The right to free trade under Magna Carta (1215)

The signing of the Greater Charter of Liberties (Magna Carta) between King John and his nobles occurred in June 1215. Among the many liberties guaranteed in that document is no. 40 concerning the free movement of merchants:

De Lolme on Liberty as equality under the laws (1784)

The Swiss jurist Jean Louis De Lolme (1741-1806) argued that the right to vote was only a means of achieving true liberty, which was the right “quietly to enjoy the produce of (one’s) industry”:

The Earl of Shaftesbury on the value of good conversations for questioning everything (1709)

The Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713) defended the vigorous questioning of received ideas by means of wit and humour as well as by reasoning in congenial conversations:

Henry Parker on Parliament’s role in limiting the power of Kings (1642)

The English lawyer and pamphleteer Henry Parker (1604-1652) justified the taking up of arms against Charles I’s “unbounded & unconditionate royalty” because Parliament ruled with the consent of the people and acted as a “guard against the guardians”:

John Thelwall on political sheep shearing (1795)

The radical English journalist John Thelwall (1764-1834) was imprisoned for supporting the French Revolution at a time when Britain was at war with France. He gave many lectures for the London Corresponding Society and at their meetings political songs like this one about “political sheep shearers” were sung:

Mises on “interventionism” as a third way between the free market and socialism (1930)

In 1930 the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) warned about the temptation faced by many economists and politicians of seeking a “third way” between “capitalism” and “socialism”. Mises termed this third way “interventionism” and criticised it for being very unstable with the tendency to slip into more fully fledged socialism over time:

Mises on the consumer as the “captain” of the economic ship (1944)

The Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) noted the importance of the consumer in determining what gets produced and at what price. In other words, in a capitalist economy the consumer is the captain of the economic ship:

Thomas Gordon warns about the dangers of a politicised Religion which tries to rule this world (1720)

On January 27, 1720 Thomas Gordon set forth the principles which lay behind his new magazine The Independent Whig. One of these was to show the dangers of a Church which exercised political power and violence instead of persuasion and other voluntary means to achieve its goals. Gordon believed that the people were not a horse which could be saddled and ridden by power-hungry religious zealots:

David Ricardo on how “insecure tenure” of property rights harms the poor (1824)

In an essay on “Parliamentary Reform” (1824) the English economist David Ricardo argued that the poorest members of society are harmed the most when the sanctity of property is threatened, thus making capitalists reluctant to invest in productive economic activities which pay good wages:

John Strachey on why Socialism harms the poor instead of helping them (1894)

The English journalist and newspaper proprietor John Strachey (1860–1927) argued that the best way to improve the condition of the poor is to increase the total amount of wealth in the world, not just to redistribute the wealth which already exists:

La Boétie argues that tyranny will collapse if enough people refuse to cooperate and withdraw their moral support to it (1576)

The French judge and poet Etienne de la Boétie (1530-1563) believed that tyrants are able to rule because most people give them their moral support. The converse is true. Tyranny will collapse under its own weight if enough people refuse to cooperate with it and no longer believe in the legitimacy of a tyrant’s rule:

Wolowski on property as a sacred right which is an emanation from man’s very being (1863)

The Polish-French political economist Louis Wolowski (1810-76) argues that matter is transformed by human action and willpower into “property” which is like a sacred extension of their person:

Benjamin Constant on the dangers to liberty posed by the military spirit (1815)

The French political theorist and politician Benjamin Constant (1767-1830) worries that after long periods of war men become imbued with ideas about the use of force and a “military spirit” which undermines the very liberty they are supposed to defend:

Cicero on being true to one’s own nature while respecting the common nature of others (c. 50 BCE)

The Roman lawyer and Stoic philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BCE) advises that the task of living requires that we respect the common nature which all humans have while at the same time following our own individual nature in the best way we can:

Spinoza on being master of one’s own thoughts (1670)

The Dutch rationalist philosopher Benedict de Spinoza (1632-1677) thought that the right of the individual to the free expression of his or her ideas was an “indefeasible natural right” much like the right to property:

Richard Price on giving thanks for the principles of the Revolution of 1688 (1789)

The Welsh Presbyterian minister Richard Price (1723-1791) argues that it is not enough to be satisfied with giving thanks for the partial liberties we now enjoy but to endeavour “to extend and improve” them:

John Bright denounces the power of the war party in England (1878)

The Quaker and antiwar MP John Bright opposed the war against Russia in the Crimea in 1854 and opposed similar agitation for war again 25 years later in 1878. He blamed the constant agitation for war on the traditions of the Foreign Office and the control of the British press by a powerful “war party”:

William Leggett argues that Thanksgiving Day is no business of the government (1836)

The radical Jacksonian journalist William Leggett (1801-1839) argued that the formal declaration by the Federal government of a national “Thanksgiving Day” was not properly the duty of the head of state but the individual heads of religion, if they so desired:

Lord Kames argued that neither the King nor Parliament had the right to grant monopolies because they harmed the interests of the people (1778)

The Scottish judge Lord Kames (1696-1782) thought that the Courts should step in to ban grants of monopoly issued by the King as well as by Parliament because they benefited a few and caused harm to the people:

James Mackintosh on how constitutions grow and are not made (1799)

The Scottish Whig politician and moral philosopher Sir James Mackintosh (1765-1832), writing during the French Revolution, believed that a free constitution was one that evolved gradually over time and was not created in one piece by men in an act of violence:

Richard Price on how the “domestic enemies” of liberty have been more powerful and more successful than foreign enemies (1789)

The Welsh Presbyterian minister Richard Price (1723-1791) in his Discourse celebrating the Revolution of 1688 in Britain warns about the dangers to liberty posed by ambitious “executive officers of government”:

Herbert Spencer on the superiority of private enterprise over State activity (1853)

The English individualist political theorist Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) wonders why, given the never ending stream of news about government incompetence and failure, people still call for it do do more:

Herbert Spencer on the idea that society is a spontaneous growth and not artificially put together (1860)

The English radical individualist social theorist Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) based much of his theory of society on the idea of spontaneous orders a century before Hayek did. Here is an early statement of this from 1860:

Anthony de Jasay on the free rider problem (2008)

Anthony de Jasay (1925-2019) believes that the presence of large benefits to free riders at the expense of others (the suckers) is the basic reason why society has so many examples of “non-contractual social co-ordination” or coercion:

John Stuart Mill on the “religion of humanity” (c. 1858)

The English utilitarian philosopher John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) thought that many of the functions of religion could be better served by directing one’s emotions and desires towards the ideal of the unity of mankind and a respect for the general good which he termed the “religion of humanity”: