Although the market economy is not as unpopular now as when Acton wrote The Morals of Markets, the morality of buying and selling has long bothered man’s conscience. Defenses of capitalism often establish its efficiency or rely on a “that is the way human nature is anyway” argument. This book asserts that a free market is a necessary condition for the pursuit of moral excellence. Its analysis of the relation between capitalism and moral virtue has not been superseded.
My Thoughts provides a unique window into the mind of one of the undisputed pioneers of modern thought, the author of the 1748 classic, The Spirit of the Laws. From the publication in 1721 of his first masterpiece, Persian Letters, until his death in 1755, Montesquieu maintained notebooks in which he wrote and dictated ideas on a wide variety of topics. Some of the contents are early drafts of passages that Montesquieu eventually placed in his published works; others are outlines or early versions of projected works that were ultimately lost, unfinished, or abandoned. These notebooks provide important insights into his views on a broad range of topics, including morality, religion, history, law, economics, finance, science, art, and constitutional liberty.
Initially sponsored by the University of Chicago Chapter of the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists, the New Individualist Review was more than the usual “campus magazine.” It declared itself “founded in a commitment to human liberty.” Between 1961 and 1968, seventeen issues were published which attracted a national audience of readers. Its contributors spanned the libertarian-conservative spectrum, from F. A. Hayek and Ludwig von Mises to Richard M. Weaver and William F. Buckley, Jr.
Jacques Necker (1732–1804) was a Swiss statesman and financier who played a crucial role in French political life from 1776 to 1789. Born in Geneva, he was a devout Protestant who amassed considerable wealth as a successful banker. In October 1776, he was appointed as director of the Royal Treasury and, later, in June 1777, as director general of finances of France under Louis XVI. While in charge of the finances of the kingdom, his most famous decision, in 1781, was to make public the budget of France for the first time, a novel practice in an absolute monarchy.
In five essays, including three on historiography, one of the greatest minds in English political thought in the twentieth century explores themes central to the human experience: the nature of history, the rule of law, and the quest for power that is intrinsic to the human condition. Michael Oakeshott believed, as Timothy Fuller observes, that “the historian’s effort to understand the past without ulterior motive [is the] effort which distinguishes the historian from all who examine the past for the guidance they expect it to provide about practical concerns.”
William Graham Sumner is the “forgotten man” of American intellectual history. Too often dismissed or only superficially understood, his interpretations are now attracting closer scrutiny and appreciation. He is remembered chiefly as one of the founding fathers of sociology.
Documenting the process by which government and controlling majorities have grown increasingly powerful and tyrannical, Bertrand de Jouvenel demonstrates how democracies have failed to limit the powers of government. Jouvenel traces this development to the days of royal absolutism, which established large administrative bureaucracies and thus laid the foundation of the modern omnipotent state.
This is the first full-length English translation of Benjamin Constant’s massive study of humanity’s religious forms and development, published in five volumes between 1824 and 1831. Constant (1767–1830) regarded On Religion, worked on over the course of many years, as perhaps his most important philosophical work. He called it “the only interest, the only consolation of my life,” and “the book that I was destined by nature to write.”
The Origin and Principles of the American Revolution is perhaps one of the most important books written on the American Revolution by a European author. It is an original study of the subject by a conservative, objective German observer who acknowledges the legitimacy of the American Revolution, but also asserts at the same time that it was not a revolution but a legitimate transition.
The Pacificus-Helvidius Debates of 1793–1794 matched Hamilton and Madison in the first chapter of an enduring discussion about the proper roles of executive and legislative branches in the conduct of American foreign policy. Ignited by President Washington’s Neutrality Proclamation of 1793, which annulled the eleventh article of America’s treaty with France of 1778, the debate addressed whether Washington had the authority to declare America neutral, despite the early alliance treaty with France. The Liberty Fund edition brings together for the first time all the relevant original documents of this controversy.
In Pennsylvania and the Federal Constitution, 1787–1788, John Bach McMaster, a professor of American history, and Frederick D. Stone, librarian of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, assembled newspaper articles, editorials, and records about the debates in Pennsylvania’s ratifying convention. In addition to speeches and essays by both supporters and opponents of the Constitution, noninterpretive editorial comments are presented to introduce the documents and place them in the appropriate historical context. Also included in the volume are biographical sketches of key figures in Pennsylvania during this significant period of the American Founding, including Benjamin Franklin, Gouverneur Morris, Benjamin Rush, and James Wilson.
A reviewer of the original edition in 1970 of The Perfectibility of Man well summarizes the scope and significance of this renowned work by one of the leading philosophers of the twentieth century: “Beginning with an analytic discussion of the various ways in which perfectibility has been interpreted, Professor Passmore traces its long history from the Greeks to the present day, by way of Christianity, orthodox and heterodox, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, anarchism, utopias, communism, psychoanalysis, and evolutionary theories of man and society. Both in its broad sweep and in countless supporting reflections, it is a journey through spiritual scenery of the most majestic and exhilarating kind.” Thoroughly and elegantly, Passmore explores the history of the idea of perfectibility—manifest in the ideology of perfectibilism—and its consequences, which have invariably been catastrophic for individual liberty and responsibility in private, social, economic, and political life.