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Prof. Daniel Klein on Liberalism 1.0: The Genealogy of Classical Liberalism

  • Adam Smith Institute 23 Great Smith Street London, England, SW1P 3DJ United Kingdom (map)

“The child of jurisprudence is liberalism.” — J.G.A. Pocock 

Daniel Klein will discuss the emergence of liberal thought, starting with the wars of religion, touching on the jurisprudence of Grotius, Pufendorf, and Barbeyrac, and the political theory of Locke. He will then channel David Hume and especially Adam Smith to offer basic formulations for understanding what liberal should mean to us. Such formulations involve some analysis of justice and liberty, the presupposition of a stable polity, and other ingredients. But Klein promises not to go overboard with the hair-splitting. The goal is to sketch out the essence of original liberalism — a.k.a, “classical liberalism” — or Liberalism 1.0 — and argue that Liberalism 1.0 remained the central understanding down to 1880 or so. He will briefly summarize the semantic history of “liberal”. Klein will project a big-tent of “mere liberalism,” but argue that the tent is not so big as to be able to accommodate those who are, in North America, customarily called “liberal;” they merit other significations.

Daniel Klein is professor of economics and JIN Chair at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, where he leads a program in Adam Smith. He is author of Knowledge and Coordination: A Liberal Interpretation (OxfordUP, 2012) and chief editor of Econ Journal Watch.