Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Books on Classical Liberalism

Over the past few years I've been searching for intellectual histories or political histories of classical liberalism. To my surprise it has not been easy, fortunately I have had accesss to an excellent used bookstore where I found all but one of the following. I offer this list as a reference for others who may be similarly engaged. We are most definitely in need of historical studies of classical liberalism written by contemporary scholars. In my experience it is easier to find books on socialism and fascism than classical liberalism. Classical liberalism is in many ways invisible. I was a classical liberal without knowing it until my early 30s. This shouldn't happen. Teenagers and college students whose intellectual abilities are flowering should be encountering classical liberal ideas the way they encounter Milwaukee's Best and the ubiquitous Che image. People shouldn't be floating around without a political identity for years, like I did, wondering why they don't fit in politically despite their belief and commitment to freedom and individual liberty. For me, I first discovered libertarianism, and then as I was browsing through libertarian articles and books I kept coming across "classical liberalism", "19th century liberalism", "true liberalism" etc. and I was baffled: to me liberalism was always regulatory-welfare state liberalism. Classical liberalism is the philosophy of freedom. It is essential that its ideas, history and development be common knowledge. We should be able to walk into any bookstore across the country and find a variety of histories and biographies on classical liberalism written by contemporary writers. We have a rich and varied literature on the American Founding, we need to have the same kind of literature on all the various aspects of classical liberalism. Until that happens, I offer the following as the best that we've got. If anyone has other recomendations please leave them in the comments, I'm always on the prowl for new books:

Liberalism by John Gray

Liberalism--In the Classical Tradition by Ludwig von Mises

Liberalism by D.J. Manning

The History of European Liberalism by Guido de Ruggiero

An Intellectual History of Liberalism by Pierre Manent

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