Laissez Faire Books, R.I.P.


A great libertarian institution is on its way out this month (though they have not yet officially announced it on their web site): Laissez Faire Books, the libertarian book store turned libertarian book mail order operation.

Wikipedia gives a good history of the operation. It opened as a store front in 1972 in Greenwich Village, run by John Muller and Sharon Presley. Murray Rothbard and Jerome Tuccille signed their books at the grand opening.

As I wrote in my history of the modern American libertarian movement, Radicals for Capitalism:

The store became an inmportant social center for the movement in America's biggest city, a place for any traveling libertarian to stop for company and succor and to find congenial drinking companions, and a source of aggravation for European anarchists who heard tales of New York City's anarchist bookstore and found its political economy section infested with right deviationists such as Murray Rothbard; a place for signings and parties when significant new libertarian books were issued…and showings of The Prisoner and other libertarian entertainments.

In 1982 Andrea Rich took it over, and shifted it to a mail-order only operation. Kathleen Nelson (sister of libertarian activist Paul Jacob) has been in charge since 2005.

The catalog has for decades been the best way to keep up on the thankfully ever-growing flood of books of interest to libertarians. While in an Amazon and abebooks age, the need for one special place to go to to obtain sometimes obscure books may be smaller, LFB and its catalog editors' ability (special hat tip to libertarian legend Roy Childs, who edited the catalog in the late '80s and early '90s and read and understood more libertariana than any random 20 ordinary libertarians) find and compile in one place and intelligently review and contextualize,books for the libertarian community will be sorely missed.