Monday, August 2, 2010

A Different Look at Classical Liberalism

by Jeffrey A. Tucker

Mises Daily
August 1, 2010

Forty years ago, historian Ralph Raico completed his dissertation under the direction of F.A. Hayek at the University of Chicago. Its title masks its power and importance: The Place of Religion in the Liberal Philosophy of Constant, Tocqueville, and Lord Acton. It has been published for the first time by the Mises Institute, and this is not merely to honor a great historian and thinker. The research contained within it amounts to a major contribution to the public intellectual life of the United States at the time. The issue he addresses — the revelation of a different form of early liberalism — has major implications in our own time as well.

Let us back up a bit and understand the controversies that were boiling over in the 1960s. The Cold War was raging. Conservatism, to whom the defense of free enterprise had fallen after the Second World War, had already been redefined (or even defined) by the work of National Review to mean the backing of the US military state in its life-or-death struggle with communism abroad. Though young people today know next to nothing about this entire episode in American political culture, it was all-consuming for most anyone living between 1955 and 1990.