Editorials by Leonard P. Liggio

[Leonard P. Liggio c. 1981]

The following are the editorials written for each issue of the journal Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought which was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio. It consisted of a lengthy bibliographical essays, editorials, and many shorter reviews of books and journal articles. There were 5 volumes and 20 issues. At the beginning of each issue an unsigned editorial appeared commenting on some aspect of the main bibliographical essay which had been commissioned for the issue. Although unsigned, they were most likely written by Leonard Liggio, possibly with the assistance of the Managing Editor John V. Cody. As more information about authorship comes to light I will amend the list.

I have added titles to the Editorials to provide some indication about their content. The numbers in brackets [4] refer to the original page numbers of the journal.

Source: Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio. 20 vols. .

List of editorials:

  1. Introduction to the Literature of Liberty
  2. Hayek and the Founding Fathers
  3. George Washington Julian (1817–1899)
  4. Natural Law and Grotius
  5. Anne Robert Jacques Turgot (1727–1781)
  6. John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
  7. David Ricardo (1772–1823) and Sir Herbert Butterfield
  8. Native Americans and the Economics of Property Rights
  9. John Locke (1632–1704)
  10. Eighteenth-century middle-class English radicalism
  11. Lon Fuller and the Law
  12. John Bright and English Liberalism in the nineteenth century
  13. John Hospers and the Philosophy of Freedom
  14. Herbert Hoover (1874–1964)
  15. Benjamin Tucker (1854-1939)
  16. Utopian Thinking
  17. Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–1859)
  18. Spontaneous Order (written by Walter E. Grinder)
  19. Ludwig von Mises (1881–1973)
  20. F.A. Hayek

Introduction to the Literature of Liberty


  • Literature of Liberty, January/March 1978, vol. 1, No. 1
  • Editorial


Liberty, in the face of successive alternatives, endures as a central concern for scholars studying human affairs. Liberty can serve scholars as the broadest theme to guide an interdisciplinary approach in monitoring research. Beginning with this premier issue, Literature of Liberty will endeavor to alert scholars to what is substantial among current work that pertains to human liberty and explores its richness and diversity. The summaries published in this quarterly journal are of scholarly writings, selected by the journal's editors for their relevance to liberty. The articles summarized are nominated by forty associate editors — scholars across America and abroad—who survey some four hundred journals in their special fields.

Literature of Liberty's summaries emphasize the universal and interdisplinary aspects of each article's scholarship. They aim to communicate the relevant ideas, insights, and analyses clearly. They will faithfully express the views of the author of the original article. The articles summarized are chosen because they draw attention to new facts, new analyses, new methodology, and new lines of thought or research. The summaries are written to interest and challenge scholars, who—it is hoped—will find the journal both a forum for stimulating ideas and a research guide. In addition, each issue will feature an eminent scholar's bibliographical essay, which illuminates some aspect of liberty and contributes reference information.

In future issues, the Readers' Forum will give the journal's readers an opportunity both to supplement the research information presented in the bibliographical essays and summaries, and to respond to the issues presented. The editors welcome the readers' help in calling attention to significant articles that merit summarizing in Literature of Liberty.

The editors wish to express their warm appreciation to the Board of Directors of the Liberty Fund, Inc., of Indianapolis, Indiana and to its chairman, Dr. Benjamin Rogge, for their strong interest in and encouragement of the Literature of Liberty. Miss Helen E. Schultz, president of the Liberty Fund, and Dr. A. Neil McLeod, vice-president and executive director, creatively assisted in the early development of the journal. David Franke, director of Liberty Press, also extended generous cooperation.

Hayek and the Founding Fathers


  • Literature of Liberty, April/June 1978, vol. 1, No. 2
  • Editorial


F.A. Hayek, in The Constitution of Liberty (1960) notes that the constitutions of the individual states between 1776 and 1787 “show more clearly than the final Constitution of the Union how much the limitation of all governmental power was the object of constitutionalism. This appears, above all, from the prominent position that was everywhere given to inviolable individual rights, which were listed either as part of these constitutional documents or as separate Bills of Rights.... The most famous of these Bills of Rights, that of Virginia, which was drafted and adopted before the Declaration of Independence and modeled on English and colonial precedents, largely served as the prototype not only for those of the other states but also for the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen of 1789 and, through that, for all similar European documents.” One source for Europeans was the Jefferson-inspired Researches on the United States (1788; 1976) by Filippo Mazzei, which discussed the Virginia Declaration of Rights.

What impressed Hayek was the Founding Fathers' oft-repeated insistence that “...a frequent recurrency to fundamental principles is absolutely necessary to preserve the blessing of liberty.” Here Hayek was quoting from the draft of the Virginia Declaration of Rights (May 1776), by George Mason.

George Mason (1725–1792) was featured as the cover portrait of our first issue. Mason epitomized the highest ideals of the Founding Fathers as expressed in the Bill of Rights. As a member of the Virginia Committee of Safety and Convention in 1775 and 1776, Mason drew up Virginia's Constitution and Bill of Rights, which exerted a radical influence on American constitutional institutions.

Mason was serving in the Virginia House of Delegates (1776–1788) when he was appointed a member of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. Since he was a strong advocate of gradual emancipation, he opposed legitimizing slavery in the Constitution as a bargaining point in the convention to obtain consensus on the Constitution. His radical republicanism condemned central government as a danger to individual freedom, and valued local government as a bulwark of freedom against centralized authority. He distrusted the strong powers granted the national government by the new Constitution and headed the opposition to its ratification in the Virginia convention. After ratification, Mason insisted on amendments which led to the Bill of Rights.

Hayek seconds Mason's caution, by emphasizing how necessary the Bill of Rights was as a control on the powers of the government. “The danger so clearly seen at the time was guarded against by the [4] careful proviso (in the Ninth Amendment) that 'the enumeration of certain rights in this Constitution shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.'” A recent discussion of Mason's significance appears in Bernard Schwartz, The Great Rights of Mankind (New York, Oxford University Press, 1977). This study supplements Roscoe Pound's The Development of Constitutional Guarantees of Liberty (1957) and Bennett B. Patterson's Forgotten Ninth Amendment (1955).

Daniel Morgan (1736–1802), the 'Revolutionary Rifleman,' dramatically confirms Von Clausewitz's judgment that when an armed citizenry conducts it, “warfare introduces a means of defense peculiar to itself.” Morgan embodies the frontier spirit which is the foundation of American culture. His attitude to authority was typical of the American frontiersman.

Serving with the Virginia Rangers in the French and Indian War, Morgan learned the advantages of guerrilla tactics against regular troops. Rangers dressed in buckskin and moccasins, and armed with the Kentucky long-rifle, were able to achieve mobility and accuracy of shooting unknown to regular armies. The long-rifle was used by rangers to hit the regular troops whose muskets had a much shorter range; its deadly accuracy felled enemy officers, whose loss then created confusion in the ranks.

In 1775, Morgan headed Virginia's first light infantry company raised for the American Revolution. Two years later he took command of a special corps of light infantry or rangers. This corps, known later as “Morgan's Rangers,” played a crucial role in the American victory at the battles of Saratoga (September–October 1777). Saratoga was the military turning point in the American Revolution, and it showed that politically-committed military forcus could be gathered from the countryside to fight successfully.

Later, during the southern campaign (1780–1781) Morgan raised the political awareness of patriots in the Carolinas and mobilized the militias there. This discouraged the Loyalists from joining the British. Once the militias were assembled, Morgan exhorted them to aid the cause of liberty by repelling the invading British. Morgan worked out and implemented important approaches to guerrilla tactics which led to the defeat of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown. His greatness as a guerrilla tactician combined his political and military leadership of the American militias.

Literature of Liberty's scholarly goals—as a forum for stimulating ideas and a research guide—will be aided by reader cooperation. The journal welcomes letters from readers calling attention to significant articles that merit summarizing. Readers can present research information and comment on topics presented in Literature of Liberty through the Readers' Forum.

George Washington Julian (1817–1899)


  • Literature of Liberty, July/September 1978, vol. 1, No. 3
  • Editorial


George Washington Julian (1817–1899) exemplified most of the principles of nineteenth century radical individualism. Julian was strongly influenced by Jean-Baptiste Say's Treatise on Political Economy, as well as by reading Gibbon, Hume, Locke, and Godwin. To find political organizations that expressed his principles, Julian became active in five different political parties, as well as most reform movements including women's suffrage.

Although strongly committed from his earliest career to free trade, hard money, and free banking (principles favored by the Democrats), Julian supported the “Conscience Whigs” because they opposed slavery's extension by the annexation of Texas and the Mexican War. During 1848 he became active in the Free Soil party—which had absorbed the Liberty party and whose leader, Gerrit Smith, had campaigned on a “strict construction” platform against federal or state government's intervention whether to uphold slavery, build public works, or maintain public schools. This was the spirit, welcomed by Carl Schurz, “to break every authority which has its origins in the life of the state, and, as far as possible, to overturn the barriers to individual liberty.... Here in America you can see every day how slightly a people needs to be governed.”

One barrier to individual liberty that was stressed in political contests in the nineteenth century was the “Rag Money Monopoly” of government privileged banks. William Leggett demanded the separation of banking and the state and attacked the “lordlings of the Paper Dynasty.” George Henry Evans and the Jacksonian workingmen's movement had opposed “the granting of ALL PRIVILEGES, and especially the privilege of making paper money.” After the veto of the Bank of the United States, Evans hoped that “the determination of the people to put an end to the most powerful... of the Rag Money Mills, is an indication of their determination to put an end to the whole system.” Radicals, such as Julian, emphasized their hard money principles in the debate between the “Bank Men” and the “Hard Money Men” in the new Republican party.

Julian, elected as a Free Soil congressman from Indiana in 1849, became associated with Rep. Joshua R. Giddings, who had been expelled from the House earlier for saying the federal government should have nothing to do with slavery. Giddings advocated armed resistance to slave-catchers and to federal marshalls arresting citizens for attempting to free a fugitive slave from custody. In 1852, Julian became the Free Soil candidate for vice-president on the platform “Free Soil, Free Speech, Free Labor and Free Men.” Free [4] Soilers and Jacksonian Democrats formed the Republican party on the basis of hostility to federal government powers. Disunionist sentiment among northern radicals grew in the 1850s. William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Philips had declared that “disunion is abolition.” Abolitionists, as leaders of the American peace crusade, felt that there must be no coercion to keep the south in the union. Instead of waging war against the seceded South, Philips in a major Boston address in 1861 advocated “Northern competition emptying [the South's] pockets; educated slaves awakening its fears; civilization and Christianity beckoning the South into their sisterhood.” In the face of conservative expectations that a communal blood sacrifice would smother economic individualism, radical individualists, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, hoped that peaceful southern secession would further the abandonment of the “machinery of government.” Emerson looked forward to the day when “the civil machinery that has been the religion of the world decomposes to dust and smoke before the new adult individualism.”

During the decade that Julian served in Congress following his return in 1860, he sustained the Jacksonian interest in land reform. Based upon the Lockean concept of land ownership, Julian insisted on selling public lands to private individuals rather than leasing them, which tended to encourage a feudal land system rooted in government privilege. He opposed federal land grants to railroads and to the states for schools and colleges, and criticized the substitution of the sale of public lands for taxation to pay off the public debt. However, Julian was not an agrarian idealist, but was a forward looking advocate of the working-man, especially against agrarian inflationary demands. Julian opposed paper money because its inevitable depreciation in value robbed the worker of the purchasing power of his wages; he likewise rejected tariffs and taxes because they unjustly transferred the workers' income to industrialists.

In his last political campaign (1896), Julian supported the Gold Democrats as the successors to the Jacksonian radicals, who had earlier advocated hard money. Addressing the Sound Money League, Julian attributed the recent depression to the soft money which the Civil War legal tender acts introduced.

Radical individualism, of which George Washington Julian was a leading exponent, represented the significant intellectual and political movement in nineteenth-century America. The rediscovery of America's ideological tradition, and its increasing relevance for late twentieth-century America, has renewed interest in the many radical individualists. Julian, Leggett, Garrison, Lysander Spooner, Adin Ballou, William Graham Sumner, Randolph Bourne, H. L. Mencken, and Albert Jay Nock are finding disciples among “new philosophers,” “new economists,” and spokesmen for contemporary liberalism.

Natural Law and Grotius


  • Literature of Liberty, October/December 1978, vol. 1, No. 4
  • Editorial


The uniqueness of Greek and Roman culture is important in accounting for the crucial difference between European and non-European civilizations. Whatever the status of the debate over “the Ancients and the Moderns” (the classicists claim the pygmy Moderns are standing on the shoulders of the giant Ancients), European civilization has been profoundly influenced by the perfections and faults of the classical world. The concept of natural law is the heritage from the Ancients which has had the most profound impact on the flowering of liberty.

Natural Law flourished in the Hellenistic period under the Stoics from the Greeks Zeno of Citium and Chrysippus to the Romans Cato the Younger, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius. The Stoics posited an identification of physis and nomos, nature and law. The wise man lived in harmony with nature; he was not dragged in the train of events. The Stoics emphasized the “common law” of all peoples, jusgentium, the law of nations against each state's civil or public law. Chrysippus, “a philosopher learned in history, delighted in collecting examples of historical relativism; but like all the Stoics he was undisturbed by the diversity of the phenomena, for behind all the variety there is agreement at least about the basic issues, the agreement of reasonable men of all times and countries” [L. Edelstein, The Meaning of Stoicism (1966)]. Thus, although Chrysippus' historical knowledge caused him to regard all human laws as mistaken, this did not lead him to the disorder of government by man over man as it did with the Sophists. This knowledge led him instead to praise the order of the universality of natural law and each person's equality before that law.

The law of nations, which the Stoics viewed as the shadow of natural law, was derived from principles of private law as developed by Roman law-finders. Hayek has compared the persistence of private law, rooted in spontaneous social relations, to the ephemeral character of public law, based on political, imposed relations [F. A. Hayek, The Confusion of Language in Political Thought [4] (1976)]. Hayek relates the achievement of some degree of individual liberty to societies like ancient Rome and England, where private law was in the hands, not of the government (legislators and executives), but of private law-finders (jurists and judges). Hayek's and the Stoics' analyses are complimentary.

Stemming from the Stoics and Thomas Aquinas and reaching down to Adam Smith and Thomas Paine, natural law has been the basis for the development of modern liberalism. However, the writings of Hugo Grotius (Huig van Groot, 1583–1645), especially Dejure belli et pacis (1625), constitute a watershed in the history of ideas because Grotius completed the process of founding natural law in human nature. F.J. V. Hernshaw, [The Social & Political Ideas of Some Great Thinkers of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (1926)], has emphasized that the origins of Grotius's exposition can be found in the then great debate over whether obedience should be paid to political authority. Juan de Mariana, S. J. (1536–1624), Spanish historian and theologian, argued in Derege et regis institutione (1599), that it was lawful to overthrow a tyrant [Oscar Jaszi & John D. Lewis, Against the Tyrant (1957)].

Grotius inherited his opposition to tyranny. His father was the curator of the University of Leyden, center both of commercial Holland's Republican opposition to the militarism of the Princes of Orange as well as of the anti-Calvinist and bourgeois Arminianism. Grotius devoted himself to expounding the Arminian view of tolerance; his religious writings emphasized that the truths of Christianity, which were held in common by Catholics, Calvinists, Lutherans, and Arminians, were fundamentally more important compared to the peripheral points on which they felt they differed.

Grotius's appetite for learning and his encyclopedic knowledge were recognized at age twenty when he was appointed Historiographer of his province, Holland. Historical research continually engaged Grotius's attention, and his historical writings included Deantiquitate reipublicae Batavae and the Annals of the Low Countries, on which he worked until his death.

In 1609 Grotius published one of his most significant works, Mare Liberum. To the question of whether the seas could become state property, he answered a resounding no! No government had the right to exclude other nations' merchant ships from any seas. Soon England sought to claim the exclusive use of the North Sea and English Channel, and the master historian of English law, John Selden (1584–1654) in Mare Clausum (1632) vainly attempted to rebut Mare Liberum.

Grotius, as Pensionary of Rotterdam, wrote an edict of toleration which was issued by the States General of the United Provinces of the Netherlands. Religious toleration was opposed by the Prince of Orange, the military commander, who sided with the Calvinists against the Arminians. In part, the prince reacted to the Dutch [5] bourgeoisie (the Arminians) who insisted upon acceptance of the favorable peace offered by Spain in order to concentrate on commercial activities. The price, rural gentry, and Calvinist clergy saw peace as undermining discipline while introducing luxury based on commerce. In 1618, the privileged, military Calvinists struck at the capitalist Arminians. By a coup d'état, the prince's army disarmed the militias of the Dutch cities. The Republican leaders, Johan van Oldenbarneveldt and Grotius were arrested. The former was executed and Grotius condemned to life imprisonment. Rescued by his wife's efforts, Grotius escaped in a chest which was supposed to contain his Arminian books; he was given refuge in Paris (1621).

The beginning of the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) with its pillaging, violation, and massacre of civilian populations horrified Grotius. Aided by the researches of his brother, William, and his own unrivaled memory, Grotius wrote De jure belli et pacis (1625) in one year. Basing himself on the Stoics, Roman jurists, and medieval scholastics, Grotius drew most heavily from the sixteenth century Spanish philosophers of law—Francisco de Vitoria (1483–1546), Luis de Molina (1536–1600), and Francisco Suarez (1548–1617).

Grotius, in his Prolegomena to The Law of War and Peace, states that man is characterized by a strong sociability, by a desire to spend his life together with his fellow men, “and not merely spent somehow, but spent tranquilly and in a manner corresponding to the character of his intellect. This desire the Stoics call the domestic instinct, or feeling of kindred.” Grotius denied the universality of “the assertion that every animal is impelled by nature to seek only its own good” since some animals “restrain the appetency for that which is good for themselves alone, to the advantage now of their offspring, now of other animals of the same species.” Sympathy for others develops spontaneously among children, and increases with maturity “together with an impelling desire for society, for the gratification of which he alone among animals possesses a special instrument, speech. He has also been endowed with the faculty of knowing and acting in accordance with general principles.”

Grotius derived from this sociability the concept of law. “To this sphere of law belong the abstaining from that which is another's, the restoration to another of anything of his which we may have, together with any gain which we may have received from it; the obligation to fulfill promises, the making good of a loss incurred through our fault, and the inflicting of penalities upon men according to their deserts.” Finally, Grotius emphasized the scholastic concept of time-horizon: man's power of discrimination between “what things are agreeable or harmful (as to both things present and things to come), and what can lead to either alternative, in such things it is meet for the nature of man, within the limitations of human intelligence, to follow the direction of a well-tempered judgment, being neither led astray by fear or the allurement of [6] immediate pleasure, nor carried away by rash impulse. Whatever is clearly at variance with such judgment is understood to be contrary also to the law of nature, that is, to the nature of man.”

The pressures of the Thirty Years' War created the conditions for revolutions throughout Europe. The most famous were the Republican movements in the English Civil War and the Fronde in France. But Grotius did not live to see his vindication in the restoration of Republican rule to the Netherlands. The Peace of Westphalia (1648), which ended the Thirty Years' War, was concluded by the pacific Dutch capitalists and was opposed by the Prince of Orange. Finally, the Republicans gained dominance and established a decentralized constitution with each province controlling the army and religion within its own borders.

This history was well-known to the fathers of the American Revolution. Likewise, the impact of Grotius's jurisprudence was transmitted to them via Samuel Pufendorf (1632–1694), through Locke, Rousseau, Barbeyrac, Burlamaqui, Blackstone, and Montesquieu. Forrest McDonald, “A Founding Father's Library,” Literature of Liberty 1 (January/March 1978).

Anne Robert Jacques Turgot (1727–1781)


  • Literature of Liberty, January/March 1979, vol. 2, No. 1
  • Editorial


The continuing significance of Anne Robert Jacques Turgot (1727–1781) is both as a founder of modern economic science and as a powerful shaper of the Enlightenment idea of progress. The youthful Turgot was deeply moved by the liberal temper of Montesquieu's L'Esprit des Lois (1748). Turgot, however, found Montesquieu's determinism uncongenial; he was deeply impressed by the role of the human mind in molding history. This conviction, Turgot later expressed while a theological student at the Sorbonne (1750), in two major dissertations: On the Benefits which the Christian Religion has conferred on Mankind, and On the Historical Progress of the Human Mind. On related themes, he wrote the Recherches sur les causes du progrès et de la décadence des sciences et des arts, and the Plan de deux discours sur l'histoire universelle.

Turgot's Discourse on the Historical Progress of the Human Mind laid the foundations for late eighteenth-century writings on the themes of progress. Turgot believed mankind's history revealed that it must make a thousand errors to arrive at one truth. But he dissented from those eighteenth-century writers who overemphasized immediate experience and thereby viewed history as merely the record of human folly. Progress and avoiding past errors was possible only by the action of the human will informed by wisdom culled from a profound knowledge of history. Turgot thus became a diligent student of economic history for the valuable light it shed on the folly of ignoring the interdependence of capital formation and material progress.

As representative Enlightenment thinkers, Turgot and his intellectual friend Adam Smith each planned to write a history of civilization as a narrative of the history of the human mind and its progress. Turgot was a disciple of one of the two masters of the Physiocratic School, the brilliant teacher J. C. M. Vincent de Gournay (1712–1759), in whose honor Turgot wrote his Eloge de Gournay. As a teacher, Gournay had familiarized Turgot with the economic analysis of Richard Cantillon (1680–1734). From Cantillon's Essai sur la nature du commerce en général, Turgot derived his capital theory; the necessity of capital for entrepreneurs; the general interdependence of all sectors of economic processes; as well as the concept of development by capital accumulation and investment, crucial for the idea of progress.

Turgot was prominent in the rise of market economics and the antimercantilist critique ushered in by the Physiocrats. The most notable of the Physiocrats were François Quesnay (1694–1774), Pierre-Paul Mercier de la Rivière (1720–1793), and Pierre Samuel [4] Du Pont de Nemours (1739–1817). The Physiocrats derived their name from the Greek term “the rule of nature.” They endorsed the Lockean principal that property is the source of law and natural order (cf. Albert Schatz, L'Individualisme économique et sociale, Paris: Colin, 1907). In this vein, Turgot wrote in his article on Fondations:

Citizens have rights, and rights that are sacred to the very heart of society. The citizens exist independently of society and are its necessary elements. They enter society in order to put themselves, together with all their rights, under the protection of laws that assure their property and their liberty.

In his writings, Turgot displays the Physiocratic penchant for seeking a nongovernmental or spontaneous order in the economy. Turgot's “Letter to L'Abbé de Cicé on the Replacing of Money by Paper” (April 7, 1749) was influenced by John Locke's Some Considerations on the Consequences of the Lowering of Interest and Raising the Value of Money (1691). Turgot's work presents an initial theory of savings, and he demonstrates that financing government by printing money creates inflation. Turgot later elaborated his economic ideas in some of the articles he wrote for the Encyclopédie.

Yet another example of Turgot's economic liberalism is his Réflexions sur la formation et la distribution des richesses (1766). Through Richard Cantillon's influence, Turgot developed his theory of capital, savings, and investment which contributed to Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations (1776). For Turgot, capital received interest because of the time span of the period of production. He derived this early version of the time preference theory of interest from Cantillon's insight that interest rates were related to the scarcity or abundance of savings. Turgot's Réflexions also adumbrated the concept of marginal utility later worked out by Carl Menger with J. B. Say as an important intermediary. Carl Menger's successor and pupil in the Austrian School tradition, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, was indebted to Turgot for his development of modern capital theory. Böhm-Bawerk's Heidelberg 1876 seminar paper (now in the possession of F. A. Hayek) and his The Positive Theory of Capital (1889) show his reliance upon Turgot.

Turgot presented—in embryonic form—a subjective analysis of economic value in his Réflexions and later, in his Value and Money (1769), developed this subjective value theory through his discussion of valeur estimative—the degree of value a person attaches to different objects he desires. Turgot, aware of the crucial innovation of subjective utility, declared it as:

one of the newest and most profound truths which the general theory of value contains. It is this truth which l'Abbé Galiani stated twenty years ago in his treatise Della Moneta with so much clarity and vigor, but almost without further development, when he stated that the common measure of all value is man.


We can thus observe the intellectual lineage linking those (Turgot, the Abbé Ferdinando Galiani, and the Abbé Etienne de Condillac) who anticipated the Austrian Carl Menger and the Marginal Utility Revolution of 1870. (Cf. Emil Kauder, A History of Marginal Utility Theory, Princeton University Press, 1965.)

Turgot's economic influence is also evident on J. B. Say's law of markets. In the “Observations on a Paper by Saint-Péravy” (1767), Turgot exposited what later became “Say's Law of Markets.” Turgot's analysis of the basic issues inspired Say's effective statement of his theory of markets. As did Say, Turgot noted the economic effects of wars, especially in causing inflation:

The deadly contrivance of borrowing derives from the mania of spending more than one owns. . .; the ambition of Louis XIV and other princes has no less been a cause of it [the borrowing] through their stubborn wars pushed to the point of exhaustion. (P. D. Groenewegen, ed., The Economics of A. R. J. Turgot, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1977.)

Turgot's tenure as French controller-general of finance (1774–1776) brought him into a losing battle over government borrowing and the deficit financing of military activities. His dismissal from office specifically involved his memo to the King opposing French military spending. Totally in sympathy with the American rebels, Turgot felt that France would benefit from England's being permanently entrapped in overseas conflict. In any event, he emphasized that France's worst course would be to saddle itself with increased taxation and borrowing for foreign wars. Turgot's fall from office opened the way for France's military intervention in the American Revolutionary War and for the massive government deficits and borrowing that he predicted. The French monarchy's inability to support these loans brought about the French Revolution. [R. R. Palmer, “Turgot: Paragon of the Continental Enlightenment,” The Journal of Law and Economics 19 (October 1976): 607–619.]

So highly did Thomas Jefferson esteem the liberalism of Turgot that in the honored place of the entrance hall to Monticello he placed a Houdon portrait bust to this Enlightenment hero. Jefferson revered Turgot's strong support of the American Revolution and his contributions to a major debate on constitutional principles. Turgot's apparent approval of the more radical republican constitution of Pennsylvania provoked American and French responses. John Adams wrote his three volume Defense of the Constitutions of the United States, Against the Attack of Mr. Turgot, while Adams's friend, the Abbé Mably, a founder of modern socialism's denial of private property, published a work on the American constitutions which disturbed such republicans as Jefferson. [Additional aspects of the debate may be found in Joyce Appleby, “The New Republican Synthesis and the Changing Political Ideas of John Adams,” American Quarterly 25 (1973): 578–595.]


Turgot's greatest impact, arguably, was being the teacher of Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas Caritat de Condorcet (1743–1794). Especially after the fall of Turgot, Condorcet became the hope of the liberal cause. Inspired by Turgot, Condorcet as secretary of the Academy of Sciences (1776), sought to reorganize scientific activity by giving equal emphasis to research both in the natural and in the historical sciences. From his outspoken controversial pamphlets supporting Turgot's ideas on free trade and on the abolition of forced labor for the state, to his Vie de M. Turgot, Condorcet developed the ideas of a free society where the political system would approximate the freedom of the natural order. Continuing Turgot's work on progress, Condorcet's Esquisse d'un tableau historique des progrès de l'esprit humain (1793–1794) has been one of the most controversial contributions to the idea of progress. The most recent, and perhaps definitive study of Condorcet's Esquisse is that of Keith Michael Baker, Condorcet, From Natural Philosophy to Social Mathematics, University of Chicago Press, 1975. The Esquisse is the history of progress as the cumulative ordering of ideas into more and more comprehensive combinations. Although truths were turned into errors by social or political interests, error stimulated the human mind to discover truth. “In a sense,” Baker suggests, “the Esquisse came much closer to a sociology of error than it did to a sociology of progress.” Turgot's education of Condorcet has had the greatest influence in the progress of the social sciences, and in the recognition of the limited progress that they have made.

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)


  • Literature of Liberty, April/June 1979, vol. 2, No. 2
  • Editorial


The resurgence of interest in John Stuart Mill (1806–1873) began in the early 1940s stimulated by F. A. Hayek whose efforts and enthusiasm inspired new publications of collections of Mill's works, his letters, and biographies. Hayek's own study, The Constitution of Liberty (1960), commemorated the centenary of the publication of Mill's On Liberty.

Hayek was particularly fascinated by Mill's views of the influence of intellectuals on public policy. A statesman adopts a policy, not because of objective reality, but because of public opinion. The statesman takes public opinion for his objective reality, and he is successful to the degree that he operates within the accepted framework of thought. On a deeper level, however, the framework of thought which guides human action is derived from those intellectuals whose profession it is to apply abstract ideas. Hayek comments on “The Rule of Ideas,” in chapter 7 (7) of The Constitution of Liberty:

The belief that in the long run it is ideas and therefore the men who give currency to new ideas that govern evolution, and the belief that individual steps in that process should be governed by a set of coherent conceptions, have long formed a fundamental part of the liberal creed. It is impossible to study history without becoming aware of ‘the lesson given to mankind by every age, and always disregarded—that speculative philosophy, which to the superficial appears a thing so remote from the business of life and the outward interest of men, is in reality the thing on earth which most influences them, and in the long run overbears any influences save those it must itself obey.’ Though this fact is perhaps even less understood today than it was when John Stuart Mill wrote, there can be little doubt that it is true at all times, whether men recognize it or not.

Mill keenly appreciated the indispensable and complex role of the intellectuals. Indeed, he understood the need both of developing abstract ideas and of disseminating these ideas to wider intellectual publics. The active intellectual's role as a disseminator of ideas—whether moral or economic views, political or scientific beliefs—complemented the contemplative intellectual role. John Mill was himself influenced by his father's role as scholar-activist in the radical politics of his day (cf. Joseph Hamburger, James Mill and the Art of Revolution, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963; and [4] Hamburger, Intellectuals in Politics: John Stuart Mill and the Philosophic Radicals, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965). Accordingly, Mill both edited and subsidized the London and Westminster Review, and wrote editorials or articles for the radical Examiner and Morning Chronicle. By financially supporting Herbert Spencer's periodical and his books, Mill intended such ideas might begin their process of influencing public opinion. Mill attributed his political education to assisting his father James, in the preparation of the History of British India (1817). What impressed Mill was his father's repeated expression of “opinions and modes of judgment of a democratic radicalism then regarded as extreme,” and James Mill's severity in examining “the English Constitution, the English law, and all parties and classes who possessed any considerable influence in the country.” Mill's economic education had begun in the period of his first visit to France where he stayed at the Paris home of Jean Baptiste Say. Mill went on to assist his father in writing the Elements of Political Economy (1821) which was modelled on Say's Treatise on Political Economy (1803, 1814).

Later, reflecting the influence of Say and Adam Smith, John Mill's Principles of Political Economy (1848) made an original contribution in his discussion of laissez-faire. Mill appreciated Smith's and Say's refusal to separate political economy from the philosophy of society. As a result of Smith's example, Mill sought to provide social applications as well as principles. This led to the charge that Mill changed from a young noninterventionist to a collectivist. The falsity of this charge has been argued by Pedro Schwartz in The New Political Economy of J. S. Mill (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1968; Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1973). Along with other Utilitarians of the Bentham school, the young Mill did not oppose State intervention. As Élie Halévy points out (The Growth of Philosophic Radicalism, London, 1928) Utilitarianism was rife with nonliberal elements, and the utilitarian disciples of Jeremy Bentham were not supporters of individual rights or opponents of state intervention. Thus, it was a natural progression for John Mill as a young man to accept the tenets of early socialism which was rooted in some of the ideas of the Utilitarians.

The young Mill's movement toward collectivism was partly his response to Thomas Macaulay's critique of James Mill's “On Government.” Mill's father had endorsed Bentham's recognition that the state was a fiction since it was merely a sum of individuals. However, Utilitarians reached the non-individualist conclusion that the sum of the most individual goods or wills created a basis for a majority's ability to rule. To Utilitarians the concept of individual rights was suspect as a potential sanctuary for the politically dominant classes. Macaulay's emphasis on the Whig view of ‘rights’ thus awakened Mill's doubts about Utilitarianism, but John Mill rejected [5] the inconsistent position of the Whigs and turned to the more consistent expression of emerging socialism. Mill came under the influence of the socialist digression from the school of J. B. Say, represented by the followers of Henri de Saint-Simon (cf. Élie Halévy, “Saint-Simonian Economic Doctrine,” The Era of Tyrannies, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1965).

Mill's movement away from his youthful collectivism and toward an individualist position began by the challenging of his original interventionism by discussions with Alexis de Tocqueville. Mill, in fact, lent his efforts to popularize Tocqueville's Democracy in America (vol. I, 1835; vol. II, 1840) in England. Through Tocqueville, Mill discovered the importance of local self-government in America, including its role in the political education of ordinary people. The danger of majoritarianism, originally pointed out by Tocqueville, grew in clarity for Mill (cf. Leon Bramson, The Political Context of Sociology, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961). Mill saw the danger of government “trampling meanwhile with considerable recklessness, as often as convenient, upon the rights of individuals, in the name of society and the public good.” Mill's individualism, inspired by Tocqueville, was reflected in his advocacy of laissez-faire as a general rule in his Principles and On Liberty (1859).

Liberty functioned as a cardinal moral virtue for Mill. A distinguishing trait of Mill's personality and style is his liberality of spirit or his elaborate fairness to all intellectual positions—a trait that informs his writings and was vital to his analysis of progress in human history. In On Liberty, he defends the concept of liberty as intellectual autonomy, the cultivated habit of being “intellectually active” and fearless when advancing “heterodox speculation.” Those periods of human history brilliant for their “high scale of mental activity” were those that allowed free, untrammeled thought and discussion to break “the yoke of authority” and to throw off the “old mental despotism.” Mental freedom alone could sustain such liberating impulses that led to progress and improvements in human personal character and social institutions. But mental freedom and truth-seeking are nurtured only by the clash of debate and continuous Socratic examination of rival ideas, however one-sided, or non-conforming, or heretical. Any intellectual position “however true it may be, if it is not fully, frequently, and fearlessly discussed . . .will be held as a dead dogma, not a living truth.” Even partisan one-sided truths, “compel reluctant attention to the fragment of wisdom which they proclaim as if it were the whole.”

Thus, in the judgment of Mill in On Liberty, Rousseau's one-sided ideas critical of modern science and civilization had the healthy effect of supplementing the defective, one-sided idea of the [6] eighteenth-century philosophes. “With what a salutary shock did the paradoxes of Rousseau explode like bombshells in the midst, dislocating the compact mass of one-sided opinion and forcing its elements to recombine in a better form and with additional ingredients.” Posterity gained through such a dialectic a greater appreciation of “the superior worth of simplicity of life” and “the enervating and demoralizing effect of the trammels and hypocrisies of artificial society.”

Mill's On Liberty is the most widely known defense of individualism in the English-speaking world. As the epigraph for On Liberty Mill chose a quotation from the recently published (1852) English translation of Wilhelm von Humboldt, The Limits of State Action (1791): “The grand, leading principle, towards which every argument unfolded in these pages directly converges, is the absolute and essential importance of human development in its richest diversity.” Mill argued against state intervention because of the free market's efficiency when compared to political direction. However, Mill's major argument was founded on the evil effect of state intervention on the development of the individual, and thus, on the progress of society. Mill noted: “A people among whom there is no habit of spontaneous action for a collective interest. . . have their faculties only half developed; their education is defective in one of its most important branches. [Government] substitutes its own mode of accomplishing the work, for all the variety of modes which would be tried by a number of equally qualified persons aiming at the same end.”

David Ricardo (1772–1823) and Sir Herbert Butterfield


  • Literature of Liberty, July/September 1979, vol. 2, No. 3
  • Editorial


David Ricardo (1772–1823) made an unexpected contribution to liberty. A successful broker in government bonds, always interested in intellectual and scientific studies, but unaccustomed to research and writing, Ricardo's essays and books were an advancement of liberty which could not have been predicted. Once published, Ricardo's thought became one of the foundations for nineteenth century intellectual activity. Joseph Schumpeter believed that Ricardo, building on Richard Cantillon and Adam Smith, had created an impressive instrument of analysis. Ricardo felt that he had drawn from the contributions of Turgot, Stewart, Smith, Say, Sismondi “and others” (History of Economic Analysis, New York, Oxford University Press, 1954). Among the others were Thomas Malthus and James Mill.

Thomas Malthus and Ricardo were acquainted for a dozen years, yet they were in fundamental disagreement on methodology (cf. Robert Ekelund and Robert Hebert, A History of Economic Theory and Method, New York, McGraw-Hill, 1975). Similarly, Malthus's emphasis on insufficient aggregate demand (underconsumption theory) was contrary to one of the central principles of economics, Say's Law of Markets. By contrast, James Mill and Ricardo enjoyed an identity of method and principles. Mill persuaded Ricardo to read such major thinkers as John Locke, David Hume, and John Millar (Adam Smith's pupil) and to write his major works in political economy. Mill himself had been a student in Edinburgh of the Smithian Dugald Stewart, and transmitted Stewart's approach to Ricardo. Ricardo felt himself a member of the liberal school of Bentham and Mill, and acted in public as a practical spokesman for that school after he entered parliament for an Irish borough in 1819 (cf. Elie Halévy, The Growth of Philosophical Radicalism. Part III. London, Faber and Faber, 1928).

During David Ricardo's lifetime England experienced the completion of the wrenching transformation from an agricultural to a growing industrial society—the Industrial Revolution. Much anxiety was expressed whether the country could sustain over time the level of prosperity which industrial growth was providing. Ricardo's writing sought to provide correct answers from political economy to these problems. In addition, the almost quarter century of war placed a great strain on English society. Taxation and government loans siphoned off huge amounts of monies that otherwise would have gone into productive investments: the small householder was compelled to pay taxes and the great financier was lured to invest in [4] government securities rather than industry. The government's recourse to indirect taxation through the inflationary issuing of paper money created still further economic dislocation.

Indeed, addressing these dislocations, Ricardo's earliest economic contributions in 1809 (Three Letters on the Price of Gold) were critiques of inflation and paper money. As one of the most successful, and shrewdest men in the money market, Ricardo brought to the subject detailed knowledge of the nature of money and the consequences of government intervention in money through central bank expansion of money. His rigorous objections to paper money systems laid the foundation for sound monetary policy for a century. Today, a half century of disquieting experience with the volatile monetary system has reawakened interest in the economic principles Ricardo espoused.

∗ ∗ ∗

Sir Herbert Butterfield died in late July, 1979. Sir Herbert, long a pre-eminent expositor of the history of ideas and of historiography, especially in diplomatic history, exerted a major influence on Anglo-American scholarship. At Cambridge University Butterfield created the groundwork for historical research free of the bias in favor of government policies (cf. “Official History,” Kenneth S. Templeton, Jr., ed., The Politicization of Society, Indianapolis, Liberty Press, 1979). Butterfield sensed in the modern state and its historians a reversion to a new type of paganism which assumed “the primeval thesis: ‘We are the righteous ones and the enemy are wicked’.” From his perspective “official history” imagined that:

masses of men on the one side have freely opted for wickedness, while on the other side there is a completely righteous party, whose virtue is superior to conditioning circumstances. The reasons for suspecting such a diagram of the situation are greatly multiplied if the ethical judgement is entangled with a political one—if, for example, the wickedness is charged against a rival political party, or imputed to another nation just at the moment when, for reasons of poor politics, that nation is due to stand as the potential enemy in any case.

Sir Herbert was kind enough to write favorably about Literature of Liberty; unfortunately, his death prevented his writing a bibliographical essay on Lord Acton for the Literature of Liberty. For an intimation of his approach to Acton, one might wish to consult his Lord Acton (Historical Association General Series, 9, 1948) and “Acton: His Training, Methods and Intellectual System,” (in A.O. Sarkissian, ed., Studies in Diplomatic History and Historiography, London: Longmans, 1961). A starting point for appreciating Sir Herbert's own historical contributions to the study of liberty would be William J. McGill's “Herbert Butterfield and the Idea of Liberty,” The South Atlantic Quarterly 70 (Winter 1971): pp. 1–12.

Native Americans and the Economics of Property Rights


  • Literature of Liberty, October/December 1979, vol. 2, No. 4
  • Editorial


Harold Demsetz's “Toward a Theory of Property Rights,” American Economic Review (May 1967, reprinted in Eirik G. Furobotn and Svetozar Pejovich, eds., The Economics of Property Rights, 1974) is a major contribution to the economists' approach to property rights. In his essay, Demsetz drew on important historical and anthropological information to illuminate the development of property rights among native Americans. What is important here is a talented economist's sensitive use of this historical material. Demsetz applies the research of scholars concerned with seventeenth-century, eastern-Canadian Indian societies to describe the Indians' recognition of property rights in the animals hunted for the fur trade. Drawing on some of the same historical sources which John Locke had earlier used in the seventeenth century to formulate his own understanding of property rights—French Missionary reports on Indian societies, such as the Jesuit Relations—historians have been able to describe the nature of property rights among the different tribes of native Americans. Demsetz summarized the significance of property rights concepts for the fur hunting tribes:

Forest animals confine their territories to relatively small areas, so that the cost of internalizing the effects of husbanding these animals is considerably reduced. This reduced cost, together with the higher commercial value of fur-bearing animals, made it productive to establish private hunting lands. Frank G. Speck finds that family proprietorship among the Indians of the Peninsula included retaliation against trespass. Animal resources were husbanded. Sometimes conservation practices were carried on extensively. Family hunting territories were divided into quarters. Each year the family hunted in a different quarter in rotation, leaving a tract in the center as a sort of bank, not to be hunted over unless forced to do so by a shortage in the regular tract.

To conclude our excursion into the phenomenon of private rights in land among the American Indians, we note one further piece of corroborating evidence. Among the Indians of the Northwest, highly developed private family rights to hunting lands had also emerged—rights which went so far as to include inheritance.

For orientation in the bibliography of Indian property in agricultural land, one might begin with Bruce G. Trigger, The Huron: Farmers of the North (Case Studies in Cultural Anthropology, 1969). For long periods, many of the European settlements in the New World depended on Native American agricultural activities to sustain their existence. Attention should be drawn to the important works on the hunting and trading of furs referred to in the following studies: Francis Jennins, The Invasion of America (1975); Harold A. [4] Innis, The Fur Trade in Canada (1964); Frederick Jackson Turner, “The Character and Influence of the Indian Trade in Wisconsin” (in Kellogg, ed., Early Writings, 1938); John M. Cooper, “Land Tenure among the Indians of Eastern and Northern North America,” Pennsylvania Archeologist (1938); John M. Cooper, “Is the Algonquian Family Hunting Ground System Pre-Columbian?” American Anthropologist, N.S. (1939); Frank G. Speck and Loren C. Eiseley, “Significance of Hunting Territory Systems of the Algonquian in Social Theory,” Am. Anthro. N.S. (1939); William Cristie MacLeod, “The Family Hunting Territory and Lenape Political Organization,” Am. Anthro. N.S. (1922); Anthony F.C. Wallace, “Political Organization and Land Tenure among the Northeastern Indians, 1600–1830,” Southwestern Journal of Anthropology (1957); Bruce Tigger, “Jesuits and the Fur Trade,” Ethnohistory (1965); M.K. Bennett, “The Food Economy of the New England Indians, 1607–1675,” Journal of Political Economy (1955); Gordon M. Day, “The Indian as an Ecological Factor in the Northeastern Forest,” Ecology (1953); Frank G. Speck and Ralph W. Dexter, “Utilization of Marine Life by the Wampanoag Indians of Massachusetts,” Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences (1948); and Alvin M. Josephy, Jr. The Indian Heritage of America (1968).

When the English immigrants landed in North America, they were welcomed by the Indians, who gladly taught them agricultural methods. Although the immigrant farmers lived in peace with the Indians, immigrant officials insisted on imposing the hegemony of the settlers' government over the Indians. Government officials authorized themselves to “own” by government grant large tracts of land which they did not improve or develop; they also hoped to force future immigrants to pay them for these usurped lands. These tracts contained the lands on which the Indians were settled and had carried out their industries of farming, fishing, and hunting. The officials who “owned” these lands used governmental power to remove the Indians for failure to pay them rents. No conflicts arose over settlement by immigrants or private property in land claimed by individual farmers. The conflicts arose due to the usurping claims of government authority over the Indians and their lands.

Harold Demsetz's essay suggests the value of further research to examine the early history of European settlement in the New World, with attention to the role of private property in Native American societies. Future research could study from this property-rights framework the disutilities, injustices, and ecological disorder created by the intrusion of European government models into the relations of property-owning Native Americans and property-owning European immigrants. The advantages of a private property model for conserving and developing natural resources is spelled out in the following bibliographical essay.

John Locke (1632–1704)


  • Literature of Liberty, Spring 1980, vol. 3, No. 1
  • Editorial


John Locke (1632–1704) was identified by Joseph Schumpeter (History of Economic Analysis) as among the “Protestant Scholastics” of whom his forerunners were Hugo Grotius, Thomas Hobbes, and Samuel Pufendorf. This natural law tradition (Cf. Literature of Liberty, I, 4) was paralleled by René Descartes’s Discourse on Method (1637). Descartes’s emphasis on the principle of the uniformity of natural law had awakened Locke’s interest in philosophy. Succeeding Descartes as the leading philosopher of the eighteenth century Enlightenment, “le sage Locke” remained a critical heir of Cartesian thought, and his philosophical growth drew inspiration from a wide range of other sources. The Scholastic Aristotelianism of Puritan Oxford, including Aquinas and Albertus Magnus, stimulated Locke’s interest in scientific investigation, and in addition he sought to synthesize the best elements of the leading thinkers of seventeenth century philosophy.

The impact of the Arminianism of Holland was central to his tolerant religious thought as it had been for Grotius. Arminian interest in the foundations for a universal Christian church influenced Locke’s Essay on Toleration with its conception of Christianity as requiring belief in only a few essential doctrines. Cambridge Platonism contributed to Locke’s critique of Hobbes’s political views against which he wrote the Two Treatises on Civil Government. Locke’s empiricism owed much to his contact with Robert Boyle, founder of the Royal Society, and to the school of Pierre Gassendi (1592–1655). Leibnitz considered Locke a leading Gassendist, and R. I. Aaron (1937) notes that Locke’s Essay on Human Understanding becomes “more intelligible if read alongside Gassendi’s works.” Locke’s scholarship suggests that a rational science of morals was possible within the limits set by Gassendists such as Francois Bernier’s Christian epicureanism as contrasted with Hobbes’s materialist hedonism.

Bernier, a fellow physician of Locke’s, travelled to North Africa, the Near East, and India, and wrote travel literature. Locke’s own extensive knowledge of travel literature suggests that he may have edited a major series of voyage literature. On this topic, see William G. Batz, “The Historical Anthropology of John Locke,” Journal of the History of Ideas 35(Oct.-Dec. 1947). This literature influenced Locke’s concepts of the state of nature and of the historical origins of property which leads through Pufendorf and Locke to Adam Smith and Lord Kames in the Scottish Enlightenment.


On property Locke believed, with his fellow philosophers, that men had been given the earth, air, sunlight and rainfall to be used beneficially. But, the use of these common gifts required their possession in absolute property (Second Treatise 34). Locke’s theory of property begins with the absolute ownership which each man has in his own person. By mixing his labor with natural resources man makes these products his property (Second Treatise 27).

In contrast to Whig political philosophers, Locke did not appeal to English history in the form of the ancient constitution or a concrete original contract. From his extensive readings in cosmopolitan human history, Locke looked to sources which were human in a universal sense and found them in human reason and a rational law of nature. Human action and human freedom were determined by rational natural law. From natural law, Locke deduced that all men were created free and equal, that no man was made for another man’s benefit, and all men had the natural rights to life, liberty, and property. If civil governments interfered or abused these rights, men had the right of political resistance to vindicate their rights. Locke’s movement of political philosophy away from national historical precedents to man as man created the basis for eighteenth century Enlightenment political thought, especially influencing the Scottish Enlightennnnnnment (cf. Louis Schneider, ed., The Scottish Moralists on Human Nature and Society, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967).

The influence of Locke’s writings, especially the Two Treatises, has been enormous. Shortly after the original edition appeared, a French edition was published containing only the Second Treatise, less the first chapter. In that form it was reprinted a dozen times in France in the eighteenth century. Although American readers were nourished on the many reprints of the original editions until the American Revolution, the first American edition in 1773 followed the form of the French editions. In recent years a controversy among historians has debated the importance of Locke’s political philosophy in the eighteenth century Atlantic revolutions. Until recently, his ideas were seen as a dominant influence on the American and French revolutions and the radical liberals in England. But some critics have claimed that Locke’s ideas were either influential only through intermediaries or were eclipsed by the ideas of rival authors. These critics are, in turn, being challenged by historians whose scholarship has been restoring Locke’s political philosophy to center stage in eighteenth century radical political thought. This debate stresses the need of a clearer understanding of Locke’s ideas. On this see Ronald Hamowy, “Jefferson and the Scottish Englightenment” William and Mary Quarterly 36(October 1979), as well as Hamowy’s forthcoming comments in the July, 1980 issue of the same journal.

Eighteenth-century middle-class English radicalism


  • Literature of Liberty, Summer 1980, vol. 3, No. 2
  • Editorial


Eighteenth-century middle-class English radicalism represented a rebirth. The earlier seventeenth-century English radicalism, achieving a full flowering during the English Revolution, became a thin intellectual connection after the Restoration. The stout advocates of the “Old Cause”—the liberty-loving Commonwealthmen—are more significant in the history of ideas than in the political movements of their time. However, with the Bill of Rights of 1689 and the Whig ascendency, English radicalism was free to reemerge. There was much for the Middle Class to be radical about.

The Whig ascendency brought both respect for individual rights from arbitrary power and the vast growth of government power and its source in taxation. To fight wars without sufficient popular support, ministers resorted to deficit financing. New public financial institutions were necessary to underwrite unpopular wartime expenditures. A Public Finance Revolution materialized. The Bank of England, with the powers of a central bank, was created by the government to underwrite loans to the government; the National Debt was organized to develop credit for the government.

The Bank of England, the National Debt, the standing army, and increased taxation were the targets of the new generation of radicals in the eighteenth century. Cato's Letters and the Independent Whig of John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon not only developed out of the same intellectual atmosphere as John Locke's writings but equally had a major impact on eighteenth-century radical though in the English-speaking world—England, Scotland, Ireland, and America. John Adams, writing in 1816, recalled that in the 1770s in America “Cato's Letters and the Independent Whig, and all the writings of Trenchard and Gordon, Mrs. Macaulay's History, Burgh's Political Disquisitions, Clarendon's History. . . all the writings relative to the revolutions in England became fashionable reading.”

Carl B. Cone, The English Jacobins, Reformers in Late 18th Century England (1968), describes the mid-eighteenth-century middle-class culture from which dissenting radicalism developed. Members were expelled from congregations because their bankruptcies were disgracing their fellow believers. From such traditions, came the organizers and leaders of the radical societies of the late eighteenth century—societies which brought together advocates of liberty from very differing cultural traditions. John Wilkes's aristocratic lack of seriousness did not deter middle-class support in his battles for freedom of the press or in the right of the freeholders of Middlesex county to elect him to Parliament despite Parliament's repeated refusal to seat [4] him. In 1769 middle-class radicals organized the Society of the Supporters of the Bill of Rights to provide financial and political backing to Wilkes's legal and parliamentary contests.

Leaders of the merchant firms, the bar, intellectual circles, and the Anglican and dissenting churches became the spokesmen for a very active English Radicalism. Alderman John Sawbridge, M.P.; his sister, the whig historian Catherine Macaulay; the Rev. John Horne Tooke; the lawyer John Glynn, M.P.; and others fueled the Bill of Rights Society's advocacy not only of Englishmen's rights, but of the rights of Irishmen and Americans as well. Henry Grattan in the Irish Commons and Patrick Henry in the Virginia Burgesses drew inspiration and support from the English radicals. [Cf. Colin Bonwick, English Radicals and the American Revolution (1977) for the influence of American revolutionary ideas on English radicalisim.]

Historical studies were a major element in the development of a radical consciousness. The reality of the past had to be recaptured from the control of aristocratic or court historians. Thomas Brand Hollis devoted himself to the publication of the works of the seventeenth-century radicals. Mrs Catherine Macaulay's histories of seventeenth-century English revolutionary events were widely read. For the radicals, there was the strong desire “to go back to the early times of our Constitution and history in search of the principles of law and liberty” (William Hazlitt, The Spirit of the Age, 1825). The radicals had a strong commitment to the pre-Norman Conquest Anglo-Saxon constitution. The Anglo-Saxon assemblies, the local associations of Hundreds, the customary judicial systems with the ultimate powers in the jury, and regional defense organization based on the popular militia—all were central ideas for the eighteenth-century radicals. Their objective was the restoration of these institutions and the elimination of those that had arisen in their place. [Cf. Herbert Butterfield, The Englishman and His History (1945), Albert Goodwin, The Friends of Liberty (1979), Christopher Hill, Puritanism and Revolution (1968), and J. G. A. Pocock, The Ancient Constitution and the Feudal Law: English Historical Thought in the Seventeenth Century (1957)].

For eighteenth-century radical thought, in addition to commerce and history, there was an important role given to religion and science. Many of the leading radical clergymen were not only teachers and publicists but scientists. Unlike the Continent, England cultivated science, religion and liberty in close connections. Radical clubs, whose cores often were composed of clergymen, were the important scientific centers since the establishment universities avoided new ideas in science as they did in politics. [Cf. V. W. Crane, “The Club of Honest Whigs: Friends of Science and Liberty,” William and Mary Quarterly, 23 (1966) pp. 210–33].

Lon Fuller and the Law


  • Literature of Liberty, Autumn 1980, vol. 3, No. 3
  • Editorial


Lon L. Fuller's contributions have been a major milestone in modern moral and legal philosophy. Fuller's approach to legal and moral philosophy seemed to parallel the concepts which Pavia University legal theorist, Bruno Leoni, expressed in his Freedom and the Law (Los Angeles, 1972). Both Fuller and Leoni shared a common emphasis in not identifying legislation with true law; both also searched for fundamental legal principles as exemplified in such expressions of law as common law, custom, private arbitration and spontaneous adjustments among private individuals. Recently, F. A. Hayek has attempted to focus attention on the opposition between law and government statutes.

Fuller rejected coercion and hierarchies of command as identifying characteristics of law (see Fuller's The Morality of Law, 1964). Here also Fuller's attitude appears compatible with Hayek's concept of spontaneous order. Social activities and relations, including economic activities or exchanges, are legitimate and workable only in the context of personal freedom of action and choice. Hayek has emphasized the coordination role performed by individual judgments operating in freedom from statute law. Fuller, likewise, has identified a coordination role as central to human action. Fuller has identified the process of discovery of legal principles expressed in common law, custom, etc., as the natural law tradition. He identified with the system of legal thinking in the natural law tradition because it exemplified man's purposive and aspirational nature, emphasized the role of human reason, and opposed the arbitrariness of governing man. The role of command is excluded from the natural law tradition.

Hayek and Leoni have underscored the analogy between legislation and money. The denationalization or depoliticization of money and of law are seen as comparable processes in harmony with the natural order. The causes of the inflation of money and the inflation of legislation, with the good being depreciated and driven from use by the bad, are envisioned as similar in concept and in practice. The intrusion of government whether into the natural monetary process or the natural legal process creates disorder and depreciates the value of both money and law. Sound money and sound law, resembling sound science and technology, must be based upon a process of discovery and choice and not upon coercion, which is the basis of legislation. In a passage reminiscent of Cicero's stress on the value of the slow, organic growth of Roman law, which is the basis of legislation, Leoni notes:

Legislation appears today to be a quick, rational, and far-reaching remedy against every kind of evil or inconvenience, as compared with, say, judicial decisions, the settlement of disputes by private arbiters, conventions, customs, and similar kinds of spontaneous adjustments on the part of individuals. A fact that almost always goes unnoticed is that a remedy by way of legislation may be too quick to be efficacious, too unpredictably far-reaching to be wholly beneficial, and too directly connected with the contingent views and interests of a handful of people (the [4]legislators), whoever they may be, to be, in fact, a remedy for all concerned. Even when all this is noticed, the criticism is usually directed against particular statutes rather than against legislation as such, and a new remedy is always looked for in “better” statutes instead of in something altogether different from legislation.

Eric A. Havelock, in The Liberal Temper in Greek Politics (1957) indicates the Hellenistic origins of the concept of natural law and of its expression in the idea of liberty as freedom from coercion by other men. Leoni has commented:

The paradoxical situation of our times is that we are governed by men, not, as the classical Aristotelian theory would contend, because we are not governed by laws, but because we are. In this situation it would be of very little use to invoke the law against such men. Machiavelli himself would not have been able to contrive a more ingenious device to dignify the will of a tyrant who pretends to be a simple official acting within the framework of a perfectly legal system. If one values individual freedom of action and decision, one cannot avoid the conclusion that there must be something wrong with the whole system.

Lon Fuller, like Dean Roscoe Pound, has been a leading critic of legal positivism. “Specifically the problem is that of choosing between two competing directions of legal thought which may be labeled natural law and legal positivism. In The Law in Quest of Itself (1940), Fuller wrote that natural law “is the view which denies the possibility of a rigid separation of the is and the ought.” Fuller held that being and value were two aspects of a single reality. Nature or reality contained both an is and an ought. Natural law was discoverable in the process of human activity. F. A. Hayek, in The Rule of Law (Studies in Law, Institute for Humane Studies, 1975) observed:

What all the schools of natural law agree upon is the existence of rules which are not of the deliberate making of any lawgiver. They agree that all positive law derives its validity from some rules that have not in this sense been made by men but which can be “found” and that these rules provide both the criterion for the justice of positive law and the ground for men's obedience to it. Whether they seek the answer in divine inspiration or in the inherent powers of human reason, or in principles which are not themselves part of human reason but constitute non-rational factors that govern the working of the human intellect, or whether they conceive of the natural law as permanent and immutable or as variable in content, they all seek to answer a question which positivism does not recognize. For the latter, law by definition consists exclusively of deliberate commands of a human will.

Hayek's characterization of natural law in opposition to positivism or legal realism finds an interesting analogue in H. L. A. Hart's contrast between two extremes of American jurisprudence, “the Nightmare and the Noble Dream.” For Hart, the “Nightmare” is the view that judges always make and never find the law they impose on litigants. The opposed view of the “Noble Dream” is that the judge never functions as a legislator but rather lives up to Lord Radcliffe's ideal judge: the “objective, impartial, erudite, and experienced declarer of the law.” [See H. L. A. Hart, “American Jurisprudence Through English Eyes: The Nightmare and the Noble Dream.” Georgia Law Review 11 (September 1977): 969–989.]

John Bright and English Liberalism in the nineteenth century


  • Literature of Liberty, Winter 1980, vol. 3, No. 4
  • Editorial


English Liberalism in the nineteenth century had its roots nurtured in several sources. Intellectually, it drew inspiration from eighteenth-century radical Whig traditions and their source in the Commonwealthmen. The Philosophical Radicals from Bentham through John Stuart Mill provided active debaters in liberal periodicals and books, as well as parliamentary commissions and other investigative bodies. The Manchester School of Economics provided liberals with significant experience through the Anti-Corn Law League. Finally, the spirit of nationalism lay not far beneath the surface of liberalism. Indeed, where earlier historians saw support for foreign self-determination (especially for Italian nationalists) as a hallmark of English liberalism, modern historians have noted the paradox that the constituencies for English liberalism were the oppressed peoples of the Celtic Fringe. In parliament Celtic support for liberalism was obvious with the Irish Nationalist members seated with the Whigs and Radicals. Likewise, “English” members sat for other parts of the Celtic Fringe (western England, Wales and Scotland) as well as for the north of England. The Liberal party arose from the heavy mobilization of voters stimulated by party rivalry in the 1830s following the Reform Act of 1832 (an era corresponding to the Jacksonian period in America).

It is impossible to overemphasize the importance to liberalism of the Commonwealthman tradition and its conception of England's seventeenth-century revolutionary history. The English middle class viewed liberalism through the revolutionary filter of the Commonwealth and Protectorate, the Restoration and the Glorious Revolution. John Bright reflected this attitude in reading Hallam's liberal Constitutional History of England to his family. Bright also ranked republican John Milton as “the greatest man who ever lived” (to Lady Amberley, Bertrand Russell's mother). Bright's articulation of middle class real values and traditions moved John Stuart Mill to accept Bright's influence rather than his own logical formulations in politics.

Bright's liberalism warmly approved local communities of people and humanity, both of which he considered to be under regular assault by central governments. For Bright, the nation was divided into two classes: “tax-eaters” and “tax-payers.” The “tax-eating” class consisted of the bureaucracy and special interest groups that benefited from government intervention. Bright was especially concerned about the “tax-eaters”—the army, navy, foreign office, colonial agencies and those interest groups which profited from belligerency, whether in the form of restrictive laws or military acts directed against other peoples. In either expression of [4]hostility Bright detected the exploitation of the “tax-payer.” The “tax-payers'” work is exploited by the tax paid to the subsidized or protected industry whether the reason given is to protect jobs, profit margins, commercial, or political interests abroad. Bright's arguments on behalf of the Anti-Corn Law League's efforts to repeal subsidies and tariffs mirrored those against imposing on the producers the costs of the government's overseas military and political spending. (On the classical economists' arguments, see Edmund Silberner, The Problem of War in Nineteenth Century Economic Thought, Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 1946.)

Although he was convinced that a country needed an adequate and modern means of defense, Bright would “repudiate and denounce the expenditure of every shilling, the engagement of every man, the employment of every ship which has no object but intermeddling in the affairs of other countries.” Arms and loans to authoritarian governments would not perserve them, while self-governing people would defend themselves better with their own resources. Bright and Richard Cobden, his close associate in the Anti-Corn Law League, braved unpopularity in their spirited opposition to the Crimean War. Their firm stand on principle was the foundation for the popular non-interventionism of the Liberal Party lasting from Gladstone until the early twentieth century when World War I destroyed the nineteenth-century's accumulation of capital and, with it, the Liberal Party.

The nineteenth-century's accumulation of capital and the industrial revolution on which it was based was important to Bright. He noted that the French wars of 1793–1815 had lowered living standards undermining the early advances of the industrial revolution. Increased living standards resulted from increased real income derived from improved productivity. By raising the costs of production, the Factory Acts decreased employment and thus harmed workers.

For Bright, the economic arguments could not be separated from the moral arguments. The right to property in things is an extension to the right to property in one's self. When Sir Robert Peel proposed to introduce an income tax, Bright opposed its intrusion upon his right to privacy. He refused to disclose his income and organized a petition campaign invoking resistance to the invasion of privacy involved in the income tax. “No government,” he wrote to Cobden in 1842, “can have the right to make me state the amount of my profits and it is a vile system of slavery to which Englishmen are about to be subjected.” Bright's major speeches are collected in: Thorold Rogers, ed., Speeches on Questions of Public Policy by John Bright, M.P., (London: Macmillan and Co., 1869); and Selected Speeches of John Bright on Public Questions (London: J.M. Dent and New York, E.P. Dutton, 1907).

John Hospers and the Philosophy of Freedom


  • Literature of Liberty, Spring 1981, vol. 4, No. 1
  • Editorial


Professor John Hospers's principled life, voluminous writings, and precise scholarship are of a piece, wedding theory and practice in the Socratic pursuit and clarification of the true, the good, and the beautiful. His speculative analysis—practiced over thirty-five years of a productive scholarly career —has advanced and illuminated his chief areas of philosophic concern: social-political philosophy, ethics and art theory. All the while he engaged in the rigorous demands of a teacher and a scholar, he practiced what Theodore Roszak in The Dissenting Academy describes as “the spirit of Socrates,” the responsibility of the academic to participate in the discussion of the vital public issues of our individual rights and liberties. Making the proper and central business of the academy this Socratic examination of man's life with respect to its moral qualities, Professor Hospers's work is highly germane to the following bibliographical essay. Professor Hospers's scholarly practice thus embodies the insight of F.A. Harper, founder of the Institute for Humane Studies:

…it is clear that if one would change the society in which he lives, in some major way, there must first occur a change in the philosophical position of key intellectual leaders. This will then bear fruit in its time. There is no other way. All history confirms this.

Professor Hospers's Socratic spirit of open-minded examination of the key issues of philosophy has shone through his fairness as editor of the Personalist (now the Pacific Philosophical Quarterly) when, in the early 1970s he opened the journal's pages to the long-neglected discussion of rights, egoism, and normative political philosophy in general. Director of the School of Philosophy at the University of Southern California, his teaching method reflects Socrates' manner of philosophizing. He enjoys proposing specific cases and counter-examples to his students as a way of questioning unexamined assumptions.

This same Socratic spirit informs his numerous books and articles. Professor Hospers's complete bibliography would run to several pages, but a sample of titles, many of them classroom standard texts, that have been translated into several languages may serve to indicate his scope:


  • Philosophic Method and Analysis:
    • Introduction to Philosophic Analysis. 2nd ed. New York: Prentice-Hall, 1967.
    • “What Is Explanation?” Journal of Philosophy (June 20, 1946):356–377.
    • “What Is Knowing?” The Graduate Review of Philosophy 1(Fall 1956):3 – 12.
  • In Aesthetics:
    • Meaning and Truth in the Arts. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1946.
    • “Problems of Aesthetics.” In the Encyclopedia of Philosophy ed. Paul Edwards. New York: Macmillan-Free Press, 1967, pp. 35–36.
    • “Philosophy of Art.” In the Encyclopedia Britannica. 15th ed., 1974 pp. 40–56 (26,000 words).
  • In Ethics:
    • Human Conduct. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1961.
    • “Ethical Egoism.” The Personalist 51(Spring 1970):190–195 (with Wilfrid Sellars).
    • Readings in Ethical Theory, 2nd ed. New York: Appleton-Century Crofts, 1970.
    • “The Literature of Ethics in the Twentieth Century.” Literature of Liberty 3(Autumn 1980):5–41.
  • In Social and Political Philosophy:
    • “Political Ethics.” In Human Conduct. New York: Har-court Brace Jovanovich, 1961. Chapter 8.
    • Libertarianism: A Political Philosophy for Tomorrow. Los Angeles: Nash Publishing Co. 1971
    • “What Libertarianism Is.” In Tibor Machan (ed) The Libertarian Alternative Chicago: Nelson Hall Co., 1974, pp. 3–20.

Even this partial listing of his scholarship impresses one with John Hospers's achievement in philosophic theory. Just as remarkable has been his ability in converting theory into practice. Not simply an abstract aesthetician, his is adept as a practicing critic of music, movies, and literature, not to mention his skills as a gourmet [5] cook. His fusion of theory and practice is equally impressive in political philosophy. He is as much at home in analyzing the normative foundations of rights as in running for the presidency in 1972, when he held out the remote but exhilarating Socratic promise of installing a philosopher-president in the White House. Much of his commitment to human freedom and individual rights he imbibed from the values practiced by the independent and self-reliant Dutch farming community of Pella, Iowa, where he was born in 1918.

This last consideration leads us to the vital Socratic inquiry—the nature, preconditions, and justification of a free and humane society—a theme which John Hospers has skillfully analyzed together with the libertarian philosophers surveyed in David Gordon's following essay. This Socratic inquiry into human rights and liberty, involving life-and-death issues of man's survival, demands no less than a full Socratic examination making use of all resources of every philosophic tradition or mode of thinking that can shed some light on these issues.

In his Critique of Religion and Philosophy, the late Walter Kaufmann similarly stressed the need to bring the full “heritage of Socrates” to bear on the central questions of man's lot, his nature, mortality, and freedom. In Kaufmann's terms, an adequate Socratic inquiry into human freedom and rights would require our combining “two perennial tendencies,” that of the “analyst” and of “the existentialist,” that is, logic and intuition, scholastic analytic rigor and romantic insightful vision. The true Socratic investigation into the mystery of man's freedom and meaning in the universe avoids the exclusive polarities of either undisciplined vision or unpoetic analysis. Our inspiration as philosophers could well be Socrates' insistence at the end of the Crito (on the very eve of his death on behalf of the examined life) for a union in the psyche of Apollo and Dionysus, of rational logos and Bacchic music or mythos. In a word the examination of human rights and freedom demands the integrated philosophizing of scientific visionaries.

In Friedrich Hayek's analysis, the theorists of human freedom and rights are today polarized into two camps. The dominant camp consists of “constructivist rationalists,” who, uninformed by man's history, biology, evolution, or place in nature and universe, derive substantive rights from abstract self-evident axioms. The second camp, which Hayek endorses, avoids the undue rationalism of the successors of Aristotle, Aquinas, Hobbes, Kant, Moore, or Rand, and seeks to explore the implications for human ethics and social philosophy of man's biological, social, and historical evolution in the universe. Socrates might have been inclined to suspect that both camps [6] contain a measure of truth and that there may be more than two camps which might have something of value to contribute to our understanding of freedom.

The philosophic profession has been rising in complaint about the domination by one philosophical approach. This need for pluralism in approaches and methodology in philosophy is mirrored in the reality of pluralism on rights theory among libertarian thinkers. In a world of new sciences—biochemistry, quantum theory, systems analysis—any discipline must adopt a pluralist attitude or destroy creativity and discovery. New truth will be accepted in a discipline only in an atmosphere of freedom to choose. Yale historian Franklin L. Baumer has shown in Modern European Thought that the modern world has increasingly abandoned the generally static outlook of earlier ages and has gradually adopted a world view that recognizes dynamic process and continuity in change. As in earlier ages, the academic world may be the last to accept the reality of dynamic process and continuity in change


Herbert Hoover (1874–1964)


  • Literature of Liberty, Summer 1981, vol. 4, No. 2
  • Editorial


For half a century Herbert Hoover (1874–1964) was an important spokesman for American values. Raised in Iowa and Oregon, he was one of the first students at Stanford University under its distinguished founder, David Starr Jordan (coming to Stanford from the presidency of Indiana University, Jordan was one of the most knowledgeable of the many prominent persons who spoke out boldly in the anti-imperialistic cause during the Spanish-American War and the suppression of Philippine independence). Hoover's training in geology at Stanford should not mislead us into viewing him as a narrowly trained engineer lacking a global vision. Hoover received a broad-based education at Quaker academies in West Branch, Iowa and Newberg, Oregon; and, after graduating from Stanford, he took advantage of opportunities for extensive self-education and far-flung travels. His career in mining took Hoover not only to the gold mines of the western United States but also to other mines throughout the world: in Australia, China, Russia, Burma, Italy, and Central America. From his offices in San Francisco, New York, and London, Hoover travelled by boat throughout nearly two decades to supervise his extensive business interests in such distant locations as Australia and China. Our understanding of this early part of Hoover's career has been illuminated by the biographical studies of Professors David Burner and George Nash, who inform us that during those long voyages Hoover read many thousands of volumes. Hoover's skillful 1912 translation from the Latin of Georgius Agricola's mining treatise De Re Metallica displays only one facet of his vast knowledge. Another indication of Hoover's ongoing passion for developing his mind was his decision to make his home on the Stanford campus for long periods of time.

Yet, when he returned to the United States following the First World War and the Versailles Conference, Hoover judged that the learning available in universities was inadequate to deal with the turbulent new world emerging from those cataclysms. The economic catastrophe of the First World War had shaken the stability of the laissez-faire capitalist world order. The nineteenth-century classical liberal ideas that Hoover had studied had proved powerless to defend capitalism; they had failed to prevent a protracted world conflict that dissipated the hard-won capital accumulation of an entire century. Hoover responded to this tragic situation by founding at Stanford the [4] Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace (1919) and the Food Research Institute (for the most important long-term material problems). Hoover's research institutions were intended to study how to achieve the peace so necessary for capitalist institutions, and also how to avoid wars whose economic dislocations would lead to socialist revolutions.

Hoover had headed the wartime Food Administration in Washington as well as the postwar Supreme Economic Council and the American Relief Administration in Europe (with Robert A. Taft serving as his legal advisor in each). Having devoted their energies during World War I and the immediate postwar period devising how to feed Americans and then all of Europe (in 1921, Hoover also headed a relief organization to provide food for the famine-ridden Soviet Union), Hoover and Taft had time, following the Versailles Conference, to reflect and draw lessons. America had entered the First World War at the very point when all belligerents were exhausted and faced with the need to negotiate a settlement. America's intervention upset the balance, gave one side the advantage, thus precluding a negotiated settlement while undermining the institutions of the Central Powers. However Russia, one of the Allies, though thoroughly exhausted, remained in the war at America's behest and suffered the consequence of the Bolshevik Revolution. Later, the agonies of the prolonged war inspired other Communist revolutions that wracked Germany and eastern European countries.

This fateful connection between war and the rise of socialism was evident to Hoover. All countries came out of the war with government intervention vastly increased, whether they maintained the form of democracy or opted for socialism or fascism. This cycle of war-spawned degeneration was continued with the Great Depression being the economic consequence of the First World War and with the unfair Versailles Treaty ushering in Nazi electoral victories in Germany and similar backlashes elsewhere. As thirty-first president of the United States, Hoover faced the effects of war and economic interventionism in both domestic and foreign policy.

The Great Depression generated major new problems in foreign policy to match those of America's domestic disarray. The most serious foreign crisis faced by the Hoover presidency was a direct consequence of the domestic economic crisis and concerned Japanese activities in Manchuria. The Great Depression caused many governments, including the United States and Great Britain, to respond with increased trade protectionism. As a result, Japan was increasingly shut out of markets it had gained after 1914 from its increased productivity [5] and capital accumulation while other nations were consuming their capital in the First World War and its postwar dislocation of their finances. Japan lost markets in British India and other major colonies controlled by Western powers.

In response to this economic warfare, Japan sought a situation equal to the Western Powers with regard to Manchuria, a recent addition to China. To resolve this threatening problem with Japan, Hoover opted for one of two competing state department approaches. Overruling the aggressive state department position, which would have built up China and other major powers in the northern far East (such as the Soviet Union) in order to operate antagonistically toward the Japanese, Hoover endorsed the alternative state department policy aiming at a negotiated settlement between China and Japan. By this more conciliatory policy, Hoover sought to maintain reasonable relations between the United States and Japan, and remove an opportunity for the Soviet Union to gain at the expense of United States-Japanese relations. Hoover's decision has been recognized as a major milestone in peaceful statesmanship. The New Deal's reversal of Hoover's policy led ultimately to American economic restrictions on Japan and Japan's predictable attempt to escape those consequences through military responses.

Herbert Hoover, Robert A. Taft, and other Americans warned that an aggressive foreign policy would lead to war. They argued with all their resources against the New Deal foreign policy that made inevitable America's going to war. Without American intervention, the existing conflicts in China and in Europe could have been concluded by negotiated settlements. Or, in the case of the Soviet-Germany conflict, reasoned Hoover, one could expect the mutual destruction of two equally reprehensible regimes. Hoover perceived that the alternative to America remaining at peace involved a sad litany of disaster: further growth and institutionalization of interventionism in the American economy, protracted war with more hundreds of millions of people suffering the economic dislocation which in the past had led others to communism, and an increased role in international affairs on the side of whichever powers the United States became an ally—the Soviet Union, or Germany and Japan. Once the United States entered the Second World War, this same noninterventionist reasoning was presented to criticize the ‘unconditional surrender doctrine’ directed against the Axis powers by Britain, United States, and the Soviet Union. Hoover believed an early negotiated end of the war would have positive effects on the American economy (especially the dollar), would cause less economic dislocation (and thus [6] fewer millions falling under communism), and also cause less of an increase in the power of the Soviet Union while keeping it balanced by a ‘conditionally surrendered’ Germany and Japan.

The post-World War II international situation confirmed for Hoover his worst fears regarding American intervention into the war. Without a negotiated settlement between China and Japan, the prolonged war destroyed China's economic, social, and political institutions, thereby creating a vacuum in which communism was able to gain victory. Again, the American refusal to consider a negotiated peace with Japan opened the door to Soviet occupation of Manchuria. As Hoover had predicted, many hundreds of millions of people in Asia and in Europe emerged from the devastations and interventions of war with communist institutions.

Hoover warned that if America responded to the new postwar international situation in the same ways it had in 1917 and 1941—the ways that had created the post-war situation—America would be instrumental again in unintentionally creating the conditions which fostered the rise of more communist systems. Herbert Hoover, Robert A. Taft, and other dissenters from the Welfare Liberal Establishment held that the best way for America to compete with the communist world was to free the American economy so that its productiveness and success would exemplify its superiority. This free and prosperous examplar would gain international moral leadership as well as cause a majority of nations to prefer friendship with an economically dominant America over other alternatives. Hoover and Taft judged it a mistaken priority to be more devoted to high military spending than to productivity and monetary power. The single most important international weapon that America possessed, insisted Hoover, was a sound dollar; a weak dollar was the most vulnerable part of American security. A strong dollar insured friends and allies; a weak dollar insured vulnerability. America's current monetary crisis makes Hoover's ideas once more worthy of consideration at a time of intellectual soul-searching.

Benjamin Tucker (1854-1939)


  • Literature of Liberty, Autumn 1981, vol. 4, No. 3
  • Editorial


In commemorating the hundredth anniversary of Benjamin Tucker's journal Liberty (1881–1908), Wendy McElroy's following essay, “Benjamin Tucker, Individualism, and Liberty,” contributes a fascinating chapter to the history of libertarian thought and American individualism. Like all good history, her essay illuminates our understanding of the past, in this instance a significant episode in American intellectual history, but sadly neglected by most academic historians. By awakening our sense of the history of ideas, the essay stimulates us to revise our sense of the present, and thereby to speculate on the possibilities of individual freedom in the future.

As heirs of the authentically American values of Josiah Warren's “sovereignty of the individual,” Tucker and his circle of maverick libertarian thinkers are historically significant because they demonstrate how genuinely homegrown and “Yankee” the roots of American radical individualism were. As uncompromising advocates of liberty and opponents of authority in all its forms, Tucker and his tradition also offer us the legacy of a suggestive analysis of how true community is compatible with rugged individualism.

The pedigree of his libertarian philosophy, Tucker insisted, was no “imported article” but rather a vital part of the native American heritage: “So far as priority of time is concerned, the credit seems to belong to Warren, the American.... Of the purest revolutionary blood, too, this Warren, for he descends from the Warren who fell at Bunker Hill.” (Liberty March 10, 1888). Tucker together with his “mentor”, Josiah Warren (1798–1874) and Warren's intellectual progeny—Stephen Pearl Andrews, Lysander Spooner, William B. Greene, and Ezra Heywood—were Yankees to the core. All were born in Massachusetts and were steeped in the libertarian traditions of the American Revolution, the “spirit of ‘76.” Ezra Heywood affirmed the same point in the pages of Tucker's Radical Review when he claimed that Warren's doctrine of the sovereignty of the individual and anarchism were “only a new assertion of the ideas of self-rule and self-support which Jefferson put into the Declaration of Independence, 1776.” Similarly, in “Anarchism and American Traditions,” Voltairine de Cleyre rooted the libertarian conception of society in the liberal Jeffersonian traditions of the American Revolution. Tucker himself underlined these American origins of his belief that “all the affairs of men should be managed by individuals or voluntary associations” and boasted: “Anarchists are simply unterrified Jeffersonian Democrats.” (Liberty March 10, 1888).

Born in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts in 1854 (the same year that Thoreau published Walden, his paean to transcendentalist individualism), Benjamin imbibed in his youth the Jeffersonian and Jacksonian democratic spirit of anti-institutional individualism. [4][For these individualistic currents, see Eric Foner, “Radical Individualism in America,” Literature of Liberty 1 (July–September 1978); and George M. Frederickson, The Inner Civil War: Northern Intellectuals and the Crisis of the Union. New York: 1965, pp. 7–22.] His family and social environment was a hothouse fostering freedom of thought, religious dissent, and political nonconformity. Tucker's maternal great-grandfather was a follower of the radical free-thinker Tom Paine; his mother was an extreme Unitarian; and his father a rebellious Quaker and Jeffersonian democrat. Little wonder that Tucker cherished the sovereign self, guarded his intellectual independence, and resisted the authority and institutions of religion, education, and politics. He read widely in the classical liberals, and at fourteen attended lectures at the New Bedford lyceum to hear such individualist luminaries of Transcendentalist and abolitionist thought as Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Lloyd Garrison, and Wendell Phillips.

At sixteen, Tucker displayed his fierce independence of mind and distrust of any institution that might compromise his integrity, by balking at his parents' desire to send him to college at Harvard. In 1872, at the age of 18, he finally forged diverse American individualistic currents into a new synthesis after meeting the native American anarchists, Warren, Spooner, Greene, and Heywood. Upon reading Warren's True Civilization, an exposition of the sovereignty of the individual and its appropriate economic system, Tucker endorsed individualist anarchism and began his career as publicist and “plumb-line” polemicist for the anti-statist variety of libertarianism. After publishing the short-lived Radical Review (1877–1878), he founded Liberty in 1881.

Ironically, when Warren relayed to Tucker the torch of the libertarian tradition on the eve of the Centennial celebration of the “spirit of ‘76”, America was experiencing the twilight of that very spirit. Individualism was on the wane and in conflict with the ascendent forces of statist centralization and organization, which were ushered in by war, regulation, and imperialist expansion. George M. Frederickson's The Inner Civil War, mentioned above, chronicles the tragedy of how, in the aftermath of the Civil War, American intellectuals abandoned the radical individualism, anti-institutionalism, and anti-statism of the pre-Civil War period. Forgetting the individualist creed of Emerson's “American Scholar” (1837), postbellum intellectuals were in large part transformed by the passions and discipline of the Civil War into enthusiastic supporters of government, state organization and reform, and bureaucratic centralization in other social institutions such as charity and education.

In the face of mounting culture of collectivism, institutional bureaucratization, and anti-individualist, authoritarian political forces, Tucker and the friends of Liberty kept alive the independent-minded [5]ideals of Emerson's “American Scholar” and the traditions of creative individual freedom. That such innovators in American political philosophy, social thought, and culture as Tucker's individualists were non-academic intellectuals working outside formal educational institutions is a grave indictment of the conservatism of America's official culture and establishment education. Whereas in arts, letters, and philosophy, the official culture and academy ignored or persecuted unconventional American geniuses such as Whitman, Tucker's Liberty welcomed individual creative talent and displayed cosmopolitan and avant-garde tastes. At establishment universities such as Harvard the agenda for philosophical and political speculation was determined by the cultural and political elite. Liberty's intellectuals, however, unencumbered by institutional conservatism and anti-Darwinian bias set their own individualist agenda for a radical political, economic, social, and cultural reform. [On the decline of American institutional philosophy under the pressures of professionalization, specialization, and anti-humanistic arcane games of abstract thought, see Bruce Kuklick, The Rise of American Philosophy: Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1860–1930, New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1977.]

Tucker's Liberty and the libertarian traditions that continue to grow today have much to contribute to a reawakening of America's memory of her creative and individualist past. Perhaps even more importantly, these currents of American individualist thought may offer some guidelines to the political and cultural perplexities of the present and future.

Utopian Thinking


  • Literature of Liberty, Winter 1981, vol. 4, No. 4
  • Editorial


...we must be able to offer a new liberal programme which appeals to the imagination. We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage. What we lack is a liberal Utopia...a truly liberal radicalism...the main lesson which the true liberal must learn from the success of the socialists is that it was their courage to be Utopian which gained them the support of the intellectuals.... (F.A. Hayek, “The Intellectuals and Socialism,” 1949)

“MY UTOPIAN DESIGN FOR HUMAN SOCIETY.” The only assumed starting point will be to try to attain a maximum of liberty as a desirable human condition on an enduring rather than a temporary basis. How to do this is the question. (Term paper topic proposed by F.A. Harper for the Seminar on “Liberty in Human Society,” 1962–63)

Our quotations, taken from F.A. Hayek and F.A. Harper (founder of the Institute for Humane Studies), underline the esteem in which utopian thinking was held by two of the most persuasive advocates of liberty in the twentieth century. Hayek's opening address at the founding of the “wild experiment” to be known as the Mont Pelerin Society (April 1, 1947) reflects this visionary element in neo-liberal thought. Present at the creation of that “experimental meeting,” the American Harper, in particular, was temperamentally optimistic about the prospects for realizing the utopian ideals of a free, prosperous, and humane society, although he well appreciated the difficulties in persuading others (see his essay, “On Teaching Principles of Liberty,” 1966). In a sense, the Institute for Humane Studies (with its interdisciplinary publications, seminars, research, and assistance to scholars of freedom) stands as a monument to the realism of “Baldy” Harper's idealistic “utopianizing” concerning liberty.

On the eve of inaugurating IHS and while still on the staff of the William Volker Fund, F.A. Harper expressed this balanced judgment on the utopian approach to liberty:

In order for any person to perceive the libertarian concept as definitely useful in guiding us in our daily affairs, he must first accept in the abstract a purely idealistic concept of liberty (The Golden Rule, the Decalogue, etc.; a strictly liberal society in accord with these guides, involving complete freedom of each person, property owned entirely privately, unrestricted freedom of exchange and movement of persons, and the like with equal rights for every other person). Then one must compromise his expectations as to the full attainment of this ideal in our time, without compromising the ideal itself in its design. (“In Retrospect—and in Prospect,” August 24, 1960).

Baldy Harper realized how visionary his ideal of a voluntary society of free individuals might seem. In one of his jottings he once noted “The ethic for freedom (utopianism),” and he would often recommend Andrew Hacker's “In Defense of Utopia” (Ethics, January 1955).

No finer compliment could be paid to F.A. Harper, F.A. Hayek, or our essayist than for each reader to give some serious thought to [4] formulating his or her own ideal society, even if that may run “counter” to accepted styles in utopianizing. To utopianize is, as the Rev. Edward Surtz, S.J. observed in his Yale edition of St. Thomas More's Utopia, to practice the uplifting virtue of hope:

The hope for far better things, sustained by the view (so typically Renaissance) that man may shape and mold himself in any chosen form, is embodied in an apocalyptic vision of the best earthly state possible—Utopia.

To utopianize is also to have the courage to build anew in imagination—then in the sometimes more recalcitrant material of reality—our ideal. Our utopian designs serve to transcend the self-imposed limits of our beliefs and models of reality and human nature. For what limits, if any, should we choose to impose on our unfulfilled human potential? Perhaps we can offer no better exemplar of the utopian impulse than our cover subject, St. Thomas More, humanist, parliamentarian, lord chancellor, and martyr to the principle that the individual is superior to the state.

As students of human liberty, we could wish for no more circumspect a cicerone than Professor Widmer to guide us through the byways of euphoric dreams and bizarre nightmares that form the imaginative landscapes of Utopia. Author of Paul Goodman (1980), Edges of Extremity: Some Problems of Literary Modernism (1980), The Literary Rebel (1965), and numerous other cultural analyses, Professor Widmer has long studied the role of “rebellious culture,” utopian speculations, and the perplexities of moving toward a freer society and self (see especially his “Toward a Politics for Homo Negans: Libertarian Reflections on Human Aggression,” cited in the Bibliography). Thus, in the free spirit of Diogenes and the Skeptics, he summons scholars to scrutinize and counterargue with the facile stereotypes that lie in wait for partisan dogmatists who approach the ambiguous connections between utopia and liberty. Practicing what he preaches, Professor Widmer begins (see his first footnote) and ends his essay (see his last paragraph) reminding both himself and the reader of the need to remain open-minded, self-critical, dialectical, and permanently rebellious in countering and challenging one's own orthodoxies. His fascinating tour through the utopian will give the reader the opportunity not only to reexamine the grand themes of human individuality, community, and freedom but also to speculate on the identity and possible destiny of human nature.

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–1859)


  • Literature of Liberty, Spring 1982, vol. 5, No. 1
  • Editorial


I have remained an old and outmoded lover of liberty in a time when everyone desires a master. (Alexis de Tocqueville, 1856)

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–1859) burst upon the Atlantic intellectual scene in 1835 with the publication of the first volume of Democracy in America (the second volume followed in 1840). His comparative approach to the historical sciences has earned him the title of “the Montesquieu of the United States.” Tocqueville has been ranked with Jacob Burckhardt and Lord Acton among the historians who contributed to a broader understanding of historical processes. Wilhelm Dilthey, the great student of the historical-cultural sciences, considered Tocqueville an “original historical thinker” who was “undoubtedly the most illustrious of all political analysts since Aristotle and Machiavelli.” Dilthey concluded: “another important example of the application of his analysis in the practical field lies in his recognition of the dangers of an exaggerated centralization, and in his insights into the blessings of self-help and self-government.”

Self-government is the central theme of Tocqueville's thought. In the first letter he wrote on arriving for his visit to America with Gustave de Beaumont (May 11, 1831–February 20, 1832), he underlined this theme:

Picture yourself, my dear friend, if you can, a society which comprises all the nations of the world—English, French, German... Here there is no public authority, and to tell the truth there is no need for one. The States have few soldiers, because they have no enemies, and consequently no armies; there is neither taxation nor central government. Executive power, being non-existent, is a source neither of money nor of power.

Alongside the absence of governmental careers, he noted that there were numerous other opportunities, and these opportunities contributed to the changeable character of all Americans. They take up and leave ten different occupations; they do not fear change as they can enter another activity if the current one does not succeed.

Tocqueville's attention, preceding his visit to America, had been focused on the two countries influenced by his native Normandy: Sicily and England. In his Voyage en Sicile (1827), he noted the moral and material prosperity of the small peasant-owned farms in eastern Sicily (unlike the feudal estates of western Sicily). On his return from Sicily, Tocqueville attended Francois Guizot's pathbreaking lectures on the History of Civilization in France and he read Guizot's work on European history.

Applying Guizot's concepts of centralization vs. decentralization and the progress of societies compared to the progress of individuals Tocqueville composed an essay on English history from the Normans to the Stuarts. He concluded that in England each parish was a free republic since there was an absence of centralized government. [4] However, when he visited England in the 1830s he discovered that the utilitarian philosophical radicals were creating the very conditions for a central administration. Tocqueville awakened John Stuart Mill to the danger of the Utilitarians' preference for centralized government over liberty and the market.

Tocqueville's historical mentor, Guizot, had delineated the conflict between the ancien regime, the old society, and the New France, the new society: a theme which had been developed by F.D. Montlosier in De la monarchie francaise (1814) and expanded by Charles Comte, Charles Dunoyer, Arnold Scheffer, and Augustin Thierry in the Censeur Européen (Thierry's essays were republished in his Letters on the History of France). Jacques Barzun has noted: “The historiography of the Romantic period in France, whether conservative with Chateaubriand and Guizot, or liberal with Thierry and Carrell, tried to disentangle the issues created by the French Revolution in the light of race and class history.” [Jacques Barzun, “Romantic Historiography as a Political Force in France,” Journal of the History of Ideas 2 (1941): 328. Cf. Stanley Mellon, The Political Uses of History (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1958), pp. 5–100; Elie Halévy, The Era of Tyrannies (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1965), pp. 21–60; Melvin Richter, “Tocqueville's Contributions to the Theory of Revolution,” in Revolution, Nomos 8, Carl J. Friedrich, ed., (New York: Atherton, 1966) pp. 75–121.]

Like Comte, Dunoyer, Scheffer and Thierry, Tocqueville drew his economic analysis from the works of Jean Baptiste Say. Tocqueville had studied Say's Cours complet d'économie politique practique (Paris, 1828) when it was published. Since Say's Treatise (1803, 1814) had been published in the United States (1817) through Jefferson's influence and had become the leading economics textbook in American academia, Tocqueville was well prepared to consider American economic analysis in a common framework. Similarly, his preparatory reading had been Arnold Scheffer's Histoire des États-Unis de l'Amérique seprentrionale (1825).

Montesquieu had noted that the commercial spirit naturally endowed men with the spirit of liberty; Tocqueville considered the spirit of commerce to be caused by liberty and the moral and intellectual qualities on which liberty was based. This echoed the debate in the 1820s between Benjamin Constant and Charles Dunoyer on whether civilization which was the fruit of commerce engendered or undercut the spirit of liberty. Tocqueville's analysis of American civilization provided an answer to that debate. Perhaps Tocqueville's special contribution was to emphasize the fundamental role of the spirit of religion for the success of the spirit of liberty and the spirit of commerce.

Religion, liberty, and commerce are the central themes in Tocqueville's approach to the “great democratic revolution” which he presents in his “Introduction” to Democracy in America. He noted [5] that the democratic process began in the eleventh century when the privileges of the feudal landholders, the old society, were first challenged by the rise of the clergy, which was open to all classes. Commercial relations (which found safe havens in the fairs and markets protected by monasteries and bishops) made society more varied, complicated, stable, and civilized. “While the kings were ruining themselves by their great enterprises, and the nobles exhausting their resources by private wars, the lower orders were enriching themselves by commerce.” Once private property in land arose alongside feudal holdings, “every discovery in the arts, every improvement in commerce or manufactures, created so many new elements of equality among men. Henceforth, every new invention, every new want which it occasioned, and every new desire which craved satisfaction were steps towards a general leveling...From the time when the exercise of the intellect became a source of strength and of wealth, we see that every addition to science, every fresh truth, and every new idea became a germ of power placed within the reach of the people.”

From the Renaissance/Commercial Revolution through the Enlightenment/Industrial Revolution “the democratic revolution has taken place in the body of society without that concomitant change in the laws, ideas, customs and morals which was necessary to render such a revolution beneficial.” As a result particular privileges were transferred to the government rather than abolished. Families and voluntary associations have not been able to develop bulwarks against government interference.

Also in his “Introduction,” Tocqueville recognized religion as the crucial factor in the democratic revolution. By rights, it should be the major foundation for liberty but was treated as its enemy by friends and opponents of freedom. Christians should “readily espouse the cause of human liberty as the source of all moral greatness”; likewise advocates of liberty “must know that liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.” When Tocqueville undertook the writing of the second volume of Democracy in America, his first chapter concerned “Philosophical Method of the Americans.” He observed that “in no country in the civilized world is less attention paid to philosophy than in the United States.” He discovered that “in most of the operations of the mind each American appeals only to the individual effort of his own understanding.” However, Americans were not the extravagant generalizers that the French were, of whom Tocqueville said “I am informed every morning when I wake that some general and eternal law has just been discovered which I never heard mentioned before.” Emphasizing the incomplete and inaccurate nature of generalizations, he noted that Americans were not as cautious in the use of generalization as the English. In the next chapter, “How Religion in the United States Avails Itself of Democratic Tendencies,” Tocqueville found one of his most important topics. Religion not only [6] flourished in America, but also formed the basis of its system of liberty.

The impact of American liberty on the rest of the world has not measured up to Tocqueville's hopes for it. Instead, an opposing concept, socialism, has taken the lead. Ironically, Marx and Engels drew the inspiration for the practice of socialism from America. Marx saw America as the center of the commercial and religious spirits: “North America is pre-eminently the country of religiosity, as Beaumont, Tocqueville and the Englishman Hamilton assure us with one voice,” Marx wrote in 1844. Marx believed that in opposition to the spirit of commerce, religion, and liberty—because they were so highly developed in America—a reaction, socialism, had first emerged there. What he did not find in Tocqueville, Marx had at hand in a popular book, Men and Manners in America (published in London in 1833, as well as in Boston, France, and Germany) by Colonel Thomas Hamilton. Hamilton, a Tory army officer, arrived in New York in October 1830, was astounded to find a workingmen's movement in America. He wrote at length about it, not as the movement of businessmen seeking freedom from government regulations as typified by the great laissez-faire journalist, William Leggett, but as a colorful and dangerous revolutionary force which would shock conservative English readers. Marx believed that although unreported by Tocqueville, a first socialist political force had emerged in America, for which he would provide the theoretical writings. This is discussed by Lewis S. Feuer, in “The Alienated Americans and their Influence on Marx and Engels,” Marx and the Intellectuals, (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Co., 1969), pp. 164–215.

After religion, the great issues which concerned Tocqueville were individualism and association, actually two sides of the same coin. Tocqueville saw in America that the “science of association is the mother of science,” that progress and civilization were dependent on it. He was amused that Americans associated to swear to abstain from liquor where Frenchmen would singly petition the government to deal with the issue. “Nothing, in my opinion, is more deserving of our attention than the intellectual and moral associations of America. The political and industrial associations of that country strike us forcibly; but the others elude our observation, or if we discover them, we understand them imperfectly because we have hardly ever seen anything of the kind.”

In America, where liberty had nearly reached its natural limits, Tocqueville found:

The emigrants who colonized the shores of America in the beginning of the seventeenth century somehow separated the democratic principle from all the principles that it had to contend with in the old communities of Europe, and transplanted it alone in the New World. It has there been able to spread in perfect freedom and peaceably to determine the character of the laws by influencing the manners of the country.

Spontaneous Order


  • Literature of Liberty, Summer 1982, vol. 5, No. 2
  • Editorial

Note: Walter Grinder has informed me that he and the managing editor John Cody wrote this editorial as he had commissioned the bibliograophical article on spontaneous order from the author Norman Barry.


“Wherever we see a well ordered arrangement of things or men we instinctively assume that someone has intentionally placed them in that way.” Michael Polanyi, The Logic of Liberty

“The effectiveness with which knowledge is transmitted and coordinated through social processes depends upon the actual characteristics of those specific processes. . . . Emphasis on the characteristics of social processes implies a systemic analysis of social causation, in contrast to individual or intentional analysis of why things happen as they do. . . .the (systemic) outcome does not depend on the individual agent's subjectively pursuing the end result of the system.” Thomas Sowell, Knowledge and Decisions

“By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.” Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

Since the dawn of history intellectuals, with varying degrees of success, have been trying to explain the nature and meaning of society and suggesting ways to improve the social order. For the most part until the Scottish Enlightenment of the Eighteenth Century, the thrust of these investigations was intentionalist. That is, social order was seen to be the result of some being's conscious design, whether man's or God's. There were exceptions, but as Hayek points out, “Neither the Greeks of the fifth century B.C. nor their successors for the next two thousand years developed a systematic social theory which explicitly dealt with these unintended consequences of human action or accounted for the manner in which an order or regularity could form itself among those actions which none of the acting persons had intended.”

During the Age of Enlightenment, modern social theory was born. This non-intentionalist or systemic theory flourished mainly among the Scottish intellectuals such as Adam Ferguson, David Hume, Josiah Tucker, and, most famously, Adam Smith. For the first time there was a thorough investigation of the unintended consequences of human action. These consequences were seen [4] to be not only often benign but also absolutely necessary for mankind to attain any semblance of civilized social order.

Institutions and institutional processes were rendered intelligible not by attributing them to human or divine purpose but by what were later to be called by Robert Nozick “invisible hand” explanations.

Although not usually thought of as such, a price is such an “invisible hand” institution. No one enters an exchange to produce a price, but nevertheless an exchange ratio or a price emerges from the transaction. Not being the result of anyone's intention a price can be rendered meaningful only by an invisible hand explanation. Prices are both unintended and benign. They lead in turn to the spontaneous evolution of money which encourages a further division of labor, both of which, like prices, are unintended and undesigned social institutions. These along with other undesigned institutions, such as the Common Law, mesh together to produce a spontaneous social order or what Hayek has called a “catallaxy.” The rules that emerge from institutions such as markets and from the Common Law can then be discovered, studied, and implemented by man to establish the Rule of Law. But as can be seen, the rules are not imposed from without to create order, but rather are immanent in the emergent social processes that, as if led by an invisible hand, themselves lead to orderly social institutions which in turn lead to an even wider social interdependence and coordination.

The emergence of money and (when left alone to do so) a free banking system, such as existed in Scotland, constitute one of the clearest object lessons in spontaneous order theory. The recent work of Lawrence H. White in rediscovering and presenting the work of nineteenth-century British monetary theorists Samuel Bailey, Lord King, Henry Parnell, and Thomas Hodgskin should serve as a model to those wishing to learn how spontaneous orders both emerge and maintain themselves. (See White's dissertation, Free Banking in Britain: Theory, Experience and Debate, 1800–1845, UCLA, 1982.)

At first glance one might possibly get the idea that spontaneous order theorists believe that no deliberate planning takes place in the course of achieving social order. Clearly this is not the case. The best theoretical explanations of the need for both constructed and unintended institutions is to be found in the following: (1) Ronald Coase's classic article, “The Nature of the Firm,” shows how pockets of planning (firms) permeate the price system. He quotes the master of luminous prose and distinguished economist, Sir Denis Robertson, to underscore his own point about intentional planning at times superceding yet also fitting together [5] with the price system. Robertson likens firms to “islands of conscious power in this ocean of unconscious cooperation like lumps of butter coagulating in a pail of buttermilk.” (2) Michael Polanyi's Logic of Liberty demonstrates the tension yet at the same time the complementarity between what he calls corporate or hierarchical orders and spontaneous orders. (3) Israel M. Kirzner shows in his Competition and Entrepreneurship that spontaneous is not the same thing as automatic if by automatic one means instantaneous and mechanical adjustment. On the contrary, the entrepreneur must perceive changes and adjust the use of resources not only to the new present conditions but also to what he sees as likely conditions in the future. Here again the conscious deliberate plans of entrepreneurs interact with the unintended effects of others' expectations, plans, and actions. (4) Location theory tells us that we can expect people to be led to arrange themselves in relation to one another according to certain functions they will perform for others through the division of labor. As Jane Jacobs demonstrates in her The Economy of Cities, the unintended effects of such self-arrangements are the emergence and development of what we know as cities. (5) The capital theory developed by the Austrians from Carl Menger through Mises, Richard von Strigl, and Hayek is yet another example of the interaction of deliberation and spontaneity. Just as no one sets out to produce a price, neither does one attempt to create a macro-economic structure of production, yet in building his own plant he unwittingly contributes a new element in what Ludwig Lachmann in his Capital and Its Structure calls a lattice-work structure of heterogeneous yet interconnected and complementary capital goods.

Adam Smith's explanation of the division of labor is by most accounts cited as the first significant step in modern social theory. Perhaps Carl Menger's evolutionary explanation of money deserves to be ranked beside Smith's, although in many ways Menger was rediscovering and rearticulating for a new generation a set of theoretical insights that for several decades had languished or had been superceded and pushed aside by intentionalist social explanations of one sort or another.

Surely it must follow that the second great step in modern social theory after Smith's explanation of the division of labor was Hayek's contention that the central problem in social and economic theory is that knowledge is fragmented and dispersed unevenly among the members of society, i.e. the division of knowledge. How, then, can this knowledge of time and circumstance—including their expectations about the future—which by definition can be known only by the individual members [6] of society—how can this knowledge be utilized in such a way so as to lead to a coherent and viable social order?

Hayek is not alone in addressing this question over the decades since he first encountered the problem during the debate in the 1930s concerning the impossibility of economic calculation under a regime of socialism, and when he succinctly articulated the problem in his classic 1945 article “The Use of Knowledge in Society.” The same question has also captured the attention of some of the leading contemporary economists and social theorists, such as Michael Polanyi, Ronald Coase, Karl Popper, G.L.S. Shackle, James Buchanan, Alan Coddington, George Stigler, Harold Demsetz, Axel Leijonhufvud, Armen Alchien, Robert Nozick, Israel Kirzner, Ludwig Lachmann, Brian Loasby, and most recently Thomas Sowell in his remarkable 1980 work, Knowledge and Decisions.

With the publication of Sowell's book, Hayek's trilogy Law, Legislation and Liberty, Norman Barry's Hayek's Social and Economic Philosophy, George Shackle's Epistemics and Economics, and Brian Loasby's Choice, Complexity, and Ignorance, the reissuance of Michael Polanyi's The Logic of Liberty, the spontaneous order tradition has again been thrust into the midst of the academic debate. This time the economics and sociology of knowledge are at the cutting edge of the tradition's return. There is much work yet to be done in this field of research, but as the work of Hayek, Sowell, and others demonstrates, there are many aspects of society (most of the interesting aspects) that can be understood and explained only through the use of invisible hand explanations.

Ludwig von Mises (1881–1973)


  • Literature of Liberty, Autumn 1982, vol. 5, No. 3
  • Editorial


In Vienna, prior to, during, and just after World War I, Ludwig von Mises (1881–1973) was attaining his full intellectual maturity. For a liberal like Mises these were truly lamentable years. The years from the early 1890s to 1920 constituted perhaps the most retrogressive watershed in the history of Western civilization. They were the years during which the grand liberal system of the Nineteenth Century was overthrown and transformed into Twentieth-Century statism. Saddened, but undaunted, Mises would spend the rest of his life championing the noble but forsaken cause of liberty and liberalism.

By the last decade of the Nineteenth Century, signals were clear that the beginning of the end of the liberal era was at hand. The liberating forces that had been advancing for more than two centuries were grinding to a halt. The New Imperialism, preparation for militarism, and protectionism were replacing both the principles and reality of international peace and free trade. Neo-mercantilism was being reconstructed around the globe.

The liberals knew that the unprecedented prosperity yielded during the heyday of liberalism depended on implementing the free trade plank of the liberal platform. As Mises never tired of pointing out, necessarily central to the free trade system is a sound monetary mechanism to facilitate the policy of free trade. Free trade, sound money, and prosperity are mutually interdependent parts of a single policy.

To pay for military build-ups and for the burdens of neocolonialization, governments around the world resorted to inflation. Governments and the bankers were once again drawn together into a Neo-Mercantile symbiosis. Inflation, as it always has a way of doing, led to protectionism. Sound money and free trade were left hanging in the balance. The final and decisive blow against the classical liberal order in general and against the international trade and monetary mechanism (the gold standard) in particular was delivered with a vengeance by the Great War.

In the blink of an eye, it was all but gone. The Rights of Man, Peace, Prosperity—all these and the rest of the honored liberal agenda—lay prostrate and smoldering among the ghastly ruins on the battlefields of Europe.

Unfortunately, nearly all of Twentieth-Century history flows directly from this monumental misfortune. The Versailles treaty, the Bolshevik revolution, run-away inflation, the rise of fascism, the Great Depression, exchange controls, autarkic trading blocs, the destruction of international trade and its monetary mechanism (the gold standard), the Second World War, the Cold War—this entire brood of evils emanated from World War I. At every [4] turn, statism; and at every turn Mises was there to debunk and refute each statist measure and more particularily the collectivist philosophy that lay behind the interminable measure-after-measure of statist intervention.

Even before the Great War, Mises had achieved a significant measure of international acclaim with the publication of his Theory of Money and Credit (1912). In it, Mises performed the monumental task of, in effect, completing the subjectivist revolution in economic theory by unifying all economics into a general microeconomic framework. Mises demonstrated that there is no realm of so-called macroeconomics separate from micro theory, one which requires a separate policy. The policy in all areas of economics, as Mises showed, must be laissez faire across the board and with no exceptions. This means a total separation of public finance from the banking industry. It means there must be no central bank to service the desires of the government's treasury department. It means a policy of free banking.

Matters of money and monetary theory were to remain of central concern to Mises throughout his long and distinguished career. As an economist, Mises knew that money was the life blood of an advanced, progressive, industrialized economy. Without a sound monetary system, an advanced industrialized economy could not for long function. (On this see Mises' critique of central economic planning under socialism in his seminal 1920 article “Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth.”) Furthermore, Mises knew that sound money served as the necessary core of the international division of labor and international trade mechanism. As an economist and historian, Mises realized that the gold standard was not the creature of governments, but rather had developed through centuries of expanding international commerce and trade. The gold standard was the free market's spontaneous answer, via commercial and merchant banking practices, to the international market's trade needs.

As a liberal, Mises saw the gold standard, along with constitutions and bills of rights, as an integral element in the Classical Liberal political program for protecting the people from the avaricious designs of governments. To a very considerable degree, a hard money policy kept at a minimum the relationships between public finance and national banking systems; it forced the governments of the world to refrain from tampering too terribly much with the people's money through inflation. During the height of the gold standard, if governments wanted to gain more control of the people's wealth they had to resort to naked taxation for redistribution and not hide behind the monetary veil of inflation. Sound money was every bit as much a protection of civil liberties as was the right of free speech or of assembly. As such, it was an irritating impediment to governments everywhere, and [5] sound money was one of the first building blocks in the liberal edifice to be ruthlessly discarded by all governments during this period.

Mises' first detailed written reflections as a liberal social and political analyst (as distinct from an economist narrowly defined) were published in 1919 in an extraordinarily prescient and just recently translated work, Nation, State and Economy. According to many, it ranks with J.M. Keynes' The Economic Consequences of the Peace as the most prophetic and sound liberal analysis of the causes and consequences of the war. Nation, State and Economy is replete with social, political, and economic insights, many that would occupy Mises' attention during the following half century: the causal interrelationships between private property, the division of labor, free trade, and peace; the absurdities and inadequacies of socialism as a mode of social and economic organization; and, most importantly for our purposes, Mises extended his lifelong investigations into the distorting effects that inflation has on the real structure of production. In this work he is particularly interested in exposing the distorting effects of inflationary-financed military expenditures.

From immediately after the World War to the end of his life Mises never stopped calling for monetary reconstruction and reform. In the long run, for Mises, the most deleterious effect of the war was destruction of the international monetary order. Without sound money there could be no serious hope of disciplining governments to keep them within the bounds of their budgets. In short, Mises foresaw that, without sound money, the Twentieth Century would become an Age of Inflation.

Throughout the 1920s Mises, among many other things, continued his investigations into the relationships between changes in the money supply and the capital structure. This work culminated in 1928 with the publication of Mises' full fledged theory of the Trade Cycle in Monetary Stabilization and Cyclical Policy. His theory was a brilliant combination of his own work in monetary theory with key contributions found in the works of Wicksell and Böhm-Bawerk. This theory was then taken over by Mises' most famous student, F.A. Hayek, and expanded and developed into what is now known as the Austrian theory of the trade cycle.

With the publication of Nation, State and Economy in 1919, Socialism in 1922, Liberalism in 1927, and Critique of Interventionism in 1929, Mises established himself not only as a great economist but also as a political philosopher and social analyst of the first order. But perhaps more than anything, by the late Twenties Mises was well established as the voice of uncompromising liberalism in Europe.

But, as fate would have it, the Thirties were not good times for liberals or liberalism. The Great Depression served as a magnet to [6] draw statist bromides, policies, and exponents from out of the woodwork. Keynesianism swept the English speaking world just as Fascism swept the Continent. The intransigent and prolific Mises never ceased in his warnings or in championing his liberal cause, but few were willing to listen. By the mid-Thirties, Mises had to flee his beloved Vienna for Geneva, where he set to work on what was to become his major theoretical work in economic science, Nationaloekonomie (1940), later to be reworked into the major English treatise, Human Action (1949). As the second European conflagration began, Mises and his wife Margit left Geneva for America, where they would spend the rest of their lives.

Although Mises' reputation, along with liberalism in general, waned considerably during the Thirties and Forties, his influence can nevertheless be seen in postwar Europe. Italy's most successful President, Luigi Einaudi, was strongly influenced by Mises as were Wilhelm Roepke and Ludwig Erhard (the masterminds behind the economic Miracle in West Germany), and Jacques Rueff, who presided over the 1959 currency reform in France.

It is perhaps true that Mises' long-run intellectual leverage is greater now than at any time in his own lifetime. Hundreds of young economists and neo-liberals are now hearing about Mises and reading his numerous works. The Mises resurgence is a part of a wider resurgence of interest in both Austrian economics and liberal political economy that began a decade ago and shows no signs of receding.

As has been pointed out in this editorial, central to Mises' economic and liberal thought was his abiding interest in monetary reform in general and free banking in particular. We are pleased to help facilitate this dialogue by publishing the first of what we hope will be several essays on money and monetary reform.

Finally, in honor of last year's Mises centenary, we should like to remind the reader of some of Mises' most important and lasting contributions to economic science and liberal thought:

  • (1) On Monetary Theory: The Theory of Money and Credit; On the Manipulation of Money and Credit.
  • (2) On Liberal Thought: Nation, State and Economy; Liberalism.
  • (3) On Social Theory: Socialism; Bureaucracy.
  • (4) On Political Economy: Critique of Interventionism; Planning for Freedom; Omnipotent Government.
  • (5) On Economic Method: Epistemological Problems of Economics; The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science; Theory and History.
  • (6) On General Economic Theory: Human Action.

F.A. Hayek


  • Literature of Liberty, Winter 1982, vol. 5, No. 4
  • Editorial


The recognition of the insuperable limits to his knowledge ought indeed to teach the student of society a lesson in humility which should guard him against becoming an accomplice in men's fatal striving to control society—a striving which makes him not only a tyrant over his fellows, but which may well make him the destroyer of a civilization which no brain has designed but which has grown from the free efforts of millions of individuals. Friedrich A. Hayek (“The Pretence of Knowledge,” Nobel Memorial Lecture, December 11, 1974)

It is, of course, supremely easy to ridicule Adam Smith's famous “invisible hand”—which leads man “to promote an end which was no part of his intention.” But it is an error not very different from this anthropomorphism to assume that the existing economic system serves a definite function only in so far as its institutions have been deliberately willed by individuals. This is probably the last remnant of that primitive attitude which made us invest with a human mind everything that moved and changed in a way adapted to perpetuate itself or its kind. In the natural sciences, we have gradually ceased to do so and have learned that the interaction of different tendencies may produce what we call an order, without any mind of our own kind regulating it. But we still refuse to recognise that the spontaneous interplay of the actions of individuals may produce something which is not the deliberate object of their actions but an organism in which every part performs a necessary function for the continuance of the whole, without any human mind having devised it. Friedrich A. Hayek, (“The Trend of Economic Thinking,” Inaugural lecture delivered at the London School of Economics, March 1, 1933)

Is this all so very different
From what Lao-Tzu says
In his fifty-seventh poem?:
If I keep from meddling with people
They take care of themselves,
If I keep from commanding people,
They behave themselves,
If I keep from imposing on people,
They become themselves.

Friedrich A. Hayek, (Original epilogue to “The Principles of a Liberal Social Order,” delivered at the Tokyo meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society, September, 1966)

Throughout F.A. Hayek's encyclopedic writings, we frequently hear a characteristically ‘Hayekian’ leitmotif sounding in either major or minor key: his belief in spontaneous ordering—through decentralized, free individual action—of social, legal, and economic institutions in contradistinction to the Cartesian and statist “error of constructivism,” the belief that centralized control, planning, and coercion are required to coordinate economic and social activities. [4] This theme animates his early psychological study The Sensory Order (B-10) (which Hayek first drafted as a student paper in 1919–1920). In a recent interview Hayek commented on this book which examines the way we order and process the welter of information that comes through our senses. This sensory ordering process is a system too complicated to be understood in detail, but in general terms it is “the conception of the spontaneous formation of an order, the formation of extremely complex structures.”

The same notion of spontaneous order appears as a unifying thread in Hayek's economic, political, and legal thought. Looking back at economics in his Nobel Prize speech (1974), from the perspective of 75 years, Hayek discerned the origins of the tragic series of depressions, monetary destabilizations, inflations, and stagflations in the primitive belief of the need for governmental planning, the non-spontaneous dis-ordering of the natural market forces of individual choices. In this speech his first citation is significantly to his 1942 essay “Scientism and the Study of Society,” (which eventually became one chapter of The Counter-Revolution of Science, 1952) in which he excoriated the “scientistic attitude,” which attempted to order and engineer society and economics by erroneously emulating in the social sciences the mechanistic methodology of the physical sciences.

Hayek's unsuccessful attempts to overcome the Keynesian irrationalism in economic policy during the 1930s led him during the early 1940s to add to his economic analysis an integrated political theory that echoed spontaneous order. Such works as The Road to Serfdom (1944), The Constitution of Liberty (1960), the trilogy Law, Legislation and Liberty (1973, 1976, 1979), and the forthcoming The Fatal Conceit (1983) stressed the continuity between economic and political liberty and warned of the “fatal conceit” of scientistic non-spontaneous attitudes in the rise of “constructivism,” the attempt to politically construct a social, economic order. A strong antidote against succumbing to the political and economic variants of non-spontaneous planning or constructivism was a deep knowledge of political and especially economic history (see “History and Politics” in Capitalism and the Historians, 1954). Likewise in legal theory dealing with the ‘rule of law,’ echoing the insights of Bruno Leoni's Freedom and the Law (1961), Hayek would distinguish between irrational constructivism of legislation as opposed to the naturally evolved code of customs embodied in humane values and laws (see The Political Ideal of the Rule of Law, 1955, and the trilogy Law, Legislation and Liberty). Hayek's 1960 monumental Constitution of Liberty would weave together the legal, historical, political, and economic dimensions of the freedoms implied in a spontaneous-order social science methodology.

Our readers attention is called to a new, lively department in Literature of Liberty, our Readers’ Forum, which will contain both invited and uninvited comments on our bibliographical essays and summaries. This month's Forum, befitting this Hayek issue, focuses on Norman Barry's essay, “The Tradition of Spontaneous Order” [Literature of Liberty 5 (Summer 1982).]

This issue of our journal, by reason of John Gray's lengthy essay on Hayek and the comprehensive Hayek bibliography will not contain our usual summary department. This department will return in the next issue of Literature of Liberty. We encourage our readers to send in their comments on our recent essays and features. 1983 inaugurates our sixth year of publication and promises new and exciting additions to the usual departments in Literature of Liberty.


No sources assigned