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This blog contains the thoughts and musings of David Hart concerning the classical liberal tradition, war and the state, and film and art. His main website contains his research and a growing library of books in the classical liberal tradition. See the most recent additions.

David-the-thinker
[David contemplating the move back to Sydney.]

For more information see his CV (2019), a description of his Areas of Expertise and Scholarly Activity (PDF) and his LinkedIn page.

See the list of recent books, papers, talks, and lectures at my website.

For an explanation of the banner image of Picasso’s “Guernica, see this page.

Some Thoughts on the May 2022 Federal Election in Australia

This recent election was the first election I have observed close up since my return to Australia in 2020. My wife and I haven’t voted for 47 years. The last time was in 1975 when we voted for the Workers Party, which, if you don’t know, was very libertarian in spite of their provocative name (I have put their Platform online here. Since then we have escaped fines and other harassment for not voting, which we do not think should be compulsory. [The current fine for not voting is $55 – see here for details “What Happens If I Didn’t Vote”, NSW Electoral Commission.]

In many ways it was discouraging for someone in the liberty movement to watch the events of the past few weeks unfold with barely a mention of issues which are most dear to me. In my own electorate of Mackellar (Sydney, Northern Beaches), held by a “moderate” liberal Jason Falinski (i.e., he is a LINO – “liberal in name only”) in what had been a very safe Liberal seat, there was a massive swing, via preferences, to one of the “Teal” independents who won handily. [On LINOs see “The Success of Liberal Ideas has led to the Decline of Radical Liberal Parties” (6 Sept. 2021) here.]

On the other hand, my spirits rose when I began thinking about all those who didn’t vote for our new rulers (more on this below). In order to get this election into some kind of perspective I looked at the data on the Australian Electoral Commission website [for the 2022 election results; for the 2019 election results] and found some interesting nuggets which have not been reported by the mainstream media. Here is what I found.

The low voter turnout

I was surprised at how many people did not even show up to vote on election day this year which suggests that there is large section of the voting public who are disillusioned with or disengaged from politics and the major parties. Since there is compulsory voting in Australia I had thought there would be 90-95% turnout (or “compliance” with a government order backed up with a fine). This was the case in previous elections. For example, in the 2019 election there were 16,419,543 eligible voters who had been enrolled. Of these 15,088,616 (91.89%) voted, either “formally” (14,253,393) (i.e. government approved votes) or “informally” (835,223) (i.e. government non-approved votes) and there were 1,330,927 (8.11%) who did not show up to vote on the day.

When you add the number who did not vote at all to those who voted “informally” (and whose vote thus “did not count”) we have a total of 2,166,159 voters who make up what I have termed the “block of disillusioned or disengaged voters” which in 2019 was 13.19% of all eligible voters.

Contrast this with the precipitous decline in voting in the May 2022 election. In May 2022 there were a total of 17,228,900 eligible voters of whom 12,822,068 voted (made up of 12,177,265 “formal” votes and 644,803 “informal” votes) which was 75.07% of the eligible voters. There were also 4,406,832 people who did not vote at all in the election for a number of reasons, comprising 24.93% of all eligible voters. This means that there were in 2022 4,947,233 (28.71% of all eligible voters) members of my “block of disillusioned or disengaged voters”, which was a massive increase of 2,781,074 over the 2019 election – an increase of 128.34%

At this level of voter participation one can now form a government with less than a quarter of all all eligible voters or barely a third of the primary vote before preferences have been distributed. In 2022, the Labor Party can form a government with 3.9 million votes or 22.86% of all eligible voters which converts to 32.34% of the formal vote before preferences are distributed. This of course means that 77% of the eligible voters did NOT vote for the new governing party. It also means that 76% did NOT vote for a “liberal” party, even in its ideologically gutted and illiberal form known as the Liberal Party (16.85% of all eligible voters and 23.84% of the formal vote). The Liberal Democrats, which should be seen as the Australia’s version of a Libertarian Party and the heir of the old Workers Party, got 204,827 votes which translates as 1.19% of all eligible votes and 1.68% of all formal votes. This was a very large increase over its results in 2019, although it came from of very low base figure. (See below for more details).

“Informal” and other protest votes

In my seat of Mackellar the list of candidates for the House of Reps was pretty dismal (both in terms of the character of the party they represented and their ideological positions) so I decided to vote “informal” as a way of protesting the limited selection of candidates and the way in which elections are seen as a “mandate” for ruling the country by whomever “wins” the election. The word “informal” is a derogatory term and carries the suggestion that the voter is stupid, uniformed, or careless for not being able to vote “properly” and thus has “wasted” their vote. I don’t think I am any of these things. I took a Sharpie pen with me and carefully drew a box at the bottom, labelled it “None of the Above”, and put a 1 in the box. I think this is a “thoughtful and considered vote” not a “wasted vote” as the mainstream press regards it. As a libertarian my dream is that one day a clear majority of the voters (if they bother to vote at all) will choose “None of the Above” and the seat will remain vacant. This is my version of the anti-war saying “what if they held a war and nobody came”, viz. “what if they held an election and nobody voted”. Where would their much vaunted “mandate” to rule be then? The Labor Party’s 23% of all eligible voters is a pretty feeble “mandate” in my view.

The collapse in the vote for the major parties

[Tacoma Bridge Collapse 7 Nov. 1940]

This collapse I believe is another indication of the increasing disillusionment of the voters with the political system as represented by the “major parties”, such as Labor, Liberal, and National. This must be added to the corresponding increase in the vote for “Independents” of various “colors” (“Teal in 2022 in particular) and for the group of disillusioned “non-voters” as discussed above. In what follows I compare the national results for the major parties between the 2019 and 2022 elections. The list below is in order of the size of the collapse (or increase) in the primary vote nationwide (% is of all eligible voters):

Liberal:

  • drop in vote – from 3,989,404 in 2019 (24.29%) to 2,959,255 in 2022 (17.18%); a drop in absolute votes of 1,030,149 or 25.82% of the 2019 figure

Nationals:

  • drop in vote – from 642,233 in 2019 (3.91%) to 486,796 in 2022 (2.83%)); a drop in absolute votes of 155,437or 24.20% of the 2019 figure

Liberal National:

  • drop in vote – from 1,236,401 in 2019 ( 7.53%) to 970,901 in 2022 (5.64%); a drop in absolute votes of 265,500 or 21.47% of the 2019 figure

Labor:

  • drop in vote – from 4,752,160 in 2019 (28.94%) to 4,046,234 in 2022 ( 23.48%); a drop in absolute votes of 705,926 or 14.85% of the 2019 figure

Greens:

  • drop in vote – from 1,482,923 in 2019 (9.03%) to 1,450,874 in 2022 (8.42%); a drop in absolute votes of 32,049 or 2.16% of the 2019 figure

Parties/groups which saw an increase in their vote (or not voting):

Liberal Democrats:

  • increase in vote – from 34,666 in 2019 (0.21%) to 207,903 in 2022 (1.21%); an increase in absolute votes of 173,237 or 499.73% of the 2019 figure

My “Block of Disillusioned or Disengaged Voters”:

  • an increase from 2,166,159 in 2019 (13.19%) to 4,947,233 in 2022 (28.71%); an increase in absolute votes of 2,781,074 or 128.39% of the 2019 figure

Independents:

  • increase in vote – from 479,836 in 2019 (2.92%) to 676,517 in 2022 (3.93%); an increase in absolute votes of 196,681 or 40.99% of the 2019 figure

One Nation:

  • increase in vote – from 438,587 in 2019 (2.67%) to 599,438 in 2022 (3.48%); an increase in absolute votes of 160,851 or 36.67% of the 2019 figure

United Australia Party:

  • increase in vote – from 488,817 in 2019 (2.98%) to 506,576 in 2022 (2.94%); an increase in absolute votes of 17,759 or 3.63% of the 2019 figure

In my own electorate of Mackellar these factors can be seen playing out as follows:

  • the Liberal vote collapsed from 52,088 in 2019 to 37,082 in 2022 – i.e. 15,006 or 28.81%
  • the Labor vote collapsed from 16,648 in 2019 to 6,859 in 2022 – i.e. 9,789 or 58.80%
  • the Green vote collapsed from 11,283 in 2019 to 4,980 in 2022 – i.e. 6,303 or 55.86%
  • the Independent candidate (not Teal) vote rose from 11,975 in 2019 to 34,516 in 2022 (Teal) – i.e. 22,541 or 188.23%
  • my block of disillusioned/disengaged voters rose from 17,412 in 2019 to 25,924 in 2022 – i.e. 8,512 or 48.89%

It would be interesting to look at a previously safe Labor seat which changed hands to see how these factors played out there. I haven’t had the time to do that.

Conclusion

My conclusion from all this is that on the whole the Australian electorates is unhappy with the current state of politics and the behaviour of the major political parties. Thus, they either chose not to vote at all (up 49%), not to vote for one of the major parties (Liberals down 26%; Labor down 15%), to shift their “Green” vote from the “dark” green, hard-core Green Party (down 2% nationally) to a “light” green (Teal) independent candidate (all Independents up 41%), or to vote for an alternative party like One Nation (up 37%) or the Liberal Democrats (up 500% from a very small base).

How real classical liberals should react to this is up for discussion.

Lectures and Talks I have given at the Centre for Independent Studies

Below is a list of lectures and talks I have given at the CIS over the years:

  • L&S Conference: “The Classical Liberal Tradition: A Four Hundred Year History of Ideas and Movements”, Liberty and Society Conference (6-8 May 2022): lecture slides PDF and supporting blog posts
  • “Unfortunately, Hardly anyone listens to the Economists”: The Battle against Socialism by the French Economists in the 1840S” (8 July, 2014) HTML and PDF
  • “Images of Liberty and Power” (29 Nov. 2011) PDF
  • L&S Conference: “A History of Classical Liberalism: Key Concepts and Movements” Liberty and Society Conference (2-4 Dec. 2011). The full conference program PDF; slides for my two part lecture PDF; a text summary of the lectures PDF
  • “Ideas and the Internet: The Prospects for Liberty” (24 Aug., 2010) PDF
  • L&S Conference: “Historical Reflections on the Classical Liberal Tradition”, Advanced Liberty and Society Seminar (2 March, 2001) HTML and “The 12 Basic Concepts of Classical Liberalism” HTML

600 Quotations about Liberty and Power

[Note: This post is part of a series on the History of the Classical Liberal Tradition]

In another post I focus on the “Twelve Key Ideas” which I believe defines what it means to be a “classical” liberal, rather than a modern or “new” liberal who holds views which are inconsistent (even incoherent) and is thus a LINO (liberal in name only).

However, these 12 key ideas do not exhaust the important topics on which liberals have written and taken political action to promote (property rights, sound money, and free trade) or to oppose (war, tyrants and despots, and legal plunder). Over the years I have collected 600 quotations drawn from some of the most important books written by liberals to illustrate this. These quotations (along with my commentary) are organized by topic (about 30). [Note: My list is of the titles of the quotes only. To read the full quotation and my comments follow the link provided back to the OLL website].

The topics covered include the following:

  1. Class
  2. Colonies, Slavery & Abolition
  3. Economics
  4. Education
  5. Food & Drink
  6. Free Trade
  7. Freedom of Speech
  8. Justice
  9. Law
  10. Liberty
  11. Literature & Music
  12. Money & Banking
  13. Natural Rights
  14. Odds & Ends
  15. Origin of Government
  16. Parties & Elections
  17. Philosophy
  18. Politics & Liberty
  19. Presidents, Kings, Tyrants, & Despots
  20. Property Rights
  21. Religion & Toleration
  22. Revolution
  23. Rhetoric of Liberty
  24. Science
  25. Socialism & Interventionism
  26. Society
  27. Sport and Liberty
  28. Taxation
  29. The State
  30. War & Peace
  31. Women’s Rights

Liberty as the Sum of All Freedoms

[Note: This is an updated version of “The Key Ideas of Classical Liberalism: Foundations, Processes, Liberties” (23 June 2015) here.]

[Note: This post is part of a series on the History of the Classical Liberal Tradition]

In a recent post I discussed the “ends” that CLs sought and “the means” which they believed would help them achieve these ends. [See “What CLs were For – Part 2: Ends and Means” (19 Oct., 2021) here.]

Another way to approach the question of what CLs believed is to think of “Liberty” (with a capital “L”) as a “bundle” or “cluster” of smaller or partial freedoms or “liberties” (with a lower case “l”) which together make up what is “Liberty”. The following quote comes from Frédéric Bastiat’s essay “The Law” (June 1850). It should be noted that English has two word for “freedom” – a Germanic one “freedom” (die Freiheit) and a Latin one (via the French) “liberty” (libertas). I have used both to make the point I think Bastiat is trying to make clearer:

[French original] – Et qu’est-ce que la Liberté, ce mot qui a la puissance de faire battre tous les cœurs et d’agiter le monde, si ce n’est l’ensemble de toutes les libertés, liberté de conscience, d’enseignement, d’association, de presse, de locomotion, de travail, d’échange; d’autres termes, le franc exercice, pour tous, de toutes les facultés inoffensives; en d’autres termes encore, la destruction de tous les despotismes, même le despotisme légal, et la réduction de la Loi à sa seule attribution rationnelle, qui est de régulariser le Droit individuel de légitime défense ou de réprimer l’injustice.

[my revised translation 13 Aug. 2021] – And what is “Liberty,” this word that has the power of making all hearts beat faster and of moving the entire world, if it is not the sum of all freedoms? — freedom of conscience, teaching, and association, freedom of the press, freedom to travel, work, and trade, in other words, the free exercise by all people of all their non-aggressive abilities. And, in still other terms, isn’t freedom the destruction of all despotic regimes, even legal despotism, and the limiting of the law to its sole rational function which is to regulate the individual’s right of legitimate self defense and to prevent injustice?

The following “concept map” is an attempt to show the relationship between the four main components of “Liberty”, namely personal freedoms, economic freedoms, political freedoms, and legal freedoms.

The overview:

See a larger version of this image.

1. Personal Freedoms

Personal freedoms:

  1. right to live one’s own life as one sees fit
  2. right to engage in “acts between consenting adults”
  3. right to buy, sell, ingest drugs, alcohol, etc.
  4. right to buy, sell, view any “printed matter”
  5. right to form a marriage, household, family, or any other kind of domestic arrangement
  6. recognition that one’s “home is one’s castle”

2. Economic Freedoms

Economic freedoms:

  1. The right to enter any trade or profession
  2. The right to set up a business, partnership, etc.
  3. Free markets and prices
  4. The right to make a profit (loss), charge interest, rent
  5. Free trade & exchange (domestic and foreign)
  6. Free movement goods, money, and people

3. Political Freedoms

Political freedoms:

  1. Right to remove an abusive/repressive government
  2. Consent of the Governed (free, open, periodic elections)
  3. Government limited by a Constitution & Bill of Rights
  4. Freedom of speech, print, association
  5. Right of free movement within the state, or to leave/enter the state
  6. Right to form a political party, stand for election, vote
  7. Free co-existence with other peoples/nations

4. Legal Freedoms

Legal freedoms:

  1. Rule of (just) law
  2. Equality under the law
  3. Independent judiciary
  4. Right to “due process” – Habeas corpus, speedy trial
  5. Protection of private property & contracts
  6. Arbitration of disputes (private and public)
  7. Right to compensation for harm (tort law)

Twelve Key Concepts of Liberty

[Note: This post is part of a series on the History of the Classical Liberal Tradition]

I have selected 12 Key Concepts which I think are most important to understanding what CLs have believed in/advocated over the past 400 odd years. Given the sheer number and diversity of individuals who have been part of the CL movement over this time and in many different countries there is probably no single thinker who would agree with every aspect of these key concepts. Rather, they are an amalgam or “ideal type” taken from the various streams of thinking about individual liberty which have emerged in Western Europe and North America since the early modern period. It is designed to summarize in a more manageable way a complex way of thinking about the nature of individual liberty.

They are the following:

  1. Natural Law and Natural Rights
  2. Individual Liberty
  3. Private Property
  4. Free Markets
  5. Free Trade
  6. Idea of Spontaneous Order
  7. Consent of the Governed
  8. Limited Government
  9. Rule of Law
  10. Freedom of Speech & Association (special case of Religion)
  11. Peace
  12. Progress and Human Flourishing

For each of the topics I have selected a number of quotations from some classic text to illustrate what classical liberals (and some photo-liberals) have thought on the matter. They come from a compilation of “600 Quotations about Liberty and Power” I made when I was at Liberty Fund between 2004 and 2018.


(1.) Natural Law and Natural Rights

Key ideas:

  • the world is governed by natural laws which are discoverable by human reason
  • Tom Paine’s “imprescriptible rights”: the right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness
  • rights are not created by government but exist anterior to it
  • [alternative view of utilitarianism – maximization of happiness or utility]

EoL articles:

Quotations from some Classic Texts:

  1. Sir Edward Coke declares that your house is your “Castle and Fortress” (1604) at the OLL
  2. Richard Overton shoots An Arrow against all Tyrants from the prison of Newgate into the prerogative bowels of the arbitrary House of Lords and all other usurpers and tyrants whatsoever (1646) at the OLL
  3. Pascal and the absurd notion that the principles of justice vary across state borders (1669) at the OLL
  4. John Locke on the rights to life, liberty, and property of ourselves and others (1689) at the OLL
  5. Algernon Sidney argues that a People’s liberty is a gift of nature and exists prior to any government (1683) at the OLL
  6. Francis Hutcheson on the difference between “perfect” and “imperfect” rights (1725) at the OLL
  7. Sir William Blackstone differentiates between “absolute rights” of individuals (natural rights which exist prior to the state) and social rights (contractural rights which evolve later) (1753) at the OLL
  8. Denis Diderot argues that the laws must be based upon natural rights and be made for all and not for one (1755) at the OLL
  9. Frédéric Bastiat asks what came first, property or law? (1850) at the OLL
  10. Lysander Spooner spells out his theory of “mine and thine”, or the science of natural law and justice, which alone can ensure that mankind lives in peace (1882) at the OLL

(2.) Individual Liberty

Key ideas:

  • the dignity of the individual, individual autonomy, sanctity of life
  • an individual, private sphere which is protected from outside interference
  • right of voluntary association among individuals
  • civil society results from voluntary association between individuals with common interests
  • the Law of Equal Freedom (Spencer)

EoL articles:

Quotations from some Classic Texts:

  1. Magna Carta guaranteed the freemen of the kingdom their liberties forever (1215) at the OLL
  2. Immanuel Kant on the natural right to seek happiness in one’s own way (1791) at the OLL
  3. Wilhelm von Humboldt argued that freedom was the “Grand and Indispensable Condition” for individual flourishing (1792) at the OLL
  4. In Percy Shelley’s poem Liberty liberty is compared to a force of nature sweeping the globe, where “tyrants and slaves are like shadows of night” which will disappear in “the van of the morning light” (1824) at the OLL
  5. Harriet Taylor wants to see “freedom and admissibility” in all areas of human activity replace the system of “privilege and exclusion” (1847) at the OLL
  6. Alexis de Tocqueville on the true love of liberty (1856) at the OLL
  7. J.S. Mill’s great principle was that “over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign” (1859) at the OLL
  8. J.S. Mill spoke in Parliament in favour of granting women the right to vote, to have “a voice in determining who shall be their rulers” (1866) at the OLL
  9. Lysander Spooner on the idea that laws against “vice” (victimless crimes) are unjust (1875) at the OLL
  10. Lord Acton writes to Bishop Creighton that the same moral standards should be applied to all men, political and religious leaders included, especially since “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (1887) at the OLL

(3.) Private Property

Key ideas:

  • property rights are not created by government but exist anterior to it (i.e. they are “natural rights” not “artificial rights” (Hodgskin)
  • the right of self-propriety or self-ownership (the Levellers & Locke)
  • the right to create or acquire property titles in unowned resources (Locke)
  • the right to exchange property titles with others (private contracts)
  • the right to enjoy one’s property so long as no aggression is initiated against others (non-aggression axiom)
  • property rights (in one’s person, home, possessions) create an individual, private sphere which must be protected from outside interference (by state, church, other individuals) (Humboldt & Mill)

EoL articles:

Quotations from some Classic Texts:

  1. Gaius states that according to natural reason the first occupier of any previously unowned property becomes the just owner (2nd Century) at the OLL
  2. Captain John Clarke asserts the right of all men to vote in the formation of a new constitution by right of the property they have in themselves (1647) at the OLL
  3. William Penn on property as one of the three fundamental rights all men have (1679) at the OLL
  4. Sir William Blackstone argues that occupancy of previously unowned land creates a natural right to that property which excludes others from it (1753) at the OLL
  5. James Mill on the natural disposition to accumulate property (1808) at the OLL
  6. J.B. Say on the self-evident nature of property rights which is nevertheless violated by the state in taxation and slavery (1817) at the OLL
  7. Thomas Hodgskin argues for a Lockean notion of the right to property (“natural”) and against the Benthamite notion that property rights are created by the state (“artificial”) (1832) at the OLL
  8. Wolowski and Levasseur argue that Property is “the fruit of human liberty” and that Violence and Conquest have done much to disturb this natural order (1884) at the OLL
  9. Lysander Spooner spells out his theory of “mine and thine”, or the science of natural law and justice, which alone can ensure that mankind lives in peace (1882) at the OLL
  10. Auberon Herbert on the “magic of private property” (1897) at the OLL

(4.) Free Markets

Key ideas:

  • domestic free markets and international free trade (A. Smith, F. Bastiat, L. von Mises)
  • voluntary exchanges are mutually beneficial (ex ante)
  • division of labour
  • freely set market prices (information about supply & demand – Hayek)
  • private ownership of economic assets
  • private contracts for exchange of property
  • legal protection of property rights
  • decentralized decision-making – “I, Pencil” – Hayek’s “problem of knowledge”
  • no regulation outside of legal protection of property rights (tort law for fraud, damages)
  • complete freedom of movement of people (labour), capital, and goods (laissez-faire, laissez-passer)
  • minimal/no taxes, balanced government budgets
  • no subsidies or protection for favoured individuals or groups
  • the incentive of profit and the disincentive of losses

EoL articles:

Quotations from some Classic Texts:

  1. Robert Molesworth on the benefits of open borders and free immigration (1705) at the OLL
  2. Montesquieu thought that commerce improves manners and cures “the most destructive prejudices” (1748) at the OLL
  3. Adam Smith on the greater productivity brought about by the division of labor and technological innovation (1760s) at the OLL
  4. Adam Smith argued that the “propensity to truck, barter, and exchange” was inherent in human nature and gave rise to things such as the division of labour (1776) at the OLL
  5. Destutt de Tracy on the mutually beneficial nature of exchange (1817) at the OLL
  6. Nassau Senior objected to any government regulation of factories which meant that a horde of inspectors would interfere with the organization of production (1837) at the OLL
  7. Philip Wicksteed’s positive vision of the “cash nexus” (1910) at the OLL
  8. Ludwig von Mises on how price controls lead to socialism (1944) at the OLL
  9. Ludwig von Mises argues that monopolies are the direct result of government intervention and not the product of any inherent tendency within the capitalist system (1949) at the OLL
  10. Israel Kirzner defines economics as the reconciliation of conflicting ends given the existence of inescapable scarcity (1960) at the OLL

(5.) Free Trade

Key ideas:

  • complete freedom of movement of people and goods (laissez-faire, laissez-passer)
    domestic free markets and international free trade (A. Smith, F. Bastiat, L. von Mises)
  • natural harmony of interests leads to peace
  • benefits of division of labour, comparative advantage (David Ricardo) exist between households, cities, regions, and “nation states”
  • no subsidies or protection for favoured individuals or groups
  • policy of unilateral free trade is beneficial to consumers

EoL articles:

Quotations from some Classic Texts:

  1. The right to free trade under Magna Carta (1215) at the OLL
  2. Adam Smith on the “liberal system” of free trade (1776) at the OLL
  3. Condy Raguet on the anti-Christian character of protection and the need for peace on earth (1832) at the OLL
  4. John Ramsay McCulloch argues that smuggling is “wholly the result of vicious commercial and financial legislation” and that it could be ended immediately by abolishing this legislation (1899) at the OLL
  5. Richard Cobden’s “I have a dream” speech about a world in which free trade is the governing principle (1846) at the OLL
  6. Frédéric Bastiat on the most universally useful freedom, namely to work and to trade (1847) at the OLL
  7. Harriet Martineau condemns tariffs as a “vicious aristocratic principle” designed to harm the ordinary working man and woman (1861) at the OLL
  8. Henry George on a “free trade America” as the real city set on a hill (1886) at the OLL
  9. William Graham Sumner on free trade as another aspect of individual liberty (1888) at the OLL
  10. Yves Guyot accuses all those who seek Protection from foreign competition of being “Socialists” (1893) at the OLL

(6.) Idea of Spontaneous Order

Key ideas:

  • institutions emerge spontaneously and evolve over time
  • by pursuing their own selfish interests in a voluntary manner they are led as if by an “invisible hand” (Adam Smith) to promote the welfare of others
  • e.g. language, money, private law, markets

EoL articles:

Quotations from some Classic Texts:

  1. Henry Vaughan argues that it is the voluntary and “universal concurrence of mankind”, not the laws, which makes money acceptable as a medium of exchange (1675) at the OLL
  2. Bernard Mandeville on the social cooperation which is required to produce a piece of scarlet cloth (1723) at the OLL
  3. Adam Smith on the natural ordering Tendency of Free Markets, or what he called the “Invisible Hand” (1776) at the OLL
  4. Adam Smith argued that the “propensity to truck, barter, and exchange” was inherent in human nature and gave rise to things such as the division of labour (1776) at the OLL
  5. Adam Ferguson observed that social structures of all kinds were not “the result of human action, but not the execution of any human design” (1782) at the OLL
  6. Bernard Mandeville uses a fable about bees to show how prosperity and good order comes about through spontaneous order (1705) at the OLL
  7. Horace Say on “I, Pin” and the international division of labor (1852) at the OLL
  8. Herbert Spencer on spontaneous order produced by “the beneficent working of social forces” (1879) at the OLL
  9. William Graham Sumner on the industrial system as an example of social co-operation (c. 1900) at the OLL
  10. Philip Wicksteed on how impersonal economic relations help others (1910) at the OLL

(7.) The Consent of the Governed

Key ideas:

  • the idea that rulers (kings) have a duty to protect the interests of their subjects and that there is an unwritten (historical) “contract” that binds the two parties, namely that the subjects agree to obey or “consent” to being ruled so long as the king fulfills his duties towards the people; that if this contract is “broken” the people have the right to seek a new ruler
  • sometimes this “consent” can be explicit, for example for the first generation of people who participate in founding a new regime after a revolution (as with the American and French revolutions and the various Constitutions they drew up); at other times is is “tacit” (silent) consent for those later generations, especially if they participate in periodic elections to chose their representatives (“rulers”)
  • The right to change one’s government – either by staying put and choosing a new one (election) or removing a despotic one (right of revolution); or killing a tyrant (tyrannicide)
  • there was a long tradition of
  • other forms of “consent” (or rather the withdrawal of consent) is demonstrated by physically removing oneself from the jurisdiction one does not like, such as
  • internal (personal & geographical) – right to free movement within the state (no slavery, being tied to the land (serfs), internal passports & controls)
  • external (personal & geographical) – right to emigrate/immigrate, right to cross political borders
  • internal (govt, leave its “jurisdiction”)
  • right to change one’s government (“throw the bastards out” in free elections, problem of “serial bastardry”)
  • right of rebellion against unjust state, resistance to tyranny
  • the right to secede
  • the right to ignore the state (Spencer)

EoL articles:

Quotations from some Classic Texts:

  1. Cicero on the need for politicians to place the interests of those they represent ahead of their own private interests (1st century BC) at the OLL
  2. La Boétie argues that tyranny will collapse if enough people refuse to cooperate and withdraw their moral support to it (1576) at the OLL
  3. Althusius argues that a political leader is bound by his oath of office which, if violated, requires his removal (1614) at the OLL
  4. Adam Smith on social change and “the man of system” (1759) at the OLL
  5. Thomas Jefferson on the right to change one’s government (1776) at the OLL
  6. Edward Gibbon believed that unless public liberty was defended by “intrepid and vigilant guardians” any constitution would degenerate into despotism (1776) at the OLL
  7. Thomas Jefferson feared that it would only be a matter of time before the American system of government degenerated into a form of “elective despotism” (1785) at the OLL
  8. George Washington warns the nation in his Farewell Address, that love of power will tend to create a real despotism in America unless proper checks and balances are maintained to limit government power (1796) at the OLL
  9. Herbert Spencer concludes from his principle of equal freedom that individuals have the Right to Ignore the State (1851) at the OLL
  10. John Stuart Mill on “the sacred right of insurrection” (1862) at the OLL

(8.) Limited Government

Key ideas:

  • governments rule with the consent of the governed (Locke)
  • strictly defined powers limited by constitution or bill of rights (Jefferson, Madison)
  • right to choose one’s rulers/representatives (elections); elections to periodically remove bad governments (Philosophic Radicals – Mill)
  • checks & balances to limit power of branches of government (Montesquieu, US Constitution)
  • decentralization of power (federalism, states rights, municipal govt.)
  • the problem of defining the limits of govt. power (classical Smithian view, nightwatchman state (JB Say, Bastiat), anarcho-capitalism (Molinari, Spencer, Rothbard)
  • the problem of keeping government limited (Public Choice, “who guards the guardians?)

EoL articles:

Quotations from some Classic Texts:

  1. Edmund Burke asks a key question of political theory: “quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” (how is one to be defended against the very guardians who have been appointed to guard us?) (1756) at the OLL
  2. James Madison on the need for the “separation of powers” because “men are not angels,” Federalist 51 (1788) at the OLL
  3. William Godwin on the need to simplify and reduce the power of the state (1793) at the OLL
  4. Jeremy Bentham on the proper role of government: “Be Quiet” and “Stand out of my sunshine” (1843) at the OLL
  5. Frédéric Bastiat on the state as the great fiction by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else (1848) at the OLL
  6. Bastiat asks the fundamental question of political economy: what should be the size of the state? (1850) at the OLL
  7. John Stuart Mill on the need for limited government and political rights to prevent the “king of the vultures” and his “minor harpies” in the government from preying on the people (1859) at the OLL
  8. The Australian radical liberal Bruce Smith lays down some very strict rules which should govern the actions of any legislator (1887) at the OLL
  9. William Graham Sumner on the “do-nothing” state vs. ”the meddling” state (1888) at the OLL
  10. Hippolyte Taine on how the modern bureaucratic state destroys spontaneous and fruitful private cooperation (1890) at the OLL

(9.) Rule of Law

Key ideas:

  • rule of laws not of men
  • law applies equally to all (including agents of the state)
  • common law
  • independent courts
  • common law, trial by jury, right to habeas corpus
  • abolition of “cruel & unusual punishment” (torture, death penalty)

EoL articles:

Quotations from some Classic Texts:

  1. Under Magna Carta the King cannot imprison a freeman without being convicted by a trial of his peers (1215) at the OLL
  2. Sir Edward Coke defends British Liberties and the Idea of Habeas Corpus in the Petition of Right before Parliament (1628) at the OLL
  3. Algernon Sidney argues that a law that is not just is not a law (1683) at the OLL
  4. John Locke on the idea that “wherever law ends, tyranny begins” (1689) at the OLL
  5. Sir William Blackstone provides a strong defence of personal liberty and concludes that to “secretly hurry” a man to prison is a “dangerous engine of arbitrary government” (1753) at the OLL
  6. Cesare Beccaria says that torture is cruel and barbaric and a violation of the principle that no one should be punished until proven guilty in a court of law; in other words it is the “right of power” (1764) at the OLL
  7. The IVth Amendment to the American Constitution states that the people shall be secure in their persons against unreasonable searches and seizures and that no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause (1788) at the OLL
  8. Lysander Spooner on Jury Nullification as the “palladium of liberty” against the tyranny of government (1852) at the OLL
  9. J.S. Mill in a speech before parliament denounced the suspension of Habeas Corpus and the use of flogging in Ireland, saying that those who ordered this “deserved flogging as much as any of those who were flogged by his orders” (1866) at the OLL
  10. Pollock on “our lady” the common law and her devoted servants (1911) at the OLL

(10.) Freedom of Speech & Association

Key ideas:

  • freedom of the press (political, scientific, religious)
  • the right of assembly
  • the right to engage in peaceful protest
  • no state-enforced religion
  • right to practice the religion of one’s choice
  • liberty of political belief and practice (18th & 19thC, JS Mill)
  • toleration of all unorthodox thought and (non injurious) behaviour

EoL articles:

Quotations from some Classic Texts:

  1. John Milton on the tyranny of government licensed printing (1644) at the OLL
  2. Benedict de Spinoza on the natural right every person has to think and speak on any subject they choose (1670) at the OLL
  3. John Locke believed that the magistrate should not punish sin but only violations of natural rights and public peace (1689) at the OLL
  4. Pierre Bayle begins his defence of religious toleration with this appeal that the light of nature, or Reason, should be used to settle religious differences and not coercion (1708) at the OLL
  5. The Earl of Shaftesbury on the value of good conversations for questioning everything (1709) at the OLL
  6. Elisha Williams on the unalienable right every person has to think and judge for themselves (1744) at the OLL
  7. David Hume argues that “love of liberty” in some individuals often attracts the religious inquisitor to persecute them and thereby drive society into a state of “ignorance, corruption, and bondage” (1757) at the OLL
  8. Voltaire notes that where Commerce and Toleration predominate, a Multiplicity of Faiths can live together in Peace and Happiness (1764) at the OLL
  9. Thomas Jefferson’s preference for “newspapers without government” over “government without newspapers” (1787) at the OLL
  10. Benjamin Constant and the Freedom of the Press (1815) at the OLL

(11.) Peace

Key ideas:

  • non-interference in the affairs of other nations (Washington, Cobden)
  • international arbitration to solve disputes
  • free trade between all nations
  • war leads to higher taxes, debt, growth in size of government
  • opposed taxation, conscription, national debt to fund “standing army” & fight wars
  • favoured local, volunteer militias (US Bill of Rights) – irregular, guerrilla war (Am. Rev)
  • “war is the health of the state” (R. Bourne) & Robert Higgs’ “ratchet effect”
  • modern military is anti-individualistic, command economy (Mises), socialist institution
  • free and open immigration/emigration

EoL articles:

Quotations from some Classic Texts:

  1. Erasmus has the personification of Peace come down to earth to see with dismay how war ravages human societies (1521) at the OLL
  2. Hugo Grotius on Moderation in Despoiling the Country of one’s Enemies (1625) at the OLL
  3. John Trenchard on the dangers posed by a standing army (1698) at the OLL
  4. Madison argued that war is the major way by which the executive office increases its power, patronage, and taxing power (1793) at the OLL
  5. George Washington on the Difference between Commercial and Political Relations with other Countries (1796) at the OLL
  6. James Mill likens the expence and economic stagnation brought about by war to a “pestilential wind” which ravages the country (1808) at the OLL
  7. Thomas Hodgskin on the Suffering of those who had been Impressed or Conscripted into the despotism of the British Navy (1813) at the OLL
  8. Richard Cobden urges the British Parliament not to be the “Don Quixotes of Europe” using military force to right the wrongs of the world (1854) at the OLL
  9. William Graham Sumner denounced America’s war against Spain and thought that “war, debt, taxation, diplomacy, a grand governmental system, pomp, glory, a big army and navy, lavish expenditures, political jobbery” would result in imperialism (1898) at the OLL
  10. Ludwig von Mises laments the passing of the Age of Limited Warfare and the coming of Mass Destruction in the Age of Statism and Conquest (1949) at the OLL

(12.) Progress and Human Flourishing

Key ideas:

  • A belief in the possibility of Progress (intellectual and material/economic)
  • through hard work and initiative both individuals and society can be improved indefinitely
  • wealth creation is a product of the free market and trade
  • savings create pool of wealth to benefit current & next generation
  • goal of individual flourishing (Humboldt)
  • and “the pursuit of happiness” (Thomas Jefferson)

EoL articles:

Quotations from some Classic Texts:

  1. Marcus Aurelius on using reason to live one’s life “straight and right” (170) at the OLL
  2. The Earl of Shaftesbury states that civility and politeness is a consequence of liberty by which “we polish one another, and rub off our Corners and rough Sides” (1709) at the OLL
  3. Jean Barbeyrac on the Virtues which all free Men should have (1718) at the OLL
  4. Immanuel Kant on the natural right to seek happiness in one’s own way (1791) at the OLL
  5. Wilhelm von Humboldt argued that freedom was the “Grand and Indispensable Condition” for individual flourishing (1792) at the OLL
  6. Voltaire on the Benefits which Trade and Economic Abundance bring to People living in the Present Age (1736) at the OLL
  7. Montesquieu thought that commerce improves manners and cures “the most destructive prejudices” (1748) at the OLL
  8. Condorcet writes about the inevitability of the spread of liberty and prosperity while he was in prison awaiting execution by the Jacobins (1796) at the OLL
  9. Lord Macaulay writes a devastating review of Southey’s Colloquies in which the Poet Laureate’s ignorance of the real condition of the working class in England is exposed (1830) at the OLL
  10. Samuel Smiles on how an idle, thriftless, or drunken man can, and should, improve himself through self-help and not by means of the state (1859).at the OLL