If only a society of free men – “the voluntary society” – could be achieved simply by asking Santa. Wrapping freedom up and topping it off with a red bow would be a gift all of society could and would cherish for years and years to come. It’s not even too much to ask! We are, after all, not asking for a Utopian paradise on earth. There would, of course, be problems but think of the gains that could be made in the absence of the unnecessary coercion that exists in our society.
In reality, a voluntary society cannot be opened as a gift. Freedom is an outcome of a societal process where many individuals act and cooperate with one another. This requires a certain type of ideology, which the majority of it members must hold. We must learn to respect and uphold private property rights. We must learn that personal responsibility is important. Liberty is not something that can just be given. It must be understood and it must be wanted. We face many different competing views and so the supporters of a voluntary society must study and understand what a free society could be.
Today’s document will not likely bring the gift of a free society but it does contain a list of 100 hundred books F.A. “Baldy” Harper deemed worth studying for anyone wishing to understand the merits of a free society. It is Harper’s “A Bibliography on the Voluntary Society: 100 Selected Titles in Economics, History, and Philosophy.” Many of these books would make great gifts (some are even available free online) for ourselves and our friends, family, and even (and possibly more important) our intellectual opponents.
Harper collected these books in March of 1953. It is, of course, not comprehensive but it is quite impressive. As many of the great classical liberal economists are present from Frederic Bastiat, Eugen von Boehm-Bawerk, John Bates Clark, Fred Rogers Fairchild (one of the original founders of FEE), Frank Fetter, F.A. Hayek, Frank Knight, Carl Menger (which Harper spells his first name wrong, Karl was his son who was also a noted mathematician and economist), John Stuart Mill, Ludwig von Mises, David Ricardo, Lionel Robbins, J.B. Say, Henry Simons, Adam Smith, and Phillip Wicksteed, among many more!
It is probably safe to say that the more people who studied this list, the better off the world would be. Of course this list was made almost 60 years ago, so many more wonderful and important works have been done since. What important books do you think should be added? Let us know in the comments.