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It is blogs like these that can reverse this decline. The spread of ideas, taking advantage of technology that gives us immense possibilities, is what should up making the difference. I myself became a Liberal (in the old sense) in great part by using the internet, reading wikipedia, using youtube, and reading blogs like these.

Very interesting intellectual drivel/garbage. This sort of liberalism the guy is talking about was already dead on arrival. But a nice try!

Watching second video now: love it.

It's surprising how many of those old ideas replaced by liberalism have come back and are actually being discussed now again, even by self-professed (European) liberals .

Enjoyed that very much. I watched the second part also. This is the type of history that I never got in school. Was wondering if he has written a book on this?

Great video. Reminded me of RTS a bit, Hayek's take on the decline on classical liberalism and its replacement by collectivism.

What can help? Intellectuals not being afraid to get involved in the political process. Staying true to their search for knowledge while at the same time acknowledging that they are embedded in a socio-politco-economic reality which may benefit from a more activist participation from them. Being more outspoken about their views on current events to wider audiences. Doing what the liberals did in part 2 of the videos to bring about liberalism's first great triumph, and not taking your eye off the ball. Getting more involved outside of your comfort zones basically, with an earnest attempt and hope that your efforts will bring about the ends you seek.

I'm also curious, has Dr. Davies has written a book?

I watched both fantastic videos.

On the decline:
I think Steve's lecture is very strong as description of the explanandum, but not as strong as explanation for that explanandum.

For explanation, I would make prominent the Hayekian atavism thesis, that is, collectivism as a reassertion of band-man instincts, bents, mentality, and ethos.

Steve did nationalism, but democracy needs to be integrated into that, esp. if one proffers the Hayekian atavism thesis, and if one wishes to speak to the contests before us.

Another line of explanation I'd like to see better developed is disappointment with liberalism (Maine, Pop. Govt., 160, 174). This relates to Steve's distinction between promising improvement and promising progress. In general, I think that Benthamite liberals and others, perhaps Bastiat and other political economists, in a sense oversold liberalism -- as though it would actually make people happy or make life meaningful. (Here is another way in which Hume and Smith are better than what followed.)

The foregoing parts of an explanations are, willy-nilly, quite congruent with Karl Polanyi's The Great Transformation. We should look there for help with explaining the decline.

Another angle that I think is important is the curse of governing, the curse of political success. This relates to disappointment, but also to the inherent tensions of liberal governing. This relates to Steve's remarks about liberals having become complacent (circa 1860).

Great lectures. I listen attentively to all of Steve's online lectures.


I have only watched the first one so far, which is very good, but I believe I agree with you that he is missing Hayek's explanation.

At the very time as most people got the vote, the majority of the population in countries all over the world moved from being self-owning artisans and farmers to becoming factory workers. The new generation therefore had no practical experience with private ownership. What they did have was frequently the experience of being herded like cattle by "capitalists".

As their tribal identification was not with the company, in self-defense they formed unions and became socialists/collectivists.

If we are talking about winning a battle of ideas, it is likely that the psychological thesis of "the atavism of justice" is less important than the conjunction of three strands of thought, (1) the tradition of utopian social thought which can be traced from Plato, whereby the social system is planned and directed by a central authority, (2) the tradition of helping the weak, which in the West is essentially the moral legacy of Christianity and (3) a cluster of ideas including utopianism and collectivism, with the aim of shifting wealth from the haves to the have-nots using the power of the state to impose the desired changes.

We need to keep alive the tradition of helping the poor and weak while demonstrating that classical liberalism is the way to do it.

Those thoughts came out of a review that I wrote of The Fatal Conceit, which also signaled that classical liberalism was marching out of our traditional strongholds in philosophy and political economy to take on the wider cultural agenda. http://www.the-rathouse.com/HayFatalConceit.html

In that venture we need to recruit some players who have been overlooked in team selection, or kept on the bench, such as Jacques Barzun (104 this year!) for history, education and cultural studies, Karl Buhler and Ian Suttie (hermeneutics and psychology), Rene Wellek (literary scholarship)and a few others.

I listened to both lectures and really enjoyed them. But I think Davies makes the mistake that McCloskey wrote is common among historians: they ignore religion.

What was the "wave" that the liberal were skilfully riding, as Davies says? It was the rise of Protestantism in the West.

The great liberal ideas that Davies champions came from the Catholic scholastics of the 16th century, and were expanded upon by Protestants, especially the idea of freedom of religion. They were first implemented in the Dutch Republic.

The concept of a limited state came from the Spanish Scholastics discussion of Spain's treatment of natives in the Americas.

Persecution and murder of citizens by the state for their religious beliefs convinced people of the need to limit the state.

At the same time, scholastic theology elevated the esteem of commerce.

The liberal advances of the mid 19tch century rode the crest of the wave. Freedom of religion in the Dutch Republic and later in France allowed the growth of atheism, which gave birth to socialism (see Hayek's Counter-Revolution).

In the late 19th century Germans invented "modern" Christianity, which denied the fundamental truths of orthodoxy. As modernist "Christianity" swept the West, support for liberalism died.

Today liberals have no wave to ride in on. The lure of the perfectibility of human nature through state control is the dominant religion among the religious and atheists.

We don't fight against theories about economics and government. We fight against theories about human nature and its salvation.

"We don't fight against theories about economics and government. We fight against theories about human nature and its salvation."

Amen to that. Would that everyone understood that.

McKinney - nice post. Any particular resources which you'd recommend on the influence of religion on liberalism? Do you think Catholicism and Protestantism are different in this respect?

John: “McKinney - nice post. Any particular resources which you'd recommend on the influence of religion on liberalism? Do you think Catholicism and Protestantism are different in this respect?”

There isn’t one book that has it all. The works of the Scholars at Salamanca are the most important. Wikipedia has a good article on School of Salamanca and the mises.org has several good articles. Google for Hayek’s paper on the school, which he wrote for the Mont Pelerin meeting there. Rothbard has some good material in his history of economic thought as does Schumpeter’s history.

Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations” is a good source. He holds up the Dutch Republic as the best example of liberty several times. That’s why I became interested in the nation. Jonathan Israel’s “The Dutch Republic” will show you why that nation deserves to be called the birthplace of capitalism.

But the Dutch didn’t have any new ideas. They merely implemented ideas from the Salamancan Scholastics, which probably came to them from Lessius who taught Grotius. Acton.org has a back issue of their Journal of Markets and Morality with the economics of Lessius.

Not all Protestants were free market. Calvin definitely wasn’t and neither were the Calvinists of the Dutch Republic. But they were overruled most of the time by the “Erasmian” Protestants on economic matters while giving in on theology.

Protestants took the economics of the Scholastics and ran with it. Catholics seemed to have rebelled against it in the counter-reformation because Protestants embraced it.

Check out acton.org. It is mostly Catholic, but includes some Protestant work and is very pro-capitalist.

PS, Deirdre McCloskey's latest two volumes in the Bourgeois Values series attributes much of the change in values to the Salamancan scholars, too.

Hmm... I had always thought that liberalism was primarily developed and implemented in the Anglo-Saxon nations (Britain and America).

Also, given Max Weber's work (how reliable it is, I don't know), I had implicitly assumed that Protestant countries were somehow more congenial to free-market/capitalist practices, compared to Catholic countries.

Catholicism and Protestantism have significant differences - I am sure that would have accounted for some of the differences in development between Catholic and Protestant countries.

I like Wilhelm Ropke btw. He was a firm Protestant (whether evangelical or not, I do not know) but found much of interest in Catholic social teaching. I found it particularly attractive that he suggested a free-market economy could only properly function with healthy social institutions (especially the family) and a robust moral order. This conservative-liberal approach is rather Burkean, in contrast with libertarian views which assumes that everything would somehow work itself out.

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