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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/12303/religious-radicalism-and-absolutist-moderation-in-16th-century-france/

Religious Radicalism and Absolutist Moderation in 16th-Century France

March 25, 2010 by

Calvin’s embattled followers, enjoying rising aspirations against non-Calvinist rulers, developed justifications for resistance to evil rulers. These were first set forth in the 1550s by the English “Marian exiles” in Switzerland and Germany. FULL ARTICLE by Murray N. Rothbard


fundamentalist March 25, 2010 at 10:09 am

“…the actual rise of capitalism in Catholic Italy, as well as in Antwerp and southern Germany.”

I would disagree with this statement of the origins of capitalism. I can understand why people place the origins of capitalism in those places, but I think those choices are based on a false definition of capitalism, one that identifies capitalism with advanced commerce.

In Austrian economics, capitalism should be identified with institutions that protect private property. Free markets are nothing but the implementation of property rights. According to the economic historian Angus Maddison (and others), the first state to fully protect property was the Dutch Republic. But there are other important distinctions, too. As Mises wrote, capitalism is mass production for the masses. The Italian state, Antwerp and Southern Germany were still tied to production by craftsmen for the wealthy. And in Venice in particular, the state used its military to give it a monopoly on trade between Europe and the Ottoman Empire. The state also owned the huge ship building business.

I would go so far as to call the Italian city/state, Antwerp and Southern Germany proto-capitalist and the Dutch certainly borrowed a lot from them. But if you read “The Dutch Republic” by Harvard historian Jonathan Israel and “The First Modern Economy” by De Vries, you’ll find that what the Dutch did was revolutionary and far different from what the Italian city-states, Antwerp and Southern Germany did. Also, “The Disciplinary Revolution” describes the radical change in institutions that took place in the Dutch Republic.

Finally, Adam Smith did not cite the Italian city/states, Antwerp or Southern Germany as examples of his system of natural liberty. He did cite the Dutch Republic many times as the best example.

LetUsHavePeace March 25, 2010 at 10:25 am

Rothbard’s understandably angry screed against Max Weber’s version of history offers yet another example of the perniciousness of the term “capitalism”. It is not a word that can be used intelligently in any discussion about freedom in human action. Capitalism does have meaning in a Marxist vocabulary; it describes the presence of financial accounting and money trade and, as the previous commenter noted, mass production for the masses. But those elements can exist in a society that actively prohibits freedom of worship, speech and conscience.

Chalcedon March 25, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Thank you for the article. I have a different understanding of Calvin’s teaching regarding the citizen’s interaction with civil government. Says Calvin, in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, “But in that obedience which we hold to be due to the commands of rulers, we must always make the exception, nay, must be particularly careful that it is not incompatible with obedience to Him to whose will the wishes of all kings should be subject, to whose decrees their commands must yield, to whose majesty their scepters must bow. And, indeed, how preposterous were it, in pleasing men to incur the offence of Him for whose sake you obey men! The Lord, therefore, is King of kings. When he opens his sacred mouth, he alone is to be heard, instead of all and above all. We are subject to the men who rule over us, but subject only in the Lord. If they command anything against him let us not pay the least regard to it, nor be moved by all the dignity which they possess as magistrates – a dignity to which no injury is done when it is subordinated to the special and truly supreme power of God.”

Guy Crouchback March 28, 2010 at 3:32 am

An characteristically enlightening text on neglected pioneers of liberal thought. I agree with Rothbard that the Weberian link between protestantism and capitalism is overdone. The early rise of the merchant class in Catholic areas seems to me to be a convincing argument. And there is something deeply liberatarian about the “ultramontane” strand of French catholicism as well. As for monopolies and trade restrictions, these were rife in Britain and much of the protestant world until the 18th century at least. One minor quibble: shouldn’t those French kings be spelt “Henri”?

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