As more and more Americans have become disheartened with the Big Government policies of both major parties, libertarianism has been gaining ground. Its core tenet: government exists to protect the lives and property of its citizens from violence and threat – and nothing more. On Wall Street, throughout the technocracy, among political purists, interest is growing in this influential strain of thought. But while many books talk about libertarian ideas, none until now has explored the history of this uniquely American movement — where and who it came from, how it evolved, and what impact it has had on the intellectual and political history of postwar America. In Radicals for Capitalism, Brian Doherty (senior editor of Reason magazine) traces the evolution of libertarianism through the unconventional life stories of its most influential leaders — Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek, Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard, and Milton Friedman — and through the personal battles and historical events that altered its course.
Based on extensive research and interviews with more than 100 key sources, Radicals for Capitalism is both an entertaining, often surprising read for history buffs, politics junkies, and an invaluable aid in understanding the full sweep of the intellectual and political history of postwar America, including the ideological splits simmering beneath today’s most divisive political issues.
Brian Doherty reveals:
* The intellectual roots of modern American libertarianism in prerevolutionary Whig radicalism in England, in the patriotic American revolutionary tradition itself; and the classical liberal tradition
* The early careers and radical free market economics of the Austrian School, a dominant intellectual influence on modern American libertarianism.
* Differences between the “Austrians” and the Chicago (of which Milton Friedman is the most famous exponent)
* The three “founding mothers” of modern libertarianism: Rose Wilder Lane, Isabel Paterson, and Ayn Rand – independent and fierce women creating a fresh ideological tradition with some tools from a dying classical liberalism
* The founding of the first modern libertarian education institution, the Foundation for Economic Education
* The anarchist strain in the modern movement — and the rise of Ayn Rand’s Objectivist movement
* The triumphs and travails of the movement during the 1960s, when squads of radical youngsters embraced libertarianism, only to be condemned by their heroine Ayn Rand as “hippies of the right”
* The rise of the Libertarian Party and the entry into the movement of billionaire financier Charles Koch — and the after-effects of that sudden injection of cash
* The story of libertarianism in the Reagan and Gingrich eras – and its influence on philosophy, culture, economics, and even psychiatry
* The final days of the major libertarian heroes
* Continuing controversies and future prospects for libertarians
“Libertarianism is deeply rooted in the impulses of America’s founding, and could easily be seen as its apotheosis and fulfillment,” writes Doherty. “We live in a world with citizens riven over issues that almost always come down to angry debate over government action, issues in which much of the conflict would disappear if government action were removed from the table-from immigration policy to public schools to entitlements to value wars in the public square to abortion to war. In that world, the ideas promulgated by the people and institutions whose story this book tells may seem a reasonable and achievable basis for a conceivable next American revolution.”
“An insider’s understanding”
“Modern libertarians see themselves as the loyal opposition to the totalitarian tendencies of centralized power, in an American tradition reaching back to the anti-Federalists. Doherty’s astute history shows where that consensus comes from and where it fractures along personal, political and practical lines. As a procapitalist and antistatist philosophy, libertarianism has had its greatest impact in economics. But Doherty shows that modern libertarianism since the 1940s, and increasingly since the 1980s, has been politically and ideologically influential, too. Whether believers in a small state regulating only contracts and national defense, or no state at all (like self-described “anarcho-capitalist” Murray Rothbard), libertarians have rooted themselves in a number of institutions-from schools, publications and think tanks to the Libertarian Party, the country’s third-largest ticket. Reason magazine senior editor Doherty conveys an insider’s understanding in clear, confident prose.” – Publishers Weekly