Classical liberals -or libertarians- say that they believe in liberty. But what do they even mean by that? Doesn't everyone support liberty? What makes classical liberalism different? In this series, Dr. Nigel Ashford takes a close look at what different schools of classical liberalism actually believe, and what they mean by “liberty.”
What is the proper role of government? What should it do? What should it not do? These are fundamental questions that people should be asking themselves. In this series, Dr. Nigel Ashford will explore how different types of “libertarians” answer these questions differently. He encourages you to think deeply about your own beliefs and political philosophy, and draw your own conclusions.
Dr. Ashford takes a close look at Noble Prize winning economist Milton Friedman and the Chicago School. The Chicago School is primarily interested in using empirical evidence to answer the question “what is the proper size of government”? For adherents of the Chicago School, evidence shows that in most cases government is less effective than the free market.
Have you ever wondered why governments grow and grow? Well, there is a school of thought known as “Public Choice” that seeks to answer that question. Public Choice theorists believe there is a simple explanation for ever-expanding government: politicians and bureaucrats are self-interested, and they have a vested interest in growing government. For that reason, public choice theorists advocate very strong limitations on government In order to prevent explosive growth.
Two of the most influential classical liberal thinkers are Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises, both of whom hailed from Austria. The two men agreed on a core principle: it’s impossible for the government to have all the knowledge required to centrally plan the economy. All attempts to do so are doomed to fail.
The idea that all individuals have natural rights is part of the American tradition. But not everyone agrees; some people reject the idea that we all have certain inalienable rights. Two philosophers who argue for natural rights are Ayn Rand and Robert Nozick. These two thinkers argue that the government’s sole purpose is to protect our natural rights.
Do we even need a government? While most people just assume that government is a necessary part of life, there are serious thinkers who disagree. Anarcho-capitalists like Murray Rothbard and David Friedman argue that government is unnecessary, and even undesirable. Dr. Ashford shows how Rothbard and Friedman come to the conclusion that there should be no state at all.
So, what are your beliefs? What do you think the role of government should be? How do you decide what government should or shouldn’t do? What’s your philosophy? Share YOUR thoughts in the discussion below.
What do YOU think the role of government should be?
LearnLiberty.org is a resource for learning about the ideas of a free society. We provide a starting point for conversations on important questions like "What is the nature of man and society?" and "What is the proper role of government?"