Long read: At a meeting of the European Resource Bank in Stockholm in June 2022, there was a session “What Is Liberalism?,” organized by Anders Ydstedt and featuring Hannes Gissurarson, Dan Klein, Catarina Kärkkäinen, and Kristina Bogdanova. A video of the session is here. Below, Klein conveys his presentation.
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Helena Rosenblatt and Dan Klein debated whether classical liberalism is anti-democratic, for Timbro’s Ideologi podcast, moderated by Amanda Broberg. Here we present a transcript of Klein’s opener.
Grotius taught European rulers their accountability to their subjects, to God, and to nature. He taught that the individual human being, as such, has natural rights. He taught rulers, through conscience and justice, to moderate their rule and their conflicts. Enforcing a bad law can be rather like visiting injury upon another, and is like being commanded to wage unjust war. I realize that it’s a long way from enforcing mask and vaccine mandates to waging unjust war, but the principle is the same.
Tocqueville does not oppose the equality of subjection. Nor does he propose resistance to its newfangled democratic trappings. He accepts democracy. He fears what the modern democratic nation-state may produce—indeed, was producing, especially in France.
Economist Ronald Coase got it right about Adam Smith’s beliefs: Human limitations bolster the case for limits on government.
The turning of the New Year is a time for cheer and refreshed hope. It is also a time for reflection, however, and we cannot escape the fact that our times are troubled. Our troubles may lead us back to the man who helped to define liberal politics, Adam Smith. It is now 300 years since Smith’s birth in 1723.
The long read: If the anti-religionists stopped throwing out the baby, the other group would be friendlier to the best currents of classical liberalism. And if the anti-liberals stopped throwing out the baby, the other group would be friendlier to religion. If one erred less, the impulse toward erring by the other would be less. They could better coalesce to common purpose and something truer.
Today’s call for “social justice” offers an unhelpful explanation of what the concept of justice might entail. Adam Smith is a better guide.
When David Hume learned in 1762 that Jean-Jacques Rousseau was interested in relocating to Britain, he got busy to make that happen. The two men first met in Paris in 1765. They traveled together from Paris to England in January 1766. Hume arranged lodging for Rousseau, otherwise tended to him, and successfully procured a pension for him from King George III. Within a few months, things turned very sour.
Does liberalism owe its existence to Christianity? That was the guiding question when Svensk Tidskrift and Timbro hosted a reading group on Siedentops “Inventing the individual” this summer. The group was led by Professor Daniel Klein, and Peter J Olsson has interviewed him to learn more.