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Property and Happiness in Thomas Jefferson's Political Thought

03/25/2000Luigi Marco Bassani

Presented at the 6th Austrian Scholars Conferece, Auburn, March 24–26, 2000.

Abstract: A recent survey of rank and file libertarians in America shows that the top intellectual heroes of the past they venerate are Thomas Jefferson and Ayn Rand (the Mises-Rothbard dyad would be much better, but that is another story). Most of these people are not professional scholars and some might also be unaware of the fact that Jefferson is depicted, in academic circles, as a quasi social-democrat, as the champion of majority rule and a powerful enemy of the “possessive individualism” that permeated the revolutionary period and the early republic. It is my contention that the expert academics are wrong and the amateur libertarians are right. This article - or at least the complete version of it - should reassure libertarians who revere Jefferson as a supporter of individual rights, freedom of choice, limited government and above all property rights, that they are right, in spite of the extravagance that has come out on this old subject from the universities in the past century.

Author:

Luigi Marco Bassani

Marco Bassani is professor of history of political theory at the University of Milan.

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