Blogs > Liberty and Power > Molinari Trifecta!

Jul 21, 2005 12:54 am

Molinari Trifecta!

[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]

The glorious march of dead libertarians revivified continues! I’ve recently translated, and posted in the Molinari Online Library, three articles hitherto unavailable in English: two by anarcho-Belgian Gustave de Molinari, and one about him.

  • Anticipating Rothbard’s 1965 observation that state socialists seek to achieve liberal goals through the use of conservative means, Molinari's 1848"Utopia of Liberty" extends an olive branch to his socialist opponents, urging them to adopt libertarian rather than authoritarian strategies for improving the condition of the working class. This article is billed as the first in a series of outreach letters to socialists, but it's unclear whether more were published (I'll find out after I get access to the relevant issues of the Journal des Économistes); but in any case the article's approach makes it in effect a practice run for Molinari's more ambitious Soirées, published the following year.

  • Molinari's mentor Frédéric Bastiat famously marveled that Paris gets fed without the help of central planning, thanks to the spontaneous order of the market. In"The Feeding of Paris During the Siege" (1871), written in Paris during the closing months of the Franco-Prussian War while the siege was still under way, Molinari describes how governmental efforts to remedy the economic effects of the Prussian blockade generally made matters worse by disrupting the self-regulatory functions of the price system. While Molinari grants (perhaps too generously) the legitimacy, in principle, of governmental intervention in case of emergency, he effectively shows how no emergency powers can repeal the basic laws of economics -- a useful lesson for fans of post-hurricane"anti-gouging laws" today.

  • Upon Molinari’s death in 1912, his protégé Yves Guyot wrote an obituary notice and biographical sketch of his mentor. While downplaying the anarchistic dimensions of Molinari's thought, Guyot lays particular stress on Molinari's scheme for"labour-exchanges" (bourses du travail), i.e., stock-exchanges for labour, designed to enhance the bargaining power of the working class by increasing workers' mobility. (For some possible drawbacks to this approach, see H. C. Emery's comments.) Guyot's short-term optimism about the abolition of war in the 20th century makes sad reading today, but his long-term conviction that"truth once advanced is never lost," though it may for a time be"preserved only by some," offers inspiration for those seeking to win these 19th-century thinkers a wider audience today.

This is the first appearance of these essays in English. More dead-libertarian goodness to follow!

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More Comments:

Kenneth R Gregg - 7/26/2005

is quite excellent! Thanks very much for reprinting it.


Jason Kuznicki - 7/21/2005

If you want me to do translations from French to English, I would be happy to help out.