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WHAT IS CIVIL LIBERTY?

[1889]

It might seem that liberty was one of the most trite and worn of all subjects. It will be the aim of this essay to show that liberty is the least well analyzed of all the important social conceptions, that it is the thing at stake in the most important current controversies, and that it needs to be defended as much against those who abuse it as against those who deride it.

In the first place, I put together some citations which will, I think, justify me in bringing this subject forward again.

1. Rodbertus is the one of the recent socialists with

whom it is best worth while to deal, for he is the master of them all. He is also best understood in his writings on Roman taxation, in which his historical text and his social dogmas throw important light on each other. He defines liberty to be a share in the power of the state.[1] He then defines "free trade," in the following pages, so as to make it cover all civil liberty, according to Anglo-American institutions, and attributes to free trade, in this sense, no less harm than the destruction of civilization. It is amusing to notice how this denunciation of free trade, which it would have been so satisfactory for the opponents of free trade to quote, has been fenced off and marked with the strongest kind of a danger-signal, so that it is never quoted at all, because it is an assault

  1. Hildebrand's "Jahrbücher," V, 269.