[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]
Last month I was plugging one 700-page libertarian tome; this month I’m plugging another one. This time it’s Radicals for Capitalism, Brian Doherty’s sprawling history of the 20th-century American libertarian movement. Here it is: the past hundred years of U.S. libertarian thought and activism in all its glory and strangeness, from Hayek to Heinlein, from Galt to Galambos. There’s even stuff in here that I didn’t know (most notably the connection between FEE and LSD!).
As is inevitable in a book of this scope, there are some errors (confusing Menger with Böhm-Bawerk and Atlanta Hope with Atlanta Bliss; trusting Hayek’s faulty memory of not having been Mises’s student – stuff like that, nothing major), as well as some controversial choices of inclusion/exclusion, interpretation, and emphasis (don’t expect much on Konkin, or Hoppe, or the Kelley/Peikoff split, for example), plus a few generalisations that paleolibertarians and/or left-libertarians, depending on the case, will bristle at. The book also focuses much more on what various libertarians have thought than on why they thought it – understandable given that the book is long enough already, but it means few nonlibertarians venturing into its pages are likely to feel the pull of libertarian ideas. Nor, for similar reasons, is the reader given much sense of intra-movement disagreements on, say, immigration, abortion, intellectual property, and the like. The book’s biggest flaw is actually the index: over and over again I would have the experience of looking up a name in the index, finding it wasn’t listed, and then later on discovering that the book nevertheless contained a discussion of the person in question after all. Trust not the index!
But these are mere quibbles. This is the definitive history of our movement in all its crazy diversity, meticulously researched and engagingly narrated. Enjoy. (And don’t miss the endnotes! There’s another book’s worth of fascinating material in there!)