7 of History’s Forgotten Libertarians

by | Oct 25, 2023 | Quick Reads

The annals of history are brimming with tales of well-known advocates for liberty such as John Locke, Thomas Paine, and Friedrich Hayek. Yet, woven into the rich tapestry of the libertarian movement are lesser-known luminaries whose contributions to individual freedom and limited government deserve their moment in the spotlight.

Lysander Spooner (1808-1887

)An American individualist anarchist, Spooner was a fervent advocate for the abolition of slavery and an ardent defender of free markets. His most notable work, “No Treason,” challenges the authority of the U.S. Constitution and the idea of tacit consent.

Rose Wilder Lane (1886-1968)

Often overshadowed by her mother, Laura Ingalls Wilder of “Little House on the Prairie” fame, Rose was a staunch libertarian. In her seminal work, “The Discovery of Freedom,” she traced the history of human progress and freedom, emphasizing the role of individual initiative.

Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850)

A French economist, Bastiat is renowned for “The Law,” where he delineates the rightful and wrongful uses of the law and government. His parable of the “broken window” remains a cornerstone in economic thought, illustrating seen vs. unseen consequences of actions.

Isabel Paterson (1886-1961)

A contemporary of Ayn Rand, Paterson’s “The God of the Machine” stands as a testament to her belief in individualism and the dangers of an overreaching state. She emphasized that freedom, not regulation, is the true engine of progress.

Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)

An English philosopher, Spencer coined the term “survival of the fittest.” Beyond biology, he applied this concept to free-market economics and social theories, arguing against interventionism and for the organic evolution of societies.

Voltairine de Cleyre (1866-1912)

An unsung heroine of libertarian thought, de Cleyre championed feminism, anarchism, and atheism. She believed in direct action over politics and was a vocal critic of state power and its infringements on individual rights.

Étienne de La Boétie (1530-1563)

Though his life was short-lived, this French judge and writer’s “Discourse on Voluntary Servitude” is a profound exploration of power and authority. He contemplated why people obey and how tyrants secure compliance, emphasizing the role of consent.

These trailblazers, though lesser-known, have left indelible marks on the cause of liberty. Their writings, philosophies, and actions continue to inspire and inform modern libertarian thought, reminding us that the flame of freedom has many guardians, both celebrated and unsung.

NEXT: 5 Pivotal Factors That Ignited World War I

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