Jacques Rueff’s Monetary Order and Us

"By “real rights,” Rueff had in mind rights such as rights to property. These establish a minimum of economic order by clarifying who owns what, thus enabling people’s natural propensity and liberty to possess, use, and exchange things. Such rights nevertheless need to be given form, structure, and content by government policy and legal decisions. The establishment of contract laws, for instance, allows individuals to coordinate their use of their property in mutually beneficial ways.

The legal recognition of these rights is effective because it accords with economic truths about humanity. Such rights are thus “real.” Conversely, law and policies which contradict certain economic facts—supply and demand, the workings of incentives, humans’ tendency to pursue their self-interest, etc.—end up, Rueff says, creating “false rights.”

A government may declare, for instance, that people have a right to healthcare. But if markets in healthcare are not allowed to work, such a right merely exists on paper: hence, its “falseness.” Moreover, the fact that the state has affirmed this to be a right but proved unable to realize it, encourages disrespect for the law as well as increased demands by citizens that the government actualize what it cannot. In democratic societies, Rueff believed, it was hard for politicians to resist such pressures. This produces policies which magnify the proliferation of false rights through the economy."