Libertarian theories of law

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Libertarian theories of law build upon classical liberal and individualist doctrines.

The defining characteristics of libertarian legal theory are its insistence that the amount of government intervention should be kept to a minimum and the primary functions of law should be enforcement of contracts and social order, though "social order" is often seen as a desirable side effect of a free market rather than a philosophical necessity.

Historically, the Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek is the most important libertarian legal theorist.[citation needed] Another important predecessor was Lysander Spooner, a 19th-century American individualist anarchist and lawyer. John Locke was also an influence on libertarian law theory (see Two Treatises of Government).

Ideas range from anarcho-capitalism to a minimal state providing physical protection and enforcement of contracts. Some advocate regulation, including the existence of a police force, military, public land, and public infrastructure. Geolibertarians oppose absolute ownership of land on Georgist grounds.

Notable theorists[edit]

Authors discussing libertarian legal theory include:

See also[edit]


  • Randy Barnett (1998). The Structure of Liberty: Justice and the Rule of Law. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-829324-0.
  • Richard Epstein (2003). Skepticism and Freedom: A Modern Case for Classical Liberalism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-21304-8.
  • Friedrich Hayek (1981). Law, Legislation and Liberty: The Political Order of a Free People. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-415-09868-8, ISBN 0-226-32090-1.

External links[edit]