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Gary M. Galles - Contributor

Mr. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University. [go to Galles index]

Sovereignty and Liberty
Gustave de Molinari - peace and freedom...
[Gary M. Galles] 3/30/05

Americans pay ritual obeisance to liberty. But daily, they say “there ought to be a law” that restricts it. They have only the dimmest awareness of our founders’ views on this central issue, and no knowledge of friends of freedom beyond our shores. That is a pity, because such investigation would yield much insight.

A good example is Belgian-born philosopher/economist Gustave de Molinari, born 186 years ago this month. As Wikipedia put it, “Throughout his life…Molinari defended peace, free trade, freedom of speech, freedom of association, and liberty in all its forms.” His touchstones were private property and unrestricted markets—i.e., liberty—made possible by government limited to securing life, liberty and property.

A few examples cannot do justice to Molinari’s half-century defense of liberty, based on each person’s ownership of himself. But it is worth reflecting on his vision of a world where government sovereignty, enforced via coercion, was replaced with individual sovereignty.

“Society is heavily taxed in the increased costs which follow government appropriation of products and services naturally belonging to the sphere of private enterprise.”

“…the [enlarged] functions of the State…is the real explanation of the grossly inadequate performance of their first duty--protection of life and property of the individual.”

“The sovereign power of governments over the life and property of the individual is, in fact, the sole fount and spring of militaryism, policy, and protection…the abolishment of that ‘state’ is the present, most urgent, need of society.”

“Government has abused its unlimited power over individual life and property…”

“It may be disputed whether this infinitesimal share in the sovereign power [voting] is sufficient guarantee of individual rights…”

“However seriously he might be declared sovereign master of himself, his goods and life, the individual was still controlled by a power invested with rights which took precedence of his own…The sole possible remedy—to curtail this subjection with its priority of claims over those of the sovereignty of the individual...“

“Government must confine itself to the naturally collective functions of providing external and internal security.”

“What is the interest of the individual? It is to remain the absolute proprietor of his person and property and to retain the power to dispose of them at will...It is, in a word, to possess ‘individual sovereignty’ in the fullest…Each individual sovereignty has its natural frontiers within which it may operate and outside of which it may not pass without violating other sovereignties. These natural limits must be recognized and guaranteed…such is the purpose of ‘government.’”

“Sovereignty rests in the property of the individual over his person and goods and in the liberty of disposing of them…”

“The individual appropriates and possesses himself… This is liberty. Property and liberty are the two aspects or two constituents of sovereignty.”
“… a careful examination of the facts will decide the problem of government more and more in favor of liberty…”

“…the ills [ascribed] to liberty--or, to use an absolutely equivalent expression, to free competition--do not originate in liberty, but in monopoly and restriction…a society truly free--a society relieved from all restriction, from all barriers, unique as will be such a society in all the course of history--will be exempt from most of the ills, as we suffer them today…the organization of such a society will be the most just, the best, and the most favorable to the production and distribution of wealth, that is attainable by mortal man.”

“The true remedy for most evils is none other than liberty, unlimited and complete liberty, liberty in every field of human endeavor.”

Gustave de Molinari learned of the destruction that goes with coercion from France’s 1848 Revolution. He saw that a far better alternative was a vast expansion of liberty, and an accompanying explosion of human potential and the human spirit. That is something our age, as much as any other, needs to be inspired toward, as well.

copyright 2005 Gary M. Galles



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