Writer, author of Why Atheism?
George H. Smith

George Hamilton Smith (born 10 February 1949, Japan) is an American author, editor, educator and speaker, known for his writings on atheism and libertarianism.


Institute for Humane Studies, Senior Research Fellow, 1977-1994

Web Pages

George H. Smith - Online Library of Liberty
Includes short profile and links to two "Liberty Matters" (an online discussion forum) events led by Smith
"George H. Smith is an independent scholar and a weekly columnist at the Cato Institute's Libertarianism.org. He is the author of Atheism: The Case Against God (1974), Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies (1991), Why Atheism (2000). He is also the author of the audio series on 'Great Political Thinkers,' 'The Meaning of the Constitution,' and 'The Ideas of Liberty.'"
George Smith - Libertarian
Advocates for Self-Government


"And the Pursuit of Happiness": Nathaniel Branden, RIP, by Sheldon Richman, 12 Dec 2014
Memorial essay, including some personal recollections, with emphasis on Branden's work on self-esteem and self-responsibility
"... Monticello.org states, '... Thomas Jefferson was almost certainly influenced by George Mason's Virginia Declaration of Rights ...' ... George H. Smith, an authority on such matters, is skeptical. ... Smith offers an entirely plausible and satisfying explanation for Jefferson's omission of property: ' ... At that time "property" could refer to the moral power of dominion over one’s body, labor, actions, conscience, and so forth; or it could refer to external objects. ... Thus for Jefferson to have included property in his partial list of inalienable rights would have been highly ambiguous, at best.'"


Ayn Rand on Aristotle, 4 Mar 2016
Examines Rand's appreciative view of Aristotle based on his epistemological theories while disregarding his comments on slavery, racism and coercive government laws
"Thus, if Aristotle's rational epistemology did not prevent him from defending racism, slavery, and statism, this could only be because Aristotle himself did not understand the logical implications of his own epistemology. And if later defenders of racism, slavery, and statism were profoundly influenced by Aristotle's theories, this was only because they, too, did not appreciate that such theories were inconsistent with Aristotle's theory of knowledge."
Cantillon, Richard (c.1680-1734), The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
"Richard Cantillon, born in County Kerry in Ireland and lived a substantial portion of his life in France, was regarded by many historians of economic thought as one of the truly great early economists. He has been praised in the highest terms: Edwin Cannan referred to him as 'that extraordinary genius,' W. S. Jevons has credited him with having written 'the first treatise on economics,' while F. A. Hayek wrote of him that he contributed more 'really original insights of permanent value' to economics than any other writer before 1776."
Herbert Spencer's Theory of Causation [PDF], The Journal of Libertarian Studies, 1981
Discusses Spencer's epistemology, his views on causation and how it affects social interactions, concluding with his ethical theory and concept of justice
"What are the social conditions best suited for the development of the justice sentiment? A free 'industrial' society, answers Spencer. An authoritarian 'militant' society, on the other hand, discourages this sentiment. ... This rather prosaic summary of Spencer's theory of justice ... points out the central role that the conduct/consequence doctrine plays in his theory of justice."
Hodgskin, Thomas (1787-1869), The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
"Thomas Hodgskin was one of the most original libertarian theorists in Victorian England. ... Hodgskin's Popular Political Economy (1827), in addition to its defense of free-market currency, banking, and other libertarian institutions, anticipates some later insights by F. A. Hayek and other Austrian economists, such as the role of prices in transmitting crucial market information in a spontaneous economic order. His greatest contribution to libertarian theory was The Natural and Artificial Right of Property Contrasted (1832), a vigorous defense of natural rights ..."
Related Topics: Thomas Hodgskin, Socialism
Hutcheson, Francis, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
"Francis Hutcheson is considered a major figure in the Scottish Enlightenment. Born in Ireland, he spent the last 17 years of his life as a professor of moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow. Through his books and teaching at Glasgow, he exerted considerable influence on Adam Smith, David Hume, and other 18th-century moral philosophers. ... Hutcheson was charged by the Presbytery of Glasgow with teaching the heretical doctrine that one can possess knowledge of good and evil without knowledge of, or belief in, God. His argument ... was an important step in the movement for religious toleration."
Related Topic: Francis Hutcheson
Mandeville, Bernard (1670-1733), The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
"Bernard Mandeville, a Dutch physician who settled in London shortly after earning his degree in medicine at the University of Leyden, is best known as the controversial author of The Fable of the Bees: or, Private Vices, Publick Benefits (6th ed., 1729). This work exhibits a number of themes, such as the role of self-interest in generating a prosperous spontaneous order, that would play a crucial role in later libertarian thought. Mandeville had good reason to characterize The Fable of the Bees as 'a rhapsody void of order or method.'"
Related Topic: Bernard Mandeville
Objectivism as a Religion, The Daily Objectivist, 30 Mar 2000
Six essays, previously published in Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies
"Considering that Rand's philosophy of Objectivism is diametrically opposed to religion in letter and spirit, a 'religious' adherence to Objectivism itself may appear paradoxical. But the phenomenon of religious Objectivism is fairly common, as anyone familiar with Rand's more ardent followers can attest."
Related Topic: Objectivism
Oppenheimer, Franz (1864-1943), The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
"Franz Oppenheimer, a German sociologist, practiced as a physician in Berlin for many years, after which he took up the study of economics while supporting himself by writing articles. In 1909, he became a privatdozent (an unsalaried lecturer who received only students' fees) of economics at the University of Berlin. ... Some of Oppenheimer’s ideas were transmitted to libertarian thinkers through the work Albert J. Nock, especially his influential essay, Our Enemy, the State (1935). Nock embraced much of Oppenheimer's interpretation of politics in his own work and regarded him as one of the 'Galileos' who had deprived the state of all moral prestige."
Physiocracy, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Discusses the Physiocrats, focusing mostly on Quesnay and his Tableau
"Physiocracy has reference to a school of economic thought that flourished in France during the second half of the 18th century. The physiocrats did not call themselves by this label, but referred to themselves simply as les économistes. However, as the term economist acquired a broader meaning in the 18th century, it became customary to distinguish these economists from others by dubbing them physiocrats. ... This organic conception of an interdependent market order—the physician Quesnay may have been influenced by William Harvey's writings on the circulation of blood—would become a mainstay of later economic thinking."
Self-Interest and Social Order in Classical Liberalism: Bernard Mandeville, 9 Jan 2015
Discusses interpretations of Mandeville's "private vices", his defense of psychological egoism and the movement to curtail personal vices in England at the turn of the 18th century
"Bernard Mandeville (1670-1733), a Dutch physician who settled in London shortly after earning his degree in medicine at the University of Leyden, is best known as the author of The Fable of the Bees; or, Private Vices, Publick Benefits (6th ed., 1729), a work that provoked enormous controversy throughout the eighteenth century. ... Given the moral fanaticism that prevailed when Mandeville took up residence in London, we can appreciate why his argument that private vices may produce unintended public benefits evoked furious denunciations not only against Mandeville's ideas but also against him personally."
Self-Interest and Social Order in Classical Liberalism: Bernard Mandeville v. Francis Hutcheson, 23 Jan 2015
Discusses the views of Hobbes and Mandeville regarding society and the need for government and the critiques of the latter made by Hutcheson and Adam Smith
"... it might be helpful to summarize a basic controversy ... is the desire of people to interact with other people (beyond the family unit) and to form enduring associations called 'society' a natural propensity of human beings? Or do people form societies only after utilitarian calculations reveal that such associations will advance the self-interested goals of the participants? ... It is consumer demand, not vices per se, that keeps the wheels of commerce turning. To attribute the benefits of commerce to private vices was merely a perverse and misleading way of saying the same thing."
Senior, Nassau William (1790-1864), The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
"Nassau William Senior was a noted economist who also held several government commissions. He was appointed to the first endowed chair of political economy at Oxford in 1825. After the first edition of An Outline of the Science of Political Economy was published in Encyclopedia Metropolitana in 1836, a revised and expanded edition appeared as a separate volume in 1850. Senior defined political economy as the science that investigates the nature, production, and distribution of wealth. He employs the term wealth as a synonym for value, and, like the economists before him, includes utility as one of the three causes of value."
Spencer, Herbert (1820-1903), The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
"Although Herbert Spencer has been rightly regarded as the most influential libertarian theoretician of the 19th century, he was much more than that. He also was a founding father of modern sociology, a pioneer in the theory of evolution—his theories were developed prior to those of Charles Darwin—an important figure in progressive education ...—and a philosopher of distinction whose work in ethics and epistemology gained the respect of J. S. Mill and other notable contemporaries. He was, moreover, an early proponent of the rights of children, of equal rights for women, and of other civil liberties that have since gained widespread acceptance in Western democracies."
The Case Against God Sequel, 31 Jul 1999
Speech given at the Freedom From Religion Foundation mini-convention in San Francisco
Related Topic: Atheism
The Ethics of Voting: Part I [PDF], The Voluntaryist, Oct 1982
Examines libertarian and anarchist theory to provide a critique of electoral voting, i.e., voting for government officials
"I shall accept vicarious liability as a given within libertarian theory and proceed from this foundation. ... Given this fact, it follows that voters, in some cases at least, are deemed accountable by libertarians for the results of their votes (e.g., legislators who vote for victimless crime laws)."
Related Topics: The State, Voluntaryism, Voting
The Ethics of Voting: Part Three [PDF], The Voluntaryist, Apr 1983
Examines, among other things, whether a libertarian can be employed by or hold office in a State entity
"A particular Senator (e.g., a libertarian) may never actually vote for a tax bill, but he has the legal right nonetheless. The privilege resides in the office. A person elected to high political office allies himself with the power of leviathan. He voluntarily seeks and successfully achieves the privileges of political office which permit him to aggress against his neighbors — privileges enforced by the State."
The Ethics of Voting: Part Two [PDF], The Voluntaryist, Dec 1982
An analysis of the State as an institution ("method of pursuing a social activity")
"The State is a designed institution, forcibly imposed. State-builders had specific objectives in mind, foremost of which was to secure territorial sovereignty. ... Virtually all functions of government ... may be seen as supports for the monopolization of power. ... Sovereignty is the 'product' of this association (or the most fundamental among many); a monopoly on legitimized coercion is the 'process.'"

Books Authored

Atheism: The Case Against God, 1973
Related Topic: Atheism
Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies, Apr 1991
Partial contents: The Meaning of Heresy - My Path to Atheism - Atheism and the Virtue of Reasonableness - Defining Atheism - Atheism and Objectivism - Ayn Rand: Philosophy and Controversy - The Righteous Persecution of Drug Consumers and Other Heretics
Related Topics: Atheism, Ayn Rand
The Lysander Spooner Reader:
    by George H. Smith (Introduction), Lysander Spooner, 1992
Contents: Editorial Preface (Jeffrey Tucker) - Foreword (Sheldon Richman) - Introduction (George H. Smith) - Our Nestor (Benjamin Tucker) - Natural Law - Vices Are Not Crimes - No Treason - Letter to Thomas F. Bayard - Trial by Jury
Why Atheism?, 2000
Related Topic: Atheism


George H. Smith Gives Qualified Endorsement of Ron Paul 2008, 30 Dec 2007
Related Topic: Ron Paul

George H. Smith on the Moral Right to Resist Authority, 1996
Talk given at conference of the International Society of Individual Liberty
Related Topic: Nonviolent resistance

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "George H. Smith" as of 29 Mar 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.