Daniel Klein categorizes classical liberals

Here is the abstract:

To participate in establishment political culture one must win recognition by the establishment. Classical liberals have to choose between forthrightness and establishment respectability. Klein will present a framework for distinguishing three types of classical liberal prophets:

  • Challengers focus on fundamentals and point to major policy reforms, notably abolitions. They attack the establishment and its entire culture, and seek to influence the young. Examples: Thomas Paine, Frederic Bastiat, Ludwig von Mises, Thomas Szasz, and Murray Rothbard.
  • Bargainers point to incremental liberalization and obscure the deeper principles. They enjoy mainstream position and seek to influence the currently influential. Examples include Friedrich Hayek, Aaron Wildavsky, Richard Epstein, and Tyler Cowen.
  • Royalty: Whereas the first two types are critics who feel somewhat alienated from establishment culture, royalty are those who enjoy cultural pre-eminence, particularly high academic prestige. Royalty ride a sense of ascendancy. They downplay radicalism. The leading examples are Adam Smith and Milton Friedman.

        Klein will develop two ideas:

1. In the current ideological climate there is little prospect for classical-liberal royalty. In fact, Milton Friedman was something of an aberration.

2. Challengers and bargainers sometimes regard each other with disdain and mistrust. But both are vital to the advancement of their common cause.

Here is the full paper, entitled "Mere Libertarianism: Blending Hayek and Rothbard." 

I view my own writings as less strategic and less "negotiating" than Klein’s analysis would indicate.  Of course Klein has the right — I would say the duty — to read an author as he pleases and not as that author would self-describe.  After all, we all know that Melville’s "Bartleby" is really about the contagious nature of homosexual obsession.  It really is.

Addendum: Dan Klein informs me this is an abstract for a related talk, not for the paper itself.


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