April, 2009

The Radical Libertarian Political Economy of 19th Century Preacher David Lipscomb

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David Lipscomb (1831-1917) was an influential Tennessee preacher who edited a weekly paper from 1866-1917 and published a book, Civil Government, in 1889. Although few, if any, economists appear to be aware of Lipscomb, his writing includes many points that political economists, especially radical libertarian ones, make today. This working paper discusses some of the classical liberal influences on Lipscomb's thought and summarizes his radical libertarian views. Lipscomb argued that government is not created for the benefit of the public but for the benefit of the rulers. He believed that all governments, including democratic ones, are problematic. Lipscomb argued that self-serving politicians actually create conflict and violence and that the public should withdraw support from government. He argued that moral people should not participate in politics, should not vote, and should not fight in wars. Modern libertarian economists make arguments similar to these that Lipscomb made more than a century earlier.