French classical liberals and the issue of women’s rights

It is tempting for a liberty-minded historian to leave untouched the comforting presumption that French classical liberals, who championed freedom for the individual in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, must have upheld women’s rights too. Contemporary studies, while often obliterating the role of men in the development of feminist rhetoric, have found occasionally in the history of ideas some remarkable advocates well ahead of their times, and they have offered them as objects of uncritical admiration, in a sort of reconciliatory carnival. One easily concludes that feminism was burgeoning in every century, and that the rising tide was lifting up all boats. […]

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The United States through the eyes of French classical liberalism

In the 18th and 19th centuries, French classical liberals have often seen the United States as an example and a model. Yet, if some have loved this country in a sort of long-distance relationship, others have actually made the travel and have written detail accounts. In this article, Benoît Malbranque examines the praises and criticisms put forward by authors such as Volney, Tocqueville or Gustave de Molinari, regarding the social and economic situation of the United States.

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Molinari’s failed election of 1859, by Dries Van Thielen

Unlike some French economists who centered around the Journal des Economistes (notably Louis Wolowski and Frederic Bastiat), Gustave De Molinari never was a politician. However, this does not mean that he never ran for office. In this short overview, Dries van Thielen presents De Molinari’s failed attempt to join the ranks of the liberal party in 1859.

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Gustave de Molinari, The Economic and Socialist Conceptions of the Society of the Future (1899)

The political and economic organisation of society has, hitherto, varied according to the mental equipment of the individual, the risks of destruction threatening each society, the comparative development of production—the conditions of existence, in fine. These conditions have been profoundly modified, particularly during the last century, by the progress which has transformed the arts of production and destruction, until a political and economic organisation suitable to the past is no longer adapted to modern needs. This lack of adaptability may be considered as the first cause of modern socialist propaganda, since it has precipitated a crisis whose effects have chiefly fallen on the class which subsists on the product of its daily toil.

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Gustave de Molinari, The Free constitution of Nationality (1899)

Gustave de Molinari, The Society of Tomorrow: A Forecast of its Political and Economic Organization, New York, 1904. French version : Esquisse de l’organisation politique et économique de la société future, Paris, 1899 Chapter II The Free Constitution of Nationality The first, and by no means least, advance which will follow the establishment of a State of Peace will be free constitution of nationality. All history attests that it was force, and in no sense a voluntary agreement of both parties, which erected the associations called political States; and at this point it may be useful to recapitulate what we […]

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Gustave de Molinari, The Production of Security (1849)

If there is one well-established truth in political economy, it is this:

That in all cases, for all commodities that serve to provide for the tangible or intangible needs of the consumer, it is in the consumer’s best interest that labor and trade remain free, because the freedom of labor and of trade have as their necessary and permanent result the maximum reduction of price.

And this:

That the interests of the consumer of any commodity whatsoever should always prevail over the interests of the producer.

Now in pursuing these principles, one arrives at this rigorous conclusion:

That the production of security should, in the interests of the consumers of this intangible commodity, remain subject to the law of free competition.

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Material on the French school of political economy

Pierre de Boisguilbert (1646-1714) Hazel Van Dyke Roberts, Boisguilbert: economist of the reign of Louis XIV, New York, Columbia University Press, 1935 “Boisguilbert: An Early French Economist“, 1873, Westminster Review Vauban (1633-1707) A Project for a Royal Tythe, or General Tax, which by suppressing all the ancient funds and later projects for raising the public revenues, and for ever abolishing all exemptions, unequal assessments, and all rigours and oppressive distraining of people, will furnish the government a fixt and certain revenue, sufficient for all its exigencies and occasions, without oppressing the subjects, London, 1708 (see also the 1710 edition)  Richard […]

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