Policy Documents

A New Intellectual History of Classical Liberalism

July 30, 2013

in this review, CATO notes a new work on classical liberalism, which is liberalism rightly understood:

One of the critical stages often reached in the evolution of a political movement is the onslaught of infighting. After a common rival is defeated, the ideological victors tend to turn their sights inward, developing their own philosophy systematically by coming to terms with its animating principles. The resulting internecine conflicts are the mark of a movement that has achieved a certain measure of success.

Classical liberalism, according to the scholar George H. Smith, did not begin to take shape as a coherent political theory until the 17th century. In his new book from the Cato Institute and the Cambridge University Press, The System of Liberty, Smith covers some of the themes that run throughout the history of liberalism since that time, highlighting in particular those controversies that divided liberals into different camps.