The post-war American Conservative movement has always been led by texts that have shaken dominant intellectual obsessions in economics, law, political theory, philosophy, and history, among other disciplines. At first glance, much of what the Right offered in the mid-twentieth century, be it Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind, Richard Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences, Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, or Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom, to name a few, appeared as “paradigm shifting” theories, narratives, and interpretations of politics, constitutionalism, economics, and philosophy. However, wiser men might observe that these books were not revolutionary, but were instead acts of remembrance and recovery of traditions of thought and practice that once characterized a free people. Men like Weaver, Hayek, and Friedman were giving us a theory worthy of the practices of liberty that had never been fully discarded in the twentieth century despite that century’s collectivist tendencies. The age needed them, and they stepped forward to articulate ideas about the acting human subject that remain timeless.
In recognition of this achievement, Law and Liberty looks to Milton Friedman’s towering defense of economic and political liberty in his book Capitalism and Freedom as it turns 50 in the year 2012. In this online symposium, Gerald P. O’Driscoll Jr., Todd Zywicki, Brian Domitrovic, Donald Boudreaux, and William Ruger provide reflections on Capitalism and Freedom. Friedman’s classic work remains a text of the first order of liberty. Ranging across military conscription, monetary policy, international trade, occupational licensure, education vouchers, and other topics, the Brooklyn-born economist directly challenged the growing collectivist ice cap that, then as now, threatened a nation dedicated to liberty. This symposium is offered so that we might remember well, in order to recall with Peter Viereck that “Reality is that which, when you don’t believe in it, doesn’t go away.”