Being well read in the books and theories that founded the conservative movement is essential for any aspiring politico. A lot of today’s arguments and “hot takes” are theories that were created by these intellectuals hundreds of years ago. As young conservatives that are sometimes frustrated and disillusioned with the modern conservative movement, it is important to return to our roots and remember the conservative fundamentals we know and love.  

John Locke

Political theorist and philosopher John Locke was an Enlightenment thinker who is known for his contributions to classical Republicanism. His arguments for the separation of church and state, separation of powers, and the right to defend “life, health, liberty, or possessions” were influential to the creation of the Declaration of Independence.

Recommended read: Two Treatises of Government


Enlightenment philosopher Montesquieu is best known for his theory of separation of powers and its influence on the U.S. Constitution.

Recommended read: The Spirit of the Laws

Adam Smith

Philosopher, author, and economist Adam Smith wrote the first modern work of economics with The Wealth of Nations. He is considered to be the founder of free market economic theory and expanded on the theory of competition and self interest leading to economic prosperity.

Recommended read: The Wealth of Nations, The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Edmund Burke

Author, political theorist, and philosopher Edmund Burke is known for his support of a religious virtues in society and his opposition to the taxation of the American colonies by the British. He is considered to be one of the founders of modern conservatism.

Recommended read: Reflections on the Revolution in France

Alexis de Tocqueville

Historian, French diplomat, and political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville is known for traveling to America to study the political and social systems in the early 19th century.

Recommended read: Democracy in America

Friedrich Hayek

Philosopher and Nobel Prize winning economist Friedrich Hayek is best known for his defense of classical liberalism and his theories on private investment stimulating the economy better than government spending.

Recommended read: The Road to Serfdom, The Constitution of Liberty

Ayn Rand

Russian-American philosopher and author Ayn Rand is known for developing the philosophy of objectivism and supporting free market laissez faire capitalism.

Recommended read: Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, Anthem

Milton Friedman

Nobel prize winning economist Milton Friedman was a member of Reagan’s economic policy board and an advisor to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. He was a strong advocate for free market capitalism and opposed traditional Keynesian economics.

Recommended read: Capitalism and Freedom, Free to Choose

Russell Kirk

Author, political theorist, and historian Russell Kirk is championed for his influence on 20th century traditional conservatism. Kirk helped found National Review and was a frequent contributor. Kirk also developed the six canons of conservatism.

Recommended read: The Conservative Mind

William F. Buckley Jr.

William F. Buckley Jr. is the founder of the conservative editorial magazine National Review. Buckley is a well known author and political commentator who is credited with creating the “Reagan Republican” movement that combined traditional conservatism with laissez faire economics and anti-communism.

Recommended read: God and Man at Yale

Thomas Sowell

Economist and political philosopher Thomas Sowell is a libertarian conservative who is an advocate for free market capitalism and supply-side economics. Sowell is a known critic of the Federal Reserve and affirmative action.

Recommended read: A Conflict of Visions, Basic Economics: A Citizen’s Guide to the Economy, Economic Facts and Fallacies

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