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Paterson, Isabel (1886–1961)

Isabel Paterson was an early and consistent exponent of the ideas that now define radical libertarianism. She advocated minimal government, laissez-faire capitalism, and absolute individual rights in both the social and economic spheres. She thought through the implications of these ideas, argued for them over the course of many years, and embodied them in a powerful theory of history and society.

Paterson's life acquainted her with economic and social problems of many kinds. Born Isabel Bowler, on Manitoulin Island, Ontario, she was one of nine children in a family that moved several times during her girlhood, arriving at last at a ranch on the Alberta frontier. As she recalled, “There never was any money in the family.” She attended school briefly and reluctantly—because her independent reading ...

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