About this Blog


This blog contains the thoughts and musings of David Hart concerning the classical liberal tradition, war and the state, and film and art. His main website contains his research and a growing library of books in the classical liberal tradition.

For an explanation of the banner image of Picasso’s “Guernica” see this page.

Some Recent Talks and Papers

  1. The Bicentennial Anthology of Gustave de Molinari’s Writings on the State (2019): this contains a detailed biographical essay on his life and work , 24 extracts from his writings between 1846-1911 with brief introductions to each one , and an updated bibliography of al his works
  2. Paper on “ Plunderers, Parasites, and Plutocrats: Some Reflections on the Rise and Fall and Rise and Fall of Classical Liberal Class Analysis “ at the Libertarian Scholars Conference in NYC 20 Oct. 2018.
  3. Overhead for a talk on “ How to kill the Marxist zombie once and for all: or, how you can learn to stop worrying about S&M on campus ,” YAL Conference, Washington D.C. 26 July, 2018.
  4. A new paper on “The Paris School of Liberal Political Economy, 1803-1853.”
  5. A revised version of Bastiat’s classic essay on “The Law” (June 1850) is available at the OLL website.
  6. One of Molinari’s great pieces on class analysis in which he talks about “des mangeurs de taxes” (tax eaters) vs. “des payeurs de taxes” (tax payers): Les Révolutions et le despotisme envisagés au point de vue des intérêts matériels (Revolutions and Despotism as seen from the perspective of material interests) (1852) .
  7. The book I co-edited of a collection of classical texts in classical liberal and libertarian class analysis,Social Class and State Power: Exploring an Alternative Radical Tradition (Palgrave Macmillan) is now out. See < http://www.palgrave.com/us/book/9783319648934 > for details. An online version of a much larger draft of the book (1 million words vs. 250,000) entitled “Parasites, Plunderers, and Plutocrats.”
  8. My introduction to and translation of Frédéric Passy’s speech on “The School of Liberty” (April, 1890) published in the Acton Institute’s Journal of Markets & Morality. A draft can be found here .
  9. A revised version of my hypertext annotated editions of Molinari’s Les Soirées (1849) and Selected Works of Bastiat (1845-50) with links to the texts, notes, glossaries, appendices, and supplementary essays.

40th Anniversary of the 1978 Cato Summer Seminar in Political Economy

I was going through some old papers and came across the program and my lecture notes for the second ever Cato Summer Seminar in Political Economy which took place at Stanford University in 5-12 August 1978 (the first one took place a month earlier at Wake Forrest). Among the alumni are Ross Levatter, David Lips, Milton Mueller, Tom Palmer, Laurie Rantala, Paul Silverman, and Chris Weber.

The lectures were as follows:

Roy Childs

  1. The Prospects for Liberty
  2. The Ethics of Liberty
  3. People and Land Control
  4. History of the Modern Libertarian Movement 4.

Bill Evers

  1. The Ethics of Liberty
  2. Comparative Political Movements: Conservatism and Libertarianism

Walter Grinder

  1. The Austrian School of Economics
  2. The History of American Foreign Policy
  3. Libertarian Class Analysis
  4. American Power Elites

Murray Rothbard

  1. The History of American Domestic Policy
  2. Theory of Social Change
  3. Domestic Policy Issues
  4. The Future of Liberty

Ronald Hamowy

  1. Topics in American History

Alvin Rabushka

  1. Third World Development

Leonard Liggio

  1. Constituencies for Liberty
  2. American Political Parties and Voting Behavior
  3. Third World Development

Ralph Raico

  1. Comparative Political Movements: Marxism
  2. History of Libertarian Thought

William Marina

  1. Foreign Policy Issues

Ed Crane

  1. What is to be done?

Is it a coincidence that 40 years later I co-edited a book on libertarian class analysis (thanks Walter Grinder), hosted an online discussion on the failings of Marxism (thanks Bill Evers), spent much of the year fretting about strategies for radical social change (thanks Murray Rothbard), and finished putting online a 7 volume collection of Leveller writings from the 17th century (thanks Murray Rothbard and Ralph Raico)? I think perhaps not. From little seeds grow …

Celebrating the Bicentennial of the birth of Gustave de Molinari (1819-1912)

3 March 2019 will be the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Gustave de Molinari, the “founding father” of anarcho-capitalism. To celebrate this event I have put together an anthology of his key writings on the state which will be published by Institut Coppet (Paris) next year. A draft of the book is online and contains a detailed biographical essay on his life and work (in English), 24 extracts from his writings between 1846-1911 (en français) with brief introductions to each one (in English) , and an updated bibibliography of all his works (still a work in progress).

For more information about Molinari see the updated main Molinari page.

The table of contents of the the anthology:

I. Molinari’s Political Credo: “la Liberté, la Propriété, et la Paix” (Liberty, Property, Peace)

  1. His “Spartacus speech” (1849). [Les Soirées, 1849, S12 pp. 348–63.]
  2. Molinari’s Credo: “la Liberté et la Paix” (1861). [“Introduction”, Questions d’économie politique et de droit public (1861), vol. 1, pp. v-xxxi. ]
  3. “Programme économique” (1891). [Notions fondamentales d’Économie politique (1891), pp. 381–96.]

II. The First Formulation of the Theory of Anarcho-Capitalism (1846–1849)

  1. “Le droit électoral” (1846). [Courrier français, 23 July 1846; reprinted in Questions d’économie politique (1861), T. 2, pp. 271–275.]
  2. ”La Production de la sécurité” (1849). [JDE, T. XXII, no. 95, 15 fév., 1849, pp. 277–90.]
  3. “On Government and its Function” (1849). [Les Soirées, S11, pp. 303–337.]

III. Molinari’s Theory of the State I

  1. “Le Despotisme et les mangeurs des taxes” (1852). [Les Révolutions et le despotisme envisagés au point de vue des intérêts matériel (1852), pp. 81–152.]
  2. “Nations” (1853). [Dictionnaire de l’économie politique, T. 2, pp. 259–62.]

IV. The Further Development of Molinari’s Theory of Pure Anarcho-capitalism (1852–1863)

  1. “Les consommations publiques” (1855, 1863). [Cours d’économie politique (1855, 1863), T. 2, pp. 480–534.]
  2. ”De l’administration de la Justice” (1855). [L’économiste belge No. 11, 5 Juin 1855, pp. 1–3.]

V. Molinari’s Theory of the State II: The “Tempered” (strengthened, hardened) Republic (1873)

  1. “La République tempérée” (1873). [La République tempérée (1873), I, pp. 5–14; II pp. 15–25; V, pp. 59–77; VI. pp. 79–90.]

VI. Molinari’s Gradual Retreat from Strict Anarcho-Capitalism (1880–1908)

  1. ”La théorie du progrès et l’évolution économique” (1880). [L’Évolution économique du dix-neuvième siècle (1880), “Conclusion,” pp. 439–69.]
  2. ”Les gouvernements de l’avenir” (1884). [L’Évolution politique et la Révolution (1884), Chap. X “Les gouvernements de l’avenir,” pp. 351–423.]
  3. ”La liberté de gouvernement” (1887). [Les Lois naturelles de l’économie politique (1887), pp. 238–77.]
  4. ”Projet d’Association pour l’établissement d’une Ligue des neutres” (1887). [The Times, 28 juillet 1887. Republished in La morale économique (1888), pp. 431–38).]
  5. “La décadence de la guerre” (1898). [La Grandeur et decadence de la guerre (1898), selections from pp. 113–72.]
  6. ”La constitution libre” (1899). [Esquisse de l’organisation politique et économique de la société future (1899), pp.69–93.]
  7. “Le problème du gouvernement individuel” (1900). [JDE, S. 5, T. 44, N° 3, décembre 1900, pp. 321–39.]

VII. Last Words on the Matter (1901–1911)

  1. Summing up the liberal successes and failures of the 19th Century (January, 1901). [“Le XIXe siècle”, JDE, Jan.1901), pp. 5–19.]
  2. Predicting the Catastrophes of the 20th Century (January, 1902). [“Le XXe siècle,” JDE, Jan. 1902), pp. 5–14.]
  3. “Où est l’Utopie?” (1906). [JDE, S. 6, T. 3, N° 2, août 1904.]
  4. “Le vol et l’échange” (1908). [JDE, S. 6, T. 19, N° 1, juillet 1908.]
  5. “La crise et la décadence” (1908). [Économie de l’histoire. Théorie de l’évolution (1908), pp. 219–257.]
  6. Molinari’s “Last Words” (1911). [Ultima Verba: Mon dernier ouvrage (1911), “Préface,” pp. i-xvii.]

Frédéric Bastiat (1810-1850): A Life in Images

Paris from Above: the Three Barriers around the city in the 1840s


The Inner Circle: the octroi tax wall and barriers

The Octroi gate and wall at Belleville


Pulling down the Octroi Gates and walls in 1859


The Militatry Wall built by Adolphe Thers 1841-44

A photograph of the Military Wall at the Versailles Entry Gate


Cross section of the Wall and surroundings


FB’s life in Mugron 1843-44


Map of Les Landes


Bastiat’s house in Mugron


Place Bastiat in Mugron


A Farmer inspecting his tenants


A shepherd walking of stilts to better observe his sheep in the heathlands

Getting to Paris by Train in the 1840s


Gare chemin de fer Versailles in 1848


The railway station of the Northern Line


A newly constructed railway bridge

FB’s growing success in Paris with the Free Trade movement and Guillaumin circle 1845-47

A Panoramic View of Paris in the 1840s


The Guillaumin Circle


Guillaumin office and the Molière Fountain, rue Richelieu


A Wall Poster advertising a Free Trade meeting

A Political Banquet in July 1847

Revolution and Crisis Feb-June 1848

Lamartine on the steps of the Hotel de ville announcing the Formation of the Provisional Government of the Second Republic


The Hotel de ville in 1840


Street Barricades erected in February 1848




A Barricade in the rue Saint-Martin

The National Assembly (Palais Bourbon)


The exterior of the National Assembly


Interior of Assemblée Nationale in 1848

The Luxembourg Palace and the National Workshops


The Luxembourg Palace and Gardens

Citizens reading wall posters for news


A wall poster announcing the formation of the National Workshops in Feb. 1848


Louis Blanc, the head of the Luxembourg Commission for Labour


The SemiCircle of Famous French Politicians


Turgot the Free Trader and Colbert the Mercantilist


A meeting of workers at the Luxembourg Commission


A wall poster announcing a cut back in hours paid because of too many workers

Political Clubs



Entry Ticket to the Club Lib


A debate in one of the Political Clubs

FB’s Revolutionary Newspapers



Putting up Wall Posters


The title page of the first issue of FB’s revolutionary street paper “Jacques Bonhomme”



Invasion of the National Assembly in z15 May 1848 by Political Clubs supporting Louis Blanc

Street Barricades during the June Days


A Barricade on the rue Saint-Maur


Troops massing to destroy the barricades on rue Sainte-Catherine

The Aftermath of the Revolution June 1848-50

FB’s fight against socialism, the Peace Congress, race to finish his legacy work June 1848 – Dec 1849, worsening health, last months of frantic writing, farewell, and death 1850


The Butard Hunting Lodge where FB wrote Economic Harm

The Friends of Peace Congress

Entry ticket for the Friends of Peace Congress, Aug. 1849


Victor Hugo opening the Peace Congress in Saint-Cecile Hall


Members of the English delegation to the Congress

FB’s Secret Mission to visit Cobden in London


The Reform Club where FB met with Richard Cobden to discuss disarmament


The Upper Level of the Reform Club

FB Leaving Paris for the Last Time – Political graffiti


The “Prince-President” Louis Napoleon was elected President of the Second Republic in Dec. 1848


A Cartoon of Napoleon III as Budget-Eating Vulture

Coda: The Aftermath

The Statue for Bastiat in Mugron 1878


“Broken Windows”: A Screenplay about the Life and Work of Bastiat


Films about Ideas and Revolutions

This screenplay is designed to be the classical liberal or libertarian equivalent of Warren Beatty’s brilliant but very left-wing movie Reds (1981) about the life of the American communist journalist John Reed (1887-1920) before and during the Russian Revolution of 1917. See his famous account Ten Days That Shook the World (1919).

A number of movies about ideas and revolutions have influenced my thinking about this screenplay. Films explicitly about revolutions include the following:

  • the Bolshevik or Russian Revolution: Warren Beatty, Reds (1981) – see the entry in the Internet Movie Data Base for Reds.
  • the French Revolution: Andrzej Wajda, Danton (1982) – about the rivalry between Danton and Robespierre during the Terror. See my old teaching Study Guide on Danton.

Other films about how ideas can change the world include:

  • Richard Attenborough, Gandhi (1982)
  • Margarethe von Trotta, Rosa Luxemburg (1986)
  • Michael Apted, Amazing Grace (2006)

The screenplay as written (Aug. 2016) is part historical guide to the period (1843-1850), part biography of Bastiat, part history of the 1848 Revolution and the fighting on the street barricades against the Army, and part history of ideas of the growing liberal movement against protectionism, socialism, and bureaucratic Bonapartism. I have used the actual words of the participants in many of the speeches used in the screenplay such as meetings of the French Free Trade Association, speeches in the Chamber of Deputies in the Second Republic, the Peace Congress of Aug. 1849, and elsewhere. In any filmable version of the screenplay these of course would have to be drastically cut, but I include them here for historical purposes. (Some of them are also very good as political speeches, such as Lamartine’s on free trade.

For more on this topic see my manuscript on “The Struggle against Protectionism, Socialism, and the Bureaucratic State: The Economic Thought of Gustave de Molinari, 1845-1855”.

Key Visual Elements: the encirclement of Paris and political art,


I have also tried to reconstruct in the film the physical appearance of Paris when Bastiat went there in 1845. The three visually striking architectural structures which surrounded Paris at the time have since largely disappeared as the Paris suburbs have grown. But when Bastiat went to Paris for his May 1845 welcome by the Political Economy Society one of the newly constructed railroads would have taken him through the following barriers:

  • the ring of 16 newly constructed “star shaped” forts which surrounded the city for its “protection” from the British (Adolph Thiers’ greatest fear);
  • the massive military wall built by Adolphe Thiers 1841-44 (at huge public expense and massive compulsory acquisition of private property), and
  • the old customs wall built in the 1780s to make it easier for the private tax collectors, the Farmers General, to collect state taxes.

Any attempt to film these architectural structures would require considerable CGI resources. (See the map below of the three concentric circles of state power which surrounded Paris and restrained the free movement of its inhabitants.)


A second visual element in the film is the art of Delacroix and the political cartoons of Honoré Daumier. As visual themes or leit motifs for the film I had in my mind Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading the People on the Barricades” (1830) and Daumier’s cartoon of “Gargantua” (1832) (which landed him in jail for offending the King). There can be seen below. For more details see the collection of illustrations in “Broken Windows: An Illustrated History of the Life and Works of Frédéric Bastiat.”

I didn’t want the film to end on a depressing note – even though it is probably the most suitable emotion to feel at the end of 1850 if you were a classical liberal in Paris – so I tried to think of a more uplifting way to end the movie. I think I found a suitable way to do so (thanks to R.C. Hoiles). Let me know what you think: Email me.

Note: the actual text of this draft of the screenplay retains the original formatting of the application used by many writers (Final Draft 9) to create screenplays for submission. Hollywood has very strict rules concerning the exact format screenplays have to be in. I’m sorry for that inconvenience. It is ugly but it seems to have evolved into the Hollywood equivalent of the QWERTY keyboard.

Additional Information about Bastiat

For additional information about Bastiat see:

A Sample Scene

Here is a sample scene. Bastiat’s work on his economic treatise, Economic Harmonies was repeatedly interrupted by his political activities in the National Assembly, his work in writing a series of what would be 12 anti-socialist pamphlets, and his rapidly declining health. To give him some time to concentrate on his treatise the wealthy manufacturer Casimir Cheuvreux and his wife Hortense who supported the economists’ activities let Bastiat use their hunting lodge at Butard in a forest on the western outskirts of Paris so he could work without distractions. Hortense Cheuvreux also ran a salon from her luxurious home in Paris which Bastiat attended. It was during the summer of 1849 that Bastiat completed volume one of Economic Harmonies (which was published in late 1849 or early 1850) and also wrote an early draft of What is Seen and What is Not Seen, the first chapter of which was the famous “The Broken Window.”



           Early summer 1849. Hortense comes to see how Frederic is
           progressing with his treatise. He is PLAYING HIS CELLO in the
           sitting room when there is a knock at the door of the Hunting

                     Come in Hortense!

                               MME CHEUVREUX
                     I didn't mean to disturb you. I've
                     come to see how you are settling
                     in. Do you have everything you

                     Yes, almost everything. I miss my
                     daily newspapers. Thomas used to
                     bring them to me every morning.

                               MME CHEUVREUX
                     I'll have them sent to you.

                     I can't thank you enough for
                     helping me like this. It is a
                     beautiful place to read and write. 

                               MME CHEUVREUX
                     I thought you would like it.

           Hortense moves over to his desk to look at the papers he had
           been working on. We can see the BOTTLE OF LAUDANUM he uses to
           ease the pain of his coughing on the desk.

                     I know what you are going to ask.
                     How is my treatise coming along?

           She sits in a chair next to the long desk which faces out the
           French doors into the woods.

                               FREDERIC (CONT'D)
                     My plan is to have volume one
                     finished by the end of the summer.
                     That is the first pile. The second
                     pile are notes and sketches for the
                     second volume. Who knows when that
                     will be finished.

                               MME CHEUVREUX
                     Guillaumin will be so pleased to
                     get this! And the third pile?

                     You weren't supposed to see that.
                     It is my most recent popular work.

           Hortense picks up the third pile and begins to leaf through

                               MME CHEUVREUX
                     So, you have found some more
                     sophisms which need to be refuted.
                     You really are incorrigable!

           She begins to read out a passage.

                               MME CHEUVREUX (CONT'D)
                     "In the sphere of economics an
                     action, a habit, an institution or
                     a law engenders not just one effect
                     but a series of effects. Of these
                     effects only the first is
                     immediate; it is revealed
                     simultaneously with its cause, it
                     is seen. The others merely occur
                     successively, they are not seen; we
                     are lucky if we foresee them." So
                     you are writing about "invisible
                     economics" now?

                     Yes, in a way. Not invisible, but
                     rather, not seen.

                               MME CHEUVREUX
                     I see, if you will pardon the pun.
                     I have to hand it to you Frederic,
                     you have a way with words!

           He laughs.

                     Thanks! I'll have to see if I can
                     use that joke at your next soirée.

           They both laugh and look at each other with tenderness tinged
           with sadness.

Bastiat’s Theory of Class

Bastiat’s Theory of Class: The Plunderers vs. the Plundered.”


This is the Introductory Essay for a bi-lingual edition of Frédéric Bastiat’s writings on class and plunder which is in preparation. It is an attempt to reconstruct from his scattered writings on class the History of Plunder he planned to write but never did. The anthology of around 15 texts is in an early stage of editing and will be added later. See here for details.


Frédéric Bastiat’s unwritten “History of Plunder” ranks alongside Lord Acton’s never written (and possibly unwritable) “History of Liberty” and Murray Rothbard’s third volume of his “History of Economic Thought” series as one of the greatest libertarian books never written. Had he lived to a ripe old age, instead of dying at the age of 49 from throat cancer, he might have finished his magnum opus Economic Harmonies and lived to complete his history of plunder. It should be noted that Karl Marx, the founder of Marxism, published the first volume of his magnum opus, Das Capital (1867), when he too was 49 years old but lived another 15 years during which time he wrote but never completed another two large volumes. Given the chance, Bastiat might well have fulfilled his great promise as an economic theorist and historian and have become the Karl Marx of the 19th century classical liberal movement. How history might have been different if he had! Or maybe not, who can tell?

In the 8 years Bastiat was active as a writer and a politician (1843-1850) he produced six large volumes of letters, pamphlets, articles, and books which Liberty Fund is translating as part of its Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat (2011-2015). What emerges from a chronological examination of his writings is his gradual realization that the State is a vast machine which is purposely designed to take the property of some people without their consent and to transfer it to other people. The word which he uses with increasing frequency in this period to describe the actions of the State is “la spoliation” (plunder), although he also uses words like “parasite”, “viol” (rape), “vol” (theft), and “pillage” which are equally harsh and to the point. In his scattered writings on State plunder written before the 1848 Revolution he identifies the particular groups which have had access to State power at different times in history in order to plunder ordinary people, these were warriors, slave owners, the Catholic Church, and more recently commercial and industrial monopolists. Each of these groups and the particular way in which they used State power to exploit ordinary people for their own benefit were to have a separate section in his planned “History of Plunder.” Were he to have defined the State before the 1848 Revolution it might well have been along these lines: “The state is the mechanism by which a small privileged group of people live at the expense of everyone else.”

But the outbreak of Revolution in February 1848 in Paris changed the equation dramatically which forced Bastiat to change his analysis of plunder and the State. Before the Revolution, small privileged minorities were able to seize control of the State and plunder the majority of the people for their own benefit – what he termed “la spoliation partielle” (partial plunder). For example, slave owners were able to exploit their slaves, aristocratic landowners were able to exploit their serfs, privileged monopolists were able to exploit their customers, and thus it made some kind of brutal sense for a small minority to plunder and loot the majority. In Bastiat’s theory before 1848 he identified the special interests who benefited from their access to the State and exposed them to the public via his journalism, often with withering criticism and satire, such as the landed elites who benefited from tariff protection, the industrial elites who benefited from monopolies and state subsidies, and the monarchy and the aristocratic elites who benefited from access to jobs in the government and the army.

The rise to power of socialist groups in 1848 meant that larger groups, perhaps a majority of the voters if the socialist groups were successful in winning office, were now trying to use the same methods used by these privileged minorities but now for the benefit of “everyone” instead of a narrow elite – or, what he termed “la spoliation universelle” (universal plunder) or “la spoliation réciproque” (reciprocal plunder). The problem as Bastiat saw it, was that it was theoretically and practically impossible for the majority to live at the expense of the majority. Somebody had eventually to pay the bills and the majority could not do this if it was paying the taxes as well as receiving the “benefits” of state handouts, with the State and its employees (les fonctionnaires) taking its customary cut along the way. This conundrum led him to put forward his famous definition of the State in mid-1848: “L’État, c’est la grande fiction à travers laquelle tout le monde s’efforce de vivre aux dépens de tout le monde” (The state is the great fiction by which everyone endeavours to live at the expense of everyone else.)[2] Bastiat’s political strategy now had to change to trying to convince ordinary workers that promises of government jobs, state-funded unemployment relief, and price controls were self-defeating and ultimately impossible to achieve.

Bastiat was not able to win this intellectual or political debate because of his death in December 1850 and the socialist forces were ultimately defeated temporarily by a combination of military and police oppression as the “Party of Order” supported the rise of Louis Napoleon who quickly designated himself as the “Prince-President” of France and then appointed himself Emperor Napoleon III. However, the core weakness of the welfare state was clearly identified by Bastiat in 1848 and we continue to see the consequences of its economic contradictions and possible collapse in the present day.

With this broader picture in mind I would like to examine Bastiat’s theory of plunder and the class analysis which he developed from this, so we can see more clearly what he had in mind and appreciate the power of his analysis.

The Texts for the Anthology

Unfortunately, Bastiat’s ideas remain scattered throughout many of his essays and articles which were written between 1845 and 1850. The most important of these works (some 15 in number) where he provides more extensive discussion of the nature of class and plunder are the following (listed in chronological order), 6 of which come from the Economic Sophisms (1846, 1848), 2 from Economic Harmonies (1850, 1851), and 2 from What is Seen and What is Not Seen (1850):

  1. the “Introduction” to Cobden and the League (July 1845), in which he discusses the English “oligarchy” which benefited from the system of tariffs which Cobden and his Anti-Corn Law League were trying to get repealed; the strategy they adopted was to identify the key source of income for the ruling oligarchy (tariffs on imported food) and to eliminate it (by opening the economy to free trade) and thus weaken the oligarchy’s political and economic power
  2. ES1 “Conclusion” to Economic Sophisms 1 (dated November 1845), where he reflects on the use of force throughout history to oppress the majority, and the part played by “sophistry” (ideology and false economic thinking) to justify this
  3. ES2 9 “Theft by Subsidy” (JDE, January 1846), where he insists on the need to use “harsh language” – like the word “theft” – to describe the policies of governments which give benefits to some at the expence of others[4]
  4. ES3 6 “The People and the Bourgeoisie” (LE, 23 May 1847), in which he rejects the idea that there is an inevitable antagonism (“la guerre sociale” (war between social groups or classes)) between the people and the bourgeoisie, while there is one between the people and the aristocracy; he also introduces the idea of “la classe électorale” (the electoral classe) which controls the French state by severely limiting the right to vote to the top 1 or 2% of the population
  5. ES2 1 “The Physiology of Plunder” (c. 1847), which is his first detailed discussion of the nature of plunder (which is contrasted with “production”) and his historical progression of stages through which plunder has evolved from war, slavery, theocracy, and monopoly
  6. ES2 2 “Two Moral Philosophies” (c. 1847), where he distinguishes between religious moral philosophy, which attempts to persuade the men who live by plundering others (e.g. slave owners and protectionists) to voluntarily refrain from doing so, and economic moral philosophy, which speaks to the victims of plundering and urges them to resist by understanding the true nature of their oppression and making it “increasingly difficult and dangerous” for their oppressors to continue exploiting them
  7. ES3 14 “Anglomania, Anglophobia” (c. 1847), where he discusses “the great conflict between democracy and aristocracy, between common law and privilege” and how this class conflict is playing out in England; it is a continuation of his analysis of the British “oligarchy” which he began in the Introduction to Cobden and the League.
  8. “Justice and Fraternity” (15 June 1848, JDE), where Bastiat first used the terms“la spoliation extra-légale” (extra-legal plunder) and “la spoliation légale” (legal plunder); he describes the socialist state as “un intermédiaire parasite et dévorant” (a parasitic and devouring intermediary) which embodies “la Spoliation organisée” (organised plunder)
  9. “Property and Plunder” (JDD, 24 July 1848), in the “Fifth Letter” Bastiat talks about how transitory plunder gradually became “la spoliation permanente” (permanent plunder) when it became organised and entrenched by the state
  10. the “Conclusion” to the first edition of Economic Harmonies (late 1849), where he sketches what his unfinished book should have included, such as the opposite of the factors leading to “harmony”, namely “les dissonances sociales” (the social disharmonies) such as plunder and oppression; or what he also calls “les causes perturbatrices” (disturbing factors); here he concentrates on theocratic and protectionist plunder
  11. “Plunder and Law” (JDE, 15 May 1850), where he addresses the protectionists who have turned the law into a “sword” or “un instrument de Spoliation” (a tool of plunder) which the socialists will take advantage of when they get the political opportunity to do so
  12. “The Law” (June 1850), Bastiat’s most extended treatment of the natural law basis of property and how it has been “perverted” by the plunderers who have seized control of the state, where the “la loi a pris le caractère spoliateur” (the law has taken on the character of the plunderer); there is a longer discussion of “legal plunder”; and he reminds the protectionists that the system of exploitation they had created before 1848 has been taken over, first by the socialists and soon by the Bonapartists, to be used for their purposes thus creating a new form of plundering by a new kind of class rule by “gouvernementalisme” (government bureaucrats)
  13. WSWNS Chap. 3 “Taxes” (July 1850), on the conflict between the tax payers and the payment of civil servants’ salaries whom he likens to so many thieves, who provide no (or very little) benefit in return for the money they receive, and thus create a form of “legal parasitism”
  14. WSWNS Chap. 6 “The Middlemen” (July 1850), where he describes the government’s provision of some services as a form of “dreadful parasitism”
  15. Economic Harmonies, part 2, chapter 17, “Private Services, Pubic Services” (published posthumously in 1851), an examination of the extent to which “public services” are productive or plunderous; he discusses how in the modern era “la spoliation par l’impôt s’exerce sur une immense échelle” (plunder by means of taxation is excercised to a high degree), but rejects the idea that they are plunderous “par essence” (by their very nature); beyond a very small number of limited activities (such as public security, managing public property) the actions of the state are “autant d’instruments d’oppression et de spoliation légales” (only so many tools of oppression and legal plunder); he warns of the danger of the state serving the private interests of “les fonctionnaires” (state functionaries) who become plunderers in their own right; the plundered class is deceived by sophistry into thinking that that they will benefit from whatever the plundering classes seize as a result of the “ricochet” or trickle down effect as they spend their ill-gotten gains.

The Leveller Tracts Collection: Chronology of Events for 1647


The year 1647 was a very important one for the Levellers as it brought their demands for political reforms to a head. In March William Walwyn wrote the “Petition of March” (The Large Petition) (T.92) which presented the main demands of the Levellers within the Army. This was followed in October by a more radical list of demands called “An Agreement of the People” (First Agreement) (T.115) which provoked a lengthy series of discussion within the Army known as “The Putney Debates” (T.111) throughout October and November. The Levellers’ demands were rejected by the Parliament, Oliver Cromwell, and King Charles and some of the Leveller petitoners were arrested as a result.

This chronology will eventually be part of volume 4 of the OLL online collection of Leveller Tracts, a working draft of which can be found here.



Jan. Westminster Assembly of Divines begins preparing the new Confession of Faith and Catechisms of the reformed Church of England

30 Jan. The Scots surrender the King to Parliament.

6 Jan. Lilburne, “Regall Tyrannie discovered” (T.85)

Feb. A Parliamentary Committee is appointed to suppress pamphlets

16 Feb. Parliamentary commissioners accompany the King to Holmby (Holdenby) House, Northamptonshire.

18 Feb. Presbyterian MPs propose plan to disband Army

13 Feb. Lilburne/Overton, “A Reall Persecution” (T.91)

March. Parliament begins plans to reduce the size of the New Model Army and to send men to Ireland

4 March. House of Lords votes against raising taxes to pay the Army

6 March. House of Lords forbids Fairfax from quartering troops in Eastern Association

15 March Walwyn submits “Petition of March” (The Large Petition) to Parliament

19 March. Supporters of the Large Petition Nicholas Tew and Major Tulidah arrested and imprisoned

22 March. Army officers refuse to serve in Ireland until their grievances are addressed.

29 March. Parliament’s “Declaration of Dislike” condemning the Petitioners’ demands

15 March Walwyn, “Petition of March” (The Large Petition) (T.92)

15 April. Westminster Assembly of Divines begins debating drafts of new Catechism.

16 April. Parliament grants City of London power to appoint a new Militia Committee which is dominated by Presbyterians.

25-27 April. Growing opposition among soldiers to being sent to fight in Ireland.

28-30 Apr. Agitators (Sexby, Allen, Shepherd).present Army grievances to Fairfax and then Parliament which promises to pay arrears.

28 April.  Sexby, Allen, Shepherd, “For our Faithfull and ever Honored Commanders” (T.96)

4 May. Parliament appoints Presbyterian MPs to Militia Committee giving them control over London’s militias.

16 May. Over 200 officers sign “A Declaration or Representation of the Army” setting out their grievances. Presbyterian MPs continue plans to disband Army and ignore its grievances.

23 May. Presbyterian MPS begin negotiations to send Kind to Scotland and to bring a Scottish Army into England

25-28 May. Parliament proposes immediate disbanding of Army and payment of arrears only after disbandment.

31 May. Lilburne, “Rash oaths unwarrantable” (T.97)

June. Army organises a series of “Rendezvous” near London

4 Jun. Cornet Joyce arrests the King for the New Model Army and takes him to Hampton Court.

5 June. Second Army Rendezvous at Kentford Heath (Haymarket). “A Solemn Engagement” calls for Council of the Army made up of officers and 2 private soldiers representing each regiment.

8 June. Parliament votes to abolish Holy Days (Christmas, Easter)

10 June. Geeral Rendezvous of Army at Triploe Heath (Cambridge). Rejects Parliament’s terms.

12 June. Army marches towards London.

14 June. “A Declaration or Representation of the Army” presented to Parliament which refuses to discuss it.

5 June. “A Solemne Engagement of the Army” (T.98)

14 June. (Rushwoirth, Ireton) “A Declaration or Representation of the Army” (T.100)

14 June. Walwyn, “Gold tried in the Fire” (T.101)

July-August. The New Model Army threatens London and Parliament. Fairfax made Commander-in-Chief of the Army

16-28 July. First General Council of the Army. Agitators call for Army to march on London unless their grievances are addressed

26 July. Presbyterians in Commons regain control of Militia Committee; pass resolution inviting King to return to London.

27 July. 58 Independent MPs and Peers flee Parliament and seek refuge with Army. “Heads of Proposals” formally presented to King who rejects them.

29 July. Army under Fairfax marches on London

30 July.The Presbyterian Eleven Members attempt to mobilise London against the Army.

17 July. Overton, “An Appeal from the degenerate Representative Body” (T.103)

28 July. Ireton, “The Heads of Proposals” (T.294)

31 July. King Charles, “The King’s Answer” (T.295)

6 Aug. The Army occupies London.

14 Aug. Army Agitators call for purging Parliament of Presbyterian MPs.

20 Aug. Cromwell and officers who are MPs attend Parliament. Passage of “Null and Void Ordinance” nullifying acts of Parliament while Independents were absent.

26 Aug. Army HQ set up at Putney.

11 Aug. Anon., “Vox militaris” (T.105)

21 Aug. Anon., “A Remonstrance of the Shee-Citizens of London” (T.108)

6 Sept. Cromwell visits Lilburne in Tower but is denounced as hypocrite.

9 Sept. King announces his preference for “Heads of Proposals” as basis of settlement

16 Sept. Overton released from prison

13 Sept. Lilburne, “Two Letters Writ” (T.109)

28 Sept. Lilburne, “The Juglers discovered” (T.110)

13-14 Oct. Parliaments votes for Presbyterianism and against Catholic toleration

18 Oct. Wildman’s “The Case of the Armie truly stated” is presented to Gen. Fairfax

20 Oct. Cromwell gives speech in Parliament attacking Levellers and supporting Monarchy

23 Oct. Robert Lilburne’s regiment marches to Ware

28 Oct. – 9 Nov. General Council of the Army meets at Putney (the Putney Debates) under presidency of Cromwell. Debates between the Levellers and the army Grandees.

15 Oct. Wildman, “The Case of the Armie truly stated” (T.112)

28 Oct. “An Agreement of the People” (First Agreement) (T.115)

28 Oct. to 11 Nov. “The Putney Debates” (T.111)

4 Nov. Army Council at Putney votes in favour of manhood suffrage

9 Nov. House of Commons denounces “Agreement of the People”. Lilburne released on bail from prison.

11 Nov. The King escapes from Hampton Court to the Isle of Wight.

15 Nov. Fairfax and Cromwell suppress a threatened mutiny at the army rendezvous at Corkbush Field in Hertfordshire (Ware).

25 Nov. Arrest of 5 Leveller petitioners.

4 Nov. Anon., “Observations upon Quartering” (T.116)

11 Nov. Sexby, “A Copy of a Letter to all the Souldiers” (T.118)

23 Nov. “The Petition of November” (T.120)

24 Dec. Parliaments presents “Four Bills” to King Charles where he would agree to give Parliament control of the military. He rejects these on 28 Dec.

24 Dec. Both Houses vote to raise money to pay Army.

25 Dec. Riots in London, Ipswich and Canterbury against Parliament’s suppression of Christmas celebrations.

26 Dec. The King signs the Engagement with the Scots for military assistance.

31 Dec. Both Houses vote to keep king in custody at Carisbrooke Castle (Isle of Wight)

14 Dec. Lilburne, “Englands Freedome, Souldiers Rights” (T.123)

30 Dec. Wildman and Walwyn, “Putney Projects” (T.124)

The Economic Thought of Gustave de Molinari, 1845-1855


[Paris being encircled by the State: “The Fortifications of Paris and its Environs as adopted by the Chambers” (1841)
. The pink area is the old part of the city which is surrounded by a customs wall with entry gates which was build in the 1780s to help the Farmers General collect taxes. The orange area is enclosed by a new wall of fortifications which surrounded the city and was build between 1841-44 and had a circumference of 33 km. The outer ring of red and green shapes are a series of 14 stand-alone forts and barracks which also surrounded the city.]

Molinari: “Liberty! That was the cry of the captives of Egypt, the
slaves of Spartacus, the peasants of the Middle Ages, and more
recently of the bourgeoisie oppressed by the nobility and religious
corporations, of the workers oppressed by masters and guilds. Liberty!
That was the cry of all those who found their property confiscated by
monopoly and privilege. Liberty! That was the burning aspiration of
all those whose natural rights had been forcibly repressed.” (S12)

This is a paper I will be giving at the Austrian Economics Research Conference (31 March to 2 April 2016) at the Mises Institute. The full title is “The Struggle against Protectionism, Socialism, and the Bureaucratic State: The Economic Thought of Gustave de Molinari, 1845-1855”.

It is actually a synopsis of a book-length work I have written which can be found here:

It comes with two translations of essays by Molinari (in the Appendix), which are also available separately:

Here is the abstract of the paper:

In the late-1840s in Paris there was an extraordinary group of economists who had gathered around the Guillaumin publishing firm to explore and promote free market ideas. One of these was the young Belgian economic journalist Gustave de Molinari (1819-1912) who was just starting out on his career which would lead him to eventually becoming one of the most important and prolific free market economists in Europe in the 19th century. In this paper I explore the first ten years of Molinari’s career as an economic journalist, author of a book on labor issues and slavery, and on the history of tariffs, a free trade activist, editor of classics of 18th century economic thought, lecturer on economics at the Athénée royal, activist in the 1848 Revolution, prolific author of articles in the Journal des Économistes, author of Les Soirées de la rue Saint-Lazare (Conversations on Saint Lazarus Street), contributor to the Dictionnaire de l’Économie politique, and, after going into self-imposed exile to Brussels after the coup d’état of Louis Napoleon in December 1851, professor of economics at the Musée royal de l’industrie belge, author of a treatise on economics, owner-editor of a newsletter L’Économiste belge, author of a book on the class analysis of Bonapartist despotism, and another popular book of “conversations” about free trade.

In the middle of this very hectic period of his life Molinari published a book for Guillaumin as part of their anti-socialist campaign after the February 1848 Revolution saw socialists seize power and attempt to implement some of their ideas, especially that of the “right to a job,” paid for at taxpayer expense, as part of the National Workshops program run by Louis Blanc. Within the new Constituent Assembly politicians like Frédéric Bastiat fought to terminate the National Workshops program and keep the “right to a job” clause out of the new constitution. Outside the Assembly the economists wrote scores of books and pamphlets to intellectually defeat socialist ideas at both the popular and the academic level. Molinari’s book was designed to appeal to educated readers and consisted of a collection of 12 “evenings” or “soirées” at which “a Conservative,” “a Socialist,” and “an Economist” debated important political and economic issues. In these conversations, the economist (Molinari) exposes the folly of both the conservative (who supported tariffs, subsidies, and limited voting rights) and the socialist (who supported government regulation of the economy, the right to a job for all workers, and the end to the “injustice” of profit, interest, and rent).

Molinari begins by arguing that society is governed by natural, immutable and absolute laws which cannot be ignored either by conservatives or socialists, and that the foundation for a peaceful and prosperous society is the right to private property. He then proceeds to explain the free market position on a host of topics to his skeptical audience. Some of the more controversial topics Molinari discusses include the following: intellectual property, eminent domain laws, public goods such as roads, rivers, and canals, inheritance laws, the ban on forming trade unions, free trade, the state monopoly of money, the post office, state subsidies to theaters and libraries, subsidies to religious groups, public education, free banking, government regulated industries, marriage and population growth, the private provision of police and defense, and the nature of rent. On all these issues, Molinari shows himself to be a radical supporter of laissez-faire economic policies.

For modern Austrian economists, what is most interesting about Molinari’s work from this period are the following:

  • he believed that once freed from government regulations entrepreneurs would spring up in every industry to supply goods and services to customers
  • he offers private and voluntary solutions to the problem of the provision of all so-called “public goods”, from the water supply to police services
  • he seems to have inspired Rothbard to come up with his own theory of “anarcho-capitalism” in the 1950s and 1960s when he was writing MES and P&M

For modern libertarians, his book may well be the first ever one volume overview of the classical liberal position – much like an 1849 version of Rothbard’s own For a New Liberty (1973).

Entrepreneurs, Investors, and Scribblers: An Austrian Analysis of the Structure of Production and Distribution of Ideas

A Paper given at the Southern Economics Association 2015 Annual Meeting
New Orleans, November 21-23, 2015


An online version of this paper is available here: HTML and PDF.

Abstract: Austrian capital theory is applied to the study of how ideas (in this case classical liberal or libertarian ideas) have been produced, distributed, and consumed. It is based upon an examination of three key historical examples – the Anti-Corn Law League in the early 1840s, the Political Economists in Paris during the 1840s, and the activities of the Institute of Economic Affairs in London in post-war Britain. It is argued that there is a long structure of production in the realm of ideas as there is for capital goods, with highest order goods (the production of high theory) most removed from ultimate consumption (politicians, ordinary people, voters), and with several middle order stages which serve as intermediary steps along the way (production of ideas for college professors, intellectuals, members of think tanks, journalists, and lobbyists). In each of these historical examples there are investors with capital who invest in creating organisations to promote certain ideas, “entrepreneurs of ideas” who see opportunities for bringing together the right combination and mix of individuals with different talents to bring this about, marketers and other promoters who are able to sell these ideas to a broader public, and finally the ultimate consumers of these ideas who accept them and act on them in some way.

Here are the opening paragraphs:

I would like to begin by shamelessly stealing some ideas from Ed Lopez. He reminds us of the striking, parallel thinking of two widely divergent economic theorists, namely John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek. To begin with the latter:

In the light of recent history it is somewhat curious that this decisive power of the professional secondhand dealers in ideas should not yet be more generally recognized. The political development of the Western World during the last hundred years furnishes the clearest demonstration. Socialism has never and nowhere been at first a working-class movement. It is by no means an obvious remedy for the obvious evil which the interests of that class will necessarily demand. It is a construction of theorists, deriving from certain tendencies of abstract thought with which for a long time only the intellectuals were familiar; and it required long efforts by the intellectuals before the working classes could be persuaded to adopt it as their program. (The opening of Hayek’s “The Intellectuals and Socialism” (1949). Emphasis added.)

The flow of ideas in Hayek’s view goes from the “theorists” who spend their time “constructing” “abstract thought”; to the “intellectuals whom he describes as “secondhand dealers in ideas”; to their final destination in the minds of “the working classes” who adopt them as part of their program. Hayek describes the time frame for the transmission of ideas quite vaguely, as “a long time” and only after “long efforts”.

Thirteen years earlier Keynes expressed something very similar, but using different though still somewhat contemptuous terminology,

… the ideas of economists and philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas. Not, indeed, immediately, but after a certain interval … [S]oon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil. (From John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (1936) quoted in Leighton and Lopez, p. 109.)

The flow of ideas in Keynes’s view goes from “defunct economists”, to “academic scribblers”, to “madmen in authority” (presumably politicians), and finally to “practical men” and “vested interests.” Keynes likewise is quite vague about the time required for ideas to go from “scribbler” to “vested interests”, saying merely “after a certain interval”, or “sooner or later”.

What I would like to do is to offer some specific historical examples of such transmission of ideas and to use the Hayekian theory of capital structure to help explain the process by which this transmission occurs, and the types of people involved in it. This involves the identification of at least 4 stages or “orders” in the production of ideas from “high theory” to the “consumption” of (or, rather, the acting upon) those ideas by ordinary individuals; as well as the role played by key individuals such as “investors”, “entrepreneurs,” and “sales people,” and the different kinds of “idea factories” in which they work.

Reassessing Frédéric Bastiat as an Economic and Social Theorist


Most economists and social theorists, if they have ever heard of him, dismiss Frédéric Bastiat as a light-weight theorist. Joseph Schumpeter summed up the consensus view in 1954 describing him as “no theorist at all” with the very witty but false put down, that he was a clever journalist who got out of his depth in the swimming pool of theory and drowned.

In this paper I conclude that Bastiat was in fact a theorist of considerable skill and originality who had conceived of a multi-volume work on social and economic theory the outline of which I have been able to reconstruct from his scattered remarks:

  • volume one would be a general theory of how human society in general functions, called Social Harmonies;
  • volume two would be his economic theory, called Economic Harmonies; and
  • the final volume or volumes would deal with disrupting factors or “disharmonies” and would be called A History and Theory of Plunder.

Not having time to complete this project because of his rapidly failing health (he died of throat cancer at the age of 49), Bastiat focused the time remaining to him to working on the Economic Harmonies. I have identified 16 elements of his economic thought which I believe demonstrate his sophistication and originality as an economic theorist. These include:

  • an individualist methodology of the social sciences (in particular his invention of “Crusoe economics” to explore the logic of human action),
  • an early form of subjective value theory,
  • the interdependence or interconnectedness of all economic activity,
  • the transmission of economic information through the economy,
  • the idea of opportunity cost,
  • the idea of the “ricochet effect” or multiplier, and
  • his Public Choice-like theory of politics and “place-seeking”, among others.

Copies of the paper:

Picasso and the Anti-Vietnam War Movement 1969


I recently came across an interesting poster (thanks to a thoughtful reader) which was used in the 250,000 person “March against death : march on Washington” anti-Vietnam War protest march which took place on Nov. 13-15, 1969. You can read the front page story about the march on the NYT’s “On This Day” website and more details can be found in the memoirs of one of the organizers, Ron Young, Crossing Boundaries in the Americas, Vietnam, and the Middle East: A Memoir (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2014).

Picasso donated a pen and ink drawing for the protesters to use in their promotional material which shows one of his “machines of war”.

(see a larger version 1828 px wide

A view of just the image:


These “engines of war” first appeared in his anti-Korean War pictures from the early 1950s which marked a break from his earlier anti-war drawings which showed primarily the victims of war such as the women, children, and horse in “Guernica” (1937) or the apparently unfinished (or unfinishable) “The Charnel House” (1944-45) depicting the victims of WW2.


For two or so decades after WW2 Picasso drew many images which were used for posters for various peace congresses. These consisted mainly of his classic peace dove images, or images of flowers.



With the Korean War he changed tack and drew a series of works showing the actual killing rather than the aftermath of attacks. In “Massacre in Korea” (Jan. 1950) he shows a group of women and children facing immanent execution by a group of faceless, helmeted soldiers with rifles, very much in the style of Francisco Goya’s classic “The Third of May 1808”.


This was followed a a pair of paintings in 1952, “War” and “Peace”, with the war painting showing a chariot with a warrior with a bloody sword and a group of silhouettes committing unseen atrocities in the background.



During 1951 Picasso drew a series of works which showed various “machines of war” or tank-like vehicles attacking soldiers who look like classical Greek warriors. It was one of these tank-like vehicles which he drew for the 1969 anti-Vietnam War march in Washington.


Another poster from the same year as the anti-war march shows the enduring relevance of the “Guernica” painting for anti-war protesters. It depicts a close-up of the head and arm of the fallen warrior/statue.


For further information and images see:
– my Guide to the War Art of Picasso
Picasso: Peace and Freedom, ed. Lynda Morris and Christoph Grunenberg (London: Tate Publishing, 2010).
Picasso and the War Years, 1937-1945, ed. Stephen A. Nash, with Robert Rosenblum (New York: Thames and Hudson, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1998).

Slavery and the Hypocrisy of July 4


A useful corrective to the unthinking patriotism usually on display on July 4th is to read Frederick Douglass’s great “July 5th Oration” which he gave in 1852. He asks his listeners the following important question and then gives a devastating answer to it:

“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which lie is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.” (p. 20)

Douglass does admit that in its rhetoric, in the philosophical ideas it articulates, “as it ought to be interpreted, the Constitution is a GLORIOUS LIBERTY DOCUMENT. Read its preamble, consider its purposes. Is slavery among them? Is it at the gateway? or is it in the temple? it is neither.” (p. 36)

Given the sad history of how the ideas of the Declaration of Independence were actually, and are now currently, being put into practice, one can only agree with his conclusion that “America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future.”

Source: Oration, Delivered in Corinthian Hall, Rochester, by Frederick Douglass, July 5th, 1852 (Rochester: Printed by Lee, Mann, and Co., American Building, 1852).

Very few know, or want to know, that twelve American presidents owned slaves at some point in their lives and that eight of them owned slaves while serving as President (see list below). Thus, for 50 years during the pre-Civil War period a slave-owner was in the White House. It is also the case that although the slave trade had been abolished in Washington D.C. in 1850, slave owning was still permitted for another 15 years. This meant that the “great emancipator” Abraham Lincoln lived in the White House when it was still using slave labour as household help.

Presidents who owned slaves (in caps if they owned slaves while in office):

  1. GEORGE WASHINGTON (Pres. 1789-1797) (owned between 250-350 slaves)
  2. THOMAS JEFFERSON (1801-1809) (about 200)
  3. JAMES MADISON (1809-1817) (more than 100)
  4. JAMES MONROE (1817-1825) (about 75)
  5. ANDREW JACKSON (1829-1837) (fewer than 200)
  6. Martin Van Buren (1837-1841) (one)
  7. William Henry Harrison (1841-41) (eleven)
  8. JOHN TYLER (1845-1849) (about 70)
  9. JAMES POLK (1845-1849) (about 25)
  10. ZACHARY TAYLOR (1849-1850) (fewer than 150)
  11. Andrew Johnson (1865-1869) (probably eight)
  12. Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877) (probably five)

Here is an interesting image of Washington the slave owner from 1851 – “Washington as Farmer at Mount Vernon”, 1851, part of a series on George Washington by Junius Brutus Stearns. Located at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.


And an advertisement placed in The Pennsylvania Gazette, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 24, 1796, which offers a reward of $10 for the capture of one of his run-away slaves.


Source: Mary V. Thompson, “William Lee & Oney Judge: A Look at George Washington & Slavery ,” Journal of the American Revolution, June 19, 2014.

Another useful corrective for patriots is Jeffrey Rogers Hummel’s article “The Constitution as Counter-Revolution: A Tribute to the Anti-Federalists,” Free Life. The Journal of the Libertarian Alliance, Vol. 5 : No.4. (no date) PDF

The Golden Age of French Liberalism in the 19th Century: An Anthology in French


L’âge d`or du libéralisme français. Anthologie. XIXe siècle. Robert Leroux et David M. Hart. Préface de Mathieu Laine (Paris: Editions Ellipses, 2014).

This anthology in French is slightly larger than the English language one we did for Routledge. It contains 41 extracts. However, the master collection contains 79 extracts in French which can be found here.


Continue reading

Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) and Rethinking Classical Economics in the mid-19th Century


Talk given to a Conference on “A Brief History of Economic Thought,”
Institute for Liberal Studies, The University of Toronto, Bahen Centre
Friday 29 September, 2012

Online here

Abstract: The decade or so 1845-1856 saw a major re-thinking taking place in the nature of classical economic thought in France. The first generation of 19th century French political economy had built upon the legacy left by the Physiocrats of the 18thC (Quesnay, Turgot, et al.), and was comprised of Jean-Baptiste Say (1767-1832), Charles Comte (1782-1837), Charles Dunoyer (1786-1862). They were active in the period between the appearance of Say’s Treatise in 1803 and the appearance of Dunoyer’s magnum opus De la Liberté du travail which appeared in 1845. A new second generation of French political economists emerged in the early 1840s under the umbrella provided by the Guillaumin publishing firm and the founding of the Political Economy Society and the Journal des Économistes in 1841-42. This younger generation was made up by Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850), Charles Coquelin (1802-1852), Jean-Gustave Courcelle-Seneuil (1813-1892), and Gustave de Molinari (1819-1912). They made important contributions in the ten years between 1846-1856 which transformed the way economics was thought and done. Some of their innovations included the following: the appearance of a more radical radical libertarianism view of political economy in the areas of free banking (Coquelin), and the theory of plunder, subjective value theory, free trade and peace (Bastiat). They also began to challenge some of the key principles of the orthodox classical school of Ricardo, Malthus, and Smith, with new ideas about rent, value theory, and Malthusianism (Bastiat) and the private provision of public goods ( Molinari), and also free competitive banking (Coquelin). Some of these new directions in French political economy are discussed, with an emphasis on the work of Bastiat.

Cato Institute Book Forum: The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat, vol. 1


Online here

Abstract: This was a talk I gave at the Cato Institute Book Forum on the occasion of the publication of vol. 1 of Liberty Fund’s 6 volume Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat in October 2011. The volume contains his correspondence and many political essays. In the correspondence we see him moving from being an obscure Provincial Magistrate in the south west of France to becoming one of the leading political economists in Paris. We also see a more personal side to Bastiat in some letters which touch on the topics of the condition of women, fashion, religion, and his considerable wit and humour. Some of the less well known political essays reveal his activity as a revolutionary journalist during the rioting of February and June 1848. It should read alongside a sampling of his correspondence which can be found at the OLL.

Gustave de Molinari and the Future of Liberty in 1901: ‘Fin de Siècle, Fin de la Liberté’?


Online here

Abstract: This paper examines Molinari’s assessment in two articles he wrote at the turn of the 20th century of the achievements of liberty in the 19th century and his prognosis for liberty in the coming 20th century. Concerning the latter, he successfully predicted two related things: firstly, that anti-liberal policies being introduced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries would inevitably lead to a long period of economic crisis and political oppression brought about by war, imperialism, socialist revolution and government intervention in the economy; and secondly, that once this dark period of “statism” had run its course, the benefits of individual liberty and the free market would be rediscovered and the classical liberal reforms the classical liberals had advocated in the 19th century would be introduced once again. His successful predictions need to be seen against the unsuccessful predictions of socialists of all kinds made in the same period. Whether democratic socialist or revolutionary (Marxist) socialist, the predictions of inevitable socialist revolution bringing about peace, prosperity and freedom for the mass of people have been proven to be hopelessly wrong by the extraordinary events of the 20th century. The paper also includes three appendices of Molinari’s writings (in French) from this period.

How Austrian were the French? Or, How French are the Austrians? An Austro-Australian Perspective.


(Left to right, top to bottom: Jean-Baptiste Say (1767-1832); Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973); Charles Dunoyer (1786-1862); Augustin Thierry (1795-1856); Friedrich Hayek (1899-1992); Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850); Jean-Gustave Courcelle-Seneuil (1813-1892); Murray Rothbard (1926-1995); Gustave de Molinari (1819-1912).)

A paper given at the Inaugural Mises Seminar, Sydney, 26 November 2011


Abstract: This paper examines the mid-19th century century French classical school of political economists and compares them to the modern Austrian school of economics which emerged in the late 20th century. In it I ask two questions: “How Austrian were the French?” – this question comes about because a number of Austrian economists (Rothbard and the Mises Institute) have seen many glimmerings of Austrian economic insights in the writings of the French CL school (Say, Bastiat). They ask themselves whether or not they were precursors or “proto-Austrians” before the full flowering of Austrian economics after the marginal revolution of 1870s? How many ideas concerning economic and social theory (history, sociology) were shared by the two schools of thought? The second question I ask is, “How French are the Austrians?” – one might also ask would Rothbard and his school within the Austrian tradition have turned down the anarcho-capitalist road if it were not for the seminal writings by Molinari in the late 1840s and mid-1850s? Did Leonard Liggio introduce Rothbard to these French writers? From this perspective one might ask “how French are the Austrians?”

Is Biography History? The Relationship between Ideas and Human Action in the Life of Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850)


A paper given at the Historical Society’s 2012 Conference, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, 1 June, 2012 June 1.

Online here

Abstract: “Is Biography History?” My conclusion is that the life of FB is a good example of how the “biography of ideas” developed by Ashcraft for Locke and Scott for Sidney, and Mises’ theory that “human action” is purposeful and ultimately based upon the ideas that an individual holds, can be profitably used to deepen our knowledge and appreciation of Bastiat ideas in the late 1840s. The historian has to know what Bastiat was doing between 1844 and 1850 in order to understand what he was thinking and and why he thought the things he did. Studying the texts by themselves in not sufficient. Studying the events of his life without reference to the evolution of his ideas is also not sufficient. Bastiat provides us with a good example of an individual who had a set of well-thought out (though evolving) ideas upon which he based his actions in order to achieve certain specific goals. He modified his ideas as circumstances changed, he adapted his strategies to achieve his goals, and he cooperated with other individuals who shared his ideas and his goals. The biographical study of his life provides the historian with the information which is needed to understand his ideas, his purposes, and his strategies, as well as to evaluate his successes and failures as a man of ideas and of action. To return to Mises’ useful summary of the relationship between ideas and action in the life of a man: “Action is preceded by thinking. Thinking is to deliberate beforehand over future action and to reflect afterwards upon past action. Thinking and acting are inseparable… But thinking is always a manifestation of individuals.” This was certainly true in the case of Frédéric Bastiat.

Frédéric Bastiat’s Distinction between Legal and Illegal Plunder


A Paper given at the Molinari Society Session “Explorations in Philosophical Anarchy” at the Pacific Meeting of the American Philosophical Society, Seattle WA, 7 April, 2012.


Abstract: This paper comes out of a larger research and publishing project on the life and work of the French advocate for free trade, economic journalist, arch-critic of the socialist movement, member of the French Chamber of Deputies during the Second Republic, and economic, political, and social theorist Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850). An important part of Bastiat’s social theory was the idea of “plunder” (“spoliation” in French). His theory emerged in the last 3 years of his life (1847-1850) as he intensified his battle against protectionism and socialism, first as a journalist, then as a politician in the Chamber of Deputies during Second Republic, and then as an economic theorist. In this paper I would like to explore in more detail what Bastiat thought about the history of plunder and what part it plays in his social and economic theory.

Opposing Economic Fallacies, Legal Plunder, and the State: Frédéric Bastiat’s Rhetoric of Liberty in the Economic Sophisms (1846-1850)


A Paper given at the History of Economic Thought Society of Australia (HETSA) annual meeting, RMIT Melbourne, Victoria, July 5-8, 2011.

Online here.

This paper examines the origin, content, and form of Bastiat’s Economic Sophisms which will comprise volume 3 of Liberty Fund’s translation of his Collected Works. It is argued that in opposing the economic sophisms which he saw around him Bastiat developed a unique “rhetoric of liberty” in order to make his case for economic liberty. For the idea of debunking “fallacies”, he drew upon the work of Jeremy Bentham on “political fallacies” and Col. Perronnet Thomas on “corn law fallacies”; for his use of informal “conversations” to appeal to less well-informed readers, he drew upon the work of two women popularizers of economic ideas, Jane Marcet and Harriet Martineau.

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