French excellence in political economy


“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 particularly original development. Unlike the English, the French derive freedom from natural rights rather than utilitarianism. They defend free trade 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, 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 the edition of a quaterly journal, Laissons Faire, and the publication of books in both English and French. On this website, you will also find presentations and student guides to help you discover the french tradition in political economy and advance your ideas on the nature of a free society.