Reply To: Stateless societies in the West?

Jason Jewell

When I wrote that individual liberty wasn’t necessarily prized, I meant that there was no notion of individual autonomy of the kind that many libertarians hold up as the ideal today. Individual autonomy is mostly an Enlightenment idea. Kinship networks imposed many duties on people in medieval Iceland, and individuals were not “free agents” in society like they are today. Of course, there’s nothing un-libertarian about that, but in my experience when someone asks questions like yours he often has some idea of individual autonomy in mind, and I didn’t want to mislead you.

If you’re really interested in Iceland, I’d suggest reading some of the sagas of the period to get an authentic sense of the culture. The sagas had a big influence on J.R.R. Tolkien and a number of other authors.

If you read them in the original Icelandic, I’ll ask Tom Woods to give you a free one-year extension on your Liberty Classroom subscription!