Please note: there are 30 seconds of nothing at the beginning of this video!
The video was created for presentation at a session on Democracy at Chicago (in the Chicago School of Economics), at the Southern Economic Association meetings, November, 2011.
Over the last thirty years of his life, the Chicago economist Frank H. Knight concentrated his efforts on the elaboration of a new liberalism for the post-war era. Three things were necessary, he argued, to restore health to liberalism. First, free society required an appreciation for the basic economic principles of a free market economy, and of their limitations as guides to action. Secondly, democratic society needed to recognize the benefits and limitations of political solutions to social problems. Democratic action was essentially government by discussion, and hence the potential for persuasion, fraudulent speech and salesmanship should be recognized alongside the acceptance of the exploratory nature of all social action. Finally, a free society required free and responsible individuals, which meant that liberalism needed an independent conception of the ethics of freedom.
The dilemma of Knight’s theory of liberalism is that his three-fold conception of liberalism stalled on his inability to articulate how liberalism could generate an independent conception of ethics. Thus, while he raised key issues regarding the prospects of free societies, he could not settle the fundamental question of whether “human nature has what it takes to solve the problems … raised by its liberation” (Knight, Intelligence and Democratic Action, p. 141).
Lecture is related to material covered in MC 497, which is my senior seminar on "Freedom, Justice and Constitutionalism," Fall 2011, at the Michigan State University Podcast Studio. Creative Commons License: Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivatives; held by Michigan State University and Ross Emmett. Used with permission. For details, see Ross Emmett's website, rossbemmett.com.