The Big Tent of Liberalism

Release Date
June 26, 2017


Free Speech Liberty Philosophy

From the beginning, classical liberalism has been a big tent with a wide diversity of ideas inside it. Watch the full interview with Dave Rubin and Brandon Turner here .

    1. What is “Libertarian”? Schools of Thought in Classical Liberalism (on demand program): Want to learn about classical liberalism? In this on demand program, Nigel Ashford explains the different schools of thought within the ideology, including the Austrian School, natural rights theorists, and anarcho-capitalists.
    2. Giants of the Scottish Enlightenment Part 3: David Hume (video): Professor James Stacey Taylor discusses the work of philosopher David Hume and the impact he had on classical liberalism. This video is part of a series on three of the most important thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment. 
    3. The History of Classical Liberalism – Learn Liberty (video): In this lecture, Professor Steve Davies describes the history of classical liberalism. 

Brandon Turner: When we talk about classical liberalism, I mean, this is a function of the way that we talk about ideology. In other words, you look at Locke, you look at Hume, you look at Smith, none of these guys, even as they produced the liberal tradition, none of them knew they were liberals, right? In other words, we looked back; we said the set of ideas, the doctrines that were produced by this general set of thinkers, this canon … we’ll set the lines here; we’ll say anyone within this … this way of thinking, we’ll call it liberalism.
There’s many ways in which … You take even people as chronologically close to one another as Locke and Hume, I mean, they disagreed very strongly on a number of different things. Hume is not a natural rights theorist. Hume is extremely shy on the right of resistance and all this kind of stuff. Yet I think we would say that both of them contributed to something that, looking back, we call the liberal project.
Liberalism, I think, tends to be much, much broader, much, much bigger, than libertarianism. I mean, I would say that today both major political parties … Well, 10 years ago, I would’ve said both major political parties in America would fit within the tradition of liberalism, broadly understood. I mean, very few people are running around today saying we ought to suspend rights of due process, we ought to suspend free speech, or something like that. Very few people are offering what I would consider to be real alternatives to liberalism, whatever those alternatives might be. They might be theocracy. They might be communism.
In other words, we seem to have in some sense settled on the idea that individuals have claims against the state, that individuals ought to be as free as possible, and all this kind of stuff. In many ways, we’re kind of working out on the margins of that particular view. Libertarianism seems to me kind of a smaller political doctrine within that broader thing that we call liberalism.