Tag Archives | Anarchy

Molinari and Proudhon: Mutual(ist) Influence?

While Molinari and Proudhon were certainly aware of each other (both published in the Journal des Économistes, for example), neither of them, to my knowledge, ever acknowledged being influenced by the other. Nor is that surprising; they belonged to rival libertarian traditions that had grown increasingly hostile to each other, and the debate between Proudhon and Molinari’s mentor Bastiat in 1849-50, while beginning in a cautiously friendly fashion, had ended in a flurry of insult and acrimony. Nevertheless, I think there is good reason to suspect mutual influence.

While Proudhon declared his opposition to the state as early as in his 1840 work What is Property?, he at that time offered little in the way of detail as to what sorts of social or economic mechanisms might replace state functions.

Then, in 1849, Molinari published both his article “The Production of Security” (in the Journal des Économistes) and his book Soirées on the Rue Saint-Lazare, in both of which he described how private enterprise could take over the functions of the state. (Molinari’s ideas were subsequently discussed in the Journal; see here and here.)

Two years later, in 1851, Proudhon published his General Idea of the Revolution in the 19th Century, in which he now discussed, in more detail than ever before, his ideas (in part similar, in part different) as to how private enterprise could take over the functions of the state. This is where I suspect Molinari’s influence on Proudhon.

In that same work, Proudhon described the process of transition as the “dissolution of government in the economic organism.” Over three decades later, in his Political Evolution and the Revolution (1884), Molinari used almost the same phrase to describe the transition to a stateless society – the “diffusion of the state within society” – although he somewhat disingenuously suggested that this approach was in contrast to anarchism: “The future thus belongs neither to the absorption of society by the state, as the communists and collectivists suppose, nor to the suppression of the state, as the anarchists and nihilists dream, but to the diffusion of the state within society.” (pp. 393-94; cf. p. 482, where he speaks of the “diffusion of government within society” rather than of the state.)* This is where I suspect Proudhon’s influence on Molinari.


[* Cf. Benjamin Tucker in 1890: “Anarchists work for the abolition of the State, but by this they mean not its overthrow, but, as Proudhon put it, its dissolution in the economic organism.” Tucker was certainly aware of some of Molinari’s later work – see here and here – but whether he had read the particular works by Molinari here named is unclear. Certainly Tucker’s idea for competing security agencies resembles Molinari’s, but Tucker had also read, e.g., Spooner’s similar proposal from 1851, and I doubt that Spooner would have read Molinari.]

Who Said This?

Guess the author:

Reason and experience alike tell us that the governments now existing in the world were established by bayonet-point, by force. None of the monarchies or governments that we see in the world are based on justice or on a correct foundation that is acceptable to reason. Their foundations are all rotten, being nothing but coercion and force.

Click here for the answer.

[And click here for the source.]

Who Said These?

One of these quotations is from a communist anarchist. The other is from an individualist anarchist. Guess who said them.

1. Suppose that suggestions of economy have substituted the large unitary edifice for the isolated home. … [W]hen these several domestic functions are performed severally upon the large scale, additional conveniences will be found to arise from combining the Eating-House, the Laundry, the Nursery, the Lying-in Department, etc., etc., in one unitary edifice, and conducting the whole upon a plan not inferior, perhaps, in magnificence and extent to the Phalansterian order of Fourier.

2. Phalansteries are repugnant to millions of human beings. The most reserved man certainly feels the necessity of meeting his fellows for the purpose of common work …. But it is not so for the hours of leisure, reserved for rest and intimacy. … A phalanstery, which is in fact nothing but an immense hotel, can please some, … but the great mass prefers family life …. They prefer isolated apartments, Anglo-Saxons even going as far as to prefer houses of from six to eight rooms, in which the family, or an agglomeration of friends, can live apart. Sometimes a phalanstery is a necessity, but it would be hateful, were it the general rule. Isolation, alternating with time spent in society, is the normal desire of human nature. This is why one of the greatest tortures in prison is the impossibility of isolation, much as solitary confinement becomes torture in its turn, when not alternated with hours of social life.

See the comments section for the answer.

The March of Time

I realise that I’ve never blogged here, even minimally, about my trips from last March. (I thought I had, but actually I just discussed them on facebook.)

So on March 9-10 I participated in a workshop on exploitation, run by Matt Zwolinski and Ben Ferguson, at the University of San Diego.

I flew out a couple of days early in order to spend some time hanging out with my friends Gary Chartier and Alicia Homer.

Then on March 12-14 I attended the PPE conference in New Orleans. (That’s “Philosophy, Politics, and Economics,” not “Personal Protective Equipment.”) I gave a talk on “Virtue’s Unity and the Liberal Quest for Principled Moderation.” Several of my co-panelists, alas, had to pull out in light of the impending Coronapocalypse.

After that, the Coronapocalypse fell utterly across the land and all further travel was curtailed; thus I did not attend APEE (Las Vegas), the Pacific APA (San Francisco), or Gary and Alicia’s wedding celebration (Laguna Beach) in April, nor again the AtInER Philosophy Conference (Athens) in May.

Molinari Society Location Update

According to the printed program, the Molinari Society’s session at 9:00 tomorrow morning is in Seminar A.

This is a cruel lie.

We are actually in Phillips Boardroom 3.

Okay, no problem, we turn to the map of the hotel that’s included in the program, and – oimoi, there’s no Phillips Boardroom 3 listed.

But I have tracked it down. It’s on the lobby level, at the top of the carpeted ramp at the far right of the lobby as you come in the main entrance.

I figure we may want to start a little bit late tomorrow to accommodate bewildered stragglers.

Molinari Review I.2: What Lies Within?

[cross-posted at C4SS, BHL, and POT]

The long-awaited second issue of the Molinari Review (the Molinari Institute’s interdisciplinary, open-access, libertarian academic journal) is here! Nearly twice the length of the first issue!

You can order a paper copy from Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Amazon UK, or, I believe, any of the other regional incarnations of Amazon.

(A Kindle copy should be available later this month. In the meantime, the previous issue is available as a free PDF download here.)

So what’s in the new issue? Here’s a rundown:

  • Anarchist communists reject not only the state but the market as well, arguing that private property and market exchange are as much a source of domination as the instrumentalities of the state. In “Supplying the Demand of Liberation: Markets as a Structural Check Against Domination,” philosopher Jason Lee Byas argues, to the contrary, that individualist anarchism, precisely because of its reliance on markets and the greater plasticity they offer, satisfies the anarchist commitment to non-domination more successfully than communism does. Byas highlights the potential dangers of anarchist communists’ proposed alternatives to markets, arguing that these dangers become even more serious when the dynamics of race, gender, sexuality, and other systems of privilege and oppression are factored in, while the market process can be shown to be a powerful engine for addressing such problems.
  • The economic regulations of the American Progressive Era have long been viewed – whether with approval or with disapproval, depending on the political perspective of the viewer – as a powerful blow against big business. In the 1960s, Gabriel Kolko and other New Left historians argued, to the contrary, that the corporate elite were the major beneficiaries of these regulations – a revisionist thesis soon enthusiastically embraced and promoted (much to the dismay of Kolko himself) by a number of free-market libertarian thinkers, including Murray Rothbard and Roy Childs. In recent years, however, Roger L. Bradley Jr. and Roger Donway have argued (see here and here) that Kolko’s account of the relationship between business and the state during the Gilded Age and its aftermath was flawed by a mistaken conceptual framework and a misleading use of evidence through selective quotation of his sources; for Bradley and Donway, what Kolko made to seem like corporate support for regulation was in most cases merely a matter of corporations adapting to regulation as a form of self-defense. In “The War on Kolko,” historian Joseph R. Stromberg defends Kolko against both the charge of misinterpreting the motives of corporate leaders and the charge of distorting the textual evidence, concluding that Kolko’s work remains “quite unscathed.”
  • Is there any connection between liberty in the political sense and liberty in the sense at issue in the free will debate? John Stuart Mill, in the first sentence of his treatise On Liberty, famously replied in the negative. But in “Libertarianism and Hard Determinism,” Thomas Lafayette Bateman III and Walter E. Block argue that if a human being were “no more than a moist robot, subject completely to nature’s laws,” then political institutions to protect such an entity’s freedom of choice would be pointless, abstract principles of rights would be meaningless, and seeking to control individual behaviour through totalitarian manipulation and the judicious application of stimuli would seem optimal. Hence political libertarianism and hard determinism are incompatible; a consistent adherent of the first must reject the second.*
  • For the past thirty years, philosophers Jan Narveson and James P. Sterba have been debating whether a commitment to liberty entails welfare rights or instead rules them out. For Narveson, those who acquire property by innocent means are entitled to it, and anyone who tries to take it from them without their consent is violating their liberty; whereas for Sterba, preventing the poor from making use of the excess property of the affluent is a violation of the liberty of the poor to access resources they need, which is a more important liberty than that of the affluent to maintain control of such resources. In “Liberty vs. Welfare Rights – Continued,” Narveson marshals the principles of Innocent Possession and Open-Ended Use to defend the right of the first user as more consonant with the requirements of peaceful and productive human cooperation than the right of the neediest user; in “A Response to Narveson: Why Liberty Leads to Welfare and Beyond,” Sterba argues that a more defensible formulation of the principles of Innocent Possession and Open-Ended Use instead favours the neediest user over the first user.
  • In our previous issue, Gus diZerega argued that contemporary libertarians misunderstand and misapply their own key concepts, leading them to embrace an atomistic vision of society, and to overvalue the market while undervaluing empathy and democracy. The present issue features an exchange among diZerega, Chris Matthew Sciabarra, and myself on these matters, with particular attention to the interpretation of Ayn Rand, in contributions titled (from Sciabarra) “Reply to Gus diZerega on His Essay, ‘Turning the Tables: The Pathologies and Unrealized Promise of Libertarianism’,” (from diZerega) “Response to Chris Matthew Sciabarra,” and (from me) “It Ain’t Necessarily So: A Response to Gus diZerega.”

Want to order a copy? See the ordering information above.

Want to contribute an article to an upcoming issue? Head to the journal’s webpage.

Want to support this project financially? Make a donation to the Molinari Institute General Fund.

* Incidentally, I welcome Walter Block’s conversion to thick libertarianism – and look forward to his explanation of why his position here doesn’t really count as thick-libertarian. 😛

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