Liberty at Low Prices

by Kieran Healy on June 28, 2006

Say what you like about the free-marketeers, they certainly know how to ignore market forces, eschew profit and embrace subsidization when it suits them. I just got the 2006 “Liberty Fund”: catalog in the post, and as usual I am having a hard time not buying a lot of their absurdly under-priced offerings. You can get the “complete Sraffa/Dobb edition of Ricardo”: (eleven volumes!) for about a hundred bucks, or $12 for individual volumes. (The true measure of value is in there _somewhere_.) For similar prices, there’s more “Gordon Tullock”: or “James Buchanan”: than any sane person would ever want to read. You can also get the whole “Glasgow Edition of Smith”: for seventy five dollars. Or sixteen hundred pages of “Armen Alchian”: for fifteen dollars. They’re also strong on Enlightenment types, with “Hume’s History of England”: on the cheap, and you can find any amount of reactionary commentary on the French Revolution, too.

On the other hand, you can get a lot of this stuff (the Ricardo, for instance) “for free and in PDF format”: at their Online Library of Liberty.



Robin 06.28.06 at 6:13 pm

Now if I could find a cheap copy of Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities


FMguru 06.28.06 at 6:18 pm

Library of Liberty

Secret headquarters of the world’s most boring superhero team.


Geoff R 06.28.06 at 6:32 pm

Good to see one of the great works of Marxist scholarship available so cheaply.


derrida derider 06.28.06 at 6:48 pm

Speaking of Marxist scholarship, one of the downsides of the collapse of the Soviet Union is that you can no longer get those absurdly cheap volumes of classics in leftist thought that Progress Publishers, Moscow, used to give away.


Tyrone Slothrop 06.28.06 at 7:01 pm

Not only are those books cheap, they are (mostly) ugly. You can tell no one is judging them by their covers.


Jackmormon 06.28.06 at 8:05 pm

Ugly, yes, but very cheap, very useful, and often not available elsewhere. I usually throw my Liberty House catalogues away after a couple of weeks because I want to order more than I can afford.


will uspal 06.28.06 at 8:14 pm

So that’s Maurice Dobb?


roger 06.28.06 at 9:18 pm

I absolutely love the liberty fund people. Although I would never buy a like paper and glue book from them. Why bother? Download the books in PDF. Someone there has taken Russell Kirk seriously, and is digitizing or PDFizing every book he ever recommended.

It is totally cool.


Kieran Healy 06.28.06 at 10:12 pm

Yep, Maurice Dobb. Other Marxist scholars sneak into the catalog, too — one of the volumes in the Smith series is co-edited by Ronald Meek, for instance.


ben alpers 06.28.06 at 11:03 pm

I love the way “Jesus Christ” is alphabetized with the “C”s in the Online Library of Libery.

Eric Foner also makes the list. Appears that a number of lefties have snuck in under the Liberty-dar.


Kieran Healy 06.28.06 at 11:33 pm

If I remember right, in the old Soviet MEGA edition of Marx/Engels, Jesus Christ is indexed in the list of fictional/mythological persons.


bob mcmanus 06.28.06 at 11:39 pm

“you can no longer get those absurdly cheap volumes of classics in leftist thought that Progress Publishers, Moscow, used to give away.”

I find Marxist Org fun and useful.

Since we are talking online books, I have read Burke and Carlyle, would anyone recommend a reasonably non-judgemental History of the French Revolution that would be available free online. I tried to search Gutenberg, remembering seeing a translated French work, but couldn’t find it. Just a name ok, 19th century ok. Or should I look for original material, Marat is archived at Marxists.


Steven Poole 06.29.06 at 6:06 am

The OLL is a truly wonderful thing. Searchable pdfs of classic texts in reliable editions are amazingly useful. I didn’t even know they made hard copies.


Kenny Easwaran 06.29.06 at 10:33 am

Is that James Buchanan the president? The one before Lincoln? Who might have been gay?


Kieran Healy 06.29.06 at 11:37 am

No, it’s Buchanan the Public Choice theorist.


nick s 06.29.06 at 4:17 pm

Not only are those books cheap, they are (mostly) ugly.

I disagree. Perhaps the covers are bland, but the typesetting and editing is usually pretty solid; and in many cases, you’re dealing with texts that would otherwise only be available as photoset reprints of Victorian editions. These aren’t yer classics-for-a-quid.

Perhaps the free market argument is this: without the Liberty Fund subsidising these texts, one would likely need to rely on university presses, whose pricing for scholarly volumes, especially in hard cover, exploits a de facto monopoly on supply. One also presumes that the bland uniformity of LF volumes helps with inventory levels.


Geoff R 06.29.06 at 10:54 pm

It does show the right’s weird cultish attitude towards books: there are good ones (even if we completely misunderstand them) and bad ones (Gramsci, Foucault) which they have never read. One right-wing Australian author seems to think the prison Notebooks espouse sexual libertarianism.

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