Rousseau on EconomicsBy Patrick J. Deneen for FRONT PORCH REPUBLIC
“If what you wish is merely to make a great splash, to be impressive and formidable, to influence other peoples of Europe, you have before you their example: get busy and imitate it. Cultivate the sciences, the arts, commerce, industry; have regular troops, fortified places, academies, and, above all, a fine financial system, which will make money circulate smoothly and so multiply and greatly enrich you. Strive to make money absolutely necessary so as to keep your people highly dependent – which calls also for fomenting material luxury and the luxury of the spirit that is inseparable from it. Do all this, and you will end up with a people as scheming, violent, greedy, ambitious, servile, and knavish as the next, and all of it at one extreme or other of misery and opulence, of license and slavery, with nothing in between….
“But if perchance you wish to be a free nation, a peaceful nation, a wise nation, a nation that fears nobody and needs nobody, a nation that is sufficient unto itself and happy, then you must use another method altogether, namely this: keep alive – or bring back to life – simple customs, wholesome tastes, and a spirit that is martial but not ambitious. Instill courage and unselfishness in the hearts of your people. Employ the masses of your population in agriculture and the arts necessary for life. Cause money to become an object of contempt and, if possible, useless besides….”
–Jean Jacques Rousseau, Considerations on the Government of Poland (1772)