Algernon Sidney argues that a law that is not just is not a law (1683)

The radical English republican political theorist Algernon Sidney (1622-1683) asks why subjects of the King should obey the law. He concludes that we should obey not because of threats of punishment or coercion but because the law was based upon the “eternal principle of reason and truth”:

Nassau Senior argues that government is based upon extortion (1854)

In his general introduction to the science of political economy Nassau W. Senior (1790-1864) applies the principle of the division of labor to the functions of government and concludes that it behaves very differently from other exchanges in the market in that it extorts much more than the fair value of the service it provides:

Marcus Aurelius on using reason to live one’s life “straight and right” (170)

The Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121-180) was also a Stoic philosopher whose Meditations (written while on a military campaign during the 170s) were highly influential during the Scottish Enlightenment. He exhorted each person to find peace within themselves by discovering the natural laws which governed the universe and living one’s life in accordance with them. His advice was to live one’s life “always straight and right, and not as amended or rectified” by others:

Pascal and the absurd notion that the principles of justice vary across state borders (1669)

The French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) points out that artificial lines drawn on a map do not invalidate moral laws which are derived from the nature of man. It is “absurd” to think I have the right to kill a foreigner because my sovereign orders me to do so:

Adam Smith on compulsory attendance in the classroom (1776)

Here Adam Smith (1723-1790) argues that the use of compulsion in schools is used primarily for the benefit of the teacher and the administration, not the students. Good lectures are usually well attended:

David Ricardo on the “mere increase of money” (1809)

After Britain went off the gold standard so it could increase funding the war against Napoleon, the English economist David Ricardo (1772-1823) argued that the general increase in prices was a direct result of this policy and, in a series of articles which appeared in 1809, asked “Why should the mere increase of money have any other effect than to lower its value?”:

Auberon Herbert on the “magic of private property” (1897)

The English radical individualist and Member of Parliament Auberon Herbert (1838-1906) appeals to ordinary workers to acquire property peacefully and to thereby enjoy one of the “master keys” to enjoying peace and prosperity:

Alexander Pope on how private “self love” can lead to the public good (1732)

The English poet Alexander Pope (1688-1744) in his “An Essay on Man” (1732) argues that “even kings” are obliged to act increasingly morally because of the operation of the natural laws which govern society and the world:

Benjamin Constant on why the oppressed often prefer their chains to liberty (1815)

Towards the end of Napoleon’s régime the French political philosopher Benjamin Constant (1767–1830) wrote his major work on political theory, Principles of Politics (1810-1815), in which he asks why it sometimes appears that the oppressed prefer their chains to liberty:

Tiedeman states that the police powers under the constitution are strictly limited to enforcing the maxim: “use your own property in such a manner as not to injure that of another” (1886)

The American legal scholar Christopher Tiedeman (1857-1903) believed that the police powers of the government were strictly limited under the constitution to protecting the rights of minorities from control or interference by the majority:

John Bright on war as all the horrors, atrocities, crimes, and sufferings of which human nature on this globe is capable (1853)

The British MP and peace advocate John Bright (1811-1889) gave a speech at the Conference of the Peace Society in Edinburgh in the summer of 1853 to oppose the forthcoming war against Russia (the Crimean War 1854-56). He reminded his listeners that many people who advocate war have never fought in one and that they forget that war inevitably brings with it the “concentration of all the horrors, atrocities, crimes, and sufferings of which human nature on this globe is capable”:

Adam Smith on how “furious monopolists” will fight to the bitter end to keep their privileges (1776)

In 1776 Adam Smith (1723-1790) was not optimistic about the chances of Britain introducing free trade because of the outspoken opposition and political power of the vested interests. He compared the protected manufacturing interests to “an overgrown standing army” which would focus the “insolent outrage of furious and disappointed monopolists” which no politician would dare cross:

James Mill on the “sinister interests” of those who wield political power (1825)

The Utilitarian and Philosophic Radical James Mill (1773-1836) wrote a series of articles for the Supplement to the 1825 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. In the article on “Government” he warns of the dangers of the selfish and “sinister interests” all those who wield power, unless checked by an informed people:

Hippolyte Taine on how the modern bureaucratic state destroys spontaneous and fruitful private cooperation (1890)

The French historian and philosopher Hippolyte Taine (1828-1893) analyzed the modern bureaucratic state as it developed after Napoleon. He believed that when when the state stepped beyond its legitimate function of defending life and property from attack it inevitably destroyed all spontaneous and fruitful cooperation among the people:

Molinari defends the right to property against the socialists who want to overthrow it, and the conservatives who defend it poorly (1849)

In the second year of the 1848 Revolution the French political economist Gustave de Molinari (1819-1912) wrote a defence of the right to property in the form of conversations between an Economist (him), a Socialist, and a Conservative. He argues that the Socialists want to overthrow the right to property without understanding what this will do to both justice and prosperity, and that Conservatives do not know how to defend property correctly:

Cobden argues that the British Empire will inevitably suffer retribution for its violence and injustice (1853)

The free trader and anti-war advocate Richard Cobden (1804-1865) opposed the annexation of Burma in 1852. In a pamphlet written in 1853 he argued that like all previous empires, the British Empire will one day be punished for its “ imperial crimes”:

Sumner on the legalization of robbery by the State (1883)

The American sociologist William Graham Sumner (1840-1910) argues that for centuries individuals and groups have struggled to gain control of the state for their own benefit. Under the guise of “high-spun theories of nationality, patriotism, and loyalty” the same old power struggle continues in the present day:

Viscount Bryce on how the President in wartime becomes “a sort of dictator” (1888)

The British jurist, historian, and statesman Viscount James Bryce (1838-1922) observed as early as 1888 that “in troublous times” the powers the American President had at his disposal made him “a sort of dictator” which had not been seen in the English-speaking world since the time of Oliver Cromwell:

Adam Smith on the ridiculousness of romantic love (1759)

Adam Smith (1723-1790) may have been a great economist and moral philosopher but when one reads his analysis of the nature of romantic love one wonders what his own love life must have been like. He seems to be genuinely puzzled why one person would feel romantic love for another, calling it “ridiculous”:

Bentham on how “the ins” and “the outs” lie to the people in order to get into power (1843)

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) created a Handbook of Political Fallacies in which he painstakingly categorized the different types of “fallacies” politicians used to deceive the public. He did this in order to show how those in government deceived the people in order to win office or get favours from those in office:

Shakespeare on sweet love remembered (1609)

In his 29th Sonnet William Shakespeare (1564-1616) describes a young man who is disgraced, outcast, shoeless, friendless, full of envy of others more successful than he, and without hope. Yet, he remembers the “sweet love” he feels for his lover and decides he would not swap his current situation for that of even a king:

Molinari appeals to socialists to join him in marching down “the broad, well-trodden highway of liberty” (1848)

At the height of the Revolution in 1848 the French political economist Gustave de Molinari (1819-1912) appealed to his socialist adversaries to join with the liberals in the pursuit of the common goal of “Justice and Plenty” and to abandon their strategy of using violence to achieve this:

Bagehot on the monopoly central bank (1873)

The British journalist and editor of The Economist magazine Walter Bagehot (1826-1877) points out the “anomalous” and potentially “very dangerous” situation of a government controlled, monopoly central bank but can’t quite bring himself to suggest it be replaced by free competition:

Tocqueville on the 1848 Revolution in Paris (1851)

The French aristocrat and liberal politician Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) was elected to the Constituent Assembly in April 1848 following the revolution in February. He played a major role by serving on the committee to draw up a new constitution for the French Republic. Here are his reflections on the first days of the new Constituent Assembly in May in which he emphasized the threat to property by the revolutionary crowds:

Bach asks God “when will I die”? (1700)

J.S. Bach’s Cantata No. 8 was based upon a hymn by Caspar Neumann (1700) and a melody by Daniel Vetter (1713) which was sung for the first time at the funeral of Jakob Wilisius, Cantor of St Bernhardin’s Church at Breslau. In the Cantata two searing questions are asked, “when will I die” and “what will happen to me afterwards?”: