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"The Tradition of Spontaneous Order"; Barry, Norman
6 paragraphs found.
The Tradition of Spontaneous Order

Bastiat and de Molinari


The leading figures in France were Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850) and Gustave de Molinari (1819-1912). One reason why they have not been taken as seriously as they deserve as theorists of spontaneous order is that they contributed little in the way of original theory to economics. Bastiat is largely known as a brilliant economic journalist and tireless exposer of statist and protectionist fallacies, and de Molinari as a relentless advocate of the logic of laissez-faire towards a version of free market (and lawful) anarchy.


Although, for example, Hayek's admiration of Bastiat extends only to his feats as a polemicist, he is worth further study because his novelty lay not in economic theory but in general social philosophy; in the theory of law and government. One reason why Hayek pays no attention to this is that, although Bastiat comes up with a theory of limited government and an explanation of the ultimate harmony that automatically results from the free play of economic forces, the foundation for this conclusion is rather different from others in the tradition that Hayek admires.


In a word Bastiat was a rationalist; he deduced his theory of limited government and economic harmony directly from an abstract theory of natural law and natural rights. While he was indefatigable in his demonstrations of the beneficial consequences that inevitably flow from freedom and exposure of the dis-coordinating actions of government, his ultimate justification for liberty lay in an essentialist concept of man abstracted from time and place. In his work on jurisprudence, The Law, Bastiat espouses an individualist view of law and justice that derives not from those natural propensities and passions, as in Hume and Smith, but from reason, and ultimately God: "Each person has a natural right—from God—to defend his person, his liberty and his property."[42] It is just this that the anti-rationalists reject on the ground that 'nature' does not furnish us with a permanent and universal standard of conduct independently of experience. This means that whereas Bastiat deduced the relationship between the individual and government axiomatically from the first principle of liberty—that each man has the right to protect his life, liberty and property—the evolutionary approach suggests that the ideal working of a social system is too complex to be captured in a simple formula, that no abstract system of rules can be rationally devised which can accommodate all future unknown cases.

Frederic Bastiat, The Law, p. 6.
The Tradition of Spontaneous Order, Bibliography

Bastiat, Frederic. The Law. New York: Foundation for Economic Education, 1950.

——. Economic Harmonies. New York: Foundation for Economic Education, 1964.