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Two Periodical Looks at Libertarianism's Past


The Mises Institute continues its relentless digitization of previously hard-to-find aspects of the modern American libertarian movement's past.

Its latest additions are full issues from the early to mid 1950s of the very obscure Faith and Freedom, the journal of the early Christian libertarian group Spiritual Mobilization, and mid- late-1970s issues of Libertarian Review, which began as a specifically book-reviewing journal and grew into a more general interest cultural and policy mag of a libertarian bent.

Examining them together gives you an interesting sense of the movement's growth over those two decades. Faith and Freedom is more general, more homiletic, and in some ways more daring given its focus on first principles in a social and political environment when radical libertarianism was greatly mistrusted and even feared.

Libertarian Review is undoubtedly more sophisticated, more engaged with a wider world of social sciences and history and current events in a manner that could appeal to a reader merely curious, not interested in being preached at. Both make great reading for those interested in how libertarian ideas have been framed and sold in the past 60 years. For people, like me, who either as eager students interested in this stuff or adult researchers writing history on it, found getting ready and extended access to these publications quite a trick, their existence digitized this way inspires sweet amazement and gratitude that we live in an era when it's possible for everyone everywhere to read it anytime.

I talk quite a bit about the curious history of Spiritual Mobilization (which ended largely due to its lawyer chief's discovery of psychedelics in the mid-1950s via Gerald Heard) and of course the curious history of the American libertarian movement in general in my 2007 opus Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement.