Econlib

The Library

Other Sites

Front Page arrow Quotations arrow Other Quotes arrow Week of 27 January, 2006

Quotations about Liberty and Power

About this Quotation:

Henry Clark selected this passage in his anthology Commerce, Culture and Liberty: Readings on Capitalism Before Adam Smith (published by Liberty Fund, 2003). He rightly points to the somewhat neglected but important contribution made by French authors such as Montesquieu, Turgot, Voltaire, Gournay, and Condillac. A common perception, especially among contemporary Europeans, is that free market ideas are a pernicious “Anglo-Saxon” phenomenon, when in fact, they have deep roots in Francophone culture.

Other quotes about Economics:

27 January, 2006

static/Montesquieu250.jpg

Montesquieu thought that commerce improves manners and cures “the most destructive prejudices” (1748)

Read the full quote in context here.

Montesquieu, like many writers in the 18th century, thought that commerce would have more than just economic benefits for societies. It would also improve morals.

Commerce is a cure for the most destructive prejudices; for it is almost a general rule, that whereever we find agreeable manners, there commerce flourishes; and that wherever there is commerce, there we meet with agreeable manners.
Let us not be astonished, then, if our manners are now less savage than formerly. Commerce has every where diffused a knowledge of the manners of all nations; these are compared one with another, and from this comparison arise the greatest advantages.
Commercial laws, it may be said, improve manners, for the same reason as they destroy them. They corrupt the purest morals; this was the subject of Plato’s complaints: and we every day see, that they polish and refine the most barbarous.

The full passage from which this quotation was taken can be be viewed below (front page quote in bold):

Commerce is a cure for the most destructive prejudices; for it is almost a general rule, that whereever we find agreeable manners, there commerce flourishes; and that wherever there is commerce, there we meet with agreeable manners.

Let us not be astonished, then, if our manners are now less savage than formerly. Commerce has every where diffused a knowledge of the manners of all nations; these are compared one with another, and from this comparison arise the greatest advantages.

Commercial laws, it may be said, improve manners, for the same reason as they destroy them. They corrupt the purest morals; this was the subject of Plato’s complaints: and we every day see, that they polish and refine the most barbarous.

[More works by Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu (1689 – 1755)]