Is there traffic congestion? Ban all cars! Water shortage? Drink less water! Postal deficit? Cut mail deliveries to one a day! Crime in urban areas? Impose curfews! No private supplier could long stay in business if he thus reacted to the wishes of customers. But when government is the supplier, instead of being guided by what the customer wants, it directs him to do with less or do without. While the motto of private enterprise is “the customer is always right,” the slogan of government is “the public be damned!”
Capitalism is the fullest expression of anarchism, and anarchism is the fullest expression of capitalism. Not only are they compatible, but you can’t really have one without the other. True anarchism will be capitalism, and true capitalism will be anarchism
—  Murray Rothbard

Every time someone says they’re “anti-feminist” or “anti-sjw” or some other right-wing capitalist esque social statement , I always imagine the person who said it is a giant smelly permavirgin equipped with a jungle of a neckbeard(comparable to pubes even), a guy fawkes mask, and a tiny fedora who jerks off to Murray RothbardxAdolf Hitler fanfics that they found on Reddit(or perhaps maybe even 4chan) while screaming “Elliot Rodger did nothing wrong!”. Maybe they even own a collection of prized MLP figurines which they proudly display on their cherrywood shelves lining the walls of their mother’s basement. I’m usually not too far off the mark with these assumptions.

Take the institution of taxation, which statists have claimed is in some sense really “voluntary.” Anyone who truly believes in the “voluntary” nature of taxation is invited to refuse to pay taxes and to see what then happens to him. If we analyze taxation, we find that, among all persons and institutions in society, only the government acquires its revenues through coercive violence. Yet the mystical trappings of “sovereignty” have so veiled the process that only libertarians are prepared to call taxation what it is: legalized and organized theft on a grand scale.
—  Murray Rothbard
Top 10 Most Influential Libertarians (maybe)

Oooh, that’s tough.

Since you didn’t specify, I’ll assume you mean that anyone, living or dead, is fair game. Also, I’m going  to treat the “libertarian” category a little loosely, and I’ll probably be dissatisfied with this list as soon as I publish it, but here goes (in chronological order):

  1. John Locke. While not a libertarian per se, the influence of the father of classical liberalism, particularly here in America, is huge.
  2. Adam Smith. Also a classical liberal, Smith’s “invisible hand” metaphor and other ideas in his The Wealth of Nations have been incredibly influential. Even Murray Rothbard, who was quite critical of Smith’s most famous work, couldn’t deny its “colossal impact.”
  3. Frédéric Bastiat. Author of The Law and the parable explaining the broken window fallacy. Enough said.
  4. Ludwig von Mises. And with Mises, of course, comes Murray Rothbard. While these Austrian Economists are not famous among the general public, their influence has still been significant. Lew Rockwell, founder of the Mises Institute, is something of a modern successor. (I know, it’s kind of cheating to list them all at once.)
  5. Henry Hazlitt. Hazlitt was a journalist and able popular apologist for libertarianism in the 20th century. While Hazlitt is now best remembered for Economics in One Lesson, he was widely known in his writing heyday as a prominent libertarian voice. New York Times bestselling author Tom Woods is something of a modern Hazlitt, albeit without the regular gig at Newsweek or its equivalent.
  6. Freidrich Hayek. I’m not a huge Hayek fan — consistent he most certainly was not (come on, Pinochet? Really? Not to mention the support for redistribution) — but the man won the Nobel Prize and reached many with The Road to Serfdom, which continues to be a bestseller 70 years after publication.
  7. Isabel Paterson. Along with Rand and Lane (below), Isabel Paterson is one of the three “founding mothers” of modern American libertarianism.
  8. Ayn Rand. As I've recently mentioned, Ayn Rand is not my cup of tea, but her influence can’t be denied. Actually, she’d be quite angry to be listed as an influential libertarian, which amuses me.
  9. Rose Wilder Lane. See above.
  10. Ron Paul. Duh.
  11. Rand Paul? Much too soon to tell. We’ll see.

I could easily go on, of course: Albert Jay Nock, Jacob Hornberger, Lysander Spooner, Glenn Greenwald, Zora Neale Hurston…there are so many others who, in one way or another — and whether they would call themselves “libertarian” or not — have done much to advance the message of liberty.

For most of those alive today, of course, it’s really too soon to tell. That’s why, at risk of verging into the same kind of foolishness that led Time to name “You” the Person of the Year a few years back, I’d add our generation to the list. There’s a real sense in which our generation is being “raised libertarian,” and I suspect and hope that this list will be much more difficult to make (and much more diverse) 30 years from now.

But in the meantime, who would you add? Who would you subtract? Who do you agree is already a good choice?

…the libertarian sees no inconsistency in being “leftist” on some issues and “rightist” on others. On the contrary, he sees his own position as virtually the only consistent one, consistent on the behalf of every individual. For how can the leftist be opposed to the violence of war while at the same time supporting the violence of taxation and government control? And how can the rightist trumpet his devotion to private property and free enterprise while at the same time favoring war and the outlawing of noninvasive activities and practices that he deems immoral?
—  Murray Rothbard (For A New Liberty)
  • Rothbard:My conversion to anarchism was a simple exercise in logic. I had engaged continually in friendly arguments about laissez-faire with liberal friends from graduate school. While condemning taxation, I had still felt that taxation was required for the provision of police and judicial protection and for that only. One night two friends and I had one of our usual lengthy discussions, seemingly unprofitable; but this time when they’d left, I felt that for once something vital had actually been said. As I thought back on the discussion, I realized that my friends, as liberals, had posed the following challenge to my laissez-faire position:
  • They:What is the legitimate basis for your laissez-faire government, for this political entity confined solely to defending person and property?
  • Rothbard:Well, the people get together and decide to establish such a government.
  • They:But if “the people” can do that, why can’t they do exactly the same thing and get together to choose a government that will build steel plants, dams, etc.?
  • Rothbard:I realized in a flash that their logic was impeccable, that laissez-faire was logically untenable, and that either I had to become a liberal, or move onward into anarchism. I became an anarchist.