Remember a Defender of Liberty

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Americans
pay ritual obeisance to liberty. But daily, they say "there
ought to be a law" that restricts it. People reveal only
the dimmest awareness of our founders' views on this central issue,
and no knowledge of friends of freedom beyond our shores. That
is unfortunate, since they offer much insight.

A prime
example is Belgian-born philosopher/economist Gustave de Molinari,
born March 3, nearly two centuries ago. He "defended peace,
free trade, freedom of speech, freedom of association, and liberty
in all its forms," according to one source. Molinari's touchstone
was restricting government power to securing life, liberty and
property. It is worth reflecting on his vision of a world where
government sovereignty, enforced via coercion, is replaced with
individual sovereignty — self-ownership.

"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…"

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

"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…"

"[T]he
progressive rise in taxation and expenditure which has occurred…must
continue indefinitely for just so long as governments…maintain
their right of unlimited requisition upon the life, liberty,
and property of the individual."

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

"[G]overnment
should restrict itself to guaranteeing the security of its citizens…the
freedom of labor and of trade should otherwise be whole and
absolute."

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

"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 u2018government.'"

"The
individual appropriates and possesses himself… This is liberty.
Property and liberty are the two aspects or two constituents
of sovereignty."

"[C]areful
examination of the facts will decide the problem of government
more and more in favor of liberty…"

"[P]rogress
will be still better secured by measures extending the sphere
of individual self-government…"

"…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…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 destructive apparatus of the
civilized State" from France's 1848 Revolution. He saw that
government's asserted "absolute right of requisition over
individual life property and liberty" was the reason it has
always been an abuser of people's natural rights. If it could
be restricted to the sole mandate of providing security for life,
liberty and property, its ubiquitous ham-handed intervention and
interference would disappear. Far better would be the expansion
of self-government — that is, liberty — enabling the growth of
human potential and the human spirit. Our age, which has expanded
rather than abandoned the restraints imposed on liberty, desperately
needs to rediscover that insight and its implications.

March
3, 2008

Gary M.
Galles [send him mail]
is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University.

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