I just received a note via Facebook from a guy who says he’s “new to the liberty movement” and wants to get a sense of its history. And I guess since I’m an old-timer in libertarian circles, he thinks I can recommend some reading for him.

“Where should I start?” he asks.

The first thing that springs to my mind is that he browse through old issues of The Libertarian Forum, the newsletter edited and (in large part) written by Murray Rothbard between 1969 and 1984. I cut my young libertarian teeth on those newsletters a long, long time ago, and I think they still offer a (relatively) quick and engrossing study of the modern libertarian movement’s early growing pains.

Murray’s Forum reported in “real time” the libertarian break with the conservative Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) in 1969. It presented month-by-month Murray’s flirtation with the New Left and his efforts (and eventual failure), between 1969 and 1971, to build a Left-Right anti-state/anti-war coalition. Shortly after his break with Goldwater Republicans and his union with the New Left, the great Karl Hess wrote some wonderful and highly radical columns for LF in its first two years of publication; Karl’s gradual split with Murray over style and strategy is quietly documented in these early issues. Many philosophical and tactical arguments were fought and documented in the pages of The Libertarian Forum. For example, early battles about launching a “Libertarian Party” vs. non-political libertarian action took place in the Forum. Besides Rothbard and Hess, other celebrated contributors to LF included Leonard Liggio, Jerome Tuccille, Roy Childs, Butler Shaffer, and Walter Block.

During my passage from Young Republican to radical libertarian, beginning in Summer 1970, The Libertarian Forum was my primary lifeline to the movement and a vital educational resource. I stopped subscribing to LF in the mid-’70s, but kept a box of back issues for years until it was lost during one of my moves around the L.A. area. In the 1990s, I found a bound volume of issues dated March 1969 to April 1971, which I still cherish. But any issues beyond that, including many I’d never seen at all, seemed forever out of reach.

Then the Mises Institute came to the rescue, as it so often does, about a decade ago. Buoyed by a generous donation from Walter Block, they collected all those wonderful newsletters into an enormous, 1200-page, two-volume, softcover set titled The Complete Libertarian Forum. These books reproduce the newsletters as they originally appeared. Leafing through them is like walking through a vital period of libertarian history. You can get this baby from them (or Amazon) for about $20.

For bedtime readers and travelers, LvMI has also produced a very convenient and easy-to-read Kindle edition for around seven bucks. That’s a steal, in my humble (but correct) opinion.

If you’re a real skinflint, I think you can still download an EPUB version for free from Mises.org.

Regardless of what particular edition of The Complete Libertarian Forum you pursue, it’s awesome and of tremendous value to all lovers of liberty.