Moral Egoism, Libertarianism, and Research Methods: A Reflection

Moral Egoism, Libertarianism, and Research Methods: A Reflection

            As my summer research project draws to a close, my research paper a few paragraph revisions away from completion, I’m overwhelmed with a sense of relief, as well as gratitude. Through this project, I’ve not only gained a greater understanding of both philosophy and politics; I’ve also learned a great deal about research.

When I submitted my project proposal, I envisioned a comprehensive paper detailing Moral Egoism’s roots and libertarianism’s history and a discussion of contemporary libertarian politics and politicians. However, after a few days of careful research, during which I found myself taken aback by the number of books devoted simply to Moral Egoism, I knew I needed to scale my project back, rather significantly, order to allow for meaningful research and reflection. Instead of attempting to tackle all aspects of libertarianism, I focused on a few key libertarian thinkers, namely, Friedman and Machan. Though other libertarian thinkers certainly informed my paper, a reality I acknowledge by including those authors and their works’ in the Works Cited section of my paper, focusing on a few key thinkers allowed me to frame my paper as a discussion between a few libertarian and ant-libertarian thinkers and myself. In the future, I shall endeavor to focus my project earlier on in its conception. However I like many other curious and academically inclined folk, will doubtless continue to struggle, at least to some degree, with limiting the scope of inquiry when formulating future research projects.

Researching libertarianism allowed me to unite my interests in English, philosophy, political science, and economics. At William and Mary, people often remark about the value of a liberal arts education. In conducting my Monroe Project, I truly saw the value in the breadth and depth afforded by a liberal arts curriculum. By applying skills and knowledge gleaned from studying a variety of disciplines, I was able to present a more nuanced view of libertarianism.

Moving forward, I hope to continue exploring libertarianism, in later projects, focusing on specific government policies, the evolution of the libertarian political platform, papers by the Cato Institute, and the integration of libertarian policies by group in both the Republican and Democratic parties. Additionally, in my paper, I predominantly focus on broader policy issues pertaining to political and economic philosophy; later, I would like to delve deeply into issues related to specific policy measures, such as Drug Policy and Immigration. I simply did not have enough time to fully explore either issue in my paper, and so left them out of the paper entirely rather than present them in an incomplete or misleading light.

I am tremendously grateful for this opportunity. Thank you to the Charles Center for providing funding, my faculty advisor, Professor Freiman, for his sound advice and support, and my family, for their patience; I am thankful for this chance to read and respond to both Moral Egoism and libertarianism.


  1. Hey Hayley! (I guess we forgot to get lunch, which is too bad). It sounds like you did a good job of scaling your project back to a reasonable but still productive and challenging breadth/amount of work. This is something that I think I may not have done with my own project, which I will definitely be working on the next two or three weeks as well. I was wondering if the realization that you did not want to oversimplify or misrepresent certain topics made you think at all about how easily media and news coverage can do exactly that, or if it caused you to suspend or alter any of your own political views?