Friday, 4 December 2009

Me on Montesquieu at LiberalVision

My summary of The Spirit of the Laws (1748), by Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu (1689-1748). Liberal Vision, 3rd December.

Main points:

The impossible ideal of democratic republicanism based on equality of poverty and law which comes from custom, and is obeyed without coercion.

The possible ideal of a republicanism which may influence modern monarchies or be present in confederations of city-states.

The role of commerce and trade in this kind of realistic liberty, which brings different peoples into peaceful communication.

The principle of honour in monarchy, which incorporates the ideas of a harmonious competitive individualism with regard to wealth and status, fusing aristocratic and bourgeois competition.

Any state should be a moderate state limited by law.

Law should apply punishments in the mildest way possible, as harsh punishments are intrinsically undesirable and are part of despotism.

The value of a division between government and legislation, and decentralisation of government.

Enlightenment values present throughout, including opposition to slavery and oppression of minorities.

A social-historical method unifying the study of geography, history, law and political institutions.

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