Gustave de Molinari 101: A Life Dedicated to Liberty
Zatrun Published at March 30, 2023

Gustave de Molinari was born on March 3, 1819 in Liège, Belgium and died on January 28, 1912 in Adinkerque, France. He was a leading representative of classical liberalism in France during the second half of the 19th century.

Gustave de Molinari fought against protectionism, statism, militarism, colonialism, and socialism until his nineties. As a theorist of the French Liberal School, he maintained a liberal perspective throughout his life and in this article, you can find more about him.

Who is Gustave de Molinari?

Molinari’s father, Philippe, was a doctor in Napoleon’s army and later settled in Liège. Gustave de Molinari, who was born in Wallonia in 1819, lived a comfortable life in an industrialising provincial city. Although he started medical education influenced by his father, he began working as a journalist in his youth. When he moved to Paris in the early 1840s, he decided to continue his career as a journalist. In his early years in Paris, he became acquainted with liberal ideas and became a strong advocate.

He joined the Political Economy Society and became an active member of the Free Trade Society, where he met other French liberals, especially Frederic Bastiat. Initially supporting the 1848 revolution, Molinari quickly opposed the rising socialist movement. In response to the course of the revolution, he wrote important works such as “Les Soirées de la rue Saint-Lazare” (1849) and “De la Production de la Sécurité”. After the revolution and the establishment of the Republic, Molinari continued to write about liberal literature.

Gustave de Molinari authored articles supporting free trade for the “Dictionnaire de l’économie politique” book. These articles mostly criticised militarism, colonialism, and slavery. After President Louis Napoleon’s coup in 1851, he moved to Belgium in protest. He settled in Brussels and became a professor of political economy at the Royal Museum of Industry in Belgium. During this time, he published several articles against state education and an important study on economics and politics called “Cours d’Economie politique”.

Molinari’s Ideas in Economics

Gustave de Molinari was a keen observer of real people and living conditions. In addition to several trips to Russia, he travelled to North America three times, during which he also visited the Caribbean and Central America. Molinari extensively travelled in Europe as well, carefully observing the working conditions of the poor and the working class. He advocated for free trade, the promotion of people’s free movement in Europe, and the establishment of a pan-European customs union.

Molinari’s criticisms resulted in opposing cases and events that seemed to be in line with the criticism of general power and privileges. For example, Gustave believed that the American Civil War was more about the commercial interests of Northern industrialists than about slavery. However, he did not deny that the abolition of slavery was also part of the picture. According to Ralph Raico, Molinari did not shy away from emphasising this point even in his last work.

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