In 1849, the members of the Society of Political Economy – the chief organisation for classical liberalism in France at the time – met to discuss Molinari’s proposal for the competitive provision of security. The meeting included some of the foremost liberal thinkers of the day, such as Bastiat, Dunoyer, Coquelin, Wolowski, and Horace Say (son of J.-B.). Without exception they agreed that Molinari’s ideas were unworkable, offering much the same objections to market anarchism as those that are prevalent today. (Although, oddly, nobody raised the objection that would later lead Molinari himself to moderate his position, namely the problem of so-called “public goods.”) Even Dunoyer, who in his earlier work had come close to Molinari’s position, now held that it was best to leave coercive force “where civilisation has placed it – in the State.”
As Rothbard notes, this is an odd claim coming from “one of the great founders of the conquest theory of the State.” Dunoyer’s suggestion that democratic elections provide all the competition that’s needed in the market for security also sits oddly with his earlier interest-group analysis of electoral politics.
A summary of this meeting was published in a subsequent issue of the Society’s organ, the Journal des Économistes. I have now translated and posted this summary, which bears the title “Question of the Limits of State Action and Individual Action Discussed at the Society of Political Economy.”