Bastiat on disbanding the standing army and replacing it with local militias (1847)

The French economist and free trade activist Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) dreams of slashing the size of the French government’s budget by abolishing the standing army and replacing it with local militias:

Diderot argues that the laws must be based upon natural rights and be made for all and not for one (1755)

The editor of the Encyclopédie, Denis Diderot (1713-1784), wrote a provocative article on “Natural Rights” (1755) in which he argued that by reasoning about the human condition a set of universally valid principles could be derived which were applicable to Kings, aristocrats, and ordinary people alike:

Mises on cosmopolitan cooperation and peace (1927)

The Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) was no advocate of “Germany or Austria First”. He preferred instead a “cosmopolitan and ecumenical” liberalism and humanism:

Diderot on the nature of political authority (1751)

The editor of the great 18th century French Encyclopedia, Denis Diderot (1713-1784), opened the project with an essay challenging the very nature of Kingly political authority in mid-18th century France:

Michel Montaigne on the danger of becoming accustomed to state power (1580)

The French Renaissance sceptic and humanist Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) warned that those who are “inured to monarchy” do not hate “subjection itself” but crave any “master” they can find to live under:

Guizot on the legitimacy of state power and its limits (1851)

The French historian and politician François Guizot (1787-1874) reflects on the nature of political power and the role of representative government in keeping it within limits. He believed the “will of the people” had to be strictly limited by “reason, justice, and truth” in order not to violate the liberty of others:

Guizot on liberty and reason (1851)

The French historian and politician François Guizot (1787-1874) argues that the exercise of political power over others is only legitimate in so far as it conforms to reason:

Sumner on the industrial system as an example of social co-operation (c. 1900)

The American sociologist William Graham Sumner (1840-1910) argued that the accumulation of capital by peaceful productive activity required the cooperation of millions of people across the globe and resulted in mankind rising above the level of “the brute”:

Herbert Spencer on “the seen” and “the unseen” consequences of the actions of politicians (1884)

The English radical individualist Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) criticizes politicians for focusing only on the “direct” and “proximate” consequences of the legislation they introduce, and ignoring the “indirect” or “remote” consequences.“ He believes the "political momentum” they have created will lead to a new form of slavery:

Mises on wealth creation and stopping the spirit of predatory militarism (1949)

Ludwig von Mises notes that western Europe developed economically first because it was able to check the wealth destroying “spirit of predatory militarism” first:

Herbert Spencer notes that traditionally the growth in government revenue has come about because of war (1882)

In his discussion of the origin of the state and the elites which control it, Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) notes that war enabled a king to loot not only those he conquered but also increasingly his own citizens or subjects in order to fund it:

Thomas Gordon on how people are frightened into giving up their liberties (1722)

Thomas Gordon (1692-1750) thought that people willingly gave up their liberties in order to be saved from some perceived threat. Unfortunately, the “savior” all too often destroyed their liberties as a consequence:

Shakespeare on the ruler who has “the power to hurt and will do none” (1609)

A political reading of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 94 (1609) is that he admires the ruler who has the “power to hurt and will do none”. A ruler who follows this practice will, he predicts, “inherit heaven’s graces”:

The Levellers’ Declaration of Independence (March 1647)

In the “Large Petition” of March 1647 the Levellers unsuccessfully demanded that Parliament introduce many reforms to protect the rights of “free born Englishmen” in what may rightly be called their “Declaration of Independence” from both kingly and parliamentary tyranny:

Adam Smith on why people obey and defer to their rulers (1759)

In the Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) Adam Smith (1723-1790) reflects on why so many people defer to authority, especially to monarchs and the nobility:

Jeremy Bentham argued that the ruling elite benefits from corruption, waste, and war (1827)

According to Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) the “ruling one” (the monarch) along with its companion group, “the sub-ruling few” (the establishment), have an interest in creating or maintaining corruption, waste, and war:

Madame de Staël on how liberty is ancient and despotism is modern (1818)

In her history of the French Revolution Madame Germaine de Staël (née Necker) (1766-1817) makes the important point that it is liberty which is “ancient” and much predated the rise of relatively recent and “modern” despotism, such as Napoléon’s:

Nassau Senior on how the universal acceptance of gold and silver currency creates a world economy (1830)

The British classical economist Nassau William Senior (1790-1864) wrote a number of works on both paper money and hard currency in the late 1820s. In this quote he discusses how the portability and widespread acceptance of precious metal currency creates a true global economy:

Herbert Spencer observes that class structures emerge in societies as a result of war and violence (1882)

In his discussion of the origin of the state and the elites which control it, Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) notes that war made it possible for class and exploitation to emerge, whether between men and women or between master and slave:

James Otis on the right of the people to alter their government (1764)

The Massachusetts lawyer and revolutionary pamphleteer James Otis (1725–83) argued as early as 1764 that people had a natural right to alter their government and should so by agreement or “compact”:

Nicholas Barbon on the mutual benefits of free trade even in luxury goods (“wants of the mind”) (1690)

The English physician and businessman Nicholas Barbon (1623-1698) was one of the earliest defenders of free trade, even for goods which were not necessities (“wants of the body”) but also for so-called foreign luxury goods (“wants of the mind”):

William Cobbett denounces the destruction of liberty during and after the Napoleonic Wars (1817)

The English radical journalist William Cobbett (1763-1835) denounced the crack down on dissent by the British government during the period of difficult economic adjustment which followed the ending of the 25 year war against France. He thought that England, “the cradle of real liberty and just laws”, had just experienced another revolution in government which had restored despotism:

Lysistrata’s clever plan to end the war between Athens and Sparta (411 BC)

Aristophanes‘ Lysistrata persuades a group of her women friends to seize control of the Acropolis where the money used to fund the war between Athens and Sparta is stored and demand that their husbands sue for peace. When their husbands refuse to do so the women go on strike with comic and eventually peaceful results. In these passages Lysistrata explains to a member of the City’s Ruling Committee why the women felt obliged to intervene to stop the war:

Franz Oppenheimer on the origin of the state in conquest and subjection by one group over another (1907)

The German sociologist Franz Oppenheimer (1864-1943) developed a theory of the “class-state” or the “wolf state” which had its origins in the “conquest and subjugation” of one group of powerless people by a more powerful one:

Bastiat’s Malthusian theory of the growth of the state (1847)

The French economist Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) believed that the state would continue to expand in size until it over-reached the ability or willingness of the taxpayers to fund it: