Liberalism

  1. Bastiat, Frédéric. The Law
  2. Bentham, Jeremy. An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation
  3. Berlin, Isaiah. Liberty
  4. Constant, Benjamin. Political Writings
  5. Friedman, Milton, Rose Friedman. Free to Choose: A Personal Statement
  6. Hamilton, Alexander, James Madison, John Jay. The Federalist Papers
  7. Hayek, Friedrich. The Road to Serfdom
  8. —. The Constitution of Liberty
  9. Hazlitt, Henry. The Foundations of Morality
  10. Holmes, Oliver Wendell, Jr. The Common Law
  11. Humboldt, Wilhelm von. The Sphere of Duties of Government
  12. Hume, David. A Treatise of Human Nature
  13. Israel, Jonathan. Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity, 1650-1750
  14. —. Enlightenment Contested: Philosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation of Man 1670-1752
  15. —. Democratic Enlightenment: Philosophy, Revolution, and Human Rights, 1750-1790
  16. Locke, John. Two Treatises of Government
  17. Mill, James. The Principles of Toleration
  18. Mill, John Stuart. On Liberty
  19. —. On Social Freedom
  20. —. A Few Words on Non-Intervention
  21. Mises, Ludwig von. Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis
  22. Montesquieu, Charles de. The Spirit of the Laws
  23. Nozick, Robert. Anarchy, State, and Utopia
  24. Paine, Thomas. Rights of Man
  25. Popper, Karl. The Open Society and its Enemies (2 volumes)
  26. Pufendorf, Samuel. On the Duty of Man and Citizen
  27. Rawls, John. A Theory of Justice
  28. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Social Contract
  29. Smith, Adam. The Theory of Moral Sentiments
  30. Spencer, Herbert. The Principles of Ethics
  31. Tocqueville, Alexis de. Democracy in America
  32. Wollstonecraft, Mary. Vindication of the Rights of Men
  33. —. Vindication of the Rights of Woman

These thinkers were influenced significantly by the work of earlier luminaries such as Laozi, Aristotle, Cicero, Erasmus, Thomas Hobbes, and Baruch Spinoza. However, it would be anachronistic to call these philosophers ‘Liberals,’ and I have therefore left out their works from this reading list. After all, liberalism was a nineteenth century political ideology, and the earlier thinkers do not match entirely with their latter counterparts. For example, Aristotle defended slavery and did not believe that liberty was the end goal of a state, but that it was eudaimonia. Nonetheless, the later thinkers distilled principal ideas relevant to their times from the classical thinkers and these are reflected in the Liberal canon.

Here is a YouTube video that explains the basic tenets of classical liberalism in slightly over seven minutes: Nigel Ashford on classical liberalism. He enumerates the ten basic principles as 1. Liberty as the primary political value, 2. Individualism, 3. Scepticism about power, 4. Rule of law, 5. Civil society, 6. Spontaneous order, 7. Free markets, 8. Toleration, 9. Peace, and 10. Limited government.

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