Shades of Grey (and Blue)


1Some readers have asked me to explain the reference to the 'sea-green banner of liberty.' The sea-green banner was the emblem of the Levellers, the first mass libertarian movement in history. The Levellers came to prominence in the 1640s, during the English Civil War, when ' to their credit ' they found themselves at odds with both King and Cromwell. They had a crucial influence on later classical liberal thinkers like John Locke. For some online versions of Leveller tracts, see I particularly recommend Richard Overton's delightfully titled

An Arrow Against All Tyrants and Tyranny, Shot from the Prison of Newgate into the Prerogative Bowels of the Arbitrary House of Lords, and All Other Usurpers and Tyrants Whatsoever; Wherein the Original, Rise, Extent, and End of Magisterial Power, the Natural and National Rights, Freedoms and Properties of Mankind are Discovered and Undeniably Maintained; the Late Oppressions and Encroachments of the Lords over the Commons Legally (By the Fundamental Laws and Statutes of This Realm, As Also By a Memorable Extract Out of the Records of the Tower of London) Condemned; the Late Presbyterian Ordinance (Invented and Contrived by the Diviners, and By the Motion of Mr Bacon and Mr Tate Read in the House of Commons) Examined, Refuted, and Exploded, As Most Inhumane, Tyrannical and Barbarous, by Richard Overton, Prerogative Archer to the Arbitrary House of Lords, Their Prisoner in Newgate, for the Just and Legal Properties, Rights and Freedoms of the Commons of England.

(And if you've got a spare $675.00 you feel like getting rid of, check out this massive hard copy collection, edited by my friend Jim Otteson.) So if there's a libertarian colour, it's sea-green. (Unfortunately, I haven't seen pictures of the Levellers' banners, so I don't know what shade of sea-green they used.)

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Roderick Long's picture
Columns on STR: 22

Roderick T. Long is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Auburn University; President of the Molinari Institute; Editor of the Libertarian Nation Foundation newsletter Formulations; and an Adjunct Scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.  He received his Ph.D. from Cornell in 1992.  His last book was Reason and Value: Aristotle versus Rand; his next book will be Wittgenstein, Austrian Economics, and the Logic of Action.  He maintains a blog on his website,