History: The Struggle for Liberty

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2. Classical Liberalism

  • History the Struggle for Liberty 2003
September 3, 2004

Tags World HistoryPolitical Theory

Mises’ book, Liberalism, states that liberalism sufficed to change the face of the earth. The term liberal has since been hijacked by social democrats, so they don’t have to use the tainted word socialism. Raico defines liberalism to be civil society, minus the state, running itself within the bounds of private property.

After the end of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance created the late scholastics – the School of Salamanca. Their legitimate theory of value had nothing to do with labor as it did in England. They saw that buyer and seller are each better off by an exchange, not equal.

The Dutch produced a fairly free society, but not a political philosophy. The French felt the period 1846-1940 to be almost a hundred years of true laissez-faire policy.

During the English Civil War, the Levellers began the history of liberalism by their demands to free John Lilburne from prison. The Leveller cause was effectively crushed in 1649. Their legacy was abstract natural rights. Rothbard called them the world’s first self-consciously libertarian mass movement.

John Locke is a fountainhead of crucial ideas about society being self-ruled with property being the fundamental right to life, liberty, and estates. Government was meant only to protect that right. Such an uncoerced vision animated Jeffersonians. The laissez-faire society worked well.

Adam Smith, David Hume, and Adam Ferguson were chief thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment. They held that the fundamental importance of human reason should be combined with a rejection of unreasonable authority.

Lecture 2 of 10 from Ralph Raico's History: The Struggle for Liberty.

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