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The Vigorous, Yet Doux Soldier: David Hume’s Military Defence of Commerce

Schumacher Reinhard, Universität Potsdam
Paganelli Maria Pia, Trinity University

In contrast to many liberal economists, Hume does not argue that commerce would bring international peace. Rather, he sees war is an inevitable condition of human nature. However, he also does not share the fear expressed by others that commerce and the luxury it brings will undermine the martial spirit and let a society make vulnerable to foreign attackers. For Hume, commerce decreases the relative cost of war and promotes technological military advances as well as martial spirit. Commerce makes a country militarily stronger and better equipped to protect itself against attacks than any other kind of society. Therefore, Hume does not assume that commercial societies would be militarily weak, as many contemporary scholars have argued. On the contrary, for him, military might is a beneficial consequence of commerce.


Keywords: David Hume, commerce, trade and conflict, commercial peace, doux commerce, cost of war, perceived cost of war

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