Adam Smith on the need for “peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice” (1755)

Dugald Stewart had in his possession some notes of lectures Adam Smith gave in 1755, some 21 years before the appearance of the Wealth of Nations (1776). Here Smith gives a pithy description of what he thought the government should do to encourage economic development:

Shaftesbury opposes the nonresisting test bill before the House of Lords as a step towards “absolute and arbitrary” government (1675)

The Earl of Shaftesbury (1621-1683) opposed a measure before the House of Lords in 1675 to force the members to swear an oath of “nonresistance” to the crown (Charles II). He opposed this as a violation of Magna Carta and another step towards absolute and unaccountable government:

Percy Shelley on the two types of property [1820]

In a pamphlet calling for widespread economic and political reform the poet Percy Shelley (1792-1822) identified two very different kinds of property, one which is just and one which is unjust:

Mary Wollstonecraft likens the situation of soldiers under a tyrant king to women under a tyrant husband (1792)

Mary Wollstonecraft likens the situation of soldiers under a tyrant king to women under a tyrant husband - both want blind obedience from their subjects (1792):

Adam Smith debunks that idea that when it comes to public debt “we owe it to ourselves” (1776)

In a discussion of funding a war by increasing public debt, Adam Smith (1723-1790) rejects the commonly held idea that heavy debt is not a problem for a society because “we owe it to ourselves”, or as he put it, “it is the right hand which pays the left”:

Lao Tzu and the Tao of laissez-faire (6thC BC)

Lao Tsu, the founder of Taoism, advises a wise ruler to follow a policy of laissez-faire, in other words “to do nothing” and thus allow the people to transform themselves:

Paul Heyne on THE economic way of thinking (1995)

The economist Paul Heyne (1931-2000) believed that there was a unique “economic way of thinking” about the world which was based upon a handful of key insights which were not well understood by the general public:

Kant on the natural right to seek happiness in one’s own way (1791)

The German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) argued in 1791 that there were three basic principles which should be the foundation of any Civil State: individual liberty, equality under the law, and “self-dependency” for voting rights. In this extract Kant defends the right of every individual to seek or pursue their vision of happiness without interference by the State:

David Hume believes we should assume all men are self-interested knaves when it comes to politics (1777)

The Scottish philosopher and historian David Hume (1711-1776) believed that when thinking about politics we should assume that every man and every institution pursues their own self-interest often at the expense of the public good:

Mises on the worship of the state or statolatry (1944)

At the height of WW2 when states on both sides of the conflict had massively increased government intervention in the economy, the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) warned against “worship of the state”, or statolatry as he also called it, seeing in it the cause of “the worst evils which mankind ever had to endure”:

Francis Hutcheson’s early formulation of the principle of “the greatest Happiness for the greatest Numbers” (1726)

The Scottish moral philosopher Francis Hutcheson (1694-1746) developed an early version of the utilitarian principle of “the greatest Happiness for the greatest Numbers” as a way of calculating the best action to take when faced with alternatives:

Say on a person’s property right in their own “industrious faculties” (1819)

In the chapter “On the Right of Property” in his Treatise (1803, 1819) the French economist Jean-Baptiste Say (1767-1832) argues that property is not limited to ownership of “things” but also includes an individual’s “talents and faculties”:

Gustave de Beaumont and Irish liberty (1839)

In his analysis of the Irish problem in the late 1830s Gustave de Beaumont (1802-1866) provides some historical background, especially the belief some Irish radicals had in the principles of the French Revolution. He sympathetically quotes one of the songs of the United Irishmen from 1789:

Tocqueville on the true love of liberty (1856)

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) in his unfinished history of the Revolution of 1789 asks where the love of liberty comes from:

Destutt de Tracy on the damage which government debt and the class which lives off loans to the state cause the industrious classes (1817)

The Idéologue and classical liberal Destutt de Tracy (1754-1836) criticised the practice of increasing government debt by “borrowing money on perpetual annuities” as harmful to productive economic activity and which perpetuated the power of “a crowd of useless annuitants” who live off future taxes:

James Buchanan on chaining Leviathan (1975)

One of the founders of the Public Choice school of economics, James M. Buchanan (1919-2013), asks the fundamental question of political science - “who will guard us from the guardians”? His answer is a call for a “constitutional revolution” which will “chain Leviathan”:

James Buchanan on “process” and the market order (1982)

In a discussion prompted by an essay on “Spontaneous Order” by Norman Barry, the economist James M. Buchanan (1919-2013) provides one of the most succinct descriptions of how a market order emerges spontaneously by a process of free exchanges:

Ludwig Lachmann and the free market as a leveling process in the distribution of wealth (1956)

In an article he wrote in 1956 the Austrian school economist Ludwig M. Lachmann (1906 - 1990) observed that the free market created a “leveling process” in the distribution of wealth because wealth did not stay in any particular person’s hands for long unless they they had the skill to successfully satisfy the demands of consumers in the face of constantly changing conditions:

The 12th Day of Christmas: Frank Chodorov on free trade as the harbinger of goodwill among men and peace on earth (1940)

The American radical individualist Frank Chodorov (1887-1966) notes that trade is “the harbinger of goodwill among men, and peace on earth”:

The 11th Day of Christmas: Mises on the gold standard and peace on earth (1934)

In 1934 in the midst of the great depression the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) contrasted the economic policies of Fascist Europe and New Deal America with those of the liberal 19th century. The latter was one of the international division of labor, free trade, and the gold standard. The former advocated national autarky, severe trade restrictions, and government fiat currency. Mises believed that only the latter would permit prosperity and peace on earth to prevail:

The 10th Day of Christmas: Richard Cobden on public opinion and peace on earth (c. 1865)

The British advocate of free trade and peace Richard Cobden (1804-1865) chides an unnamed reverend for using his pulpit to praise the bellicose statements of the Duke of Wellington. He reminds the reverend that he serves a higher master who urged mankind to pursue the goals of “peace on earth, good will towards men”:

The 9th Day of Christmas: Condy Raguet on the anti-Christian character of protection and the need for peace on earth (1832)

The American free trader Condy Raguet (1784-1842) argues that there is not one set of rules which governs “duty from man to man, and another sort of duty from nation to nation”. There is only one, namely the “Christian dispensation” for “peace on earth, and good will to men” which in economics translates into a policy of free trade:

The 8th Day of Christmas: Jefferson on the inevitability of revolution in England only after which there will be peace on earth (1817)

In the immediate aftermath of the end of the war against Napoleon Jefferson believed that the national debt and the serious economic recession in England would lead inevitably to the English people rising up and overthrowing their government as the Americans had done 40 years before. Only after this revolution had succeeded would the world finally be able to enjoy “on earth peace, and good will towards men”:

The 7th Day of Christmas: Madison on “the most noble of all ambitions” which a government can have, of promoting peace on earth (1816)

In an address to the Senate and House of Representatives as his second term as President was drawing to a close, James Madison (1751-1836) summed up the achievements of the U.S. in the 40 years of its existence. One of the things he was most proud of was that he had led “a Government which avoids intrusions on the internal repose of other nations”:

The 6th Day of Christmas: Vicesimus Knox on the Christian religion and peace on earth (1793)

The English anti-war minister Vicesimus Knox (1752-1821) reminded his parishioners in 1793 that the motto of Christianity was the exhortation from the gospel of Saint Luke “Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will towards men”: