Archive | June 14, 2012

Secular Growth

Destutt de Tracy

Destutt de Tracy, whom Jacob Levy has described as having “a plausible claim to being the first libertarian,” was a major influence on both Thomas Jefferson (who called his work “the most precious gift the present age has received”) and the Censeur group (Augustin Thierry praised him to the skies), and a contributor to the development of libertarian class theory. (Karl Marx for his part called Tracy a “fish-blooded bourgeois doctrinaire,” but you can’t please everybody.)

According to Leonard Liggio, in his introduction to Thierry’s Theory of Classical Liberal “Industrielisme”, Tracy was regarded by his contemporary Stendahl as being so far ahead of his time as to be more a thinker of the 20th century than of the 19th; Stendahl suggested (evidently in 1835) that Tracy might turn out to be the “philosopher of 1935.”

Considering what the world’s political and intellectual climate would actually turn out to be in 1935, the prediction now looks ironic and rather sad. But let’s see what we can do for 2035.

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