The classical liberal/libertarian political heritage is full of intelligent and passionate defenders of individual liberty, justice and equal rights for all. It’s not possible to provide a comprehensive list of all those who have contributed to the philosophy of liberty, but below are some of the most influential thinkers and writers.
|Nobel prize winning economist and intellectually sharp polemicist for the classical liberal cause, Friedman has been an advocate of many pioneering policies. In the US he has been a consistent and long running critic of the War on Drugs, military conscription,and macroeconomic fine tuning. He has also been known as an advocate of education vouchers to introduce competition into the education sector and a ‘negative income tax’ for the working poor to replace the costly apparatus of the welfare state and obviate the need for employment-destroying labour market regulation.
|Yet another Nobel Laureate in Economics, Hayek was noted for his pioneering technical work in the theory of capital and trade cycles. However he later focused his substantial intellectual gifts on economic methodology, political philosophy, social theory, intellectual history and jurisprudence. His two important essays ‘The Use of Knowledge in Society’ and ‘Economics and Knowledge’ outline a research paradigm in economic theory based around the market process and information transmission, the full implications of which are still being explored today. His theory of polycentric law, outlined in Law, Legislation and Liberty, forms the basis for much libertarian social thought.
|A Russian Jewish immigrant to the US, Rand lived through anti-semitism in the Tsarist era followed by the oppressive Bolshevik regime, giving her a genuine awareness of the evils of anti-individualist philosophies which would judge the worth of a person on the basis of tribalistic affiliations, whether from the Left or Right. She went on to write two influential novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged followed by a series of anthologies of essays outlining the tenets of her individualist and Enlightenment-influenced thought. Though she did not outline her thought in a systematic treatise, an integrated system of metaphysics, epistemology, aesthetics, ethics and political theory can be extrapolated from it.
|A Professor of Moral Philosophy, Adam Smith was one of the founding fathers of economics. His most famous work, The Wealth of Nations, contains an impassioned argument for the benefits of free trade and the social value of competitive forces most illuminatingly conceived in his metaphor of the invisible hand. It also contains a critique of monopolies and business collusion and a cautious outline of the proper limits and scope of government. Critics of Smith who argue that his view of human nature is flawed have frequently neither read this work carefully, or its essential accompaniment, his Theory of Moral Sentiments.