LibertyMatters is hosting a discussion over a fascinating article by George H. Smith, on Herbert Spencer’s sociology of the state. David Levy, Roderick Long and yours truly will comment on Smith in the next few days. I am sure it will be an interesting exchange.

Among contemporary libertarians, George Smith has been one of the very few who has considered Spencer seriously and studied him thoroughly. His article explains why Spencer’s sociology may be puzzling for his libertarian readers. In short, there is a tension between Spencer’s positive view of societal development, and his normative recommendations as a libertarian philosopher.

Smith writes that he regards Spencer as “one of the most fascinating and complex figures in the history of classical liberalism” (emphasis added). This may sound bizarre to many. At best, people nowadays consider Spencer just a naive advocate of laissez faire. If you do too, Smith’s article may convince you that perhaps Spencer is worth reading (and getting puzzled with).