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:

Tocqueville on the absence of government in America (1835)

What struck Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) when he visited the U.S. in 1831-32 was the absence of visible signs of government compared to what he was used to seeing in Europe:

Pufendorf on the danger of rulers confusing their own self-interest with that of the State (1695)

The German philosopher of natural law Samuel von Pufendorf (1632-1694) was also an historian who thought that Rulers needed to be better informed about history in order to avoid confusing their own selfish interests with the real interests of the State:

Herbert Spencer on the State’s cultivation of “the religion of enmity” to justify its actions (1884)

In the Postscript to his The Man versus the State (1884) the English sociologist Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) argued that the State deliberately encouraged “the religion of enmity” against others in order to bolster public “faith in governmental ability and authority”:

James Mackintosh on the relationship between justice and utility (1791)

The Scottish philosopher and historian James Mackintosh (1765-1832) replied to Edmund Burke’s criticism of the French Revolution and the idea of natural rights in Vindiciae Gallicae (A Vindication of France) (1791). In this passage he rejects the idea that one should abandon “general maxims” about what it is right to do for the sake of expediency:

Philip Wicksteed on how impersonal economic relations help others (1910)

The English economist Philip H. Wicksteed (1844-1927) makes the interesting point that a business person aims to help others achieve their goals whether or not the business person is motivated by selfishness or altruism:

Edmund Burke on liberty as “social” not “individual” liberty (1789)

A year before he published his full critique of the French Revolution Edmund Burke (1729-1797) wrote to a young Frenchman and offered his definition of liberty. His was not “unconnected, individual, selfish liberty” but a “social freedom” which is “secured by well-constructed institutions”:

Montesquieu and law as a fishing net (1720)

A theme which runs through Montesquieu’s collection of Thoughts (1720) is that the law is like a fisherman’s net. In a free society it is a large net which gives the fish the illusion of liberty. In a despotic state is a very tight net where the fish know immediately that they are trapped:

Jacques Maritain on the dynamism of freedom (1938)

The French Thomistic philosopher Jacques Maritain (1882–1973) believes that the “dynamism of freedom” consists of using one’s “freedom of choice” in order to gain another kind of freedom, the “freedom of spontaneity or of independence”:

Tiedeman on the victimless crime of vagrancy (1900)

The American constitutional lawyer Christopher Tiedeman (1857-1903) argued that vagrancy might be a crime under statutory law but it was not an offense against the common law:

Tom Paine on the “birthday of a new world” (1776)

On the 10th anniversary of the day the Online Library of Liberty went public for the first time, we celebrated that fact and found a quotation by the great advocate of liberty and independence Thomas Paine (1737-1809) who, in the Appendix to Common Sense, wrote about the “birthday of a new world”:

Mises on liberalism and the battle of ideas (1927)

Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) argued that the power of liberal ideas were so great that they would eventually succeed in “conquering the minds of officials and soldiers” everywhere:

John Trenchard on the real nature of political parties (1721)

The English Radical Whig journalist John Trenchard (1662-1723) warned that the true nature of political parties was to offer its members an opportunity to plunder the ordinary taxpayer by seeking plush jobs for themselves and kick-backs for their friends:

Adam Smith on the “liberal system” of free trade (1776)

One of the earliest uses of the word “liberal” to describe a society in which there was individual economic liberty was Adam Smith’s phrase “liberal system” which he used to describe free trade in contrast to the “mercantile system” of restrictions and laws:

John Taylor on how a republic can “fleece its citizens” just as well as a monarchy (1822)

John Taylor (1753-1824) argues that the American Revolution would have been in vain if the Americans replicated the British system of government privilege and favors to special economic interests:

Jefferson warns about the rise of an “Anglo-Monarchio-Aristocratic party” in America (1797)

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), in a letter to Phillip Mazzei, warns that a resurgent “Anglo-Monarchio-Aristocratic party” has arisen in America which wished to restore the political and economic practices of the British Empire:

Leonard Read on Ludwig von Mises as the economic dictator of the U.S. (1971)

Leonard Read (1898-1983) relates a story about Ludwig von Mises who was asked what he would do if he were made dictator of the U.S. His immediate answer was that he would abdicate so as to unleash as much creative activity by individuals as possible:

Macaulay wittily denounces a tyrannical priest as being an intermediate grub between sycophant and oppressor (1837)

In a review of a biography about the 17th century philosopher of science Lord Bacon (1561-1626) Lord Macaulay (1800-1859) has some sharp words to say about the tyrannical master of Bacon’s college at Cambridge:

Thomas Gordon asks whether tyranny is worse than anarchy (1728)

The English radical Whig and Commonwealthman Thomas Gordon (1692-1750) argues in his Discourses on Tacitus (1728) that “a settled active Tyranny” is worse than no government at all:

Anthony de Jasay asks whether states should be invented if they did not already exist (1985)

Anthony de Jasay (1925-2019) asks whether we can trust the state to use its monopoly of force wisely and not “use it against those from whom it received it”:

Mises on the State Theory of Money (1912)

In his path-breaking book The Theory of Money and Credit (1912) the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) contrasts two very different ways by which money gets its value - either by “the command of the state”, or “on the estimation of commerce”:

Magna Carta guaranteed the freemen of the kingdom their liberties forever (1215)

After losing the Battle of Bouvines in northern France in 1214 King John (1166-1216) was forced by his rebellious nobles to recognise a long list of liberties which the monarchy henceforth had to respect. These became known as the “traditional rights of Englishmen”:

Benjamin Franklin on the trade off between essential liberty and temporary safety (1775)

In January 1775 Benjamin Franklin (1796-1790) was part of an American delegation sent to Britain in an attempt to resolve the outstanding disagreements between the Crown and the colonies. Seventeen points were up for discussion of which several were rejected outright by the Crown while others were rejected by the colonies. Franklin’s comments regarding the last two points produced one of his most famous sayings from the period:

John Lilburne on one’s duty to respect “the Right, Due, and Propriety of all the Sons of Adam, as men” (1646)

The Leveller John Lilburne (1615-1657) wrote some of his best material while he was in prison, such as this appeal to his fellow Christians to recognize the right to liberty and property held by “all the Sons of Adam”:

William Walwyn wittily argues against state enforced religious conformity (1646)

William Walwyn (1600-1681) uses a witty medical metaphor to argue that the desire to impose religious conformity by force (“Policie”) is caused by bad “humours” in the body which can only be removed by Doctors named Love, Justice, Patience, and Truth: