Libertarianism in History

In front of the Supreme Court building, the arm of an unseen demonstrator holds up a huge yellow sign with the words "Obamacare. Awesome."

Obamacare is one of the topics debated in this course. (Image courtesy of Will O'Neill on flickr. License CC BY.)


MIT Course Number


As Taught In

Spring 2014



Cite This Course

Course Description

Course Features

Course Description

This course explores the history of the ideal of personal freedom with an eye towards contemporary debates over the pros and cons of the regulatory state. The first part of the course surveys the sociological and theological sources of the concepts of freedom and civil society, and introduces liberty's leading relatives or competitors: property, equality, community, and republicanism. The second part consists of a series of case studies in the rise of modern liberty and libertarianism: the abolition of slavery, the struggle for religious freedom, and the twentieth-century American civil liberties movement. In the last part of the course, we take up debates over the role of libertarianism vs. the regulatory state in a variety of contexts: counter-terrorism, health care, the financial markets, and the Internet.


Related Content

Malick Ghachem. 21H.181 Libertarianism in History. Spring 2014. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare, License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

For more information about using these materials and the Creative Commons license, see our Terms of Use.