July 24

Ep. 0015: The Age of Classical Liberalism in Europe

The episode following this one (ie, Ep. 0016, due out Monday the 28th) will begin a multi-part series on the First World War.  So I figured it would be a good idea to give an overview of what Europe was like before that huge turning point conflict.  The 99 years from 1815 (when Napoleon was finally defeated for good) to 1914 (when WWI started) were years in which the dominant ideology in most of Europe (especially the more advanced parts of Western Europe) was that of ‘Liberalism,’ in the old sense of the word — or what today we have to call ‘Classical Liberalism.’

Join Prof CJ as he discusses:

  •  A brief explanation of classical liberalism as an ideology
  • Some quotes and information about 19th century Europe that illustrate some ways in which things were better than in the 20th century (especially compared to the era of the World Wars)
  • How classical liberalism was never fully implemented anywhere in the world — even countries such as the United States and United Kingdom, which were strongholds of the ideology, still had significant deviations from it
  • The worldwide trend towards centralization between roughly the 1860s and 1900, which boded ill for classical liberalism and which can be seen in varying forms in the US, Japan, Canada, Italy, Germany, France, and Russia, among other countries
  • Tools of centralization, which included compulsory social insurance programs, compulsory state education; and military conscription
  • Some brief highlights of France, Britain, and Germany in the decades prior to the Great War
  • How mass democracy was a key factor in bringing down classical liberalism as an influential ideology European governments, because working-class voters tended to vote either for nationalist/imperialist parties, or for socialist parties, leaving classical liberalism as a doctrine without a mass constituency.  (In other words, the masses preferred to vote for varying flavors of collectivism.)
  • The fatal flaw of classical liberalism as a political belief system, which the bloody 20th century gruesomely illustrated

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Posted July 24, 2014 by profcj in category "Modern World History", "Podcasts


  1. By Getting educated on

    In a world full of strong centrilized governments, and the noted warmongering tendencies of those large state governments giving the opportunities, what hope is there for either here in the United States or in other places to have a peoples revolution that leads to a truly minimal state or even the full abolishment of the state? I’ve recently learned that the abolishment of the state occurred in Catalonia in Spain that lasted for roughly 1 year but was heavily pressured by communists on one side and Franco on the other side and was squished between the two. Strong state governments the world over would fear the success (and did) of such a political reality for the obvious reason of it being a living example of an alternate political system in which the central state would cease to exist yet society continues to function just as well if not better. So my question is, assuming a place that classical liberal or even anarchist system is established, how is it able to attend to its own national defenese with any hope of success against huge centralized military industrial states that would look to smash and colonize it?

    1. By Dusan Vilicic Held on

      @Getting educated: That wasn’t an abolishment of the state, that was just communists and syndicalists imposing their own totalitarian state apparatus. See “The Anarcho-Statists of Spain” by Bryan Caplan [http://econfaculty.gmu.edu/bcaplan/spain.htm].


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