Libertarians You’ve Never Heard Of: Oscar Wilde

SFL Staff

It’s important to learn from intellectual giants like Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard, but there are many unsung heroes that are also worth exploring. In thiseducational series, we hope to introduce students to such individuals. While not all of the figures profiled here explicitly identified as libertarian, they made great contributions to the cause of liberty that are worth acknowledging.

“A writer is someone who has taught his mind to misbehave.”– Oscar Wilde.

Who: Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was an Irish writer and poet. He is popular today because of the intensity with which he lived his life and because of the wit and wisdom he showed in his writings, especially his plays and epigrams.

Why he matters: Wilde considered himself a libertarian socialist and even though he had mixed ideologies, his main concern was reaching an individualist society focused on individual flourishing and enlightenment. He thought that altruism was a false cure to poverty and that the way to eradicate it was through competition. Wilde stressed the difference between authoritarian socialism and individual socialism, advocating for a more libertarian approach. His major libertarian work is his poem A Sonnet to Liberty, and after reading some works of Peter Kropotkin he declared himself an anarchist. The British government ruined Wilde’s life by imprisoning him two years under the charge of homosexual acts. After being released, both his health and career decayed.

If you only read one thing: Read The Importance of Being Earnest, which is a satire on society’s morals and obligations of the time.

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