The Cost of the Enlightenment

The Cost of the Enlightenment

I would like to thank Joe for the introduction and invitation, Lew for his leadership of and vision for the Institute, the supporters and friends of the Mises Institute for helping to make it the premier source on economics and liberty in the tradition of Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard, and I especially would like to thank The Lou Church Foundation for annually sponsoring this lecture.

It is broadly accepted that out of Enlightenment thinking came many of the “goods” of our society; goods economic, political, and social.  Goods ranging from the material wealth and the technology we enjoy to classical liberalism and libertarianism.  It is on the latter that I will focus.

An exhaustive discussion of the connection of Enlightenment thought to Classical liberalism and libertarianism is not necessary for this audience, so I will summarize: reason, the individual, equality, property rights, the separation of church and state, and science and politics freed from religious dogma.  These pillars underlie the classical liberalism that many point to and exclaim: here, we finally found freedom!  Instead, what if these have cost us our freedom?

What is Enlightenment?  Immanuel Kant gave his answer:

Enlightenment is man’s release from his self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is man’s inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another….”Have courage to use your own reason!” That is the motto of enlightenment.

There is Diderot’s Encyclopedia, considered one of the greatest cultural and intellectual achievements of the Enlightenment; a 20 million word man-made blueprint for the creation of a rational, improving and cultivated society.

Theology is kneeling, subordinate to…

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