The Journal of Libertarian Studies
Gustave de Molinari and the Anti-statist Liberal Tradition, Part 1
Journal of Libertarian Studies, 5, no. 3 (1981)
The Intellectual Origins of Liberal Anti-statism
1. Edmund Burke, William Godwin and Benjamin Constant
The origins of liberal anti-statism go back at least to the radical dissent of the Levellers in the English Revolution of the seventeenth century. Their efforts to defend themselves against the power of the state, which wanted to control of prohibit their religious practices, resulted in some of the earliest liberal defenses of property rights and the natural right of the individual to enjoy his liberty. One of the most thoroughgoing statements of the Leveller defense of natural rights in property and liberty is Richard Overton's "An Arrow Against All Tyrants," written from prison in 1646. In this tract, Overton was able to abstract the principles of natural rights from the more general question of religious liberty and was thus able to develop a secular theory of rights as a basis for political rights. He began his pamphlet with the following paragraph:
To every individuall in nature is given an individuall property by nature, not to be invaded or usurped by any: for every one as he is himselfe, so he hath a selfe propriety, else could he not be himselfe, and on this no second may presume to deprive any of, without manifest violation and affront to the very principles of nature, and of the Rules of equity and Justice between man and man; mine and thine cannot be, except this be: No man hath power over my rights and liberties, and I over no man's; I may be but an lndividuall, enjoy my selfe and my selfe propriety, and may write my selfe no more [than] my selfe, or presume any further; if I doe, I am an encroacher and an invader upon another man's Right, to which I have no Right. For by naturall birth, all men are equally and alike borne to like propriety, liberty and freedome, and as we are delivered of God by the hand of nature into this world, every one with a naturall, innate freedome and propriety (as it were writ in the table of every man's heart, never to be obliterated) even so are we to live, every one equally and alike to enjoy his Birthright and privilege; even all whereof God by nature hath made him free.1
However, it was not until the eighteenth century that these liberal ideas of liberty and property were developed into a more comprehensive theory of the state. The young Edmund Burke, for example, in his Vindication of Natural Society written in 1756, extended the religious dissenter's criticism of "artificial," imposed religion to the institutions of government.2 In what is probably the first individualist, liberal anarchist tract ever written, Burke condemned all forms of political society for being the main cause of war, suffering and misfortune.3
Making a distinction common to many anti-statist liberals, Burke divided society into two types. Natural society, "founded in natural appetites and instincts, and not in any positive institution," was not based on force and allowed individuals to freely exercise their God-given natural rights as their individual consciences directed. Artificial or political society, on the other hand, was based on the imposition of "artificial" laws and regulations, thus usurping the proper function of the individual to determine his own peaceful behavior.4 Immediately, conflict arises from the division of society into two classes, the governed and the governors, the latter seeking to increase its power and wealth at the expense of the former. After cataloguing the political history of the world, a "history dyed in blood, and blotted and confounded by tumults, rebellions, massacres, assassinations, proscriptions,"5 Burke squarely places the blame on political society of whatever kind.6 He accused all states of being essentially the same, in that they are based on force and exist for the benefit of those privileged minorities who are powerful or influential enough to control them. He wrote:
we have shown them [the three simple forms of artificial society: democracy, monarchy and aristocracy], however they may differ in name or in some slight circumstances, to be all alike in effect; in effect to be all tyrannies. ... ln vain you tell me that artificial government is good, but that I fall out only with the abuse. The thing! the thing itself is the abuse!7
Burke recognized that even in "natural society" there would still exist the need for the protection of life, liberty and property because "[it] was observed that men had ungovernable passions, which made it necessary to guard against the violence they might offer to each other."8 As Molinari was to argue later,9 the "grand error"10 that men made in attempting to solve this problem of how to protect themselves from aggression was to establish or accept a monopoly government with the powers to provide this service. Men now found themselves worse off than when they were without the state11 because they now faced a nationally organized engine of oppression, whereas before they had faced only disorganized bandits or, at most, local feudal lords and their mercenaries. The perennial problem arose of who was to guard against the guardians.12
Burke's failure was in not being able to provide a positive view of the form his "natural society" would. take. He limited himself to a brilliant criticism of the basis of all political institutions from a natural rights' perspective and did not elaborate on "natural society" save for the assertion that "[in] a state of nature it is an inevitable law that a man's acquisitions are in proportion to his labours"13 and that each individual would have the right to defend his person and property as he saw fit.14 Burke did not have the tools at hand which were necessary to explain how an anarchist15 society would function. He lacked the Smithian free-market economics that Molinari later used to explain how society could provide itself with defense services without resorting to the coercive monopoly of the state.
A similar problem was faced by William Godwin. Like Burke, he defended individualism and the right to property,16 drawing considerably, in fact, from Burke's Vindication for his criticism of the state,17 and he concluded that the state was an evil which had to be reduced in power if not eliminated completely.
Above all we should not forget that government is, abstractly taken, an evil, an usurpation upon the private judgement and individual conscience of mankind; and that, however, we may be obliged to admit it as a necessary evil for the present, it behoves us, as the friends of reason and the human species, to admit as little of it as possible, and carefully to observe, whether, in the consequence of the gradual elimination of the human mind, that little may not hereafter be diminished.18
Godwin looked forward to the day when the entire state could be done away with completely.
With what delight must every well-informed friend of mankind look forward to the auspicious period, the dissolution of political government, of that brute engine which has been the only perennial cause of the vices of mankind, and which, as has abundantly appeared in the present work, has mischiefs of various sorts incorporated with its substance, and no otherwise removable than by its utter annihilation!19
But he still faced the difficult problem of adequately explaining how the stateless society which he envisioned could work in practice. Godwin's stateless society presupposed a sudden change in the behavior of the individuals comprising that society. He was convinced of the essential goodness of uncorrupted men and believed that when political institutions disappeared men would become "reasonable and virtuous."
Simplify the social system in the manner which every motive but those of usurpation and ambition powerfully recommends; render the plain dictates of justice level to every capacity; remove the necessity of implicit faith; and we may expect the whole species to become reasonable and virtuous.20
Godwin's solution to the problem of aggression involved the use of juries which would act as advisory bodies in "adjusting controversies." These juries would reason with the offender, urging him to forsake his errors, and if this failed, could subject the offender to the criticism and ostracism of his peers.21 But it is difficult to see how these juries could exercise this function without using force to capture criminals and, as Molinari was at pains to argue in Les Soirées de la rue Saint-Lazare, how they could recompense the victims for any losses caused by the crime. Godwin's unreasonable optimism about the unaggressive nature of man in a stateless society unfortunately was common to many other anarchists, especially communist anarchist thinkers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.22
It is quite probable that Molinari was well aware of William Godwin's and, through him, Edmund Burke's anti-statism. Godwin's ideas were brought to France by Benjamin Constant among others. Constant had studied at the University of Edinburgh from 1783 to 1784 and was aware of English political thinking of this entire period. He corresponded with Godwin in 1795 and 1796 and expressed his desire to translate Godwin's Enquiry Concerning Political Justice into French. Godwin had even sent a copy to the French National Convention via John Fenwick on February 15, 1793, and his novel, Caleb Williams, had been reviewed in La Decade in January, 1796. In 1799, Constant announced his forthcoming translation of the Enquiry but it never appeared due to the "political events then and in the future" which "caused the indefinite postponement of its publication."23 However, Constant was able to popularize many of Godwin's anti-statist ideas through his writings and his speeches at the Tribunate. Only with the publication of Constant's Oeuvres manuscrites de 1810 did 576 pages of translation appear, along with an essay on Godwin and his ideas.24 Constant was influenced by Godwin to reject state intervention and coercion and to support all forms of voluntary and peaceful activity and he, in turn, influenced many of the laissez-faire liberals who worked with and influenced25 Molinari.
2. Adam Smith and Jean-Baptiste Say
The other major intellectual current that influenced the anti-statism of the French laissez-faire liberals, and Molinari in particular, was the economic ideas of Adam Smith and Jean-Baptiste Say. Both these theorists described how society would operate in the absence of government control and intervention in the economy. Smith argued that government intervention was immoral, because it violated individuals' natural rights to property, and that it was generally inefficient. The selfish actions of individuals in the unhampered market promoted the general interest in spite of having no explicit intention of doing so:
every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it ... and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of society more effectively than when he really intends to promote it.26
In the stateless economy "the simple system of natural liberty" would prevail and this "spontaneous order"27 of the market, rather than the imposed order of the state, would maximize wealth and ensure the uninterrupted use of each individual's justly acquired (whether by first use or by peaceful exchange) property. Thus:
All systems of preference or restraint therefore being completely taken away, the obvious and simple system of natural liberty establishes itself of its own accord. Every map, as long as he does not violate the laws of justice, is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest his own way, and to bring both his industry and capital into competition with those of any other man, or order of men. The sovereign is completely discharged from a duty, in the attempting to perform which he must always be exposed to innumerable delusions, and for the proper performance of which no human wisdom or knowledge could ever be sufficient; the duty of superintending the industry of private people, and of directing it towards the employments most suitable to the interest of the society.28
Molinari was to use Smith's two concepts — the spontaneous order of the market and the system of natural liberty — to build his theory of extreme liberal anti-statism.
Jean-Baptiste Say popularized and extended Smith's ideas of the free market. He defended the right to property more rigorously than Smith and his conclusions had a greater influence on the anti-statism of Molinari. Say considered any barrier to the free use or abuse of property a violation of the individual's rights.29 He condemned slavery and military conscription30 and argued against taxes for the same reasons,31 especially if they were in excess of the "minimum" necessary to protect the public. In that case
it would be difficult indeed not to view this excess as a theft, a gratuitous sacrifice seized from individuals by force. I say "seized by force" even under representative governments, because even their authority may be so great as to brook no refusal.32
To a liberal like Say, force could never legitimize the activity of the state, even in so important a matter as taxation. Say, like Molinari, went to great pains to denounce the use of force in all human affairs, especially when used by the state or the privileged political classes.33 The state was nothing more than a tool used by the politically privileged to maintain an "artificial order" which "endures only through force, and which can never be reestablished without injustice and violence."34 It was because the state was an artificial body that it had to be limited in scope as much as possible. Say concluded that it must "never meddle in production" and, as a general principle, "[if] government intervention is an evil, a good government makes itself as unobtrusive as possible" because government "can unfortunately always rely upon the negligence, incompetence and odious condescensions of its own agents."35
The greatest enemies of the laissez-faire liberals were the monopolies, whether granted to privileged individuals or exercised by the state itself. Consistent with his defense of property rights and his general disdain for the state, Say made an initial attack on all government monopolies which Molinari was later to develop into his theory of free-market anarchism. Say argued:
The government violates the property of each in his own person and faculties when it monopolizes certain professions such as those of bankers and brokers and sells to privileged elites these exclusive rights. It violates property even more seriously when, under the pretext of public security or simply that of the security of the state, it prevents a man from traveling or authorizes an officer or commissioner of police or judge to arrest him, so that no man is ever completely certain of the disposition of his time and faculties or of his ability to complete any enterprise. Could the public safety be any more effectively threatened by a criminal whom everyone is against and who is always so quickly caught?36
Not only was monopoly a violation of individual property rights but it was also inefficient. No central authority could know the needs of all consumers because this information was dispersed throughout the economy.37
Say even made a tentative step towards Molinari's anarchism when he suggested that public services should be made competitive by having their coercive monopoly destroyed. His scheme was to "open all public services to free competition" in order to make them as cheap and efficient as other industries whose activities were regulated by the market.
While recognizing the extreme difficulty involved in allowing the payment of public services to be regulated by the same principle of free competition which presides over the majority of all other social transactions, we must agree that the more this principle is applied to the administration of States, the better managed will be their interests.38
Like Molinari, Say quotes the important passage from Smith's Wealth of Nations which argues that the reason justice was so cheap in England was that the separate courts competed for clients by offering them the speediest service at the lowest price.39 As a principle of justice, Say argued that those who consume a good or service should be the ones to pay for it.40 When the production of security is monopolized by the state, the purchaser's rights are violated because the range of choice has been artificially limited and he thus is forced to pay a monopoly price. The excess of the monopoly price over the "necessary" or free-market price is equivalent to the theft of that amount of property from the consumer.41 To overcome this problem, Say proposed to follow Smith's example in Wealth of Nations and allow competition in the pricing of court services. Each litigant would be free to choose the court and judge that best suited him. Fees would be made up of three components: a levy set by the province, a premium paid to the particular judge, and an honorarium proportional to the "values under litigation" which would be payable after the judgment had been given. In some cases, for example in criminal trials, the costs would be borne by the losing party.42
Anticipating Molinari by some twenty years, Say argued that only the competition provided by the free market could give the consumers of security a service that was "prompt, equitable and of reasonable cost." The market would encourage the courts and the judges to recognize the interests of the consumers since it would be their voluntary patronage that paid their salaries. In order to attract as many clients to their court as they could, the judges would be
interested in being honest in order to garner a wide reputation for equity and be frequently called to sit in judgment. They would be motivated to end trials promptly in order to expedite the greatest number. Finally, the cost of litigation would not be out of proportion to the interests in question and there would be no useless costs.43
Molinari later added considerably to Say's early formulation of free-market anarchism by introducing the idea of paying for police services and protection by contracting individually with insurance companies. He was even to argue that national defense could be better supplied by competing companies on the free market and that small proprietary communities would gradually replace the leviathan state. It was with Molinari that the two different currents of anarchist thought converged: he combined the political anarchism of Burke and Godwin with the nascent economic anarchism of Adam Smith and Say to create a new form of anarchism that has been variously described as individualist anarchism, anarcho-capitalism, or freemarket anarchism.
3. The Ideologues: Charles Comte and Charles Dunoyer
Both Comte and Dunoyer were influenced by the economic liberalism of Say. Together with Saint-Simon they developed the doctrine of Industrielisme based on their class analysis of society in which the warrior class, with political privilege, and the industrial class, the result of the unhampered market, were in constant conflict. In their economic theories Comte and Dunoyer argued that the market, with all the voluntary exchanges that took place in it, was the antithesis of force. Thus the market, identified with society, was completely separate from the state and antagonistic towards it. As the historian Albert Schatz argued:
Liberalism thus tends to create a fundamental antagonism between the individual and the State — an antagonism which does not exist in classical doctrine, one which views the individual and the State as two forces inversely proportional to one another. Consequently, there is a tendency in liberalism, at first potential, later active, to strip the State of any role in the economy. We will see this originate in Dunoyer's extension of classical doctrine and later result in a more or less disguised form of anarchism.44
There can be no question about the implicit anarchism of Comte's and Dunoyer's liberalism. Dunoyer, for example, thought that in the future the state would merely be an appendage of the market and would gradually wither and die as the market expanded.45 Perfection would be reached when "everyone works and no one governs,"46 and "the maintenance of public safety would no longer demand the intervention of a permanent, special force, the government to this extent disappears."47 A colleague and fellow liberal, Augustin Thierry, echoed Dunoyer's sentiments when he wrote that "it was in losing their powers that the actions of governments [have] ameliorate[d]" and that, if given a choice between an oppressive state apparatus and "anarchy," he believed that "the excesses of the police are 'far more fatal than the absence of the police."48 In Comte's words: "the less [government] makes itself felt, the more the people prosper."49
The anarchism of Comte and Dunoyer was dependent on their view of the evolution of societies. Like Molinari, they believed that "as we become more civilized, there is less need for police and courts."50 The advance of industrielisme would dissolve the state until there was complete freedom to trade and move across national borders.
These monstrous aggregations were formed and made necessary by the spirit of domination. The spirit of industry will dissolve them. One of its last, greatest and most salutary effects will be to municipalize the world ... centers of actions will multiply and ultimately the vastest regions will contain but a single people composed of an infinite number of homogeneous groups bound together without confusion and without violence by the most complex and simplest of ties, the most peaceful and the most profitable of relationships.51
J. L. Talmon described the final stage of this gradual evolution of the industrial society of the liberals as a community where
among themselves they would settle matters by way of contract, warranted by their own corporations and their laws and customs. Since the feudal-military-clerical State was in no position to render real assistance, but only to do harm, or worse — to extort ransom, the industrial classes developed almost a religion of non-interference by the State. Liberty became identified with the absence of government, individual freedom with isolationism. The experience of feudal-clerical rule was universalised into a philosophy teaching that government as such is a natural enemy.52 (Emphasis added)
Comte and Dunoyer contributed to the Journal des Économistes (Dunoyer was in fact one of the founders of the Société d'Économie Politique in 1842), so the writings of these two theorists were well known in freetrade liberal circles.53 Molinari acknowledged his debt to Comte in the Dictionnaire biography and admitted that he owed his insights into the application of economic analysis of state functions to Dunoyer.54 A closer examination of Molinari's views will show how he adapted the insights of the political and economic anarchists to forge a new and ultimately more devastating critique of the state and its coercive monopolization of the production of security.
The above summary has attempted to show that Molinari was working within a tradition of liberal anti-statism that stretched back at least as far as the seventeenth century. The influence of Molinari's anti-statist ideas will be briefly examined in th·e discussion of the influence of Molinari's ideas, where it will be argued that a continuous thread of liberal anti-statist thought has existed until the present day, largely due to the pioneering work of Gustave de Molinari.55
Gustave de Molinari (1819–1912)
Man appropriates to himself the sum total of elements and powers, both physical and moral, which make up his being. This appropriation is the result of an effort in discovering and recognizing these elements and powers and in their application for the satisfaction of his needs, in other words their utilization. This is self-ownership. Man appropriates and possesses himself. He also appropriates, by another effort in discovering and occupying, transforming and adapting, the earth, the material and powers of his immediate surroundings, as much as they can be appropriated. This is real and personal property. Man continually acts, under the impetus of his self-interest, to conserve and increase these elements and agents which he has appropriated in his person and in his immediate surroundings and which constitute values. He fashions them, transforms them, modifies them or exchanges them at will, as he deems it beneficial. This is liberty. Property and liberty are the two factors or components of sovereignty.
What is the self-interest of the individual? It is to have absolute ownership of his person and the things that he has appropriated outside of his person, and to be able to dispose of them as he wishes. It is to be able to work alone or to freely combine his powers and other property, either wholly or in part, with that of others. It is to be able to exchange the products that he gets from the use of his private property, whether personal or real. or even to consume or conserve them. In one word, it is to possess in all its fullness "individual sovereignty." — Molinari56
1. Early Years in Paris: Free Trade and Revolution
Of medium height, with abundant hair, short-sighted, but able to read without spectacles, wearing a moustache and impériale, with only a slight hardness of hearing, he [G. de Molinari] remained until quite lately physically fit and intellectually vigorous to such an extent as to excite the admiration of all who saw him. Struck down by hemiplegia, he had retained all his lucidity of mind, and when death sought him out, he was still pondering over the great questions which had filled his life, and their relations to contemporaneous events.57
With these words, a close friend and colleague marked the end of Gustave de Molinari's long and active life as a political economist, a life which had coincided with a broad and eventful period in French history from the constitutional monarchy of Louis Philippe to the mid-years of the Third Republic. Yet Molinari was not French by birth, for he was the son of Baron de Molinari, a former officier supérieur in Napoleon's Empire, who had subsequently settled in Liege as a physician. From the time of his birth on March 3, 1819, until he left Belgium for Paris in 1840, little is known of Molinari's life and upbringing. Like many others who wished to follow a carrière de lettres, he was attracted to Paris, the political and cultural center of the French-speaking world. As he hoped to establish himself in journalism, particularly in the new field of "economic propagandism," it is possible that he became associated with the Société d'Économie Politique which had been established in 1842 and included in its membership some of the most active political economists in France. Like Michel Chevalier, who had already established himself as a political economist as Rossi's successor at the Collège de France in 1840,58 Molinari took an early interest in the effect of railways on the industrialization which Europe was undergoing, and his first published essay dealt with that question.59 In 1846 he became involved in the Association pour la liberté des échanges following a meeting of distinguished liberals in Paris at which he was invited to join the board of the newly formed association and be the secrétaire adjoint. Indeed, it is likely that Molinari had helped found the Paris free-trade association as it was only the second of its kind in France after Bordeaux. In addition, he became one of the editors of the association's journal, Libre-Échange.
In the mid-1840's, Molinari became increasingly active in the free-trade press in Paris, defending his ideas in the Courrier français (1846–47), the Revue nouvelle, Commerce (1848), the Journal des Économistes (of which he became an editor in 1847), and La Patrie (1849–51). He also published the first of his many books on economic and political themes. In 1846 appeared his Études économiques: sur l'Organisation de la Liberté industrielle et l'abolition de l'esclavage and, in the following year, the Histoire du tarif: I. Les fers et les huiles; II. Les céréales.60 In 1848, he was commissioned to edit and annotate volume two of the Mélanges d'Économie politique in the Collection des Principaux Économistes. Molinari's most famous work appeared in 1849, Les Soirées de la rue Saint-Lazare, entretiens sur les lois économiques et défense de la propriété, in which he pushed to its ultimate limits his opposition to all state invervention in the economy. Arguing that the market could better satisfy the public's need for security than could the compulsory monopoly of the state, Molinari became the most consistent of the French free-trade liberal school, with his insistence that all spheres of human activity could be described and explained by economic law.
Molinari continued his argument in the October 1849 issue of the Journal des Économistes in the essay "De la Production de la Securite" which sparked a lively debate in the Société d'Économie Politique. Although his colleagues could not agree with his foray into economic anarchism, Molinari continued to elaborate his thesis on free-market security for fifty years until old age and pessimism overtook him. Nevertheless, Molinari must be credited with being the first person to solve the antistatists' problem of how to explain the functioning of a fully free society. Previously, anarchist or near-anarchist theorists had preferred to leave unexplained how their utopia would operate. They had simply asserted that the future society would not require a police force since mankind would no longer need protection; either there would no longer be property to steal or men would no longer want to steal, for public pressure would deter the criminal. Molinari was the first "free market proprietary anarchist"61 who, working within the tradition of Adam Smith and the early nineteenthcentury French liberals Constant, Say, Comte and Dunoyer, combined antistatism with the political economist's understanding of the market and how it operated to satisfy the needs of consumers.
During the 1848 revolution, Molinari had been active in trying to counter the propaganda of the socialists and the "conservatives of the status quo." He and some other "friends of economic freedom" had started the Club de la liberté du travail for that very purpose but failed because the provisional government did not or would not protect their right of freedom of association. The club was "invaded and dissolved by a mob of communists" and the members, not wishing to use violence, were dispersed by the crowd.62 After failing to get Charles Coquelin elected to the Constituent Assembly of April 1848, and after the collapse of their short-lived "popular journal," Jacques Bonhomme (edited by Molinari and Coquelin), the five "friends of liberty," Bastiat, Coquelin, Fonteyraud, Garnier and Molinari, could do little more in such an inhospitable climate.
The club and the magazine were not the only casualties of the revolution. The Association pour la liberté des échanges was dissolved in April or May of 1848, because "the association finally despaired of making itself heard amidst the political tumult" and the events of the revolution had dispersed the principal members so that they could no longer meet.63 Soon afterwards, three of the five "friends" died. Fonteyraud, "that lively and charming intellect, one of the dearest hopes of political economy" died in 1849. Bastiat, "the most able popularizer of economic truths" followed in December 1850,64 as did Charles Coquelin, "one of the ablest pens, one of the most eloquent voices," in August 1852. Molinari summed up the period with considerable understatement when he described it as a time when "liberal doctrines were decidedly not in favor." One can imagine the disappointment that Molinari must have felt with the failure of all his attempts to popularize his free-trade liberal ideas. It must have been with a feeling of despair that Molinari ended the obituary of his friend Coquelin with the plea that "some day, when this noble cause has triumphed for the happiness of the human race" someone might remember them.65
Despite the fact that Bastiat had been elected to both the Constituent and Legislative Assemblies during the period 1848 to 1850 and had been appointed Acting President of the Finance Committee, the 1848 revolution was ultimately a serious setback to the free-trade liberal cause.66 The Provisional government had been severely criticized by the économistes: Léon Faucher in the Revue de Deux Mondes, Blanqui and Wolowski at the Conservatoire, and Michel Chevalier in Les Débats and in his lectures at the Collège de France. The result was the resolution of April 7, 1848, which suppressed five chairs (one of which was the Chair of Political Economy held by Chevalier) and reorganized the Collège to remove the source of criticism.67 This maneuver was countered by the Société d'Économie Politique, which sent a delegation to talk to Lamartine. Headed by Léon Faucher and comprising de Tracy, Horace Say, Dussard, Garnier, Renouard and Molinari, the delegation was able to influence the Assembly to reverse the law of April 7th, and the Chairs were reestablished by a law of December 24th.68 It was also during the period of the provisional government that the Club de la liberté du travail was both begun by Garnier and then suppressed by violence. It is no wonder that the liberals felt that "socialism declared war on political economy."69
Another result of the 1848 revolution in France was the publication of the famous Dictionnaire de l'économie politique in 1852. The liberals associated with the Journal des Économistes and the Société d'Économie Politique were concerned that the ideas of the économistes were not more widely known. With the industrial revolution beginning in earnest and promising to be "far more vast and more profound than any political revolution," the government's and the working people's ignorance of the operation of the market threatened to "derail" the engine of progress. The revolution had proved to the économistes what "chasms of ignorance both people and governments have placed in the path of social progress." Because they misunderstood the market, the workers formed "coalitions, riots and revolutions to improve their lot." They had been fooled by the false claims of the utopian socialists and their actions could only lead to a worsening of their condition. The liberals felt compelled to popularize their theories to prevent this from happening and to apply pressure on governments to reform their outmoded and restrictive laws. The remnants of the old regime70 were just as harmful as the attempts of the socialists to "remake society." Since the time of the French Revolution, wrote Molinari, the governments of Europe,
whose resources the progress of production and credit continually increased, have decided finally that these resources are without limit and they have increased their expenditures in ever greater proportion. For half a century they have used and abused their borrowing powers. They have exhausted the blood of the living and borrowed against the resources of the unborn to satisfy their evil appetites for conquest and domination.71
The liberals were convinced that the teaching of the principles of political economy was more necessary then, than at any other period in history. Taking their example from the success of the English free-traders and their Anti-Corn Law League, the French économistes planned to distribute elementary treatises, catechisms, pamphlets, tracts, and journals to as many people as would listen to them.72 In addition, societies and associations would be created to discuss the finer points of economic theory and to lobby the legislature to repeal or reform the custom and tariff laws.
The Dictionnaire was a valiant effort to condense the theory of political economy into a simplified encyclopaedic form which would enable the inteligent layman to apprise himself of the latest theories and publications in virtually every field of economics and politics. The Dictionnaire was conceived by Ambroise Clément in 1850 and continued by Charles Coquelin until his death. Guillaumin took over the project after Coquelin's death and, with the assistance of Horace Say, Courcelle-Seneuil, Molinari and Garnier, was able to complete the dictionary in I 852 after two years' preparation. This "bazaar of political economy" aimed at combining the theory of political economy with its practical application by using academics, journalists, government inspectors, industrialists and politicians as its contributors. Molinari's contribution was considerable, comprising twenty-five articles — some with considerable bibliographies — and five biographical sketches. It is likely that this was the last activity of the Paris liberal movement in which Molinari was engaged before he left for Belgium.
2. Refuge in Belgium
After the coup d'etat of December 1851, Molinari returned to Belgium because, as Guyot put it, "The dictatorial regime ... offended the liberal opinions of M. De Molinari."73 There he published a small volume on revolution entitled, Les Révolutions et le despotisme envisagés au point de vue des intérêts matériels (1852), in which he condemned both revolution and despotism as being destructive of life and property. Molinari extended his dislike of the 1848 revolution to the French Revolution, and a theme to which he constantly returned was the massive expansion in the size and power of the state which had followed the revolution.74 Although he associated demagogy with revolution and reaction with despotism, he did not condemn the French Revolution out of hand. He admired the "generous spirit which gave birth to it" and the "noble principles of tolerance and liberty which it proclaimed to the world."75 But these noble principles were betrayed by the revolutionary excesses which had resulted in an increase in state power rather than its much needed reduction which liberals such as Turgot76 had tried to achieve fully two decades before the Revolution. The inevitable result was the "scaffold at home and bayonets abroad";77 barbarism rather than progress.
Molinari was fortunate enough to have been appointed professor of political economy at the Musée royal de l'industrie belge and also at the Institute supérieur du commerce in Antwerp. He was thus able to escape the stifling atmosphere of Paris under Napoleon III and devoted himself to a serious study of the theory of political economy and to the propagation of those ideas through the press. The result of his lectures at the Musée royal was his major theoretical economic treatise, Cours d'économie politique. The lectures upon which this work was based had been started at the Athénée royal de Paris in 1847 but were interrupted by the revolution. Thanks to the intervention of Charles de Brouckere, Burgomaster of Brussels and president of the Association belge pour la liberté des échanges, Molinari had been able to secure the position at the Musée royal and complete his theoretical work by 1854.78
The Cours aimed at filling a lacuna which Molinari felt existed in the main body of political economic scholarship, viz.:
the absence of a sufficiently clear demonstration of the general law which, by establishing a just and necessary balance among the various branches of production as well as among the various remunerations of productive agents, creates order in the economic world.79
The founders of the science of political economy had only to fight "the privileges of corporations and castes and the abuses of monopolies and prohibitions." By mid-century, however, the socialists' "anti-liberal and neomercantilist reaction" had turned the working classes, who would have benefited most from the "demolition of the old established regime," against the political economists, and the liberals now had to fight against the "beneficiaries of the abuses of the old regime" from above as well as the socialists from below. It was also necessary to defend the market system from the socialists' criticism that the market was "anarchic."80 Molinari was to spend his life attempting to show how the market, by the operation of known natural laws, established an ORDER which was just and necessary and that any attempt to interfere created the very "anarchy" that so concerned the socialists. This "regulatory principle" worked automatically and thus did not require an overseer to direct it or tinker with it. The Revolution of 1848 had affected Molinari personally and he feared the consequences of the socialists' "futile utopian vision of social reconstruction" which would disrupt the market order and bring about the "anarchy" or chaos resulting from an imposed order and which imprisoned society in an "artificial organization."
Molinari continued to write articles and reviews for the Journal des Économistes (JDE) while in Belgium as part of his "strategy" of popularizing the ideas of political economy by means of journalism. For this reason, he began the Économiste belge on January 1, 1855, and remained with it until 1868. An interesting statement in the JDE, which often reprinted extracts from Molinari's contributions to the Économiste belge, reveals that he had in no way compromised his anti-statist indictment of government intervention. He described it as "abusive intervention of government into the domain of private activity." When offered a position in the Belgian branch of the Société d'Économie Politique he had refused because, as a commentator in the JDE put it,
he feared that his name might alienate from the Société those who rejected the radicalism of the Économiste belge on the subject of government intervention; and, also, he wanted the journal and the Société to remain independent while lending each other mutual support.81
During the fifties, Molinari continued to oppose protectionism, and he published a series of popular essays on the grain trade: "Le Commerce des Grains: Dialogues entre un émeutier, un économiste et un prohibitioniste."82 He then turned to the problem of war, a question which was to dominate his thought in the latter part of the century as the European powers drifted steadily towards some form of military confrontation. He had written a biographical sketch of the Abbé de Saint-Pierre, an eighteenth-century advocate of "Perpetual Peace," for the Dictionnaire and was to write a fuller biography in 1857 which included extracts on peace by Saint-Pierre, Eméric de Lacroix (Crucé), Rousseau, Necker, Kant, Bentham, de Maistre and the several Congresses of Peace.83
Another issue which attracted Molinari's attention was that of state education. He argued that the state had no business providing education, which could be left to private enterprise, but that it should compel parents to provide some kind of education for their children. Molinari viewed this obligation of parents as a form of debt which the state was forced to collect on behalf of the children. He was severely criticized by Frederic Passy for letting the state get a foot in the door by admitting that the state had any role whatsoever to play in education. As far as Passy was concerned, if state intervention was harmful in the form of trade regulation, then it would be equally harmful in the case of education. The reason for Molinari's concession to the state, in his otherwise thoroughly anti-statist philosophy, was his concept of "tutelage," a form of benign paternalism which he reserved for those who had not yet developed the capacity to look after themselves in the rigors of a free society (children, slaves, imprudent workers, women and prisoners).84
3. Paris in Revolution
In 1860, Molinari returned to Paris, for reasons that are not clear, and in 1867 joined the Journal des Débats, becoming chief editor under the direction of M. Bapst from 1871 to 1876. Molinari was present in Paris during the siege and attended many public meetings, the proceedings of which he recorded in two volumes, Les Clubs rouges pendant le siège de Paris and Le Mouvement socialiste et les réunions publiques avant le révolution du 4 septembre 1870.85 His aim in doing so was to show that "freedom of speech and free assembly are not so well established in France that it is superfluous to demonstrate their utility,"86 and he defended the clubs from the charge that they had fomented the Commune by saying that they had helped maintain morale during the siege. Rather, he claimed, the suppression of the clubs and free speech had done much to bring on the Commune. "The communist insurrection was organized in secret cabals. I might add that this revolution had twice failed under the regime of unlimited free speech and assembly, and that it succeeded only after the revolutionary clubs and journals had been suppressed."87 The government had made a terrible mistake by trying to forestall the possibility of revolution by muzzling the press and banning the clubs. Freedom of speech was a "necessary freedom" and the government had no right to prevent the expression of new ideas and any attempt to experiment with new forms of business organization. Even if the government had had the competence to determine which ideas were right and which were wrong, "it ought in the very interest of science and progress avoid using it."88 The individual had to decide for himself whether a new idea or social organization should be adopted
[Intelligence] must be left unencumbered to sort through and refine things by its own unique devices, examination, discussion and experience. It must be free if it is to preserve all of its power and productivity. No domain open to it should be closed off in advance on the pretext that its researches would be in vain, that there is nothing more to be discovered or that any discoveries would not be worth the effort. Who knows? Who could know? Ultimately we must resign ourselves to the upheavals brought about by the new discoveries of intellect. lt is an evil perhaps, but it is the price of progress!89
Molinari realized that it had been the challenge of socialism which had awakened political economy out of its lethargy in 1848 and had prompted it to defend itself against socialist attacks on the rights of property, capital and wage labor. More importantly, it had encouraged the économistes to popularize their doctrines and, as a result, in the three years from 1848 to 1851 there had been "more done to popularize these doctrines than in the last fifty years."90 But the coup d'etat of 1851 had put an end to the socialists' agitation and, in spite of the fact that their intellectual opposition had been crippled, the économistes had not been able to "win away the followers" of the socialists. They could not "substitute their ideas for those of socialism and protectionism — which is the socialism of the great industrialists,"91 because the economistes had become complacent after the forced removal of their opponents. Molinari described the period between 1851 and 1868 as
the most sterile and vacuous period since the repression of socialist agitation. Alas! monopoly is as fatal to science as it is to industry. Competition is as necessary a stimulant to economists as it is to the spinners of wool and cotton. In a word, socialist agitation must be given free reign if the French are to learn political economy.92
In addition, the actions of Napoleon Ill's government had provided ammunition for the socialist cause by regulating industry so that new and better forms of "the organization of the production and distribution of products"93 could not be tried, and by severely controlling workers' organizations in a clumsy effort to prevent workers from improving their conditions.
The law on commercial organization has protected existing enterprises against the competition of new forms, while the laws on the registration of workers and against unions and "combinations" aim to control the price of labor and to render permanent the present means of recruiting labor and the present level of its remuneration. It is thought that this is the way to assure forever the security of industry and the peace and discipline of the workshop.94
The result of the regulation had been to achieve the direct opposite. The injustices that were frozen into the existing structure of industry were rightly criticized by the socialists, and the workers who chaffed under the regulations were ready to accept the remedies of the socialists as a viable solution. The tragedy was that, in looking for the causes of the evils, the socialists had not distinguished between industrialization and its regulation. Capital had been criticized instead of political privileges, and the wage system had been condemned along with the unjust regulations that prevented the workers from organizing peacefully to improve their conditions.
We have provoked a violent reaction against the very organization of industry we had hoped to fortify. Inevitably, this reaction has attributed to those economic organizations protected by the law far more vices than they actually have and to other forms virtues which they do not possess. Businesses have been held responsible for all of the evils of industry and society while the organization of labor has been exalted without measure. Because the legal regulation of the relationship between entrepreneurs and workers has locked in a vicious and inequitable situation, it has fomented a civil war between capital and labor in each workshop and has rendered odious the regime of salaried labor.95
To counter the privileges of the politically powerful and the misplaced criticism by the workers, Molinari and the free-trade liberals wanted complete freedom for all to think and act as they saw fit provided, of course, that the right of others to life, liberty and property was respected. Thus they defended the right of the socialists, their mortal intellectual enemies, to agitate, publish and organize to promote their own interests and ideas in the Clubs. Molinari clearly recognized the harmful effect of the socialists' ideas and their propensity to engage in violent action; but he felt that the benefits of allowing them the freedom to protest outweighed the possible harmful effects of their activity.
Despite the disorders which their agitation engenders, despite the temporary damage which they cause, despite the concern which they cause the government, they ought to be left entirely free, for that is a precondition of the necessary progress of ideas and facts.96
Excuses for limiting the press have been invoked by every government, often to defend the most hideous institutions. Without denying the disturbances caused by liberty, we declare that this necessary evil is a small thing compared to the good which results. And no exception to this rule is made for public or socialist agitation which, apparently in the interests of public order, the government is often requested to restrain.97
4. Molinari and the Journal des Économistes
Between 1878 and 1883, Molinari published in the Journal des Économistes, in serial form, two of his major works of historical synthesis: L'Évolution économique du dix-neuvième siecle: Thèorie du progrès (1880) and L'Évolution politique et la révolution (1884). Like Marx, Molinari developed a systematic theory to account for the rise of modern industrial society. He examined the economic and political developments that had taken place in ancient and feudal societies, the beginnings of the market economy and the rise of the state and organized warfare. He then turned to the French revolution and its effects on the course of industrial development and the increase in liberty caused by the market as it broke down the restrictions of the old regime. One of Molinari's major themes in these two works was the gradual evolution from slavery to the "self-government" of the individual, with "tutelage" being an intermediary stage between them. He concluded the Évolution politique with an examination of the possible forms future society might assume under a "regime of full liberty." Molinari's theory of the evolution of free society will be dealt with in great detail in Part II of this paper, but it is perhaps worth noting here that he still maintained that a free society would dissolve the state's monopoly over the "production of security" and that an era of "freedom of government" would then begin.98
In 1881, after the death of Joseph Garnier, Molinari was appointed editor of the prestigious Journal des Économistes.99 It was a fitting tribute to one of the leaders of the free-trade liberal school to be given editorship of the main organ for the dissemination of laissez-faire ideas in the French-speaking world.100 The Journal des Économistes had been preceded by the short-lived Revue mensuelle d'Économie politique, edited by Theodore Fix from July 1833 to 1836, and by a dinner club which had met in the "Jardin turc" during the years 1843–37. Both the Journal des Économistes and the Société d'Économie Politique had their origins there and were supported by the same small group of dedicated individuals.101 The Journal had been founded by the indefatigable publisher Guillaumin and the first issue appeared on December 15, 1841. Its aim was summarized by Garnier in 1848 as,
[to make] war on ignorance, monopoly, regimentation, protectionism, exaggerated centralization, bureaucracy, militarism, artificial systems, unintelligent laws, privilege, and abuses. Later, they [the economists] resolved to continue the fight against all obstacles, old and new, which hindered the production, circulation, distribution and consumption of both public and private wealth.102
It also printed the minutes of the meetings on the Société d'Économie Politique, official documents and laws, essays on nearly every topic of interest concerned with economics, politics, and social issues, and summaries of the sessions of the Académie des Sciences morales et politiques. Many free-trade liberals wrote for the Journal at one time or another, among them being: Frédéric Bastiat, Cherbuliez, Adolphe Blaise, Blanqui, Michel Chevalier, Ambroise Clément, Charles Coquelin, Eugène Daire, Charles Dunoyer, Dussard, Léon Faucher, Fix, Garnier, Molinari, Monjean, H. Passy, Reybaud, Rossi, Horace Say, V. de Tracy, Wolowski and Richard Cobden.103 From 1881 until November 1909, Molinari devoted himself to the Journal des Économistes, bringing to it his considerable talent as a writer and his experience and widespread knowledge of economic and political affairs. Around him he gathered a group of contributors "whom he animated with his own zeal and enthusiasm, and of whom he made real friends."104 He also continued to publish a considerable amount of his own, and this period was in fact his most prolific.
Soon after he became editor, he continued his work on the evolution of industrial societies and on labor exchanges for workers.105 Just as industry had its exchanges to assist in the movement of capital and the dissemination of price information, so the working classes needed to pool their resources to confront big business. The Bourse du Travail (Labor Exchange) would be the meeting ground for buyers and sellers of labor, to the advantage of both parties. In 1857 Molinari and his brother Eugène had founded a journal, La Bourse du Travail, in Brussels, in an attempt to reconcile what they regarded as the false antagonisms that existed between workers and employers. Although the magazine did not last more than a few months, Molinari did not lose interest in the problem. In June 1882 the Société d'Économie Politique devoted one of its sessions to the Bourse and its possible influence on strikes and Molinari continued to write on this question for the next decade.106 Although, as Guyot claimed, Molinari invented the term and the concept of the labor exchange, the exchanges that appeared in France in the last decades of the century were corrupted forms since the buyers of labor were excluded and the exchanges were used as a weapon in the class war rather than as a means of eliminating it.107
The other major works of his which appeared in this period dealt with the very intimate connection between morality and the market system. Property, peace and freedom were all defended on moral, and not just on utilitarian grounds, and the natural laws which governed the operation of the market had their origin, Molinari argued, in the divine law that governed human behavior.108
In July 1887 the Times had published his scheme to eliminate war by organizing a "Ligue des neutres" (League of Neutrals). This league had as its aim the combination of the armies of the smaller, neutral nations of Europe in order to discourage the larger, more warlike nations from threatening them with invasion or attack. His hope was that "the more aggressive powers would ultimately disarm if, every time they menaced the peace, they were confronted by a greater force determined to defend it,"109 but he was under no illusion that this utopian scheme had much chance of being realized. He knew too much about the "interests" who benefited from war and the threat of war to expect them to act in the interests of the people whose lives they threatened. Thus, the seed of his later pessimism was sown when he admitted of his peace plan "which I hoped to sketch out in this project without otherwise deceiving myself that there was any chance of realizing it in the present intellecutal climate."110 It was later, in his Ultima Verba, that he revealed that
My final work concerned those principles which had absorbed my life: free trade and peace. ... These fundamental ideas were its basis... ,111
and again in his Théorie de l'évolution:
We may hope that one day public opinion will be intelligent enough to understand that the existence of society can be guaranteed at a cheaper cost, and powerful enough to liberate the State from the special interests which now fight to control it — not to simplify and lighten its ancient and heavy apparatus. but to complicate and expand it evermore.112
Gone was the certainty of two decades earlier that the ever-advancing market would inevitably bring to an end all the government intervention which hampered its progress. Neither politicians, nor businessmen, nor workers had given up their faith in the power of the government to improve their standard of living, in spite of the free-trade liberals' arguments to the contrary. Molinari had well understood the fact that these groups which controlled or had access to the state, comprised a class which would not willingly give up the privileges that power bestowed. Unfortunately, he had badly over-estimated the readiness of the exploited classes, the workers, the consumers and the industrialists who did not seek state privileges, to identify government intervention as the enemy of progress. Ultimately, his efforts at popularizing free-trade ideas had failed to win a large enough audience to influence the course of events. The result was a growing sense of pessimism in the last decades of his life as he observed the rise of statism, socialism, militarism and colonialism — forces which he had opposed throughout his long and active life. Consequently, from 1893 onwards, he began to compromise his anti-statist views, gradually abandoning his belief that competition amongst defense agencies is the best and most moral method of defending property rights. Molinari came to adopt the position of his opponents, that a single defense agency, the state, should have a monopoly on defense services within a given geographical area. In spite of this compromise in his later years, Molinari had made a major contribution to the development of anti-statist liberal ideas, being the first free-trade liberal to argue for the complete dismantling of the state, even including the "night watchman" functions that most other classical liberals defended.
Molinari retired at the end of 1909 at the age of ninety after having spent twenty-eight years as the editor of the Journal des Économistes. He was highly regarded by Guyot for "the elegance of his literary style, his strength and delicacy of expression, the appositeness of all terms employed ... [and as] one of the masters of the French language."113 A close family friend, A. Raffalovich, revealed to Guyot after Molinari's death that he had often given to charity.114 Such acts of kindness had gone unnoticed by his critics who persisted in describing him as one of "the group of the intransigents, stalwarts, and the orthodox."115
Molinari died at Adinkerque on January 28, 1912, leaving behind no school of eager followers to develop his economic and political ideas. He had been the last of the great nineteenth-century French laissez-faire liberals and when he died, so did that tradition, an anachronism in the rampant statism of the twentieth century. The development of the extreme antistatism which made Molinari's liberalism so unique will be examined in Part II.
- 1. Richard Overton, "An Arrow Against All Tyrants and Tyranny, Shot from the Prison of Newgate into the Prerogative Bowels of the Arbitrary House of Lords, and all other Usurpers and Tyrants Whatsoever," in G. E. Aylmer, ed., The Levellers in the English Revolution (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1975), pp. 68–69. See also C. B. MacPherson, "The Levellers: Franchise and Freedom," The Political Theory of Progressive Individualism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975), pp. 107–59.
- 2. Burke wrote: "the cause of artificial society is more defenceless even than that of artificial religion ... the design [of this work] was to show that, without the exertion of any considerable forces, the same engines which were employed for the destruction of religion might be employed with equal success for the subversion of government. ... If you say that natural religion is a sufficient guide without the foreign aid or revelation, on what principle should political laws become necessary? Is not the same reason available in theology and in politics? If the laws of nature are the laws of God, is it consistent with the divine wisdom to prescribe rules to us, and leave the enforcement of them to the folly of human institutions? Will you follow truth but to a certain point?" (Edmund Burke, A Vindication of Natural Society: Or a View of the Miseries and Evils Arising to Mankind from every Species of Artificial Society. In a Letter to Lord — by a late Nobel Writer, in The Works of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke [1756; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1906–1907], 1:53, 4, 53).
- 3. For the view that Burke's Vindication of Natural Society was not written as a satire, as is commonly believed, see Murray N. Rothbard, "A Note on Burke's Vindication of Natural Society," Journal of the History of Ideas (1958), pp. 114–18; Elie Halevy, The Growth of Philosophical Radicalism (London: Faber and Faber, 1952); and Isaac Kramnick, "Vindicating Burke's Vindication," The Rage of Edmund Burke: Portrait of an Ambivalent Conservative (New York: Basic Books, 1977), pp. 88–93. The internal evidence suggests that Burke did not believe that he was able to state his real opinions openly because of the dangers faced by radical political theorists and other dissenting authors. "I have defended natural religion against a confederacy of atheists and divines. I now plead for natural society against politicians, and for natural reason against all three. When the world is in a fitter temper than it is at present to hear truth, or when I shall be inore indifferent about its temper, my thoughts may become more public. In the meantime, let them repose in my own bosom, and in the bosoms of such men as are fit to be initiated in the sober mysteries of truth and reason. ... A man is allowed sufficient freedom of thought, provided he knows how to choose his subject properly. You may criticize freely upon the Chinese constitution, and observe with as much severity as you please upon the absurd tricks or destructive bigotry of the bonzees. But the scene is changed as you come homeward, and atheism or treason may be the names given in Britain to what would be reason and truth if asserted of China" (Burke, A Vindication of Natural Society, pp. 37, 40–41).
- 4. Burke, A Vindication of Natural Society, p. 9. Political society he defined as "the usurpation of man" (ibid., p. 46).
- 5. Ibid., p. 16.
- 6. "l charge the whole of these effects on political society ... political society is justly chargeable with much the greatest part of this destruction of the species ... I still insist in charging it to political regulations that these broils are so frequent, so cruel, and attended with consequences so deplorable" (ibid., pp. 20–21).
- 7. Ibid., pp. 35, 37.
- 8. Ibid., p. 37.
- 9. See the discussion of Molinari's "Production of Security" in Part II of the present essay, in the Journal of Libertarian Studies 5, no. 4, forthcoming.
- 10. Burke, A Vindication of Natural Society, p. 37.
- 11. Burke writes: "the greatest part of the governments on earth must be concluded tyrannies, impostures, vfolations of the natural rights of mankind, and worse than the most disorderly anarchies" (ibid., p. 28).
- 12. "They appointed governors over them for this reason (to defend themselves)! but a worse and more perplexing difficulty arises, how to be defended against the governors? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" (ibid., p. 37).
- 13. Ibid., p. 47.
- 14. "I am at full liberty to defend myself, or make reprisal by surprise or by cunning, or by any other way in which I may be superior to him" (ibid., p. 46).
- 15. "Anarchy" and "anarchic" are used in this paper in the sense of chaos, disorder and lawlessness. "Anarchism" or "anarchist," on the other hand, are used in the sense of a political theory which advocates the maximum amount of individual liberty, a necessary condition of which is the elimination of governmental or other organized force. The kind of anarchism developed by Molinari and others is not lawless or chaotic but depends on the observance of natural law and the market for the establishment of a just and peaceful economic order.
- 16. "I ought to appropriate such part of the fruits of the earth as by any accident comes into my possession, and is not necessary to my benefit, to the use of others; but they must obtain it from me by argument and expostulation, not by violence. It is in this principle that what is commonly called the right of property is founded. Whatever then comes into my possession, without violence to any other man, or to the institutions of society, is my property" (William Godwin, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and Its Influence on Modern Morals and Happiness, ed. Isaac Kramnick [Harmondsworth: Penguin Classics, 1976], p. 199).
- 17. Godwin's footnote acknowledging his debt to Burke is in ibid., p. 88. See also F. E. L. Priestley's edition of Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1969), 3:39, 117, 125–26. Remaining references in this essay, however, are to the Kramnick edition.
- 18. Godwin, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, p. 408.
- 19. Ibid., p. 554.
- 20. Ibid., p. 553.
- 21. "It might then be sufficient for juries to recommend a certain mode of adjusting controversies, without assuming the prerogative of dictating that adjustment. It might then be sufficient for them to invite offenders to forsake their errors. If their expostulations proved, in a few instances, ineffectual, the evils arising out of this circumstance would be of less importance than those which proceed from the perpetual violation of the exercise of private judgement. But, in reality, no evils would arise: for, where the empire of reason was so universally acknowledged, the offender would either readily yield to the expostulations of authority; or, if he resisted, though suffering no personal molestation, he would feel so uneasy, under the equivocal disapprobation, and observant eye, of public judgement, as willingly to remove to a society more congenial to his errors" (ibid., pp. 553–54). On juries and the division of society into "parishes," exercising this function of social control by "banishment," see ibid., pp. 545–46.
- 22. George Woodcock, Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements (New York: Meridian, 1971), p. 92.
- 23. Leonard P. Liggio, "Charles Dunoyer and French Classical Liberalism," Journal of Libertarian Studies 1, no. 3 (Summer 1977): 173. See also Elizabeth W. Schermerhorn, Benjamin Constant: His private life and his contribution to the cause of liberal government in France, 1767–1830 (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1924), pp. 179, 188.
- 24. Benjamin Constant, Écrits et Discours politiques, ed. O. Pozzo di Borgo (Paris: Chez Jean-Jacques Pauvert, 1964), 1:234–35; and idem, "De Godwin et de son ouvrage sur la justice politique," Recueil d'Articles: Le Mercure et la Renommée, ed. Ephraim Harpaz (Geneva: Droz, 1972), 1:214–26.
- 25. A short biographical sketch of Godwin was done for the Dictionnaire de l'économie politique (ed. Coquelin and Guillaumin, 2 vols. [Paris: Guillaumin, 1852], 1:933), by Joseph Garnier, a friend and colleague of Molinari, which suggests the ideas of Godwin were known to the économistes.
- 26. Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (London: J.M. Dent and Sons, 1933), vol. 1, bk. 4, chap. 2, p. 400.
- 27. Adam Ferguson explained "spontaneous order" as "the result of human actions but not of human design," as quoted in F. A. Hayek, Law, Legislation and Liberty, 3 vols. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973–79), 1:20.
- 28. Smith, Wealth of Nations, vol. 2, bk. 4, chap. 9, p. 180.
- 29. "I will say that we can violate a man's property rights not only by seizing the products of his lands, capital and industry, but also by hindering him in the free use of these means of production. For the right to property as it is defined by the jurisconsults is the right to use, and even to abuse" (Jean-Baptiste Say, Traité d'économie politique, vol. 9, Collections des Principaux Économistes, ed. Horace Say (1841; reprint ed., Onsbruck: Otto Zeller, 1966), p. 134.
- 30. J.-B. Say describes slavery as that "which thus violates the most indisputable of properties" (ibid., p. 13). On conscription: "It is the most scandalous violation of property and of all natural rights" (Cours d'économie politique, vols. 10 and 11, Collections des Principaux Économistes, 11:64).
- 31. "Taxes, even when authorized by the public, are a violation of property ... a theft" (J .-B. Say, Traité d'économie politique, p. 136).
- 32. J .-B. Say, Cours d'économie politique, 11:514.
- 33. J.-B. Say: "force never constitutes a right, even when it commands obedience" (ibid., 11:273).
- 34. Ibid., 10:555.
- 35. J .-B. Say, Traité d'économie politique, p. 198.
- 36. Ibid., p. 135.
- 37. "Under free competition, the better an industrious man defends his own interests, the better he serves the national wealth. The meddling interference of authority cannot comprehend these interests any better than the individual. Each regulation is fatal, because it can never take the place of the intelligence of producers and it hinders their actions, the principal means of their successes" (J .-B. Say, Cours d'économie politique, 10:555). For a modern statement of this argument, see Hayek, "Economics and Knowledge," Individualism and Economic Order (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1972).
- 38. J .-B. Say, Cours d'économie politique, 11:62. "We see that it is not impossible to intioduce into public service the principle of free competition from which we have reaped such happy consequences in productive activities" (ibid. 11:227).
- 39. J.-B. Say, Traité d'économie politique, p. 222. The quote is from Smith, Wealth of Nations, vol. 2, bk. 4, chap. 7, p. 206ff., and can be found in the appendix to this essay, Journal of Libertarian Studies 6, no. 1, forthcoming.
- 40. "If equity commands that coflsumption be paid for by those who have enjoyed it, then in this respect the best administered countries are those where each class supports the cost of public exJ)enses to the extent that they have benefited from them" (J.-B Say, Traité d'économie politique, p. 501).
- 41. "The price of goods based upon a monopoly is, by virtue of this privilege, higher than its cost of production and is to that extent an assault upon the property of the buyer. A tax which is raised higher than the cost necessary to procure the taxpayer the security he desires is likewise an assault upon the property of the taxpayer" (J.-B. Say, Cours d'économie politique, 11:389).
- 42. "Smith wished to have civil suits paid for by the parties involved. This idea would be even more practical if judgments were made not by officially chosen tribunals but by arbiters chosen by the parties from among those men singled out by public confidence. If these arbiters, acting as a jury of equity, were paid in proportion to the sum in dispute without regard to the length of the proceeding, they would be motivated to simplify and shorten the procedure in order to save their own time and to judge fairly in order to assure their continued employment" (J .-B. Say, Traité d'économie politique, pp. 501–502). "Arbiters would be paid by the parties, or perhaps by the losing party only, according to the importance of the interests in question not of the length of the trial. The parties would or would not employ the services of lawyers and advocates as they pleased. ... Thus, the honorarium of the judge would be composed: (1) of a fixed sum for each province, a very moderate sum paid simply to have a man keep himself at the disposition of the public, (2) an ad hoc premium when he is called to be an arbiter, and (3) an honorarium proportional to the value in dispute, payable after judgment" (J.-B. Say, Cours d'économie politique, 11:267–77).
- 43. Ibid., 11:276.
- 44. Albert Schatz, L'Individualisme économique et sociale: Ses origines, son évolution, ses formes contemporaines (Paris: Librairie Armand Colin, 1907), p. 197.
- 45. "In a well ordered state, the government ought to be nothing more than an aid to production, a commission charged and paid for by producers to look after the safety of their persons and property while they work and to guard them against all parasites" (Charles Dunoyer, Censeur européen, 2:102; quoted in Edgar Allix, "La Déformation de l'économie politique liberale après J.-B. Say: Charles Dunoyer," Revue d'histoire des doctrines éeconomiques et sociales , p. 118). Schatz observed of Dunoyer's ideas: "In this view, the functions of government would require only a small number of agents. The mass of workers would remain available to increase the sum of social utilities other than security. It is appropriate therefore to reduce the number of both public functions and public functionaries, employing the only effective means which is the reduction of their profits or salaries. The title of the Company charged with the public safety is of little importance, be it monarchy or republic, provided that it costs little and does not interfere, and that it progressively realizes the ideal of a society so perfectly educated that the government might disappear altogether leaving the people to the full enjoyment of their time, their income and their liberty" (Schatz, L'Individualisme, pp. 210–11).
Molinari was to show in Les Soirèes de la rue Saint-Lazare (Paris: Guillaumin, 1849) that there was no need to assume that society or individuals would become progressively more educated before society could do without government monopoly security.
- 46. Dunoyer, Censeur européen, 2:102, quoted in Allix, "La Déformation de l'économie politique, p. 119.
- 47. Ibid., 7:92, quoted in Allix, "La Déformation de l'économie politique, p. 119.
- 48. Thierry, Censeur européen, 8:230, 241, quoted in Mark Weinburg, "The Social Analysis of Three Early 19th Century French liberals: Say, Comte, and Dunoyer," Journal of Libertarian Studies 2, no. 1 (Winter 1978): 54.
- 49. Charles Comte, Traité de legislation, 1:448., quoted in Weinburg, "The Social Analysis," p. 57.
- 50. Dunoyer, Oeuvres de Charles Dunoyer (Paris: Guillaumin, 1886), 1:297, quoted in Allix, "La Deformation de l'économie politique," p. 131.
- 51. Dunoyer, L'lndustrie et la morale, considérées dons leurs rapports avec la liberté (Paris: A. Sautelet, 1825), pp. 366–67.
- 52. J. L. Talmon, Political Messianism, The Romantic Phase (London: Seckar & Warburg, 1960), pp. 48–50, quoted in Liggio, "Charles Dunoyer and French Classical Liberalism," p. 171.
- 53. "Dunoyer," Supplément du Nouveau Dictionnaire de l'économie politique de M. Leon Say et Joseph Chailley-Berl (Paris: Guillaumin, 1897), pp. 142–44; Obituary of Dunoyer, Journal des Économistes (henceforth JDE), 2nd ser. 36 (October-December 1862): 442. Gustave de Molinari wrote the biographical study of Charles Comte for the Dictionnaire, 1:446–47.
- 54. Molinari, Cours d'économie politique, 2nd ed. rev. and enl., 2 vols. (1855; Paris, Guillaumin, 1863), 1:186.
- 55. See Part III of the present essay, in Journal of Libertarian Studies 6, no. I, forthcoming.
- 56. Molinari, L'Évolution politique et la révolution (Paris: C. Reinwald, 1884), p. 394.
- 57. Yves Guyot, "Obituary — Gustave de Molinari," The Economic Journal (March 1912), p. 155.
- 58. See Emile Levasseur's address to the "Quarantième anniversaire de la fondation de la Société d'Économie politique," JDE, 4th ser. 20 (1882), p. 297.
- 59. Molinari, "L'avenir des chemins de fer" (1843), first published in La Nation, then in La Gazette de France.
- 60. This was the first of Molinari's books to be published by the great liberal publisher Guillaumin, who was to publish many of his later works and under whose impress appeared a large number of important and influential liberal works throughout the nineteenth century.
- 61. See Laurence S. Moss, "Private Property Anarchism: An American Variant," in Further Explorations in the Theory of Anarchism (Blacksburg, Va.: University Publications, 1974).
- 62. Molinari, "Notice sur la vie et les écrits de Charles Coquelin," JDE 33 (1852): 245.
- 63. "It is not surprising that the members of the free-trade association did not succeed in exciting the masses in favor of tariff reform. They had the misfortune of being forestalled among the working classes by the socialists, while arrayed against them among the upper classes was the tenacious league of privileged interests. Faced with this alliance of socialism from below and protectionism from above, their propaganda, if not utterly paralyzed, was at least rendered singularly difficult" (Molinari, "Liberté des Échanges [Association pour la]," Dictionnaire, 2:48.
- 64. Molinari, "Notice sur la vie et Jes travaux de Frédéric Bastist," JDE 28 (1851): 23.
- 65. Molinari, "Charles Coquelin," pp. 202, 247.
- 66. See Dean Russell, "Bastiat as Legislator," Frédéric Bastiat: Ideas and Influence (Irvington, N.Y.: Foundation for Economic Education, 1969). "The free trade movement as such had ceased to exist in France when Bastiat began his legislative career ... " (ibid., p. 106).
- 67. See "Quatrième anniversaire," JDE 37 (1853): 299.
- 68. Louis Napoleon Bonaparte was elected President on December 10, 1848, and the criticism of the free-trade liberals may not have been felt as acutely as in April.
- 69. Molinari, Review of the Dictionnaire d'économie politique, JDE 37 (1853): 420. Also see Leon Say's and Emile Lavasseur's address in "Quatrième anniversaire."
- 70. Molinari believed that the early economistes had not been completely successful in removing all the old restrictions which hampered the development of the economy. He explained: "Our societies still bear numerous vestiges of the mercantilist regime. Nowhere has the freedom to work and trade completely found its place in the sun" (Cours d'économie politique, 1:11).
- 71. Molinari, Review of the Dictionnaire, pp. 421–422, 426.
- 72. See Norman McCord, The Anti-Corn Law League, 1838–1846 (London: Unwin University Books, 1968).
- 73. Guyot, "M. G. de Molinari," JDE 33 (February 1912): p. 179.
- 74. See especially Molinari, "La Révolution française," L'Évolution politique et la révolution, chap. 9. "How then did a revolution naively undertaken to establish a regime of liberty and prosperity for the benefit of humanity end in the reconstitution and aggravation of the old regime for the profit of a new governing class, in an increase in the servitude and burdens which weighed upon the 'political consumer' and in the recrudescence of the state of war?" (ibid., p. 291).
- 75. Molinari, Les Révolutions et le despotisme envisagés au point de vue des intérêts materiels (Brussels: Meline, 1852), p. 90.
- 76. See M. Monjean, "Turgot," Dictionnaire 2:777–87; and H. Baudrillart, "La Philosophie des Physiocrates," JDE 29 (1851): 224–34.
- 77. Molinari, Les Révolutions et le despotisme, p. 91.
- 78. Molinari's Cours d'économie politique is dedicated to Brouckere in thanks and it is here that Molinari explains how he came to be appointed to the Musée royal.
- 79. Molinari, Cours d'économie politique, p. xi. Molinari commended his intellectual forebears for helping to free industry from its political shackles under the ancien regime: "This task the founders have admirably accomplished" (ibid., p. xi). However, conditions had changed by mid-nineteenth century and a new approach was needed to defeat the remnants of the old restrictions and the new holders of privilege who had emerged since (and because of) the revolution of 1789.
- 80. See note #15 supra on my distinction between "anarchy" and "anarchism."
- 81. Molinari, "La Situation économique en Belgique," JDE, 2nd ser. 9 (1856); and JDE, 2nd ser. 8 (1856): 150.
- 82. Molinari, "Le commerce des grains, dialogues entre un émeutier, un économiste et un prohibitfoniste," part l, JDE, 2nd ser. 4 (1854); part 2, JDE, 2nd ser. 6 (1855). Both were reprinted in Molinari, Questions d'économie politique et de droit public (Brussels: Lacroix; Paris: Guillaumin, 1861).
- 83. Molinari, L'abbé de Saint-Pierre: Se vie et ses oeuvres (Paris: Guillaumin, 1857). See also Molinari, "Des Progrès réalisés dans les coutumes de la guerre," JDE, 2nd ser. 3: 161, 321; and idem, "La paix perpétuelle est-elle une utopie?" JDE, 2nd ser. 12 (1856): 33. Molinari, Frédéric Passy and Clavel had planned to publish a pacifist journal in neutral Belgium, provisionally entitled L'Éuropeen, in 1859, but this attempt had not come to anything. See Frédéric Passy, Pour la Paix — notes et documents (Paris: Garland reprint, 1909), p. 7.
- 84. The education debate was printed in: "Si l'éducation des enfants est obligatoire par le père de famille: discussion à la Société d'économie politique," JDE, 2nd ser. 18 (1858): 476; De l'enseignement obligotoire: Discussion entre M. G. de Molinari et M. Frédéric Passy (Paris: Guillaumin, 1859); and Gaëtan Pirou, Les Doctrines économiques en France depuis 1870 (Paris: Librairie Armand Colin, 1946), pp. 111–12. On tutelage, see Molinari, "Tutuelle et liberté," L'Évolution politique et la révolution, chap. 11, pp. 424–85. Discussion on tutelage will also be found in the section on "The Political Economy of 'Ulcerous' Government," in Part II of this paper.
- 85. Molinari, Les Clubs rouges pendant le siège de Paris (Paris: Garnier Freres, 1871); idem, Le Mouvement socioliste et les réunions publiques avant la révolution du 4 septembre 1870 (Paris: Garnier Freres, 1872).
- 86. Molinari, "Preface," Les Clubs rouges, p. vi. This was written May 15, 1871.
- 87. Ibid.
- 88. Molinari, "Preface," Le Mouvement socialiste, p. xiii.
- 89. Ibid., p. xiv.
- 90. Ibid., p. xvi.
- 91. Ibid.
- 92. Ibid., p. xviii.
- 93. Ibid., p. xix.
- 94. Ibid.
- 95. Ibid., p. xx.
- 96. Ibid., p. xxi.
- 97. Ibid., p. vii.
- 98. See Molinari, "De la production de la sécurité," JDE 21 (1849): 277; reprinted in Molinari, Questions d'économie politique, 1:245; translated by J. Huston McCulloch, "The Production of Security," Occasional Paper Series #2 (New York: Center for Libertarian Studies, 1977). For additional discussion see Molinari, "Du governement et de sa fondation," Les Soirées de la rue Saint-Lazare, onzième soirée, p. 303; and idem, "Les consommations publiques," Cours de l'économie politique, 2:480. Also relevant are the following articles by Molinari in the Économiste belge: "Le sentiment et l'intérêt en matiére de nationalité" (May 24, 1862); polemic with Hyac. Deheselle (July 4 and 21, and July 5 and 19, 1862); "Principe du sécessionisme" (August 30, 1862); "Lettres à une Russe sur l'éstablissement d'une constitution en Russie," (August 2 and 30, and September 19, 1862); "La crise américaine" (January 17, 1863); "Un nouveau Crédit Mobilier" (February 14, 1863); "Une solution pacifique de la question polonaise" (May 9, 1863); quoted in Cours d'économie politique, 2:532.
Molinari's L'Évolution économique du dix-neuvieme siècte: Théorie du progrès (1880) and L'Evolution politique et la révolution (1884) were both published in Paris by C. Reinwald.
- 99. Joseph Garnier, the man whom Molinari succeeded as editor of the Journal des Économistes, had been a leading activist in free-trade and pacifist circles. Born in 1813, in Beuil, Alpes-Maritimes, he came to Paris at the time of the 1830 revolution and studied political economy under Adolphe Blanqui at the École spéciale du Commerce. He was one of the five who founded the Société d'Économie Politique, he was editor and secretary of Le Libre-Échange and he lectured in political economy at the École Blanqui, the Athénée Royal (1842–43), the École des Ponts-et-Chaussées (1846–81) and occasionally at the École supérieure du Commerce and the Collège Chaptal. He also contributed to the founding of the Club de la liberté du travail and the popular journal Jacques Bonhomme. In 1873 he was elected a member of the Académie des Sciences morales et politiques to replace Charles Dupin and elected senator in 1876 for the department of Alpes-Maritimes. Garnier was also very active in the peace movement, being one of the organizers of the Congrès des amis de la paix for the meetings in Paris, Frankfurt and London in 1849, 1850, and 1851. Garnier was considered by his colleagues to have considerable talent for popularizing the ideas of peace and liberty, ideas which he considered to be inseparable both in theory and practice. Molinari wrote of him: "Political economy has been the passion and labor of his life. He regarded its principles as the best means to free society from the utopias of socialism and the alliances of special interests — the latter perhaps the more pernicious since utopias only threaten the future while special interests exploit the present. His entire life was devoted to spreading the tenets of this science of peace and liberty. He labored to popularize it in his speeches, his lectures, his articles and his books. He wrote the finest textbook on political economy which we possess — his Traité, which has become a classic and been translated into all languages. He was tireless" ("Obseques de Garnier," JDE, 4th ser. 20 [18821).
- 100. The editors of the Journal des Économistes were: Adolphe Blanqui (1842); Hippolyte Dussard (1843–45), Joseph Garnier (1845–55), Henri Baudrillart (1855–65), Joseph Garnier (1865–81), Gustave de Molinari (1881–1909), and Yves Guyot (1909–?).
- 101. For the early history of the Journal des Économistes and the Société d'Économie Politique, see "Journal des Économistes," Dictionnaire; and Levasseur, "Quarantième anniversaire de la fondation." The Société had 50 members in 1847, 80 in 1849, 117 in 1859, 148 in 1864, 165 in 1868, 211 in 1874, and 227 in 1882. See also Michel Lutfalle, "Aux Origines du libéralisme économique en France: le Journal des Économistes; Analyse du contenu de la première serie, 1841–53," Revue d'histoire économique et sociale, no. 4 (1974).
- 102. J. Garnier, quoted in "Journal des Économistes," Dictionnaire, from JDE (March 1848).
- 103. Listed in "Journal des Économistes," Dictionnaire.
- 104. Guyot, "Obituary — Gustave de Molinari," The Economic Journal 22 (March 1912): pp. 154–55.
- 105. Molinari had first written about how workers could improve their conditions in the Courrier français (July 1846).
- 106. See Guyot, "G. de Molinari," pp. 186–87; Molinari, "Son Opinion, à la Société d'Économie Politique, sur les bourses du travail," JDE, 4th ser. 18 (1882): 441; idem, "La Bourse du travail," JDE, 4th ser. 44 (1888): 321; and idem, Les Bourses du Travail (Paris: Guillaumin, 1893).
- 107. Cobban writes: "under the Marxist influence of Guesde, a Federation nationale des Syndicats was formed for political action in 1886. In opposition to this, Bourses du Travail, founded in 1887, as popularly controlled centres of mutual aid, workers' education, and employment exchanges, formed a national federation in 1892," (A. Cobban, A History of Modern France, vol. 3, 1871–1962, (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965), p. 46.
- 108. Molinari developed these ideas in the following books: Les Lois naturelles de l'économie politique (Paris: Guillaumin, 1887); La Morale économique (Paris: Guillaumin, 1887); Notions fondamentales d'économie politique et programme économique (Paris: Guillaumin, 1891); Religion, trans. Walter K. Firminger, 2nd enl. ed. (London: S. Sonnenschein; New York: Macmillan, 1894); Science et Religion (1894); Comment se résoudra la question sociale? (Paris: Guillaumin, 1896); La Viriculture (Paris: Guillaumin, 1897); Grandeur et décadence de la guerre (Paris: Guillaumin, 1898); Esquisse de l'organisation politique et économique de la Société future (Paris: Guillaumin, 1889); Les Problèmes du XXe siècle (Paris: Guillaumin, 1901); Questions économiques à la l'ordre du jour (Paris: Guillaumin, 1906); Théorie de l'évolution: Économie de l'histoire (Paris: F. Akan, 1908); and Ultimo Verba (Paris: V. Girard et E. Brière, 1911). In addition, he contributed to the second edition of the Dictionnaire de l'économie politique (1892).
- 109. "Projet d'association pour l'établissement d'une ligue des neutres," initially published by the Times (July 28, 1887), was reprinted in Molinari, La Morale économique, p. 438.
- 110. Ibid., p. 431.
- 111. Quoted in Guyot, "G. de Molinari," p. 194.
- 112. Molinari, Théorie de l'évolution, p. 257.
- 113. Guyot, "Obituary — Gustave de Molinari," p. 155.
- 114. "He was a completely disinterested man. ... What acts of charity his friends and intimates witnessed him perform without fanfare" (quoted in Guyot, "G. de Molinari," p. 183.
- 115. Raymund de Waha, Die Nationalökonomie in Frankreich (Stuttgart, 1910), p. 71.
Cite This Article
Hart, David M. "Gustave de Molinari and the Anti-statist Liberal Tradition: Part 1." Journal of Libertarian Studies 5, No. 3 (1981): 263–290.