This is a discussion of George H. Smith’s new book The System of Liberty: Themes in the History of Classical Liberalism published by Cambridge University Press (2013). Smith describes how he came to write the book, the works of the history of political thought which inspired him (in particular the writings of the German legal historian Otto von Gierke), and the methodology he uses in approaching the history of ideas (Locke’s idea of “the presumption of coherence”). He demonstrates his approach with a brief discussion of one of the key ideas he has identified in the history of classical liberal thought, namley, the idea of “inalienable rights,” or to phrase it in the terminology of 17th century natural rights philosophers like Pufendorf, the distinction between “perfect and imperfect rights.” His essay is discussed by Jason Brennan, assistant professor of strategy, economics, ethics, and public policy at Georgetown University; David Gordon, Senior Fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute; and Ralph Raico, Professor Emeritus of History at the Buffalo State College.
Lead Essay: George H. Smith, “The System of Liberty” [September, 2013]
- Jason Brennan, “The Idea of Freedom: Little Is at Stake” [Posted: September 6, 2013]
- David Gordon, “Utilitarianism and Natural Rights” [Posted: September 9, 2013]
- Ralph Raico, “Why Only in the West?” [Posted: September 11, 2013]
- George H. Smith’s Reply to Ralph Raico, David Gordon, and Jason Brennan [Posted: September 13, 2013]
- Ralph Raico, “What Thou Meanest by Seizing the Whole Earth?” [Posted: September 18, 2013]