Romanticism was a cultural movement in the 19th century, which changed art, music and literature. It came after neo-classicism, which had sought to organize and rationalize the over extravagant baroque era.

There are several themes in romanticism. There was an intense interest in the distant past, particularly the Middle Ages. Also, nationalism and a more patriotic outlook on life, along with a break with artistic convention, brought forth more individual expression.

Ludwig Van Beethoven

Ludwig Van Beethoven

There are many beautiful works of music from the Romantic era. Innovation played a strong part in making the music so unique. For example, composing five movements for a symphony rather than four, and composing choral symphonies. Individualism was also central. Ludwig van Beethoven brought forth program music. Verdi, Beethoven, Liszt, Chopin and Schumann were a few romantic composers. Continue reading

The History of Compulsory State Education

Compulsory state education began in the West during the 16th century Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther wrote a letter to the German government in 1524 stating the following, “…If the government can compel such citizens as are fit for military service to bear spear and rifle…how much more has it a right to compel the people to send their children to school….” Subsequently, the first compulsory education system in the West was set up in 1559.

Continue reading

The Abolition of Slavery

Slavery first began in the West when Portuguese slave-trading ships, loaded with captured African men, women and children, landed in the harbors of the Americas. Although this trade was begun by Portugal, England, Holland and France joined in the 17th century.

The slaves were taken on ships from West Africa to Brazil, the Caribbean Islands and British North America. Continue reading

The Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution (1760-1840) brought a marked change in European society with several developments. These were mainly the change from hand production to machine production and the change in focus from producing goods for those who could afford them, to producing goods for the average person (mass production for mass consumption).

Spinning Jenny

The Spinning Jenny

The Industrial Revolution began in Britain, although it would later spread throughout the Western world. On the eve of the revolution the textile industry was based on the entrepreneur-craftsman relationship. The wool products would be made in the homes of the craftsman and then given to the entrepreneurs to sell. However, in 1764 James Hargreaves invented the Spinning Jenny. This was a mechanized cotton spinner, which made production more efficient. The process was then taken over by the factories.

Steam Engine -- Thomas Savery

Savery’s Steam Engine

The steam engine was a tremendous invention. It was first used in industrialization by Thomas Savery in 1698. From there, it became the primary source of power for factories around Europe.

The Standard-of-Living debate was Continue reading

Frederic Bastiat: His Works

Frederic Bastiat was a French classical liberal. He lived from 1801 to 1850, a short but effective life. Unlike the modern liberal, a classical liberal believes in limited government, self-ownership, private property, etc…. (To read more on this see John Locke.) Bastiat wrote several works. I will discuss his four most important ones here.

The Motive Force of Society deals with the following question: “Does society emerge from self-directed behavior of individuals or from lawmakers imposing blueprints.” According to a classical liberal such as Bastiat, the answer would be the first. Bastiat believed in letting society direct and unfold itself. A man named Rousseau, who was not a classical liberal, said that the lawmakers were the creators of society and that the lawmakers should mold society.  Bastiat said that this would lead to people who relied on the government and weren’t independent.

Another famous work is The Petition of the Candle Makers. This work is a satire. It attacks government protectionism. In it candle makers are protesting to the government because they have unfair competition: the sun, who provides light free of charge. They ask the government to force people to close their windows, so that the candle makers will have more business.

That Which is Seen and That Which is Not Seen states that a true economist must look at not only the immediate results, but also the long term consequences. To demonstrate this, Bastiat created the Broken Window fallacy. This is the following: A boy breaks a baker’s window. The public praises the boy because now the glass maker will have more business than he would otherwise have had. However, Bastiat says we must look also at the unseen: the business the baker would have brought another merchant had he not had to repair his window.

Bastiat’s best known work is his short book The Law. In it, Bastiat says that law is the organization of the natural right of self-defense. He then says the law becomes perverted and encourages legalized plunder. Bastiat described legalized plunder as “the involuntary transfer of wealth from the original owner to the new owner.” This, said the Frenchman, was a perversion of the law.