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Molinari on mankind’s never-ending struggle for liberty (1849)

The French economist Gustave de Molinari (1819-1912) was inspired by mankind’s never-ending struggle for liberty against their oppressors and concluded his book Les Soirées (1849) with this inspiring speech:

Liberty! That was the cry of the captives of Egypt, the slaves of Spartacus, the peasants of the Middle Ages, and more recently of the bourgeoisie oppressed by the nobility and religious corporations, of the workers oppressed by masters and guilds. Liberty! That was the cry of all those who found their property confiscated by monopoly and privilege. Liberty! That was the burning aspiration of all those whose natural rights had been forcibly repressed.

Now from the beginning of the world, the strongest and most dishonest men have infringed the internal or external property of other men, in order to consume some of their share in the fruits of production. From this arose slavery, monopolies and privileges.

At the same time as they destroyed the equitable distribution of wealth, such slavery, monopolies and privileges slowed down production, either by reducing the incentive producers had to make things, or in deflecting them away from the kind of production they could most usefully pursue. Oppression engendered poverty.

For long centuries, humanity groaned in the limbo of servitude. From one age to another, however, the somber clamor of distress and anger echoed in the hearts of the enslaved and exploited masses. The slaves rose up against their masters, demanding liberty.

Liberty! That was the cry of the captives of Egypt, the slaves of Spartacus, the peasants of the Middle Ages, and more recently of the bourgeoisie oppressed by the nobility and religious corporations, of the workers oppressed by masters and guilds. Liberty! That was the cry of all those who found their property confiscated by monopoly and privilege. Liberty! That was the burning aspiration of all those whose natural rights had been forcibly repressed.

A day came when the oppressed found themselves strong enough to rid themselves of oppressors. It was at the end of the eighteenth century. …

About this Quotation:

In the Twelfth and final evening of discussion between a Conservative, a Socialist, and a free market Economist Molinari has the Economist launch into a speech on the centuries-long struggle by the oppressed slaves and serfs of Europe for greater liberty, epitomised by Spartacus and the slave uprising against the Romans he organised, and the enormous obstacles they have faced up until the present. The struggle as the Economist now sees it is between the two groups who oppose property rights, the Socialists who want “to increase the number of restrictions and levies which already weigh on property” and the Conservatives who want “purely and simply to preserve those which already exist.” Molinari thinks that a brave start in the liberation of humanity was made in the earliest phase of the French Revolution but this got sidetracked, first by the socialist Jacobins under Robespierre, and then by the militarist and conqueror Napoleon. A second attempt was made in the Revolution of 1848 but it too was knocked off track, again by socialists in 1848, and then again (although Molinari was writing in 1849) when another Emperor Napoleon seized control of the French state in 1852. Molinari would spend the next 63 years fighting this same battle in spite of all the odds he faced.

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