The Use of Knowledge In Society

I recently came across two interesting articles by Rabah Benkemoune. Unfortunately, they’re not accessible for free unless you have university access – in which case you can read “Charles Dunoyer and the Emergence of the Idea of an Economic Cycle” and “Gustave de Molinari’s Bourse Network Theory: A Liberal Response to Sismondi’s Informational Problem.”

global network

Benkemoune’s thesis is that Dunoyer and Molinari were among the few 19th-century French liberal theorists to take seriously Sismondi’s argument that governmental regulation is needed because informational problems pose an insuperable obstacle to the market’s ability to equilibrate. While most liberals in the Say tradition dismissed Sismondi by insisting that markets would equilibrate just fine were it not for government intervention, Dunoyer and Molinari agreed with Sismondi that there are genuine informational problems (including, for Dunoyer, a business cycle) inherent in even the freest market, but rejected Sismondi’s proposed legislative solution.

Instead, Dunoyer and Molinari argued that: a) the informational problems were in large part remediable by non-governmental means, whether education or institutional innovation (the latter including, for Molinari, informational networks such as his idea of labour-exchanges); b) to the extent that such problems are not remediable, they can be expected to be fairly mild in a genuinely free market; c) any attempted governmental solutions would face even greater informational problems.

Benkemoune also includes some discussion of Dunoyer’s and Molinari’s relationship to the Austrian school.

In related news, Annelien de Dijn’s recent book French Political Thought from Montesquieu to Tocqueville: Liberty in a Levelled Society? includes a fair bit of discussion of Dunoyer and the Censeur group. (Amazon offers the book at a hefty price, but it’s not hard to find the entire text for free online if you poke about a bit.)

It’s nice to see the industriels getting more scholarly attention.

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3 Responses to The Use of Knowledge In Society

  1. Black Bloke August 21, 2011 at 10:20 pm #

    Should there be a link at “idea of labour-exchanges”?

    • Roderick August 22, 2011 at 1:12 am #

      Thanks for catching that! Turns out I’d left the = sign out of the link. So the problem was a lack of equality.

      • Black Bloke August 22, 2011 at 11:06 am #

        Oh the equality was already there, it just has to be made explicit sometimes 😉

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