The Production of Security (De la production de la securité) by Gustave de Molinari

Gustave de Molinari‘s famous essay, “The Production of Security“, has an interesting role in the development of free market thought. Molinari was born in Belgium in 1819. By the 1840s he was living in France where he became steeped in the then living tradition of free market thought that was flourishing at that time. This was the era of the successors of Jean-Baptiste Say: Charles Comte, Charles Dunoyer, Frederic Bastiat, etc. While these great thinkers constantly questioned the role of the state in various endeavors and correctly concluded that private markets would out perform the state, they stopped short of following their logic to its natural conclusion: a stateless society. Interestingly, the one hangup which these thinkers were not able to overcome is the provision of security, police forces and armies for internal and external defense. Molinari’s great achievement was to point out that provision of security is simply a service, as such, the free market will produce a better service at lower cost than a government monopoly. Murray Rothbard [1] noted that Molinari’s arguments were rejected by his contemporary free market thinkers as being too radical. They were clearly of the mindset that the state must necessarily exist. Molinari points out:

If there is one well-established truth in political economy, it is this:

That in all cases, for all commodities that serve to provide for the tangible or intangible needs of the consumer, it is in the consumer’s best interest that labor and trade remain free, because the freedom of labor and of trade have as their necessary and permanent result the maximum reduction of price.

And this:

That the interests of the consumer of any commodity whatsoever should always prevail over the interests of the producer.

Now in pursuing these principles, one arrives at this rigorous conclusion:

That the production of security should, in the interests of the consumers of this intangible commodity, remain subject to the law of free competition.

Furthermore, Molinari noted the problems of a government monopoly of security services:
If, on the contrary, the consumer is not free to buy security wherever he pleases, you forthwith see open up a large profession dedicated to arbitrariness and bad management. justice becomes slow and costly, the police vexatious, individual liberty is no longer respected, the price of security is abusively inflated and inequitably apportioned, according to the power and influence of this or that class of consumers.

Reading Molinari’s essay today, it is easy to loose sight of how radical it was when published 150+ years ago. He is still a radical, but due to his influence on men such as Benjamin Tucker, Murray Rothbard, and Hans Hoppe, he is now considered a mainstream thinker in the anarcho-capitalist tradition.

[1] See Rothbard’s introduction to Molinari’s essay. Also, Chapter 14 of Rothbard’s “Classical Economics. Vol. 2. An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought“.

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