The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism

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Overview

As a continuation of the older tradition of classical liberalism, libertarian thinking draws on a rich body of thought and scholarship. Contemporary libertarian scholars are continuing that tradition by making substantial contributions to such fields as philosophy, jurisprudence, economics, evolutionary psychology, political theory, and history, in both academia and politics. With more than 300 A-to-Z signed entries written by top scholars, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism is purposed to be a useful compilation of and introduction to libertarian scholarship. The Encyclopedia starts with an introductory essay offering an extensive historical and thematic overview of key thinkers, events, and publications in the development of libertarian thought. The Reader’s Guide groups content for researchers and students alike, allowing them to study libertarianism topically, biographically, and by public policy issues.

Key Features

  • Entries conclude with bibliographies and references for further reading and cross-references to related entries.
  • Each entry provides an introduction to a topic or policy question relevant to libertarianism or a biography of a person who has had an impact on libertarianism.
  • Editors take special care to ensure entries clearly explain libertarian approaches to issues, do not take sides on disputed matters or engage in polemics, and represent the views of all sides fairly and accurately.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Maximum freedom plus minimum government equals libertarianism: an oversimplification, but not by much, of this brand of political philosophy. Editor in chief Hamowy, a retired intellectual history professor at the University of Alberta, spells out this book's reason for being in his introduction: "to offer a series of brief articles on the historical, sociological, and economic aspects of libertarianism and to place them within their broader context." That would be fine if that were all this work sought to accomplish. However, the next sentence proclaims that the aforementioned entries "offer a commentary on the unending attempts of countless individuals to emancipate themselves from the control of an oppressive and overweening state, whether one is controlled by a despot or one is acting in the name of the wishes of the people." That reads suspiciously like a manifesto, which has no business in a reference work. In a similar vein, this book is "[a] project of the Cato Institute," as stated at the bottom of the title page, which is a libertarian think tank. Of the 163 contributors, no fewer than 22 are listed as being affiliated with Cato, while a good deal of the others hold positions with the Atlas Society, the Goldwater Institute, Liberty magazine, LaissezFaire Books, and other ideologically aligned organizations. This suggests that this volume's real purpose may be to advance an agenda rather than to enlighten readers. Other problems include unsubstantiated statements, such as the entry for "gambling" that flatly asserts, "Most Americans appear to enjoy gambling." Midway through the article, a survey by Hurrah's, the Las Vegas casino, is mentioned, but that's hardly anunbiased source. Perhaps the most glaring negative is that there just isn't enough substance to the subject matter to warrant its own encyclopedia. That would explain filler material like "abortion," which relates medical and legal aspects of this procedure but says nothing about how any of this relates to libertarianism. BOTTOM LINEFor the straight stuff on any "ism" you can think of and a few you never knew existed, go instead with Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2d ed. (Macmillan, 2006). [Ebk. ISBN 9781412965811]
—Michael F. Bemis

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781412965804
  • Publisher: SAGE Publications
  • Publication date: 8/15/2008
  • Pages: 664
  • Product dimensions: 8.30 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 1.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Ronald Hamowy is a Fellow in Social Thought at the Cato Institute. He is professor of history emeritus at the University of Alberta and previously was assistant director of the History of Western Civilization Program at Stanford University. He received his Ph.D. in social thought under F. A. Hayek at the University of Chicago. He is the author of books on the Scottish Enlightenment and on health care and the editor of a book on drug prohibition and the Liberty Press edition of Cato’s Letters. He is a member of the Mont Pelerin Society, an international society of scholars founded in 1947 by Hayek, Friedman, and other luminaries of the libertarian movement.

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