The Liberty Poll

What libertarians believe is often at odds with libertarian orthodoxy. And their beliefs are changing in some surprising ways.


Eleven years ago, several of Liberty's editors met and discussed "The Sociology of Libertarians," a survey conducted by two social scientists that Liberty had just published. It had faithfully reported the demographic characteristics of libertarians, and touched on their motivations and interests. While we all were fascinated with the information it reported, we were curious about a lot of questions the social scientists hadn't asked.

How did libertarians line up on the issues that divided us? Abortion? Foreign policy? The rights of children?

Who influenced our intellectual development? What were our political views before we became libertarians? What sort of moral values did we hold? How many of us believe in God?

Before long, one of us began to write down the questions we were posing. By the time our discussion ended, we'd filled several pages with questions. The next day, we edited the questions into a survey and distributed it a few days later at the Libertarian Party convention in Seattle.

After compiling the results, we revised the questionnaire slightly and sent it to a random sampling of Liberty's subscribers. We compiled the results and published them in our July 1988 issue.

The result was a firestorm of controversy. At the time, the "official" libertarian line was anarchist, and the two individuals identified as most influential were proto-anarchist Ayn Rand and anarchist Murray Rothbard.

But in our survey, two-thirds of respondents called for a much smaller government, but rejected eliminating government altogether.

Libertarians widely perceived themselves as overwhelmingly atheistic, yet the survey revealed that more than a quarter believed in God.

We also learned that many of us didn't even share the political beliefs that were generally believed to lie at the heart of libertarian thinking. Almost a third opposed the elimination of restrictions on immigration. And fewer than half agreed with the "official" view that foreign policy ought to be strictly isolationist.

During the decade since, we have continued to poll libertarians as part of our market research. These surveys were designed primarily to determine our readers' reactions to what we publish and to get up-to-date demographic information of interest to potential advertisers. But we usually included a few questions from the Liberty Poll, to allay our curiosity about how libertarian beliefs are evolving.

A few months ago, we decided to do another comprehensive survey. In addition to mailing the survey to a carefully selected sampling of readers (balanced for geography and subscriber history), we decided to run the survey in the magazine and, as with our earlier survey, to distribute it at the Libertarian Party convention.

The result was an avalanche of data: approximately 80,000 answers to questions from more than 600 individuals. We compiled it into a huge database, and checked the three different groups polled against each other to see whether the two self-selected groups (from the magazine and from the LP convention) differed in any substantial way from the scientifically-selected sampling. This was important, as a larger database would give much more conclusive information about subpopulations than the smaller one.

What emerges from these data is an up-to-date portrait of the demographics and opinions of libertarians today, and a fairly detailed picture of how libertarian opinion is evolving. (All data in this article refer to the responses of subscribers. LP member responses are covered in the next article.)


Respondents were presented with a list of propositions and instructed, "Please check the following statements if you believe them to be true, or express your own values or opinions."

Below we list the propositions, the percentage agreeing with each proposition, and a pie chart illustrating that percentage. For the sake of convenience, the propositions are arranged into categories; in the poll itself, the propositions were in no particular order.

Political Theory

We offered two propositions of fundamental importance to political theory. One is the limited governmentalist answer to the question, "What is the proper role of government?"; the other is the anarchist answer.

  1988 1998
The proper role of government is finite, but much
smaller than at present.
66% agree 87% agree
Government should be eliminated altogether. 31% agree 13% agree

Moral Opinions

  1988 1998
Abortion is wrong. 37% agree 43% agree
Abortion should be made illegal. 13% agree 12% agree
A person should have a legal obligation to support his
or her offspring.
56% agree 70% agree
Political action is an appropriate method of advancing liberty. 77% agree 77% agree
People have a responsibility to vote. 10% agree 27% agree
An employee of the state is a receiver of stolen goods
and therefore is committing an improper act.
31% agree 27% agree
One can accept government services (food stamps,
subsidized housing, use of roads, etc.) without
committing an immoral act.
71% agree 55% agree

Please note: respondents were free to agree or disagree with any statement. Some readers agreed with both of the first propositions — that government should be finite and that government should be eliminated totally — even though the two propositions contradict each other.

Human Rights

  1988 1998
No person has the right to initiate physical force
against another human being.
90% agree 50% agree
All men by their nature have a right to life. 94% agree 89% agree
All men by their nature have a right to liberty. 94% agree 89% agree
All men by their nature have a right to property. 87% agree 83% agree
All men by their nature have a right to the pursuit of happiness. 87% agree 84% agree

Public Policy

  1988 1998
The U.S. should remove all restrictions on immigration. 69% agree 50% agree
The U.S. should remove all tariffs immediately. 90% agree 62% agree
A proper government would have an absolutely
isolationist foreign policy.
53% agree 30% agree


  1988 1998
There is a god. 26% agree 38% agree
Communism is the greatest threat to human liberty. 21% agree 19% agree

The Ages of Belief

Do younger libertarians differ in their beliefs from older libertarians? To find out, we separated responses from those more than 40 years old from those younger.

Here is what we found out:

  18-40 Over 40
The proper role of government is finite, but much smaller than at present. 86.9% 87.1%
Government should be eliminated altogether. 15.7% 12.3%
Abortion is wrong. 41.8% 43.8%
Abortion should be made illegal. 17.0% 9.8%
A person should have a legal obligation to support his or her offspring. 64.1% 72.9%
Political action is an appropriate method of advancing liberty. 81.7% 75.4%
People have a responsibility to vote. 55.5% 29.7%
An employee of the state is a receiver of stolen
goods and therefore is committing an improper act.
25.5% 15.5%
One can accept government services (food stamps, subsidized
housing, use of roads, etc.) without committing an immoral act.
62.1% 44.8%
No person has the right to initiate physical force against another human being. 52.9% 49.2%
All men by their nature have a right to life. 88.2% 89.0%
All men by their nature have a right to liberty. 90.2% 89.0%
All men by their nature have a right to property. 84.3% 83.0%
All men by their nature have a right to the pursuit of happiness. 86.9% 83.3%
The U.S. should remove all restrictions on immigration. 62.1% 44.8%
The U.S. should remove all tariffs immediately. 70.6% 58.0%
A proper government would have an absolutely isolationist foreign policy. 28.1% 30.9%
There is a god. 31.4% 41.0%
Communism is the greatest threat to human liberty. 25.5% 15.5%

Moral Problems

Given the universal moral character of some libertarian precepts, it is not surprising that many are concerned about their implications for human behavior.

The Liberty Poll posed six moral problems addressing the issue of whether there are circumstances in which it is morally proper to use force against innocent individuals, which would apparently violate widely accepted libertarian principles like, "no person has the right to initiate force against another human being" or "one should always respect the rights and property of others."

Problem 1: The Terrorist in the Mall

The problem:

"Suppose that you are a security guard for a large shopping mall. A terrorist has threatened to drop a bomb from a balcony into a crowd. He is moving toward the balcony's railing carrying an object that you believe to be a bomb. You have a gun. He has a hostage between himself and you (he knows that you have identified him). You have only a few seconds to react.

"Which of the following most accurately reflects the action you consider appropriate?"

  1988 1998
You should fire a gun at the terrorist only if you are certain that you will miss the hostage. 27% agree 24% agree
You should fire at the terrorist if there is a reasonable chance that you will miss the hostage. 47% agree 51% agree
You should fire through the hostage, if necessary. 25% agree 25% agree

Problem 2: How much is that baby in the window?

The problem:

"Suppose that a parent of a newborn baby places it in front of a picture window and sells tickets to anyone wishing to observe the child starve to death. He makes it clear that the child is free to leave at any time, but that anyone crossing the lawn will be viewed as trespassing.

  1988 1998
"Would you cross the lawn and help the child?" 89% "Yes" 87% "Yes"
"Would helping the child violate the parent's rights?" 26% "Yes" 31% "Yes"

Problem 3: Starving Baby, the Sequel

"Suppose that a parent decides to experiment with a radical new diet for his newborn child.

  1988 1998
"Should you prevent the parent from trying the diet, if you had good evidence that it would endanger the child's health?" 41% "Yes" 30% "Yes"
"Suppose that you had good evidence that the diet would endanger the child's life?" 62% "Yes" 61% "Yes"

Problem 4: Trespass or Die!

"Suppose that you are on a friend's balcony on the 50th floor of a condominium complex. You trip, stumble and fall over the edge. You catch a flagpole on the next floor down. The owner opens his window and demands you stop trespassing.

Which of the following statements reflects your beliefs?"

  1988 1998
You should enter the owner's residence against the owner's wishes. 84% agree 86% agree
You should hang on to the flagpole until a rope can be thrown down from above. 15% agree 13% agree
You should drop. 2% agree 1% agree

Problem 5: The Unexpected Blizzard

"Suppose that your car breaks down in an unpredicted blizzard. You are trapped and may well freeze before help can get to you. You know that there is only one house within hiking distance. You hike to it. The owner, a frightened woman whose husband is absent, refuses to admit you (she has no phone, so asking her to telephone for help is pointless).

"Which of the following statements reflects your beliefs?"

  1988 1998
You should force entrance, but in this case it would not constitute an act of aggression. 16% agree 18% agree
You should force entrance, even though it would be an act of aggression. 62% agree 54% agree
You should not attempt to enter the house. 22% agree 28% agree

Problem 6: The Nuclear Blackmailer

"Suppose that you live in a large city. Your neighbor constructs an atomic weapon. He assures you that he would detonate it only as an act of defense. You believe that he intends to commit an act of extortion ("The city must pay $1 million, or I will detonate it").

"What statement most clearly reflects your beliefs?"

  1988 1998
You (and your neighbors) should prevent the construction of the device. 73% agree 72% agree
You should put up your house for sale and move. You should not interfere with his actions. 20% agree 16% agree
You would feel obligated to tell prospective buyers about the situation. (This question was given only to those who chose to move in response to the problem.) 73% agree 52% agree
You should do nothing, since such a situation is unthinkable and, therefore, is not happening. 7% agree 7% agree

Intellectual Development

Just how did libertarians get that way? What are their beliefs based on? Who influenced the development of their thinking? The Liberty Poll asked a number of questions intended to explore these issues.

"What are your political beliefs based on?" Respondents were invited to select as many of the five responses as they felt appropriate.

  1988 1998
My political beliefs are based on my religious beliefs. 19% agree 28% agree
My political beliefs are based on my life experience. 71% agree 73% agree
My political beliefs are based on my understanding of history. 68% agree 72% agree
My political beliefs are based on my understanding of economics. 89% agree 36% agree
My political beliefs are based on my rational, philosophical analysis. 90% agree 85% agree

"Who introduced you to libertarian ideas?"

  1988 1998
friend 20% 17%
parent 2% 4%
teacher 3% 5%
writer 61% 39%
other 13% 35%

"Before becoming a libertarian, how would you characterize your political beliefs?"

  1988 1998
Left 20% 23%
Center 15% 25%
Right 65% 52%

Who Influences Libertarians' Thought?

In an effort to discover who has most influenced libertarians' political thinking, we asked readers to rate the influence of a number of thinkers:

"Please rank on a scale of 1 to 5 the degree to which the following thinkers influenced your intellectual development. (5 = substantial importance . . . 1 = little or no importance.)

"We are not asking you to report the degree you agree with these individuals' thought — what we seek to know is how important each figure was in the growth of your thinking, especially with regard to social and political matters."

This was followed with a list of names in alphabetical order, along with numbered boxes, and two lines for write-in names.

We attempted to include on the list the most important contributors to libertarian thought, as well as figures believed by the editors to be influential among libertarians, and some individuals about whose influence that the editors were simply curious.

The table below lists the names of the individuals whose influence we asked our readers to evaluate, along with their average ratings:

Individual 1988 1998
Aristotle 1.93 2.00
Frederic Bastiat 2.28 2.07
David Friedman 1.91 1.88
Milton Friedman 2.95 3.08
Barry Goldwater 2.39 2.49
F.A. Hayek 3.02 2.74
Robert A. Heinlein 2.11 2.20
Karl Hess 2.23 1.58
Thomas Hobbes 1.33 1.61
John Hospers 1.85 1.60
Thomas Jefferson 3.10 3.51
Immanuel Kant 1.48 1.61
Robert LeFevre 1.78 1.34
John Locke 2.32 2.43
H.L. Mencken 2.49 2.17
John Stuart Mill 2.05 2.13
Ludwig von Mises 3.65 2.76
Albert J. Nock 2.19 1.87
Robert Nozick 1.79 1.60
Ayn Rand 4.02 3.51
Murray Rothbard 3.93 2.72
Herbert Spencer 2.09 1.54
Lysander Spooner 2.34 1.86
William G. Sumner 1.49 1.18
Morris & Linda Tannehill 1.75 1.25
Benjamin Tucker 1.29 1.23

It is worth noting that respondents to the 1998 poll, on average, attributed ocnsiderably less influence on their intellectual development to these individuals. Only nine of the 26 individuals declined by an average of 9.7%. (The perceived influence of parents and siblings, incidentally, rose 3.6%. See below.)

A total of 321 write-ins were added by readers. One person — Jacob Hornberger — was written in by 2% or more of respondents, though Thomas Sowell and Friederich Nietzsche came close.

We also asked respondents to evaluate the impact of their parents and siblings on their intellectual development:

Individual 1988 1998
Mother 2.67 2.87
Father 3.10 3.01
Sister or Brother 1.52 1.67

The average ratings in the table above reveal only a part of the picture. The pattern of influence varies considerably. Consider the two front-runners: Ayn Rand and Thomas Jefferson. Although their average scores are virtually identical, Rand received far more "substantial importance" ratings than Jefferson (39% vs. 27%). But Jefferson received far fewer "little or no importance" responses (9% vs. 16%).

The thinker who most influenced our respondents' intellectual development was Ayn Rand (1905-1982), the novelist-philosopher, author of Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, For the New Intellectual, The Virtue of Selfishness, Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal and other works. Rand advocated a political philosophy based on the absolutism of individual rights, but eschewed anarchism.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) was a very close second to Rand (who edged him by .008%). Jefferson was the third president of the United States and author of the Declaration of Independence of the United States. He is most admired by libertarians for the advocacy of a natural rights philosophy and the right of revolution that is expressed in that declaration.

Milton Friedman (1912-) is the leading exponent of the Chicago School of Economics and winner of the 1976 Nobel Prize in Economics. His writings in defense of capitalism and the free society — Capitalism and Freedom and Free to Choose, for example — have been very influential, which is evident from our readers' response to our poll.

Friedman favors less radical, incrementalist reform over radical change, alienating many libertarians from him.

Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) was a leading social philosopher and economist of the Austrian School, most famous for his development of praxeology, an approach to economics based on a priori, deductive reasoning from certain fundamental axioms. Human Action, his magnum opus, is his best known work. He also wrote numerous other books and articles, including Liberalism, Socialism, Theory of Money and Credit, and Epistemological Problems of Economics.

Although a rigorous advocate of laissez faire capitalism, Mises saw a role for government. His political thinking was based on utilitarian concepts.

F. A. Hayek (1899-1992) was a social philosopher and Nobel Prize winning economist. His book The Road to Serfdom (1944) challenged orthodox statist thinking and helped stimulate the post-World War II resurgence of libertarian ideas. He is the author of many works, including Law, Legislation and Liberty, The Counter-Revolution of Science, and others.

Like Mises, Hayek avoided the language of "natural law and natural rights," but Hayek was less narrowly utilitarian in approach. He rests much of his case for a free society on a complicated "evolutionary ethics" that emphasizes the "natural selection" of rules and societies. Hayek emphasized the importance of tradition more than most other libertarian thinkers.

Murray Rothbard (1926-95) was an economist, historian and social philosopher who envisioned libertarianism as a new science, encompassing natural rights theory, Thomist philosophy, Austrian economics, 19th century American individualist anarchism, and the view that the U.S. was invariably at fault in its conflicts with international communism during the Cold War.

He became influential in the libertarian movement in the late 1960s. He joined the Libertarian Party in 1974 after having denounced it vigorously during the previous few years, and during the next 15 years was its most influential figure. He was a founding editor of Liberty in 1987.

In 1989, he resigned from the LP and from libertarian organizations that he did not control, proclaiming himself a "paleolibertarian" and an ally of Southern agrarian conservatives centered around Chronicles magazine.

His works include Man, Economy and State; Power and Market; The Ethics of Liberty; and For a New Liberty. Rothbard advocated an anarchistic society based on the absolutism of individual rights.

Barry M. Goldwater (1909-1998) was a member of the U.S. Senate from 1953 to 1964 and again from 1968 to 1987. In the late 1950s he became a spokesman for political conservatism. He espoused his rather libertarian version of conservatism in several books and numerous newspaper columns and speeches. Although an advocate of a rather belligerent foreign policy, Goldwater strongly supported the notion of human liberty.

John Locke (1632-1704) is widely regarded as one of the most influential British philosophers. Though his Second Treatise on Civil Government has been subject to contradictory interpretations, libertarians have followed a long line of classical liberal and anarchist thinkers in taking from it a methodogically individualistic understanding of society and a powerful conception of natural rights. His writing was particularly influential on America's founding fathers, especially Jefferson, which probably accounts for his high rating in this poll.

Robert Heinlein (1916-1987) was one of the most influential science fiction writers of all time. Both his life and his writings exemplify the ideal of the "competent man," and a lively streak of rugged individualism runs through all his writings.

Libertarians are especially fond of his several attempts to deal with political revolution, most notably in his fascinating account of a colonial revolt in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.

H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) was the author of many books and countless articles. He is best known for his literary and social criticism — and for his brilliant, witty style.

He was an early proponent of Nietzsche in America, and although he wrote frequently on political topics, Mencken's political thinking was not rigorous, though his theoretical treatment of modern political theory and practice, Notes on Democracy, is well worth reading. He might best be termed a classical liberal in the tradition of Sumner or Mill. Mencken's more journalistic political writings are extensive, however, and his acerbic criticisms of both Roosevelts, Coolidge, and every other major politician of his day are well known.

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), the leading British philosopher and economist of his time, wrote many influential works, including On Liberty and Utilitarianism. His utilitarian moral philosophy has been widely discussed and subjected to a great variety of interpretations, as has his defense of individual liberty. On Liberty was about the only nineteenth century work of classical liberalism to maintain a "good press" throughout the ideologically dark years of the twentieth century. Mill's arguments for individual liberty still influence not only contemporary philosophers, but current policy in Britain, America, and elsewhere.

Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850) was one of the most accomplished stylists who has ever argued for liberty. Though he was more a popularizer than an original thinker, his importance should not be underestimated: his ranking over many contemporary libertarian writers in this poll serves as reminder of this fact.

He is best remembered for his brilliant attacks on the fallacies of state intervention in the economy (his Economic Sophisms was the model for Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson) and his powerful defense of natural rights and limited government in his pamphlet, The Law.

He was also a member of the French Assembly, fervently arguing against protectionism, except when it affected his constituents.

Aristotle (384-322 B. C.) was not a libertarian in any way, but he was a powerful advocate of human reason. His influence on libertarianism comes mostly via Ayn Rand, who considered Aristotle one of the world's greatest minds (right up there with herself).

David Friedman (1945-) argued his case for "a radical capitalism" with force and vigor in his first book, The Machinery of Freedom. Unlike so many other libertarian anarchists, natural rights argument plays almost no part in his case for anarchocapitalism. In its place is a thoroughgoing engagement with the new scholarly discipline of "law and economics," of which he has been a pioneer.

Albert Jay Nock (1870-1945) was one of the most important writers to have been influenced by the economic theories of Henry George, and his own anti-statist views developed into something very close to anarchism. His classic work in political thought is Our Enemy, the State.

Lysander Spooner (1808-1887) was a writer and pamphleteer and perhaps the most eloquent 19th century American anarchist. His fully developed political philosophy is best summed up in his brilliant pamphlet No Treason, The Constitution of No Authority. Writing from within the natural law tradition and with an extensive knowledge of the common law, Spooner argued not only that the Constitution of the United States was binding on no one, but that all government, taxation, laws, etc. were inherently unjust.

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) was the first British political philosopher of repute, and is still considered one of the major figures in the history of political philosophy. Hobbes's Leviathan is a pioneer work in social contract theory.

Though most classical liberals and libertarians — beginning with Locke — have used Hobbes mainly as a jumping off point and as a target, there is a strong realpolitik strain in some libertarians' social philosophy that bears remarkable resemblance to Hobbes.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was not only one of the most important German philosophers, he is widely considered to be the one of the greatest philsosphers ever. He wrote numerous works, including The Critique of Pure Reason, The Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, and Religion Within the Bounds of Reason Alone.

Though he is probably best known among libertarians as — according to Ayn Rand — the chief source of evil in modern times, he was actually a classical liberal. A number of libertarian philosophers have written about the advantages of a "Kantian reconstruction of Utilitarianism," and both Mises and Hayek were neo-Kantians in fundamental philosophy.

John Hospers (1918-) has retired from a long and successful career as a philosopher. Though his academic reputation largely rests on his work as an editor and in the field of aesthetics, he has also contributed to libertarian thought with many articles and his book Libertarianism — which advocated a more-or-less Randian political theory, though his thinking has developed considerably since — and in his book Human Conduct, an introductory text to the study of ethics.

He was the Libertarian Party's first presidential candidate and wrote the party's "Statement of Principles." He has been a Senior Editor of Liberty since 1992.

Robert Nozick (1938-) is a Professor of Philosophy at Harvard and the author of the National Book Award winning treatise in libertarian political philosophy, Anarchy, State and Utopia (1975), which attracted academic attention to libertarian ideas like no book before or since. Nozick used Lockean state-of-nature theory and a Lockean conception of moral rights as the foundation for an argument that purports to show how a State could arise out of an anarchistic society without violating anyone's rights; that this minimal state is the most extensive state that can be justified; and that this conception of a minimal state is inspiring as well morally proper. Though the classic work on minarchist theory, it is generally considered more successful at discussing its many, brilliant secondary points than at demonstrating the validity of its main thesis.

During the 1980s, he gradually lost interest in libertarian thinking and has gone on to other activities.

Karl Hess (1923-1994) was a speech writer for Barry Goldwater who became an anarchist in the late '60s and burst into a position of leadership within the libertarian movement with publication of extremely influential essays in The New York Times and Playboy in the late 1960s. He brought Murray Rothbard into a prominent position within the movement, and the two jointly edited The Libertarian. Within a few years, Hess resigned from The Libertarian in response to Rothbard's denunciation of Hess for deviationism from the true Rothbardian line. In 1986, he became editor of the Libertarian Party News and was an editor of Liberty from 1987 until his death.

Hess has been most influential as a proponent of the importance of community life and a "back to nature" simplicity. Though he wrote several books, his influence among libertarians was primarily as a speaker and friend. His political thinking was discursive and lyrical; he explicitly eschewed ideology.

Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) was an ambitious philosophical systemizer who advocated extremely limited government. He described his own ethical philosophy as utilitarian "in a broad sense," but it is not easy to classify. Many of his arguments against political intervention bear remarkable resemblance to Hayek's later use of the notion of the limitations of human knowledge. His most familiar work today is probably The Man Versus the State.

Robert LeFevre (1911-1986) was a writer and teacher who inspired and instructed a whole generation of libertarians. He wrote numerous books including This Bread is Mine, The Philosophy of Ownership, and The Nature of Man and His Government. He was what is now (once again) called a voluntaryist, a libertarian who refuses to practice politics, and was an anarchist in everything but name (he strenuously objected to the term, prefering his own understanding of "autarchy"). His relatively low showing in our poll is surprising to us, considering his reputation in the 1960s and 70s.

Morris and Linda Tannehill (1926-1989, 1939-) collaborated to write The Market for Liberty (1970), a powerful defense of natural rights-based anarchism that was influential among libertarians in the 1970s.

Libertarianism was only one stop in the ideological odyssey of the Tannehills, who earlier were associated (in chronological order) with the Minutemen, the American Nazi Party, and the Foundation for Economic Education, and have since managed a psychotherapeutic cult. Linda Tannehill has taken back her maiden name of Linda Locke, and currently is a sandalmaker in New Mexico

Benjamin Tucker (1854-1939) edited Liberty, the 19th century anarchist newspaper. Though not an original thinker, he was a fine stylist and an expert synthesizer of others' thinking. He articulated what was later called "anarchocapitalism," but what he called "individualist anarchism."

William Graham Sumner (1840-1910) was one of the leading American sociologists of the 19th century and also one of the more vigorous advocates of laissez faire. Today known chiefly as a Social Darwinist and as the author of the sociological masterpiece Folkways, in his time he was respected for his polished essays and his dedication as a teacher. Probably his best known work to contemporary libertarians is his essay What Social Classes Owe to Each Other.

The Ages of Influence

How did these individuals influence the intellectual development of younger libertarians, as opposed to older libertarians? The table below compares the level of influence on respondents 40 years old or less to those over 40.

Individual 18-40 Over 40
Aristotle 2.03 1.99
Frederic Bastiat 2.00 1.99
David Friedman 1.94 1.84
Milton Friedman 2.95 3.14
Barry Goldwater 1.78 2.85
F.A. Hayek 2.60 2.82
Robert A. Heinlein 1.87 2.38
Karl Hess 1.55 2.07
Thomas Hobbes 1.55 1.64
John Hospers 1.46 1.68
Thomas Jefferson 3.43 3.54
Immanuel Kant 1.65 1.58
Robert LeFevre 1.15 1.44
John Locke 2.44 2.42
H.L. Mencken 1.88 2.32
John Stuart Mill 2.11 2.15
Ludwig von Mises 2.45 2.92
Albert J. Nock 1.73 1.96
Robert Nozick 1.59 1.60
Ayn Rand 3.52 3.51
Murray Rothbard 2.38 2.91
Herbert Spencer 1.44 1.60
Lysander Spooner 1.61 2.00
William G. Sumner 1.15 1.20
Morris & Linda Tannehill 1.13 1.32
Benjamin Tucker 1.16 1.27

NOTE: This piece, as originally published in Liberty, contained dozens of detailed graphs that would have taken too much time and bandwidth in this web version. Most, but not all, of this information has been translated into tables for this version.

Liberty, February 1999, © Copyright 1998, Liberty Foundation

Special Section: The Changing Face of Libertarianism

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