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Britain’s Liberal Legacy

One can easily imagine meeting David Conway in the company of Adam Smith or David Hume—an historical conceit that would please him.  A quietly spoken, formidably intelligent philosophy professor, he is a senior research fellow at Civitas, the think tank that grew out of the Institute for Economic Affairs—and a very agreeable lunch companion, as I discovered when I interviewed him for Right Now! late last year.

Conway’s previous books include A Farewell to Marx: An Outline and Appraisal of His Theories (1987), Classical Liberalism: The Unvanquished Ideal (1995), and The Rediscovery of Wisdom: From Here to Antiquity in Search of Sophia (2000).  His latest book is a closely argued, carefully expressed defense not just of the Anglo-Saxon-derived nation-state but of classical liberalism, for him the acme of possible politico-economic organization and the indispensable prerequisite for national cohesion and international harmony.

Conway is alive to the complexities of the word liberal.  Although it has become almost a term of abuse in the United States, in the United Kingdom, it retains some of its traditional meaning of generosity and tolerance and is accordingly laid claim to by most politicians and opinion-formers (many of whom would seem to be in receipt of stolen goods).

Accordingly, Chapter 1 (“Towards the recovery of liberal...

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