Market Anarchism and Gustave de Molinari

The Molinari Institute says that “Market Anarchism is the doctrine that the legislative, adjudicative, and protective functions unjustly and inefficiently monopolized by the coercive State should be entirely turned over to the voluntary, consensual forces of market society.” I can assure you, gentle readers, that I agree with that motto one hundred percent. The Institute was named to honor Gustave de Molinari.

And I see at Wikipedia:

Some anarcho-capitalists consider Molinari to be the first proponent of anarcho-capitalism.[1] In the preface to the 1977 English translation Murray Rothbard called “The Production of Security” the “first presentation anywhere in human history of what is now called anarcho-capitalism” though admitting that “Molinari did not use the terminology, and probably would have balked at the name.” Austrian School economist Hans-Hermann Hoppe says that “the 1849 article ‘The Production of Security’ is probably the single most important contribution to the modern theory of anarcho-capitalism.”[2] In the past, Molinari influenced some of the political thoughts of individualist anarchist Benjamin Tucker and the Liberty circle.[3]

The market anarchist Molinari Institute, headed by philosopher Roderick Long, is named after Molinari, whom it calls the “originator of the theory of Market Anarchism.”[4]

You have to love a European who would say in his last work before he died that, ‘the American Civil War had not been simply a humanitarian crusade to free the slaves. The war “ruined the conquered provinces”, but the Northern plutocrats pulling the strings achieved their aim: the imposition of a vicious protectionism that led ultimately “to the regime of trusts and produced the billionaires.’

Gustavedemolinari

Gustave de Molinari’s most important work is said to be “The Production of Security” and one can easily see why. One of the reasons is that Molinari takes head on the fact that “Among the needs of man, there is on particular type which plays an immense role in the history of humanity, namely the need for security.” If you follow the link above you can freely read Molinari’s work; and I suspect you will enjoy it should you do so. It is the need for security that most people think of first when they think of the question of “is government necessary?” — after all, would not roving bands of thieves, rapists, and sadists rule the streets without the state to protect us? Molinari answered that by writing, “Everywhere, men resign themselves to the most extreme sacrifices rather than do without government and hence security, without realizing that in so doing, they misjudge their alternatives.”

Molinari gave his answer to the basic question of how to best obtain security thusly:

If there is one well-established truth in political economy, it is this:

That in all cases, for all commodities that serve to provide for the tangible or intangible needs of the consumer, it is in the consumer’s best interest that labor and trade remain free, because the freedom of labor and of trade have as their necessary and permanent result the maximum reduction of price.

And this:

That the interests of the consumer of any commodity whatsoever should always prevail over the interests of the producer.

Now in pursuing these principles, one arrives at this rigorous conclusion:

That the production of security should, in the interests of the consumers of this intangible commodity, remain subject to the law of free competition.

Whence it follows:

That no government should have the right to prevent another government from going into competition with it, or to require consumers of security to come exclusively to it for this commodity.

Nevertheless, I must admit that, up until the present, one recoiled before this rigorous implication of the principle of free competition.

One can still say that most humans still recoil at the prospect of free competition in providing security and law. It is the idea of humans voluntarily cooperating via market forces that most offend our “liberal” and “progressive” friends, but even our conservative friends strongly demand that there be government to force “order” on society. All of these people forget, or never knew, that society exists in spite of government and not because of government. There was no government providing safety and security in Ireland for all those centuries.

If Molinari was the first anarcho-capitalist or market-anarchist, he certainly was not the last. There have been many great minds that have followed him, many still alive today. I consider Dr. Hoppe to be one of our finest anarchist minds alive and working today. He has written extensively on the private production of security and law. So did Murray Rothbard and many others, but it looks like Gustave de Molinari is a man we should remember and honor as an early leader in the development of our philosophy.

Murray Rothbard wrote in the preface to the 1977 edition of Gustave de Molinari’s
The Production of Security:

Never has laissez-faire thought been as dominant as it was among French economists, beginning with J. B. Say in the early nineteenth century, down through Say’s more advanced followers Charles Comte and Charles Dunoyer and to the early years of the twentieth century. For nearly a century, the laissez-faire economists controlled the profession economic society, the Societe d’Economie Politique and its journal, the Journal des Economistes, as well as numerous other journals and university posts. And yet, few of these economists were translated into English, and virtually none are known to English or American scholars – the sole exception being Frederic Bastiat, not the most profound of the group. The entire illustrious group remains unstudied and unsung.

The most “extreme” and consistent, as well as the longest-lived and most prolific of the French laissez-faire economists was the Belgian-born Gustave de Molinari (1819-1912), who edited the Journal des Economistes for several decades. The initial article of the young Molinari, here translated for the first time as “The Production of Security,” was the first presentation anywhere in human history of what is now called “anarcho-capitalism” or “free market anarchism.” Molinari did not use the terminology, and probably would have balked at the name. In contrast to all previous individualistic and near-anarchistic thinkers, such as La Boetie, Hodgskin or the young Fichte, Molinari did not base the brunt of his argument on a moral opposition to the State. While an ardent individualist, Molinari grounded his argument on free-market, laissez-faire economics, and proceeded logically to ask the question: If the free market can and should supply all other goods and services, why not also the services of protection?

Many thanks to Roderick T. Long, Director and President of the Molinari Institute, for all the hard work of putting together that great resource and for reminding us all of the relatively obscure Molinari who was there at the beginning of our movement.

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3 thoughts on “Market Anarchism and Gustave de Molinari

  1. Yesterday I finished reading economist Bruce Benson’s great book “The Enterprise of Law: Justice Without the State.” He brings up Molinari a couple times. The book does a fantastic job arguing that the private sector is likely to do a much better job providing law and order than the government sector.

  2. If, on the contrary, the consumer is not free to buy security wherever he pleases, you forthwith see open up a large profession dedicated to arbitrariness and bad management. Justice becomes slow and costly, the police vexatious, individual liberty is no longer respected, the price of security is abusively inflated and inequitably apportioned, according to the power and influence of this or that class of consumers. The protectors engage in bitter struggles to wrest customers from one another. In a word, all the abuses inherent in monopoly [government] or in communism crop up [see the part of Molinari’s essay titled “Monopoly and Communism” for his definition of these terms].

  3. One day societies will be established to agitate for the freedom of government, as they have already been established on behalf of the freedom of commerce. – Gustave de Molinari, 1849 THAT DAY IS TODAY.

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