Laissez Faire Books has been publishing and distributing books on liberty, with a focus on economics and finance, since 1972. The theme is freedom and its role in building a prosperous civilization, and the belief that state intervention is universally dangerous and damaging to human liberty. Our selection of titles reflects our interest in allowing liberty, property, and peace to be the mother of order and the good life.
LFB is the innovator behind the dazzling and creative Laissez Faire Club, a subscription service for eBooks, reports, forum discussions, and a full-service “gated digital city” on the web.
Laissez Faire Books was founded on March 4, 1972, with the hope of providing a portal for the distribution of pro-liberty books to encourage the growth of what was then the nascent libertarian movement. LFB played an indispensable role for all people interested in these ideas: scholars, business people, investors, or just people interested in the fate of civilization.
John Muller was the originator of the idea. 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 Sharon 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.
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.
Employees at LFB who went on to create careers for themselves included Roy A. Childs, Jr. 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 and 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). It is now a subsidiary in the family of Agora Financial. In November 2011, Agora named Jeffrey Tucker (builder of the website Mises.org and general editor of its publications) as the publisher and executive editor. The new website went live January 1, 2012.
The site is more than a book store; like the original store, it is a gathering place for a community of interested readers. The Laissez Faire Club brings this dream into digital reality. This is a tradition of principled radicalism enlivened by cutting-edge technology. Please join in the conversation!
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If for any reason you are dissatisfied with your purchase at Laissez Faire Books, you may return it for another item or a refund on your credit card within 30 days. If the goods are damaged, we made a mistake, or you sense that you were otherwise misled about the product, we will cover the shipping costs. Write us with any questions. Your goods can be returned to:
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