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The defining characteristics of libertarian legal theory are its insistence that the amount of governmental intervention should be kept to a minimum and the primary functions of law should be enforcement of contracts and social order, though social order is often seen as a desirable side effect of a free market rather than a philosophical necessity.
Historically, the Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek is the most important libertarian legal theorist. Another important predecessor was Lysander Spooner, a 19th-century American individualist anarchist and lawyer. John Locke was also an influence on libertarian legal theory (see Two Treatises of Government).
Ideas range from anarcho-capitalism to a minimal state providing physical protection and enforcement of contracts. Some advocate regulation, including the existence of a police force, military, public land and public infrastructure. Geolibertarians oppose absolute ownership of land on Georgist grounds.
Authors discussing libertarian legal theory include:
- Randy Barnett (The Structure of Liberty)
- Frédéric Bastiat (The Law)
- Bruce L. Benson (The Enterprise of Law: Justice Without the State)
- Frank van Dun (The Fundamental Principle of Law)
- Richard Epstein (Skepticism and Freedom)
- David Friedman (The Machinery of Freedom)
- Friedrich Hayek (Law, Legislation and Liberty)
- Gene Healy
- Hans Hermann Hoppe (The Economics and Ethics of Private Property)
- Stephan Kinsella (Law in a Libertarian World: Legal Foundations of a Free Society)
- Bruno Leoni (Freedom and the Law)
- Robert P. Murphy (Chaos Theory)
- Andrew Napolitano
- Robert Nozick (Anarchy, State, and Utopia)
- Roger Pilon
- Ayn Rand (Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal)
- Murray Rothbard (The Ethics of Liberty)
- Bernard Siegan (Economic Liberties and the Constitution)
- Lysander Spooner (The Unconstitutionality of Slavery)
- Linda and Morris Tannehill (The Market for Liberty)
- Argumentation ethics
- Classical liberalism
- Constitutional economics
- Equality before the law
- Judicial activism
- Law and economics
- Outline of libertarianism
- Philosophy of law
- Polycentric law
- Rule according to higher law
- Randy Barnett (1998). The Structure of Liberty: Justice and the Rule of Law. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-829324-0.
- Richard Epstein (2003). Skepticism and Freedom: A Modern Case for Classical Liberalism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-21304-8.
- Friedrich Hayek (1981). Law, Legislation and Liberty: The Political Order of a Free People. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-415-09868-8, ISBN 0-226-32090-1.