Molinari and the Discussions on Saint Lazarus Street 1849

 Gustave de Molinari (1819-1912) was the founding father of the anarcho-capitalist tradition and Les Soirées was one of the first one volume surveys of the entire classical liberal or libertarian worldview. It is also interesting as it was written in the immediate aftermath of the 1848 Revolution in Paris when socialist politicians came to power and tried to implement the first modern welfare state.


I have put online a new, corrected edition of his book in French online <>.

The quotation on the title page is from Quesnay, a free market theorist from the Physiocrat school. Here is the English translation:

"It is necessary to refrain from attributing to the physical laws the evils which are the just and inevitable punishment for the violation of this very order of laws, which have been instituted in order to produce good."

Here is the table of contents in English (from the translation I am working on). The 11th Evening is the first appearance of an argument for the anarcho-capitalist position. I am posting bits of the translation as they become available <>:

Molinari's Preface

The First Evening - SUMMARY : Attitudes to the problem of society. – That society is governed by natural, immutable and absolute laws. – That property is the basis of the natural organization of society. – Property defined. – Enumeration of the attacks mounted today on the principle of property.

The Second Evening - SUMMARY: Attacks made on external property. – Literary and artistic property laws. – Counterfeiting – ownership of inventions. 

The Third Evening - SUMMARY – Continuation on the attacks made on external property. – The law of Compulsory Purchase for reasons of Public Utility. – Legislation relating to mines. – The Public Domain, State property, departments and villages. – Forests. – Roads. – Canals. – Waterways. – Mineral waters. 

The Fourth Evening - SUMMARY: The right to make a will. –Legislation regulating inheritance. – The right of inheritance. – Its moral outcomes. – Its material outcomes. – Comparison of French and British agriculture. – On Entails and their utility. The natural organization of farming under a regime of free property.

The Fifth Evening - SUMMARY: The right to lend. –Legislation regulating lending at interest. – Definition of capital. – Motives driving capital formation. – On credit. – On interest. – On its constituent elements. – Labor. – Hardship. – Risks. – How these conditions can be alleviated. – That the laws cannot achieve this. – The disastrous results of legislation restricting the rate of interest.

The Sixth Evening - SUMMARY: The right of exchange. – on the exchange of labor. –Laws on Unions. – Articles 414 and 415 of the Penal Code – The Union of Paris Carpenters, 1845. – Proof of the law which makes the price of things gravitate towards their production costs. – Its application to labor. – That the worker can sometimes dictate to the employer. – An example from the British West Indies. – The Natural organization of the sale of labor.

The Seventh Evening - SUMMARY: Right to trade, continuation. – International trade – Protectionism. – Its purpose. – M. de Bourrienne’s Aphorisms. – Origin of Protectionism. – Mercantilism. –Arguments for protection. – Currency depletion. – Independence from other countries. – Increase in domestic production. – That Protectionism has reduced overall output. – That it has made production precarious and distribution unfair. 

The Eighth Evening - SUMMARY: Attacks made on internal property. – Industries monopolised or subsidised by the State. – Production of money. – The nature and uses of money. – Why a country could not use up all its currency. – Communication routes. – Managed expensively and badly by the state. – Carrying letters. – Postmasters. – That government intervention in production is always harmful. – Subsidies and Privileges for theatres. – Public libraries. – Subsidies to religion. – Monopoly of teaching. – Its dire results.

The Ninth Evening - SUMMARY: Continuation of attacks made on internal property. – Right of association. – Legislation which in France regulates commercial companies. – The public limited company and its advantages. – On banking monopolies. – Functions of banks. – Results of government intervention in the affairs of banks. – High cost of discounts. – Legal bankruptcies. – Other privileged or regulated industries. – The bakery trade. – The meat trade. – Printing. – Lawyers. – Stock and investment brokers. – Prostitution. – Funeral directors. – Cemeteries. – The Bar. – Medicine. – The Professoriat. – Article 3 of the law of July 7-9, 1833.

The Tenth Evening - SUMMARY: On state charity and its influence on population. – The law of Malthus. – Defence of Malthus. – On the population of Ireland. – How to put an end to Ireland’s woes. – Why state welfare creates an artificial growth in population. – On its moral influence on the working class. – That state charity discourages private charity. – On the quality of the population. – Ways of improving the population. – The mixing of races. – Marriage. – Successful marriages. – Ill-matched marriages. – Their influence on race. – In what situation, under what regime would the population most easily maintain itself at the level of its means of existence.

The Eleventh Evening - SUMMARY: On government and its function – Monopoly governments and communist governments. – On the liberty of government. – On divine right. – That divine right is identical to the right to work. – The vices of monopoly government. – War is the inevitable consequence of such arrangements. – On the sovereignty of the people. – How we lose our sovereignty. – How we can retrieve it. – The liberal solution. – The Communist solution. – Communist governments. – Their vices. – Centralization and decentralization. – On the administration of justice. – On its former organisation. – On its current organisation. – On the inadequacy of the jury system. – How the administration of security and of justice could be made free. – The advantages of free governments. – How nationality should be understood.

The Twelfth and Last Evening - SUMMARY: Rent. – Its Nature and its Origin. – Resumé and Conclusion.

Posted: Friday - March 23, 2012 at 11:28 PM