John Taylor and the rhetoric of liberty and tyranny (1814)

The Jeffersonian Republican John Taylor (1753-1824) warns us against the abuse of political phrases which are often used “to gull prejudice and varnish tyranny” by powerful vested interests:

John Lilburne shows defiance to the tyrants who would force him to pay tythes to the Church (1648)

The Leveller soldier and pamphleteer John Lilburne (1615-1657) was imprisoned many times for his beliefs during the 1630s and onwards. In this pamphlet “A Defiance to Tyrants” (Jan. 1648) he says he has an obligation to refuse to obey unjust laws, such as compulsory payments to the Church:

Adam Smith on the dangers of faction and privilege seeking (1759)

Smith argues that “hostile factions” are constantly struggling to gain new government privileges and protect the ones they already have:

Algernon Sidney on how the absolute state treats its people like cattle (1698)

The English radical republican Algernon Sidney (1623-1683) argues that absolute rule over others means that the people are treated like so many oxen who are only fed so “that they may be strong for labour, or fit for slaughter”:

Henry George on the scramble to get government favors known as trade “protection” (1886)

The late 19th century American free trader Henry George (1839-1897) dismisses the argument that governments can identify which industries truly deserve government favors like trade protection. Instead we are likely to see a “scramble” for such favors at the pubic trough:

William Fox on the hypocrisy of those who do not want to be dependent on foreign trade (1844)

The English M.P. and free trade orator William Johnson Fox (1786-1864) points out the hypocrisy of the protectionists who urge the nation to put “England First” by only buying things made there:

Mises on how the “boon” of a tariff privilege is soon dissipated (1949)

The Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) argued in Human Action that those granted the political privilege of tariff protection enjoyed a boon that would be short lived as the gains would be competed away by new entrants:

Tocqueville warns how administrative despotism might come to a democracy like America (1840)

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) predicted that above the “crowd of similar and equal men” in a democracy will emerge “an immense and tutelary power” which will create a new kind of despotism:

Charles Murray on the pursuit of happiness (1988)

The American policy analyst Charles Murray cogently observes that people do not need to be taught how to pursue happiness since they do this naturally and spontaneously, “unless impeded”:

Bastiat on disbanding the standing army and replacing it with local militias (1847)

The French economist and free trade activist Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) dreams of slashing the size of the French government’s budget by abolishing the standing army and replacing it with local militias:

Diderot argues that the laws must be based upon natural rights and be made for all and not for one (1755)

The editor of the Encyclopédie, Denis Diderot (1713-1784), wrote a provocative article on “Natural Rights” (1755) in which he argued that by reasoning about the human condition a set of universally valid principles could be derived which were applicable to Kings, aristocrats, and ordinary people alike:

Mises on cosmopolitan cooperation and peace (1927)

The Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) was no advocate of “Germany or Austria First”. He preferred instead a “cosmopolitan and ecumenical” liberalism and humanism:

Diderot on the nature of political authority (1751)

The editor of the great 18th century French Encyclopedia, Denis Diderot (1713-1784), opened the project with an essay challenging the very nature of Kingly political authority in mid-18th century France:

Michel Montaigne on the danger of becoming accustomed to state power (1580)

The French Renaissance sceptic and humanist Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) warned that those who are “inured to monarchy” do not hate “subjection itself” but crave any “master” they can find to live under:

Guizot on the legitimacy of state power and its limits (1851)

The French historian and politician François Guizot (1787-1874) reflects on the nature of political power and the role of representative government in keeping it within limits. He believed the “will of the people” had to be strictly limited by “reason, justice, and truth” in order not to violate the liberty of others:

Guizot on liberty and reason (1851)

The French historian and politician François Guizot (1787-1874) argues that the exercise of political power over others is only legitimate in so far as it conforms to reason:

Sumner on the industrial system as an example of social co-operation (c. 1900)

The American sociologist William Graham Sumner (1840-1910) argued that the accumulation of capital by peaceful productive activity required the cooperation of millions of people across the globe and resulted in mankind rising above the level of “the brute”:

Herbert Spencer on “the seen” and “the unseen” consequences of the actions of politicians (1884)

The English radical individualist Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) criticizes politicians for focusing only on the “direct” and “proximate” consequences of the legislation they introduce, and ignoring the “indirect” or “remote” consequences.“ He believes the "political momentum” they have created will lead to a new form of slavery:

Mises on wealth creation and stopping the spirit of predatory militarism (1949)

Ludwig von Mises notes that western Europe developed economically first because it was able to check the wealth destroying “spirit of predatory militarism” first:

Herbert Spencer notes that traditionally the growth in government revenue has come about because of war (1882)

In his discussion of the origin of the state and the elites which control it, Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) notes that war enabled a king to loot not only those he conquered but also increasingly his own citizens or subjects in order to fund it:

Thomas Gordon on how people are frightened into giving up their liberties (1722)

Thomas Gordon (1692-1750) thought that people willingly gave up their liberties in order to be saved from some perceived threat. Unfortunately, the “savior” all too often destroyed their liberties as a consequence:

Shakespeare on the ruler who has “the power to hurt and will do none” (1609)

A political reading of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 94 (1609) is that he admires the ruler who has the “power to hurt and will do none”. A ruler who follows this practice will, he predicts, “inherit heaven’s graces”:

The Levellers’ Declaration of Independence (March 1647)

In the “Large Petition” of March 1647 the Levellers unsuccessfully demanded that Parliament introduce many reforms to protect the rights of “free born Englishmen” in what may rightly be called their “Declaration of Independence” from both kingly and parliamentary tyranny:

Adam Smith on why people obey and defer to their rulers (1759)

In the Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) Adam Smith (1723-1790) reflects on why so many people defer to authority, especially to monarchs and the nobility:

Jeremy Bentham argued that the ruling elite benefits from corruption, waste, and war (1827)

According to Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) the “ruling one” (the monarch) along with its companion group, “the sub-ruling few” (the establishment), have an interest in creating or maintaining corruption, waste, and war: