Social Darwinism applied the idea of “survival of the fittest” to society to poor ends. However, its intellectual founders did not share those views.
George H. Smith
George H. Smith was formerly Senior Research Fellow for the Institute for Humane Studies, a lecturer on American History for Cato Summer Seminars, and Executive Editor of Knowledge Products. Smith's fourth and most recent book, The System of Liberty, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2013.
Smith discusses the schism in the abolitionist movement over the constitutionality of slavery, and he begins his analysis of Lysander Spooner’s arguments in The Unconstitutionality of Slavery.
George H. Smith discusses Joseph Butler’s influential theory of psychology and his ideas about self-interest and benevolence.
Smith summarizes Lysander Spooner’s objections to the most popular arguments in favor of the prohibition of alcohol.
George H. Smith discusses various objections to the claim that all actions are necessarily self-interested.
Existentialist philosophy focuses on the individual. Its moral implications, while sometimes criticized, can also have uses for libertarian thought.
Praxeology, as popularized by Ludwig von Mises, is an interdisciplinary approach to social questions that abstracts and thus universally explains human action.
George H. Smith discusses the Hobbesian theory of self-interest and why classical liberals were so intent on refuting it.
In this entry, George H. Smith addresses the idea of conscience in western thought and the importance of liberty of conscience to be maintained.
Methodological individualism is the methodological framework wherein individuals are seen as the agents of actions and values that form social phenomena.
Mercantilism was the belief that wealth of nations was based on the amount of money held by the nation, through high internal protections and a focus on exports.
Smith discusses the influence of puritanism, the religious revival in the early 19th century, and Spooner’s disagreements with Christian ethics.
Freedom of thought includes the notion that religion and personal value systems should be unregulated, and that expressing all values must be permitted.
A notable early economist, Richard Cantillon is influential for his theories on the self-regulating market, entrepreneurship, and prices.
The physiocrats were French laissez-faire economists in the late 18th century who based their policies and writings on natural reason and science.
George H. Smith explains David Hume’s theory of the social evolution of our ideas about justice.
Thomas Aquinas was a philosopher who greatly influenced Catholic thought and promoted law not as a way to regulate morality, but to allow human choice.
As part of the overthrow of the French monarchy in 1789, this document served as the first attempt at capturing the ideals of a possible French Republic.