Martin van Staden

Libertarian Jurisprudence & Free Market Policy

Martin van Staden

Martin van Staden is a jurist and author based in South Africa. His approach to public policy is from a libertarian (or classical liberal) perspective.

Martin has presented oral evidence to the Parliament of South Africa and deposed amicus curiae briefs in the Constitutional Court, written books and multiple articles, and appeared on television and radio on topics of public policy, jurisprudence, and economic policy. He has a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree (cum laude) from the University of Pretoria, where he is presently a Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) student. His ORCID is 0000-0002-4612-5250.

Since June 2023, Martin has served as the Head of Policy at the Free Market Foundation (FMF), an organisation he has been involved with in various capacities since 2015. He is additionally a member of the FMF’s Executive Committee and Rule of Law Panel. Between October 2022 and May 2023, Martin served as the Deputy Head of Policy Research at the Institute of Race Relations (IRR), the oldest continuously existing classical liberal think tank in the world. He previously served on the Council of the IRR from June 2020 to the end of September 2022. Martin remains actively involved with the IRR as the Editor of its Race Law Project and the IRR History Project.

On 19 February 2024, Martin was awarded first place (ex aequo) for the Sixteenth International Vernon Smith Prize. He received the award from His Serene Highness Prince Philipp of Liechtenstein on behalf of the European Center for Austrian Economics Foundation, at the Princely Wine Cellars in Vaduz, Liechtenstein. The award was in recognition for Martin’s essay, ‘Rule of Law: The Universal Unwritten Constitution’.

Martin is the Chief Advisor for Legal Policy on BridgeAfrica‘s Board of Advisors and the South African Policy Fellow with the Consumer Choice Center. In June 2022, Martin became a member of the Advisory Board of the Free Speech Union SA.

Martin is a co-author and editor of Fallism: One Year of Rational Commentary, as well as the principal co-author of The Real Digital Divide: South Africa’s Information and Communication Technologies Policy, an FMF monograph, both published in 2017. He is a co-author and editor of Igniting Liberty: Voices for Freedom Around the World, published by Champion Books in 2019. He is the sole author of The Constitution and the Rule of Law: An Introduction, which was published by the FMF in 2019.

A passionate writer, Martin is the Editor in Chief of the Rational Standard (RS) and Editor at Large at the Being Libertarian (BL) group of publications. Martin also co-founded the South African libertarian community Facebook page known as South African Libertarian (SAL). SAL’s blog was later transformed into RS. He joined BL, a growing international hub for diverse opinions within the liberty movement, in late 2015 as its chief editor, and established its Editorial Board.

His articles have appeared in publications such as Business Day, De Rebus, The Witness, The Star, The Saturday Star, City Press, and Rapport, as well as online publications like CNBC Africa, Daily Maverick, Netwerk 24, Rand Daily MailCape Messenger, Huffington PostPoliticsweb, TechCentral, and at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has also been interviewed on television (such as Al JazeeraeNews Channel Africa, SABC, Business Day TV, kykNET), radio (such as Talk Radio 702Radio Rosestad, SAFM, O.FM, Classic FM, Jacaranda FM, and Pretoria FM) and podcasts (The Renegade Report, Dirk Scheepers Program, TouchCentral, and Revolution Report Live).

Martin was on the African Executive Board of Students For Liberty (SFL) between August 2015 and August 2018, and was a Young Voices Advocate between May 2017 and March 2018. He additionally served as a Legal Fellow at Sakeliga, an independent business community that seeks to foster a conducive enterprise environment on the basis of a free market and constitutionalism, between January 2021 and October 2022.


Martin’s interest in politics originated in his sense of human decency. Having grown up in post-Apartheid South Africa, Martin bore witness to the few instances of interracial distrust between blacks and whites. His fierce opposition to racism led him down the path of progressivism (‘liberalism’ in the American sense), favouring personal freedom but a strong government presence in economic affairs to correct the imbalances caused by Apartheid.

Rebelliously, Martin proudly called himself a socialist through much of high school, where he was surrounded by generally conservative Afrikaner teachers and peers. He has, however, consistently been and remains to this day, a dogmatic individualist.

It was only during Martin’s first year at the University of Pretoria that he reconsidered his political values. Then still a proud socialist, Martin for the first time met other, real socialists. The collectivism, and, moreover, inherent violence of socialism led to ideological introspection. It was only when Martin decided to read a chapter of Murray Rothbard’s The Ethics of Liberty, however, that he became a libertarian. This transformation did not occur ‘overnight’, but instead ‘overhour,’ as he entered the UP Law Library that day as a socialist, and exited it as a libertarian.


Martin van Staden is not an admitted attorney or advocate of the High Court in South Africa. His interests are primarily in legal theory, jurisprudence, and public policy, rather than legal practice. He has an LL.M. law degree (cum laude) from the University of Pretoria.