Volokh Conspiracy symposium on the "Routledge Handbook of Libertarianism"


I am pleased to announce that this week, the Volokh Conspiracy blog will host a symposium featuring posts by many of the contributors to the Routledge Handbook of Libertarianism (edited by Jason Brennan, Bas van der Vossen, and David Schmidtz), has just been published. This book is the most wide-ranging analysis of libertarianism, its strengths and weaknesses, and its applications to a wide range of political issues, to be published in a long time.

Here is the publisher's summary of the book:

Libertarians often bill their theory as an alternative to both the traditional Left and Right. The Routledge Handbook of Libertarianism helps readers fully examine this alternative without preaching it to them, exploring the contours of libertarian (sometimes also called classical liberal) thinking on justice, institutions, interpersonal ethics, government, and political economy. The 31 chapters-all written specifically for this volume-are organized into five parts. Part I asks, what should libertarianism learn from other theories of justice, and what should defenders of other theories of justice learn from libertarianism? Part II asks, what are some of the deepest problems facing libertarian theories? Part III asks, what is the right way to think about property rights and the market? Part IV asks, how should we think about the state? Finally, part V asks, how well (or badly) can libertarianism deal with some of the major policy challenges of our day, such as immigration, trade, religion in politics, and paternalism in a free market. Among the Handbook's chapters are those from critics who write about what they believe libertarians get right as well as others from leading libertarian theorists who identify what they think libertarians get wrong. As a whole, the Handbook provides a comprehensive, clear-eyed look at what libertarianism has been and could be, and why it matters.

The contributors to our symposium include both libertarian scholars, whose chapters in the Handbook defend libertarian approaches to various issues, and critics of libertarianism whose chapters highlight what they see as serious flaws in libertarian thought. We will start out with a post by Georgetown political philosopher Jason Brennan, one of the editors of the book, which discusses the project as a whole. Throughout the week, we will continue with posts by authors of individual chapters, based on their contributions to the volume.

I am one of those contributors myself. The book also includes a chapter I wrote on "Freedom and Knowledge," where I explain why the combination of voter ignorance and knowledge limitations of government planners strengthens the case for limiting and decentralizing government power. Later in the week, I will put up a post summarizing my chapter.

The contributions to this symposium include only a sampling of the authors who wrote chapters in the book. A full list of chapters and contributors is available at the book's Amazon page (use the "look inside" function).

I recognize that the price set by the publisher may well be too high for you to buy the book. But we hope and expect that readers can still benefit from the posts in our symposium. And many might be able to get access to the book itself through libraries or other institutions.