Political theorists

Readings in Political Theory: Foundations of Liberalism and Libertarianism


This course was available in the past and may be presented again as part of the Open Enrollment curriculum.

This course focuses on the foundations of classical liberalism and libertarianism. During the first several weeks, it considers the development of ideas for a liberal society in texts written in the 1600s and 1700s in Europe and in America. These texts by Locke, Montesquieu, and the Founders developed such ideas as freedom, equality, natural rights, private property, commerce, the rule of law, the separation of powers, and accountability, ideas that challenged claims and presuppositions of the great age of monarchy in which they emerged. Indeed, those ideas gained traction in response to a signature of that age, namely, the claim of kings to rule by divine right. The last weeks of the course fast forward to a text written in the late 1900s by one of the chief architects of libertarianism, Friedrich Hayek. Although Hayek championed the intentions of classical liberalism, he criticized its consequences and tendencies, which he traced largely to its constitutional designs. He thus made it his project to design a constitution that better served the principal ideas of classical liberalism—individual freedom and government accountability. In the last text, Hayek explains and defends his model constitution.

Course Outline

Required Texts:

John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, ed. C. B. Macpherson ISBN 0-915144-86-7

John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration, ed. James H. Tully ISBN 0-915145-60-X

Hamilton, Madison, Jay, The Federalist Papers, ed. Clinton Rossiter ISBN 978-0-451-52881-0

Friedrich Hayek, Law, Legislation, and Liberty: Vol. 3, The Political Order of a Free People ISBN 978-0-226-32090-8


Online registration deadline: Thursday, Sept 22 at 5 pm CT.