Jerri from Righttalk.com, with whom I used to do a short commentary segment fortnightly, once asked what “classical liberalism” meant. How about the principles upon which America was founded?
Not so long ago I became acquainted with the writings of French classical liberal, Benjamin Constant (1767-1830). And in particular, his treatise on the Principles of Politics. Frederic Bastiat was, “in some ways,” Constant’s heir.
I liked Constant’s definition of freedom: “Individuals must enjoy a boundless freedom in the use of their property and the exercise of their labor, as long as in disposing of their property or exercising their labor they do not harm others who have the same rights.” Of course, today’s statist interpretation of “harm” would include competition: setting up a Wal-Mart adjacent to a mom-and-pop shop.
More pearls from Constant: “Society has no right to be unjust toward a single of its members … the whole society minus one is not authorized to obstruct the latter in his opinions, nor in those actions which are not harmful, in the use of his property or the exercise of his labor, save in those cases where that use or that exercise would obstruct another individual possessing the same right.”
A contemporary gem is my friend, renowned British philosopher, David Conway. As a teacher, David explains freedom splendidly in Classical Liberalism; The Unvarnished Ideal. Contact him to obtain the book.
Liberty is explained in “Jackass Cooper & The 1-Trick Donkeys”: “Classical liberals (this writer) are distinguished in that the only rights they recognize are the individual’s right to life, liberty and property, and the pursuit of happiness. The sole role of a legitimate government is to protect only those liberties. Why life, liberty, and property, and not housing, food, education, health care, child benefits, emotional well-being, enriching employment, ad infinitum? Because the former impose no obligations on other free individuals; the latter enslave some in the service of others.”
In addition to an application of the principles of liberty, my columns/essays almost always include references. It’s about taking the time to work through the columns and extract the references. I have links on my Links Page to great classical liberal sites.
My Articles Archive is easy to navigate. Begin with Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, Ayn Rand, Henry Hazlitt, Frederic Bastiat, F. A. Hayek, Lysander Spooner, and the great heroes of the Old Right, Frank Chodorov, Garet Garrett, John T. Flynn, and Felix Morley. Morely’s “Freedom and Federalism” is a must in every American bookcase.
A discussion of natural rights can be found in “CRADLE OF CORRUPTION.”
UPDATED (3/31/2017): MORE BOOKS.
If you want to understand The Idea of America, read foundational books on American republican virtues (not least the title linked). Begin with the book The Power in The People by Felix Morley, and you’ll be able to watch or read Bill O’Reilly’s folderol, and such stuff, and assess it for the shallow nothingness that it is.
Truth is not about the penny plan, or the red line in Syria, or whether to beat up on Russia or not. It’s about grasping the foundational principles of liberty and the limits of government—the principles Jefferson, Madison, Mason, John Roanoke, John Calhoun held dear; grasping those creedal core issues and applying them to the issues of the day.
The other exquisite text by Morley aforementioned is Freedom and Federalism.
For starters, let’s see these texts on your coffee tables.