Gustave de Molinari

Gustave de Molinari
Born 3 March 1819
Liège, United Kingdom of the Netherlands
Died 28 January 1912(1912-01-28) (aged 92)
Adinkerke, Belgium
Nationality Belgian
School or
Classical liberalism
Influences Frédéric Bastiat
Influenced Paul Émile de Puydt, Murray Rothbard, Benjamin Tucker

Gustave de Molinari (3 March 1819 – 28 January 1912) was a political economist and classical liberal theorist born in Liège, in the Walloon region of Belgium, and was associated with French laissez-faire economists such as Frédéric Bastiat and Hippolyte Castille. Living in Paris during the 1840s, he participated with the Ligue pour la Liberté des Échanges (Free Trade League), based on the theories of Frédéric Bastiat. On his death bed in 1850, Bastiat described Molinari as the continuator of his works. In 1849, soon after The Revolutions of 1848 in France, Molinari published two works: an essay, "The Production of Security", and a book, Les Soirées de la Rue Saint-Lazare, describing how a market in justice and protection could advantageously replace the state.

During the 1850s, Molinari fled to Belgium to escape threats from France's Emperor Napoleon III. He returned to Paris during the 1860s to work for the influential newspaper, Le Journal des Débats, which he edited from 1871 to 1876. Molinari later edited the Journal des Économistes, the publication of the French Political Economy Society, from 1881 until 1909. In his 1899 book, The Society of Tomorrow, he proposed a federated system of collective security, and reiterated his support for private competing defense agencies.

Molinari's critique of the state sometimes resulted in him opposing causes and events which might seemingly be aligned with his overall critique of power and privilege. An example of this was the American Civil War, which Molinari be believed to be far more about the trade interests of northern industrialists than about slavery (though he did not deny that abolitionism was a part of the picture). "In his last work, published a year before his death in 1912, Molinari never relented:[1]

The American Civil War had not been simply a humanitarian crusade to free the slaves. The war "ruined the conquered provinces", but the Northern plutocrats pulling the strings achieved their aim: the imposition of a vicious protectionism that led ultimately "to the regime of trusts and produced the billionaires."

Molinari's grave is located at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France.


Some anarcho-capitalists consider Molinari to be the first proponent of anarcho-capitalism.[1] In the preface to the 1977 English translation Murray Rothbard called "The Production of Security" the "first presentation anywhere in human history of what is now called anarcho-capitalism" though admitting that "Molinari did not use the terminology, and probably would have balked at the name." Austrian School economist Hans-Hermann Hoppe says that "the 1849 article 'The Production of Security' is probably the single most important contribution to the modern theory of anarcho-capitalism."[2] In the past, Molinari influenced some of the political thoughts of individualist anarchist Benjamin Tucker and the Liberty circle.[3]

The market anarchist Molinari Institute, directed by philosopher Roderick Long, is named after Molinari, whom it terms the "originator of the theory of Market Anarchism."[4]

References and notes

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