Front Page Titles (by Subject) Liberalism and Self-Interest - Literature of Liberty, April/June 1979, vol. 2, No. 2
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
Liberalism and Self-Interest - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, April/June 1979, vol. 2, No. 2 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
This work is copyrighted by the Institute for Humane Studies, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, and is put online with their permission.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Liberalism and Self-Interest
“Crime, Death, and Loyalty in English Liberalism.” Political Theory 6 (May 1978): 213–232.
Touching on many themes, Eisenach primarily attempts to separate two approaches in English liberalism for explaining human action. One theory bases learning and action on a desire to maximize self-interest in conditions of scarcity. Related to this is a conception of just society which limits government to enforcing contracts and protecting persons and their property. The second approach in liberalism attempts to uncover the springs of action through investigating the historical origins and development of political societies.
Even though these two approaches are distinguishable, some liberal writers, Locke for example, make use of both. Yet, according to Eisenach, “These two patterns of explaining human actions—one set in the timeless logic of psychological empiricism, the other located in the specificity of historical speech and actions—come into obvious conflict in discussions of political loyalty and physical coercion.”
Eisenach examines the treatment of crime, criminals, and coercion in three analytical contexts: (1) “In a state of nature,” (2) “in recorded history, both sacred and secular,” and (3) “in the future, occasioned by the victory of liberal economic and legal values.” By isolating these treatments of crime, criminals, and punishment, Eisenach hopes to show their importance to theories of political loyalty. An understanding of the issues arising from crime and punishment can enlarge our understanding of the problem of political obligation. In particular, Eisenach analyzes the often intriguing relationship between the role of religion and public (governmental) crime.