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”:

William Graham Sumner on how “society” helps the drunkard in the gutter (1883)

The American sociologist William Graham Sumner (1840-1910) observed that when the state uses tax money to help someone who is down and out on their luck it is ultimately paid for by “the forgotten man”:

Guizot on man’s unquenchable desire for liberty and free political institutions (1820-22)

The French politician and liberal historian François Guizot (1787-1874) argued in 1822 that no matter what the outward form a government might be “there is an instinctive sense of justice and reason dwelling in every human spirit” which always bubbles to the surface to express the desire for liberty and free institutions such as representative government:

Henry George on how trade sanctions hurt domestic consumers (1886)

The American free trader Henry George (1839-1897) argued that trade sanctions against “our enemies” hurt domestic consumers just like any other “protectionist” trade restriction:

John Locke on the rights to life, liberty, and property of ourselves and others (1689)

John Locke (1632-1704) argued that the law of nature obliged all human beings not to harm “the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another”:

James Mill on Who are to watch the watchmen? (1835)

The Philosophic Radical James Mill (1773-1836) believed that the answer to the age old problem of “who is to guard us from the guardians” lay in regular elections and a free press:

Frédéric Bastiat asks what came first, property or law? (1850)

The French political economist Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) argues that it is in order to defend one’s already existing person, liberty, and property that laws are made:

Herbert Spencer on customs which are the result of human action but not of deliberate design (1876)

The English sociologist Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) notes that human “conventions” or customs are not the result of any deliberate design by human beings but usually evolve gradually and spontaneously over very long periods of time:

Destutt de Tracy on society as “nothing but a succession of exchanges” (1817)

The French revolutionary politician and republican Destutt de Tracy (1754-1836) believed that society was a complex web of mutually beneficial transactions which brought people together both across space and time:

James Wilson asks if man exists for the sake of government, or is government instituted for the sake of man? (1791)

James Wilson (1742-1798), one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and one of the original justices appointed by George Washington to the United States Supreme Court, delivered some Lectures on Law in 1790-91 in which he argued that the function of government was to protect and enlarge an individual’s existing natural rights, not to subvert or restrain them:

Sir Edward Coke declares that your house is your “Castle and Fortress” (1604)

The English judge and jurist Sir Edward Coke (pronounced cook) (1552-1634) declared in a ruling known as Semayne’s Case that there were strict limits on how Sheriffs may enter a person’s house in order to issue writs:

Gouverneur Morris on the proper balance between commerce, private property, and political liberty (1776)

In his Political Enquiries (1776), Gouverneur Morris (1752-1816) was ruminating on key political questions on the eve of American Independence. In this section “Of Commerce,” he worries about the tension between private property rights and commerce on the one hand, and the exercise of political liberty which might be used to violate property rights:

Liberty in the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789)

The French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was promulgated in August 1789 and Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette drew heavily upon the American precedents of the Virginia Declaration (May 1776) and the Declaration of Independence (4 July 1776). We quote here the first few articles:

John Lilburne rails against his unjust imprisonment (1646)

The English Leveller John Lilburne (1615-1657) denounces the government for his false imprisonment, his jailers for their corrupt practices, and demands his rights as an Englishmen under Common Law to face a jury of his peers, otherwise … :

John Locke on the separation of Church and Magistrate (1689)

John Locke (1632-1704) was also known in his lifetime as a staunch defender of religious toleration. In this passage he calls for the complete separation of church and magistrate:

Arthur Seldon on the problem of “who guards us from the guardians”? (1990)

The founder of the Institute of Economic Affairs, Arthur Seldon (1916-2005), argues that advocates of limited government have still yet to solve this most important political problem:

Spinoza on the dangers of using superstition to hoodwink the people (1670)

The 17th century rationalist philosopher Benedict de Spinoza (1632-1677) warns how religion can be misused by tyrants to hoodwink the people into fighting just as bravely for their own slavery as for liberty:

Cobden on the folly of using government force to “protect commerce” (1836)

The English manufacturer and defender of free trade Richard Cobden (1804-1865) argued that the very nature of trade would be changed if it were “touched by the hand of violence”:

Destutt de Tracy on the mutually beneficial nature of exchange (1817)

In his Treatise on Political Economy (1817) which was so admired by Thomas Jefferson, the French revolutionary politician and republican Destutt de Tracy (1754-1836) argues that both parties to a voluntary exchange benefit (i..e profit) from the same transaction:

John Milton on the tyranny of government licensed printing (1644)

The English revolutionary poet and pamphleteer John Milton (1608-1674) wrote one of the greatest defences of the freedom of speech, Areopagita, in 1644. Here he compares the censoring of ideas in books to restrictions on the free trade of goods:

William Leggett on the separation of bank and state (1837)

The Jacksonian era journalist William Leggett (1801-1839) was the intellectual leader of the laissez-faire wing of Jacksonian democrats. He believed that the “separation of bank and state” was an essential part of “democratic” economic policy:

Tocqueville on Centralised Government in Canada and Decentralised Government in America (1856)

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) believed that the true essence of the government of the old régime was revealed in the institutions it created in its Canadian colony, in very great contrast to what was happening in the British colonies:

Michel Chevalier on two kinds of political power in America, the Caesars and the Commissioners (1835)

The French economist Michel Chevalier (1806-1879) visited the United States in 1835 and observed that the power of the state governors (the Cæsars) were declining, while the power of the Commissioners of public works and banks were expanding rapidly: