I think it is fun when interacting with other libertarians/classical liberals/anarcho-capitalists to discuss our intellectual heritage. It is interesting to note the event that started to change your mind, whether it was a book, a movie or a speech. Since so many of us can trace our roots to a particular thinker, I have tried to lay out a few categories of libertarianism based on a few prominent thinkers and institutions. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and if you feel that I have left anyone out, please let me know in the comment section. The format of the list will be: "Individual/Institution" - "Character".
- Ayn Rand - The Hero
- In spite of the fact that Ayn disavowed libertarians and the libertarian movement because she felt that they had stolen her ideas without giving her proper credit, I have to include her in this list. She was my first introduction to classical liberalism, and I considered myself to be a pure objectivist for several years after first reading Atlas Shrugged and most of her other fiction and nonfiction. So many of us were converted based on her skill in distilling the moral attributes of individualism and capitalism to their most readily grasped concretes that I think she has to be near the top of any such list.
- Ludwig von Mises Institute - The Teacher
- While the institute was founded by Lew Rockwell and dedicated to von Mises, I am going to lump Hayek and Rothbard in this category as well. Even though this group includes an organization and individuals and spans from the minarchism of Hayek and Mises to the anarchism of Rothbard and his followers, the unifying theme of this group is evangelism. These guys focus on spreading the good word about capitalism and limited or no government and really seem to concern themselves with little else. This is not to disparage them. I think they play a critical role in our cause. I have probably consumed more high quality, low cost information from LvMI than I ever have from any other organization.
- Cato Institute - The Leader
- The Cato institute seems to be our big-dog, well capitalized, boots-on-the-ground think tank. It's full of libertarian-minded policy wonks who publish numerous books, academic articles and policy briefs. There will sometimes be little jabs back and forth between them and the LvMI guys because the Cato guys are more mainstream and often host politicians from all stripes at their events. These are minor squabbles, but entertaining. Cato is more aimed at influencing policy and provide no umbrella for the anarchist wing.
- Reason Magazine / Stossel - The Journalist
- This group is the most mainstream by far and probably most visible to the laymen. As a result they are just as important as the other categories because they do so much to spread the word. They are distinct from The Teacher in that they are not primarily concerned with any purely academic pursuits in addition to being more mainstream. These guys are masters at pointing out past and present failures in central planning and are by far the most likely to say the phrases "unintended consequences", "invisible hand" and "there are no free lunches".
Please let me know to which category you belong in the comments section. I started out as a Hero, then went Journalist. Now I would have to place myself in Teacher.