David Hume on property as a convention which gradually emerges from society (1739)

The Scottish philosopher and historian David Hume (1711-1776) argued that the idea of property and the need to defend it emerged gradually out of social practices. Once it had evolved into a widely accepted convention did it become a “right” which needed to be respected:

Benjamin Franklin on making the transition from slavery to civil liberty (1789)

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) warns that after having been brutalised by being enslaved the freed slave faces additional problems of adjusting to a life as a free person. Franklin was a member of a society which sought to raise money to assist them in making this transition:

James Mill’s formulation of “Say’s Law” (1808)

The English Philosophic Radical James Mill (1773-1836) responded to criticism concerning the “unproductiveness” of trade with a spirited defence of commerce which also included one of the clearest statements of “Say’s Law”, that “the production of commodities creates a market for the commodities which have been produced”:

David Hume on how the prosperity of one’s neighbors increases one’s own prosperity (1777)

The Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711-1776) argued that one should not be jealous of the prosperity of one’s neighbors as this provides them with the means to trade with you to mutual benefit:

Mandeville on the social cooperation which is required to produce a piece of scarlet cloth (1723)

The Anglo-Dutch doctor and writer Bernard Mandeville (1670-1733) was one of the first to note the extraordinary amount of social and economic cooperation which was required to produce something for sale on the market, in this case a piece of scarlet cloth:

Lysander Spooner on why government monopolies like the post office are inherently inefficient (1844)

The American legal theorist, abolitionist, and radical individualist Lysander Spooner (1808-1887) started his own mail company in order to challenge the monopoly held by the US government. He perceptively noted that, in the absence of competition, “government functionaries” had no incentive to innovate or provide good service:

William Graham Sumner on the racism which lies behind Imperialism (1898)

The American classical liberal sociologist William Graham Sumner (1840-1910) pointed out the contradiction between the American ideal that “all men are equal” with its actual treatment of “Indians and negroes” and other so-called “uncivilized and half-civilized peoples”:

George Grote on the difficulty of public opinion alone in curbing the misuse of power by “the sinister interests” (1821)

The Philosophic Radical George Grote (1794-1871) wrote this defence of democratic reform of the British electoral system in 1821. He noted the special problem posed by the concentration of political benefits being concentrated in a few hands and the costs being dispersed over very many individuals:

William Cobbett on the dangers posed by the “Paper Aristocracy” (1804)

The English radical William Cobbett (1763-1835) objected to the funding of the war against Napoleon by issuing debt and suspending gold payments. He called the financial elite who benefited from the huge increase in government debt as the “Paper Aristocracy”:

The State of California issued its own Bill of Rights in 1849 with a strong defence of property rights (1849)

The Declaration of Rights in the California Constitution of 1849 listed among a person’s inalienable rights “acquiring, possessing, and protecting property” as well as a ban on a standing army in time of peace:

Under Magna Carta the King cannot imprison a freeman without being convicted by a trial of his peers (1215)

Under King John’s reign, Clause 39 of Magna Carta became the foundation of the idea that a freeman could not be imprisoned without first being found guilty in a trial by his peers. This later became the idea behind the principle of “trial by jury”:

Under Magna Carta the King cannot impose taxes without the approval of the “common counsel” of the kingdom (1215)

In June 1215, King John and his nobles signed the Greater Charter of Liberties (Magna Carta). Among the many restrictions placed upon the King by the Nobles was the idea that the king could not impose taxes without the approval of the “common counsel” of the Kingdom:

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: