Mill’s four essays, ‘On Liberty’, ‘Utilitarianism’, ‘Considerations on Representative Government’, and ‘The Subjection of Women’ examine the most central issues that face liberal democratic regimes – whether in the nineteenth century or the twenty-first. They have formed the basis for many of the political institutions of the West since the late nineteenth century, tackling as they do the appropriate grounds for protecting individual liberty, the basic principles of ethics, the benefits and the costs of representative institutions, and the central importance of gender equality in society.
Frederic Bastiat, who was born two hundred years ago, was a leader of the French laissez-faire tradition in the first half of the nineteenth century. He was influenced by Cobden’s Anti-Corn Law League and became a convinced free trader. Joseph Schumpeter described Bastiat as ‘the most brilliant economic journalist who ever lived’. In The Law, written in 1850, the year of his death, Bastiat recognises the central importance of the law and morality in a free society. He was concerned that government was using the ‘law’ to become too active a participant in the economy whilst devoting too little attention to protecting life and liberty. This Occasional Paper, which reprints an English translation of The Law, includes a new introduction by Professor Norman Barry of the University of Buckingham which places Bastiat’s views in their historical context and explains their continuing relevance today.
Best known for his revolutionary free-market economics treatise The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith was first and foremost a moral philosopher. In his first book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, he investigated the flip side of economic self-interest: the interest of the greater good. Smith’s classic work advances ideas about conscience, moral judgement and virtue that have taken on renewed importance in business and politics.
Ayn Rand here sets forth the moral principles of Objectivism, the philosophy that holds human life–the life proper to a rational being–as the standard of moral values and regards altruism as incompatible with man’s nature, with the creative requirements of his survival, and with a free society.
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