5 Living Libertarian Academics You Should Know About


The Ivory Tower seems like an inhospitable place for libertarian ideas and much of the scholarship produced by academics tends to reinforce this left-wing bias. If you happen to be an academic and a libertarian, you feel like an extremely rare breed. Libertarian academics do exist; not all of them study economics and they are an indispensable in the liberty movement. Here are lesser-known, libertarian academics:

Jason Brennan

Jason Brennan is an Associate Professor of Strategy, Economics, Ethics, and Public Policy at Georgetown University. He is also a contributor at Bleeding Heart Libertarians and an author—he has published prolifically, thus he will not perish!

Two of his most recent books are worth noting: Why Not Capitalism? and the candidly titled, Against Democracy. Why Not Capitalism? is a very concise book—

a mere 120 pages, so you can finish it in an afternoon or less. Here is an ReasonTV interview from 2014 and here is an excellent summary of the book. Brennan argues that, even in an imaginary universe of perfect beings that we dream up in our heads, capitalism still wins out over socialism.

After the dumpster-fire spectacle of the 2016 US presidential election, is your belief in democracy still unscathed? Against Democracy, Brennan’s most recent publication, will probably mangle any remaining conviction you have about the desirability of democracy. Spoiler: according to Brennan’s disenchanting account of democracy, we might be better off under an epistocracy.

Michael Huemer

The Problem of Political Authority is one of the best books of political philosophy that I have ever read. This is a book that I’d enthusiastically lend to my non-libertarian friends as a way of easing them into anarchism—instead of grating their sensibilities by immediately launching into a discussion about private defense agencies. In the first 200 pages or so, Huemer exhaustively considers every account that has been offered as a justification for political authority.

Michael Huemer, a philosophy professor at CU-Boulder, upends the deeply entrenched dogma that state authority is moral (or justified). This authority is neither justified nor necessary (nor does he discuss private defense agencies towards the end of the book.).You can read the first 26 here.

Huemer has given talks at Porcfest, TEDx, SFL Colorado Regional Conference, and has made other appearances.

Sharon Presley

Sharon Presley writes articles for Libertarianism.org (most notably on libertarian feminism), has taught courses in psychology, is a co-founder Laissez-Faire Books, and is the Executive Director and a founding member of the Association of Libertarian Feminists. In addition to those eclectic credentials, she has published a self-help book (which I just added to my Goodreads To-Read list!) titled Standing Up to Experts and Authorities.

Prominent topics in libertarian media and blogosphere run the gamut from drug legalization to why there are so few women libertarians. Presley’s voice rounds out the discussion table, broaching topics that surely cause some libertarians to bristle. Whether she is tackling the hostilities faced by women in the liberty movement, the overly eager reception of evolutionary psychology among libertarians, or the adverse effects of sexist language, Presley's writings bring a welcome and much-needed perspective.

Jason Sorens

Jason Sorens is a lecturer in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College, a Senior Affiliated Scholar at the Mercatus Center, and the founder of the Free State Project. He has co-authored the biennial publication, Freedom in the 50 States, and has written dozens of other publications, including a book on secessionism!

Sorens outlined the founding principles of the Free State Project in a 2001 essay. Written years before Facebook, the Ron Paul era, and the concomitant surge in liberty activism, the essay is a response to the track record of libertarian ineffectiveness in national politics. The objective: exhort freedom-minded folks (about 20,000 of them) to move to a small state (in this case, NH), gradually take over state politics, and establish a bastion of liberty.

As of early 2016, the Free State Project has recruited close to the desired, 20,000 volunteers and about 2,000 have actually made the move (as of 2015). The steady fruition of the project instills in me a modicum of hope that liberty, in our lifetime, is a realizable goal.

Anne Wortham

I bet my money that you did not expect to see a sociologist on the list. After all, aren't most of them staunch progressives or Marxists?! Last, but not least, I give you Anne Wortham, an Associate Professor of Sociology at Illinois State University with an affinity for the thought of Ayn Rand.

I had not heard of Wortham until she was acknowledged in the pages of Brian Doherty's Radicals for Capitalism. She grew up in the segregated South, has been a critic of the Civil Rights movement, and espouses individualism. The Foundation for Economic Education reprinted her 1966 interview with The Freeman, in which she discusses, at length, her refusal to participate in the Civil Rights Movement and her criticism of "collectivist pluralism." In 1988, she was the focus of a two-part episode of Bill Moyer's A World of Ideas—an episode titled "'Race Relations and 'Authenticity of the Self."" If I have piqued your interest, you can read the transcript for part one here and part two here.


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