peace” which he…

The Best of the OLL No. 3: Ludwig von Mises, “The Economics of War” (1949)

By: Ludwig von Mises

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. This one comes from Ludwig von Mises’ book Human Action which was published soon after the end of…

The Best of the OLL No. 4: Ludwig von Mises, “Liberty and Property” (October, 1958)

By: Ludwig von Mises

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. This one comes from a lecture Ludwig von Mises gave to the Mont Pelerin Society in October 1958 in…

The Best of the OLL No. 5: John Stuart Mill, “Of the Limits to the Authority of Society over the Individual” (1859)

By: John Stuart Mill

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. This one comes from John Stuart Mill’s book On Liberty where in Chapter 4 he describes the strict…

The Best of the OLL No. 6: David Hume, “On Government” (1777)

By: David Hume

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. This one comes from David Hume’s collection of essays which include several essays on the origins…

The Best of the OLL No. 7: Adam Smith, “On Free Trade” (1776)

By: Adam Smith

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. This one comes from Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations” in which he defends the idea of free trade. It…

The Best of the OLL No. 8: Jean-Baptiste Say, “Of the Right of Property” (1819)

By: Jean-Baptiste Say

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. This one comes from Jean-Baptiste Say’s Treatise on Political Economy in which very early on in the…

The Best of the OLL No. 9: Sir William Blackstone, “Of the Absolute Rights of Individuals” (1766)

By: Sir William Blackstone

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. This one comes from Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England in which he defines…

The Best of the OLL No. 10: James M. Buchanan, “The Threat of Leviathan” (1975)

By: James M. Buchanan

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. This one comes from James Buchanan’s book The Limits of Liberty in which he warns of the dangers…

The Best of the OLL No. 1: John Locke, “Of Property” (1689)

By: John Locke

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. This one comes from John Locke’s “Second Treatise of Government” and is the chapter in which he…