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One Volume Surveys of Classical Liberalism

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This is a list of one volume surveys of the classical liberal position which have appeared over the past two centuries. The defining characteristic is that they are an attempt to provide the reader with a survey of the basic political and economic principles behind the classical liberal tradition as well as some concrete proposals for reform in order to bring about a freer society. With the exception of Wilhelm von Humboldt’s The Limits of State Action which was written in 1792 but was not published in full until 1854, it seems that it was not until the mid-19th century before people began thinking of classical liberalism as a coherent body of thought which could be encapsulated in a one volume treatment.

The list in chronological order is:

  • Wilhelm von Humboldt, The Sphere and Duties of Government (The Limits of State Action) (1792, 1854)
  • Gustave de Molinari, Les Soirées de la rue Saint-Lazare (Conversations on Saint Lazarus Street) (1849)
  • Herbert Spencer, Social Statics (1851)
  • J.S. Mill, On Liberty (1859)
  • Herbert Spencer, The Principles of Ethics (1879)
  • Bruce Smith, Liberty and Liberalism (1888)
  • Ludwig von Mises, Liberalism (1927)

Other important one volume surveys which are not available at the OLL:

  • Friedrich Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty (1960)
  • Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (1962)
  • Murray Rothbard, For a New Liberty (1974)

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