Political Thought

Our titles in political thought encompass the ideals of the classical liberal tradition, such as self-government, the rule of law, and constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion and of the press. The collection includes foundational writings from such thinkers as John Locke, David Hume, Bernard Mandeville, and Alexis de Tocqueville, as well as twentieth-century perspectives from writers like Michael Oakeshott and Bertrand de Jouvenel. These titles represent thinkers from different times and contexts, offering the reader a variety of texts that have helped shape the ideas of liberty in today’s society.

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  • Democracy and Leadership

    by Irving Babbitt

    Irving Babbitt was a leader of the intellectual movement called American Humanism, or the New Humanism, and a distinguished professor of French literature at Harvard. Democracy and Leadership, first published in 1924, is his only directly political book, and in it he applies the principles of humanism to the civil social order. Babbitt offers a compelling critique of unchecked majoritarianism…

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  • Democracy and Liberty

    by William Edward Hartpole Lecky

    “When democracy turns, as it often does, into a corrupt plutocracy, both national decadence and social revolution are being prepared.” So wrote the Irish-born historian W. E. H. Lecky (1838–1903) in this devastating assault on mass democracy.

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  • Democracy in America / De la démocratie en Amérique

    by Alexis de Tocqueville

    In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville and his friend Gustave de Beaumont visited the United States. From Tocqueville’s copious notes of what he had seen and heard came the classic text De la Démocratie en Amérique, published in two large volumes, the first in 1835, the second in 1840. The first volume focused primarily on political society; the second, on civil…

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  • Democracy in America

    by Alexis de Tocqueville

    In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont spent nine months in the U.S. studying American prisons on behalf of the French government. They investigated not just the prison system but indeed every aspect of American public and private life—the political, economic, religious, cultural, and above all the social life of the young nation. From Tocqueville’s copious notes came…

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  • Democracy, Liberty, and Property

    by Merrill D. Peterson

    In one volume, Democracy, Liberty, and Property provides an overview of the state constitutional conventions held in the 1820s. With topics as relevant today as they were then, this collection of essential primary sources sheds light on many of the enduring issues of liberty. Emphasizing the connection between federalism and liberty, the debates that took place at these conventions show…

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  • Democratick Editorials

    by William Leggett

    William Leggett (1801–1839) was the intellectual leader of the laissez-faire wing of Jacksonian democracy. His diverse writings applied the principle of equal rights to liberty and property. These editorials maintain a historical and contemporary relevance. Lawrence H. White is Professor of Economics at the University of Georgia.

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  • Discourses Concerning Government

    by Algernon Sidney

    Written in response to Sir Robert Filmer’s Patriarcha (1680), the Discourses Concerning Government by Algernon Sidney (1623–1683) has been treasured for more than three centuries as a classic defense of republicanism and popular government. Thomas G. West is Paul and Dawn Potter Professor of Politics, Hillsdale College.

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  • Economic Sense and Nonsense

    by Anthony de Jasay

    Economic Sense and Nonsense comprises a collection of sixty essays written by Anthony de Jasay for his monthly column “Reflections from Europe,” on Liberty Fund’s Library of Economics and Liberty website. The articles span the years 2008 to 2012 and focus on economic issues of topical concern in Europe. In this collection Jasay continues his explorations of a number of…

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  • Economic Sophisms and “What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen”

    by Frédéric Bastiat

    This volume, the third in our Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat, includes two of Bastiat’s best-known works, the collected Economic Sophisms and the pamphlet What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen. We are publishing here for the first time in English the Third Series of Economic Sophisms, which Bastiat had planned but died before he could complete the project.

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  • Empire and Nation

    by John Dickinson and Richard Henry Lee

    Two series of letters described as “the wellsprings of nearly all ensuing debate on the limits of governmental power in the United States” address the whole remarkable range of issues provoked by the crisis of British policies in North America out of which a new nation emerged from an overreaching empire. Forrest McDonald is Professor Emeritus of American History at…

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  • Encyclopedic Liberty

    by Denis Diderot and Jean Le Rond d’Alembert

    Often described as the culmination of the French Enlightenment, the Encyclopédie was collected not only to serve as a comprehensive reference work, but to “change the way men think” about every aspect of the human and natural worlds. In his celebrated “Preliminary Discourse” to the compilation, d’Alembert traced an entire history of modern philosophy and science designed to chart the…

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  • The Enforcement of Morals

    by Patrick Devlin

    Are morals always relative? Are private actions—among consenting adults— always beyond the law? Or are there some behaviors which so weaken a society that common beliefs about right and wrong must be enforced to protect the common good? In opposing the decriminalization of private acts of homosexuality in Britain, Patrick Devlin maintained that not only is it reasonable to allow…

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