Timeline of libertarian thinkers

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This article is a list of major figures in the theory of libertarianism, a philosophy asserting that individuals have a right to be free. Originally coined by French anarchist and libertarian communist Joseph Déjacque as an alternative synonymous to anarchism, American classical liberals appropriated the term in the 1950s for their philosophy which asserts that individuals have a right to acquire, keep and exchange their holdings and that the primary purpose of government is to protect these rights. [1] As a result of this history, libertarians on this list may be either of the American-style free-market variety or of the European-style socialist variety.

Libertarian thinkers

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anarcho-capitalism</span> Political philosophy and economic theory

Anarcho-capitalism is an anti-statist, libertarian political philosophy and economic theory that seeks to abolish centralized states in favor of stateless societies with systems of private property enforced by private agencies, the non-aggression principle, free markets and self-ownership, which extends the concept to include control of private property as part of the self. In the absence of statute, anarcho-capitalists hold that society tends to contractually self-regulate and civilize through participation in the free market, which they describe as a voluntary society involving the voluntary exchange of goods and services. In a theoretical anarcho-capitalist society, the system of private property would still exist and be enforced by private defense agencies and/or insurance companies selected by customers, which would operate competitively in a market and fulfill the roles of courts and the police.

Individualist anarchism is the branch of anarchism that emphasizes the individual and their will over external determinants such as groups, society, traditions and ideological systems. Although usually contrasted to social anarchism, both individualist and social anarchism have influenced each other. Some anarcho-capitalists claim anarcho-capitalism is part of the individualist anarchist tradition, while others disagree and claim individualist anarchism is only part of the socialist movement and part of the libertarian socialist tradition. Mutualism, an economic theory sometimes considered a synthesis of communism and property, has been considered individualist anarchism and other times part of social anarchism. Many anarcho-communists regard themselves as radical individualists, seeing anarcho-communism as the best social system for the realization of individual freedom. Economically, while European individualist anarchists are pluralists who advocate anarchism without adjectives and synthesis anarchism, ranging from anarcho-communist to mutualist economic types, most American individualist anarchists of the 19th century advocated mutualism, a libertarian socialist form of market socialism, or a free-market socialist form of classical economics. Individualist anarchists are opposed to property that violates the entitlement theory of justice, that is, gives privilege due to unjust acquisition or exchange, and thus is exploitative, seeking to "destroy the tyranny of capital, — that is, of property" by mutual credit.

Individualism is the moral stance, political philosophy, ideology and social outlook that emphasizes the intrinsic worth of the individual. Individualists promote realizing one's goals and desires, valuing independence and self-reliance, and advocating that the interests of the individual should gain precedence over the state or a social group, while opposing external interference upon one's own interests by society or institutions such as the government. Individualism makes the individual its focus, and so starts "with the fundamental premise that the human individual is of primary importance in the struggle for liberation".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Murray Rothbard</span> American economist (1926–1995)

Murray Newton Rothbard was an American economist of the Austrian School, economic historian, political theorist, and activist. Rothbard was a central figure in the 20th-century American libertarian movement, particularly its right-wing strands, and was a founder and leading theoretician of anarcho-capitalism. He wrote over twenty books on political theory, history, economics, and other subjects.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lysander Spooner</span> American individualist anarchist (1808–1887)

Lysander Spooner was an American abolitionist, entrepreneur, lawyer, essayist, natural rights legal theorist, pamphletist, political philosopher, Unitarian and writer often associated with the Boston anarchist tradition. Although the notion of Spooner as an anarchist has been challenged by legal historian Clay S. Conrad, who pointed out that Spooner advocated constitutionally limited governments in his writings.

Anarchist economics is the set of theories and practices of economic activity within the political philosophy of anarchism. Many anarchists are anti-authoritarian anti-capitalists, with anarchism usually referred to as a form of libertarian socialism, i.e. a stateless system of socialism. Anarchists support personal property and oppose capital concentration, interest, monopoly, private ownership of productive property such as the means of production, profit, rent, usury and wage slavery which are viewed as inherent to capitalism.

The nature of capitalism is criticized by left-wing anarchists, who reject hierarchy and advocate stateless societies based on non-hierarchical voluntary associations. Anarchism is generally defined as the libertarian philosophy which holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary and harmful as well as opposing authoritarianism, illegitimate authority and hierarchical organization in the conduct of human relations. Capitalism is generally considered by scholars to be an economic system that includes private ownership of the means of production, creation of goods or services for profit or income, the accumulation of capital, competitive markets, voluntary exchange and wage labor, which have generally been opposed by most anarchists historically. Since capitalism is variously defined by sources and there is no general consensus among scholars on the definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category, the designation is applied to a variety of historical cases, varying in time, geography, politics and culture.

In the United States, anarchism began in the mid-19th century and started to grow in influence as it entered the American labor movements, growing an anarcho-communist current as well as gaining notoriety for violent propaganda of the deed and campaigning for diverse social reforms in the early 20th century. By around the start of the 20th century, the heyday of individualist anarchism had passed and anarcho-communism and other social anarchist currents emerged as the dominant anarchist tendency.

Propertarianism, or proprietarianism, is a political philosophy that reduces all questions of ethics to the right to own property. On property rights, it advocates private property based on Lockean sticky property norms, where an owner keeps their property more or less until they consent to gift or sell it, rejecting the Lockean proviso.

Libertarianism is a political philosophy that upholds liberty as a core value. Libertarians seek to maximize autonomy and political freedom, emphasizing equality before the law and civil rights to freedom of association, freedom of speech, freedom of thought and freedom of choice. Libertarians are often skeptical of or opposed to authority, state power, warfare, militarism and nationalism, but some libertarians diverge on the scope of their opposition to existing economic and political systems. Various schools of libertarian thought offer a range of views regarding the legitimate functions of state and private power. Different categorizations have been used to distinguish various forms of Libertarianism. Scholars distinguish libertarian views on the nature of property and capital, usually along left–right or socialist–capitalist lines. Libertarians of various schools were influenced by liberal ideas.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Libertarianism in the United States</span> Origin, history and development of libertarianism in the United States

In the United States, libertarianism is a political philosophy promoting individual liberty. According to common meanings of conservatism and liberalism in the United States, libertarianism has been described as conservative on economic issues and liberal on personal freedom, often associated with a foreign policy of non-interventionism. Broadly, there are four principal traditions within libertarianism, namely the libertarianism that developed in the mid-20th century out of the revival tradition of classical liberalism in the United States after liberalism associated with the New Deal; the libertarianism developed in the 1950s by anarcho-capitalist author Murray Rothbard, who based it on the anti-New Deal Old Right and 19th-century libertarianism and American individualist anarchists such as Benjamin Tucker and Lysander Spooner while rejecting the labor theory of value in favor of Austrian School economics and the subjective theory of value; the libertarianism developed in the 1970s by Robert Nozick and founded in American and European classical liberal traditions; and the libertarianism associated with the Libertarian Party, which was founded in 1971, including politicians such as David Nolan and Ron Paul.

Right-libertarianism, also known as libertarian capitalism, right-wing libertarianism, or colloquially as libright, is a libertarian political philosophy that supports capitalist property rights and defends market distribution of natural resources and private property. The term right-libertarianism is used to distinguish this class of views on the nature of property and capital from left-libertarianism, a type of libertarianism that combines self-ownership with an egalitarian approach to natural resources. In contrast to socialist libertarianism, right-libertarianism supports free-market capitalism. Like most forms of libertarianism, it supports civil liberties, especially natural law, negative rights, the non-aggression principle, and a major reversal of the modern welfare state.

Anarchism is generally defined as the political philosophy which holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary and harmful as well as opposing authority and hierarchical organization in the conduct of human relations. Proponents of anarchism, known as anarchists, advocate stateless societies based on non-hierarchical voluntary associations. While anarchism holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary and harmful, opposition to the state is not its central or sole definition. Anarchism can entail opposing authority or hierarchy in the conduct of all human relations.

Individualist anarchism in the United States was strongly influenced by Benjamin Tucker, Josiah Warren, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Lysander Spooner, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Max Stirner, Herbert Spencer and Henry David Thoreau. Other important individualist anarchists in the United States were Stephen Pearl Andrews, William Batchelder Greene, Ezra Heywood, M. E. Lazarus, John Beverley Robinson, James L. Walker, Joseph Labadie, Steven Byington and Laurance Labadie.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to anarchism:

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to libertarianism:

Social anarchism, also known as left-wing anarchism or socialist anarchism, is the branch of anarchism that sees liberty and social equality as interrelated.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Benjamin Tucker</span> American individualist anarchist (1854–1939)

Benjamin Ricketson Tucker was an American individualist anarchist. Tucker was the editor and publisher of the American individualist anarchist periodical Liberty (1881–1908). Tucker was a member of the First International, with his publication Liberty represented as the English language organ for the Socialistic-Revolutionary Congress. Tucker described his form of anarchism as "consistent Manchesterism" and stated that "the Anarchists are simply unterrified Jeffersonian Democrats."

The term classless society refers to a society in which no one is born into a social class. Distinctions of wealth, income, education, culture, or social network might arise and would only be determined by individual experience and achievement in such a society. Thus, the concept posits not the absence of a social hierarchy but the uninheritability of class status. Helen Codere defines social class as a segment of the community, the members of which show a common social position in a hierarchical ranking. Codere suggest that a true class-organized society is one in which the hierarchy of prestige and social status is divisible into groups. Each group with its own social, economic, attitudinal and cultural characteristics, and each having differential degrees of power in community decision.

Anarchism and libertarianism, as broad political ideologies with manifold historical and contemporary meanings, have contested definitions. Their adherents have a pluralistic and overlapping tradition that makes precise definition of the political ideology difficult or impossible, compounded by a lack of common features, differing priorities of subgroups, lack of academic acceptance, and contentious historical usage.


  1. Vallentyne, Peter. "Libertarianism". Stanford. Retrieved 29 July 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Doherty, Radicals for Capitalism
  3. 1 2 3 Harkinson, Josh (2008). "A Timeline of Libertarian Thought". Mother Jones. Retrieved 22 February 2022.