The Problem of War

The Problem of War

Copyright Date: 1946
Pages: 346
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    The Problem of War
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    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7863-5
    Subjects: Economics, Political Science
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. PREFACE (pp. vii-x)
    E. S.
  3. Table of Contents (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. BOOK ONE. The Classical School
    • [BOOK ONE. Introduction] (pp. 1-2)

      As is well known, the classical school is of English origin; but its influence upon nineteenth century economic thought has made itself felt in all countries of the continent. Nowhere, however, was it as pronounced and as lasting as in France, and in no other country did liberals pay as much attention to the problem of war. Hence the division of Book One into two parts devoted respectively to the English classics and to the French liberals.

      The English classical school of the nineteenth century opens with the works of two illustrious economists—Thomas Robert Malthus and David Ricardo. Among...

    • Part One. English Classics
      • I. MALTHUS (pp. 3-15)

        The most renowned English economist at the beginning of the nineteenth century, Thomas Robert Malthus,¹ studies the demographic phase of war in his famousEssay on the Principle of Population.The first (anonymous) edition² contains some observations on armed conflict, but they are little more than obiter dicta of small importance. In 1803 Malthus published a second edition of hisEssay,considerably enlarged and appreciably modified, this time under his own name: it met with outstanding success. Four further editions appeared during his lifetime. While the first edition does not profess to inquire into the problem of war, in the...

      • II. RICARDO (pp. 16-36)

        It is at first blush astonishing that David Ricardo,¹ who witnessed the innumerable military conflicts of the Revolution and the Empire, should have left no systematic account on the relationship of war and economics. It is possible, however, to fill this gap by grouping the relevant texts scattered through his work.

        Ricardo brings out his position on the various aspects of war in several of his writings:Essay on the Influence of a Low Price of Corn on the Profits of Stock (1815), Proposals for an Economical and Secure Currency (1816), Essay on the Funding System (1820), Principles of Political...

      • III. JAMES MILL (pp. 37-50)

        It is mainly in a piece of polemics against Thomas Spence (1750-1814) and William Cobbett (1763-1835) that James Mill¹ studies the problem of war. In 1807 James Mill published a treatise under the rather long title ofCommerce Defended. An Answer to the Arguments by which Mr. Spence, Mr. Cobbett and Others, Have Attempted to Prove that Commerce Is Not a Source of National Wealth.It is chiefly in this piece of polemics, a true apology of trade, that he studies the problem of war. A critical analysis of the ideas of his opponents offers him the opportunity to express...

      • IV. MacCULLOCH AND JOHN STUART MILL (pp. 51-68)

        John Ramsay MacCulloch, known above all as the popularizer of Ricardo’s work, devotes much space to the problem of war. He examines it in hisDiscourse on the Rise, Progress, Peculiar Objects and Importance of Political Economy(1824) and in hisPrinciples of Political Economy(1825), a manual widely used prior to that of John Stuart Mill. His analysis faithfully expresses the liberal point of view and for this reason deserves being noted even today.

        John Stuart Mill’s observations on the problem of war are interesting but small in number. They are found scattered in several of his writings:Principles...

    • Part Two. The French Liberals
      • V. JEAN-BAPTISTE SAY (pp. 69-91)

        In his ideas on war, Jean-Baptiste Say¹ shows a good deal of originality. He deduces a pacific doctrine from the system he callsindustrialist.In his theory of markets (loi des débouchés) he believes he has found more than a remedy for commercial crises: the basis of a new conception of international relations.

        He systematically develops his views on war in two works: theTraité d’economie politique(1803) and theCours complet d’économie politique pratique(1828-1829). The latter is only an amplification of the former. TheTraitécontains a section on the expenditure connected with the army and theCours,...

      • VI. BASTIAT (pp. 92-113)

        The initiator and apostle of the free-trade movement in France, Frédéric Bastiat,¹ is the most illustrious representative of the Optimist School. As a theoretician he is certainly not comparable to the great lights of economic science: Quesnay, Smith, or Ricardo. None the less, his work is remarkable. He summed up the wholly optimistic and enthusiastic social dream, of one or two generations of economists. As one of his best biographers notes, hisHarmonies économiques,“are not so much an original work as a revival of the ancient optimism of the physiocrats, corrected by more recent theories.”²

        This book, which was...

      • VII. MOLINARI (pp. 114-130)

        Few economists have devoted so much attention to the problem of war as Gustave de Molinari.¹ This question was of great interest to him throughout his career. In hisEtudes économiques(1846, p. 25), his first publication, he already proclaims the thesis which he will defend untiringly during his entire life: “War, in ceasing to be the safeguard of civilization, has ceased to have araison d’être.His articles in theDictionnaire de L’économie politique(1852-1854), his study on the Abbé de Saint-Pierre (1857), his Projetd’Association pour l’établissement d’une Ligue des neutres(first published in the LondonTimesof July...

  5. BOOK TWO. The Protectionists
    • [BOOK TWO. Introduction] (pp. 131-133)

      Having considered the chief liberals of the nineteenth century, let us now study the best known representatives of protectionism.

      Protectionism is no less universally diffused than liberalism. It has partisans everywhere. Nor is it of recent date, for its origins go back to mercantilism. But in the nineteenth century it found an able advocate in Friedrich List, who gave it a new theoretical foundation. No other economist has so much contributed to its diffusion as the author of theNational System of Political Economy.It goes without saying that the economic and political evolution in Germany and other continental European...

    • VIII. LIST (pp. 134-151)

      The factor of war determines the entire thought of Friedrich List.¹ One might doubtless observe that in the last analysis his doctrine is shaped by the idea of nationality. But, since in his mind the existence of the nation is closely linked with a continuous struggle among peoples, for which every one of them must always be ready, it is none the less true and sufficient for our purpose to say that the factor of war governs and molds his conceptions. One may even add that no other great economist of the nineteenth century was as much under its influence...

    • IX. LIST (continued) (pp. 152-171)

      A universal union whereby all nations would recognize one and the same system of law and would renounce self-redress is feasible according to List. But it can be carried into effect only at some future period when many nations will have attained to a nearly equal, and high, degree of industry, of civilization, and of power. Freedom of trade can expand only through the gradual formation of this world association which is alone able to ensure to all peoples those great advantages of which politically united provinces and States today offer a shining example.

      In List’s opinion, the protective system...


      As early as the opening of the nineteenth century, Sismondi wrote in the preface of hisRichesse commerciale:“Political economy is based on the study of man and of men; one must know human nature, the condition and fate of societies in various periods and in different places; one must consult historians and travelers; one must see for oneself.”

      List, too, wanted political economy to draw its lessons from experience. For him, history is one of the elements on which economic science must found its reasonings. Yet in addition it must largely take into account both politics and philosophy. To...


      Having originated in Germany, the historical method has found followers in other countries. We propose to examine several among these, who have discussed more or less at length the relations between the economic and war, namely Cliffe Leslie, Thorold Rogers, Laveleye, Levasseur, and Cunningham. We shall not consider here those who say very little or nothing on the subject, Bagehot for example, who looks at war from the Darwinian standpoint, and Toynbee, who looks upon peace as a religious ideal.¹ The partisans of the historical method outside Germany do not form a school properly speaking. What they have in common...

  6. BOOK THREE. The Socialists
    • [BOOK THREE. Introduction] (pp. 213-214)

      The liberals and the protectionists study the relations between war and the economic on the assumption that the economic regime or, more exactly, the economic basis, of society, is fixed and not subject to change. Not that they consider society as something static: on the contrary, they talk a good deal about economic and social progress and about its determining factors. The liberals see in free trade the system most suited to peace and social progress, from the national as from the international point of view. The protectionists believe that national progress is best served by an intelligent protection given...

    • XII. SAINT-SIMON AND HIS SECT (pp. 215-231)

      Henri de saint-simon is not a socialist in the proper sense of the term. In the economic field he ties up with Jean-Baptiste Say, whose liberal and industrialist doctrine he reaffirms. He does, however, blaze the trail for socialism by his critique of the economic order of his time. His disciples, scholars and mystics, grouped after his death in a religious sect, draw from his ideas socialist consequences, which are, by the way, quite reconcilable with his industrial system.

      The Saint-Simonian school—one of the first and most interesting manifestations of nineteenth century socialism—advocates the abolition of inheritance and...

    • XIII. IDEALIST SOCIALISM (pp. 232-249)

      Marx and Engels habitually opposed their own “materialist” system (in the philosophical sense of the term) to “idealist” socialism. The present chapter is devoted to the most important representatives of the latter (excluding the Saint-Simonians): Robert Owen, Charles Fourier (and his disciples Victor Considérant and André Godin), Constantin Pecqueur, François Vidal, and Louis Blanc.

      All these authors do not pay the same amount of attention to the problem of war. Some, such as Owen (1771-1858), Vidal (1812-1872), and Louis Blanc (1811-1882), hardly express an opinion on the subject. Others, such as Fourier (1772-1837), Considérant (1808-1893), and Godin (1817-1888) devote whole...

    • XIV. MARX AND ENGELS (pp. 250-279)

      The founders of materialist socialism—Marx¹ and Engels²—do not examine, explicitly and systematically, the problem of war. One finds in their works numerous pages on wars and, by collecting them, one could easily make a heavy volume; but one would look in vain for a theoretical inquiry into the problem of war and peace. This fact deserves being pointed out all the more because these two writers have thrown into relief the interdependence of the economic and war. They have also evinced, notably Engels, considerable interest in strategy. It is astonishing that Marx and Engels, sociologists and economists though...


    The reader will have found, we believe, in this somewhat lengthy study, if not a complete picture, at least an exact sketch of nineteenth century economic doctrines on war. At the close of the book we may be permitted to formulate briefly a few general conclusions as well as to make some final observations which appear to us to be of some interest.

    I. The main economic currents of the nineteenth century, liberalism, economic nationalism, and socialism adopt different attitudes toward war.

    1. For the liberals war is a phenomenon economically and socially harmful. In their view it is one...

  8. BIBLIOGRAPHY (pp. 299-324)
  9. INDEX (pp. 325-332)


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