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Fernando R. Tesón, “Hugo Grotius on War and the State” [March, 2014]


Hugo Grotius (1583-1645)


The place that Grotius holds in the history of international law and the laws which regulate war and peace is one that has been recognized at least since the 18th century, but more especially in the treaties and international agreements which emerged out of the major conflicts of the 20th century. In this discussion we want to explore what Grotius thought about the proper relationship between the laws of nature and the laws of nations, what limits (if any) can be legitimately and rightly placed on the conduct of states engaged in war, and to ask ourselves whether his insights have any relevance today. Another issue which will be debated is where does Grotius sit in the history of the classical liberal tradition? Do his ideas reinforce the power of the monarch (or modern state) to do practically anything they wish, or do they place real and binding restraints on what is permissible when one enters a state of war? Is he merely a transitional figure, or does his theory of the Rights of Peace have a more radical libertarian interpretation? The text under discussion is Liberty Fund's 3 volume edition of Hugo Grotius, The Rights of War and Peace (2005).

Lead Essay: Fernando R. Tesón, “Hugo Grotius on War and the State”

Responses and Critiques:

  1. Hans W. Blom
  2. Paul Carrese
  3. Eric Mack
Lawrence White, "Mises's Theory of Money and Credit at 101" [January, 2014]


2012 was the 100th anniversary of the publication of Ludwig von Mises’ book Theorie des Geldes und der Umlaufsmittel (The Theory of Money and Credit). In this month’s “Liberty Matters” online discussion our participants debate the importance of Mises’ work as the next step in the application of Austrian economic insights into monetary theory, and in the formulation of a unique Austrian Theory of the Business Cycle (ATBC) which was further developed by Friedrich Hayek and Murray Rothbard. The soundness of his theory of money is tested against the recent emergence of a new form of currency known as Bitcoin.

Larry White calls TMC “an intellectual treasure chest” and he identifies 4 key contributions which Mises made, namely it was the first work to use marginal-utility analysis to explain money demand and thence to explain the purchasing power of the monetary unit and its variation; it marked a major departure in business-cycle theory by incorporating capital theory to explain real features of cycles; it provided a modern “purchasing power parity” theory of exchange rates; and it spelled out the role of competition among banks of issue in regulating the quantity of fractional-reserve bank-issued money.

White’s essay is commented upon by Jörg Guido Hülsmann, Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, and George Selgin. Hülsmann focuses on Mises’ use of the regression theorem to explain the emergence of money and applies this to the recent emergence of Bitcoins; Hummel points out some historical examples in 19th century America which challenge Mises’ notion of the regression theorem and the lack of agreement among modern advocates of the ATBC about the impact of any credit expansion, whether by central or by private banks; and Selgin who questions Mises’ commitment to free banking, his continued adherence to some false views of the 19th century currency school, and his opposition to a voluntary fractional reserve system which might emerge in a free banking system.

Lead Essay: Lawrence H. White, “Ludwig von Mises’s The Theory of Money and Credit at 101”

Responses and Critiques

  1. Jörg Guido Hülsmann, “Mises and His First-Best Option”
  2. Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, “Mises, the Regression Theorem, and Free Banking” [tba]
  3. George Selgin, “Mises Was Lukewarm on Free Banking” [tba]


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