The Duke of Burgundy asks the Kings of France and England why “gentle peace” should not be allowed to return France to its former prosperity (1599)

In Henry V, Shakespeare (1564-1616) has the Duke of Burgundy make an impassioned speech to the Kings of France and England, whose war for control of northern France has so devastated the countryside, in which he asks them why “the naked, poor, and mangled Peace” should not be restored in order to “expel these inconveniences, And bless us with her former qualities”:

Cobden reminds the Liberals in Parliament that the motto of their party is “Economy, Retrenchment, and Reform!” (1862)

The free trader and anti-war advocate Richard Cobden (1804-1865) told his Liberal Party (founded 1859) colleagues in the British Parliament in a speech in August, 1862 that their party motto was ‘Economy, Retrenchment, and Reform!’:

Richard Cobden’s “I have a dream” speech about a world in which free trade is the governing principle (1846)

On the eve of victory for the free trade Anti-Corn Law League, the British Member of Parliament Richard Cobden (1804-1865) gave a speech in Manchester on January 15, 1846 in which he outlined his dream of a future world where the principles of free trade “in everything” was the governing principle:

Bastiat on the spirit of free trade as a reform of the mind itself (1847)

In a letter to the English politician and free trader Richard Cobden written in 1847, Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) expresses his frustration at the slow progress of the free trade movement in France. He grudgingly admits that legislation cannot run ahead of popular opinion which means that there will not be free trade in France until there has been a “reform of the mind itself”. Once support for individual liberty was widespread there would then be a “spirit of free trade” in the popular mind and this would inevitably lead to policy reforms:

John Locke on “perfect freedom” in the state of nature (1689)

John Locke (1632-1704) wrote one of the most powerful defences of individual liberty in his Second Treatise of Government. According to Locke, in the state of nature (i.e. before the appearance of political institutions) human beings enjoyed what he called “perfect freedom” to enjoy their persons and properties “as they think fit”:

Spencer on spontaneous order produced by “the beneficent working of social forces” (1879)

The English radical individualist philosopher Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) believed that the legislator makes a serious mistake in thinking of society “as a manufacture” in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, that it is the result of “the spontaneous cooperations of men pursuing their private ends” in spite of much “governmental obstruction”:

Pollock on “our lady” the common law and her devoted servants (1911)

The great historian of English law Sir Frederick Pollock (1845–1937) concluded his popular lectures on “the genius of the common law” with the following statement about the need for impartial interpreters of the common law regardless of the outward form which government may take. He calls the common law “Our Lady” and believes that she and her servants will be able to keep the enemy of liberty from coming “within the gate”:

Jefferson on the right to change one’s government (1776)

The most famous and perhaps most eloquent expression of a people’s right to “dissolve the political bands” which tie them together was penned by Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) in the Declaration of Independence:

Tocqueville on the spirit of association (1835)

The French aristocrat and liberal politician Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) was intrigued by “the spirit of association” which he saw everywhere in North America and came to the conclusion that there would be considerable benefits if men and women were “to associate freely in everything”:

Bastiat on the state vs. laissez-faire (1848)

The French classical liberal economist and member of parliament Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) wrote in his revolutionary magazine in June 1848 that the policy of “laissez-faire”, or “let things be done” was in opposition to the policy of the state, which was to “prevent things being done”:

Bastiat on the many freedoms that make up liberty (1848)

At the height of the French Revolution of 1848 the French classical liberal economist and member of parliament Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) started a small magazine which he and some friends handed out on the streets of Paris. He wanted to persuade Parisians not to be seduced by the superficial appeal of socialism:

Adam Smith on the greater productivity brought about by the division of labor and technological innovation (1760s)

In an early draft of the Wealth of Nations (1776) which Adam Smith wrote in the 1760s he discusses the very great increases in productivity brought about by incremental improvements in technology such as the plough and the corn mill, often brought about by the users of the machines who stood to benefit from them:

Mill on the dangers of the state turning men into “docile instruments” of its will (1859)

The British philosopher and Member of Parliament John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) warned that if government did too much for people it would turn them into “docile instruments in its hands”:

Grotius on Moderation in Despoiling the Country of one’s Enemies (1625)

While the 30 Years War was ravaging Europe the Dutch legal scholar Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) wrote The Rights of War and Peace (1625) which has become a foundation stone of modern thinking concerning the laws of war. In a chapter on “moderation in despoiling the country of one’s enemies” he reflects on the folly of destroying that which one had striven so hard to acquire by means of violence:

James Madison on the “sagacious and monied few” who are able to “harvest” the benefits of government regulations (1787)

In Federalist Paper no. 62, James Madison (1751-1836) observes that every piece of government legislation opens up opportunities for profit by a “sagacious and monied few” to take advantage of their less well-informed fellow citizens:

Sumner and the Conquest of the United States by Spain (1898)

In a lecture given in 1898 the American sociologist William Graham Sumner (1840-1910) noted that the U.S. was in danger of losing what made it different from the European imperial powers because of its actions in seizing Spain’s colonies in the war of 1898. The U.S. might have defeated Spain in battle but, he argued, Spanish ideas of conquest and empire had conquered America in return:

Luke, Taxes, and the Birth of Jesus (85)

In the Gospel of Luke (2: 1-7) it is stated that the reason Jesus was born in Bethlehem was because his parents were ordered by Emperor Augustus to return to their ancestral village at a time when Mary was pregnant, thus linking the founding story of the Christian religion with Roman imperial economic policy:

Thomas Paine on the absurdity of an hereditary monarchy (1791)

After having helped the American colonists shake off their reluctance to secede from the British Empire, Thomas Paine (1737-1809) turned his attention to the French Revolution which he vigorously defended against attacks by Edmund Burke. In the Rights of Man (1791) he distinguished between two types of government - the “representative” which was flourishing in North America, and the “hereditary” which still prevailed in Britain and France. He had the following harsh things to say about having an hereditary monarch:

John Stuart Mill on “the sacred right of insurrection” (1862)

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) was convinced that the American “Civil War” was fought over who should exercise control over the Federal Government concerning tariffs, internal improvements, but most especially, over the expansion of slavery into new territories. He was convinced that if the Confederate States had their way they would expand the institution of slavery into Mexico and the Caribbean and therefore they needed to be stopped. Likening the South to highway robbers such as Dick Turpin, Mill thought they had no right to insurrection to defend an unjust cause:

Mises on the public sector as “tax eaters” who “feast” on the assets of the ordinary tax payer (1953)

In a similar fashion to John C. Calhoun’s division of the world into net “tax-consumers” and net “tax-payers”, the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) distinguished between the ordinary citizens who paid taxes and the public sector entities like the New York subway which “consumed” the taxes paid by the former. This is a classic example of what Mises in 1945 termed “the clash of group interests”:

Bastiat on the scramble for political office (1848)

The French classical liberal economist Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) observed in the early days of the French Revolution of February 1848 the unseemly scramble for political office which was taking place around him. The only solution he thought was to drastically reduce the number of government jobs and government spending:

Algernon Sidney on the need for the law to be “deaf, inexorable, inflexible” and not subject to the arbitrary will of the ruler (1698)

This passage from Algernon Sidney (1622-1683) encapsulates an important part of the idea of the rule of law (or “written reason”), namely that it must be applied equally and impartially to all individuals and must not be subject to “mitigation or interpretation” by the ruler. It appeared in Sidney’s unpublished book Discourses Concerning Government which was used to charge, try, and execute him for treason in 1683:

Bastiat on the need for urgent political and economic reform (1848)

The French classical liberal economist and member of parliament Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) started a small magazine after revolution broke out on 22 February in Paris. In one article he argued that there were two avenues for reform - politically directed reform via redistribution or leaving people alone to enjoy their liberty and property:

Paine on the idea that the law is king (1776)

In Common Sense (January 1776) Thomas Paine reminded the American colonists that in a free republic “ the law is king” and that if a day were to be set aside to celebrate the republic’s achievements then it should not be focused on a single man but on the law itself:

Bastiat on the fact that even in revolution there is an indestructible principle of order in the human heart (1848)

The French classical liberal economist Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) was impressed by the relative order which prevailed in the early days of the February Revolution in Paris in 1848. After having lived under an oppressive regime for more than half a century, the French people seemed to have an “indestructible principle of order” in their hearts: