For centuries, brilliant political philosophers have taken on their ideological opponents by proving that their foes’ beliefs logically imply anarchism. This was long considered a self-evident reductio ad absurdum that falsifies a political claim: If you can’t defend the state, you must be wrong.
But maybe they were all correct. Maybe the state really can’t be justified.
George H. Smith is an independent scholar who for many decades has lectured and written about the history of classical liberal and libertarian ideas. The System of Liberty is his first extended take on this history to be published by a high-level academic press—a tribute both to Smith’s dogged scholarship and to the rise in the respectability of the libertarian tradition he explains and espouses. The book is more collection of essays than unified history, exploring, as the subtitle promises, various “themes in the history of classical liberalism.” Without rigorously drawing its borders, Smith defines classical liberalism as an outlook that sees individual freedom as the highest political value. By Smith’s account it first cohered in the 17th century, though unrefined elements of it can be found in older Greek and Catholic traditions.
Read more via When All Else Fails, Try Anarchy – Reason.com.