April 20, 2005 Leave a comment
Authentic German Liberalism of the 19th Century
by Ralph Raico
In this essay, liberalism will be understood to mean the doctrine which holds that society — that is, the social order minus the state — more or less runs itself, within the bounds of assured individual rights. In the classical statement, these are the rights to life, liberty, and property.
This is closer to the French meaning of lib�ralisme, rather than the meaning that liberalism has acquired in the United States, Britain, Canada, even in Germany and other countries. In this respect, the French have remained true to the original and historical conception of liberalism. It is not by accident that the French term laissez-faire is used throughout the world as a synonym for the freely-functioning economy.
Finally, there is an enhanced consciousness that liberal ideas have never been limited to English-speaking nations. That used to be the prevailing view in Britain and the United States. To take one example: for a long while, virtually the only French liberal thinker of the nineteenth century who was discussed was Alexis de Tocqueville. Even major surveys of modern political thought — for instance, the two-volume work by John Plamenatz of Oxford — did not even mention Benjamin Constant, and it is only recently that a few of Constant’s more important political writings have been made available in English.
And if that is the case with Benjamin Constant, it is easy to imagine how little justice has been done to the Censeur Europ�en group, to Fr�d�ric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, or to the myriad of other contributors to the Journal des �conomistes, which was produced in Paris for a century by successive generations of writers — right up to June, 1940 — and which was the greatest liberal journal ever published anywhere.
Read the rest: http://mises.org/story/1787