‘Liberalisme’ by Pascal Salin

This major book was published some 18 years ago but I do think it is worth publishing the review I wrote at that time. Of course several of Professor Salin’s propositions are now accepted and implemented in the field of economics. In France “libéralisme” is no longer an insult! However environmental issues are still dealt with “command and control” paying lip service to property rights and market («  Libéralisme » in French refers to free market and limited government)

Max Falque, January 2018

“A great surprise and even a real holiday reading! Its content is well worth the title… yet the word ‘liberalisme’ could be put in the plural, since it is true that the author develops a pure liberal thesis in counterpoint to liberalismes of circumstance on which many agree to face to the needs of the moment.

I admit that I hesitated to open that big book which I thought could be just a compilation, or even a plagiarism of many American books. It is not because its sources are largely French (Bastiat, Say, Constant, Rueff, Nemo, Lepage, Lemennicier, Lemieux, Laurent…) and Austrian (Menger, Popper, Hayek, von,…) and its references to the great American research contemporary (Rothbard, Rand, Olson, development…) do put into perspective the paradoxical “French exception”.

From the outset, Pascal Salin displays the principles that guide its approach. Indeed, the great merit of the book is to rely on the theoretical and moral foundations rather than on the market which is only a tool for the service of freedom and the dignity of man. “What characterizes the liberalisme is not the market economy (which) can exist even in the collectivist societies ‘ (p.10) the elements of the liberal triptych are: freedom, property, liability. “These concepts are obviously distinct from each other, but they are inseparable: there is no freedom without property and ownership is the basis for liability.” (p. 64)

The different fields (social protection, corporation, finance, land use, taxation,…) are widely but unevenly exposed convincing. Environmental field that interested me in particular, is well developed, relying on the many publications since 20 years in Great Britain in the United States and to a lesser extent in France [2]. However, the chapter of the movement in general and road safety in particular, is certainly interesting theoretically, but comes up against the reality of the dramatic figures. Want to demonstrate that “the speed does not kill” is part of the paradox, or even provocation because all the experience lived by everyone in the real aggressive traffic shows the opposite.

It sounds like the problem of freedom of the arms trade, a debate is raging in the United States. Certainly, it is never the gun that kills, but those who use it[3]. . Automotive or speed doesn’t kill, but the irresponsible driver. Yet in reality the possession of weapons and overspeeding vehicles are risk factors.

One of the most interesting chapters concerns the problem of immigration. The vanity and the ineffectiveness of current policies are well analysed in terms of public choice and Pascal Salin demonstrates that strict respect for individual and collective property rights appears as a fair and effective flow regulation mode migration in the respect of human dignity.

Pascal Salin, by exposing a non utilitarian liberalisme, masterfully made a useful intellectual and pioneering of ideas. He brings a strong pitch likely to take back to their real value pamphlets on the economic horror and other romance of the same type. He observes: ” France of today is not a liberal country but the problem is more cultural than political. All messages transmitted by the media or in educational institutions are essentially anti-liberal. (p. 41)

The real problem of liberalism is that its vision of man is optimistic, namely a mix of energy, individualism and taste for freedom and his fellow trade. Does this vision fits reality? Most men are looking for safety at the cost of enslavement, or even poverty. The success of constructivist thesis that socialism is the most perfect theory, lies precisely in the paradox well described by La Boétie and Orwell. At the utopia of ‘new man’ of Marxism, it would be unwise to substitute the illusion of ‘perfect human ‘. The real man is only exceptionally a hero or a saint, but it is true that institutions can contribute to make a slave or a free man.

In any case, the book of Pascal Salin does not leave indifferent. It irritates or will thrill, sometimes both at once. There is no doubt that with Raymond Aron and Jean François Revel, Pascal Salin has the courage and the talent of his opinions and will help our country to cast the shell of the social-statism that stifles debases it..

Far from being pessimistic, Pascal Salin paves the way for the reform: “a small number of universal rules are necessary and sufficient to make a society in a free society: recognition of property rights, freedom of contract (a natural consequence) and the exercise of responsibility which is made possible by the prior determination of property rights. (p. 495)

These proposals are fortunately akin to those more general masterfully exposed by Richard Epstein in his remarkable book Simple rules for a complex World.

We can only wish the encounter and the collaboration of Pascal Salin, the economist, and Epstein, the lawyer, to deepen the ways and means of the essential and desirable transition from welfare state to humanism in the 21st century.

 Max Falque