Three Against the World

In the political writings of Alexis de Tocque-ville (1805-1859), Francis Lie-ber (1798-1872), and Walter Bagehot (1826-1877), we find insights, opinions, and warnings of great current applicability, especially with regard to international affairs.  The task Professor David Clinton sets himself in this excellent study is not, however, primarily to draw conclusions concerning the present but to analyze each thinker’s views on international questions of his time.  Following a solid Introduction, three chapters (“Why did M. Tocqueville Change His Mind?,” “Why did Professor Lieber say No?,” and “Why was Mr. Bagehot Opposed?”) define the positions each man took on pressing issues.  The differences among them are brought out in the conclusion, which is also the occasion for the author to distinguish between his subjects’ views and the dogma of 21st-century liberalism and globalization.

The term liberalism, as Professor Clinton employs it, indicates the championing of liberty, at home and perhaps abroad.  In an international connection, the term stands in contradistinction to realism or neorealism—illustrated most famously by Bismarck.  What is proper, what is feasible in this liberal enterprise is, of course, the great question, especially (as the author remarks) given the distaste historical liberalism has shown for coercion and its...

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