Timeline of libertarianism in the United States

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This is a timeline of libertarianism in the United States.

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Year Month and date Event type Details
1831 Periodical The Liberator, an American abolitionist newspaper, is founded.
1844 Organization Lysander Spooner founds the American Letter Mail Company, which competes "with the legal monopoly of the United States Post Office (USPO, now the USPS) in violation of the Private Express Statutes." The company would shut down in 1851 after it is challenged by the US government.
1845 Publication The Unconstitutionality of Slavery, an abolitionist pamphlet by Lysander Spooner, is published. The pamphlet advocates "the view that the United States Constitution prohibited slavery. This view was advocated in contrast to that of William Lloyd Garrison who advocated opposing the constitution on the grounds that it supported slavery."
1849 Publication Henry David Thoreau's Civil Disobedience is published. In the essay, Thoreau asserts that "because governments are typically more harmful than helpful, they therefore cannot be justified".
1852 Publication Lysander Spooner's An Essay on the Trial by Jury is published. The essay argues for jury nullification.[1]:50
1867 Publication No Treason by Lysander Spooner is published. Doherty writes: "More than any of his nineteenth-century individualist anarchist brethren, Spooner is still an active influence on the libertarian movement – reprinted, quoted, honored, and relied on."[1]:51
1935 Publication Our Enemy, the State by Albert Jay Nock is published.
1943 Publication The Fountainhead, a novel by Ayn Rand, is published. Among other themes, the novel explores the theme of individualism versus collectivism.
1946 Milton Friedman accepts an offer to teach at the University of Chicago.
1946 March 7 Organization The Foundation for Economic Education, a libertarian think tank, is founded.
1947 Organization The Mont Pelerin Society is formed. "The society advocates freedom of expression, free market economic policies, the political values of an open society." Some of its founders are prominent libertarians.
1949 October 1 Organization George Mason University (GMU) is established. The GMU economics department would become known for its concentration of free-market-oriented thinkers.[2]
1950 October 2 Periodical The first issue of The Freeman, a libertarian magazine, is published.
1950s The term "Chicago school of economics" is coined during this period.
1950s–1960s Ayn Rand's group of close confidants, known as the Collective, meets during this period.
1953 April 23 Murray Rothbard meets George Reisman and Ralph Raico at a Mises NYU seminar meeting. The three, along with others, would later form an intellectual salon known as the Circle Bastiat.[1]:251[3]
1956 Organization The Freedom School is established.
1957 Publication Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged is published. The book "contains Rand's most extensive statement of Objectivism in any of her works of fiction".
1960 Organization Liberty Fund, a libertarian non-profit foundation, is established.
1960 September 11 Organization Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) is founded. YAF is "an ideologically conservative youth activism organization that was founded […] as a coalition between traditional conservatives and libertarians on American college campuses."
1961 Publication Thomas Szasz's The Myth of Mental Illness is published. The book "criticizes psychiatry and argues against the concept of mental illness".
1961 Organization The Institute for Humane Studies, a libertarian non-profit organization, is founded.
1962 Publication Milton Friedman's book Capitalism and Freedom is published. "Friedman argues for economic freedom as a precondition for political freedom. He defines 'liberal' in European Enlightenment terms, contrasting with an American usage that he believes has been corrupted since the Great Depression. His views are especially popular among American conservatives and libertarians."
1962 Publication The Calculus of Consent, a public choice theory book by James M. Buchanan and Gordon Tullock, is published. Of Buchanan's and Tullock's work in public choice, Brian Doherty writes that it has "unquestionably given libertarians a valuable intellectual and ideological tool. Buchanan and Tullock helped build a professional consensus and a rigorous scholarly apparatus around the notion that – despite what many economic professionals used to assume – the behavior of government agents can fruitfully be modeled the same way we model individual behavior in markets; that is, as largely motivated by maximizing the personal utility of the government worker or politician, not by some empyrean concept of 'the public good' or an overall 'social welfare function' that a technical economist could calculate."[1]:469
1963 Organization Rampart College, "a libertarian educational institution", is established by Robert LeFevre.
1966 Publication The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, a libertarian science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein, is published. The book popularizes the "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch" adage.
1966 Publication Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal by Ayn Rand (with additional essays by others) is published.
1968 May Periodical The first issue of Reason, a libertarian monthly magazine, is published.
1969 Publication The Nolan Chart is created by libertarian activist and politician David Nolan. "The chart divides human political views into two vectors – economic opinion and personal opinion – to produce a type of Cartesian chart. It expands political view analysis beyond the traditional 'left–right' line, which measures politics along a one-dimensional line, into a graph with two dimensions: degrees of economic and personal freedom." The current version of the chart would be published in 1971.
1969 May Conference The inaugural Future of Freedom Conference takes place. The conference is "considered as the first explicitly libertarian conference series ever held in the United States".
1970 Publication The Market for Liberty, an anarcho-capitalist book by Linda and Morris Tannehill, is published.
1971 December 11 Organization The United States Libertarian Party (LP) officially forms.
1972 Periodical Libertarian Review, a libertarian magazine, is established. It would be published until 1981.
1973 Publication David D. Friedman's The Machinery of Freedom is published.
1973 Publication Murray Rothbard's For a New Liberty is published. The book argues for anarcho-capitalism.
1973 September 11 State The 1973 Chilean coup d'état takes place. The coup leads to rule of Augusto Pinochet, whose military government implements free-market-oriented policies under the influence of the Chicago Boys.
1974 Publication Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia is published. The book argues in favor of a minimal state.
1974 Fall Periodical The Reason Papers is founded.[4] Reason Papers describes itself as "a forum for inquiry and debate across a wide spectrum of views rather than the instrument of any one ideology, party, or camp" and "is not edited for conformity with any particular philosophical or ideological perspective, is neither aligned with nor endorses any other institution or organization, and receives no funding from any outside source". However, it is hosted by the Mises Institute.[5]
1974 December Organization The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, is founded as the Charles Koch Foundation.
1976 Organization The Center for Libertarian Studies, a "libertarian and anarcho-capitalist oriented educational organization", is founded by Murray Rothbard.
1976 Organization The Foundation for Rational Economics and Education, a libertarian organization, is founded by Ron Paul.
1977 Organization The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research is founded as the International Center for Economic Policy Studies. The institute, while not explicitly libertarian, has sponsored the work of libertarian scholars including Walter E. Williams and Charles Murray.
1977 Spring Periodical The Journal of Libertarian Studies is established.
1977 November 21 Periodical The first issue of Inquiry, a libertarian magazine, is published.
1978 Organization The Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank, is founded.
1978 Periodical Ron Paul newsletters begin to be published.
1978 State Dick Randolph becomes the first Libertarian Party candidate to be elected a state legislator when he is elected to the Alaska House of Representatives.
1979 The Prometheus Award, an award for libertarian science fiction, is first established.
1979 Organization The Pacific Research Institute, "a California-based free-market think tank", is founded by Antony Fisher.
1979 Publication Doug Casey's book Crisis Investing is published. Brian Doherty credits the book with getting "anarcho-capitalist thoughts into the hands and heads of an unprecedented number of Americans".[1]:473
1979 October 16 Publication J. Neil Schulman's dystopian novel Alongside Night is published. It contains the first portrayal of counter-economics in a book.
1980 Organization The Mercatus Center, a "non-profit free-market-oriented research, education, and outreach think tank", is established at George Mason University.
1980 Organization The Rampart Institute launches.
1980 Publication Thomas Sowell's Knowledge and Decisions is published. "Consistent with his established laissez-faire viewpoints, Sowell also indicts price controls (such as rent control, minimum wage, price fixing, and subsidies) as interfering in the implicit communication between consumers and producers necessary to optimize the choices of each. The fact that some industries or government agencies seem particularly incompetent or corrupt over many turnovers of their staff, he argues, is not bad people performing the duties but of rational people acting in their own interests responding to whatever incentives have been established in the system."
1980 State From History of the Libertarian Party (United States) § Clark, Crane, Koch, and Paul: "In the 1980 presidential contest, the Libertarian Party gain[s] ballot access in all 50 States, Washington, D.C., and Guam, the first time a third party accomplishe[s] this since the Socialist Party in 1916 (when there were only 48 States and the District of Columbia did not get to vote for president)."
1980 January Publication Free to Choose, a book by economists Milton and Rose Friedman that advocates free market principles, is published. A ten-part television series broadcast on PBS also begins during this month.
1980 October Publication Samuel Edward Konkin III's New Libertarian Manifesto is published. It is the first explanation of Konkin's agorism.
1980 November 4 State Ronald Reagan is elected president of the United States. Reagan "rhetorically at least, was a libertarian dream, a man who could declare with apparent sincerity in his first inaugural address that 'government is not the solution to the problem, government is the problem.'"[1]:445
1981 Organization The Atlas Network, a nonprofit organization that promotes free market economic policies, is founded by Antony Fisher.
1982 Publication Murray Rothbard's The Ethics of Liberty is published.
1982 Organization The Ludwig von Mises Institute is founded. "Through its publications, the Institute promotes anarcho-capitalist political theory and a form of heterodox economics known as praxeology".
1983 Organization The National Center for Policy Analysis, a nonprofit think tank "whose goals [are] to develop and promote private alternatives to government regulation and control", is founded by Antony Fisher.
1984 March 9 Organization The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a non-profit libertarian think tank, is founded.
1984 November Publication Charles Murray's book Losing Ground is published. The book is "about the effectiveness of welfare state policies in the United States between 1950 and 1980". The book, while less explicitly libertarian than some of his later work, tries to show that "by most available measures, the late 1960s wave of income transfer programs […] did not improve the lives of the poor, and in most cases made them worse off".[1]
1985 Organization The Ayn Rand Institute is founded to promote Objectivism.
1985 Organization The Independence Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Denver, Colorado, is founded.
1986 Organization The Independent Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Oakland, California, is founded.
1989 Organization The Future of Freedom Foundation is founded.[6]
1990 Publication Bruce L. Benson's The Enterprise of Law is published.
1991 Organization The Institute for Justice (IJ), a "non-profit libertarian public interest law firm", is founded. IJ is headquartered in Arlington, Virginia.
1991 Publication Robert Ellickson's Order Without Law: How Neighbors Settle Disputes is published.[7]
1991 Publication Leonard Peikoff's Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand is published. The book discusses Ayn Rand's philosophy, Objectivism.
1997 Publication David Boaz's Libertarianism: A Primer is published.
1998 April 2 Publication Randy Barnett's The Structure of Liberty is published. The book "offers a libertarian theory of law and politics".
1999 Website The Library of Economics and Liberty (Econlib) is launched.[8]
2000 Publication David D. Friedman's Law's Order: What Economics Has to Do with Law and Why It Matters is published.[9]
2001 September 1 The Free State Project is formed.
2003 January Website EconLog launches with Arnold Kling as the sole blogger.[10]
2003 August 21 Website The first post on Marginal Revolution, the economics blog by Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok, is from this day.[11]
2004 April 28 Website The first post on Cafe Hayek is from this day.[12]
2008 Conference The inaugural International Students For Liberty Conference takes place in New York City.
2008 July 24 Organization Students for Liberty, a libertarian non-profit organization, is founded.
2009 January 22 Periodical Libertarian Papers, a "peer-reviewed journal of libertarian scholarship", is established. Its self-described purpose is "to advance scholarly research in disciplines of particular interest to the libertarian community, broadly conceived".[13]
2013 Website Liberty.me, a libertarian online publishing and social networking website, launches.[14]
2013 January Publication Philosopher Michael Huemer's book The Problem of Political Authority is published. The book first argues for philosophical anarchism starting from "widely shared moral premises", then argues for the viability of anarcho-capitalism.[15]
2015 Organization The Niskanen Center, a "think tank that advocates for environmentalism, immigration reform, civil liberties, and a national defense policy based on libertarian principles", is founded. It is based in Washington, D.C.
2016 January Publication Jane Mayer's book Dark Money is published. The book is "about a network of extremely wealthy conservative libertarians, foremost among them Charles and David Koch, who have together funded an array of organizations that work in tandem to influence academic institutions, think tanks, the courts, statehouses, Congress, and the American presidency for their own benefit."
2016 February 3 The Free State Project announces that 20,000 people had signed its statement of intent to move, triggering the move (within five years) to New Hampshire.
2017 June Publication Nancy MacLean's Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America is published. The book is criticized by many in the libertarian movement.

Visual data

Google Trends

The image below shows Google Trends data for Libertarianism (Political philosophy), from January 2004 to March 2021, when the screenshot was taken. Interest is also ranked by U.S. state.[16]

Libertarianism gt.png

Google Ngram Viewer

The chart below shows Google Ngram Viewer data for Libertarianism in the United States, from 1950 to 2019.[17]

Libertarianism in the United States ngram.png

Wikipedia Views

The chart below shows pageviews of the English Wikipedia article Libertarianism in the United States, on desktop from December 2007, and on mobile-web, desktop-spider, mobile-web-spider and mobile app, from July 2015; to February 2021.[18]

Libertarianism in the United States wv.png

Meta information on the timeline

How the timeline was built

The initial version of the timeline was written by Issa Rice. Vipul Naik provided many suggestions for things to include in the timeline.

Funding information for this timeline is available.

What the timeline is still missing

  • More abolitionist publications could be added [1]
  • Kock brothers [2], [3], [4]
  • prominent women: [5], [6]
  • [7]
  • [8]
  • [9]
  • maybe [10]
  • [11]
  • tea party [12], [13]
  • bleeding heart [14]
  • more about LP: [15], [16]
  • it seems like a lot of libertarians have written about jury nullification, so maybe cover more of that
  • There are some other timelines that might have good events: [17], [18], [19], [20], [21]
  • I got through chapter 8 of Doherty, and some parts of chapters 1 and 5; however, even in chapter 8 I haven't added all events that might be worth adding.

Timeline update strategy

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Brian Doherty (2007). Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement. PublicAffairs. 
  2. Boettke, Peter; Tabarrok, Alexander (March 28, 2006). "The real secret of George Mason University.". Slate Magazine. Retrieved August 1, 2017. 
  3. ""Circle Bastiat" - Search results". English Wikipedia. Retrieved August 3, 2017. 
  4. "Archives". Reason Papers. Retrieved August 2, 2017. 
  5. "A Journal of Interdisciplinary Normative Studies". Reason Papers. Retrieved August 2, 2017. 
  6. "Future of Freedom Foundation". SourceWatch. Retrieved August 2, 2017. 
  7. Bryan Caplan (October 1992). "Order Without Law". Retrieved August 2, 2017. 
  8. Based on the copyright notice. The earliest Wayback Machine snapshot is from 2000.
  9. David D. Friedman. "Laws Order: The Web Page". Retrieved August 2, 2017. 
  10. "About Econlib". Library of Economics and Liberty. Retrieved August 1, 2017. 
  11. "The Lunar Men". Marginal REVOLUTION. August 21, 2003. Retrieved August 2, 2017. 
  12. Don Boudreaux (April 28, 2004). "Jobs, Investment, & the Trade Deficit". Cafe Hayek. Retrieved August 2, 2017. 
  13. "Aims and Scope". Libertarian Papers. Retrieved August 2, 2017. 
  14. "Liberty.me: Overview". LinkedIn. Retrieved August 2, 2017. 
  15. Bryan Caplan (January 17, 2013). "The Problem of Political Authority by Michael Huemer". EconLog. Library of Economics and Liberty. Retrieved August 1, 2017. 
  16. "Libertarianism". Google Trends. Retrieved 9 March 2021. 
  17. "Libertarianism in the United States". books.google.com. Retrieved 9 March 2021. 
  18. "Libertarianism in the United States". wikipediaviews.org. Retrieved 9 March 2021.