Money, Banks and Finance in Economic Thought

David Hume on the Origin of Government: a Restatement

Lapidus André, Phare, University Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
Okan Ecem, Phare, University Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

An important line of interpretation of David Hume’s explanation of the origin of government argues that it had changed significantly from the Treatise of Human Nature (Hume 1739-40: 3.2.7-8) to its posthumous essay “Of the Origin of Government” (Hume 1777), shifting from an analytical to an allegedly more satisfying historical perspective (see, for instance, Stewart 1963, Forbes 1975, Waszek 1988, Haakonssen 1994, 2009). Drawing on previous works by Diaye and Lapidus (2018) and Okan (2018), this paper aims at qualifying this interpretation by showing that, whereas the historical explanation is already present in the Treatise, the analytical one, based on the acceptability of the rules of justice, provides an interpretation of the origin of government (Mackie 1980, Baier 1991, Cohon 2008) in terms of tradeoff between close and remote interests, which shows no inconsistency with the historical explanation.


Keywords: Hume, Goverment, Decision in time

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