Laissez Faire Books
From 1982 until 2007, Laissez Faire Books operated as a division of two separate non-profit corporations, the Center for Independent Thought from 1982 to 2004, and the Center for Libertarian Thought from 2005 to 2007. In November 2007, the bookstore's ownership was transferred to the International Society for Individual Liberty. In March 2011, Agora Financial acquired Laissez Faire Books.
LFB was founded in New York City in 1972 by John Muller and Sharon Presley. Muller, a civil engineer who wanted to make a personal commitment to what he called "living liberty," was the originator of the idea of Laissez Faire Books. Muller found the location for the Laissez Faire Bookstore and Art Gallery in a tiny shop on Mercer Street in Greenwich Village, New York City, late in 1971. Together with Presley, a graduate student in psychology at CUNY Graduate Center, Muller mailed their first flyer to about a thousand people, names they had scraped together from their contacts around the country. During the mid-seventies, the Bookstore became a center for libertarian discussion in New York.
The official opening was March 4, 1972 with many local libertarian writers and thinkers in attendance, including Murray Rothbard, Roy A. Childs, Jr., and Jerome Tuccille. In Radicals for Capitalism, a history of the libertarian movement, Brian Doherty writes "The store became an important social center for the movement in America's largest city, a place for any traveling libertarian to stop for company and succor..."
In the first several years, many events were sponsored by LFB, including films with libertarian themes, talks by luminaries such as anti-establishment psychiatrist Dr. Peter Breggin and TV journalist Edith Efron as well as social gatherings. Events included not only book signings (for example, Rothbard and Tuccille) but entertainment with a libertarian angle, including showings of the pro-individual, anti-authoritarian cult TV series, "The Prisoner."
Its location in Greenwich Village attracted non-libertarians as well. They may not have purchased books but Bob Dylan, Jerry Rubin, Alger Hiss and Bella Abzug passed through its doors. Hiss remarked to a friend, "It’s a clean anarchist bookstore." Muller and Presley, who strove to make the bookstore attractive as well as useful, were amused by this ironic comment. Dylan asked if the store carried haiku poetry. Presley, pointing out that it was a libertarian and anarchist bookstore, directed him to a copy of the IWW Songbook.
From 1972 to 1977, Presley edited the Laissez Faire Review, a combination book catalog and book review magazine. The books reviewed ran the gamut of libertarian and anti-authority thought from laissez-faire economics (e.g., Murray Rothbard, Ludwig von Mises) and political philosophy (e.g., For a New Liberty by Rothbard, Our Enemy the State by Albert Jay Nock, Concerning Women by Suzanne La Follette) through anarchist philosophy, including books by Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman and Peter Kropotkin as well as native born American anarchists Lysander Spooner and Karl Hess; from libertarian science fiction (e.g., The Great Explosion by Eric Frank Russell and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein to anti-authoritarian psychology (e.g., Obedience to Authority by Stanley Milgram).
Employees at LFB who went on to create careers for themselves included Roy A. Childs, Jr. (see below). Presley went on to get her Ph.D. in social psychology from the City University of New York, and taught at California State University, East Bay until her retirement in 2009. Muller returned to life as a civil engineer.
Muller sold the bookstore to Andrea Millen Rich in 1982. She served as president of Laissez Faire Books and its parent organization, the Center for Independent Thought, for 23 years, from 1982 until her retirement in January 2005. LFB's president from 2005 to 2007 was Kathleen Nelson.
Roy A. Childs, Jr., was the long-time editorial director of LFB, until his death in 1992. Author and historian Jim Powell served as LFB editor from 1992 to 2004. David M. Brown served as editor from 2004 to 2006. Ben Richman served as LFB editor from 2006 to 2007.
On March 17, 2011 Agora Financial, LLC, a major publisher of books and newsletters on economics and investments, announced that it had acquired Laissez Faire Books from the International Society for Individual Liberty (ISIL).
Fox & Wilkes Books
Before being taken over by ISIL, Laissez Faire Books had its own book publishing arm: Fox & Wilkes Books, named after two eighteenth-century British classical liberals, Charles James Fox and John Wilkes. Fox & Wilkes published the works of contemporary libertarian authors and reissued classic libertarian books that were out-of-print.
- Ruper, Clark (2010-12-28). "Sharon Presley to speak at International SFL Conference". Students For Liberty.
- History of Liberty "Laissez Faire": R.I.P.? by Bruce Ramsey, LIBERTY. January–February 2008 Volume 22, Number 1 (Liberty Foundation)
- Business Wire News Releases (2011-03-17). "Agora Financial Acquires Laissez Faire Books". Denver Post.
- Radicals for Capitalism by Brian Doherty, p.378. New York: Public Affairs Press
- Business Wire News Releases (2011). "Laissez Faire Books". Agora Inc. Website. "agora-inc.com/laissez-faire-books" is the link to the article. Not spam.