The home of French classical liberalism


“The truth is with the French school, and the sooner we recognize the fact,
the better it will be for all the world” — William Stanley Jevons

The free market has often been wrongly conceived of as a mainly Anglo-Saxon phenomenon. This philosophy of freedom has ancient roots, but it has undergone in France a very special development. Unlike the English, the French classical liberals derived freedom from natural rights rather than utilitarianism. They defended free trade and free markets in the form of laissez-faire capitalism. They were primary opponents of collectivist, interventionist and protectionist ideas. Historically, the French School prefigures the modern Austrian School.

The thesis of the french economists of the nineteenth century (Bastiat, Molinari, Guyot, etc.) is that socialism and state interventionnism disregard the law. But it was the french economists of the 18th century (Boisguilbert, Quesnay, Turgot) and the Ideologues (Condillac, Say, Destutt de Tracy, Constant) who laid the foundations of this philosophy, and who became a source of inspiration for Hume, Smith, and Jefferson; and then for Menger, Mises, and Hayek.

The “Groupe de Coppet”, led by Madame de Stael and Benjamin Constant was at the dawn of the nineteenth century, the first European think-tank dedicated to the study of freedom in all its forms. Its work focused on the problems of establishing a limited constitutional government, the issue of free trade, imperialism and French colonialism, the history of the French Revolution and Napoleon, on free speech, education, culture, the rise of socialism and the welfare state.

The Coppet Institute (Institut Coppet), two centuries after the illustrious “Groupe de Coppet”, wants to help raise awareness about all those great precursors. This work of archeology and dissemination includes, among other things, the publication of scholarly articles and carefully edited books in both English and French.

And if you happen to read French, we have more content for you on the French website