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Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement
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Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  377 ratings  ·  45 reviews
On Wall Street, in the culture of high tech, in American government: Libertarianism—the simple but radical idea that the only purpose of government is to protect its citizens and their property against direct violence and threat— has become an extremely influential strain of thought. But while many books talk about libertarian ideas, none until now has explored the history
Kindle Edition, 752 pages
Published April 28th 2009 by PublicAffairs (first published February 12th 2007)
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Start your review of Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement
Brian Doherty's Radicals for Capitalism is a riveting and brilliant narrative of the evolution of American libertarianism. He both captures the lives and the ideas of a movement with its roots in the enlightenment and its greatest heroes in twentieth-century America. I was impressed with the detail, breadth, and compelling style of this history of the ideas and people of the libertarian 'movement'. Along the way he uncovers many details that should be interesting for all but the most ...more
Tom Nixon
This book was something of a disappointment to me, but I think you had to kind of expect that. The Libertarian Movement- if there is such a thing that can encompass one, overarching label is so big, so wide, so varied that it would be next to impossible to do half of it justice, much less complete with author Brian Doherty labels a 'Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement.'

Politically, this didn't do much for me. I think I'll flirt with Libertarians on certain issues,
Jan 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating look at the mercurial personalities that formed the modern libertarian movement. The most interesting part for me was the discussion of the wilderness years of the 1950s, when collectivism and scientific statism were presumed to be the future, while classical liberalism and individual freedom were thought to be quaint 19th century notions. Libertarianism was truly radical then; today, the radicals in the movement have to try and outrage the South Park crowd to be noticed- not an easy ...more
Fred R
Dec 30, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It is tempting to suggest that libertarianism is a philosophy only possible in a world where everyone has the personality and cultural values of a libertarian, but on second thought, a society of adolescent ectomorphic ideologues does not sound very attractive. That said, the world is a better place for having libertarians around.

This history is not really what I wanted. It was too close-up in focus, too interested in personality and anecdote. As libertarians tend to have unattractive (Ayn Rand)
Patrick Peterson
May 29, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, libertarian
I generally liked the book and learned a fair amount of new things about this freedom movement that I have been passionate about for over 30 years.

I was very impressed with how Doherty understands so many key points of Austrian/free market economics and the diferences with the far more semi-free market Chicagoans. Even differences between Mises and Hayek were explained quite well.

I've read some reviews pointing out failings/errors, but they still seem to pale compared to how much he got right.

G. Branden
May 29, 2009 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Saw this at Borders last year and got sucked in. I must have read 30 pages (from various chapters) before deciding I'd wait for the paperback but that it was otherwise a must-read. My political roots lie in "right-libertarianism" (i.e., get the government, and only the government, off our backs and everything else will work itself out), though that's not exactly where I am now. I am already familiar with many of the big names in the U.S. libertarian movement, though sometimes it's only the name ...more
Scarlett Sims
I think the easiest way to do this would be in a pro/con format.

-Incredibly informative. It's a pretty long book and I learned a LOT of things I didn't know about, mostly about the many different factions and beliefs that fall under the general umbrella of "Libertarian."
-Neutral point of view. The author is a libertarian, but the book wasn't written so much out of a desire to convert, more of a desire to educate. He talks about many conflicting views and opinions in a disinterested tone,
Apr 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish this book was published when I was in college, and I wish I read it then. This would have saved me much searching and understanding. This is such a great and condensed (even thought it’s thick) book on the libertarian movement. He treats all sides fairly. Sadly, I read this book to help me put an end to my ideological struggle, and I think it has accomplished that. I no longer feel a deep need to read the important movement literature. I’m afraid to be apart of the movement.
Jun 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great resource for folks who have some familiarity with libertarian thought. Very impressive detail, objectively written. The author does a fantastic job of summarizing key arguments in various books and in describing philosophical differences between the "radicals." I discovered numerous books or authors I will now research.
Brian Schnack
Apr 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-liberty
Freewheeling is apt, as it's nearly a picaresque philosopho/econo/historical romp at equal parts history, comedy, and tragedy - but ultimately a tribute to the men and women who through darkest nights fought to see the day where all but the most dim (bipartisan) statist would sink their teeth into the fruits of 'giving people the right to make, trade, and BEHAVE as they wish.'
Jul 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're at all interested in "the history of the modern American libertarian movement," this is the book to read.
Alex Bales
Aug 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Informative, but disorganized writing style.
Mar 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very even handed look at the history of Libertarian political thought in the USA
Sep 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: libertarians, political/economic junkies, left civil libertarians making common cause
Libertarianism has been in the news recently: Julian Assange referred to its rising wave in the Republican party as America's best hope for halting the advance of the police state, and Chris Christie (governor of New Jersey and rumored as a presidential contender in 2016) scoffed at it, causing a bit of a row between him and libertarian-leaning Senator Rand Paul. American libertarianism is distinct in holding as sacred something the first libertarians regard as suspect: property. While ...more
Dan Clore
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This voluminous tome covers in great detail America's right-wing, free-market and private-property oriented libertarian movement in all of its phases, including Classical Liberalism, the Austrian and Chicago Schools of economics, libertarian-leaning conservatism, Objectivism, the Libertarian Party, anarcho-capitalism, agorism, and so forth. With a few caveats, the book can be highly recommended to all interested as probably the definitive treatment of its subject.

The book is written using an
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Probably 4.5 stars, as it's more than a little long and not all of the inner workings of the movement are scintillating. But the summation of the associated theories involved are especially valuable, and this is probably the most even-handed treatment I've ever read on Ayn Rand.
Jeffrey Howard
A year and a half later, and I have finally conquered this literary monster of a mountain. Doherty leaves no stone within the modern libertarian movement unturned--to the books detriment. In truly freewheeling fashion, this book gives page space to any and every libertarian figure (or non-figure) of the past 100 years. Doherty detours frequently, detailing the almost completely inconsequential events and people. His structure lacks focus. A few hundred pages into it the reader is left grasping ...more
Jonathan Gress
Dec 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a libertarian, I wanted to learn more about the history of the movement and its ideas, and this book did not disappoint. I got into libertarianism through conservatism and my initial exposure was through libertarian thinkers of a conservative bent (Ron Paul, then the Mises Institute and the Austrian School, from where I got into Murray Rothbard and Hans-Hermann Hoppe). But I began to realize that a lot of other thinkers have contributed to the movement who came from very different ...more
Nicki Brøchner
Jun 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Radicals for Capitalism are a comprehensive and thorough review of the history of the American libertarian movement. It starts from the beginning of the movement with Mises, Hayek and Ayn Rand and from there it works its way up to present day. On the journey through what are not only a presentation of libertarian history but also the political American history and its ups and downs. We are presented with the infightings, the sex, the victories and the defeats of both the movement and the ...more
Vann Walke
Jul 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A pretty amazing book, tracing the roots of the American libertarian movement and the somewhat extreme characters and personalities who launched it. The book helped me put in context a lot of the groups and names you come across in libertarian circles - organizations like Cato, Reason, and the Foundation for Economic Education, and people like Ayn Rand, Rothbard, Mises, and Hayek. I'd highly recommend the book to any "die hard" libertarian. But, if you're looking for an introduction to ...more
The American Conservative
'Doherty’s book, a massive, fact-packed history of more than five decades of libertarian thought and activism, serves as a reminder that this seemingly future-oriented philosophy has a rich and fascinating past. And what’s more, the libertarians of 30 or more years ago were not always optimists; nor were they progressive even when they were forward-looking. Some, like Karl Hess, the Goldwater speechwriter turned New Left radical and libertarian guru, were gadget-geeks alright— but of a different ...more
Dec 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: libertarianism
I don't know that I'd consider myself a libertarian anymore, but at one time I was, and I think anyone who has any familiarity with the libertarian movement would find this book really fascinating.

If you come in with no knowledge of the movement, there may be a little too much "inside baseball" for your liking, but I still think it's worthwhile for any student of modern American political thought.

The amount of research and interviews that went into the book is incredible, yet it isn't dry,
Aug 05, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jews, economics, history
A rather superficial overview of various characters and movements which you'd be better off looking elsewhere for more critical information on. Covers the likes of Rand, Rothbard, Friedman (Jewish theorists with a large Fundie Christian support base) and such and ends with optimistic techno-utopians of the 1990s. The praise of Milton Friedman's monetary theories herein sure are funny since this was published just when they would become totally empirically undefendable. Today protectionism is ...more
Ken Fields
Mar 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
By far and away the best and probably only real book written on the history of American libertarianism. It is incredibly detailed and very well, written, easy to read, thankfully considering how long it is.

For a philosophy that eschews the collective and celebrates the individual, thus ensuring, by it's nature a relative low hum in the chaos of political debate, it's great to have a voice, which I think Doherty does very well for all of us.

Even if you aren't or don't consider yourself to be a
Lucid, enjoyable, and wide-ranging, this book should be read by anyone, of any political stripe, who is interested in the libertarian movement (or should that be movements?) Doherty could perhaps have chosen a better title--Thomas Szasz, for example, who is profiled herein, is not primarily interested in wealth creation--but this book is excellent, less biased than I'd feared and full of great stories and characters.
Aug 24, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very well done history of the modern American Libertarian movement. Drags a bit when you get to the sixties, but then so does American history. The author, a writer for Reason magazine, gives an even-handed survey of the movement leaving no nook or cranny unexplored. He handles the disagreements and diversions between libertarians very well.
Long, but worth it, especially if you are a libertarian or merely intrigued by libertarianism.
Kathleen O'Neal
Jun 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With this book, Brian Doherty has written the definitive history of the libertarian movement and doesn't shy away from exposing its excesses (although Doherty also remains obviously wedded to the movement's ideas). Anyone that truly wants to understand the libertarian movement in all of its diversity and complexity needs to read this book.
Sep 14, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Libertarianism is a fascinating, coherent dogma; libertarians are anything else, a fact accidentally emphasized by an author that means to praise but accidentally eludicates. Worth a read, but so long as to be the secondary text to anything else. Pressed for time, just read "Atlas Shrugged" again.
Dec 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Don't read this book if you're looking to learn about libertarianism. Doherty's book, which I enjoyed greatly, is the story of a movement with lots of insider stories that will primarily interest those who are deeply steeped in the freedom movement.
Oct 17, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I would think
that for
"Mengerian reality"
and "valuational decisions"
Menger's ideas
and choices
would do.
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“One day, J. Howard Pew of Sun Oil called Read to tell him that he had $136,000 that he had to get rid of, for some arcane tax reason, in the next twenty-four hours-and would Read, along with Howard Kershner of Christian Economics (a more right-wing religious education group Pew also supported) figure out among themselves what they could best do with it? Thanks. And they did.” 1 likes
“Government, if it has any purpose at all (and many libertarians doubt it does), should be restricted to the protection of its citizens' persons and property against direct violence and theft.” 1 likes
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