Core Classical Liberal Principles and Ideas

At the Institute for Humane Studies, we believe that ideas within the classical liberal intellectual tradition are a driving force of well-being for all people.

The classical liberal tradition has a rich history, drawing upon a variety of ancient and medieval sources, as well as eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth century thinkers. It continues to be developed by scholars today. Like all vibrant intellectual traditions, classical liberal thought includes diverse points of view about important questions regarding the nature of society, the individual, and the relationship between the two. With that said, some principles and ideas, like the ones described below, feature prominently in the classical liberal tradition.

We believe that these ideas are particularly important for understanding and supporting the good society—a pluralistic society in which intellectual and economic progress are the norm, and where individuals flourish in a context of openness, voluntary and peaceful cooperation, and mutual respect.

Each of the principles and ideas we describe below has a rich intellectual tradition of its own that continues to develop. These brief descriptions are intended to serve as a starting point—an invitation to inquiry—that we hope will lead to deeper conversations.