The standard libertarian solution to how people best can achieve the obvious benefits of mutual cooperation whilst maintaining respect for the dignity and autonomy of the individuals comprising any social group possesses the virtue of being the readily comprehensible consequence of accepting a small number of intuitively appealing principles. However, what proponents regard as admirably simple readily can appear simplistic if libertarian apologists display little awareness of the location of their ideas within the great currents running through the history of European political thought, a history incorporating much profound contemplation of human nature and social reality.
If prominent proponents of libertarianism appear to be ignorant of the great themes of Western political theory, then its opponents can plausibly dismiss libertarianism as another naïve attempt to deal with the complexity of political life with a set of simplistic slogans. That may not matter in terms of motivating those who are already libertarians, but for anyone attempting to broaden the appeal of libertarianism, and especially for those addressing academic political theorists, it is a significant problem.
To illustrate my point, I will present a handful of topics from the history of political thought that, it seems to me, are relevant for libertarian theorists. My sample is far from exhaustive, and I make no claim that I have not overlooked examples of significantly greater importance than those I address. Nevertheless, I believe that the cases I have chosen are sufficient to demonstrate that the problem I am noting here is not merely hypothetical.