Hans Eicholz

Hans Eicholz is a historian and Liberty Fund Senior Fellow. He is the author of Harmonizing Sentiments: The Declaration of Independence and the Jeffersonian Idea of Self-Government (2001), and more recently a contributor to The Constitutionalism of American States (2008).

Moral Language and Time Preferences: Assessing the Great Libertarian Lacuna

Erfolg im Business Handshake

William Ruger and Jason Sorens have identified a lacuna in both thought and rhetoric in the current conceptualization of individual freedom on the part of libertarians: an inability or perhaps unwillingness to engage arguments for virtuous self-government. 

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Schmitt and the Power of Language

Jeremy Rabkin has captured a good sense of Carl Schmitt in his Liberty Forum essay. Like him, I agree that it is difficult to grapple with the author’s exceedingly abstract prose. But there is a certain urgency that requires us to try, if only because, as Rabkin has also shown, the allure is proving all too powerful for a certain set of intellectuals for whom Schmitt, precisely because of the taboo quality of his oeuvre, projects an “enduring fascination.” As much then as we might like to ignore him, that won’t do. We have to unpack the arguments and their…

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In response to: Springtime for Schmitt

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Rethinking the Political Horizon of Liberalism

At the outset of his provocative Liberty Forum essay, Jeremy Rabkin notes that the most remarkable thing about Carl Schmitt is “his appeal to contemporary academics in the English-speaking world.” Schmitt’s literary afterlife and the current level of interest in his works are, indeed, surprising given his infamous political trajectory and his ambiguous and unconvincing…

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Carl Schmitt, Between Banality and Catholicism

Encountering Carl Schmitt for the first time is a shock, especially if one is raised to respect what Jeremy Rabkin, in his Liberty Forum essay, correctly describes as the liberal pieties. But if one cares about liberalism it would be a mistake to write Schmitt off as a Nazi, a nihilist, or a promoter of…

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The Currency of Destruction


When Gary Becker put forward his idea of human capital in 1964, it was to address the effects of knowledge and training on individual economic performance. This idea can and should be extended to gauge the productive capacities of society in general.

Cultural patterns of behavior that become engrained over time, such as norms of punctuality, honesty, sobriety, or what others might call social capital, are just another way of speaking about human capital. When Max Weber described the attributes of character that marked the modern bourgeois, he was in fact emphasizing patterns of beliefs that facilitated the operation of markets by enabling individuals to effectively negotiate their social landscape—to engage in commerce and production over the long run.

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Towards a Global Dystopia

Global community

There is a great and dangerous Trust seeking to form globally. Like any monopoly in days past, or OPEC now, its aim is profit. But its means are far more sinister, and potentially far more effective, than anything ever investigated by the Pujo Committee.

Rather than merely raising revenues on some good or service, this Trust will follow you wherever you might run. Nothing like it has been seen since the days of the fugitive slave acts. It is more controlling than when medieval lords bound their serfs to their estates, or the Roman latifundia forced Romans back to the land. The idea: To attach a uniform worldwide rate upon the surplus of your productive endeavors for the benefit of its members.

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Can Scotland Govern Itself?

Editor’s Note: This excellent post by Hans Eicholz on the need for the Scots to recover their former capitalist and free society enthusiasms if they are to govern themselves is worthy of re-consideration today.


What does it take to secure an independent, self-governing nation? Arguably it takes a self-governing citizenry. And what does that mean? Generally speaking, it means a citizenry composed of persons capable of independent thought and action—capable of sustaining themselves through much of the thick and thin of life through their own voluntary efforts in civil society.

A modern welfare state works directly against that capacity by encouraging ties of hierarchical dependence on political authorities. The modern fallacy is to believe that majority voting is sufficient to prevent the abuse of power; anyone familiar with the workings of government cannot seriously entertain that idea.

The wild increase in laws and more importantly, administrative agency rules, does not translate into the rule of law, but into the selective enforcement of special programs by those entrusted to administer them. That sort of re-feudalization of the economy and society was well understood by Mancur Olson years ago in his book, The Rise and Decline of Nations. But Olson was really only further developing the critique of mercantilism first put forward by Adam Smith.

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Charles Koch’s Jefferson

JeffersonTo whom does Jefferson belong in today’s political debates? The reality, it seems, is everyone. Quotes can be found on almost any topic expressing virtually any sentiment, in large measure because unlike so many others of his day, Jefferson saved everything.

That’s why I am rarely bothered by either side of the political spectrum quoting him. What does bother me, though, is when people who ought to know better think they can claim Jefferson, exclusively, enlisting his pen in their ideological causes.

Richard Eskrow ought to know better.

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Wills and the Individual Conscience

As David Conway has noted in this space, the past week has seen quite a brouhaha in the United Kingdom over the Law Society’s decision to issue guidelines for sharia-compliant wills.

The controversy has sparked commentary here as well. But there appears to be considerable confusion on this matter, resulting in some very ill-considered assertions—ones that could backfire on time-honored conservative principles. The message here must remain: “Look before you leap.”

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American Liberty and the “Pursuit of Happiness”

In reflecting further on the issues raised by Ted McAllister’s emphasis on the American historical experience of liberty in this month’s Liberty Law Forum, I find myself returning again to consider the meaning of a particular phrase of the Declaration of Independence: “the pursuit of happiness.” I have written about this before in other places, but McAllister’s highlighting of historically lived experience, brings out the significance of this passage even further.

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To Keep America Will Be to Keep Its Balance

Many long posts ago, this website hosted a discussion of Michael Greve’s wonderfully illuminating Upside Down Constitution. A key part of the thesis was the degree to which local self-governing political bodies in America have steadily ceded administration to national agencies, not as the helpless victims of a national takeover, but as willing, nay eager participants in the national redistribution of our common wealth.

Without a consideration of basic principles, of basic notions of right and wrong, of moral and philosophic ideals, this transfer of self-governance from the local to the national, becomes very hard to criticize.

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Restoring Federalism

In the third volume of Law Legislation and Liberty, Hayek argued that something was amiss with western constitutions. They have failed to contain the growth of government or prevent the encroachments of discretionary power. He thought it was time to rethink the constitutional structures of the free world.

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