After very much deliberation I could not decide between the two that stand out the most in my mind so it is a tie. The first is a veritable heavyweight based on name recognition and percentage of those on the political right that have read at least one of her books. The other is much less known unless you are a devotee of science fiction. The first I chose is the one that probably came first to your mind when you read the title of this article, Ayn Rand. The other is Robert Heinlein. You might be wondering why I scored them so high as authors who espouse libertarian philosophy in their books. I’ll let you decide for yourself through quotes from their novels.
Atlas Shrugged is by far Ayn Rand’s most famous work. Here is a speech from the character Francisco d’Anconia which is directed to Bertram Scudder. It would make Milton Friedman and Adam Smith proud.
So you think that money is the root of all evil? Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?
Here is a quote from Dr. Floyd Ferris to Hank Rearden which has a strong Jeffersonian flavor to it, or perhaps reminiscent of Ludwig Von Mises. That quote perfectly describe the odious way our government behaves now.
There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kinds of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted—and you create a nation of lawbreakers—and then you cash in on guilt. Now that’s the system, Mr. Rearden, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.
Here is a speech from Hank Rearden to a panel of judges
Who is the public? What does it hold as its good? There was a time when men believed that ‘the good’ was a concept to be defined by a code of moral values and that no man had the right to seek his good through the violation of the rights of another. If it is now believed that my fellow men may sacrifice me in any manner they please for the sake of whatever they believe to be their own good, if they believe that they may seize my property simply because they need it—well, so does any burglar. There is only this difference: the burglar does not ask me to sanction his act.
The Fountainhead, which was written before Atlas Shrugged, is also a wonderful novel that is packed with libertarian philosophy. Here is a speech by Howard Roark, which is the climax of the novel. It reminds me a lot of this video by Milton Friedman.
Man cannot survive except through the use of his mind. He comes on earth unarmed. His brain is his only weapon. Animals obtain food by force. Man has no claws, no fangs, no horns, no great strength of muscle. He must plant his food or hunt it. To plant, he needs a process of thought. To hunt, he needs weapons, and to make weapons—a process of thought. From this simplest necessity to the highest religious abstraction, from the wheel to the skyscraper, everything we are and everything we have comes from a single attribute of man—the function of his reasoning mind.
But the mind is an attribute of the individual. There is no such thing as a collective brain. There is no such thing as a collective thought. An agreement reached by a group of men is only a compromise or an average drawn upon many individual thoughts. It is a secondary consequence. The primary act—the process of reason—must be performed by each man alone. We can divide a meal among many men. We cannot digest it in a collective stomach. No man can use his lungs to breathe for another man. No man can use his brain to think for another. All the functions of body and spirit are private. They cannot be shared or transferred.
Robert Heinlein was the author most responsible for my transition from someone that leaned very much to the political left to a libertarian. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is ranked on a lot of websites as the most libertarian novel ever written. Professor Bernardo de la Paz is the character I most closely identity with from any novel. Here are four separate quotes through which he defines his philosophy:
A rational anarchist believes that concepts such as “state” and “society” and “government” have no existence save as physically exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals.
I will accept any rules that you feel necessary to your freedom. I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.
Comrades, I beg of you — do not resort to compulsory taxation. There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.
You have put your finger on the dilemma of all government — and the reason I am an anarchist. The power to tax, once conceded, has no limits; it contains until it destroys. I was not joking when I told them to dig into their own pouches. It may not be possible to do away with government — sometimes I think that government is an inescapable disease of human beings. But it may be possible to keep it small and starved and inoffensive — and can you think of a better way than by requiring the governors themselves to pay the costs of their antisocial hobby?
Revolt in 2100 is another Heinlein novel that scores extremely high on the libertarian scale. Here is my favorite quote
When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, “This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know,” the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything—you can’t conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.