Libertarian History/Philosophy

Classical Liberalism, Depression, and War


At Standpoint, Jeremy Jennings offers a superb portrait of an August 1938 meeting that brought some of the world's leading classical liberals together in Paris:

The event in question took place over four days in an obscure building, the Musée Social, just off the Boulevard Saint-Germain in Paris at the end of August, 1938. Present were some 26 academics, business people and writers, mostly from Europe, but including the American commentator and journalist Walter Lippmann (who, as it turned out, was in Paris on honeymoon at the time). Also in attendance, apart from the young Raymond Aron, were some of Europe's leading economists: Louis Rougier and Jacques Rueff from France, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich von Hayek of the Austrian School, and two Germans, both living in exile, Wilhelm Röpke and Alexander Rüstow. Although invited, neither the future Italian President Luigi Einaudi nor the Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset was able to attend.

The immediate cause of this coming together was the publication of a French version of Lippmann's An Inquiry into the Principles of the Good Society by the Librarie de Médicis, the same publisher that had also recently published Rougier's Les Mystiques Economiques and von Mises's anti-collectivist broadside, Socialism. The wider context was the challenge to liberalism and the free market posed by the rise of a generalised state interventionism in the form of planning, corporatism and socialism. Capitalism seemed on the brink of systemic failure and for many it was capitalism itself that was to blame. Its decline and its end appeared inevitable.

As Jennings notes, the issues these men addressed weren't so very different from those facing us today: What caused the economic crisis? Should governments intervene to save large firms from bankruptcy? Would the free market survive?

The whole piece, which is well worth your time, is here. Back in January 2005, Nick Gillespie discussed Hayek's enduring lessons about bad planning, distributed information, and the liberating power of choice with biographer Bruce Caldwell. In May 1997, Brian Doherty described how Mises' papers were lost first to the Nazis and then to the Russians, only to be rediscovered in Moscow by American economist Richard Ebeling.

(Via Liberty & Power)