By Alberto Mingardi
On the Library of Law and Liberty website, I have a long review of Edmund Fawcett’s book “Liberalism: The Life of an Idea“. Fawcett writes well and his book is a pleasant read. But he considers “liberalism” such a vague and loose ideology that it is very difficult to find any consistency in it. Sure, Friedrich Hayek and Jean Paul Sartre may have had something in common. They both wore glasses, for example. But if we need to discuss what a political doctrine is about, we need to draw a line, at some point.
Furthermore, I found his dismissal of Ludwig von Mises rather disappointing. Sure enough, one can be a classical liberal and find Mises’ framework unattractive. However, I always find questioning an author’s motives, instead of engaging with his thinking, a rather dubious endeavor. A book published a few years ago basically claimed that Thomas Babbington Macaulay was basically a great hypocrite, and so what he wrote shouldn’t be taken particularly seriously. I would contend that, if you want to wrestle with a thinker, you should engage with what he wrote. Biographies are important to place the work in context, but any information on the purported lack of attention from somebody’s mother during the subject’s childhood, her networks of friends or sources of research grants she received, is a poor substitute for reading and commenting on her words.