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Title: Essays on Political Economy
Author: Bastiat, Frédéric, 1801-1850
Language: English
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[Third (People's) Edition]

Essays on Political Economy.

By the late M. Frederic Bastiat,
Member of The Institute of France.

New York:
G. P. Putnams & Sons,
Fourth Avenue, and Twenty-Third Street.

Printed for Provost and Co.,
Henrietta Street, W. C.


Capital and Interest.
  Introduction                                                        1
  Capital and Interest                                                5
  The Sack of Corn                                                   19
  The House                                                          22
  The Plane                                                          24

That Which Is Seen, and That Which Is Not Seen.
  Introduction                                                       49
  The Broken Window                                                  50
  The Disbanding of Troops                                           54
  Taxes                                                              58
  Theatres, Fine Arts                                                63
  Public Works                                                       71
  The Intermediates                                                  74
  Restrictions                                                       83
  Machinery                                                          90
  Credit                                                             97
  Algeria                                                           102
  Frugality and Luxury                                              107
  Work and Profit                                                   116

Government                                                          119

What Is Money?                                                      136

The Law                                                             173

Capital and Interest.

My object in this treatise is to examine into the real nature of the
Interest of Capital, for the purpose of proving that it is lawful, and
explaining why it should be perpetual. This may appear singular, and
yet, I confess, I am more afraid of being too plain than too obscure. I
am afraid I may weary the reader by a series of mere truisms. But it is
no easy matter to avoid this danger, when the facts with which we have
to deal are known to every one by personal, familiar, and daily

But, then, you will say, "What is the use of this treatise? Why explain
what everybody knows?"

But, although this problem appears at first sight so very simple, there
is more in it than you might suppose. I shall endeavour to prove this by
an example. Mondor lends an instrument of labour to-day, which will be
entirely destroyed in a week, yet the capital will not produce the less
interest to Mondor or his heirs, through all eternity. Reader, can you
honestly say that you understand the reason of this?

It would be a waste of time to seek any satisfactory explanation from
the writings of economists. They have not thrown much light upon the
reasons of the existence of interest. For this they are not to be
blamed; for at the time they wrote, its lawfulness was not called in
question. Now, however, times are altered; the case is different. Men,
who consider themselves to be in advance of their age, have organised an
active crusade against capital and interest; it is the productiveness of
capital which they are attacking; not certain abuses in the
administration of it, but the principle itself.

A journal has been established to serve as a vehicle for this crusade.
It is conducted by M. Proudhon, and has, it is said, an immense
circulation. The first number of this periodical contains the electoral
manifesto of the _people_. Here we read, "The productiveness of capital,
which is condemned by Christianity under the name of usury, is the true
cause of misery, the true principle of destitution, the eternal obstacle
to the establishment of the Republic."

Another journal, _La Ruche Populaire_, after having said some excellent
things on labour, adds, "But, above all, labour ought to be free; that
is, it ought to be organised in such a manner, _that money-lenders and
patrons, or masters, should not be paid_ for this liberty of labour,
this right of labour, which is raised to so high a price by the
traffickers of men." The only thought that I notice here, is that
expressed by the words in italics, which imply a denial of the right to
interest. The remainder of the article explains it.

It is thus that the democratic Socialist, Thoré expresses himself:--

"The revolution will always have to be recommenced, so long as we occupy
ourselves with consequences only, without having the logic or the
courage to attack the principle itself. This principle is capital, false
property, interest, and usury, which by the old _régime_, is made to
weigh upon labour.

"Ever since the aristocrats invented the incredible fiction, _that
capital possesses the power of reproducing itself_, the workers have
been at the mercy of the idle.

"At the end of a year, will you find an additional crown in a bag of one
hundred shillings? At the end of fourteen years, will your shillings
have doubled in your bag?

"Will a work of industry or of skill produce another, at the end of
fourteen years?

"Let us begin, then, by demolishing this fatal fiction."

I have quoted the above, merely for the sake of establishing the fact,
that many persons consider the productiveness of capital a false, a
fatal, and an iniquitous principle. But quotations are superfluous; it
is well known that the people attribute their sufferings to what they
call _the trafficking in man by man_. In fact, the phrase, _tyranny of
capital_, has become proverbial.

I believe there is not a man in the world, who is aware of the whole
importance of this question:--

"Is the interest of capital natural, just, and lawful, and as useful to
the payer as to the receiver?"

You answer, No; I answer, Yes. Then we differ entirely; but it is of the
utmost importance to discover which of us is in the right, otherwise we
shall incur the danger of making a false solution of the question, a
matter of opinion. If the error is on my side, however, the evil would
not be so great. It must be inferred that I know nothing about the true
interests of the masses, or the march of human progress; and that all my
arguments are but as so many grains of sand, by which the car of the
revolution will certainly not be arrested.

But if, on the contrary, MM. Proudhon and Thoré are deceiving
themselves, it follows that they are leading the people astray--that
they are showing them the evil where it does not exist; and thus giving
a false direction to their ideas, to their antipathies, to their
dislikes, and to their attacks. It follows that the misguided people are
rushing into a horrible and absurd struggle, in which victory would be
more fatal than defeat; since, according to this supposition, the result
would be the realisation of universal evils, the destruction of every
means of emancipation, the consummation of its own misery.

This is just what M. Proudhon has acknowledged, with perfect good
faith. "The foundation stone," he told me, "of my system is the
_gratuitousness of credit_. If I am mistaken in this, Socialism is a
vain dream." I add, it is a dream, in which the people are tearing
themselves to pieces. Will it, therefore, be a cause for surprise, if,
when they awake, they find themselves mangled and bleeding? Such a
danger as this is enough to justify me fully, if, in the course of the
discussion, I allow myself to be led into some trivialities and some

Capital and Interest.

I address this treatise to the workmen of Paris, more especially to
those who have enrolled themselves under the banner of Socialist
democracy. I proceed to consider these two questions:--

1st. Is it consistent with the nature of things, and with justice, that
capital should produce interest?

2nd. Is it consistent with the nature of things, and with justice, that
the interest of capital should be perpetual?

The working men of Paris will certainly acknowledge that a more
important subject could not be discussed.

Since the world began, it has been allowed, at least in part, that
capital ought to produce interest. But latterly it has been affirmed,
that herein lies the very social error which is the cause of pauperism
and inequality. It is, therefore, very essential to know now on what
ground we stand.

For if levying interest from capital is a sin, the workers have a right
to revolt against social order, as it exists. It is in vain to tell them
that they ought to have recourse to legal and pacific means: it would be
a hypocritical recommendation. When on the one side there is a strong
man, poor, and a victim of robbery--on the other, a weak man, but rich,
and a robber--it is singular enough that we should say to the former,
with a hope of persuading him, "Wait till your oppressor voluntarily
renounces oppression, or till it shall cease of itself." This cannot be;
and those who tell us that capital is by nature unproductive, ought to
know that they are provoking a terrible and immediate struggle.

If, on the contrary, the interest of capital is natural, lawful,
consistent with the general good, as favourable to the borrower as to
the lender, the economists who deny it, the tribunes who traffic in this
pretended social wound, are leading the workmen into a senseless and
unjust struggle, which can have no other issue than the misfortune of
all. In fact, they are arming labour against capital. So much the
better, if these two powers are really antagonistic; and may the
struggle soon be ended! But, if they are in harmony, the struggle is the
greatest evil which can be inflicted on society. You see, then, workmen,
that there is not a more important question than this:--"Is the interest
of capital lawful or not?" In the former case, you must immediately
renounce the struggle to which you are being urged; in the second, you
must carry it on bravely, and to the end.

Productiveness of capital--perpetuity of interest. These are difficult
questions. I must endeavour to make myself clear. And for that purpose I
shall have recourse to example rather than to demonstration; or rather,
I shall place the demonstration in the example. I begin by acknowledging
that, at first sight, it may appear strange that capital should pretend
to a remuneration, and above all, to a perpetual remuneration. You will
say, "Here are two men. One of them works from morning till night, from
one year's end to another; and if he consumes all which he has gained,
even by superior energy, he remains poor. When Christmas comes he is no
forwarder than he was at the beginning of the year, and has no other
prospect but to begin again. The other man does nothing, either with his
hands or his head; or at least, if he makes use of them at all, it is
only for his own pleasure; it is allowable for him to do nothing, for he
has an income. He does not work, yet he lives well; he has everything in
abundance; delicate dishes, sumptuous furniture, elegant equipages; nay,
he even consumes, daily, things which the workers have been obliged to
produce by the sweat of their brow, for these things do not make
themselves; and, as far as he is concerned, he has had no hand in their
production. It is the workmen who have caused this corn to grow,
polished this furniture, woven these carpets; it is our wives and
daughters who have spun, cut out, sewed, and embroidered these stuffs.
We work, then, for him and for ourselves; for him first, and then for
ourselves, if there is anything left. But here is something more
striking still. If the former of these two men, the worker, consumes
within the year any profit which may have been left him in that year, he
is always at the point from which he started, and his destiny condemns
him to move incessantly in a perpetual circle, and a monotony of
exertion. Labour, then, is rewarded only once. But if the other, the
'gentleman,' consumes his yearly income in the year, he has, the year
after, in those which follow, and through all eternity, an income always
equal, inexhaustible, _perpetual_. Capital, then, is remunerated, not
only once or twice, but an indefinite number of times! So that, at the
end of a hundred years, a family which has placed 20,000 francs,[1] at
five per cent., will have had 100,000 francs; and this will not prevent
it from having 100,000 more, in the following century. In other words,
for 20,000 francs, which represent its labour, it will have levied, in
two centuries, a tenfold value on the labour of others. In this social
arrangement, is there not a monstrous evil to be reformed? And this is
not all. If it should please this family to curtail its enjoyments a
little--to spend, for example, only 900 francs, instead of 1,000--it
may, without any labour, without any other trouble beyond that of
investing 100 francs a year, increase its capital and its income in such
rapid progression, that it will soon be in a position to consume as much
as a hundred families of industrious workmen. Does not all this go to
prove that society itself has in its bosom a hideous cancer, which ought
to be eradicated at the risk of some temporary suffering?"

These are, it appears to me, the sad and irritating reflections which
must be excited in your minds by the active and superficial crusade
which is being carried on against capital and interest. On the other
hand, there are moments in which, I am convinced, doubts are awakened in
your minds, and scruples in your conscience. You say to yourselves
sometimes, "But to assert that capital ought not to produce interest, is
to say that he who has created instruments of labour, or materials, or
provisions of any kind, ought to yield them up without compensation. Is
that just? And then, if it is so, who would lend these instruments,
these materials, these provisions? who would take care of them? who even
would create them? Every one would consume his proportion, and the human
race would never advance a step. Capital would be no longer formed,
since there would be no interest in forming it. It would become
exceedingly scarce. A singular step towards gratuitous loans! A singular
means of improving the condition of borrowers, to make it impossible for
them to borrow at any price! What would become of labour itself? for
there will be no money advanced, and not one single kind of labour can
be mentioned, not even the chase, which can be pursued without money in
hand. And, as for ourselves, what would become of us? What! we are not
to be allowed to borrow, in order to work in the prime of life, nor to
lend, that we may enjoy repose in its decline? The law will rob us of
the prospect of laying by a little property, because it will prevent us
from gaining any advantage from it. It will deprive us of all stimulus
to save at the present time, and of all hope of repose for the future.
It is useless to exhaust ourselves with fatigue: we must abandon the
idea of leaving our sons and daughters a little property, since modern
science renders it useless, for we should become traffickers in men if
we were to lend it on interest. Alas! the world which these persons
would open before us, as an imaginary good, is still more dreary and
desolate than that which they condemn, for hope, at any rate, is not
banished from the latter." Thus, in all respects, and in every point of
view, the question is a serious one. Let us hasten to arrive at a

Our civil code has a chapter entitled, "On the manner of transmitting
property." I do not think it gives a very complete nomenclature on this
point. When a man by his labour has made some useful thing--in other
words, when he has created a _value_--it can only pass into the hands of
another by one of the following modes--as a gift, by the right of
inheritance, by exchange, loan, or theft. One word upon each of these,
except the last, although it plays a greater part in the world than we
may think. A gift needs no definition. It is essentially voluntary and
spontaneous. It depends exclusively upon the giver, and the receiver
cannot be said to have any right to it. Without a doubt, morality and
religion make it a duty for men, especially the rich, to deprive
themselves voluntarily of that which they possess, in favour of their
less fortunate brethren. But this is an entirely moral obligation. If it
were to be asserted on principle, admitted in practice, or sanctioned by
law, that every man has a right to the property of another, the gift
would have no merit--charity and gratitude would be no longer virtues.
Besides, such a doctrine would suddenly and universally arrest labour
and production, as severe cold congeals water and suspends animation;
for who would work if there was no longer to be any connection between
labour and the satisfying of our wants? Political economy has not
treated of gifts. It has hence been concluded that it disowns them, and
that it is therefore a science devoid of heart. This is a ridiculous
accusation. That science which treats of the laws resulting from the
_reciprocity of services_, had no business to inquire into the
consequences of generosity with respect to him who receives, nor into
its effects, perhaps still more precious, on him who gives: such
considerations belong evidently to the science of morals. We must allow
the sciences to have limits; above all, we must not accuse them of
denying or undervaluing what they look upon as foreign to their

The right of inheritance, against which so much has been objected of
late, is one of the forms of gift, and assuredly the most natural of
all. That which a man has produced, he may consume, exchange, or give.
What can be more natural than that he should give it to his children? It
is this power, more than any other, which inspires him with courage to
labour and to save. Do you know why the principle of right of
inheritance is thus called in question? Because it is imagined that the
property thus transmitted is plundered from the masses. This is a fatal
error. Political economy demonstrates, in the most peremptory manner,
that all value produced is a creation which does no harm to any person
whatever. For that reason it may be consumed, and, still more,
transmitted, without hurting any one; but I shall not pursue these
reflections, which do not belong to the subject.

Exchange is the principal department of political economy, because it is
by far the most frequent method of transmitting property, according to
the free and voluntary agreements of the laws and effects of which this
science treats.

Properly speaking, exchange is the reciprocity of services. The parties
say between themselves, "Give me this, and I will give you that;" or,
"Do this for me, and I will do that for you." It is well to remark (for
this will throw a new light on the notion of value) that the second
form is always implied in the first. When it is said, "Do this for me,
and I will do that for you," an exchange of service for service is
proposed. Again, when it is said, "Give me this, and I will give you
that," it is the same as saying, "I yield to you what I have done, yield
to me what you have done." The labour is past, instead of present; but
the exchange is not the less governed by the comparative valuation of
the two services: so that it is quite correct to say that the principle
of _value_ is in the services rendered and received on account of the
productions exchanged, rather than in the productions themselves.

In reality, services are scarcely ever exchanged directly. There is a
medium, which is termed _money_. Paul has completed a coat, for which he
wishes to receive a little bread, a little wine, a little oil, a visit
from a doctor, a ticket for the play, &c. The exchange cannot be
effected in kind, so what does Paul do? He first exchanges his coat for
some money, which is called _sale_; then he exchanges this money again
for the things which he wants, which is called _purchase_; and now,
only, has the reciprocity of services completed its circuit; now, only,
the labour and the compensation are balanced in the same individual,--"I
have done this for society, it has done that for me." In a word, it is
only now that the exchange is actually accomplished. Thus, nothing can
be more correct than this observation of J. B. Say:--"Since the
introduction of money, every exchange is resolved into two elements,
_sale_ and _purchase_. It is the reunion of these two elements which
renders the exchange complete."

We must remark, also, that the constant appearance of money in every
exchange has overturned and misled all our ideas: men have ended in
thinking that money was true riches, and that to multiply it was to
multiply services and products. Hence the prohibitory system; hence
paper money; hence the celebrated aphorism, "What one gains the other
loses;" and all the errors which have ruined the earth, and embrued it
with blood.[2] After much research it has been found, that in order to
make the two services exchanged of equivalent value, and in order to
render the exchange _equitable_, the best means was to allow it to be
free. However plausible, at first sight, the intervention of the State
might be, it was soon perceived that it is always oppressive to one or
other of the contracting parties. When we look into these subjects, we
are always compelled to reason upon this maxim, that _equal value_
results from liberty. We have, in fact, no other means of knowing
whether, at a given moment, two services are of the same value, but that
of examining whether they can be readily and freely exchanged. Allow the
State, which is the same thing as force, to interfere on one side or the
other, and from that moment all the means of appreciation will be
complicated and entangled, instead of becoming clear. It ought to be
the part of the State to prevent, and, above all, to repress artifice
and fraud; that is, to secure liberty, and not to violate it. I have
enlarged a little upon exchange, although loan is my principal object:
my excuse is, that I conceive that there is in a loan an actual
exchange, an actual service rendered by the lender, and which makes the
borrower liable to an equivalent service,--two services, whose
comparative value can only be appreciated, like that of all possible
services, by freedom. Now, if it is so, the perfect lawfulness of what
is called house-rent, farm-rent, interest, will be explained and
justified. Let us consider the case of _loan_.

Suppose two men exchange two services or two objects, whose equal value
is beyond all dispute. Suppose, for example, Peter says to Paul, "Give
me ten sixpences, I will give you a five-shilling piece." We cannot
imagine an equal value more unquestionable. When the bargain is made,
neither party has any claim upon the other. The exchanged services are
equal. Thus it follows, that if one of the parties wishes to introduce
into the bargain an additional clause, advantageous to himself, but
unfavourable to the other party, he must agree to a second clause, which
shall re-establish the equilibrium, and the law of justice. It would be
absurd to deny the justice of a second clause of compensation. This
granted, we will suppose that Peter, after having said to Paul, "Give me
ten sixpences, I will give you a crown," adds, "You shall give me the
ten sixpences _now_, and I will give you the crown-piece _in a year_;"
it is very evident that this new proposition alters the claims and
advantages of the bargain; that it alters the proportion of the two
services. Does it not appear plainly enough, in fact, that Peter asks of
Paul a new and an additional service; one of a different kind? Is it not
as if he had said, "Render me the service of allowing me to use for my
profit, for a year, five shillings which belong to you, and which you
might have used for yourself?" And what good reason have you to maintain
that Paul is bound to render this especial service gratuitously; that he
has no right to demand anything more in consequence of this requisition;
that the State ought to interfere to force him to submit? Is it not
incomprehensible that the economist, who preaches such a doctrine to the
people, can reconcile it with his principle of _the reciprocity of
services_? Here I have introduced cash; I have been led to do so by a
desire to place, side by side, two objects of exchange, of a perfect and
indisputable equality of value. I was anxious to be prepared for
objections; but, on the other hand, my demonstration would have been
more striking still, if I had illustrated my principle by an agreement
for exchanging the services or the productions themselves.

Suppose, for example, a house and a vessel of a value so perfectly equal
that their proprietors are disposed to exchange them even-handed,
without excess or abatement. In fact let the bargain be settled by a
lawyer. At the moment of each taking possession, the shipowner says to
the citizen, "Very well; the transaction is completed, and nothing can
prove its perfect equity better than our free and voluntary consent. Our
conditions thus fixed, I shall propose to you a little practical
modification. You shall let me have your house to-day, but I shall not
put you in possession of my ship for a year; and the reason I make this
demand of you is, that, during this year of _delay_, I wish to use the
vessel." That we may not be embarrassed by considerations relative to
the deterioration of the thing lent, I will suppose the shipowner to
add, "I will engage, at the end of the year, to hand over to you the
vessel in the state in which it is to-day." I ask of every candid man, I
ask of M. Proudhon himself, if the citizen has not a right to answer,
"The new clause which you propose entirely alters the proportion or the
equal value of the exchanged services. By it, I shall be deprived, for
the space of a year, both at once of my house and of your vessel. By it,
you will make use of both. If, in the absence of this clause, the
bargain was just, for the same reason the clause is injurious to me. It
stipulates for a loss to me, and a gain to you. You are requiring of me
a new service; I have a right to refuse, or to require of you, as a
compensation, an equivalent service." If the parties are agreed upon
this compensation, the principle of which is incontestable, we can
easily distinguish two transactions in one, two exchanges of service in
one. First, there is the exchange of the house for the vessel; after
this, there is the delay granted by one of the parties, and the
compensation correspondent to this delay yielded by the other. These two
new services take the generic and abstract names of _credit_ and
_interest_. But names do not change the nature of things; and I defy any
one to dare to maintain that there exists here, when all is done, a
service for a service, or a reciprocity of services. To say that one of
these services does not challenge the other, to say that the first ought
to be rendered gratuitously, without injustice, is to say that injustice
consists in the reciprocity of services,--that justice consists in one
of the parties giving and not receiving, which is a contradiction in

To give an idea of interest and its mechanism, allow me to make use of
two or three anecdotes. But, first, I must say a few words upon capital.

There are some persons who imagine that capital is money, and this is
precisely the reason why they deny its productiveness; for, as M. Thoré
says, crowns are not endowed with the power of reproducing themselves.
But it is not true that capital and money are the same thing. Before the
discovery of the precious metals, there were capitalists in the world;
and I venture to say that at that time, as now, everybody was a
capitalist, to a certain extent.

What is capital, then? It is composed of three things:--

1st. Of the materials upon which men operate, when these materials have
already a value communicated by some human effort, which has bestowed
upon them the principle of remuneration--wool, flax, leather, silk,
wood, &c.

2nd. Instruments which are used for working--tools, machines, ships,
carriages, &c.

3rd. Provisions which are consumed during labour--victuals, stuffs,
houses, &c.

Without these things the labour of man would be unproductive and almost
void; yet these very things have required much work, especially at
first. This is the reason that so much value has been attached to the
possession of them, and also that it is perfectly lawful to exchange and
to sell them, to make a profit of them if used, to gain remuneration
from them if lent.

Now for my anecdotes.

The Sack of Corn.

Mathurin, in other respects as poor as Job, and obliged to earn his
bread by day-labour, became nevertheless, by some inheritance, the owner
of a fine piece of uncultivated land. He was exceedingly anxious to
cultivate it. "Alas!" said he, "to make ditches, to raise fences, to
break the soil, to clear away the brambles and stones, to plough it, to
sow it, might bring me a living in a year or two; but certainly not
to-day, or to-morrow. It is impossible to set about farming it, without
previously saving some provisions for my subsistence until the harvest;
and I know, by experience, that preparatory labour is indispensable, in
order to render present labour productive." The good Mathurin was not
content with making these reflections. He resolved to work by the day,
and to save something from his wages to buy a spade and a sack of corn;
without which things, he must give up his fine agricultural projects. He
acted so well, was so active and steady, that he soon saw himself in
possession of the wished-for sack of corn. "I shall take it to the
mill," said he, "and then I shall have enough to live upon till my field
is covered with a rich harvest." Just as he was starting, Jerome came to
borrow his treasure of him. "If you will lend me this sack of corn,"
said Jerome, "you will do me a great service; for I have some very
lucrative work in view, which I cannot possibly undertake, for want of
provisions to live upon until it is finished." "I was in the same case,"
answered Mathurin, "and if I have now secured bread for several months,
it is at the expense of my arms and my stomach. Upon what principle of
justice can it be devoted to the realisation of _your_ enterprise
instead of _mine?_"

You may well believe that the bargain was a long one. However, it was
finished at length, and on these conditions:--

First--Jerome promised to give back, at the end of the year, a sack of
corn of the same quality, and of the same weight, without missing a
single grain. "This first clause is perfectly just," said he, "for
without it Mathurin would _give_, and not _lend_."

Secondly--He engaged to deliver _five litres_ on _every hectolitre_.
"This clause is no less just than the other," thought he; "for without
it Mathurin would do me a service without compensation; he would inflict
upon himself a privation--he would renounce his cherished enterprise--he
would enable me to accomplish mine--he would cause me to enjoy for a
year the fruits of his savings, and all this gratuitously. Since he
delays the cultivation of his land, since he enables me to realise a
lucrative labour, it is quite natural that I should let him partake, in
a certain proportion, of the profits which I shall gain by the sacrifice
he makes of his own."

On his side, Mathurin, who was something of a scholar, made this
calculation:--"Since, by virtue of the first clause, the sack of corn
will return to me at the end of a year," he said to himself, "I shall be
able to lend it again; it will return to me at the end of the second
year; I may lend it again, and so on, to all eternity. However, I cannot
deny that it will have been eaten long ago. It is singular that I should
be perpetually the owner of a sack of corn, although the one I have lent
has been consumed for ever. But this is explained thus:--It will be
consumed in the service of Jerome. It will put it into the power of
Jerome to produce a superior value; and, consequently, Jerome will be
able to restore me a sack of corn, or the value of it, without having
suffered the slightest injury: but quite the contrary. And as regards
myself, this value ought to be my property, as long as I do not consume
it myself. If I had used it to clear my land, I should have received it
again in the form of a fine harvest. Instead of that, I lend it, and
shall recover it in the form of repayment.

"From the second clause, I gain another piece of information. At the end
of the year I shall be in possession of five litres of corn over the one
hundred that I have just lent. If, then, I were to continue to work by
the day, and to save part of my wages, as I have been doing, in the
course of time I should be able to lend two sacks of corn; then three;
then four; and when I should have gained a sufficient number to enable
me to live on these additions of five litres over and above each, I
shall be at liberty to take a little repose in my old age. But how is
this? In this case, shall I not be living at the expense of others? No,
certainly, for it has been proved that in lending I perform a service; I
complete the labour of my borrowers, and only deduct a trifling part of
the excess of production, due to my lendings and savings. It is a
marvellous thing that a man may thus realise a leisure which injures no
one, and for which he cannot be envied without injustice."

The House.

Mondor had a house. In building it, he had extorted nothing from any one
whatever. He owed it to his own personal labour, or, which is the same
thing, to labour justly rewarded. His first care was to make a bargain
with an architect, in virtue of which, by means of a hundred crowns a
year, the latter engaged to keep the house in constant good repair.
Mondor was already congratulating himself on the happy days which he
hoped to spend in this retreat, declared sacred by our Constitution. But
Valerius wished to make it his residence.

"How can you think of such a thing?" said Mondor to Valerius. "It is I
who have built it; it has cost me ten years of painful labour, and now
you would enjoy it!" They agreed to refer the matter to judges. They
chose no profound economists,--there were none such in the country. But
they found some just and sensible men; it all comes to the same thing;
political economy, justice, good sense, are all the same thing. Now here
is the decision made by the judges:--If Valerius wishes to occupy
Mondor's house for a year, he is bound to submit to three conditions.
The first is to quit at the end of the year, and to restore the house in
good repair, saving the inevitable decay resulting from mere duration.
The second, to refund to Mondor the 300 francs which the latter pays
annually to the architect to repair the injuries of time; for these
injuries taking place whilst the house is in the service of Valerius, it
is perfectly just that he should bear the consequences. The third, that
he should render to Mondor a service equivalent to that which he
receives. As to this equivalence of services, it must be freely
discussed between Mondor and Valerius.

The Plane.

A very long time ago there lived, in a poor village, a joiner, who was a
philosopher, as all my heroes are in their way. James worked from
morning till night with his two strong arms, but his brain was not idle
for all that. He was fond of reviewing his actions, their causes, and
their effects. He sometimes said to himself, "With my hatchet, my saw,
and my hammer, I can make only coarse furniture, and can only get the
pay for such. If I only had a _plane_, I should please my customers
more, and they would pay me more. It is quite just; I can only expect
services proportioned to those which I render myself. Yes! I am
resolved, I will make myself a _plane_."

However, just as he was setting to work, James reflected further:--"I
work for my customers 300 days in the year. If I give ten to making my
plane, supposing it lasts me a year, only 290 days will remain for me to
make my furniture. Now, in order that I be not the loser in this matter,
I must gain henceforth, with the help of the plane, as much in 290 days,
as I now do in 300. I must even gain more; for unless I do so, it would
not be worth my while to venture upon any innovations." James began to
calculate. He satisfied himself that he should sell his finished
furniture at a price which would amply compensate for the ten days
devoted to the plane; and when no doubt remained on this point, he set
to work. I beg the reader to remark, that the power which exists in the
tool to increase the productiveness of labour, is the basis of the
solution which follows.

At the end of ten days, James had in his possession an admirable plane,
which he valued all the more for having made it himself. He danced for
joy,--for, like the girl with her basket of eggs, he reckoned all the
profits which he expected to derive from the ingenious instrument; but,
more fortunate than she, he was not reduced to the necessity of saying
good-bye to calf, cow, pig, and eggs, together. He was building his fine
castles in the air, when he was interrupted by his acquaintance William,
a joiner in the neighbouring village. William having admired the plane,
was struck with the advantages which might be gained from it. He said to

W. You must do me a service.

J. What service?

W. Lend me the plane for a year.

As might be expected, James at this proposal did not fail to cry out,
"How can you think of such a thing, William? Well, if I do you this
service, what will you do for me in return?"

W. Nothing. Don't you know that a loan ought to be gratuitous? Don't
you know that capital is naturally unproductive? Don't you know
fraternity has been proclaimed. If you only do me a service for the
sake of receiving one from me in return, what merit would you have?

J. William, my friend, fraternity does not mean that all the
sacrifices are to be on one side; if so, I do not see why they should
not be on yours. Whether a loan should be gratuitous I don't know; but I
do know that if I were to lend you my plane for a year it would be
giving it you. To tell you the truth, that was not what I made it for.

W. Well, we will say nothing about the modern maxims discovered by the
Socialist gentlemen. I ask you to do me a service; what service do you
ask me in return?

J. First, then, in a year, the plane will be done for, it will be good
for nothing. It is only just, that you should let me have another
exactly like it; or that you should give me money enough to get it
repaired; or that you should supply me the ten days which I must devote
to replacing it.

W. This is perfectly just. I submit to these conditions. I engage to
return it, or to let you have one like it, or the value of the same. I
think you must be satisfied with this, and can require nothing further.

J. I think otherwise. I made the plane for myself, and not for you. I
expected to gain some advantage from it, by my work being better
finished and better paid, by an improvement in my condition. What reason
is there that I should make the plane, and you should gain the profit? I
might as well ask you to give me your saw and hatchet! What a
confusion! Is it not natural that each should keep what he has made with
his own hands, as well as his hands themselves? To use without
recompense the hands of another, I call slavery; to use without
recompense the plane of another, can this be called fraternity?

W. But, then, I have agreed to return it to you at the end of a year,
as well polished and as sharp as it is now.

J. We have nothing to do with next year; we are speaking of this year.
I have made the plane for the sake of improving my work and condition;
if you merely return it to me in a year, it is you who will gain the
profit of it during the whole of that time. I am not bound to do you
such a service without receiving anything from you in return: therefore,
if you wish for my plane, independently of the entire restoration
already bargained for, you must do me a service which we will now
discuss; you must grant me remuneration.

And this was done thus:--William granted a remuneration calculated in
such a way that, at the end of the year, James received his plane quite
new, and in addition, a compensation, consisting of a new plank, for the
advantages of which he had deprived himself, and which he had yielded to
his friend.

It was impossible for any one acquainted with the transaction to
discover the slightest trace in it of oppression or injustice.

The singular part of it is, that, at the end of the year, the plane came
into James's possession, and he lent it again; recovered it, and lent
it a third and fourth time. It has passed into the hands of his son, who
still lends it. Poor plane! how many times has it changed, sometimes its
blade, sometimes its handle. It is no longer the same plane, but it has
always the same value, at least for James's posterity. Workmen! let us
examine into these little stories.

I maintain, first of all, that the _sack of corn_ and the _plane_ are
here the type, the model, a faithful representation, the symbol of all
capital; as the five litres of corn and the plank are the type, the
model, the representation, the symbol of all interest. This granted, the
following are, it seems to me, a series of consequences, the justice of
which it is impossible to dispute.

1st. If the yielding of a plank by the borrower to the lender is a
natural, equitable, lawful remuneration, the just price of a real
service, we may conclude that, as a general rule, it is in the nature of
capital to produce interest. When this capital, as in the foregoing
examples, takes the form of an _instrument of labour_, it is clear
enough that it ought to bring an advantage to its possessor, to him who
has devoted to it his time, his brains, and his strength. Otherwise, why
should he have made it? No necessity of life can be immediately
satisfied with instruments of labour; no one eats planes or drinks saws,
except, indeed, he be a conjuror. If a man determines to spend his time
in the production of such things, he must have been led to it by the
consideration of the power which these instruments add to his power; of
the time which they save him; of the perfection and rapidity which they
give to his labour; in a word, of the advantages which they procure for
him. Now, these advantages, which have been prepared by labour, by the
sacrifice of time which might have been used in a more immediate manner,
are we bound, as soon as they are ready to be enjoyed, to confer them
gratuitously upon another? Would it be an advance in social order, if
the law decided thus, and citizens should pay officials for causing such
a law to be executed by force? I venture to say, that there is not one
amongst you who would support it. It would be to legalize, to organize,
to systematize injustice itself, for it would be proclaiming that there
are men born to render, and others born to receive, gratuitous services.
Granted, then, that interest is just, natural, and lawful.

2nd. A second consequence, not less remarkable than the former, and, if
possible, still more conclusive, to which I call your attention, is
this:--_Interest is not injurious to the borrower_. I mean to say, the
obligation in which the borrower finds himself, to pay a remuneration
for the use of capital, cannot do any harm to his condition. Observe, in
fact, that James and William are perfectly free, as regards the
transaction to which the plane gave occasion. The transaction cannot be
accomplished without the consent of the one as well as of the other. The
worst which can happen is, that James may be too exacting; and in this
case, William, refusing the loan, remains as he was before. By the fact
of his agreeing to borrow, he proves that he considers it an advantage
to himself; he proves, that after every calculation, including the
remuneration, whatever it may be, required of him, he still finds it
more profitable to borrow than not to borrow. He only determines to do
so because he has compared the inconveniences with the advantages. He
has calculated that the day on which he returns the plane, accompanied
by the remuneration agreed upon, he will have effected more work, with
the same labour, thanks to this tool. A profit will remain to him,
otherwise he would not have borrowed. The two services of which we are
speaking are exchanged according to the law which governs all exchanges,
the law of supply and demand. The claims of James have a natural and
impassable limit. This is the point in which the remuneration demanded
by him would absorb all the advantage which William might find in making
use of a plane. In this case, the borrowing would not take place.
William would be bound either to make a plane for himself, or to do
without one, which would leave him in his original condition. He
borrows, because he gains by borrowing. I know very well what will be
told me. You will say, William may be deceived, or, perhaps, he may be
governed by necessity, and be obliged to submit to a harsh law.

It may be so. As to errors in calculation, they belong to the infirmity
of our nature, and to argue from this against the transaction in
question, is objecting the possibility of loss in all imaginable
transactions, in every human act. Error is an accidental fact, which is
incessantly remedied by experience. In short, everybody must guard
against it. As far as those hard necessities are concerned, which force
persons to burdensome borrowings, it is clear that these necessities
exist previously to the borrowing. If William is in a situation in which
he cannot possibly do without a plane, and must borrow one at any price,
does this situation result from James having taken the trouble to make
the tool? Does it not exist independently of this circumstance? However
harsh, however severe James may be, he will never render the supposed
condition of William worse than it is. Morally, it is true, the lender
will be to blame; but, in an economical point of view, the loan itself
can never be considered responsible for previous necessities, which it
has not created, and which it relieves to a certain extent.

But this proves something to which I shall return. The evident interests
of William, representing here the borrowers, there are many Jameses and
planes, in other words, lenders and capitals. It is very evident, that
if William can say to James,--"Your demands are exorbitant; there is no
lack of planes in the world;" he will be in a better situation than if
James's plane was the only one to be borrowed. Assuredly, there is no
maxim more true than this--service for service. But left us not forget
that no service has a fixed and absolute value, compared with others.
The contracting parties are free. Each carries his requisitions to the
farthest possible point, and the most favourable circumstance for these
requisitions is the absence of rivalship. Hence it follows, that if
there is a class of men more interested than any other in the formation,
multiplication, and abundance of capitals, it is mainly that of the
borrowers. Now, since capitals can only be formed and increased by the
stimulus and the prospect of remuneration, let this class understand the
injury they are inflicting on themselves when they deny the lawfulness
of interest, when they proclaim that credit should be gratuitous, when
they declaim against the pretended tyranny of capital, when they
discourage saving, thus forcing capitals to become scarce, and
consequently interests to rise.

3rd. The anecdote I have just related enables you to explain this
apparently singular phenomenon, which is termed the duration or
perpetuity of interest. Since, in lending his plane, James has been
able, very lawfully, to make it a condition that it should be returned
to him, at the end of a year, in the same state in which it was when he
lent it, is it not evident that he may, at the expiration of the term,
lend it again on the same conditions? If he resolves upon the latter
plan, the plane will return to him at the end of every year, and that
without end. James will then be in a condition to lend it without end;
that is, he may derive from it a perpetual interest. It will be said,
that the plane will be worn out. That is true; but it will be worn out
by the hand and for the profit of the borrower. The latter has taken
into account this gradual wear, and taken upon himself, as he ought, the
consequences. He has reckoned that he shall derive from this tool an
advantage, which will allow him to restore it in its original condition,
after having realised a profit from it. As long as James does not use
this capital himself, or for his own advantage--as long as he renounces
the advantages which allow it to be restored to its original
condition--he will have an incontestable right to have it restored, and
that independently of interest.

Observe, besides, that if, as I believe I have shown, James, far from
doing any harm to William, has done him a _service_ in lending him his
plane for a year; for the same reason, he will do no harm to a second, a
third, a fourth borrower, in the subsequent periods. Hence you may
understand that the interest of a capital is as natural, as lawful, as
useful, in the thousandth year, as in the first. We may go still
further. It may happen that James lends more than a single plane. It is
possible, that by means of working, of saving, of privations, of order,
of activity, he may come to lend a multitude of planes and saws; that is
to say, to do a multitude of services. I insist upon this point,--that
if the first loan has been a social good, it will be the same with all
the others; for they are all similar, and based upon the same
principle. It may happen, then, that the amount of all the remunerations
received by our honest operative, in exchange for services rendered by
him, may suffice to maintain him. In this case, there will be a man in
the world who has a right to live without working. I do not say that he
would be doing right to give himself up to idleness--but I say, that he
has a right to do so; and if he does so, it will be at nobody's expense,
but quite the contrary. If society at all understands the nature of
things, it will acknowledge that this man subsists on services which he
receives certainly (as we all do), but which he lawfully receives in
exchange for other services, which he himself has rendered, that he
continues to render, and which are quite real, inasmuch as they are
freely and voluntarily accepted.

And here we have a glimpse of one of the finest harmonies in the social
world. I allude to _leisure:_ not that leisure that the warlike and
tyrannical classes arrange for themselves by the plunder of the workers,
but that leisure which is the lawful and innocent fruit of past activity
and economy. In expressing myself thus, I know that I shall shock many
received ideas. But see! Is not leisure an essential spring in the
social machine? Without it, the world would never have had a Newton, a
Pascal, a Fenelon; mankind would have been ignorant of all arts,
sciences, and of those wonderful inventions prepared originally by
investigations of mere curiosity; thought would have been inert--man
would have made no progress. On the other hand, if leisure could only be
explained by plunder and oppression--if it were a benefit which could
only be enjoyed unjustly, and at the expense of others, there would be
no middle path between these two evils; either mankind would be reduced
to the necessity of stagnating in a vegetable and stationary life, in
eternal ignorance, from the absence of wheels to its machine--or else it
would have to acquire these wheels at the price of inevitable injustice,
and would necessarily present the sad spectacle, in one form or other,
of the antique classification of human beings into masters and slaves. I
defy any one to show me, in this case, any other alternative. We should
be compelled to contemplate the Divine plan which governs society, with
the regret of thinking that it presents a deplorable chasm. The stimulus
of progress would be forgotten, or, which is worse, this stimulus would
be no other than injustice itself. But no! God has not left such a chasm
in His work of love. We must take care not to disregard His wisdom and
power; for those whose imperfect meditations cannot explain the
lawfulness of leisure, are very much like the astronomer who said, at a
certain point in the heavens there ought to exist a planet which will be
at last discovered, for without it the celestial world is not harmony,
but discord.

Well, I say that, if well understood, the history of my humble plane,
although very modest, is sufficient to raise us to the contemplation of
one of the most consoling, but least understood of the social

It is not true that we must choose between the denial or the
unlawfulness of leisure; thanks to rent and its natural duration,
leisure may arise from labour and saving. It is a pleasing prospect,
which every one may have in view; a noble recompense, to which each may
aspire. It makes its appearance in the world; it distributes itself
proportionably to the exercise of certain virtues; it opens all the
avenues to intelligence; it ennobles, it raises the morals; it
spiritualizes the soul of humanity, not only without laying any weight
on those of our brethren whose lot in life devotes them to severe
labour, but relieving them gradually from the heaviest and most
repugnant part of this labour. It is enough that capitals should be
formed, accumulated, multiplied; should be lent on conditions less and
less burdensome; that they should descend, penetrate into every social
circle, and that by an admirable progression, after having liberated the
lenders, they should hasten the liberation of the borrowers themselves.
For that end, the laws and customs ought all to be favourable to
economy, the source of capital. It is enough to say, that the first of
all these conditions is, not to alarm, to attack, to deny that which is
the stimulus of saving and the reason of its existence--interest.

As long as we see nothing passing from hand to hand, in the character of
loan, but _provisions_, _materials_, _instruments_, things indispensable
to the productiveness of labour itself, the ideas thus far exhibited
will not find many opponents. Who knows, even, that I may not be
reproached for having made a great effort to burst what may be said to
be an open door. But as soon as _cash_ makes its appearance as the
subject of the transaction (and it is this which appears almost always),
immediately a crowd of objections are raised. Money, it will be said,
will not reproduce it self, like your _sack of corn_; it does not assist
labour, like your _plane_; it does not afford an immediate satisfaction,
like your _house_. It is incapable, by its nature, of producing
interest, of multiplying itself, and the remuneration it demands is a
positive extortion.

Who cannot see the sophistry of this? Who does not see that cash is only
a transient form, which men give at the time to other _values_, to real
objects of usefulness, for the sole object of facilitating their
arrangements? In the midst of social complications, the man who is in a
condition to lend, scarcely ever has the exact thing which the borrower
wants. James, it is true, has a plane; but, perhaps, William wants a
saw. They cannot negotiate; the transaction favourable to both cannot
take place, and then what happens? It happens that James first exchanges
his plane for money; he lends the money to William, and William
exchanges the money for a saw. The transaction is no longer a simple
one; it is decomposed into two parts, as I explained above in speaking
of exchange. But, for all that, it has not changed its nature; it still
contains all the elements of a direct loan. James has still got rid of a
tool which was useful to him; William has still received an instrument
which perfects his work and increases his profits; there is still a
service rendered by the lender, which entitles him to receive an
equivalent service from the borrower; this just balance is not the less
established by free mutual bargaining. The very natural obligation to
restore at the end of the term the entire _value_, still constitutes the
principle of the duration of interest.

At the end of a year, says M. Thoré, will you find an additional crown
in a bag of a hundred pounds?

No, certainly, if the borrower puts the bag of one hundred pounds on the
shelf. In such a case, neither the plane nor the sack of corn would
reproduce themselves. But it is not for the sake of leaving the money in
the bag, nor the plane on the hook, that they are borrowed. The plane is
borrowed to be used, or the money to procure a plane. And if it is
clearly proved that this tool enables the borrower to obtain profits
which he would not have made without it, if it is proved that the lender
has renounced creating for himself this excess of profits, we may
understand how the stipulation of a part of this excess of profits in
favour of the lender, is equitable and lawful.

Ignorance of the true part which cash plays in human transactions, is
the source of the most fatal errors. I intend devoting an entire
pamphlet to this subject. From what we may infer from the writings of
M. Proudhon, that which has led him to think that gratuitous credit was
a logical and definite consequence of social progress, is the
observation of the phenomenon which shows a decreasing interest, almost
in direct proportion to the rate of civilisation. In barbarous times it
is, in fact, cent, per cent., and more. Then it descends to eighty,
sixty, fifty, forty, twenty, ten, eight, five, four, and three per cent.
In Holland, it has even been as low as two per cent. Hence it is
concluded, that "in proportion as society comes to perfection, it will
descend to zero by the time civilisation is complete. In other words,
that which characterises social perfection is the gratuitousness of
credit. When, therefore, we shall have abolished interest, we shall have
reached the last step of progress." This is mere sophistry, and as such
false arguing may contribute to render popular the unjust, dangerous,
and destructive dogma, that credit should be gratuitous, by representing
it as coincident with social perfection, with the reader's permission I
will examine in a few words this new view of the question.

What is _interest_? It is the service rendered, after a free bargain, by
the borrower to the lender, in remuneration for the service he has
received by the loan. By what law is the rate of these remunerative
services established? By the general law which regulates the equivalent
of all services; that is, by the law of supply and demand.

The more easily a thing is procured, the smaller is the service rendered
by yielding it or lending it. The man who gives me a glass of water in
the Pyrenees, does not render me so great a service as he who allows me
one in the desert of Sahara. If there are many planes, sacks of corn, or
houses, in a country, the use of them is obtained, other things being
equal, on more favourable conditions than if they were few; for the
simple reason, that the lender renders in this case a smaller _relative

It is not surprising, therefore, that the more abundant capitals are,
the lower is the interest.

Is this saying that it will ever reach zero? No; because, I repeat it,
the principle of a remuneration is in the loan. To say that interest
will be annihilated, is to say that there will never be any motive for
saving, for denying ourselves, in order to form new capitals, nor even
to preserve the old ones. In this case, the waste would immediately
bring a void, and interest would directly reappear.

In that, the nature of the services of which we are speaking does not
differ from any other. Thanks to industrial progress, a pair of
stockings, which used to be worth six francs, has successively been
worth only four, three, and two. No one can say to what point this value
will descend; but we can affirm that it will never reach zero, unless
the stockings finish by producing themselves spontaneously. Why? Because
the principle of remuneration is in labour; because he who works for
another renders a service, and ought to receive a service. If no one
paid for stockings, they would cease to be made; and, with the scarcity,
the price would not fail to reappear.

The sophism which I am now combating has its root in the infinite
divisibility which belongs to _value_, as it does to matter.

It appears at first paradoxical, but it is well known to all
mathematicians, that, through all eternity, fractions may be taken from
a weight without the weight ever being annihilated. It is sufficient
that each successive fraction be less than the preceding one, in a
determined and regular proportion.

There are countries where people apply themselves to increasing the size
of horses, or diminishing in sheep the size of the head. It is
impossible to say precisely to what point they will arrive in this. No
one can say that he has seen the largest horse or the smallest sheep's
head that will ever appear in the world. But he may safely say that the
size of horses will never attain to infinity, nor the heads of sheep to

In the same way, no one can say to what point the price of stockings nor
the interest of capitals will come down; but we may safely affirm, when
we know the nature of things, that neither the one nor the other will
ever arrive at zero, for labour and capital can no more live without
recompense than a sheep without a head.

The arguments of M. Proudhon reduce themselves, then, to this:--Since
the most skilful agriculturists are those who have reduced the heads of
sheep to the smallest size, we shall have arrived at the highest
agricultural perfection when sheep have no longer any heads. Therefore,
in order to realise the perfection, let us behead them.

I have now done with this wearisome discussion. Why is it that the
breath of false doctrine has made it needful to examine into the
intimate nature of interest? I must not leave off without remarking upon
a beautiful moral which may be drawn from this law:--"The depression of
interest is proportioned to the abundance of capitals." This law being
granted, if there is a class of men to whom it is more important than to
any other that capitals be formed, accumulate, multiply, abound, and
superabound, it is certainly the class which borrows them directly or
indirectly; it is those men who operate upon _materials_, who gain
assistance by _instruments_, who live upon _provisions_, produced and
economised by other men.

Imagine, in a vast and fertile country, a population of a thousand
inhabitants, destitute of all capital thus defined. It will assuredly
perish by the pangs of hunger. Let us suppose a case hardly less cruel.
Let us suppose that ten of these savages are provided with instruments
and provisions sufficient to work and to live themselves until harvest
time, as well as to remunerate the services of eighty labourers. The
inevitable result will be the death of nine hundred human beings. It is
clear, then, that since 990 men, urged by want, will crowd upon the
supports which would only maintain a hundred, the ten capitalists will
be masters of the market. They will obtain labour on the hardest
conditions, for they will put it up to auction, or the highest bidder.
And observe this,--if these capitalists entertain such pious sentiments
as would induce them to impose personal privations on themselves, in
order to diminish the sufferings of some of their brethren, this
generosity, which attaches to morality, will be as noble in its
principle as useful in its effects. But if, duped by that false
philosophy which persons wish so inconsiderately to mingle with economic
laws, they take to remunerating labour largely, far from doing good,
they will do harm. They will give double wages, it may be. But then,
forty-five men will be better provided for, whilst forty-five others
will come to augment the number of those who are sinking into the grave.
Upon this supposition, it is not the lowering of wages which is the
mischief, it is the scarcity of capital. Low wages are not the cause,
but the effect of the evil. I may add, that they are to a certain extent
the remedy. It acts in this way: it distributes the burden of suffering
as much as it can, and saves as many lives as a limited quantity of
sustenance permits.

Suppose now, that instead of ten capitalists, there should be a hundred,
two hundred, five hundred,--is it not evident that the condition of the
whole population, and, above all, that of the "prolétaires,"[3] will be
more and more improved? Is it not evident that, apart from every
consideration of generosity, they would obtain more work and better pay
for it?--that they themselves will be in a better condition, to form
capitals, without being able to fix the limits to this ever-increasing
facility of realising equality and well-being? Would it not be madness
in them to admit such doctrines, and to act in a way which would drain
the source of wages, and paralyse the activity and stimulus of saving?
Let them learn this lesson, then; doubtless, capitals are good for those
who possess them: who denies it? But they are also useful to those who
have not yet been able to form them; and it is important to those who
have them not, that others should have them.

Yes, if the "prolétaires" knew their true interests, they would seek,
with the greatest care, what circumstances are, and what are not
favourable to saving, in order to favour the former and to discourage
the latter. They would sympathise with every measure which tends to the
rapid formation of capitals. They would be enthusiastic promoters of
peace, liberty, order, security, the union of classes and peoples,
economy, moderation in public expenses, simplicity in the machinery of
government; for it is under the sway of all these circumstances that
saving does its work, brings plenty within the reach of the masses,
invites those persons to become the formers of capital who were formerly
under the necessity of borrowing upon hard conditions. They would repel
with energy the warlike spirit, which diverts from its true course so
large a part of human labour; the monopolising spirit, which deranges
the equitable distribution of riches, in the way by which liberty alone
can realise it; the multitude of public services, which attack our
purses only to check our liberty; and, in short, those subversive,
hateful, thoughtless doctrines, which alarm capital, prevent its
formation, oblige it to flee, and finally to raise its price, to the
especial disadvantage of the workers, who bring it into operation. Well,
and in this respect is not the revolution of February a hard lesson? Is
it not evident that the insecurity it has thrown into the world of
business on the one hand; and, on the other, the advancement of the
fatal theories to which I have alluded, and which, from the clubs, have
almost penetrated into the regions of the legislature, have everywhere
raised the rate of interest? Is it not evident, that from that time the
"prolétaires" have found greater difficulty in procuring those
materials, instruments, and provisions, without which labour is
impossible? Is it not that which has caused stoppages; and do not
stoppages, in their turn, lower wages? Thus there is a deficiency of
labour to the "prolétaires," from the same cause which loads the objects
they consume with an increase of price, in consequence of the rise of
interest. High interest, low wages, means in other words that the same
article preserves its price, but that the part of the capitalist has
invaded, without profiting himself, that of the workmen.

A friend of mine, commissioned to make inquiry into Parisian industry,
has assured me that the manufacturers have revealed to him a very
striking fact, which proves, better than any reasoning can, how much
insecurity and uncertainty injure the formation of capital. It was
remarked, that during the most distressing period, the popular expenses
of mere fancy had not diminished. The small theatres, the fighting
lists, the public-houses, and tobacco depots, were as much frequented as
in prosperous times. In the inquiry, the operatives themselves explained
this phenomenon thus:--"What is the use of pinching? Who knows what will
happen to us? Who knows that interest will not be abolished? Who knows
but that the State will become a universal and gratuitous lender, and
that it will wish to annihilate all the fruits which we might expect
from our savings?" Well! I say, that if such ideas could prevail during
two single years, it would be enough to turn our beautiful France into a
Turkey--misery would become general and endemic, and, most assuredly,
the poor would be the first upon whom it would fall.

Workmen! they talk to you a great deal upon the _artificial_
organisation of labour;--do you know why they do so? Because they are
ignorant of the laws of its _natural_ organisation; that is, of the
wonderful organisation which results from liberty. You are told, that
liberty gives rise to what is called the radical antagonism of classes;
that it creates, and makes to clash, two opposite interests--that of the
capitalists and that of the "prolétaires." But we ought to begin by
proving that this antagonism exists by a law of nature; and afterwards
it would remain to be shown how far the arrangements of restraint are
superior to those of liberty, for between liberty and restraint I see no
middle path. Again, it would remain to be proved that restraint would
always operate to your advantage, and to the prejudice of the rich.
But, no; this radical antagonism, this natural opposition of interests,
does not exist. It is only an evil dream of perverted and intoxicated
imaginations. No; a plan so defective has not proceeded from the Divine
Mind. To affirm it, we must begin by denying the existence of God. And
see how, by means of social laws, and because men exchange amongst
themselves their labours and their productions, see what a harmonious
tie attaches the classes one to the other! There are the landowners;
what is their interest? That the soil be fertile, and the sun
beneficent: and what is the result? That corn abounds, that it falls in
price, and the advantage turns to the profit of those who have had no
patrimony. There are the manufacturers--what is their constant thought?
To perfect their labour, to increase the power of their machines, to
procure for themselves, upon the best terms, the raw material. And to
what does all this tend? To the abundance and the low price of produce;
that is, that all the efforts of the manufacturers, and without their
suspecting it, result in a profit to the public consumer, of which each
of you is one. It is the same with every profession. Well, the
capitalists are not exempt from this law. They are very busy making
schemes, economising, and turning them to their advantage. This is all
very well; but the more they succeed, the more do they promote the
abundance of capital, and, as a necessary consequence, the reduction of
interest. Now, who is it that profits by the reduction of interest? Is
it not the borrower first, and finally, the consumers of the things
which the capitals contribute to produce?

It is therefore certain that the final result of the efforts of each
class is the common good of all.

You are told that capital tyrannises over labour. I do not deny that
each one endeavours to draw the greatest possible advantage from his
situation; but, in this sense, he realises only that which is possible.
Now, it is never more possible for capitals to tyrannise over labour,
than when they are scarce; for then it is they who make the law--it is
they who regulate the rate of sale. Never is this tyranny more
impossible to them, than when they are abundant; for, in that case, it
is labour which has the command.

Away, then, with the jealousies of classes, ill-will, unfounded hatreds,
unjust suspicions. These depraved passions injure those who nourish them
in their hearts. This is no declamatory morality; it is a chain of
causes and effects, which is capable of being rigorously, mathematically
demonstrated. It is not the less sublime, in that it satisfies the
intellect as well as the feelings.

I shall sum up this whole dissertation with these words:--Workmen,
labourers, "prolétaires," destitute and suffering classes, will you
improve your condition? You will not succeed by strife, insurrection,
hatred, and error. But there are three things which cannot perfect the
entire community, without extending these benefits to yourselves; these
things are--peace, liberty, and security.

That Which Is Seen, and That Which Is Not Seen

In the department of economy, an act, a habit, an institution, a law,
gives birth not only to an effect, but to a series of effects. Of these
effects, the first only is immediate; it manifests itself simultaneously
with its cause--_it is seen_. The others unfold in succession--_they are
not seen_: it is well for us if they are _foreseen_. Between a good and
a bad economist this constitutes the whole difference--the one takes
account of the _visible_ effect; the other takes account both of the
effects which are _seen_ and also of those which it is necessary to
_foresee_. Now this difference is enormous, for it almost always happens
that when the immediate consequence is favourable, the ultimate
consequences are fatal, _and the converse_. Hence it follows that the
bad economist pursues a small present good, which will be followed by a
great evil to come, while the true economist pursues a great good to
come, at the risk of a small present evil.

In fact, it is the same in the science of health, arts, and in that of
morals. If often happens, that the sweeter the first fruit of a habit
is, the more bitter are the consequences. Take, for example, debauchery,
idleness, prodigality. When, therefore, a man, absorbed in the effect
which _is seen_, has not yet learned to discern those which are not
seen, he gives way to fatal habits, not only by inclination, but by

This explains the fatally grievous condition of mankind. Ignorance
surrounds its cradle: then its actions are determined by their first
consequences, the only ones which, in its first stage, it can see. It is
only in the long run that it learns to take account of the others. It
has to learn this lesson from two very different masters--experience and
foresight. Experience teaches effectually, but brutally. It makes us
acquainted with all the effects of an action, by causing us to feel
them; and we cannot fail to finish by knowing that fire burns, if we
have burned ourselves. For this rough teacher, I should like, if
possible, to substitute a more gentle one. I mean Foresight. For this
purpose I shall examine the consequences of certain economical
phenomena, by placing in opposition to each other those _which are
seen_, and those _which are not seen_.

I.--The Broken Window.

Have you ever witnessed the anger of the good shopkeeper, James B., when
his careless son happened to break a pane of glass? If you have been
present at such a scene, you will most assuredly bear witness to the
fact, that every one of the spectators, were there even thirty of them,
by common consent apparently, offered the unfortunate owner this
invariable consolation--"It is an ill wind that blows nobody good.
Everybody must live, and what would become of the glaziers if panes of
glass were never broken?"

Now, this form of condolence contains an entire theory, which it will be
well to show up in this simple case, seeing that it is precisely the
same as that which, unhappily, regulates the greater part of our
economical institutions.

Suppose it cost six francs to repair the damage, and you say that the
accident brings six francs to the glazier's trade--that it encourages
that trade to the amount of six francs--I grant it; I have not a word to
say against it; you reason justly. The glazier comes, performs his task,
receives his six francs, rubs his hands, and, in his heart, blesses the
careless child. All this is _that which is seen_.

But if, on the other hand, you come to the conclusion, as is too often
the case, that it is a good thing to break windows, that it causes money
to circulate, and that the encouragement of industry in general will be
the result of it, you will oblige me to call out, "Stop there! your
theory is confined to that _which is seen_; it takes no account of that
_which is not seen_."

_It is not seen_ that as our shopkeeper has spent six francs upon one
thing, he cannot spend them upon another. _It is not seen_ that if he
had not had a window to replace, he would, perhaps, have replaced his
old shoes, or added another book to his library. In short, he would have
employed his six francs in some way which this accident has prevented.

Let us take a view of industry in general, as affected by this
circumstance. The window being broken, the glazier's trade is encouraged
to the amount of six francs: _this is that which is seen_.

If the window had not been broken, the shoemaker's trade (or some other)
would have been encouraged to the amount of six francs: this is _that
which is not seen_.

And if _that which is not seen_ is taken into consideration, because it
is a negative fact, as well as that which is seen, because it is a
positive fact, it will be understood that neither industry _in general_,
nor the sum total of _national labour_, is affected, whether windows are
broken or not.

Now let us consider James B. himself. In the former supposition, that of
the window being broken, he spends six francs, and has neither more nor
less than he had before, the enjoyment of a window.

In the second, where we suppose the window not to have been broken, he
would have spent six francs in shoes, and would have had at the same
time the enjoyment of a pair o shoes and of a window.

Now, as James B. forms a part of society, we must come to the
conclusion, that, taking it altogether, and making an estimate of its
enjoyments and its labours, it has lost the value of the broken window.

Whence we arrive at this unexpected conclusion: "Society loses the value
of things which are uselessly destroyed;" and we must assent to a maxim
which will make the hair of protectionists stand on end--To break, to
spoil, to waste, is not to encourage national labour; or, more briefly,
"destruction is not profit."

What will you say, _Moniteur Industriel_--what will you say, disciples
of good M. F. Chamans, who has calculated with so much precision how
much trade would gain by the burning of Paris, from the number of houses
it would be necessary to rebuild?

I am sorry to disturb these ingenious calculations, as far as their
spirit has been introduced into our legislation; but I beg him to begin
them again, by taking into the account _that which is not seen_, and
placing it alongside of _that which is seen_.

The reader must take care to remember that there are not two persons
only, but three concerned in the little scene which I have submitted to
his attention. One of them, James B., represents the consumer, reduced,
by an act of destruction, to one enjoyment instead of two. Another,
under the title of the glazier, shows us the producer, whose trade is
encouraged by the accident. The third is the shoemaker (or some other
tradesman), whose labour suffers proportionably by the same cause. It
is this third person who is always kept in the shade, and who,
personating _that which is not seen_, is a necessary element of the
problem. It is he who shows us how absurd it is to think we see a profit
in an act of destruction. It is he who will soon teach us that it is not
less absurd to see a profit in a restriction, which is, after all,
nothing else than a partial destruction. Therefore, if you will only go
to the root of all the arguments which are adduced in its favour, all
you will find will be the paraphrase of this vulgar saying--_What would
become of the glaziers, if nobody ever broke windows_?

II.--The Disbanding of Troops.

It is the same with a people as it is with a man. If it wishes to give
itself some gratification, it naturally considers whether it is worth
what it costs. To a nation, security is the greatest of advantages. If,
in order to obtain it, it is necessary to have an army of a hundred
thousand men, I have nothing to say against it. It is an enjoyment
bought by a sacrifice. Let me not be misunderstood upon the extent of my
position. A member of the assembly proposes to disband a hundred
thousand men, for the sake of relieving the tax-payers of a hundred

If we confine ourselves to this answer--"The hundred millions of men,
and these hundred millions of money, are indispensable to the national
security: it is a sacrifice; but without this sacrifice, France would
be torn by factions or invaded by some foreign power,"--I have nothing
to object to this argument, which may be true or false in fact, but
which theoretically contains nothing which militates against economy.
The error begins when the sacrifice itself is said to be an advantage
because it profits somebody.

Now I am very much mistaken if, the moment the author of the proposal
has taken his seat, some orator will not rise and say--"Disband a
hundred thousand men! Do you know what you are saying? What will become
of them? Where will they get a living? Don't you know that work is
scarce everywhere? That every field is over-stocked? Would you turn them
out of doors to increase competition and to weigh upon the rate of
wages? Just now, when it is a hard matter to live at all, it would be a
pretty thing if the State must find bread for a hundred thousand
individuals? Consider, besides, that the army consumes wine, arms,
clothing--that it promotes the activity of manufactures in garrison
towns--that it is, in short, the godsend of innumerable purveyors. Why,
any one must tremble at the bare idea of doing away with this immense
industrial movement."

This discourse, it is evident, concludes by voting the maintenance of a
hundred thousand soldiers, for reasons drawn from the necessity of the
service, and from economical considerations. It is these considerations
only that I have to refute.

A hundred thousand men, costing the tax-payers a hundred millions of
money, live and bring to the purveyors as much as a hundred millions can
supply. This is that _which is seen_.

But, a hundred millions taken from the pockets of the tax-payers, cease
to maintain these tax-payers and the purveyors, as far as a hundred
millions reach. This is _that which is not seen_. Now make your
calculations. Cast up, and tell me what profit there is for the masses?

I will tell you where the _loss_ lies; and to simplify it, instead of
speaking of a hundred thousand men and a million of money, it shall be
of one man and a thousand francs.

We will suppose that we are in the village of A. The recruiting
sergeants go their round, and take off a man. The tax-gatherers go their
round, and take off a thousand francs. The man and the sum of money are
taken to Metz, and the latter is destined to support the former for a
year without doing anything. If you consider Metz only, you are quite
right; the measure is a very advantageous one: but if you look towards
the village of A., you will judge very differently; for, unless you are
very blind indeed, you will see that that village has lost a worker, and
the thousand francs which would remunerate his labour, as well as the
activity which, by the expenditure of those thousand francs, it would
spread around it.

At first sight, there would seem to be some compensation. What took
place at the village, now takes place at Metz, that is all. But the
loss is to be estimated in this way:--At the village, a man dug and
worked; he was a worker. At Metz, he turns to the right about and to the
left about; he is a soldier. The money and the circulation are the same
in both cases; but in the one there were three hundred days of
productive labour, in the other there are three hundred days of
unproductive labour, supposing, of course, that a part of the army is
not indispensable to the public safety.

Now, suppose the disbanding to take place. You tell me there will be a
surplus of a hundred thousand workers, that competition will be
stimulated, and it will reduce the rate of wages. This is what you see.

But what you do not see is this. You do not see that to dismiss a
hundred thousand soldiers is not to do away with a million of money, but
to return it to the tax-payers. You do not see that to throw a hundred
thousand workers on the market, is to throw into it, at the same moment,
the hundred millions of money needed to pay for their labour: that,
consequently, the same act which increases the supply of hands,
increases also the demand; from which it follows, that your fear of a
reduction of wages is unfounded. You do not see that, before the
disbanding as well as after it, there are in the country a hundred
millions of money corresponding with the hundred thousand men. That the
whole difference consists in this: before the disbanding, the country
gave the hundred millions to the hundred thousand men for doing nothing;
and that after it, it pays them the same sum for working. You do not
see, in short, that when a tax-payer gives his money either to a soldier
in exchange for nothing, or to a worker in exchange for something, all
the ultimate consequences of the circulation of this money are the same
in the two cases; only, in the second case the tax-payer receives
something, in the former he receives nothing. The result is--a dead loss
to the nation.

The sophism which I am here combating will not stand the test of
progression, which is the touchstone of principles. If, when every
compensation is made, and all interests satisfied, there is a _national
profit_ in increasing the army, why not enrol under its banners the
entire male population of the country?


Have you never chanced to hear it said: "There is no better investment
than taxes. Only see what a number of families it maintains, and
consider how it reacts upon industry: it is an inexhaustible stream, it
is life itself."

In order to combat this doctrine, I must refer to my preceding
refutation. Political economy knew well enough that its arguments were
not so amusing that it could be said of them, _repetitions please_. It
has, therefore, turned the proverb to its own use, well convinced that,
in its mouth, _repetitions teach_.

The advantages which officials advocate are _those which are seen_. The
benefit which accrues to the providers _is still that which is seen_.
This blinds all eyes.

But the disadvantages which the tax-payers have to get rid of are _those
which are not seen_. And the injury which results from it to the
providers is still that _which is not seen_, although this ought to be

When an official spends for his own profit an extra hundred sous, it
implies that a tax-payer spends for his profit a hundred sous less. But
the expense of the official _is seen_, because the act is performed,
while that of the tax-payer _is not seen_, because, alas! he is
prevented from performing it.

You compare the nation, perhaps to a parched tract of land, and the tax
to a fertilising rain. Be it so. But you ought also to ask yourself
where are the sources of this rain, and whether it is not the tax itself
which draws away the moisture from the ground and dries it up?

Again, you ought to ask yourself whether it is possible that the soil
can receive as much of this precious water by rain as it loses by

There is one thing very certain, that when James B. counts out a hundred
sous for the tax-gatherer, he receives nothing in return. Afterwards,
when an official spends these hundred sous, and returns them to James
B., it is for an equal value in corn or labour. The final result is a
loss to James B. of five francs.

It is very true that often, perhaps very often, the official performs
for James B. an equivalent service. In this case there is no loss on
either side; there is merely an exchange. Therefore, my arguments do not
at all apply to useful functionaries. All I say is,--if you wish to
create an office, prove its utility. Show that its value to James B., by
the services which it performs for him, is equal to what it costs him.
But, apart from this intrinsic utility, do not bring forward as an
argument the benefit which it confers upon the official, his family, and
his providers; do not assert that it encourages labour.

When James B. gives a hundred sous to a Government officer for a really
useful service, it is exactly the same as when he gives a hundred sous
to a shoemaker for a pair of shoes.

But when James B. gives a hundred sous to a Government officer, and
receives nothing for them unless it be annoyances, he might as well give
them to a thief. It is nonsense to say that the Government officer will
spend these hundred sous to the great profit of _national labour_; the
thief would do the same; and so would James B., if he had not been
stopped on the road by the extra-legal parasite, nor by the lawful

Let us accustom ourselves, then, to avoid judging of things by _what is
seen_ only, but to judge of them by _that which is not seen_.

Last year I was on the Committee of Finance, for under the constituency
the members of the Opposition were not systematically excluded from all
the Commissions: in that the constituency acted wisely. We have heard M.
Thiers say--"I have passed my life in opposing the legitimist party and
the priest party. Since the common danger has brought us together, now
that I associate with them and know them, and now that we speak face to
face, I have found out that they are not the monsters I used to imagine

Yes, distrust is exaggerated, hatred is fostered among parties who never
mix; and if the majority would allow the minority to be present at the
Commissions, it would perhaps be discovered that the ideas of the
different sides are not so far removed from each other; and, above all,
that their intentions are not so perverse as is supposed. However, last
year I was on the Committee of Finance. Every time that one of our
colleagues spoke of fixing at a moderate figure the maintenance of the
President of the Republic, that of the ministers, and of the
ambassadors, it was answered:--

"For the good of the service, it is necessary to surround certain
offices with splendour and dignity, as a means of attracting men of
merit to them. A vast number of unfortunate persons apply to the
President of the Republic, and it would be placing him in a very painful
position to oblige him to be constantly refusing them. A certain style
in the ministerial saloons is a part of the machinery of constitutional

Although such arguments may be controverted, they certainly deserve a
serious examination. They are based upon the public interest, whether
rightly estimated or not; and as far as I am concerned, I have much more
respect for them than many of our Catos have, who are actuated by a
narrow spirit of parsimony or of jealousy.

But what revolts the economical part of my conscience, and makes me
blush for the intellectual resources of my country, is when this absurd
relic of feudalism is brought forward, which it constantly is, and it is
favourably received too:--

"Besides, the luxury of great Government officers encourages the arts,
industry, and labour. The head of the State and his ministers cannot
give banquets and soirées without causing life to circulate through all
the veins of the social body. To reduce their means, would starve
Parisian industry, and consequently that of the whole nation."

I must beg you, gentlemen, to pay some little regard to arithmetic, at
least; and not to say before the National Assembly in France, lest to
its shame it should agree with you, that an addition gives a different
sum, according to whether it is added up from the bottom to the top, or
from the top to the bottom of the column.

For instance, I want to agree with a drainer to make a trench in my
field for a hundred sous. Just as we have concluded our arrangement the
tax-gatherer comes, takes my hundred sous, and sends them to the
Minister of the Interior; my bargain is at end, but the minister will
have another dish added to his table. Upon what ground will you dare to
affirm that this official expense helps the national industry? Do you
not see, that in this there is only a reversing of satisfaction and
labour? A minister has his table better covered, it is true; but it is
just as true that an agriculturist has his field worse drained. A
Parisian tavern-keeper has gained a hundred sous, I grant you; but then
you must grant me that a drainer has been prevented from gaining five
francs. It all comes to this,--that the official and the tavern-keeper
being satisfied, is _that which is seen_; the field undrained, and the
drainer deprived of his job, is _that which is not seen_. Dear me! how
much trouble there is in proving that two and two make four; and if you
succeed in proving it, it is said "the thing is so plain it is quite
tiresome," and they vote as if you had proved nothing at all.

IV.--Theatres, Fine Arts.

Ought the State to support the arts?

There is certainly much to be said on both sides of this question. It
may be said, in favour of the system of voting supplies for this
purpose, that the arts enlarge, elevate, and harmonize the soul of a
nation; that they divert it from too great an absorption in material
occupations; encourage in it a love for the beautiful; and thus act
favourably on its manners, customs, morals, and even on its industry. It
may be asked, what would become of music in France without her Italian
theatre and her Conservatoire; of the dramatic art, without her
Théâtre-Français; of painting and sculpture, without our collections,
galleries, and museums? It might even be asked, whether, without
centralisation, and consequently the support of the fine arts, that
exquisite taste would be developed which is the noble appendage of
French labour, and which introduces its productions to the whole world?
In the face of such results, would it not be the height of imprudence to
renounce this moderate contribution from all her citizens, which, in
fact, in the eyes of Europe, realises their superiority and their glory?

To these and many other reasons, whose force I do not dispute, arguments
no less forcible may be opposed. It might first of all be said, that
there is a question of distributive justice in it. Does the right of the
legislator extend to abridging the wages of the artisan, for the sake
of, adding to the profits of the artist? M. Lamartine said, "If you
cease to support the theatre, where will you stop? Will you not
necessarily be led to withdraw your support from your colleges, your
museums, your institutes, and your libraries? It might be answered, if
you desire to support everything which is good and useful, where will
you stop? Will you not necessarily be led to form a civil list for
agriculture, industry, commerce, benevolence, education? Then, is it
certain that Government aid favours the progress of art? This question
is far from being settled, and we see very well that the theatres which
prosper are those which depend upon their own resources. Moreover, if we
come to higher considerations, we may observe that wants and desires
arise the one from the other, and originate in regions which are more
and more refined in proportion as the public wealth allows of their
being satisfied; that Government ought not to take part in this
correspondence, because in a certain condition of present fortune it
could not by taxation stimulate the arts of necessity without checking
those of luxury, and thus interrupting the natural course of
civilisation. I may observe, that these artificial transpositions of
wants, tastes, labour, and population, place the people in a precarious
and dangerous position, without any solid basis."

These are some of the reasons alleged by the adversaries of State
intervention in what concerns the order in which citizens think their
wants and desires should be satisfied, and to which, consequently, their
activity should be directed. I am, I confess, one of those who think
that choice and impulse ought to come from below and not from above,
from the citizen and not from the legislator; and the opposite doctrine
appears to me to tend to the destruction of liberty and of human

But, by a deduction as false as it is unjust, do you know what
economists are accused of? It is, that when we disapprove of government
support, we are supposed to disapprove of the thing itself whose support
is discussed; and to be the enemies of every kind of activity, because
we desire to see those activities, on the one hand free, and on the
other seeking their own reward in themselves. Thus, if we think that the
State should not interfere by taxation in religious affairs, we are
atheists. If we think the State ought not to interfere by taxation in
education, we are hostile to knowledge. If we say that the State ought
not by taxation to give a fictitious value to land, or to any particular
branch of industry, we are enemies to property and labour. If we think
that the State ought not to support artists, we are barbarians, who look
upon the arts as useless.

Against such conclusions as these I protest with all my strength. Far
from entertaining the absurd idea of doing away with religion,
education, property, labour, and the arts, when we say that the State
ought to protect the free development of all these kinds of human
activity, without helping some of them at the expense of others--we
think, on the contrary, that all these living powers of society would
develop themselves more harmoniously under the influence of liberty; and
that, under such an influence no one of them would, as is now the case,
be a source of trouble, of abuses, of tyranny, and disorder.

Our adversaries consider that an activity which is neither aided by
supplies, nor regulated by government, is an activity destroyed. We
think just the contrary. Their faith is in the legislator, not in
mankind; ours is in mankind, not in the legislator.

Thus M. Lamartine said, "Upon this principle we must abolish the public
exhibitions, which are the honour and the wealth of this country." But I
would say to M. Lamartine,--According to your way of thinking, not to
support is to abolish; because, setting out upon the maxim that nothing
exists independently of the will of the State, you conclude that nothing
lives but what the State causes to live. But I oppose to this assertion
the very example which you have chosen, and beg you to remark, that the
grandest and noblest of exhibitions, one which has been conceived in the
most liberal and universal spirit--and I might even make use of the term
humanitary, for it is no exaggeration--is the exhibition now preparing
in London; the only one in which no government is taking any part, and
which is being paid for by no tax.

To return to the fine arts. There are, I repeat, many strong reasons to
be brought, both for and against the system of government assistance.
The reader must see that the especial, object of this work leads me
neither to explain these reasons, nor to decide in their favour, nor
against them.

But M. Lamartine has advanced one argument which I cannot pass by in
silence, for it is closely connected with this economic study. "The
economical question, as regards theatres, is comprised in one
word--labour. It matters little what is the nature of this labour; it is
as fertile, as productive a labour as any other kind of labour in the
nation. The theatres in France, you know, feed and salary no less than
80,000 workmen of different kinds; painters, masons, decorators,
costumers, architects, &c., which constitute the very life and movement
of several parts of this capital, and on this account they ought to have
your sympathies." Your sympathies! say rather your money.

And further on he says: "The pleasures of Paris are the labour and the
consumption of the provinces, and the luxuries of the rich are the wages
and bread of 200,000 workmen of every description, who live by the
manifold industry of the theatres on the surface of the republic, and
who receive from these noble pleasures, which render France illustrious,
the sustenance of their lives and the necessaries of their families and
children. It is to them that you will give 60,000 francs." (Very well;
very well. Great applause.) For my part I am constrained to say, "Very
bad! very bad!" confining this opinion, of course, within the bounds of
the economical question which we are discussing.

Yes, it is to the workmen of the theatres that a part, at least, of
these 60,000 francs will go; a few bribes, perhaps, may be abstracted on
the way. Perhaps, if we were to look a little more closely into the
matter, we might find that the cake had gone another way, and that those
workmen were fortunate who had come in for a few crumbs. But I will
allow, for the sake of argument, that the entire sum does go to the
painters, decorators, &c.

_This is that which is seen._ But whence does it come? This is the other
side of the question, and quite as important as the former. Where do
these 60,000 francs spring from? and where would they go, if a vote of
the legislature did not direct them first towards the Rue Rivoli and
thence towards the Rue Grenelle? This _is what is not seen_. Certainly,
nobody will think of maintaining that the legislative vote has caused
this sum to be hatched in a ballot urn; that it is a pure addition made
to the national wealth; that but for this miraculous vote these 60,000
francs would have been for ever invisible and impalpable. It must be
admitted that all that the majority can do is to decide that they shall
be taken from one place to be sent to another; and if they take one
direction, it is only because they have been diverted from another.

This being the case, it is clear that the tax-payer, who has contributed
one franc, will no longer have this franc at his own disposal. It is
clear that he will be deprived of some gratification to the amount of
one franc; and that the workman, whoever he may be, who would have
received it from him, will be deprived of a benefit to that amount. Let
us not, therefore, be led by a childish illusion into believing that the
vote of the 60,000 francs may add anything whatever to the well-being
of the country, and to national labour. It displaces enjoyments, it
transposes wages--that is all.

Will it be said that for one kind of gratification, and one kind of
labour, it substitutes more urgent, more moral, more reasonable
gratifications and labour? I might dispute this; I might say, by taking
60,000 francs from the tax-payers, you diminish the wages of labourers,
drainers, carpenters, blacksmiths, and increase in proportion those of
the singers.

There is nothing to prove that this latter class calls for more sympathy
than the former. M. Lamartine does not say that it is so. He himself
says that the labour of the theatres is _as_ fertile, _as_ productive as
any other (not more so); and this may be doubted; for the best proof
that the latter is not so fertile as the former lies in this, that the
other is to be called upon to assist it.

But this comparison between the value and the intrinsic merit of
different kinds of labour forms no part of my present subject. All I
have to do here is to show, that if M. Lamartine and those persons who
commend his line of argument have seen on one side the salaries gained
by the _providers_ of the comedians, they ought on the other to have
seen the salaries lost by the _providers_ of the taxpayers: for want of
this, they have exposed themselves to ridicule by mistaking a
_displacement_ for a _gain_. If they were true to their doctrine, there
would be no limits to their demands for government aid; for that which
is true of one franc and of 60,000 is true, under parallel
circumstances, of a hundred millions of francs.

When taxes are the subject of discussion, you ought to prove their
utility by reasons from the root of the matter, but not by this unlucky
assertion--"The public expenses support the working classes." This
assertion disguises the important fact, that _public expenses always_
supersede _private expenses_, and that therefore we bring a livelihood
to one workman instead of another, but add nothing to the share of the
working class as a whole. Your arguments are fashionable enough, but
they are too absurd to be justified by anything like reason.

V.--Public Works.

Nothing is more natural than that a nation, after having assured itself
that an enterprise will benefit the community, should have it executed
by means of a general assessment. But I lose patience, I confess, when I
hear this economic blunder advanced in support of such a
project--"Besides, it will be a means of creating labour for the

The State opens a road, builds a palace, straightens a street, cuts a
canal, and so gives work to certain workmen--_this is what is seen_: but
it deprives certain other workmen of work--and this is what _is not

The road is begun. A thousand workmen come every morning, leave every
evening, and take their wages--this is certain. If the road had not been
decreed, if the supplies had not been voted, these good people would
have had neither work nor salary there; this also is certain.

But is this all? Does not the operation, as a whole, contain something
else? At the moment when M. Dupin pronounces the emphatic words, "The
Assembly has adopted," do the millions descend miraculously on a
moonbeam into the coffers of MM. Fould and Bineau? In order that the
evolution may be complete, as it is said, must not the State organise
the receipts as well as the expenditure? must it not set its
tax-gatherers and tax-payers to work, the former to gather and the
latter to pay?

Study the question, now, in both its elements. While you state the
destination given by the State to the millions voted, do not neglect to
state also the destination which the tax-payer would have given, but
cannot now give, to the same. Then you will understand that a public
enterprise is a coin with two sides. Upon one is engraved a labourer at
work, with this device, _that which is seen_; on the other is a labourer
out of work, with the device, _that which is not seen_.

The sophism which this work is intended to refute is the more dangerous
when applied to public works, inasmuch as it serves to justify the most
wanton enterprises and extravagance. When a railroad or a bridge are of
real utility, it is sufficient to mention this utility. But if it does
not exist, what do they do? Recourse is had to this mystification: "We
must find work for the workmen."

Accordingly, orders are given that the drains in the Champ-de-Mars be
made and unmade. The great Napoleon, it is said, thought he was doing a
very philanthropic work by causing ditches to be made and then filled
up. He said, therefore, "What signifies the result? All we want is to
see wealth spread among the labouring classes."

But let us go to the root of the matter. We are deceived by money. To
demand the co-operation of all the citizens in a common work, in the
form of money, is in reality to demand a concurrence in kind; for every
one procures, by his own labour, the sum to which he is taxed. Now, if
all the citizens were to be called together, and made to execute, in
conjunction, a work useful to all, this would be easily understood;
their reward would be found in the results of the work itself.

But after having called them together, if you force them to make roads
which no one will pass through, palaces which no one will inhabit, and
this under the pretext of finding them work, it would be absurd, and
they would have a right to argue, "With this labour we have nothing to
do; we prefer working on our own account."

A proceeding which consists in making the citizens co-operate in giving
money but not labour, does not, in any way, alter the general results.
The only thing is, that the loss would react upon all parties. By the
former, those whom the State employs, escape their part of the loss, by
adding it to that which their fellow-citizens have already suffered.

There is an article in our constitution which says:--"Society favours
and encourages the development of labour--by the establishment of public
works, by the State, the departments, and the parishes, as a means of
employing persons who are in want of work."

As a temporary measure, on any emergency, during a hard winter, this
interference with the tax-payers may have its use. It acts in the same
way as securities. It adds nothing either to labour or to wages, but it
takes labour and wages from ordinary times to give them, at a loss it is
true, to times of difficulty.

As a permanent, general, systematic measure, it is nothing else than a
ruinous mystification, an impossibility, which shows a little excited
labour _which is seen_, and hides a great deal of prevented labour
_which is not seen_.

VI.--The Intermediates.

Society is the total of the forced or voluntary services which men
perform for each other; that is to say, of _public services_ and
_private services_.

The former, imposed and regulated by the law, which it is not always
easy to change, even when it is desirable, may survive with it their own
usefulness, and still preserve the name of _public services_, even when
they are no longer services at all, but rather _public annoyances_. The
latter belong to the sphere of the will, of individual responsibility.
Every one gives and receives what he wishes, and what he can, after a
debate. They have always the presumption of real utility, in exact
proportion to their comparative value.

This is the reason why the former description of services so often
become stationary, while the latter obey the law of progress.

While the exaggerated development of public services, by the waste of
strength which it involves, fastens upon society a fatal sycophancy, it
is a singular thing that several modern sects, attributing this
character to free and private services, are endeavouring to transform
professions into functions.

These sects violently oppose what they call intermediates. They would
gladly suppress the capitalist, the banker, the speculator, the
projector, the merchant, and the trader, accusing them of interposing
between production and consumption, to extort from both, without giving
either anything in return. Or rather, they would transfer to the State
the work which they accomplish, for this work cannot be suppressed.

The sophism of the Socialists on this point is, showing to the public
what it pays to the intermediates in exchange for their services, and
concealing from it what is necessary to be paid to the State. Here is
the usual conflict between what is before our eyes and what is
perceptible to the mind only; between _what is seen_ and _what is not

It was at the time of the scarcity, in 1847, that the Socialist schools
attempted and succeeded in popularizing their fatal theory. They knew
very well that the most absurd notions have always a chance with people
who are suffering; _malisunda fames_.

Therefore, by the help of the fine words, "trafficking in men by men,
speculation on hunger, monopoly," they began to blacken commerce, and to
cast a veil over its benefits.

"What can be the use," they say, "of leaving to the merchants the care
of importing food from the United States and the Crimea? Why do not the
State, the departments, and the towns, organize a service for provisions
and a magazine for stores? They would sell at a _return price_, and the
people, poor things, would be exempted from the tribute which they pay
to free, that is, to egotistical, individual, and anarchical commerce."

The tribute paid by the people to commerce is _that which is seen_. The
tribute which the people would pay to the State, or to its agents, in
the Socialist system, is _what is not seen_.

In what does this pretended tribute, which the people pay to commerce,
consist? In this: that two men render each other a mutual service, in
all freedom, and under the pressure of competition and reduced prices.

When the hungry stomach is at Paris, and corn which can satisfy it is at
Odessa, the suffering cannot cease till the corn is brought into
contact with the stomach. There are three means by which this contact
may be effected. 1st. The famished men may go themselves and fetch the
corn. 2nd. They may leave this task to those to whose trade it belongs.
3rd. They may club together, and give the office in charge to public
functionaries. Which of these three methods possesses the greatest
advantages? In every time, in all countries, and the more free,
enlightened, and experienced they are, men have _voluntarily_ chosen the
second. I confess that this is sufficient, in my opinion, to justify
this choice. I cannot believe that mankind, as a whole, is deceiving
itself upon a point which touches it so nearly. But let us now consider
the subject.

For thirty-six millions of citizens to go and fetch the corn they want
from Odessa, is a manifest impossibility. The first means, then, goes
for nothing. The consumers cannot act for themselves. They must, of
necessity, have recourse to _intermediates_, officials or agents.

But observe, that the first of these three means would be the most
natural. In reality, the hungry man has to fetch his corn. It is a task
which concerns himself, a service due to himself. If another person, on
whatever ground, performs this service for him, takes the task upon
himself, this latter has a claim upon him for a compensation. I mean by
this to say that intermediates contain in themselves the principle of

However that may be, since we must refer to what the Socialists call a
parasite, I would ask, which of the two is the most exacting parasite
the merchant or the official?

Commerce (free, of course, otherwise I could not reason upon it),
commerce, I say, is led by its own interests to study the seasons, to
give daily statements of the state of the crops, to receive information
from every part of the globe, to foresee wants, to take precautions
beforehand. It has vessels always ready, correspondents everywhere; and
it is its immediate interest to buy at the lowest possible price, to
economize in all the details of its operations, and to attain the
greatest results by the smallest efforts. It is not the French merchants
only who are occupied in procuring provisions for France in time of
need, and if their interest leads them irresistibly to accomplish their
task at the smallest possible cost, the competition which they create
amongst each other leads them no less irresistibly to cause the
consumers to partake of the profits of those realised savings. The corn
arrives: it is to the interest of commerce to sell it as soon as
possible, so as to avoid risks, to realise its funds, and begin again
the first opportunity.

Directed by the comparison of prices, it distributes food over the whole
surface of the country, beginning always at the highest, price, that is,
where the demand is the greatest. It is impossible to imagine an
organisation more completely calculated to meet the interest of those
who are in want; and the beauty of this organisation, unperceived as it
is by the Socialists, results from the very fact that it is free. It is
true, the consumer is obliged to reimburse commerce for the expenses of
conveyance, freight, store-room, commission, &c.; but can any system be
devised in which he who eats corn is not obliged to defray the expenses,
whatever they may be, of bringing it within his reach? The remuneration
for the service performed has to be paid also; but as regards its
amount, this is reduced to the smallest possible sum by competition; and
as regards its justice, it would be very strange if the artizans of
Paris would not work for the artizans of Marseilles, when the merchants
of Marseilles work for the artizans of Paris.

If, according to the Socialist invention, the State were to stand in the
stead of commerce, what would happen? I should like to be informed where
the saving would be to the public? Would it be in the price of purchase?
Imagine the delegates of 40,000 parishes arriving at Odessa on a given
day, and on the day of need: imagine the effect upon prices. Would the
saving be in the expenses? Would fewer vessels be required; fewer
sailors, fewer transports, fewer sloops? or would you be exempt from the
payment of all these things? Would it be in the profits of the
merchants? Would your officials go to Odessa for nothing? Would they
travel and work on the principle of fraternity? Must they not live? Must
not they be paid for their time? And do you believe that these expenses
would not exceed a thousand times the two or three per cent. which the
merchant gains, at the rate at which he is ready to treat?

And then consider the difficulty of levying so many taxes, and of
dividing so much food. Think of the injustice, of the abuses inseparable
from such an enterprise. Think of the responsibility which would weigh
upon the Government.

The Socialists who have invented these follies, and who, in the days of
distress, have introduced them into the minds of the masses, take to
themselves literally the title of _advanced men_; and it is not without
some danger that custom, that tyrant of tongues, authorizes the term,
and the sentiment which it involves. _Advanced!_ This supposes that
these gentlemen can see further than the common people; that their only
fault is that they are too much in advance of their age; and if the time
is not yet come for suppressing certain free services, pretended
parasites, the fault is to be attributed to the public which is in the
rear of Socialism. I say, from my soul and my conscience, the reverse is
the truth; and I know not to what barbarous age we should have to go
back, if we would find the level of Socialist knowledge on this subject.
These modern sectarians incessantly oppose association to actual
society. They overlook the fact that society, under a free regulation,
is a true association, far superior to any of those which proceed from
their fertile imaginations.

Let me illustrate this by an example. Before a mutual services, and to
helping each other in a common object, and that all may be considered,
with respect to others, _intermediates_. If, for instance, in the course
of the operation, the conveyance becomes important enough to occupy one
person, the spinning another, the weaving another, why should the first
be considered a _parasite_ more than the other two? The conveyance must
be made, must it not? Does not he who performs it devote to it his time
and trouble? and by so doing does he not spare that of his colleagues?
Do these do more or other than this for him? Are they not equally
dependent for remuneration, that is, for the division of the produce,
upon the law of reduced price? Is it not in all liberty, for the common
good, that this separation of work takes place, and that these
arrangements are entered into? What do we want with a Socialist then,
who, under pretence of organising for us, comes despotically to break up
our voluntary arrangements, to check the division of labour, to
substitute isolated efforts for combined ones, and to send civilisation
back? Is association, as I describe it here, in itself less association,
because every one enters and leaves it freely, chooses his place in it,
judges and bargains for himself on his own responsibility, and brings
with him the spring and warrant of personal interest? That it may
deserve this name, is it necessary that a pretended reformer should come
and impose upon us his plan and his will, and, as it were, to
concentrate mankind in himself?

The more we examine these _advanced schools_, the more do we become
convinced that there is but one thing at the root of them: ignorance
proclaiming itself infallible, and claiming despotism in the name of
this infallibility.

I hope the reader will excuse this digression. It may not be altogether
useless, at a time when declamations, springing from St. Simonian,
Phalansterian, and Icarian books, are invoking the press and the
tribune, and which seriously threaten the liberty of labour and
commercial transactions.


M. Prohibant (it was not I who gave him this name, but M. Charles Dupin)
devoted his time and capital to converting the ore found on his land
into iron. As nature had been more lavish towards the Belgians, they
furnished the French with iron cheaper than M. Prohibant; which means,
that all the French, or France, could obtain a given quantity of iron
with less labour by buying it of the honest Flemings. Therefore, guided
by their own interest, they did not fail to do so; and every day there
might be seen a multitude of nail-smiths, blacksmiths, cartwrights,
machinists, farriers, and labourers, going themselves, or sending
intermediates, to supply themselves in Belgium. This displeased M.
Prohibant exceedingly.

At first, it occurred to him to put an end to this abuse by his own
efforts: it was the least he could do, for he was the only sufferer. "I
will take my carbine," said he; "I will put four pistols into my belt; I
will fill my cartridge box; I will gird on my sword, and go thus
equipped to the frontier. There, the first blacksmith, nail-smith,
farrier, machinist, or locksmith, who presents himself to do his own
business and not mine, I will kill, to teach him how to live." At the
moment of starting, M. Prohibant made a few reflections which calmed
down his warlike ardour a little. He said to himself, "In the first
place, it is not absolutely impossible that the purchasers of iron, my
countrymen and enemies, should take the thing ill, and, instead of
letting me kill them, should kill me instead; and then, even were I to
call out all my servants, we should not be able to defend the passages.
In short, this proceeding would cost me very dear, much more so than the
result would be worth."

M. Prohibant was on the point of resigning himself to his sad fate, that
of being only as free as the rest of the world, when a ray of light
darted across his brain. He recollected that at Paris there is a great
manufactory of laws. "What is a law?" said he to himself. "It is a
measure to which, when once it is decreed, be it good or bad, everybody
is bound to conform. For the execution of the same a public force is
organised, and to constitute the said public force, men and money are
drawn from the whole nation. If, then, I could only get the great
Parisian manufactory to pass a little law, 'Belgian iron is
prohibited,' I should obtain the following results:--The Government
would replace the few valets that I was going to send to the frontier by
20,000 of the sons of those refractory blacksmiths, farriers, artizans,
machinists, locksmiths, nail-smiths, and labourers. Then to keep these
20,000 custom-house officers in health and good humour, it would
distribute among them 25,000,000 of francs taken from these blacksmiths,
nail-smiths, artizans, and labourers. They would guard the frontier much
better; would cost me nothing; I should not be exposed to the brutality
of the brokers; should sell the iron at my own price, and have the sweet
satisfaction of seeing our great people shamefully mystified. That would
teach them to proclaim themselves perpetually the harbingers and
promoters of progress in Europe. Oh! it would be a capital joke, and
deserves to be tried."

So M. Prohibant went to the law manufactory. Another time, perhaps, I
shall relate the story of his underhand dealings, but now I shall merely
mention his visible proceedings. He brought the following consideration
before the view of the legislating gentlemen.

"Belgian iron is sold in France at ten francs, which obliges me to sell
mine at the same price. I should like to sell at fifteen, but cannot do
so on account of this Belgian iron, which I wish was at the bottom of
the Red Sea. I beg you will make a law that no more Belgian iron shall
enter France. Immediately I raise my price five francs, and these are
the consequences:--

"For every hundred-weight of iron that I shall deliver to the public, I
shall receive fifteen francs instead of ten; I shall grow rich more
rapidly, extend my traffic, and employ more workmen. My workmen and I
shall spend much more freely, to the great advantage of our tradesmen
for miles around. These latter, having more custom, will furnish more
employment to trade, and activity on both sides will increase in the
country. This fortunate piece of money, which you will drop into my
strong-box, will, like a stone thrown into a lake, give birth to an
infinite number of concentric circles."

Charmed with his discourse, delighted to learn that it is so easy to
promote, by legislating, the prosperity of a people, the law-makers
voted the restriction. "Talk of labour and economy," they said, "what is
the use of these painful means of increasing the national wealth, when
all that is wanted for this object is a decree?"

And, in fact, the law produced all the consequences announced by M.
Prohibant: the only thing was, it produced others which he had not
foreseen. To do him justice, his reasoning was not false, but only
incomplete. In endeavouring to obtain a privilege, he had taken
cognizance of the effects _which are seen_, leaving in the background
those _which are not seen_. He had pointed out only two personages,
whereas there are three concerned in the affair. It is for us to supply
this involuntary or premeditated omission.

It is true, the crown-piece, thus directed by law into M. Prohibant's
strong-box, is advantageous to him and to those whose labour it would
encourage; and if the Act had caused the crown-piece to descend from the
moon, these good effects would not have been counterbalanced by any
corresponding evils. Unfortunately, the mysterious piece of money does
not come from the moon, but from the pocket of a blacksmith, or a
nail-smith, or a cartwright, or a farrier, or a labourer, or a
shipwright; in a word, from James B., who gives it now without receiving
a grain more of iron than when he was paying ten francs. Thus, we can
see at a glance that this very much alters the state of the case; for it
is very evident that M. Prohibant's _profit_ is compensated by James
B.'s _loss_, and all that M. Prohibant can do with the crown-piece, for
the encouragement of national labour, James B. might have done himself.
The stone has only been thrown upon one part of the lake, because the
law has prevented it from being thrown upon another.

Therefore, _that which is not seen_ supersedes _that which is seen_, and
at this point there remains, as the residue of the operation, a piece of
injustice, and, sad to say, a piece of injustice perpetrated by the law!

This is not all. I have said that there is always a third person left
in the background. I must now bring him forward, that he may reveal to
us a _second loss_ of five francs. Then we shall have the entire results
of the transaction.

James B. is the possessor of fifteen francs, the fruit of his labour. He
is now free. What does he do with his fifteen francs? He purchases some
article of fashion for ten francs, and with it he pays (or the
intermediate pay for him) for the hundred-weight of Belgian iron. After
this he has five francs left. He does not throw them into the river, but
(and this is _what is not seen_) he gives them to some tradesman in
exchange for some enjoyment; to a bookseller, for instance, for
Bossuet's "Discourse on Universal History."

Thus, as far as national labour is concerned, it is encouraged to the
amount of fifteen francs, viz.:--ten francs for the Paris article, five
francs to the bookselling trade.

As to James B., he obtains for his fifteen francs two gratifications,

1st. A hundred-weight of iron.

2nd. A book.

The decree is put in force. How does it affect the condition of James
B.? How does it affect the national labour?

James B. pays every centime of his five francs to M. Prohibant, and
therefore is deprived of the pleasure of a book, or of some other thing
of equal value. He loses five francs. This must be admitted; it cannot
fail to be admitted, that when the restriction raises the price of
things, the consumer loses the difference.

But, then, it is said, _national labour_ is the gainer.

No, it is not the gainer; for since the Act, it is no more encouraged
than it was before, to the amount of fifteen francs.

The only thing is that, since the Act, the fifteen francs of James B. go
to the metal trade, while before it was put in force, they were divided
between the milliner and the bookseller.

The violence used by M. Prohibant on the frontier, or that which he
causes to be used by the law, may be judged very differently in a moral
point of view. Some persons consider that plunder is perfectly
justifiable, if only sanctioned by law. But, for myself, I cannot
imagine anything more aggravating. However it may be, the economical
results are the same in both cases.

Look at the thing as you will; but if you are impartial, you will see
that no good can come of legal or illegal plunder. We do not deny that
it affords M. Prohibant, or his trade, or, if you will, national
industry, a profit of five francs. But we affirm that it causes two
losses, one to James B., who pays fifteen francs where he otherwise
would have paid ten; the other to national industry, which does not
receive the difference. Take your choice of these two losses, and
compensate with it the profit which we allow. The other will prove not
the less a _dead loss_. Here is the moral: To take by violence is not to
produce, but to destroy. Truly, if taking by violence was producing,
this country of ours would be a little richer than she is.


"A curse on machines! Every year, their increasing power devotes
millions of workmen to pauperism, by depriving them of work, and
therefore of wages and bread. A curse on machines!"

This is the cry which is raised by vulgar prejudice, and echoed in the

But to curse machines is to curse the spirit of humanity!

It puzzles me to conceive how any man can feel any satisfaction in such
a doctrine.

For, if true, what is its inevitable consequence? That there is no
activity, prosperity, wealth, or happiness possible for any people,
except for those who are stupid and inert, and to whom God has not
granted the fatal gift of knowing how to think, to observe, to combine,
to invent, and to obtain the greatest results with the smallest means.
On the contrary, rags, mean huts, poverty, and inanition, are the
inevitable lot of every nation which seeks and finds in iron, fire,
wind, electricity, magnetism, the laws of chemistry and mechanics, in a
word, in the powers of nature, an assistance to its natural powers. We
might as well say with Rousseau--"Every man that thinks is a depraved

This is not all. If this doctrine is true, since all men think and
invent, since all, from first to last, and at every moment of their
existence, seek the co-operation of the powers of nature, and try to
make the most of a little, by reducing either the work of their hands or
their expenses, so as to obtain the greatest possible amount of
gratification with the smallest possible amount of labour, it must
follow, as a matter of course, that the whole of mankind is rushing
towards its decline, by the same mental aspiration towards progress,
which torments each of its members.

Hence, it ought to be made known, by statistics, that the inhabitants of
Lancashire, abandoning that land of machines, seek for work in Ireland,
where they are unknown; and, by history, that barbarism darkens the
epochs of civilisation, and that civilisation shines in times of
ignorance and barbarism.

There is evidently in this mass of contradictions something which
revolts us, and which leads us to suspect that the problem contains
within it an element of solution which has not been sufficiently

Here is the whole mystery: behind _that which is seen_ lies something
_which is not seen_. I will endeavour to bring it to light. The
demonstration I shall give will only be a repetition of the preceding
one, for the problems are one and the same.

Men have a natural propensity to make the best bargain they can, when
not prevented by an opposing force; that is, they like to obtain as much
as they possibly can for their labour, whether the advantage is
obtained from a _foreign producer_ or a skilful _mechanical producer_.

The theoretical objection which is made to this propensity is the same
in both cases. In each case it is reproached with the apparent
inactivity which it causes to labour. Now, labour rendered available,
not inactive, is the very thing which determines it. And, therefore, in
both cases, the same practical obstacle--force, is opposed to it also.

The legislator prohibits foreign competition, and forbids mechanical
competition. For what other means can exist for arresting a propensity
which is natural to all men, but that of depriving them of their

In many countries, it is true, the legislator strikes at only one of
these competitions, and confines himself to grumbling at the other. This
only proves one thing, that is, that the legislator is inconsistent.

We need not be surprised at this. On a wrong road, inconsistency is
inevitable; if it were not so, mankind would be sacrificed. A false
principle never has been, and never will be, carried out to the end.

Now for our demonstration, which shall not be a long one.

James B. had two francs which he had gained by two workmen; but it
occurs to him that an arrangement of ropes and weights might be made
which would diminish the labour by half. Therefore he obtains the same
advantage, saves a franc, and discharges a workman.

He discharges a workman: _this is that which is seen_.

And seeing this only, it is said, "See how misery attends civilisation;
this is the way that liberty is fatal to equality. The human mind has
made a conquest, and immediately a workman is cast into the gulf of
pauperism. James B. may possibly employ the two workmen, but then he
will give them only half their wages, for they will compete with each
other, and offer themselves at the lowest price. Thus the rich are
always growing richer, and the poor, poorer. Society wants remodelling."
A very fine conclusion, and worthy of the preamble.

Happily, preamble and conclusion are both false, because, behind the
half of the phenomenon _which is seen_, lies the other half _which is
not seen_.

The franc saved by James B. is not seen, no more are the necessary
effects of this saving.

Since, in consequence of his invention, James B. spends only one franc
on hand labour in the pursuit of a determined advantage, another franc
remains to him.

If, then, there is in the world a workman with unemployed arms, there is
also in the world a capitalist with an unemployed franc. These two
elements meet and combine, and it is as clear as daylight, that between
the supply and demand of labour, and between the supply and demand of
wages, the relation is in no way changed.

The invention and the workman paid with the first franc, now perform
the work which was formerly accomplished by two workmen. The second
workman, paid with the second franc, realises a new kind of work.

What is the change, then, which has taken place? An additional national
advantage has been gained; in other words, the invention is a gratuitous
triumph--a gratuitous profit for mankind.

From the form which I have given to my demonstration, the following
inference might be drawn:--

"It is the capitalist who reaps all the advantage from machinery. The
working class, if it suffers only temporarily, never profits by it,
since, by your own showing, they displace a portion of the national
labour, without diminishing it, it is true, but also without increasing

I do not pretend, in this slight treatise, to answer every objection;
the only end I have in view, is to combat a vulgar, widely spread, and
dangerous prejudice. I want to prove that a new machine only causes the
discharge of a certain number of hands, when the remuneration which pays
them is abstracted by force. These hands and this remuneration would
combine to produce what it was impossible to produce before the
invention; whence it follows, that the final result is _an increase of
advantages for equal labour_.

Who is the gainer by these additional advantages?

First, it is true, the capitalist, the inventor; the first who succeeds
in using the machine; and this is the reward of his genius and courage.
In this case, as we have just seen, he effects a saving upon the expense
of production, which, in whatever way it may be spent (and it always is
spent), employs exactly as many hands as the machine caused to be

But soon competition obliges him to lower his prices in proportion to
the saving itself; and then it is no longer the inventor who reaps the
benefit of the invention--it is the purchaser of what is produced, the
consumer, the public, including the workman; in a word, mankind.

And _that which is not seen_ is, that the saving thus procured for all
consumers creates a fund whence wages may be supplied, and which
replaces that which the machine has exhausted.

Thus, to recur to the forementioned example, James B. obtains a profit
by spending two francs in wages. Thanks to his invention, the hand
labour costs him only one franc. So long as he sells the thing produced
at the same price, he employs one workman less in producing this
particular thing, and that is _what is seen_; but there is an additional
workman employed by the franc which James B. has saved. This is _that
which is not seen_.

When, by the natural progress of things, James B. is obliged to lower
the price of the thing produced by one franc, then he no longer realises
a saving; then he has no longer a franc to dispose of to procure for the
national labour a new production. But then another gainer takes his
place, and this gainer is mankind. Whoever buys the thing he has
produced, pays a franc less, and necessarily adds this saving to the
fund of wages; and this, again, is _what is not seen_.

Another solution, founded upon facts, has been given of this problem of

It was said, machinery reduces the expense of production, and lowers the
price of the thing produced. The reduction of the profit causes an
increase of consumption, which necessitates an increase of production;
and, finally, the introduction of as many workmen, or more, after the
invention as were necessary before it. As a proof of this, printing,
weaving, &c., are instanced.

This demonstration is not a scientific one. It would lead us to
conclude, that if the consumption of the particular production of which
we are speaking remains stationary, or nearly so, machinery must injure
labour. This is not the case.

Suppose that in a certain country all the people wore hats. If, by
machinery, the price could be reduced half, it would not _necessarily
follow_ that the consumption would be doubled.

Would you say that in this case a portion of the national labour had
been paralyzed? Yes, according to the vulgar demonstration; but,
according to mine, No; for even if not a single hat more should be
bought in the country, the entire fund of wages would not be the less
secure. That which failed to go to the hat-making trade would be found
to have gone to the economy realised by all the consumers, and would
thence serve to pay for all the labour which the machine had rendered
useless, and to excite a new development of all the trades. And thus it
is that things go on. I have known newspapers to cost eighty francs, now
we pay forty-eight: here is a saving of thirty-two francs to the
subscribers. It is not certain, or at least necessary, that the
thirty-two francs should take the direction of the journalist trade; but
it is certain, and necessary too, that if they do not take this
direction they will take another. One makes use of them for taking in
more newspapers; another, to get better living; another, better clothes;
another, better furniture. It is thus that the trades are bound
together. They form a vast whole, whose different parts communicate by
secret canals: what is saved by one, profits all. It is very important
for us to understand that savings never take place at the expense of
labour and wages.


In all times, but more especially of late years, attempts have been made
to extend wealth by the extension of credit.

I believe it is no exaggeration to say, that since the revolution of
February, the Parisian presses have issued more than 10,000 pamphlets,
crying up this solution of the _social problem_.

The only basis, alas! of this solution, is an optical delusion--if,
indeed, an optical delusion can be called a basis at all.

The first thing done is to confuse cash with produce, then paper money
with cash; and from these two confusions it is pretended that a reality
can be drawn.

It is absolutely necessary in this question to forget money, coin,
bills, and the other instruments by means of which productions pass from
hand to hand. Our business is with the productions themselves, which are
the real objects of the loan; for when a farmer borrows fifty francs to
buy a plough, it is not, in reality, the fifty francs which are lent to
him, but the plough; and when a merchant borrows 20,000 francs to
purchase a house, it is not the 20,000 francs which he owes, but the
house. Money only appears for the sake of facilitating the arrangements
between the parties.

Peter may not be disposed to lend his plough, but James may be willing
to lend his money. What does William do in this case? He borrows money
of James, and with this money he buys the plough of Peter.

But, in point of fact, no one borrows money for the sake of the money
itself; money is only the medium by which to obtain possession of
productions. Now, it is impossible in any country to transmit from one
person to another more productions than that country contains.

Whatever may be the amount of cash and of paper which is in circulation,
the whole of the borrowers cannot receive more ploughs, houses, tools,
and supplies of raw material, than the lenders altogether can furnish;
for we must take care not to forget that every borrower supposes a
lender, and that what is once borrowed implies a loan.

This granted, what advantage is there in institutions of credit? It is,
that they facilitate, between borrowers and lenders, the means of
finding and treating with each other; but it is not in their power to
cause an instantaneous increase of the things to be borrowed and lent.
And yet they ought to be able to do so, if the aim of the reformers is
to be attained, since they aspire to nothing less than to place ploughs,
houses, tools, and provisions in the hands of all those who desire them.

And how do they intend to effect this?

By making the State security for the loan.

Let us try and fathom the subject, for it contains _something which is
seen_, and also _something which is not seen_. We must endeavour to look
at both.

We will suppose that there is but one plough in the world, and that two
farmers apply for it.

Peter is the possessor of the only plough which is to be had in France;
John and James wish to borrow it. John, by his honesty, his property,
and good reputation, offers security. He _inspires confidence_; he has
_credit_. James inspires little or no confidence. It naturally happens
that Peter lends his plough to John.

But now, according to the Socialist plan, the State interferes, and says
to Peter, "Lend your plough to James, I will be security for its
return, and this security will be better than that of John, for he has
no one to be responsible for him but himself; and I, although it is true
that I have nothing, dispose of the fortune of the tax-payers, and it is
with their money that, in case of need, I shall pay you the principal
and interest." Consequently, Peter lends his plough to James: _this is
what is seen_.

And the Socialists rub their hands, and say, "See how well our plan has
answered. Thanks to the intervention of the State, poor James has a
plough. He will no longer be obliged to dig the ground; he is on the
road to make a fortune. It is a good thing for him, and an advantage to
the nation as a whole."

Indeed, it is no such thing; it is no advantage to the nation, for there
is something behind _which is not seen_.

_It is not seen_, that the plough is in the hands of James, only because
it is not in those of John.

_It is not seen_, that if James farms instead of digging, John will be
reduced to the necessity of digging instead of farming.

That, consequently, what was considered an increase of loan, is nothing
but a displacement of loan. Besides, _it is not seen_ that this
displacement implies two acts of deep injustice.

It is an injustice to John, who, after having deserved and obtained
_credit_ by his honesty and activity, sees himself robbed of it.

It is an injustice to the tax-payers, who are made to pay a debt which
is no concern of theirs.

Will any one say, that Government offers the same facilities to John as
it does to James? But as there is only one plough to be had, two cannot
be lent. The argument always maintains that, thanks to the intervention
of the State, more will be borrowed than there are things to be lent;
for the plough represents here the bulk of available capitals.

It is true, I have reduced the operation to the most simple expression
of it, but if you submit the most complicated Government institutions of
credit to the same test, you will be convinced that they can have but
one result; viz., to displace credit, not to augment it. In one country,
and in a given time, there is only a certain amount of capital
available, and all are employed. In guaranteeing the non-payers, the
State may, indeed, increase the number of borrowers, and thus raise the
rate of interest (always to the prejudice of the tax-payer), but it has
no power to increase the number of lenders, and the importance of the
total of the loans.

There is one conclusion, however, which I would not for the world be
suspected of drawing. I say, that the law ought not to favour,
artificially, the power of borrowing, but I do not say that it ought not
to restrain them artificially. If, in our system of mortgage, or in any
other, there be obstacles to the diffusion of the application of credit,
let them be got rid of; nothing can be better or more just than this.
But this is all which is consistent with liberty, and it is all that any
who are worthy of the name of reformers will ask.


Here are four orators disputing for the platform. First, all the four
speak at once; then they speak one after the other. What have they said?
Some very fine things, certainly, about the power and the grandeur of
France; about the necessity of sowing, if we would reap; about the
brilliant future of our gigantic colony; about the advantage of
diverting to a distance the surplus of our population, &c. &c.
Magnificent pieces of eloquence, and always adorned with this
conclusion:--"Vote fifty millions, more or less, for making ports and
roads in Algeria; for sending emigrants thither; for building houses and
breaking up land. By so doing, you will relieve the French workman,
encourage African labour, and give a stimulus to the commerce of
Marseilles. It would be profitable every way."

Yes, it is all very true, if you take no account of the fifty millions
until the moment when the State begins to spend them; if you only see
where they go, and not whence they come; if you look only at the good
they are to do when they come out of the tax-gatherer's bag, and not at
the harm which has been done, and the good which has been prevented, by
putting them into it. Yes, at this limited point of view, all is profit.
The house which is built in Barbary is _that which is seen_; the
harbour made in Barbary is _that which is seen_; the work caused in
Barbary is _what is seen_; a few less hands in France is _what is seen_;
a great stir with goods at Marseilles is still _that which is seen_.

But, besides all this, there is something _which is not seen_. The fifty
millions expended by the State cannot be spent, as they otherwise would
have been, by the tax-payers. It is necessary to deduct, from all the
good attributed to the public expenditure which has been effected, all
the harm caused by the prevention of private expense, unless we say that
James B. would have done nothing with the crown that he had gained, and
of which the tax had deprived him; an absurd assertion, for if he took
the trouble to earn it, it was because he expected the satisfaction of
using it. He would have repaired the palings in his garden, which he
cannot now do, and this is _that which is not seen_. He would have
manured his field, which now he cannot do, and this is _what is not
seen_. He would have added another story to his cottage, which he cannot
do now, and this is _what is not seen_. He might have increased the
number of his tools, which he cannot do now, and this is _what is not
seen_. He would have been better fed, better clothed, have given a
better education to his children, and increased his daughter's marriage
portion; this is _what is not seen_. He would have become a member of
the Mutual Assistance Society, but now he cannot; this is _what is not
seen_. On one hand, are the enjoyments of which he has been deprived,
and the means of action which have been destroyed in his hands; on the
other, are the labour of the drainer, the carpenter, the smith, the
tailor, the village schoolmaster, which he would have encouraged, and
which are now prevented--all this is _what is not seen_.

Much is hoped from the future prosperity of Algeria; be it so. But the
drain to which France is being subjected ought not to be kept entirely
out of sight. The commerce of Marseilles is pointed out to me; but if
this is to be brought about by means of taxation, I shall always show
that an equal commerce is destroyed thereby in other parts of the
country. It is said, "There is an emigrant transported into Barbary;
this is a relief to the population which remains in the country," I
answer, "How can that be, if, in transporting this emigrant to Algiers,
you also transport two or three times the capital which would have
served to maintain him in France?"[4]

The only object I have in view is to make it evident to the reader, that
in every public expense, behind the apparent benefit, there is an evil
which it is not so easy to discern. As far as in me lies, I would make
him form a habit of seeing both, and taking account of both.

When a public expense is proposed, it ought to be examined in itself,
separately from the pretended encouragement of labour which results from
it, for tins encouragement is a delusion. Whatever is done in this way
at the public expense, private expense would have done all the same;
therefore, the interest of labour is always out of the question.

It is not the object of this treatise to criticise the intrinsic merit
of the public expenditure as applied to Algeria, but I cannot withhold a
general observation. It is, that the presumption is always unfavourable
to collective expenses by way of tax. Why? For this reason:--First,
justice always suffers from it in some degree. Since James B. had
laboured to gain his crown, in the hope of receiving a gratification
from it, it is to be regretted that the exchequer should interpose, and
take from James B. this gratification, to bestow it upon another.
Certainly, it behoves the exchequer, or those who regulate it, to give
good reasons for this. It has been shown that the State gives a very
provoking one, when it says, "With this crown I shall employ workmen;"
for James B. (as soon as he sees it) will be sure to answer, "It is all
very fine, but with this crown I might employ them myself."

Apart from this reason, others present themselves without disguise, by
which the debate between the exchequer and poor James becomes much
simplified. If the State says to him, "I take your crown to pay the
gendarme, who saves you the trouble of providing for your own personal
safety; for paving the street which you are passing through every day;
for paying the magistrate who causes your property and your liberty to
be respected; to maintain the soldier who maintains our
frontiers,"--James B., unless I am much mistaken, will pay for all this
without hesitation. But if the State were to say to him, "I take this
crown that I may give you a little prize in case you cultivate your
field well; or that I may teach your son something that you have no wish
that he should learn; or that the Minister may add another to his score
of dishes at dinner; I take it to build a cottage in Algeria, in which
case I must take another crown every year to keep an emigrant in it, and
another hundred to maintain a soldier to guard this emigrant, and
another crown to maintain a general to guard this soldier," &c., &c.,--I
think I hear poor James exclaim, "This system of law is very much like a
system of cheat!" The State foresees the objection, and what does it do?
It jumbles all things together, and brings forward just that provoking
reason which ought to have nothing whatever to do with the question. It
talks of the effect of this crown upon labour; it points to the cook and
purveyor of the Minister; it shows an emigrant, a soldier, and a
general, living upon the crown; it shows, in fact, _what is seen_, and
if James B. has not learned to take into the account _what is not seen_,
James B. will be duped. And this is why I want to do all I can to
impress it upon his mind, by repeating it over and over again.

As the public expenses displace labour without increasing it, a second
serious presumption presents itself against them. To displace labour is
to displace labourers, and to disturb the natural laws which regulate
the distribution of the population over the country. If 50,000,000
francs are allowed to remain in the possession of the tax-payers since
the tax-payers are everywhere, they encourage labour in the 40,000
parishes in France. They act like a natural tie, which keeps every one
upon his native soil; they distribute themselves amongst all imaginable
labourers and trades. If the State, by drawing off these 60,000,000
francs from the citizens, accumulates them, and expends them on some
given point, it attracts to this point a proportional quantity of
displaced labour, a corresponding number of labourers, belonging to
other parts; a fluctuating population, which is out of its place, and I
venture to say dangerous when the fund is exhausted. Now here is the
consequence (and this confirms all I have said): this feverish activity
is, as it were, forced into a narrow space; it attracts the attention of
all; it is _what is seen_. The people applaud; they are astonished at
the beauty and facility of the plan, and expect to have it continued and
extended. _That which they do not see_ is, that an equal quantity of
labour, which would probably be more valuable, has been paralyzed over
the rest of France.

XI.--Frugality and Luxury.

It is not only in the public expenditure that _what is seen_ eclipses
_what is not seen_. Setting aside what relates to political economy,
this phenomenon leads to false reasoning. It causes nations to consider
their moral and their material interests as contradictory to each other.
What can be more discouraging or more dismal?

For instance, there is not a father of a family who does not think it
his duty to teach his children order, system, the habits of carefulness,
of economy, and of moderation in spending money.

There is no religion which does not thunder against pomp and luxury.
This is as it should be; but, on the other hand, how frequently do we
hear the following remarks:--

"To hoard, is to drain the veins of the people."

"The luxury of the great is the comfort of the little."

"Prodigals ruin themselves, but they enrich the State."

"It is the superfluity of the rich which makes bread for the poor."

Here, certainly, is a striking contradiction between the moral and the
social idea. How many eminent spirits, after having made the assertion,
repose in peace. It is a thing I never could understand, for it seems to
me that nothing can be more distressing than to discover two opposite
tendencies in mankind. Why, it comes to degradation at each of the
extremes: economy brings it to misery; prodigality plunges it into moral
degradation. Happily, these vulgar maxims exhibit economy and luxury in
a false light, taking account, as they do, of those immediate
consequences _which are seen_, and not of the remote ones, _which are
not seen_. Let us see if we can rectify this incomplete view of the

Mondor and his brother Aristus, after dividing the parental inheritance,
have each an income of 50,000 francs. Mondor practises the fashionable
philanthropy. He is what is called a squanderer of money. He renews his
furniture several times a year; changes his equipages every month.
People talk of his ingenious contrivances to bring them sooner to an
end: in short, he surpasses the fast livers of Balzac and Alexander

Thus everybody is singing his praises. It is, "Tell us about Mondor!
Mondor for ever! He is the benefactor of the workman; a blessing to the
people. It is true, he revels in dissipation; he splashes the
passers-by; his own dignity and that of human nature are lowered a
little; but what of that? He does good with his fortune, if not with
himself. He causes money to circulate; he always sends the tradespeople
away satisfied. Is not money made round that it may roll?"

Aristus has adopted a very different plan of life. If he is not an
egotist, he is, at any rate, an _individualist_, for he considers
expense, seeks only moderate and reasonable enjoyments, thinks of his
children's prospects, and, in fact, he _economises_.

And what do people say of him? "What is the good of a rich fellow like
him? He is a skinflint. There is something imposing, perhaps, in the
simplicity of his life; and he is humane, too, and benevolent, and
generous, but he _calculates_. He does not spend his income; his house
is neither brilliant nor bustling. What good does he do to the
paper-hangers, the carriage makers, the horse dealers, and the

These opinions, which are fatal to morality, are founded upon what
strikes the eye:--the expenditure of the prodigal; and another, which is
out of sight, the equal and even superior expenditure of the economist.

But things have been so admirably arranged by the Divine inventor of
social order, that in this, as in everything else, political economy and
morality, far from clashing, agree; and the wisdom of Aristus is not
only more dignified, but still more _profitable_, than the folly of
Mondor. And when I say profitable, I do not mean only profitable to
Aristus, or even to society in general, but more profitable to the
workmen themselves--to the trade of the time.

To prove it, it is only necessary to turn the mind's eye to those hidden
consequences of human actions, which the bodily eye does not see.

Yes, the prodigality of Mondor has visible effects in every point of
view. Everybody can see his landaus, his phaetons, his berlins, the
delicate paintings on his ceilings, his rich carpets, the brilliant
effects of his house. Every one knows that his horses run upon the turf.
The dinners which he gives at the Hotel de Paris attract the attention
of the crowds on the Boulevards; and it is said, "That is a generous
man; far from saving his income, he is very likely breaking into his
capital." That is _what is seen_.

It is not so easy to see, with regard to the interest of workers, what
becomes of the income of Aristus. If we were to trace it carefully,
however, we should see that the whole of it, down to the last farthing,
affords work to the labourers, as certainly as the fortune of Mondor.
Only there is this difference: the wanton extravagance of Mondor is
doomed to be constantly decreasing, and to come to an end without fail;
whilst the wise expenditure of Aristus will go on increasing from year
to year. And if this is the case, then, most assuredly, the public
interest will be in unison with morality.

Aristus spends upon himself and his household 20,000 francs a year. If
that is not sufficient to content him, he does not deserve to be called
a wise man. He is touched by the miseries which oppress the poorer
classes; he thinks he is bound in conscience to afford them some relief,
and therefore he devotes 10,000 francs to acts of benevolence. Amongst
the merchants, the manufacturers, and the agriculturists, he has friends
who are suffering under temporary difficulties; he makes himself
acquainted with their situation, that he may assist them with prudence
and efficiency, and to this work he devotes 10,000 francs more. Then he
does not forget that he has daughters to portion, and sons for whose
prospects it is his duty to provide, and therefore he considers it a
duty to lay by and put out to interest 10,000 francs every year.

The following is a list of his expenses:--

    1st, Personal expenses      20,000 fr.
    2nd, Benevolent objects     10,000
    3rd, Offices of friendship  10,000
    4th, Saving                 10,000

Let us examine each of these items, and we shall see that not a single
farthing escapes the national labour.

1st. Personal expenses.--These, as far as workpeople and tradesmen are
concerned, have precisely the same effect as an equal sum spent by
Mondor. This is self-evident, therefore we shall say no more about it.

2nd. Benevolent objects.--The 10,000 francs devoted to this purpose
benefit trade in an equal degree; they reach the butcher, the baker, the
tailor, and the carpenter. The only thing is, that the bread, the meat,
and the clothing are not used by Aristus, but by those whom he has made
his substitutes. Now, this simple substitution of one consumer for
another in no way affects trade in general. It is all one, whether
Aristus spends a crown or desires some unfortunate person to spend it

3rd. Offices of friendship.--The friend to whom Aristus lends or gives
10,000 francs does not receive them to bury them; that would be against
the hypothesis. He uses them to pay for goods, or to discharge debts. In
the first case, trade is encouraged. Will any one pretend to say that it
gains more by Mondor's purchase of a thoroughbred horse for 10,000
francs than by the purchase of 10,000 francs' worth of stuffs by Aristus
or his friend? For if this sum serves to pay a debt, a third person
appears, viz., the creditor, who will certainly employ them upon
something in his trade, his household, or his farm. He forms another
medium between Aristus and the workmen. The names only are changed, the
expense remains, and also the encouragement to trade.

4th. Saving.--There remains now the 10,000 francs saved; and it is here,
as regards the encouragement to the arts, to trade, labour, and the
workmen, that Mondor appears far superior to Aristus, although, in a
moral point of view, Aristus shows himself, in some degree, superior to

I can never look at these apparent contradictions between the great laws
of nature without a feeling of physical uneasiness which amounts to
suffering. Were mankind reduced to the necessity of choosing between two
parties, one of whom injures his interest, and the other his conscience,
we should have nothing to hope from the future. Happily, this is not the
case; and to see Aristus regain his economical superiority, as well as
his moral superiority, it is sufficient to understand this consoling
maxim, which is no less true from having a paradoxical appearance, "To
save is to spend."

What is Aristus's object in saving 10,000 francs? Is it to bury them in
his garden? No, certainly; he intends to increase his capital and his
income; consequently, this money, instead of being employed upon his
own personal gratification, is used for buying land, a house, &c., or it
is placed in the hands of a merchant or a banker. Follow the progress of
this money in any one of these cases, and you will be convinced, that
through the medium of vendors or lenders, it is encouraging labour quite
as certainly as if Aristus, following the example of his brother, had
exchanged it for furniture, jewels, and horses.

For when Aristus buys lands or rents for 10,000 francs, he is determined
by the consideration that he does not want to spend this money. This is
why you complain of him.

But, at the same time, the man who sells the land or the rent, is
determined by the consideration that he does want to spend the 10,000
francs in some way; so that the money is spent in any case, either by
Aristus or by others in his stead.

With respect to the working class, to the encouragement of labour, there
is only one difference between the conduct of Aristus and that of
Mondor. Mondor spends the money himself, and around him, and therefore
the effect _is seen_. Aristus, spending it partly through intermediate
parties, and at a distance, the effect is _not seen_. But, in fact,
those who know how to attribute effects to their proper causes, will
perceive, that _what is not seen_ is as certain as _what is seen_. This
is proved by the fact, that in both cases the money circulates, and does
not lie in the iron chest of the wise man, any more than it does in
that of the spendthrift. It is, therefore, false to say that economy
does actual harm to trade; as described above, it is equally beneficial
with luxury.

But how far superior is it, if, instead of confining our thoughts to the
present moment, we let them embrace a longer period!

Ten years pass away. What is become of Mondor and his fortune and his
great popularity? Mondor is ruined. Instead of spending 60,000 francs
every year in the social body, he is, perhaps, a burden to it. In any
case, he is no longer the delight of shopkeepers; he is no longer the
patron of the arts and of trade; he is no longer of any use to the
workmen, nor are his successors, whom he has brought to want.

At the end of the same ten years Aristus not only continues to throw his
income into circulation, but he adds an increasing sum from year to year
to his expenses. He enlarges the national capital, that is, the fund
which supplies wages, and as it is upon the extent of this fund that the
demand for hands depends, he assists in progressively increasing the
remuneration of the working class; and if he dies, he leaves children
whom he has taught to succeed him in this work of progress and

In a moral point of view, the superiority of frugality over luxury is
indisputable. It is consoling to think that it is so in political
economy, to every one who, not confining his views to the immediate
effects of phenomena, knows how to extend his investigations to their
final effects.

XII.--He Who Has a Right to Work Has a Right to Profit.

"Brethren, you must club together to find me work at your own price."
This is the right to work; _i.e._, elementary socialism of the first

"Brethren, you must club together to find me work at my own price." This
is the right to profit; _i.e._, refined socialism, or socialism of the
second degree.

Both of these live upon such of their effects as _are seen_. They will
die by means of those effects _which are not seen_.

That _which is seen_ is the labour and the profit excited by social
combination. _That which is not seen_ is the labour and the profit to
which this same combination would give rise, if it were left to the

In 1848, the right to labour for a moment showed two faces. This was
sufficient to ruin it in public opinion.

One of these faces was called _national workshops_. The other,
_forty-five centimes_. Millions of francs went daily from the Rue Rivoli
to the national workshops. This was the fair side of the medal.

And this is the reverse. If millions are taken out of a cash-box, they
must first have been put into it. This is why the organisers of the
right to public labour apply to the tax-payers.

Now, the peasants said, "I must pay forty-five centimes; then I must
deprive myself of some clothing. I cannot manure my field; I cannot
repair my house."

And the country workmen said, "As our townsman deprives himself of some
clothing, there will be less work for the tailor; as he does not improve
his field, there will be less work for the drainer; as he does not
repair his house, there will be less work for the carpenter and mason."

It was then proved that two kinds of meal cannot come out of one sack,
and that the work furnished by the Government was done at the expense of
labour, paid for by the tax-payer. This was the death of the right to
labour, which showed itself as much a chimera as an injustice. And yet,
the right to profit, which is only an exaggeration of the right to
labour, is still alive and flourishing.

Ought not the protectionist to blush at the part he would make society

He says to it, "You must give me work, and, more than that, lucrative
work. I have foolishly fixed upon a trade by which I lose ten per cent.
If you impose a tax of twenty francs upon my countrymen, and give it to
me, I shall be a gainer instead of a loser. Now, profit is my right; you
owe it me." Now, any society which would listen to this sophist, burden
itself with taxes to satisfy him, and not perceive that the loss to
which any trade is exposed is no less a loss when others are forced to
make up for it,--such a society, I say, would deserve the burden
inflicted upon it.

Thus we learn by the numerous subjects which I have treated, that, to
be ignorant of political economy is to allow ourselves to be dazzled by
the immediate effect of a phenomenon; to be acquainted with it is to
embrace in thought and in forethought the whole compass of effects.

I might subject a host of other questions to the same test; but I shrink
from the monotony of a constantly uniform demonstration, and I conclude
by applying to political economy what Chateaubriand says of history:--

"There are," he says, "two consequences in history; an immediate one,
which is instantly recognized, and one in the distance, which is not at
first perceived. These consequences often contradict each other; the
former are the results of our own limited wisdom, the latter, those of
that wisdom which endures. The providential event appears after the
human event. God rises up behind men. Deny, if you will, the supreme
counsel; disown its action; dispute about words; designate, by the term,
force of circumstances, or reason, what the vulgar call Providence; but
look to the end of an accomplished fact, and you will see that it has
always produced the contrary of what was expected from it, if it was not
established at first upon morality and justice."--_Chateaubriand's
Posthumous Memoirs_.


I wish some one would offer a prize--not of a hundred francs, but of a
million, with crowns, medals and ribbons--for a good, simple and
intelligible definition of the word "Government."

What an immense service it would confer on society!

The Government! what is it? where is it? what does it do? what ought it
to do? All we know is, that it is a mysterious personage; and,
assuredly, it is the most solicited, the most tormented, the most
overwhelmed, the most admired, the most accused, the most invoked, and
the most provoked, of any personage in the world.

I have not the pleasure of knowing my reader, but I would stake ten to
one, that for six months he has been making Utopias, and if so, that he
is looking to Government for the realization of them.

And should the reader happen to be a lady, I have no doubt that she is
sincerely desirous of seeing all the evils of suffering humanity
remedied, and that she thinks this might easily be done, if Government
would only undertake it.

But, alas! that poor unfortunate personage, like Figaro, knows not to
whom to listen, nor where to turn. The hundred thousand mouths of the
press and of the platform cry out all at once:--

"Organize labour and workmen.

"Do away with egotism.

"Repress insolence and the tyranny of capital.

"Make experiments upon manure and eggs.

"Cover the country with railways.

"Irrigate the plains.

"Plant the hills.

"Make model farms.

"Found social workshops.

"Colonize Algeria.

"Suckle children.

"Instruct the youth.

"Assist the aged.

"Send the inhabitants of towns into the country.

"Equalize the profits of all trades.

"Lend money without interest to all who wish to borrow."

"Emancipate Italy, Poland, and Hungary."

"Rear and perfect the saddle-horse."

"Encourage the arts, and provide us with musicians and dancers."

"Restrict commerce, and at the same time create a merchant navy."

"Discover truth, and put a grain of reason into our heads. The mission
of Government is to enlighten, to develop, to extend, to fortify, to
spiritualize, and to sanctify the soul of the people."

"Do have a little patience, gentlemen," says Government in a beseeching
tone. "I will do what I can to satisfy you, but for this I must have
resources. I have been preparing plans for five or six taxes, which are
quite new, and not at all oppressive. You will see how willingly people
will pay them."

Then comes a great exclamation:--"No! indeed! where is the merit of
doing a thing with resources? Why, it does not deserve the name of a
Government! So far from loading us with fresh taxes, we would have you
withdraw the old ones. You ought to suppress

"The salt tax,

"The tax on liquors,

"The tax on letters,

"Custom-house duties,


In the midst of this tumult, and now that the country has two or three
times changed its Government, for not having satisfied all its demands,
I wanted to show that they were contradictory. But what could I have
been thinking about? Could I not keep this unfortunate observation to

I have lost my character for ever! I am looked upon as a man without
_heart_ and without _feeling_--a dry philosopher, an individualist, a
plebeian--in a word, an economist of the English or American school.
But, pardon me, sublime writers, who stop at nothing, not even at
contradictions. I am wrong, without a doubt, and I would willingly
retract. I should be glad enough, you may be sure, if you had really
discovered a beneficent and inexhaustible being, calling itself the
Government, which has bread for all mouths, work for all hands, capital
for all enterprises, credit for all projects, oil for all wounds, balm
for all sufferings, advice for all perplexities, solutions for all
doubts, truths for all intellects, diversions for all who want them,
milk for infancy, and wine for old age--which can provide for all our
wants, satisfy all our curiosity, correct all our errors, repair all our
faults, and exempt us henceforth from the necessity for foresight,
prudence, judgment, sagacity, experience, order, economy, temperance and

What reason could I have for not desiring to see such a discovery made?
Indeed, the more I reflect upon it, the more do I see that nothing could
be more convenient than that we should all of us have within our reach
an inexhaustible source of wealth and enlightenment--a universal
physician, an unlimited treasure, and an infallible counsellor, such as
you describe Government to be. Therefore it is that I want to have it
pointed out and defined, and that a prize should be offered to the first
discoverer of the phœnix. For no one would think of asserting that this
precious discovery has yet been made, since up to this time everything
presenting itself under the name of the Government is immediately
overturned by the people, precisely because it does not fulfil the
rather contradictory conditions of the programme.

I will venture to say that I fear we are, in this respect, the dupes of
one of the strangest illusions which have ever taken possession of the
human mind.

Man recoils from trouble--from suffering; and yet he is condemned by
nature to the suffering of privation, if he does not take the trouble to
work. He has to choose, then, between these two evils. What means can he
adopt to avoid both? There remains now, and there will remain, only one
way, which is, _to enjoy the labour of others_. Such a course of conduct
prevents the trouble and the satisfaction from preserving their natural
proportion, and causes all the trouble to become the lot of one set of
persons, and all the satisfaction that of another. This is the origin of
slavery and of plunder, whatever its form may be--whether that of wars,
impositions, violence, restrictions, frauds, &c.--monstrous abuses, but
consistent with the thought which has given them birth. Oppression
should be detested and resisted--it can hardly be called absurd.

Slavery is subsiding, thank heaven! and on the other hand, our
disposition to defend our property prevents direct and open plunder from
being easy.

One thing, however, remains--it is the original inclination which exists
in all men to divide the lot of life into two parts, throwing the
trouble upon others, and keeping the satisfaction for themselves. It
remains to be shown under what new form this sad tendency is manifesting

The oppressor no longer acts directly and with his own powers upon his
victim. No, our conscience has become too sensitive for that. The tyrant
and his victim are still present, but there is an intermediate person
between them, which is the Government--that is, the Law itself. What
can be better calculated to silence our scruples, and, which is perhaps
better appreciated, to overcome all resistance? We all, therefore, put
in our claim, under some pretext or other, and apply to Government. We
say to it, "I am dissatisfied at the proportion between my labour and my
enjoyments. I should like, for the sake of restoring the desired
equilibrium, to take a part of the possessions of others. But this would
be dangerous. Could not you facilitate the thing for me? Could you not
find me a good place? or check the industry of my competitors? or,
perhaps, lend me gratuitously some capital, which you may take from its
possessor? Could you not bring up my children at the public expense? or
grant me some prizes? or secure me a competence when I have attained my
fiftieth year? By this means I shall gain my end with an easy
conscience, for the law will have acted for me, and I shall have all the
advantages of plunder, without its risk or its disgrace!"

As it is certain, on the one hand, that we are all making some similar
request to the Government; and as, on the other, it is proved that
Government cannot satisfy one party without adding to the labour of the
others, until I can obtain another definition of the word Government, I
feel authorised to give my own. Who knows but it may obtain the prize?
Here it is:

Government _is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavours to
live at the expense of everybody else_.

For now, as formerly, every one is, more or less, for profiting by the
labours of others. No one would dare to profess such a sentiment; he
even hides it from himself; and then what is done? A medium is thought
of; Government is applied to, and every class in its turn comes to it,
and says, "You, who can take justifiably and honestly, take from the
public, and we will partake." Alas! Government is only too much disposed
to follow this diabolical advice, for it is composed of ministers and
officials--of men, in short, who, like all other men, desire in their
hearts, and always seize every opportunity with eagerness, to increase
their wealth and influence. Government is not slow to perceive the
advantages it may derive from the part which is entrusted to it by the
public. It is glad to be the judge and the master of the destinies of
all; it will take much, for then a large share will remain for itself;
it will multiply the number of its agents; it will enlarge the circle of
its privileges; it will end by appropriating a ruinous proportion.

But the most remarkable part of it is the astonishing blindness of the
public through it all. When successful soldiers used to reduce the
vanquished to slavery, they were barbarous, but they were not absurd.
Their object, like ours, was to live at other people's expense, and they
did not fail to do so. What are we to think of a people who never seem
to suspect that _reciprocal plunder_ is no less plunder because it is
reciprocal; that it is no less criminal because it is executed legally
and with order; that it adds nothing to the public good; that it
diminishes it, just in proportion to the cost of the expensive medium
which we call the Government?

And it is this great chimera which we have placed, for the edification
of the people, as a frontispiece to the Constitution. The following is
the beginning of the introductory discourse:--

"France has constituted itself a republic for the purpose of raising all
the citizens to an ever-increasing degree of morality, enlightenment,
and well-being."

Thus it is France, or an abstraction, which is to raise the French, or
_realities_, to morality, well-being, &c. Is it not by yielding to this
strange delusion that we are led to expect everything from an energy not
our own? Is it not giving out that there is, independently of the
French, a virtuous, enlightened, and rich being, who can and will bestow
upon them its benefits? Is not this supposing, and certainly very
gratuitously, that there are between France and the French--between the
simple, abridged, and abstract denomination of all the individualities,
and these individualities themselves--relations as of father to son,
tutor to his pupil, professor to his scholar? I know it is often said,
metaphorically, "the country is a tender mother." But to show the
inanity of the constitutional proposition, it is only needed to show
that it may be reversed, not only without inconvenience, but even with
advantage. Would it be less exact to say--

"The French have constituted themselves a Republic, to raise France to
an ever-increasing degree of morality, enlightenment, and well-being."

Now, where is the value of an axiom where the subject and the attribute
may change places without inconvenience? Everybody understands what is
meant by this--"The mother will feed the child." But it would be
ridiculous to say--"The child will feed the mother."

The Americans formed another idea of the relations of the citizens with
the Government when they placed these simple words at the head of their

"We, the people of the United States, for the purpose of forming a more
perfect union, of establishing justice, of securing interior
tranquillity, of providing for our common defence, of increasing the
general well-being, and of securing the benefits of liberty to ourselves
and to our posterity, decree," &c.

Here there is no chimerical creation, no _abstraction_, from which the
citizens may demand everything. They expect nothing except from
themselves and their own energy.

If I may be permitted to criticise the first words of our Constitution,
I would remark, that what I complain of is something more than a mere
metaphysical subtilty, as might seem at first sight.

I contend that this _personification_ of Government has been, in past
times, and will be hereafter, a fertile source of calamities and

There is the public on one side, Government on the other, considered as
two distinct beings; the latter bound to bestow upon the former, and the
former having the right to claim from the latter, all imaginable human
benefits. What will be the consequence?

In fact, Government is not maimed, and cannot be so. It has two
hands--one to receive and the other to give; in other words, it has a
rough hand and a smooth one. The activity of the second is necessarily
subordinate to the activity of the first. Strictly, Government may take
and not restore. This is evident, and may be explained by the porous and
absorbing nature of its hands, which always retain a part, and sometimes
the whole, of what they touch. But the thing that never was seen, and
never will be seen or conceived, is, that Government can restore more to
the public than it has taken from it. It is therefore ridiculous for us
to appear before it in the humble attitude of beggars. It is radically
impossible for it to confer a particular benefit upon any one of the
individualities which constitute the community, without inflicting a
greater injury upon the community as a whole.

Our requisitions, therefore, place it in a dilemma.

If it refuses to grant the requests made to it, it is accused of
weakness, ill-will, and incapacity. If it endeavours to grant them, it
is obliged to load the people with fresh taxes--to do more harm than
good, and to bring upon itself from another quarter the general

Thus, the public has two hopes, and Government makes two
promises--_many benefits and no taxes_. Hopes and promises, which, being
contradictory, can never be realised.

Now, is not this the cause of all our revolutions? For, between the
Government, which lavishes promises which it is impossible to perform,
and the public, which has conceived hopes which can never be realised,
two classes of men interpose--the ambitious and the Utopians. It is
circumstances which give these their cue. It is enough if these vassals
of popularity cry out to the people--"The authorities are deceiving you;
if we were in their place, we would load you with benefits and exempt
you from taxes."

And the people believe, and the people hope, and the people make a

No sooner are their friends at the head of affairs, than they are called
upon to redeem their pledge. "Give us work, bread, assistance, credit,
instruction, colonies," say the people; "and withal deliver us, as you
promised, from the talons of the exchequer."

The new _Government_ is no less embarrassed than the former one, for it
soon finds that it is much more easy to promise than to perform. It
tries to gain time, for this is necessary for maturing its vast
projects. At first, it makes a few timid attempts: on one hand it
institutes a little elementary instruction; on the other, it makes a
little reduction in the liquor tax (1850). But the contradiction is for
ever starting up before it; if it would be philanthropic, it must
attend to its exchequer; if it neglects its exchequer, it must abstain
from being philanthropic.

These two promises are for ever clashing with each other; it cannot be
otherwise. To live upon credit, which is the same as exhausting the
future, is certainly a present means of reconciling them: an attempt is
made to do a little good now, at the expense of a great deal of harm in
future. But such proceedings call forth the spectre of bankruptcy, which
puts an end to credit. What is to be done then? Why, then, the new
Government takes a bold step; it unites all its forces in order to
maintain itself; it smothers opinion, has recourse to arbitrary
measures, ridicules its former maxims, declares that it is impossible to
conduct the administration except at the risk of being unpopular; in
short, it proclaims itself _governmental_. And it is here that other
candidates for popularity are waiting for it. They exhibit the same
illusion, pass by the same way, obtain the same success, and are soon
swallowed up in the same gulf.

We had arrived at this point in February.[5] At this time, the illusion
which is the subject of this article had made more way than at any
former period in the ideas of the people, in connexion with Socialist
doctrines. They expected, more firmly than ever, that _Government_,
under a republican form, would open in grand style the source of
benefits and close that of taxation. "We have often been deceived,"
said the people; "but we will see to it ourselves this time, and take
care not to be deceived again?"

What could the Provisional Government do? Alas! just that which always
is done in similar circumstances--make promises, and gain time. It did
so, of course; and to give its promises more weight, it announced them
publicly thus:--"Increase of prosperity, diminution of labour,
assistance, credit, gratuitous instruction, agricultural colonies,
cultivation of waste land, and, at the same time, reduction of the tax
on salt, liquor, letters, meat; all this shall be granted when the
National Assembly meets."

The National Assembly meets, and, as it is impossible to realise two
contradictory things, its task, its sad task, is to withdraw, as gently
as possible, one after the other, all the decrees of the Provisional
Government. However, in order somewhat to mitigate the cruelty of the
deception, it is found necessary to negotiate a little. Certain
engagements are fulfilled, others are, in a measure, begun, and
therefore the new administration is compelled to contrive some new

Now, I transport myself, in thought, to a period a few months hence, and
ask myself, with sorrowful forebodings, what will come to pass when the
agents of the new Government go into the country to collect new taxes
upon legacies, revenues, and the profits of agricultural traffic? It is
to be hoped that my presentiments may not be verified, but I foresee a
difficult part for the candidates for popularity to play.

Read the last manifesto of the Montagnards--that which they issued on
the occasion of the election of the President. It is rather long, but at
length it concludes with these words:--"_Government ought to give a
great deal to the people, and take little from them_." It is always the
same tactics, or, rather, the same mistake.

"Government is bound to give gratuitous instruction and education to all
the citizens."

It is bound to give "A general and appropriate professional education,
as much as possible adapted to the wants, the callings, and the
capacities of each citizen."

It is bound "To teach every citizen his duty to God, to man, and to
himself; to develop his sentiments, his tendencies, and his faculties;
to teach him, in short, the scientific part of his labour; to make him
understand his own interests, and to give him a knowledge of his

It is bound "To place within the reach of all, literature and the arts,
the patrimony of thought, the treasures of the mind, and all those
intellectual enjoyments which elevate and strengthen the soul."

It is bound "To give compensation for every accident, from fire,
inundation, &c., experienced by a citizen." (The _et cætera_ means more
than it says.)

It is bound "To attend to the relations of capital with labour, and to
become the regulator of credit."

It is bound "To afford important encouragement and efficient protection
to agriculture."

It is bound "To purchase railroads, canals, and mines; and, doubtless,
to transact affairs with that industrial capacity which characterises

It is bound "To encourage useful experiments, to promote and assist them
by every means likely to make them successful. As a regulator of credit,
it will exercise such extensive influence over industrial and
agricultural associations, as shall ensure them success."

Government is bound to do all this, in addition to the services to which
it is already pledged; and further, it is always to maintain a menacing
attitude towards foreigners; for, according to those who sign the
programme, "Bound together by this holy union, and by the precedents of
the French Republic, we carry our wishes and hopes beyond the boundaries
which despotism has placed between nations. The rights which we desire
for ourselves, we desire for all those who are oppressed by the yoke of
tyranny; we desire that our glorious army should still, if necessary, be
the army of liberty."

You see that the gentle hand of Government--that good hand which gives
and distributes, will be very busy under the government of the
Montagnards. You think, perhaps, that it will be the same with the rough
hand--that hand which dives into our pockets. Do not deceive yourselves.
The aspirants after popularity would not know their trade, if they had
not the art, when they show the gentle hand, to conceal the rough one.
Their reign will assuredly be the jubilee of the tax-payers.

"It is superfluities, not necessaries," they say "which ought to be

Truly, it will be a good time when the exchequer, for the sake of
loading us with benefits, will content itself with curtailing our

This is not all. The Montagnards intend that "taxation shall lose its
oppressive character, and be only an act of fraternity." Good heavens! I
know it is the fashion to thrust fraternity in everywhere, but I did not
imagine it would ever be put into the hands of the tax-gatherer.

To come to the details:--Those who sign the programme say, "We desire
the immediate abolition of those taxes which affect the absolute
necessaries of life, as salt, liquors, &c., &c.

"The reform of the tax on landed property, customs, and patents.

"Gratuitous justice--that is, the simplification of its forms, and
reduction of its expenses," (This, no doubt, has reference to stamps.)

Thus, the tax on landed property, customs, patents, stamps, salt,
liquors, postage, all are included. These gentlemen have found out the
secret of giving an excessive activity to the _gentle hand_ of
Government, while they entirely paralyse its _rough hand_.

Well, I ask the impartial reader, is it not childishness, and more than
that, dangerous childishness? Is it not inevitable that we shall have
revolution after revolution, if there is a determination never to stop
till this contradiction is realised:--"To give nothing to Government and
to receive much from it?"

If the Montagnards were to come into power, would they not become the
victims of the means which they employed to take possession of it?

Citizens! In all times, two political systems have been in existence,
and each may be maintained by good reasons. According to one of them,
Government ought to do much, but then it ought to take much. According
to the other, this twofold activity ought to be little felt. We have to
choose between these two systems. But as regards the third system, which
partakes of both the others, and which consists in exacting everything
from Government, without giving it anything, it is chimerical, absurd,
childish, contradictory, and dangerous. Those who parade it, for the
sake of the pleasure of accusing all Governments of weakness, and thus
exposing them to your attacks, are only flattering and deceiving you,
while they are deceiving themselves.

For ourselves, we consider that Government is and ought to be nothing
whatever but _common force_ organized, not to be an instrument of
oppression and mutual plunder among citizens; but, on the contrary, to
secure to every one his own, and to cause justice and security to reign.

What Is Money?

"Hateful money! hateful money!" cried F----, the economist,
despairingly, as he came from the Committee of Finance, where a project
of paper money had just been discussed.

"What's the matter?" said I. "What is the meaning of this sudden dislike
to the most extolled of all the divinities of this world?"

F. Hateful money! hateful money!

B. You alarm me. I hear peace, liberty, and life cried down, and
Brutus went so far even as to say, "Virtue! thou art but a name!" But
what can have happened?

F. Hateful money! hateful money!

B. Come, come, exercise a little philosophy. What has happened to
you? Has Crœsus been affecting you? Has Mondor been playing you false?
or has Zoilus been libelling you in the papers?

F. I have nothing to do with Crœsus; my character, by its
insignificance, is safe from any slanders of Zoilus; and as to Mondor--

B. Ah! now I have it. How could I be so blind? You, too, are the
inventor of a social reorganization--of the _F---- system_, in fact.
Your society is to be more perfect than that of Sparta, and, therefore,
all money is to be rigidly banished from it. And the thing that troubles
you is, how to persuade your people to empty their purses. What would
you have? This is the rock on which all reorganizers split. There is not
one, but would do wonders, if he could only contrive to overcome all
resisting influences, and if all mankind would consent to become soft
wax in his fingers; but men are resolved not to be soft wax; they
listen, applaud, or reject, and--go on as before.

F. Thank heaven, I am still free from this fashionable mania. Instead
of inventing social laws, I am studying those which it has pleased
Providence to invent, and I am delighted to find them admirable in their
progressive development. This is why I exclaim, "Hateful money! hateful

B. You are a disciple of Proudhon, then? Well, there is a very simple
way for you to satisfy yourself. Throw your purse into the Seine, only
reserving a hundred sous, to take an action from the Bank of Exchange.

F. If I cry out against money, is it likely I should tolerate its
deceitful substitute?

B. Then I have only one more guess to make. You are a new Diogenes,
and are going to victimize me with a discourse _à la Seneca_, on the
contempt of riches.

F. Heaven preserve me from that! For riches, don't you see, are not a
little more or a little less money. They are bread for the hungry,
clothes for the naked, fuel to warm you, oil to lengthen the day, a
career open to your son, a certain portion for your daughter, a day of
rest after fatigue, a cordial for the faint, a little assistance slipped
into the hand of a poor man, a shelter from the storm, a diversion for a
brain worn by thought, the incomparable pleasure of making those happy
who are dear to us. Riches are instruction, independence, dignity,
confidence, charity; they are progress, and civilization. Riches are the
admirable civilizing result of two admirable agents, more civilizing
even than riches themselves--labour and exchange.

B. Well! now you seem to be singing the praises of riches, when, a
moment ago, you were loading them with imprecations!

F. Why, don't you see that it was only the whim of an economist? I cry
out against money, just because everybody confounds it, as you did just
now, with riches, and that this confusion is the cause of errors and
calamities without number. I cry out against it because its function in
society is not understood, and very difficult to explain. I cry out
against it, because it jumbles all ideas, causes the means to be taken
for the end, the obstacle for the cause, the alpha for the omega;
because its presence in the world, though in itself beneficial, has,
nevertheless, introduced a fatal notion, a perversion of principles, a
contradictory theory, which, in a multitude of forms, has impoverished
mankind and deluged the earth with blood. I cry out against it, because
I feel that I am incapable of contending against the error to which it
has given birth, otherwise than by a long and fastidious dissertation to
which no one would listen. Oh! if I could only find a patient and
benevolent listener!

B. Well, it shall not be said that for want of a victim you remain in
the state of irritation in which you now are. I am listening; speak,
lecture, do not restrain yourself in any way.

F. You promise to take an interest?

B. I promise to have patience.

F. That is not much.

B. It is all that I can give. Begin, and explain to me, at first, how
a mistake on the subject of cash, if mistake there be, is to be found at
the root of all economical errors?

F. Well, now, is it possible that you can conscientiously assure me,
that you have never happened to confound wealth with money?

B. I don't know; but, after all, what would be the consequence of such
a confusion?

F. Nothing very important. An error in your brain, which would have no
influence over your actions; for you see that, with respect to labour
and exchange, although there are as many opinions as there are heads, we
all act in the same way.

B. Just as we walk upon the same principle, although we are not agreed
upon the theory of equilibrium and gravitation.

F. Precisely. A person who argued himself into the opinion that
during the night our heads and feet changed places, might write very
fine books upon the subject, but still he would walk about like
everybody else.

B. So I think. Nevertheless, he would soon suffer the penalty of being
too much of a logician.

F. In the same way, a man would die of hunger, who having decided that
money is real wealth, should carry out the idea to the end. That is the
reason that this theory is false, for there is no true theory but such
as results from facts themselves, as manifested at all times, and in all

B. I can understand, that practically, and under the influence of
personal interest, the fatal effects of the erroneous action would tend
to correct an error. But if that of which you speak has so little
influence, why does it disturb you so much?

F. Because, when a man, instead of acting for himself, decides for
others, personal interest, that ever watchful and sensible sentinel, is
no longer present to cry out, "Stop! the responsibility is misplaced."
It is Peter who is deceived, and John suffers; the false system of the
legislator necessarily becomes the rule of action of whole populations.
And observe the difference. When you have money, and are very hungry,
whatever your theory on cash may be, what do you do?

B. I go to a baker's, and buy some bread.

F. You do not hesitate about getting rid of your money?

B. The only use of money is to buy what one wants.

F. And if the baker should happen to be thirsty, what does he do?

B. He goes to the wine merchant's, and buys wine with the money I have
given him.

F. What! is he not afraid he shall ruin himself?

B. The real ruin would be to go without eating or drinking.

F. And everybody in the world, if he is free, acts in the same manner?

B. Without a doubt. Would you have them die of hunger for the sake of
laying by pence?

F. So far from it, that I consider they act wisely, and I only wish
that the theory was nothing but the faithful image of this universal
practice. But, suppose now that you were the legislator, the absolute
king of a vast empire, where there were no gold mines.

B. No unpleasant fiction.

F. Suppose, again, that you were perfectly convinced of this,--that
wealth consists solely and exclusively in cash; to what conclusion would
you come?

B. I should conclude that there was no other means for me to enrich my
people, or for them to enrich themselves, but to draw away the cash from
other nations.

F. That is to say, to impoverish them. The first conclusion, then, to
which you would arrive would be this,--a nation can only gain when
another loses.

B. This axiom has the authority of Bacon and Montaigne.

F. It is not the less sorrowful for that, for it implies--that
progress is impossible. Two nations, no more than two men, cannot
prosper side by side.

B. It would seem that such is the result of this principle.

F. And as all men are ambitious to enrich themselves, it follows that
all are desirous, according to a law of Providence, of ruining their

B. This is not Christianity, but it is political economy.

F. Such a doctrine is detestable. But, to continue, I have made you an
absolute king. You must not be satisfied with reasoning, you must act.
There is no limit to your power. How would you treat this
doctrine,--wealth is money?

B. It would be my endeavour to increase, incessantly, among my people
the quantity of cash.

F. But there are no mines in your kingdom. How would you set about it?
What would you do?

B. I should do nothing: I should merely forbid, on pain of death, that
a single crown should leave the country.

F. And if your people should happen to be hungry as well as rich?

B. Never mind. In the system we are discussing, to allow them to
export crowns would be to allow them to impoverish themselves.

F. So that, by your own confession, you would force them to act upon a
principle equally opposite to that upon which you would yourself act
under similar circumstances. Why so?

B. Just because my own hunger touches me, and the hunger of a nation
does not touch legislators.

F. Well, I can tell you that your plan would fail, and that no
superintendence would be sufficiently vigilant, when the people were
hungry, to prevent the crowns from going out and the corn from coming

B. If so, this plan, whether erroneous or not, would effect nothing;
it would do neither good nor harm, and therefore requires no further

F. You forget that you are a legislator. A legislator must not be
disheartened at trifles, when he is making experiments on others. The
first measure not having succeeded, you ought to take some other means
of attaining your end.

B. What end?

F. You must have a bad memory. Why, that of increasing, in the midst
of your people, the quantity of cash, which is presumed to be true

B. Ah! to be sure; I beg your pardon. But then you see, as they say of
music, a little is enough; and this may be said, I think, with still
more reason, of political economy. I must consider. But really I don't
know how to contrive--

F. Ponder it well. First, I would have you observe that your first
plan solved the problem only negatively. To prevent the crowns from
going out of the country is the way to prevent the wealth from
diminishing, but it is not the way to increase it.

B. Ah! now I am beginning to see ... the corn which is allowed to come
in ... a bright idea strikes me ... the contrivance is ingenious, the
means infallible; I am coming to it now.

F. Now, I, in turn, must ask you--to what?

B. Why, to a means of increasing the quantity of cash.

F. How would you set about it, if you please?

B. Is it not evident that if the heap of money is to be constantly
increasing, the first condition is that none must be taken from it?

F. Certainly.

B. And the second, that additions must constantly be made to it?

F.. To be sure.

B. Then the problem will be solved, either negatively or positively,
as the Socialists say, if on the one hand I prevent the foreigner from
taking from it, and on the other I oblige him to add to it.

F. Better and better.

B. And for this there must be two simple laws made, in which cash will
not even be mentioned. By the one, my subjects will be forbidden to buy
anything abroad; and by the other, they will be required to sell a
great deal.

F. A well-advised plan.

B. Is it new? I must take out a patent for the invention.

F. You need do no such thing; you have been forestalled. But you must
take care of one thing.

B. What is that?

F. I have made you an absolute king. I understand that you are going
to prevent your subjects from buying foreign productions. It will be
enough if you prevent them from entering the country. Thirty or forty
thousand custom-house officers will do the business.

B. It would be rather expensive. But what does that signify? The money
they receive will not go out of the country.

F. True; and in this system it is the grand point. But to ensure a
sale abroad, how would you proceed?

B. I should encourage it by prizes, obtained by means of some good
taxes laid upon my people.

F. In this case, the exporters, constrained by competition among
themselves, would lower their prices in proportion, and it would be like
making a present to the foreigner of the prizes or of the taxes.

B. Still, the money would not go out of the country.

F. Of course. That is understood. But if your system is beneficial,
the kings around you will adopt it. They will make similar plans to
yours; they will have their custom-house officers, and reject your
productions; so that with them, as with you, the heap of money may not
be diminished.

B. I shall have an army and force their barriers.

F. They will have an army and force yours.

B. I shall arm vessels, make conquests, acquire colonies, and create
consumers for my people, who will be obliged to eat our corn and drink
our wine.

F. The other kings will do the same. They will dispute your conquests,
your colonies, and your consumers; then on all sides there will be war,
and all will be uproar.

B. I shall raise my taxes, and increase my custom-house officers, my
army, and my navy.

F. The others will do the same.

B. I shall redouble my exertions.

F. The others will redouble theirs. In the meantime, we have no proof
that you would succeed in selling to a great extent.

B. It is but too true. It would be well if the commercial efforts
would neutralize each other.

F. And the military efforts also. And, tell me, are not these
custom-house officers, soldiers, and vessels, these oppressive taxes,
this perpetual struggle towards an impossible result, this permanent
state of open or secret war with the whole world, are they not the
logical and inevitable consequence of the legislators having adopted an
idea, which you admit is acted upon by no man who is his own master,
that "wealth is cash; and to increase cash, is to increase wealth?"

B. I grant it. Either the axiom is true, and then the legislator ought
to act as I have described, although universal war should be the
consequence; or it is false; and in this case men, in destroying each
other, only ruin themselves.

F. And, remember, that before you became a king, this same axiom had
led you by a logical process to the following maxims:--That which one
gains, another loses. The profit of one, is the loss of the
other:--which maxims imply an unavoidable antagonism amongst all men.

B. It is only too certain. Whether I am a philosopher or a legislator,
whether I reason or act upon the principle that money is wealth, I
always arrive at one conclusion, or one result:--universal war. It is
well that you pointed out the consequences before beginning a discussion
upon it; otherwise, I should never have had the courage to follow you to
the end of your economical dissertation, for, to tell you the truth, it
is not much to my taste.

F. What do you mean? I was just thinking of it when you heard me
grumbling against money! I was lamenting that my countrymen have not the
courage to study what it is so important that they should know.

B. And yet the consequences are frightful.

F. The consequences! As yet I have only mentioned one. I might have
told you of others still more fatal.

B. Yon make my hair stand on end! What other evils can have been
caused to mankind by this confusion between money and wealth?

F. It would take me a long time to enumerate them. This doctrine is
one of a very numerous family. The eldest, whose acquaintance we have
just made, is called the _prohibitive system_; the next, the _colonial
system_; the third, _hatred of capital_; the Benjamin, _paper money_.

B. What! does paper money proceed from the same error?

F. Yes, directly. When legislators, after having ruined men by war and
taxes, persevere in their idea, they say to themselves, "If the people
suffer, it is because there is not money enough. We must make some." And
as it is not easy to multiply the precious metals, especially when the
pretended resources of prohibition have been exhausted, they add, "We
will make fictitious money, nothing is more easy, and then every citizen
will have his pocket-book full of it, and they will all be rich."

B. In fact, this proceeding is more expeditious than the other, and
then it does not lead to foreign war.

F. No, but it leads to civil war.

B. You are a grumbler. Make haste and dive to the bottom of the
question. I am quite impatient, for the first time, to know if money (or
its sign) is wealth.

F. You will grant that men do not satisfy any of their wants
immediately with crown pieces. If they are hungry, they want bread; if
naked, clothing; if they are ill, they must have remedies; if they are
cold, they want shelter and fuel; if they would learn, they must have
books; if they would travel, they must have conveyances--and so on. The
riches of a country consist in the abundance and proper distribution of
all these things. Hence you may perceive and rejoice at the falseness of
this gloomy maxim of Bacon's, "_What one people gains, another
necessarily loses_:" a maxim expressed in a still more discouraging
manner by Montaigne, in these words: "_The profit of one is the loss of
another._" When Shem, Ham, and Japhet divided amongst themselves the
vast solitudes of this earth, they surely might each of them build,
drain, sow, reap, and obtain improved lodging, food and clothing, and
better instruction, perfect and enrich themselves--in short, increase
their enjoyments, without causing a necessary diminution in the
corresponding enjoyments of their brothers. It is the same with two

B. There is no doubt that two nations, the same as two men,
unconnected with each other, may, by working more, and working better,
prosper at the same time, without injuring each other. It is not this
which is denied by the axioms of Montaigne and Bacon. They only mean to
say, that in the transactions which take place between two nations or
two men, if one gains, the other must lose. And this is self-evident, as
exchange adds nothing by itself to the mass of those useful things of
which you were speaking; for if, after the exchange, one of the parties
is found to have gained something, the other will, of course, be found
to have lost something.

F. You have formed a very incomplete, nay a false idea of exchange. If
Shem is located upon a plain which is fertile in corn, Japhet upon a
slope adapted for growing the vine, Ham upon a rich pasturage,--the
distinction of their occupations, far from hurting any of them, might
cause all three to prosper more. It must be so, in fact, for the
distribution of labour, introduced by exchange, will have the effect of
increasing the mass of corn, wine, and meat, which is produced, and
which is to be shared. How can it be otherwise, if you allow liberty in
these transactions? From the moment that any one of the brothers should
perceive that labour in company, as it were, was a permanent loss,
compared to solitary labour, he would cease to exchange. Exchange brings
with it its claim to our gratitude. The fact of its being accomplished,
proves that it is a good thing.

B. But Bacon's axiom is true in the case of gold and silver. If we
admit that at a certain moment there exists in the world a given
quantity, it is perfectly clear that one purse cannot be filled without
another being emptied.

F. And if gold is considered to be riches, the natural conclusion is,
that displacements of fortune take place among men, but no general
progress. It is just what I said when I began. If, on the contrary, you
look upon an abundance of useful things, fit for satisfying our wants
and our tastes, as true riches, you will see that simultaneous
prosperity is possible. Cash serves only to facilitate the transmission
of these useful things from one to another, which may be done equally
well with an ounce of rare metal like gold, with a pound of more
abundant material as silver, or with a hundred-weight of still more
abundant metal, as copper. According to that, if the French had at their
disposal as much again of all these useful things, France would be twice
as rich, although the quantity of cash remained the same; but it would
not be the same if there were double the cash, for in that case the
amount of useful things would not increase.

B. The question to be decided is, whether the presence of a greater
number of crowns has not the effect, precisely, of augmenting the sum of
useful things?

F. What connexion can there be between these two terms? Food,
clothing, houses, fuel, all come from nature and from labour, from more
or less skilful labour exerted upon a more or less liberal nature.

B. You are forgetting one great force, which is--exchange. If you
acknowledge that this is a force, as you have admitted that crowns
facilitate it, you must also allow that they have an indirect power of

F. But I have added, that a small quantity of rare metal facilitates
transactions as much as a large quantity of abundant metal; whence it
follows, that a people is not enriched by being _forced_ to give up
useful things for the sake of having more money.

B. Thus, it is your opinion that the treasures discovered in
California will not increase the wealth of the world?

F. I do not believe that, on the whole, they will add much to the
enjoyments, to the real satisfactions of mankind. If the Californian
gold merely replaces in the world that which has been lost and
destroyed, it may have its use. If it increases the amount of cash, it
will depreciate it. The gold diggers will be richer than they would have
been without it. But those in whose possession the gold is at the moment
of its depreciation, will obtain a smaller gratification for the same
amount. I cannot look upon this as an increase, but as a displacement of
true riches, as I have defined them.

B. All that is very plausible. But you will not easily convince me
that I am not richer (all other things being equal) if I have two
crowns, than if I had only one.

F. I do not deny it.

B. And what is true of me is true of my neighbour, and of the
neighbour of my neighbour, and so on, from one to another, all over the
country. Therefore, if every Frenchman has more crowns, France must be
more rich.

F. And here you fall into the common mistake of concluding that what
affects one affects all, and thus confusing the individual with the
general interest.

B. Why, what can be more conclusive? What is true of one, must be so
of all! What are all, but a collection of individuals? You might as well
tell me that every Frenchman could suddenly grow an inch taller, without
the average height of Frenchmen being increased.

F. Your reasoning is apparently sound, I grant you, and that is why
the illusion it conceals is so common. However, let us examine it a
little. Ten persons were at play. For greater ease, they had adopted the
plan of each taking ten counters, and against these they had placed a
hundred francs under a candlestick, so that each counter corresponded to
ten francs. After the game the winnings were adjusted, and the players
drew from the candlestick as many ten francs as would represent the
number of counters. Seeing this, one of them, a great arithmetician
perhaps, but an indifferent reasoner, said--"Gentlemen, experience
invariably teaches me that, at the end of the game, I find myself a
gainer in proportion to the number of my counters. Have you not observed
the same with regard to yourselves? Thus, what is true of me must be
true of each of you, and _what is true of each must be true of all_. We
should, therefore, all of us gain more, at the end of the game, if we
all had more counters. Now, nothing can be easier; we have only to
distribute twice the number." This was done; but when the game was
finished, and they came to adjust the winnings, it was found that the
thousand francs under the candlestick had not been miraculously
multiplied, according to the general expectation. They had to be divided
accordingly, and the only result obtained (chimerical enough) was
this;--every one had, it is true, his double number of counters, but
every counter, instead of corresponding to _ten_ francs, only
represented _five_. Thus it was clearly shown, that what is true of
each, is not always true of all.

B. I see; you are supposing a general increase of counters, without a
corresponding increase of the sum placed under the candlestick.

F. And you are supposing a general increase of crowns, without a
corresponding increase of things, the exchange of which is facilitated
by these crowns.

B. Do you compare the crowns to counters?

F. In any other point of view, certainly not; but in the case you
place before me, and which I have to argue against, I do. Remark one
thing. In order that there be a general increase of crowns in a country,
this country must have mines, or its commerce must be such as to give
useful things in exchange for cash. Apart from these two circumstances,
a universal increase is impossible, the crowns only changing hands; and
in this case, although it may be very true that each one, taken
individually, is richer in proportion to the number of crowns that he
has, we cannot draw the inference which you drew just now, because a
crown more in one purse implies necessarily a crown less in some other.
It is the same as with your comparison of the middle height. If each of
us grew only at the expense of others, it would be very true of each,
taken individually, that he would be a taller man if he had the chance,
but this would never be true of the whole taken collectively.

B. Be it so: but, in the two suppositions that you have made, the
increase is real, and you must allow that I am right.

F. To a certain point, gold and silver have a value. To obtain this,
men consent to give useful things which have a value also. When,
therefore, there are mines in a country, if that country obtains from
them sufficient gold to purchase a useful thing from abroad--a
locomotive, for instance--it enriches itself with all the enjoyments
which a locomotive can procure, exactly as if the machine had been made
at home. The question is, whether it spends more efforts in the former
proceeding than in the latter? For if it did not export this gold, it
would depreciate, and something worse would happen than what you see in
California, for there, at least, the precious metals are used to buy
useful things made elsewhere. Nevertheless, there is still a danger that
they may starve on heaps of gold. What would it be if the law prohibited
exportation? As to the second supposition--that of the gold which we
obtain by trade; it is an advantage, or the reverse, according as the
country stands more or less in need of it, compared to its wants of the
useful things which must be given up in order to obtain it. It is not
for the law to judge of this, but for those who are concerned in it; for
if the law should start upon this principle, that gold is preferable to
useful things, whatever may be their value, and if it should act
effectually in this sense, it would tend to make France another
California, where there would be a great deal of cash to spend, and
nothing to buy. It is the very same system which is represented by

B. The gold which is imported implies that a _useful thing_ is
_ex_ported, and in this respect there is a satisfaction withdrawn from
the country. But is there not a corresponding benefit? And will not this
gold be the source of a number of new satisfactions, by circulating from
hand to hand, and inciting to labour and industry, until at length it
leaves the country in its turn, and causes the importation of some
useful thing?

F. Now you have come to the heart of the question. Is it true that a
crown is the principle which causes the production of all the objects
whose exchange it facilitates? It is very clear that a piece of five
francs is only _worth_ five francs; but we are led to believe that this
value has a particular character: that it is not consumed like other
things, or that it is exhausted very gradually; that it renews itself,
as it were, in each transaction; and that, finally this crown has been
worth five francs, as many times as it has accomplished
transactions--that it is of itself worth all the things for which it
has been successively exchanged; and this is believed, because it is
supposed that without this crown these things would never have been
produced. It is said, the shoemaker would have sold fewer shoes,
consequently he would have bought less of the butcher; the butcher would
not have gone so often to the grocer, the grocer to the doctor, the
doctor to the lawyer, and so on.

B. No one can dispute that.

F. This is the time, then, to analyse the true function of cash,
independently of mines and importations. You have a crown. What does it
imply in your hands? It is, as it were, the witness and proof that you
have, at some time or other, performed some labour, which, instead of
profiting by it, you have bestowed upon society in the person of your
client. This crown testifies that you have performed a _service_ for
society, and, moreover, it shows the value of it. It bears witness,
besides, that you have not yet obtained from society a _real_ equivalent
service, to which you have a right. To place you in a condition to
exercise this right, at the time and in the manner you please, society,
by means of your client, has given you an acknowledgment, a title, a
privilege from the republic, a counter, a crown in fact, which only
differs from executive titles by bearing its value in itself; and if you
are able to read with your mind's eye the inscriptions stamped upon it
you will distinctly decipher these words:--"_Pay the bearer a service
equivalent to what he has rendered to society, the value received being
shown, proved, and measured by that which is represented by me._" Now,
you give up your crown to me. Either my title to it is gratuitous, or it
is a claim. If you give it me as payment for a service, the following is
the result:--your account with society for real satisfactions is
regulated, balanced, and closed. You had rendered it a service for a
crown, you now restore the crown for a service; as far as you are
concerned, you are clear. As for me, I am just in the position in which
you were just now. It is I who am now in advance to society for the
service which I have just rendered it in your person. I am become its
creditor for the value of the labour which I have performed for you, and
which I might devote to myself. It is into my hands, then, that the
title of this credit--the proof of this social debt--ought to pass. You
cannot say that I am any richer; if I am entitled to receive, it is
because I have given. Still less can you say that society is a crown
richer, because one of its members has a crown more, and another has one
less. For if you let me have this crown gratis, it is certain that I
shall be so much the richer, but you will be so much the poorer for it;
and the social fortune, taken in a mass, will have undergone no change,
because as I have already said, this fortune consists in real services,
in effective satisfactions, in useful things. You were a creditor to
society, you made me a substitute to your rights, and it signifies
little to society, which owes a service, whether it pays the debt to you
or to me. This is discharged as soon as the bearer of the claim is paid.

B. But if we all had a great number of crowns we should obtain from
society many services. Would not that be very desirable?

F. You forget that in the process which I have described, and which is
a picture of the reality, we only obtain services from society because
we have bestowed some upon it. Whoever speaks of a _service_, speaks at
the same time of a service _received_ and _returned_, for these two
terms imply each other, so that the one must always be balanced by the
other. It is impossible for society to render more services than it
receives, and yet this is the chimera which is being pursued by means of
the multiplication of coins, of paper money, &c.

B. All that appears very reasonable in theory, but in practice I
cannot help thinking, when I see how things go, that if, by some
fortunate circumstance, the number of crowns could be multiplied in such
a way that each of us could see his little property doubled, we should
all be more at our ease; we should all make more purchases, and trade
would receive a powerful stimulus.

F. More purchases! and what should we buy? Doubtless,
useful articles--things likely to procure for us substantial
gratification--such as provisions, stuffs, houses, books, pictures. You
should begin, then, by proving that all these things create themselves;
you must suppose the Mint melting ingots of gold which have fallen from
the moon; or that the Board of Assignats be put in action at the
national printing office; for you cannot reasonably think that if the
quantity of corn, cloth, ships, hats and shoes remains the same, the
share of each of us can be greater, because we each go to market with a
greater number of real or fictitious money. Remember the players. In the
social order, the useful things are what the workers place under the
candlestick, and the crowns which circulate from hand to hand are the
counters. If you multiply the francs without multiplying the useful
things, the only result will be, that more francs will be required for
each exchange, just as the players required more counters for each
deposit. You have the proof of this in what passes for gold silver, and
copper. Why does the same exchange require more copper than silver, more
silver than gold? Is it not because these metals are distributed in the
world in different proportions? What reason have you to suppose that if
gold were suddenly to become as abundant as silver, it would not require
as much of one as of the other to buy a house?

B. You may be right, but I should prefer your being wrong. In the
midst of the sufferings which surround us, so distressing in themselves,
and so dangerous in their consequences, I have found some consolation in
thinking that there was an easy method of making all the members of the
community happy.

F. Even if gold and silver were true riches, it would be no easy
matter to increase the amount of them in a country where there are no

B. No, but it is easy to substitute something else. I agree with you
that gold and silver can do but little service, except as a mere means
of exchange. It is the same with paper money, bank-notes, &c. Then, if
we had all of us plenty of the latter, which it is so easy to create, we
might all buy a great deal, and should want for nothing. Your cruel
theory dissipates hopes, illusions, if you will, whose principle is
assuredly very philanthropic.

F. Yes, like all other barren dreams formed to promote universal
felicity. The extreme facility of the means which you recommend is quite
sufficient to expose its hollowness. Do you believe that if it were
merely needful to print bank-notes in order to satisfy all our wants,
our tastes and desires, that mankind would have been contented to go on
till now, without having recourse to this plan? I agree with you that
the discovery is tempting. It would immediately banish from the world,
not only plunder, in its diversified and deplorable forms, but even
labour itself, except the Board of Assignats. But we have yet to learn
how assignats are to purchase houses, which no one would have built;
corn, which no one would have raised; stuffs, which no one would have
taken the trouble to weave.

B. One thing strikes me in your argument. You say yourself, that if
there is no gain, at any rate there is no loss in multiplying the
instrument of exchange, as is seen by the instance of the players, who
were quits by a very mild deception. Why, then, refuse the philosopher's
stone, which would teach us the secret of changing flints into gold,
and, in the meantime, into paper money? Are you so blindly wedded to
your logic, that you would refuse to try an experiment where there can
be no risk? If you are mistaken, you are depriving the nation, as your
numerous adversaries believe, of an immense advantage. If the error is
on their side, no harm can result, as you yourself say, beyond the
failure of a hope. The measure, excellent in their opinion, in yours is
negative. Let it be tried, then, since the worst which can happen is not
the realization of an evil, but the non-realization of a benefit.

F. In the first place, the failure of a hope is a very great
misfortune to any people. It is also very undesirable that the
Government should announce the re-imposition of several taxes on the
faith of a resource which must infallibly fail. Nevertheless, your
remark would deserve some consideration, if, after the issue of paper
money and its depreciation, the equilibrium of values should instantly
and simultaneously take place, in all things and in every part of the
country. The measure would tend, as in my example of the players, to a
universal mystification, upon which the best thing we could do would be
to look at one another and laugh. But this is not in the course of
events. The experiment has been made, and every time a despot has
altered the money ...

B. Who says anything about altering the money?

F. Why, to force people to take in payment scraps of paper which have
been officially baptized _francs_, or to force them to receive, as
weighing five grains, a piece of silver which weighs only two and a
half, but which has been officially named a _franc_, is the same thing,
if not worse; and all the reasoning which can be made in favour of
assignats has been made in favour of legal false money. Certainly,
looking at it, as you did just now, and as you appear to be doing still,
if it is believed that to multiply the instruments of exchange is to
multiply the exchanges themselves as well as the things exchanged, it
might very reasonably be thought that the most simple means was to
double the crowns, and to cause the law to give to the half the name and
value of the whole. Well, in both cases, depreciation is inevitable. I
think I have told you the cause. I must also inform you, that this
depreciation, which, with paper, might go on till it came to nothing, is
effected by continually making dupes; and of these, poor people, simple
persons, workmen and countrymen are the chief.

B. I see; but stop a little. This dose of Economy is rather too strong
for once.

F. Be it so. We are agreed, then, upon this point,--that wealth is the
mass of useful things Which we produce by labour; or, still better, the
result of all the efforts which we make for the satisfaction of our
wants and tastes. These useful things are exchanged for each other,
according to the convenience of those to whom they belong. There are two
forms in these transactions; one is called barter: in this case, a
service is rendered for the sake of receiving an equivalent service
immediately. In this form, transactions would be exceedingly limited. In
order that they may be multiplied, and accomplished independently of
time and space amongst persons unknown to each other, and by infinite
fractions, an intermediate agent has been necessary,--this is cash. It
gives occasion for exchange, which is nothing else but a complicated
bargain. This is what has to be remarked and understood. Exchange
decomposes itself into two bargains, into two actors, sale and
purchase,--the reunion of which is needed to complete it. You _sell_ a
service, and receive a crown--then, with this crown, you _buy_ a
service. Then only is the bargain complete; it is not till then that
your effort has been followed by a real satisfaction. Evidently you only
work to satisfy the wants of others, that others may work to satisfy
yours. So long as you have only the crown which has been given you for
your work, you are only entitled to claim the work of another person.
When you have done so, the economical evolution will be accomplished as
far as you are concerned, since you will then only have obtained, by a
real satisfaction, the true reward for your trouble. The idea of a
bargain implies a service rendered, and a service received. Why should
it not be the same with exchange, which is merely a bargain in two
parts? And here there are two observations to be made. First,--It is a
very unimportant circumstance whether there be much or little cash in
the world. If there is much, much is required; if there is little,
little is wanted, for each transaction: that is all. The second
observation is this:--Because it is seen that cash always reappears in
every exchange, it has come to be regarded as the _sign_ and the
_measure_ of the things exchanged.

B. Will you still deny that cash is the _sign_ of the useful things of
which you speak?

F. A louis[6] is no more the sign of a sack of corn, than a sack of
corn is the sign of a louis.

B. What harm is there in looking at cash as the sign of wealth?

F. The inconvenience is this,--it leads to the idea that we have only
to increase the sign, in order to increase the things signified; and we
are in danger of adopting all the false measures which you took when I
made you an absolute king. We should go still further. Just as in money
we see the sign of wealth, we see also in paper money the sign of money;
and thence conclude that there is a very easy and simple method of
procuring for everybody the pleasures of fortune.

B. But you will not go so far as to dispute that cash is the _measure_
of values?

F. Yes, certainly, I do go as far as that, for
that is precisely where the illusion lies. It has become customary to
refer the value of everything to that of cash. It is said, this is
_worth_ five, ten, or twenty francs, as we say this _weighs_ five, ten,
or twenty grains; this _measures_ five, ten, or twenty yards; this
ground _contains_ five, ten, or twenty acres; and hence it has been
concluded, that cash is the _measure_ of _values_.

B. Well, it appears as if it was so.

F. Yes, it appears so, and it is this I complain of, and not of the
reality. A measure of length, size, surface, is a quantity agreed upon,
and unchangeable. It is not so with the value of gold and silver. This
varies as much as that of corn, wine, cloth, or labour, and from the
same causes, for it has the same source and obeys the same laws. Gold is
brought within our reach, just like iron, by the labour of miners, the
advances of capitalists, and the combination of merchants and seamen. It
costs more or less, according to the expense of its production,
according to whether there is much or little in the market, and whether
it is much or little in request; in a word, it undergoes the
fluctuations of all other human productions. But one circumstance is
singular, and gives rise to many mistakes. When the value of cash
varies, the variation is attributed by language to the other productions
for which it is exchanged. Thus, let us suppose that all the
circumstances relative to gold remain the same, and that the corn
harvest has failed. The price of corn will rise. It will be said, "The
quarter of corn, which was worth twenty francs, is now worth thirty;"
and this will be correct, for it is the value of the corn which has
varied, and language agrees with the fact. But let us reverse the
supposition: let us suppose that all the circumstances relative to corn
remain the same, and that half of all the gold in existence is swallowed
up; this time it is the price of gold which will rise. It would seem
that we ought to say,--"This Napoleon, which _was worth_ twenty francs,
_is now worth_ forty." Now, do you know how this is expressed? Just as
if it was the other objects of comparison which had fallen in price, it
is said,--"Corn, which _was worth_ twenty francs, _is now only worth_

B. It all comes to the same thing in the end.

F. No doubt; but only think what disturbances, what cheatings are
produced in exchanges, when the value of the medium varies, without our
becoming aware of it by a change in the name. Old pieces are issued, or
notes bearing the name of twenty _francs_, and which will bear that name
through every subsequent depreciation. The value will be reduced a
quarter, a half, but they will still be called _pieces_ or _notes of
twenty francs_. Clever persons will take care not to part with their
goods unless for a larger number of notes--in other words, they will ask
forty francs for what they would formerly have sold for twenty; but
simple persons will be taken in. Many years must pass before all the
values will find their proper level. Under the influence of ignorance
and _custom_, the day's pay of a country labourer will remain for a
long time at a franc, while the saleable price of all the articles of
consumption around him will be rising. He will sink into destitution
without being able to discover the cause. In short, since you wish me to
finish, I must beg you, before we separate, to fix your whole attention
upon this essential point:--When once false money (under whatever form
it may take) is put into circulation, depreciation will ensue, and
manifest itself by the universal rise of every thing which is capable of
being sold. But this rise in prices is not instantaneous and equal for
all things. Sharp men, brokers, and men of business, will not suffer by
it; for it is their trade to watch the fluctuations of prices, to
observe the cause, and even to speculate upon it. But little tradesmen,
countrymen, and workmen, will bear the whole weight of it. The rich man
is not any the richer for it, but the poor man becomes poorer by it.
Therefore, expedients of this kind have the effect of increasing the
distance which separates wealth from poverty, of paralysing the social
tendencies which are incessantly bringing men to the same level, and it
will require centuries for the suffering classes to regain the ground
which they have lost in their advance towards _equality of condition_.

B. Good morning; I shall go and meditate upon the lecture you have
been giving me.

F. Have you finished your own dissertation? As for me, I have scarcely
begun mine. I have not yet spoken of the _hatred_ of capital, of
gratuitous credit--a fatal notion, a deplorable mistake, which takes
its rise from the same source.

B. What! does this frightful commotion of the populace against
capitalists arise from money being confounded with wealth?

F. It is the result of different causes. Unfortunately, certain
capitalists have arrogated to themselves monopolies and privileges which
are quite sufficient to account for this feeling. But when the theorists
of democracy have wished to justify it, to systematize it, to give it
the appearance of a reasonable opinion, and to turn it against the very
nature of capital, they have had recourse to that false political
economy at whose root the same confusion is always to be found. They
have said to the people:--"Take a crown, put it under a glass; forget it
for a year; then go and look at it, and you will be convinced that it
has not produced ten sous, nor five sous, nor any fraction of a sou.
Therefore, money produces no interest." Then, substituting for the word
money its pretended sign, _capital_, they have made it by their logic
undergo this modification--"Then capital produces no interest." Then
follow this series of consequences--"Therefore he who lends a capital
ought to obtain nothing from it; therefore he who lends you a capital,
if he gains something by it, is robbing you; therefore all capitalists
are robbers; therefore wealth, which ought to serve gratuitously those
who borrow it, belongs in reality to those to whom it does not belong;
therefore there is no such thing as property; therefore everything
belongs to everybody; therefore ..."

B. This is very serious; the more so, from the syllogism being so
admirably formed. I should very much like to be enlightened on the
subject. But, alas! I can no longer command my attention. There is such
a confusion in my head of the words _cash_, _money_, _services_,
_capital_, _interest_, that, really, I hardly know where I am. We will,
if you please, resume the conversation another day.

F. In the meantime, here is a little work entitled _Capital and Rent_.
It may perhaps remove some of your doubts. Just look at it, when you are
in want of a little amusement.

B. To amuse me?

F. Who knows? One nail drives in another; one wearisome thing drives
away another.

B. I have not yet made up my mind that your views upon cash and
political economy in general are correct. But, from your conversation,
this is what I have gathered:--That these questions are of the highest
importance; for peace or war, order or anarchy, the union or the
antagonism of citizens, are at the root of the answer to them. How is it
that, in France, a science which concerns us all so nearly, and the
diffusion of which would have so decisive an influence upon the fate of
mankind, is so little known? Is it that the State does not teach it

F. Not exactly. For, without knowing it, it applies itself to loading
everybody's brain with prejudices, and everybody's heart with
sentiments favourable to the spirit of anarchy, war, and hatred; so
that, when a doctrine of order, peace, and union presents itself, it is
in vain that it has clearness and truth on its side,--it cannot gain

B. Decidedly, you are a frightful grumbler. What interest can the
State have in mystifying people's intellects in favour of revolutions,
and civil and foreign wars? There must certainly be a great deal of
exaggeration in what you say.

F. Consider. At the period when our intellectual faculties begin to
develop themselves, at the age when impressions are liveliest, when
habits of mind are formed with the greatest ease--when we might look at
society and understand it--in a word, as soon as we are seven or eight
years old, what does the State do? It puts a bandage over our eyes,
takes us gently from the midst of the social circle which surrounds us,
to plunge us, with our susceptible faculties, our impressible hearts,
into the midst of Roman society. It keeps us there for ten years at
least, long enough to make an ineffaceable impression on the brain. Now
observe, that Roman society is directly opposed to what our society
ought to be. There they lived upon war; here we ought to hate war. There
they hated labour; here we ought to live upon labour. There the means of
subsistence were founded upon slavery and plunder; here they should be
drawn from free industry. Roman society was organised in consequence of
its principle. It necessarily admired what made it prosper. There they
considered as virtue, what we look upon as vice. Its poets and
historians had to exalt what we ought to despise. The very words,
_liberty_, _order_, _justice_, _people_, _honour_, _influence_, _&c._,
could not have the same signification at Rome, as they have, or ought to
have, at Paris. How can you expect that all these youths who have been
at university or conventual schools, with Livy and Quintus Curtius for
their catechism, will not understand liberty like the Gracchi, virtue
like Cato, patriotism like Cæsar? How can you expect them not to be
factious and warlike? How can you expect them to take the slightest
interest in the mechanism of our social order? Do you think that their
minds have been prepared to understand it? Do you not see that, in order
to do so, they must get rid of their present impressions, and receive
others entirely opposed to them?

B. What do you conclude from that?

F. I will tell you. The most urgent necessity is, not that the State
should teach, but that it should _allow_ education. All monopolies are
detestable, but the worst of all is the monopoly of education.

The Law.

The law perverted! The law--and, in its wake, all the collective forces
of the nation--the law, I say, not only diverted from its proper
direction, but made to pursue one entirely contrary! The law become the
tool of every kind of avarice, instead of being its check! The law
guilty of that very iniquity which it was its mission to punish! Truly,
this is a serious fact, if it exists, and one to which I feel bound to
call the attention of my fellow-citizens.

We hold from God the gift which, as far as we are concerned, contains
all others, Life--physical, intellectual, and moral life.

But life cannot support itself. He who has bestowed it, has entrusted us
with the care of supporting it, of developing it, and of perfecting it.
To that end, He has provided us with a collection of wonderful
faculties; He has plunged us into the midst of a variety of elements. It
is by the application of our faculties to these elements, that the
phenomena of assimilation and of appropriation, by which life pursues
the circle which has been assigned to it, are realized.

Existence, faculties, assimilation--in other words, personality,
liberty, property--this is man. It is of these three things that it may
be said, apart from all demagogue subtlety, that they are anterior and
superior to all human legislation.

It is not because men have made laws, that personality, liberty, and
property exist. On the contrary, it is because personality, liberty, and
property exist beforehand, that men make laws.

What, then, is law? As I have said elsewhere, it is the collective
organization of the individual right to lawful defence.

Nature, or rather God, has bestowed upon every one of us the right to
defend his person, his liberty, and his property, since these are the
three constituent or preserving elements of life; elements, each of
which is rendered complete by the others, and cannot be understood
without them. For what are our faculties, but the extension of our
personality? and what is property, but an extension of our faculties?

If every man has the right of defending, even by force, his person, his
liberty, and his property, a number of men have the right to combine
together, to extend, to organize a common force, to provide regularly
for this defence.

Collective right, then, has its principle, its reason for existing, its
lawfulness, in individual right; and the common force cannot rationally
have any other end, or any other mission, than that of the isolated
forces for which it is substituted. Thus, as the force of an individual
cannot lawfully touch the person, the liberty, or the property of
another individual--for the same reason, the common force cannot
lawfully be used to destroy the person, the liberty, or the property of
individuals or of classes.

For this perversion of force would be, in one case as in the other, in
contradiction to our premises. For who will dare to say that force has
been given to us, not to defend our rights, but to annihilate the equal
rights of our brethren? And if this be not true of every individual
force, acting independently, how can it be true of the collective force,
which is only the organized union of isolated forces?

Nothing, therefore, can be more evident than this:--The law is the
organization of the natural right of lawful defence; it is the
substitution of collective for individual forces, for the purpose of
acting in the sphere in which they have a right to act, of doing what
they have a right to do, to secure persons, liberties, and properties,
and to maintain each in its right, so as to cause justice to reign over

And if a people established upon this basis were to exist, it seems to
me that order would prevail among them in their acts as well as in their
ideas. It seems to me that such a people would have the most simple, the
most economical, the least oppressive, the least to be felt, the least
responsible, the most just, and, consequently, the most solid Government
which could be imagined, whatever its political form might be.

For, under such an administration, every one would feel that he
possessed all the fulness, as well as all the responsibility of his
existence. So long as personal safety was ensured, so long as labour
was free, and the fruits of labour secured against all unjust attacks,
no one would have any difficulties to contend with in the State. When
prosperous, we should not, it is true, have to thank the State for our
success; but when unfortunate, we should no more think of taxing it with
our disasters, than our peasants think of attributing to it the arrival
of hail or of frost. We should know it only by the inestimable blessing
of Safety.

It may further be affirmed, that, thanks to the non-intervention of the
State in private affairs, our wants and their satisfactions would
develop themselves in their natural order. We should not see poor
families seeking for literary instruction before they were supplied with
bread. We should not see towns peopled at the expense of rural
districts, nor rural districts at the expense of towns. We should not
see those great displacements of capital, of labour, and of population,
which legislative measures occasion; displacements, which render so
uncertain and precarious the very sources of existence, and thus
aggravate to such an extent the responsibility of Governments.

Unhappily, law is by no means confined to its own department. Nor is it
merely in some indifferent and debateable views that it has left its
proper sphere. It has done more than this. It has acted in direct
opposition to its proper end; it has destroyed its own object; it has
been employed in annihilating that justice which it ought to have
established, in effacing amongst Rights, that limit which was its true
mission to respect; it has placed the collective force in the service of
those who wish to traffic, without risk, and without scruple, in the
persons, the liberty, and the property of others; it has converted
plunder into a right, that it may protect it, and lawful defence into a
crime, that it may punish it.

How has this perversion of law been accomplished? And what has resulted
from it?

The law has been perverted through the influence of two very different
causes--bare egotism and false philanthropy.

Let us speak of the former.

Self-preservation and development is the common aspiration of all men,
in such a way that if every one enjoyed the free exercise of his
faculties and the free disposition of their fruits, social progress
would be incessant, uninterrupted, inevitable.

But there is also another disposition which is common to them. This is,
to live and to develop, when they can, at the expense of one another.
This is no rash imputation, emanating from a gloomy, uncharitable
spirit. History bears witness to the truth of it, by the incessant wars,
the migrations of races, sacerdotal oppressions, the universality of
slavery, the frauds in trade, and the monopolies with which its annals
abound. This fatal disposition has its origin in the very constitution
of man--in that primitive, and universal, and invincible sentiment which
urges it towards its well-being, and makes it seek to escape pain.

Man can only derive life and enjoyment from a perpetual search and
appropriation; that is, from a perpetual application of his faculties to
objects, or from labour. This is the origin of property.

But yet he may live and enjoy, by seizing and appropriating the
productions of the faculties of his fellow-men. This is the origin of

Now, labour being in itself a pain, and man being naturally inclined to
avoid pain, it follows, and history proves it, that wherever plunder is
less burdensome than labour, it prevails; and neither religion nor
morality can, in this case, prevent it from prevailing.

When does plunder cease, then? When it becomes less burdensome and more
dangerous than labour. It is very evident that the proper aim of law is
to oppose the powerful obstacle of collective force to this fatal
tendency; that all its measures should be in favour of property, and
against plunder.

But the law is made, generally, by one man, or by one class of men. And
as law cannot exist without the sanction and the support of a
preponderating force, it must finally place this force in the hands of
those who legislate.

This inevitable phenomenon, combined with the fatal tendency which, we
have said, exists in the heart of man, explains the almost universal
perversion of law. It is easy to conceive that, instead of being a
check upon injustice, it becomes its most invincible instrument. It is
easy to conceive that, according to the power of the legislator, it
destroys for its own profit, and in different degrees, amongst the rest
of the community, personal independence by slavery, liberty by
oppression, and property by plunder.

It is in the nature of men to rise against the injustice of which they
are the victims. When, therefore, plunder is organised by law, for the
profit of those who perpetrate it, all the plundered classes tend,
either by peaceful or revolutionary means, to enter in some way into the
manufacturing of laws. These classes, according to the degree of
enlightenment at which they have arrived, may propose to themselves two
very different ends, when they thus attempt the attainment of their
political rights; either they may wish to put an end to lawful plunder,
or they may desire to take part in it.

Woe to the nation where this latter thought prevails amongst the masses,
at the moment when they, in their turn, seize upon the legislative

Up to that time, lawful plunder has been exercised by the few upon the
many, as is the case in countries where the right of legislating is
confined to a few hands. But now it has become universal, and the
equilibrium is sought in universal plunder. The injustice which society
contains, instead of being rooted out of it, is generalised. As soon as
the injured classes have recovered their political rights, their first
thought is, not to abolish plunder (this would suppose them to possess
enlightenment, which they cannot have), but to organise against the
other classes, and to their own detriment, a system of reprisals,--as if
it was necessary, before the reign of justice arrives, that all should
undergo a cruel retribution,--some for their iniquity and some for their

It would be impossible, therefore, to introduce into society a greater
change and a greater evil than this--the conversion of the law into an
instrument of plunder.

What would be the consequences of such a perversion? It would require
volumes to describe them all. We must content ourselves with pointing
out the most striking.

In the first place, it would efface from everybody's conscience the
distinction between justice and injustice.

No society can exist unless the laws are respected to a certain degree,
but the safest way to make them respected is to make them respectable.
When law and morality are in contradiction to each other, the citizen
finds himself in the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense,
or of losing his respect for the law--two evils of equal magnitude,
between which it would be difficult to choose.

It is so much in the nature of law to support justice, that in the minds
of the masses they are one and the same. There is in all of us a strong
disposition to regard what is lawful as legitimate, so much so, that
many falsely derive all justice from law. It is sufficient, then, for
the law to order and sanction plunder, that it may appear to many
consciences just and sacred. Slavery, protection, and monopoly find
defenders, not only in those who profit by them, but in those who suffer
by them. If you suggest a doubt as to the morality of these
institutions, it is said directly--"You are a dangerous innovator, a
utopian, a theorist, a despiser of the laws; you would shake the basis
upon which society rests."

If you lecture upon morality, or political economy, official bodies will
be found to make this request to the Government:--

"That henceforth science be taught not only with sole reference to free
exchange (to liberty, property, and justice), as has been the case up to
the present time, but also, and especially, with reference to the facts
and legislation (contrary to liberty, property, and justice) which
regulate French industry.

"That, in public pulpits salaried by the treasury, the professor abstain
rigorously from endangering in the slightest degree the respect due to
the laws now in force."[7]

So that if a law exists which sanctions slavery or monopoly, oppression
or plunder, in any form whatever, it must not even be mentioned--for how
can it be mentioned without damaging the respect which it inspires?
Still further, morality and political economy must be taught in
connexion with this law--that is, under the supposition that it must be
just, only because it is law.

Another effect of this deplorable perversion of the law is, that it
gives to human passions and to political struggles, and, in general, to
politics, properly so called, an exaggerated preponderance.

I could prove this assertion in a thousand ways. But I shall confine
myself, by way of illustration, to bringing it to bear upon a subject
which has of late occupied everybody's mind--universal suffrage.

Whatever may be thought of it by the adepts of the school of Rousseau,
which professes to be _very far advanced_, but which I consider twenty
centuries _behind, universal_ suffrage (taking the word in its strictest
sense) is not one of those sacred dogmas with respect to which
examination and doubt are crimes.

Serious objections may be made to it.

In the first place, the word _universal_ conceals a gross sophism. There
are, in France, 36,000,000 of inhabitants. To make the right of suffrage
universal, 36,000,000 of electors should be reckoned. The most extended
system reckons only 9,000,000. Three persons out of four, then, are
excluded; and more than this, they are excluded by the fourth. Upon what
principle is this exclusion founded? Upon the principle of incapacity.
Universal suffrage, then, means--universal suffrage of those who are
capable. In point of fact, who are the capable? Are age, sex, and
judicial condemnations the only conditions to which incapacity is to be

On taking a nearer view of the subject, we may soon perceive the motive
which causes the right of suffrage to depend upon the presumption of
incapacity; the most extended system differing only in this respect from
the most restricted, by the appreciation of those conditions on which
this incapacity depends, and which constitutes, not a difference in
principle, but in degree.

This motive is, that the elector does not stipulate for himself, but for

If, as the republicans of the Greek and Roman tone pretend, the right of
suffrage had fallen to the lot of every one at his birth, it would be an
injustice to adults to prevent women and children from voting. Why are
they prevented? Because they are presumed to be incapable. And why is
incapacity a motive for exclusion? Because the elector does not reap
alone the responsibility of his vote; because every vote engages and
affects the community at large; because the community has a right to
demand some securities, as regards the acts upon which his well-being
and his existence depend.

I know what might be said in answer to this. I know what might be
objected. But this is not the place to exhaust a controversy of this
kind. What I wish to observe is this, that this same controversy (in
common with the greater part of political questions) which agitates,
excites, and unsettles the nations, would lose almost all its importance
if the law had always been what it ought to be.

In fact, if law were confined to causing all persons, all liberties, and
all properties to be respected--if it were merely the organisation of
individual right and individual defence--if it were the obstacle, the
check, the chastisement opposed to all oppression, to all plunder--is it
likely that we should dispute much, as citizens, on the subject of the
greater or less universality of suffrage? Is it likely that it would
compromise that greatest of advantages, the public peace? Is it likely
that the excluded classes would not quietly wait for their turn? Is it
likely that the enfranchised classes would be very jealous of their
privilege? And is it not clear, that the interest of all being one and
the same, some would act without much inconvenience to the others?

But if the fatal principle should come to be introduced, that, under
pretence of organisation, regulation, protection, or encouragement, the
law may take from one party in order to give to another, help itself to
the wealth acquired by all the classes that it may increase that of one
class, whether that of the agriculturists, the manufacturers, the
shipowners, or artists and comedians; then certainly, in this case,
there is no class which may not pretend, and with reason, to place its
hand upon the law, which would not demand with fury its right of
election and eligibility, and which would overturn society rather than
not obtain it. Even beggars and vagabonds will prove to you that they
have an incontestable title to it. They will say--"We never buy wine,
tobacco, or salt, without paying the tax, and a part of this tax is
given by law in perquisites and gratuities to men who are richer than we
are. Others make use of the law to create an artificial rise in the
price of bread, meat, iron, or cloth. Since everybody traffics in law
for his own profit, we should like to do the same. We should like to
make it produce the _right to assistance_, which is the poor man's
plunder. To effect this, we ought to be electors and legislators, that
we may organise, on a large scale, alms for our own class, as you have
organised, on a large scale, protection for yours. Don't tell us that
you will take our cause upon yourselves, and throw to us 600,000 francs
to keep us quiet, like giving us a bone to pick. We have other claims,
and, at any rate, we wish to stipulate for ourselves, as other classes
have stipulated for themselves!" How is this argument to be answered?
Yes, as long as it is admitted that the law may be diverted from its
true mission, that it may violate property instead of securing it,
everybody will be wanting to manufacture law, either to defend himself
against plunder, or to organise it for his own profit. The political
question will always be prejudicial, predominant, and absorbing; in a
word, there will be fighting around the door of the Legislative Palace.
The struggle will be no less furious within it. To be convinced of
this, it is hardly necessary to look at what passes in the Chambers in
France and in England; it is enough to know how the question stands.

Is there any need to prove that this odious perversion of law is a
perpetual source of hatred and discord,--that it even tends to social
disorganisation? Look at the United States. There is no country in the
world where the law is kept more within its proper domain--which is, to
secure to every one his liberty and his property. Therefore, there is no
country in the world where social order appears to rest upon a more
solid basis. Nevertheless, even in the United States, there are two
questions, and only two, which from the beginning have endangered
political order. And what are these two questions? That of slavery and
that of tariffs; that is, precisely the only two questions in which,
contrary to the general spirit of this republic, law has taken the
character of a plunderer. Slavery is a violation, sanctioned by law, of
the rights of the person. Protection is a violation perpetrated by the
law upon the rights of property; and certainly it is very remarkable
that, in the midst of so many other debates, this double _legal
scourge_, the sorrowful inheritance of the Old World, should be the only
one which can, and perhaps will, cause the rupture of the Union. Indeed,
a more astounding fact, in the heart of society, cannot be conceived
than this:--That _law should have become an instrument of injustice_.
And if this fact occasions consequences so formidable to the United
States, where there is but one exception, what must it be with us in
Europe, where it is a principle--a system?

M. Montalembert, adopting the thought of a famous proclamation of M.
Carlier, said, "We must make war against socialism." And by socialism,
according to the definition of M. Charles Dupin, he meant plunder.

But what plunder did he mean? For there are two sorts--_extra-legal_ and
_legal plunder_.

As to extra-legal plunder, such as theft, or swindling, which is
defined, foreseen, and punished by the penal code, I do not think it can
be adorned by the name of socialism. It is not this which systematically
threatens the foundations of society. Besides, the war against this kind
of plunder has not waited for the signal of M. Montalembert or M.
Carlier. It has gone on since the beginning of the world; France was
carrying it on long before the revolution of February--long before the
appearance of socialism--with all the ceremonies of magistracy, police,
gendarmerie, prisons, dungeons, and scaffolds. It is the law itself
which is conducting this war, and it is to be wished, in my opinion,
that the law should always maintain this attitude with respect to

But this is not the case. The law sometimes takes its own part.
Sometimes it accomplishes it with its own hands, in order to save the
parties benefited the shame, the danger, and the scruple. Sometimes it
places all this ceremony of magistracy, police, gendarmerie, and
prisons, at the service of the plunderer, and treats the plundered
party, when he defends himself, as the criminal. In a word, there is a
_legal plunder_, and it is, no doubt, this which is meant by M.

This plunder may be only an exceptional blemish in the legislation of a
people, and in this case, the best thing that can be done is, without so
many speeches and lamentations, to do away with it as soon as possible,
notwithstanding the clamours of interested parties. But how is it to be
distinguished? Very easily. See whether the law takes from some persons
that which belongs to them, to give to others what does not belong to
them. See whether the law performs, for the profit of one citizen, and,
to the injury of others, an act which this citizen cannot perform
without committing a crime. Abolish this law without delay; it is not
merely an iniquity--it is a fertile source of iniquities, for it invites
reprisals; and if you do not take care, the exceptional case will
extend, multiply, and become systematic. No doubt the party benefited
will exclaim loudly; he will assert his _acquired rights_. He will say
that the State is bound to protect and encourage his industry; he will
plead that it is a good thing for the State to be enriched, that it may
spend the more, and thus shower down salaries upon the poor workmen.
Take care not to listen to this sophistry, for it is just by the
systematising of these arguments that legal plunder becomes

And this is what has taken place. The delusion of the day is to enrich
all classes at the expense of each other; it is to generalise plunder
under pretence of organising it. Now, legal plunder may be exercised in
an infinite multitude of ways. Hence come an infinite multitude of plans
for organisation; tariffs, protection, perquisites, gratuities,
encouragements, progressive taxation, gratuitous instruction, right to
labour, right to profit, right to wages, right to assistance, right to
instruments of labour, gratuity of credit, &c., &c. And it is all these
plans, taken as a whole, with what they have in common, legal, plunder,
which takes the name of socialism.

Now socialism, thus defined, and forming a doctrinal body, what other
war would you make against it than a war of doctrine? You find this
doctrine false, absurd, abominable. Refute it. This will be all the more
easy, the more false, the more absurd and the more abominable it is.
Above all, if you wish to be strong, begin by rooting out of your
legislation every particle of socialism which may have crept into
it,--and this will be no light work.

M. Montalembert has been reproached with wishing to turn brute force
against socialism. He ought to be exonerated from this reproach, for he
has plainly said:--"The war which we must make against socialism must be
one which is compatible with the law, honour, and justice."

But how is it that M. Montalembert does not see that he is placing
himself in a vicious circle? You would oppose law to socialism. But it
is the law which socialism invokes. It aspires to legal, not extra-legal
plunder. It is of the law itself, like monopolists of all kinds, that it
wants to make an instrument; and when once it has the law on its side,
how will you be able to turn the law against it? How will you place it
under the power of your tribunals, your gendarmes, and of your prisons?
What will you do then? You wish to prevent it from taking any part in
the making of laws. You would keep it outside the Legislative Palace. In
this you will not succeed, I venture to prophesy, so long as legal
plunder is the basis of the legislation within.

It is absolutely necessary that this question of legal plunder should be
determined, and there are only three solutions of it:--

     1. When the few plunder the many.

     2. When everybody plunders everybody else.

     3. When nobody plunders anybody.

Partial plunder, universal plunder, absence of plunder, amongst these we
have to make our choice. The law can only produce one of these results.

_Partial_ plunder.--This is the system which prevailed so long as the
elective privilege was _partial_--a system which is resorted to to avoid
the invasion of socialism.

_Universal_ plunder.--We have been threatened by this system when the
elective privilege has become universal; the masses having conceived the
idea of making law, on the principle of legislators who had preceded

_Absence_ of plunder.--This is the principle of justice, peace, order,
stability, conciliation, and of good sense, which I shall proclaim with
all the force of my lungs (which is very inadequate, alas!) till the day
of my death.

And, in all sincerity, can anything more be required at the hands of the
law? Can the law, whose necessary sanction is force, be reasonably
employed upon anything beyond securing to every one his right? I defy
any one to remove it from this circle without perverting it, and
consequently turning force against right. And as this is the most fatal,
the most illogical social perversion which can possibly be imagined, it
must be admitted that the true solution, so much sought after, of the
social problem, is contained in these simple words--LAW IS ORGANISED

Now it is important to remark, that to organise justice by law, that is
to say by force, excludes the idea of organising by law, or by force any
manifestation whatever of human activity--labour, charity, agriculture,
commerce, industry, instruction, the fine arts, or religion; for any one
of these organisations would inevitably destroy the essential
organisation. How, in fact, can we imagine force encroaching upon the
liberty of citizens without infringing upon justice, and so acting
against its proper aim?

Here I am encountering the most popular prejudice of our time. It is
not considered enough that law should be just, it must be philanthropic.
It is not sufficient that it should guarantee to every citizen the free
and inoffensive exercise of his faculties, applied to his physical,
intellectual, and moral development; it is required to extend
well-being, instruction, and morality, directly over the nation. This is
the fascinating side of socialism.

But, I repeat it, these two missions of the law contradict each other.
We have to choose between them. A citizen cannot at the same time be
free and not free. M. de Lamartine wrote to me one day thus:--"Your
doctrine is only the half of my programme; you have stopped at liberty,
I go on to fraternity." I answered him:--"The second part of your
programme will destroy the first." And in fact it is impossible for me
to separate the word _fraternity_ from the word _voluntary_. I cannot
possibly conceive fraternity _legally_ enforced, without liberty being
_legally_ destroyed, and justice _legally_ trampled under foot. Legal
plunder has two roots: one of them, as we have already seen, is in human
egotism; the other is in false philanthropy.

Before I proceed, I think I ought to explain myself upon the word

I do not take it, as it often is taken, in a vague, undefined, relative,
or metaphorical sense. I use it in its scientific acceptation, and as
expressing the opposite idea to property. When a portion of wealth
passes out of the hands of him who has acquired it, without his consent,
and without compensation, to him who has not created it, whether by
force or by artifice, I say that property is violated, that plunder is
perpetrated. I say that this is exactly what the law ought to repress
always and everywhere. If the law itself performs the action it ought to
repress, I say that plunder is still perpetrated, and even, in a social
point of view, under aggravated circumstances. In this case, however, he
who profits from the plunder is not responsible for it; it is the law,
the lawgiver, society itself, and this is where the political danger

It is to be regretted that there is something offensive in the word. I
have sought in vain for another, for I would not wish at any time, and
especially just now, to add an irritating word to our dissensions;
therefore, whether I am believed or not, I declare that I do not mean to
accuse the intentions nor the morality of anybody. I am attacking an
idea which I believe to be false--a system which appears to me to be
unjust; and this is so independent of intentions, that each of us
profits by it without wishing it, and suffers from it without being
aware of the cause. Any person must write under the influence of party
spirit or of fear, who would call in question the sincerity of
protectionism, of socialism, and even of communism, which are one and
the same plant, in three different periods of its growth. All that can
be said is, that plunder is more visible by its partiality in
protectionism,[9] and by its universality in communism; whence it
follows that, of the three systems, socialism is still the most vague,
the most undefined, and consequently the most sincere.

Be it as it may, to conclude that legal plunder has one of its roots in
false philanthropy, is evidently to put intentions out of the question.

With this understanding, let us examine the value, the origin, and the
tendency of this popular aspiration, which pretends to realise the
general good by general plunder.

The Socialists say, since the law organises justice, why should it not
organise labour, instruction, and religion?

Why? Because it could not organise labour, instruction, and religion,
without disorganising justice.

For, remember, that law is force, and that consequently the domain of
the law cannot lawfully extend beyond the domain of force.

When law and force keep a man within the bounds of justice, they impose
nothing upon him but a mere negation. They only oblige him to abstain
from doing harm. They violate neither his personality, his liberty, nor
his property. They only guard the personality, the liberty, the
property of others. They hold themselves on the defensive; they defend
the equal right of all. They fulfil a mission whose harmlessness is
evident, whose utility is palpable, and whose legitimacy is not to be
disputed. This is so true that, as a friend of mine once remarked to me,
to say that _the aim of the law is to cause justice to reign_, is to use
an expression which is not rigorously exact. It ought to be said, _the
aim of the law is to prevent injustice from reigning_. In fact, it is
not justice which has an existence of its own, it is injustice. The one
results from the absence of the other.

But when the law, through the medium of its necessary agent--force,
imposes a form of labour, a method or a subject of instruction, a creed,
or a worship, it is no longer negative; it acts positively upon men. It
substitutes the will of the legislator for their own will, the
initiative of the legislator for their own initiative. They have no need
to consult, to compare, or to foresee; the law does all that for them.
The intellect is for them a useless lumber; they cease to be men; they
lose their personality, their liberty, their property.

Endeavour to imagine a form of labour imposed by force, which is not a
violation of liberty; a transmission of wealth imposed by force, which
is not a violation of property. If you cannot succeed in reconciling
this, you are bound to conclude that the law cannot organise labour and
industry without organising injustice.

When, from the seclusion of his cabinet, a politician takes a view of
society, he is struck with the spectacle of inequality which presents
itself. He mourns over the sufferings which are the lot of so many of
our brethren, sufferings whose aspect is rendered yet more sorrowful by
the contrast of luxury and wealth.

He ought, perhaps, to ask himself, whether such a social state has not
been caused by the plunder of ancient times, exercised in the way of
conquests; and by plunder of later times, effected through the medium of
the laws? He ought to ask himself whether, granting the aspiration of
all men after well-being and perfection, the reign of justice would not
suffice to realise the greatest activity of progress, and the greatest
amount of equality compatible with that individual responsibility which
God has awarded as a just retribution of virtue and vice?

He never gives this a thought. His mind turns towards combinations,
arrangements, legal or factitious organisations. He seeks the remedy in
perpetuating and exaggerating what has produced the evil.

For, justice apart, which we have seen is only a negation, is there any
one of these legal arrangements which does not contain the principle of

You say, "There are men who have no money," and you apply to the law.
But the law is not a self-supplied fountain, whence every stream may
obtain supplies independently of society. Nothing can enter the public
treasury, in favour of one citizen or one class, but what other citizens
and other classes have been _forced_ to send to it. If every one draws
from it only the equivalent of what he has contributed to it, your law,
it is true, is no plunderer, but it does nothing for men who want
money--it does not promote equality. It can only be an instrument of
equalisation as far as it takes from one party to give to another, and
then it is an instrument of plunder. Examine, in this light, the
protection of tariffs, prizes for encouragement, right to profit, right
to labour, right to assistance, right to instruction, progressive
taxation, gratuitousness of credit, social workshops, and you will
always find at the bottom legal plunder, organised injustice.

You say, "There are men who want knowledge," and you apply to the law.
But the law is not a torch which sheds light abroad which is peculiar to
itself. It extends over a society where there are men who have
knowledge, and others who have not; citizens who want to learn, and
others who are disposed to teach. It can only do one of two things:
either allow a free operation to this kind of transaction, _i.e._, let
this kind of want satisfy itself freely; or else force the will of the
people in the matter, and take from some of them sufficient to pay
professors commissioned to instruct others gratuitously. But, in this
second case, there cannot fail to be a violation of liberty and
property,--legal plunder.

You say, "Here are men who are wanting in morality or religion," and
you apply to the law; but law is force, and need I say how far it is a
violent and absurd enterprise to introduce force in these matters?

As the result of its systems and of its efforts, it would seem that
socialism, notwithstanding all its self-complacency, can scarcely help
perceiving the monster of legal plunder. But what does it do? It
disguises it cleverly from others, and even from itself, under the
seductive names of fraternity, solidarity, organisation, association.
And because we do not ask so much at the hands of the law, because we
only ask it for justice, it supposes that we reject fraternity,
solidarity, organisation, and association; and they brand us with the
name of _individualists_.

We can assure them that what we repudiate is, not natural organisation,
but forced organisation.

It is not free association, but the forms of association which they
would impose upon us.

It is not spontaneous fraternity, but legal fraternity.

It is not providential solidarity, but artificial solidarity, which is
only an unjust displacement of responsibility.

Socialism, like the old policy from which it emanates, confounds
Government and society. And so, every time we object to a thing being
done by Government, it concludes that we object to its being done at
all. We disapprove of education by the State--then we are against
education altogether. We object to a State religion--then we would
have no religion at all. We object to an equality which is brought about
by the State--then we are against equality, &c., &c. They might as well
accuse us of wishing men not to eat, because we object to the
cultivation of corn by the State.

How is it that the strange idea of making the law produce what it does
not contain--prosperity, in a positive sense, wealth, science,
religion--should ever have gained ground in the political world? The
modern politicians, particularly those of the Socialist school, found
their different theories upon one common hypothesis; and surely a more
strange, a more presumptuous notion, could never have entered a human

They divide mankind into two parts. Men in general, except one, form the
first; the politician himself forms the second, which is by far the most

In fact, they begin by supposing that men are devoid of any principle of
action, and of any means of discernment in themselves; that they have no
moving spring in them; that they are inert matter, passive particles,
atoms without impulse; at best a vegetation indifferent to its own mode
of existence, susceptible of receiving, from an exterior will and hand,
an infinite number of forms, more or less symmetrical, artistic, and

Moreover, every one of these politicians does not scruple to imagine
that he himself is, under the names of organiser, discoverer,
legislator, institutor or founder, this will and hand, this universal
spring, this creative power, whose sublime mission it is to gather
together these scattered materials, that is, men, into society.

Starting from these data, as a gardener, according to his caprice,
shapes his trees into pyramids, parasols, cubes, cones, vases,
espaliers, distaffs, or fans; so the Socialist, following his chimera,
shapes poor humanity into groups, series, circles, sub-circles,
honeycombs, or social workshops, with all kinds of variations. And as
the gardener, to bring his trees into shape, wants hatchets,
pruning-hooks, saws, and shears, so the politician, to bring society
into shape, wants the forces which he can only find in the laws; the law
of customs, the law of taxation, the law of assistance, and the law of

It is so true, that the Socialists look upon mankind as a subject for
social combinations, that if, by chance, they are not quite certain of
the success of these combinations, they will request a portion of
mankind, as a subject to experiment upon. It is well known how popular
the idea of _trying all systems_ is, and one of their chiefs has been
known seriously to demand of the Constituent Assembly a parish, with all
its inhabitants, upon which to make his experiments.

It is thus that an inventor will make a small machine before he makes
one of the regular size. Thus the chemist sacrifices some substances,
the agriculturist some seed and a corner of his field, to make trial of
an idea.

But, then, think of the immeasurable distance between the gardener and
his trees, between the inventor and his machine, between the chemist and
his substances, between the agriculturist and his seed! The Socialist
thinks, in all sincerity, that there is the same distance between
himself and mankind.

It is not to be wondered at that the politicians of the nineteenth
century look upon society as an artificial production of the
legislator's genius. This idea, the result of a classical education, has
taken possession of all the thinkers and great writers of our country.

To all these persons, the relations between mankind and the legislator
appear to be the same as those which exist between the clay and the

Moreover, if they have consented to recognise in the heart of man a
principle of action, and in his intellect a principle of discernment,
they have looked upon this gift of God as a fatal one, and thought that
mankind, under these two impulses, tended fatally towards ruin. They
have taken it for granted, that if abandoned to their own inclinations,
men would only occupy themselves with religion to arrive at atheism,
with instruction to come to ignorance, and with labour and exchange to
be extinguished in misery.

Happily, according to these writers, there are some men, termed
governors and legislators, upon whom Heaven has bestowed opposite
tendencies, not for their own sake only, but for the sake of the rest of
the world.

Whilst mankind tends to evil, they incline to good; whilst mankind is
advancing towards darkness, they are aspiring to enlightenment; whilst
mankind is drawn towards vice, they are attracted by virtue. And, this
granted, they demand the assistance of force, by means of which they are
to substitute their own tendencies for those of the human race.

It is only needful to open, almost at random, a book on philosophy,
polities, or history, to see how strongly this idea--the child of
classical studies and the mother of socialism--is rooted in our country;
that mankind is merely inert matter, receiving life, organisation,
morality, and wealth from power; or, rather, and still worse--that
mankind itself tends towards degradation, and is only arrested in its
tendency by the mysterious hand of the legislator. Classical
conventionalism shows us everywhere, behind passive society, a hidden
power, under the names of Law, or Legislator (or, by a mode of
expression which refers to some person or persons of undisputed weight
and authority, but not named), which moves, animates, enriches, and
regenerates mankind.

We will give a quotation from Bossuet:--

     "One of the things which was the most strongly impressed (by whom?)
     upon the mind of the Egyptians, was the love of their country....
     _Nobody was allowed_ to be useless to the State; the law assigned
     to every one his employment, which descended from father to son. No
     one was permitted to have two professions, nor to adopt another....
     But there was one occupation which _was obliged_ to be common to
     all,--this was the study of the laws and of wisdom; ignorance of
     religion and the political regulations of the country was excused
     in no condition of life. Moreover, every profession had a district
     assigned to it (by whom?).... Amongst good laws, one of the best
     things was, that everybody was taught to observe them (by whom?).
     Egypt abounded with wonderful inventions, and nothing was neglected
     which could render life comfortable and tranquil."

Thus men, according to Bossuet, derive nothing from themselves;
patriotism, wealth, inventions, husbandry, science--all come to them by
the operation of the laws, or by kings. All they have to do is to be
passive. It is on this ground that Bossuet takes exception, when
Diodorus accuses the Egyptians of rejecting wrestling and music. "How is
that possible," says he, "since these arts were invented by

It is the same with the Persians:--

     "One of the first cares of the prince was to encourage
     agriculture.... As there were posts established for the regulation
     of the armies, so there were offices for the superintending of
     rural works.... The respect with which the Persians were inspired
     for royal authority was excessive."

The Greeks, although full of mind, were no less strangers to their own
responsibilities; so much so, that of themselves, like dogs and horses,
they would not have ventured upon the most simple games. In a classical
sense, it is an undisputed thing that everything comes to the people
from without.

     "The Greeks, naturally full of spirit and courage, _had been early
     cultivated_ by kings and colonies who had come from Egypt. From
     them they had learned the exercises of the body, _foot races_, and
     horse and chariot races.... The best thing that the Egyptians had
     taught them was to become docile, and to allow themselves to be
     formed by the laws for the public good."

_Fenelon_.--Reared in the study and admiration of antiquity, and a
witness of the power of Louis XIV., Fenelon naturally adopted the idea
that mankind should be passive, and that its misfortunes and its
prosperities, its virtues and its vices, are caused by the external
influence which is exercised upon it by the _law_, or by the makers of
the law. Thus, in his Utopia of Salentum, he brings the men, with their
interests, their faculties, their desires, and their possessions, under
the absolute direction of the legislator. Whatever the subject may be,
they themselves have no voice in it--the prince judges for them. The
nation is just a shapeless mass, of which the prince is the soul. In him
resides the thought, the foresight, the principle of all organisation,
of all progress; on him, therefore, rests all the responsibility.

In proof of this assertion, I might transcribe the whole of the tenth
book of "Telemachus." I refer the reader to it, and shall content myself
with quoting some passages taken at random from this celebrated work, to
which, in every other respect, I am the first to render justice.

With the astonishing credulity which characterizes the classics,
Fenelon, against the authority of reason and of facts, admits the
general felicity of the Egyptians, and attributes it, not to their own
wisdom, but to that of their kings:--

     "We could not turn our eyes to the two shores, without perceiving
     rich towns and country seats, agreeably situated; fields which were
     covered every year, without intermission, with golden crops;
     meadows full of flocks; labourers bending under the weight of
     fruits which the earth lavished on its cultivators; and shepherds
     who made the echoes around repeat the soft sounds of their pipes
     and flutes. 'Happy,' said Mentor, 'is that people which is governed
     by a wise king.'.... Mentor afterwards desired me to remark the
     happiness and abundance which was spread over all the country of
     Egypt, where twenty-two thousand cities might be counted. He
     admired the excellent police regulations of the cities; the justice
     administered in favour of the poor _against_ the rich; the good
     education of the children, who were accustomed to obedience,
     labour, and the love of arts and letters; the exactness with which
     all the ceremonies of religion were performed; the
     disinterestedness, the desire of honour, the fidelity to men, and
     the fear of the gods, with which every father inspired his
     children. He could not sufficiently admire the prosperous state of
     the country. '_Happy_,' said he, '_is the people whom a wise king
     rules in such a manner_.'"

Fenelon's idyl on Crete is still more fascinating. Mentor is made to

     "All that you will see in this wonderful island is the result of
     the laws of Minos. The education which the children receive renders
     the body healthy and robust. They are accustomed, from the first,
     to a frugal and laborious life; it is supposed that all the
     pleasures of sense enervate the body and the mind; no other
     pleasure is presented to them but that of being invincible by
     virtue, that of acquiring much glory.... there _they_ punish three
     vices which go unpunished amongst other people--ingratitude,
     dissimulation, and avarice. As to pomp and dissipation, there is no
     need to punish these, for they are unknown in Crete...... No costly
     furniture, no magnificent clothing, no delicious feasts, no gilded
     palaces are allowed."

It is thus that Mentor prepares his scholar to mould and manipulate,
doubtless with the most philanthropic intentions, the people of Ithaca,
and, to confirm him in these ideas, he gives him the example of

It is thus that we receive our first political notions. We are taught to
treat men very much as Oliver de Serres teaches farmers to manage and to
mix the soil.

     _Montesquieu_.--"To sustain the spirit of commerce, it is necessary
     that all the laws should favour it; that these same laws, by their
     regulations in dividing the fortunes in proportion as commerce
     enlarges them, should place every poor citizen in sufficiently easy
     circumstances to enable him to work like the others, and every rich
     citizen in such mediocrity that he must work, in order to retain or
     to acquire."

Thus the laws are to dispose of all fortunes.

     "Although, in a democracy, real equality be the soul of the State,
     yet it is so difficult to establish, that an extreme exactness in
     this matter would not always be desirable. It is sufficient that a
     census be established to reduce or fix the differences to a certain
     point. After which, it is for particular laws to equalise, as it
     were, the inequality, by burdens imposed upon the rich, and reliefs
     granted to the poor."

Here, again, we see the equalisation of fortunes by law, that is, by

     "There were, in Greece, two kinds of republics. One was military,
     as Lacedæmon; the other commercial, as Athens. In the one it was
     wished (by whom?) that the citizens should be idle: in the other,
     the love of labour was encouraged.

     "It is worth our while to pay a little attention to the extent of
     genius required by these legislators, that we may see how, by
     confounding all the virtues, they showed their wisdom to the world.
     Lycurgus, blending theft with the spirit of justice, the hardest
     slavery with extreme liberty, the most atrocious sentiments with
     the greatest moderation, gave stability to his city. He seemed to
     deprive it of all its resources, arts, commerce, money, and walls;
     there Was ambition without the hope of rising; there were natural
     sentiments where the individual was neither child, nor husband,
     nor father. Chastity even was deprived of modesty. _By this road
     Sparta was led on to grandeur and to glory_.

     "The phenomenon which we observe in the institutions of Greece has
     been seen in the midst of the _degeneracy and corruption of our
     modern times_. An honest legislator has formed a people where
     probity has appeared as natural as bravery among the Spartans. Mr.
     Penn is a true Lycurgus, and although the former had peace for his
     object, and the latter war, they resemble each other in the
     singular path along which they have led _their_ people, in their
     influence over free men, in the prejudices which they have
     overcome, the passions they have subdued.

     "Paraguay furnishes us with another example. _Society_ has been
     accused of the crime of regarding the pleasure of commanding as the
     only good of life; but it will always be a noble thing to govern
     men by making them happy.

     "_Those who desire to form similar institutions_, will establish
     community of property, as in the republic of Plato, the same
     reverence which he enjoined for the gods, separation from strangers
     for the preservation of morality, and make the city and not the
     citizens create commerce: they should give our arts without our
     luxury, our wants without our desires."

Vulgar infatuation may exclaim, if it likes:--"It is Montesquieu!
magnificent! sublime!" I am not afraid to express my opinion, and to
say:--"What! you have the face to call that fine? It is frightful! it is
abominable! and these extracts, which I might multiply, show that,
according to Montesquieu, the persons, the liberties, the property,
mankind itself, are nothing but materials to exercise the sagacity of

_Rousseau_.--Although this politician, the paramount authority of the
Democrats, makes the social edifice rest upon the _general will_, no one
has so completely admitted the hypothesis of the entire passiveness of
human nature in the presence of the lawgiver:--

     "If it is true that a great prince is a rare thing, how much more
     so must a great lawgiver be? The former has only to follow the
     pattern proposed to him by the latter. _This latter is the
     mechanician who invents the machine_; the former is merely the
     workman who sets it in motion."

And what part have men to act in all this? That of the machine, which is
set in motion; or rather, are they not the brute matter of which the
machine is made? Thus, between the legislator and the prince, between
the prince and his subjects, there are the same relations as those which
exist between the agricultural writer and the agriculturist, the
agriculturist and the clod. At what a vast height, then, is the
politician placed, who rules over legislators themselves, and teaches
them their trade in such imperative terms as the following:--

     "Would you give consistency to the State? Bring the extremes
     together as much as possible. Suffer neither wealthy persons nor

     "If the soil is poor and barren, or the country too much confined
     for the inhabitants, turn to industry and the arts, whose
     productions you will exchange for the provisions which you
     require.... On a good soil, if _you are short_ of inhabitants, give
     all your attention to agriculture, which multiplies men, and
     _banish_ the arts, which only serve to depopulate the country....
     Pay attention to extensive and convenient coasts. _Cover the sea_
     with vessels, and you will have a brilliant and short existence. If
     your seas wash only inaccessible rocks, let the people _be
     barbarous_, and eat fish; they will live more quietly, perhaps
     better, and, most certainly, more happily. In short, besides those
     maxims which are common to all, every people has its own particular
     circumstances, which demand a legislation peculiar to itself.

     "It was thus that the Hebrews formerly, and the Arabs more
     recently, had religion for their principal object; that of the
     Athenians was literature; that of Carthage and Tyre, commerce; of
     Rhodes, naval affairs; of Sparta, war; and of Rome, virtue. The
     author of the 'Spirit of Laws' has shown the art _by which the
     legislator should frame his institutions towards each of these
     objects_.... But if the legislator, mistaking his object, should
     take up a principle different from that which arises from the
     nature of things; if one should tend to slavery, and the other to
     liberty; if one to wealth, and the other to population; one to
     peace, and the other to conquests; the laws will insensibly become
     enfeebled, the Constitution will be impaired, and the State will be
     subject to incessant agitations until it is destroyed, or becomes
     changed, and invincible Nature regains her empire."

But if Nature is sufficiently invincible to _regain_ its empire, why
does not Kousseau admit that it had no need of the legislator to _gain_
its empire from the beginning? Why does he not allow that, by obeying
their own impulse, men would, of themselves, apply agriculture to a
fertile district, and commerce to extensive and commodious coasts,
without the interference of a Lycurgus, a Solon, or a Rousseau, who
would undertake it at the risk of _deceiving themselves_?

Be that as it may, we see with what a terrible responsibility Rousseau
invests inventors, institutors, conductors, and manipulators of
societies. He is, therefore, very exacting with regard to them.

     "He who dares to undertake the institutions of a people, ought to
     feel that he can, as it were, transform every individual, who is by
     himself a perfect and solitary whole, receiving his life and being
     from a larger whole of which he forms a part; he must feel that he
     can change the constitution of man, to fortify it, and substitute a
     partial and moral existence for the physical and independent one
     which we have all received from nature. In a word, he must deprive
     man of his own powers, to give him others which are foreign to

Poor human nature! What would become of its dignity if it were
entrusted to the disciples of Rousseau?

     _Raynal_.--"The climate, that is, the air and the soil, is the
     first element for the legislator. _His_ resources prescribe to him
     his duties. First, he must consult _his_ local position. A
     population dwelling upon maritime shores must have laws fitted for
     navigation.... If the colony is located in an inland region, a
     legislator must provide for the nature of the soil, and for its
     degree of fertility....

     "It is more especially in the distribution of property that the
     wisdom of legislation will appear. As a general rule, and in every
     country, when a new colony is founded, land should be given to each
     man, sufficient for the support of his family....

     "In an uncultivated island, which _you_ are colonizing with
     children, it will only be needful to let the germs of truth expand
     in the developments of reason! But when _you_ establish old people
     in a new country, the skill consists in _only allowing it_ those
     injurious opinions and customs which it is impossible to cure and
     correct. If _you_ wish to prevent them from being perpetuated, you
     will act upon the rising generation by a general and public
     education of the children. A prince, or legislator, ought never to
     found a colony without previously sending wise men there to
     instruct the youth.... In a new colony, every facility is open to
     the precautions of the legislator who desires _to purify the tone
     and the manners of the people_. If he has genius and virtue, the
     lands and the men which are _at his disposal_ will inspire his soul
     with a plan of society which a writer can only vaguely trace, and
     in a way which would be subject to the instability of all
     hypotheses, which are varied and complicated by an infinity of
     circumstances too difficult to foresee and to combine."

One would think it was a professor of agriculture who was saying to his
pupils--"The climate is the only rule for the agriculturist. _His_
resources dictate to him his duties. The first thing he has to consider
is his local position. If he is on a clayey soil, he must do so and so.
If he has to contend with sand, this is the way in which he must set
about it. Every facility is open to the agriculturist who wishes to
clear and improve his soil. If he only has the skill, the manure which
he has _at his disposal_ will suggest to him a plan of operation, which
a professor can only vaguely trace, and in a way that would be subject
to the uncertainty of all hypotheses, which vary and are complicated by
an infinity of circumstances too difficult to foresee and to combine."

But, oh! sublime writers, deign to remember sometimes that this clay,
this sand, this manure, of which you are disposing in so arbitrary a
manner, are men, your equals, intelligent and free beings like
yourselves, who have received from God, as you have, the faculty of
seeing, of foreseeing, of thinking, and of judging for themselves!

_Mably_. (He is supposing the laws to be worn out by time and by the
neglect of security, and continues thus):--

     "Under these circumstances, we must be convinced that the springs
     of Government are relaxed. _Give them_ a new tension (it is the
     reader who is addressed), and the evil will be remedied.... Think
     lees of punishing the faults than of encouraging the virtues _which
     you want_. By this method you will bestow upon _your republic_ the
     vigour of youth. Through ignorance of this, a free people has lost
     its liberty! But if the evil has made so much way that the ordinary
     magistrates are unable to remedy it effectually, _have recourse_ to
     an extraordinary magistracy, whose time should be short, and its
     power considerable. The imagination of the citizens requires to be

In this style he goes on through twenty volumes.

There was a time when, under the influence of teaching like this, which
is the root of classical education, every one was for placing himself
beyond and above mankind, for the sake of arranging, organising, and
instituting it in his own way.

     _Condillac_.--"Take upon yourself, my lord, the character of
     Lycurgus or of Solon. Before you finish reading this essay, amuse
     yourself with giving laws to some wild people in America or in
     Africa. Establish these roving men in fixed dwellings; teach them
     to keep flocks.... Endeavour to develop the social qualities which
     nature has implanted in them.... Make them begin to practise the
     duties of humanity.... Cause the pleasures of the passions to
     become distasteful to them by punishments, and you will see these
     barbarians, with every plan of your legislation, lose a vice and
     gain a virtue.

     "All these people have had laws. But few among them have been
     happy. Why is this? Because legislators have almost always been
     ignorant of the object of society, which is, to unite families by a
     common interest.

     "Impartiality in law consists in two things:--in establishing
     equality in the fortunes and in the dignity of the citizens.... In
     proportion to the degree of equality established by the laws, the
     dearer will they become to every citizen.... How can avarice,
     ambition, dissipation, idleness, sloth, envy, hatred, or jealousy,
     agitate men who are equal in fortune and dignity, and to whom the
     laws leave no hope of disturbing their equality?

     "What has been told you of the republic of Sparta ought to
     enlighten you on this question. No other State has had laws more in
     accordance with the order of nature or of equality."

It is not to be wondered at that the 17th and 18th centuries should have
looked upon the human race as inert matter, ready to receive everything,
form, figure, impulse, movement, and life, from a great prince, or a
great legislator, or a great genius. These ages were reared in the study
of antiquity, and antiquity presents everywhere, in Egypt, Persia,
Greece, and Rome, the spectacle of a few men moulding mankind according
to their fancy, and mankind to this end enslaved by force or by
imposture. And what does this prove? That because men and society are
improvable, error, ignorance, despotism, slavery, and superstition must
be more prevalent in early times. The mistake of the writers quoted
above, is not that they have asserted this fact, but that they have
proposed it, as a rule, for the admiration and imitation of future
generations. Their mistake has been, with an inconceivable absence of
discernment, and upon the faith of a puerile conventionalism, that they
have admitted what is inadmissible, viz., the grandeur, dignity,
morality, and well-being of the artificial societies of the ancient
world; they have not understood that time produces and spreads
enlightenment; and that in proportion to the increase of enlightenment,
right ceases to be upheld by force, and society regains possession of

And, in fact, what is the political work which we are endeavouring to
promote? It is no other than the instinctive effort of every people
towards liberty. And what is liberty, whose name can make every heart
beat, and which can agitate the world, but the union of all liberties,
the liberty of conscience, of instruction, of association, of the press,
of locomotion, of labour, and of exchange; in other words, the free
exercise, for all, of all the inoffensive faculties; and again, in other
words, the destruction of all despotisms, even of legal despotism, and
the reduction of law to its only rational sphere, which is to regulate
the individual right of legitimate defence, or to repress injustice?

This tendency of the human race, it must be admitted, is greatly
thwarted, particularly in our country, by the fatal disposition,
resulting from classical teaching, and common to all politicians, of
placing themselves beyond mankind, to arrange, organise, and regulate
it, according to their fancy.

For whilst society is struggling to realise liberty, the great men who
place themselves at its head, imbued with the principles of the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, think only of subjecting it to the
philanthropic despotism of their social inventions, and making it bear
with docility, according to the expression of Rousseau, the yoke of
public felicity, as pictured in their own imaginations.

This was particularly the case in 1789. No sooner was the old system
destroyed, than society was to be submitted to other artificial
arrangements, always with the same starting-point--the omnipotence of
the law.

     _Saint Just_.--"The legislator commands the future. It is for him
     to _will_ for the good of mankind. It is for him to make men what
     he wishes them to be."

     _Robespierre_.--"The function of Government is to direct the
     physical and moral powers of the nation towards the object of its

     _Billaud Varennes_.--"A people who are to be restored to liberty
     must be formed anew. Ancient prejudices must be destroyed,
     antiquated customs changed, depraved affections corrected,
     inveterate vices eradicated. For this, a strong force and a
     vehement impulse will be necessary.... Citizens, the inflexible
     austerity of Lycurgus created the firm basis of the Spartan
     republic. The feeble and trusting disposition of Solon plunged
     Athens into slavery. This parallel contains the whole science of

     _Lepelletier._--"Considering the extent of human degradation, I am
     convinced of the necessity of effecting an entire regeneration of
     the race, and, if I may so express myself, of creating a new

Men, therefore, are nothing but raw material. It is not for them to
_will their own improvement_. They are not capable of it; according to
Saint Just, it is only the legislator who is. Men are merely to be what
he _wills_ that they should be. According to Robespierre, who copies
Rousseau literally, the legislator is to begin by assigning the aim of
the _institutions of the nation_. After this, the Government has only to
direct all its _physical_ and _moral forces_ towards this end. All this
time the nation itself is to remain perfectly passive; and Billaud
Varennes would teach us that it ought to have no prejudices, affections,
nor wants, but such as are authorised by the legislator. He even goes so
far as to say that the inflexible austerity of a man is the basis of a

We have seen that, in cases where the evil is so great that the ordinary
magistrates are unable to remedy it, Mably recommends a dictatorship, to
promote virtue. "_Have recourse_," says he, "to an extraordinary
magistracy, whose time shall be short, and his power considerable. The
imagination of the people requires to be impressed." This doctrine has
not been neglected. Listen to Robespierre:--

     "The principle of the Republican Government is virtue, and the
     means to be adopted, during its establishment, is terror. We want
     to substitute, in our country, morality for egotism, probity for
     honour, principles for customs, duties for decorum, the empire of
     reason for the tyranny of fashion, contempt of vice for contempt of
     misfortune, pride for insolence, greatness of soul for vanity,
     love of glory for love of money, good people for good company,
     merit for intrigue, genius for wit, truth for glitter, the charm of
     happiness for the weariness of pleasure, the greatness of man for
     the littleness of the great, a magnanimous, powerful, happy people,
     for one that is easy, frivolous, degraded; that is to say, we would
     substitute all the virtues and miracles of a republic for all the
     vices and absurdities of monarchy."

At what a vast height above the rest of mankind does Robespierre place
himself here! And observe the arrogance with which he speaks. He is not
content with expressing a desire for a great renovation of the human
heart, he does not even expect such a result from a regular Government.
No; he intends to effect it himself, and by means of terror. The object
of the discourse from which this puerile and laborious mass of
antithesis is extracted, was to exhibit the _principles of morality
which ought to direct a revolutionary Government_. Moreover, when
Robespierre asks for a dictatorship, it is not merely for the purpose of
repelling a foreign enemy, or of putting down factions; it is that he
may establish, by means of terror, and as a preliminary to the game of
the Constitution, his own principles of morality. He pretends to nothing
short of extirpating from the country, by means of terror, _egotism,
honour, customs, decorum, fashion, vanity, the love of money, good
company, intrigue, wit, luxury, and misery_. It is not until after he,
Robespierre, shall have accomplished these _miracles_, as he rightly
calls them, that he will allow the law to regain her empire. Truly, it
would be well if these visionaries, who think so much of themselves and
so little of mankind, who want to renew everything, would only be
content with trying to reform themselves, the task would be arduous
enough for them. In general, however, these gentlemen, the reformers,
legislators, and politicians, do not desire to exercise an immediate
despotism over mankind. No, they are too moderate and too philanthropic
for that. They only contend for the despotism, the absolutism, the
omnipotence of the law. They aspire only to make the law.

To show how universal this strange disposition has been in France, I had
need not only to have copied the whole of the works of Mably, Raynal,
Rousseau, Fenelon, and to have made long extracts from Bossuet and
Montesquieu, but to have given the entire transactions of the sittings
of the Convention, I shall do no such thing, however, but merely refer
the reader to them.

It is not to be wondered at that this idea should have suited Buonaparte
exceedingly well. He embraced it with ardour, and put it in practice
with energy. Playing the part of a chemist, Europe was to him the
material for his experiments. But this material reacted against him.
More than half undeceived, Buonaparte, at St. Helena, seemed to admit
that there is an initiative in every people, and he became less hostile
to liberty. Yet this did not prevent him from giving this lesson to his
son in his will:--"To govern, is to diffuse morality, education, and

After all this, I hardly need show, by fastidious quotations, the
opinions of Morelly, Babeuf, Owen, Saint Simon, and Fourier. I shall
confine myself to a few extracts from Louis Blanc's book on the
organisation of labour.

"In our project, society receives the impulse of power." (Page 126.)

In what does the impulse which power gives to society consist? In
imposing upon it the _project_ of M. Louis Blanc.

On the other hand, society is the human race. The human race, then, is
to receive its impulse from M. Louis Blanc.

It is at liberty to do so or not, it will be said. Of course the human
race is at liberty to take advice from anybody, whoever it may be. But
this is not the way in which M. Louis Blanc understands the thing. He
means that his project should be converted into _law_, and,
consequently, forcibly imposed by power.

     "In our project, the State has only to give a legislation to
     labour, by means of which the industrial movement may and ought to
     be accomplished _in all liberty_. It (the State) merely places
     society on an incline (_that is all_) that it may descend, when
     once it is placed there, by the mere force of things, and by the
     natural course of the _established mechanism_."

But what is this incline? One indicated by M. Louis Blanc. Does it not
lead to an abyss? No, it leads to happiness. Why, then, does not society
go there of itself? Because it does not know what it wants, and it
requires an impulse. What is to give it this impulse? Power. And who is
to give the impulse to power? The inventor of the machine, M. Louis

We shall never get out of this circle--mankind passive, and a great man
moving it by the intervention of the law.

Once on this incline, will society enjoy something like liberty? Without
a doubt. And what is liberty?

     "Once for all: liberty consists, not only in the right granted, but
     in the power given to man, to exercise, to develop his faculties
     under the empire of justice, and under the protection of the law.

     "And this is no vain distinction; there is a deep meaning in it,
     and its consequences are not to be estimated. For when once it is
     admitted that man, to be truly free, must have the power to
     exercise and develop his faculties, it follows that every member of
     society has a claim upon it for such instruction as shall _enable_
     it to display itself, and for the instruments of labour, without
     which human activity can find no scope. Now, by whose intervention
     is society to give to each of its members the requisite instruction
     and the necessary instruments of labour, unless by that of the

Thus, liberty is power. In what does this power consist? In possessing
instruction and instruments of labour. Who is to give instruction and
instruments of labour? Society, _who owes them_. By whose intervention
is society to give instruments of labour to those who do not possess

By the _intervention of the State_. From whom is the State to obtain

It is for the reader to answer this question, and to notice whither all
this tends.

One of the strangest phenomena of our time, and one which will probably
be a matter of astonishment to our descendants, is the doctrine which is
founded upon this triple hypothesis: the radical passiveness of
mankind,--the omnipotence of the law,--the infallibility of the
legislator:--this is the sacred symbol of the party which proclaims
itself exclusively democratic.

It is true that it professes also to be _social_.

So far as it is democratic, it, has an unlimited faith in mankind.

So far as it is social, it places it beneath the mud.

Are political rights under discussion? Is a legislator to be chosen? Oh!
then the people possess science by instinct: they are gifted with an
admirable tact; _their will is always right_; the general _will cannot
err_. Suffrage cannot be too _universal_. Nobody is under any
responsibility to society. The will and the capacity to choose well are
taken for granted. Can the people be mistaken? Are we not living in an
age of enlightenment? What! are the people to be always kept in leading
strings? Have they not acquired their rights at the cost of effort and
sacrifice? Have they not given sufficient proof of intelligence and
wisdom? Are they not arrived at maturity? Are they not in a state to
judge for themselves? Do they not know their own interest? Is there a
man or a class who would dare to claim the right of putting himself in
the place of the people, of deciding and of acting for them? No, no; the
people would be _free_, and they shall be so. They wish to conduct their
own affairs, and they shall do so.

But when once the legislator is duly elected, then indeed the style of
his speech alters. The nation is sent back into passiveness, inertness,
nothingness, and the legislator takes possession of omnipotence. It is
for him to invent, for him to direct, for him to impel, for him to
organise. Mankind has nothing to do but to submit; the hour of despotism
has struck. And we must observe that this is decisive; for the people,
just before so enlightened, so moral, so perfect, have no inclinations
at all, or, if they have any, they all lead them downwards towards
degradation. And yet they ought to have a little liberty! But are we not
assured, by M. Considerant, that _liberty leads fatally to monopoly_?
Are we not told that liberty is competition? and that competition,
according to M. Louis Blanc, _is a system of extermination for the
people, and of ruination for trade_? For that reason people are
exterminated and ruined in proportion as they are free--take, for
example, Switzerland, Holland, England, and the United States? Does not
M. Louis Blanc tell us again, that _competition leads to monopoly, and
that, for the same reason, cheapness leads to exorbitant prices? That
competition tends to drain the sources of consumption, and urges
production to a destructive activity? That competition forces production
to increase, and consumption to decrease_;--whence it follows that free
people produce for the sake of not consuming; that there is nothing but
_oppression and madness_ among them; and that it is absolutely necessary
for M. Louis Blanc to see to it?

What sort of liberty should be allowed to men? Liberty of
conscience?--But we should see them all profiting by the permission to
become atheists. Liberty of education?--But parents would be paying
professors to teach their sons immorality and error; besides, if we are
to believe M. Thiers, education, if left to the national liberty, would
cease to be national, and we should be educating our children in the
ideas of the Turks or Hindoos, instead of which, thanks to the legal
despotism of the universities, they have the good fortune to be educated
in the noble ideas of the Romans. Liberty of labour?--But this is only
competition, whose effect is to leave all productions unconsumed, to
exterminate the people, and to ruin the tradesmen. The liberty of
exchange?--But it is well known that the protectionists have shown, over
and over again, that a man must be ruined when he exchanges freely, and
that to become rich it is necessary to exchange without liberty. Liberty
of association?--But, according to the socialist doctrine, liberty and
association exclude each other, for the liberty of men is attacked just
to force them to associate.

You must see, then, that the socialist democrats cannot in conscience
allow men any liberty, because, by their own nature, they tend in every
instance to all kinds of degradation and demoralisation.

We are therefore left to conjecture, in this case, upon what foundation
universal suffrage is claimed for them with so much importunity.

The pretensions of organisers suggest another question, which I have
often asked them, and to which I am not aware that I ever received an
answer:--Since the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is
not safe to allow them liberty, how comes it to pass that the tendencies
of organisers are always good? Do not the legislators and their agents
form a part of the human race? Do they consider that they are composed
of different materials from the rest of mankind? They say that society,
when left to itself, rushes to inevitable destruction, because its
instincts are perverse. They pretend, to stop it in its downward course,
and to give it a better direction. They have, therefore, received from
heaven, intelligence and virtues which place them beyond and above
mankind: let them show their title to this superiority. They would be
our shepherds, and we are to be their flock. This arrangement
presupposes in them a natural superiority, the right to which we are
fully justified in calling upon them to prove.

You must observe that I am not contending against their right to invent
social combinations, to propagate them, to recommend them, and to try
them upon themselves, at their own expense and risk; but I do dispute
their right to impose them upon us through the medium of the law, that
is, by force and by public taxes.

I would not insist upon the Cabetists, the Fourierists, the
Proudhonians, the Universitaries, and the Protectionists renouncing
their own particular ideas; I would only have them renounce that idea
which is common to them all,--viz., that of subjecting us by force to
their own groups and series to their social workshops, to their
gratuitous bank to their Græco-Romano morality, and to their commercial
restrictions. I would ask them to allow us the faculty of judging of
their plans, and not to oblige us to adopt them, if we find that they
hurt our interests or are repugnant to our consciences.

To presume to have recourse to power and taxation, besides being
oppressive and unjust, implies further, the injurious supposition that
the organiser is infallible, and mankind incompetent.

And if mankind is not competent to judge for itself, why do they talk so
much about universal suffrage?

This contradiction in ideas is unhappily to be found also in facts; and
whilst the French nation has preceded all others in obtaining its
rights, or rather its political claims, this has by no means prevented
it from being more governed, and directed, and imposed upon, and
fettered, and cheated, than any other nation. It is also the one, of all
others, where revolutions are constantly to be dreaded, and it is
perfectly natural that it should be so.

So long as this idea is retained, which is admitted by all our
politicians, and so energetically expressed by M. Louis Blanc in these
words--"Society receives its impulse from power;" so long as men
consider themselves as capable of feeling, yet passive--incapable of
raising themselves by their own discernment and by their own energy to
any morality, or well-being, and while they expect everything from the
law; in a word, while they admit that their relations with the State are
the same as those of the flock with the shepherd, it is clear that the
responsibility of power is immense. Fortune and misfortune, wealth and
destitution, equality and inequality, all proceed from it. It is charged
with everything, it undertakes everything, it does everything; therefore
it has to answer for everything. If we are happy, it has a right to
claim our gratitude; but if we are miserable, it alone must bear the
blame. Are not our persons and property, in fact, at its disposal? Is
not the law omnipotent? In creating the universitary monopoly, it has
engaged to answer the expectations of fathers of families who have been
deprived of liberty; and if these expectations are disappointed, whose
fault is it? In regulating industry, it has engaged to make it prosper,
otherwise it would have been absurd to deprive it of its liberty; and if
it suffers, whose fault is it? In pretending to adjust the balance of
commerce by the game of tariffs, it engages to make it prosper; and if,
so far from prospering, it is destroyed, whose fault is it? In granting
its protection to maritime armaments in exchange for their liberty, it
has engaged to render them lucrative; if they become burdensome, whose
fault is it?

Thus, there is not a grievance in the nation for which the Government
does not voluntarily make itself responsible. Is it to be wondered at
that every failure threatens to cause a revolution?

And what is the remedy proposed? To extend indefinitely the dominion of
the law, _i.e._, the responsibility of Government. But if the Government
engages to raise and to regulate wages, and is not able to do it; if it
engages to assist all those who are in want, and is not able to do it;
if it engages to provide an asylum for every labourer, and is not able
to do it; if it engages to offer to all such as are eager to borrow,
gratuitous credit, and is not able to do it; if, in words which we
regret should have escaped the pen of M. de Lamartine, "the State
considers that its mission is to enlighten, to develop, to enlarge, to
strengthen, to spiritualize, and to sanctify the soul of the
people,"--if it fails in this, is it not evident that after every
disappointment, which, alas! is more than probable, there will be a no
less inevitable revolution?

I shall now resume the subject by remarking, that immediately after the
economical part[10] of the question, and at the entrance of the
political part, a leading question presents itself? It is the

What is law? What ought it to be? What is its domain? What are its
limits? Where, in fact, does the prerogative of the legislator stop?

I have no hesitation in answering, _Law is common force organised to
prevent injustice_;--in short, Law is Justice.

It is not true that the legislator has absolute power over our persons
and property, since they pre-exist, and his work is only to secure them
from injury.

It is not true that the mission of the law is to regulate our
consciences, our ideas, our will, our education, our sentiments, our
works, our exchanges, our gifts, our enjoyments. Its mission is to
prevent the rights of one from interfering with those of another, in any
one of these things.

Law, because it has force for its necessary sanction, can only have as
its lawful domain the domain of force, which is justice.

And as every individual has a right to have recourse to force only in
cases of lawful defence, so collective force, which is only the union of
individual forces, cannot be rationally used for any other end.

The law, then, is solely the organisation of individual rights, which
existed before legitimate defence.

Law is justice.

So far from being able to oppress the persons of the people, or to
plunder their property, even for a philanthropic end, its mission is to
protect the former, and to secure to them the possession of the latter.

It must not be said, either, that it may be philanthropic, so long as it
abstains from all oppression; for this is a contradiction. The law
cannot avoid acting upon our persons and property; if it does not secure
them, it violates them if it touches them.

The law is justice.

Nothing can be more clear and simple, more perfectly defined and
bounded, or more visible to every eye; for justice is a given quantity,
immutable and unchangeable, and which admits of neither _increase_ or

Depart from this point, make the law religious, fraternal, equalising,
industrial, literary, or artistic, and you will be lost in vagueness and
uncertainty; you will be upon unknown ground, in a forced Utopia, or,
which is worse, in the midst of a multitude of Utopias, striving to gain
possession of the law, and to impose it upon you; for fraternity and
philanthropy have no fixed limits, like justice. Where will you stop?
Where is the law to stop? One person, as M. de Saint Cricq, will only
extend his philanthropy to some of the industrial classes, and will
require the law to _dispose of the consumers in favour of the
producers_. Another, like M. Considerant, will take up the cause of the
working classes, and claim for them by means of the law, at a fixed
rate, _clothing, lodging, food, and everything necessary for the support
of life_. A third, as, M. Louis Blanc, will say, and with reason, that
this would be an incomplete fraternity, and that the law ought to
provide them with instruments of labour and the means of instruction. A
fourth will observe that such an arrangement still leaves room for
inequality, and that the law ought to introduce into the most remote
hamlets luxury, literature, and the arts. This is the high road to
communism; in other words, legislation will be--what it now is--the
battle-field for everybody's dreams and everybody's covetousness.

Law is justice.

In this proposition we represent to ourselves a simple, immovable
Government. And I defy any one to tell me whence the thought of a
revolution, an insurrection, or a simple disturbance could arise against
a public force confined to the repression of injustice. Under such a
system, there would be more well-being, and this well-being would be
more equally distributed; and as to the sufferings inseparable from
humanity, no one would think of accusing the Government of them, for it
would be as innocent of them as it is of the variations of the
temperature. Have the people ever been known to rise against the court
of repeals, or assail the justices of the peace, for the sake of
claiming the rate of wages, gratuitous credit, instruments of labour,
the advantages of the tariff, or the social workshop? They know
perfectly well that these combinations are beyond the jurisdiction of
the justices of the peace, and they would soon learn that they are not
within the jurisdiction of the law.

But if the law were to be made upon the principle of fraternity, if it
were to be proclaimed that from it proceed all benefits and all
evils--that it is responsible for every individual grievance and for
every social inequality--then you open the door to an endless succession
of complaints, irritations, troubles, and revolutions.

Law is justice.

And it would be very strange if it could properly be anything else! Is not
justice right? Are not rights equal? With what show of right can the law
interfere to subject me to the social plans of MM. Mimerel, de Melun,
Thiers, or Louis Blanc, rather than to subject these gentlemen to _my_
plans? Is it to be supposed that Nature has not bestowed upon ME
sufficient imagination to invent a Utopia too? Is it for the law to make
choice of one amongst so many fancies, and to make use of the public
force in its service?

Law is justice.

And let it not be said, as it continually is, that the law, in this
sense, would be atheistic, individual, and heartless, and that it would
make mankind wear its own image. This is an absurd conclusion, quite
worthy of the governmental infatuation which sees mankind in the law.

What then? Does it follow that, if we are free, we shall cease to act?
Does it follow, that if we do not receive an impulse from the law, we
shall receive no impulse at all? Does it follow, that if the law
confines itself to securing to us the free exercise of our faculties,
our faculties will be paralyzed? Does it follow, that if the law does
not impose upon us forms of religion, modes of association, methods of
instruction, rules for labour, directions for exchange, and plans for
charity, we shall plunge eagerly into atheism, isolation, ignorance,
misery, and egotism? Does it follow, that we shall no longer recognise
the power and goodness of God; that we shall cease to associate
together, to help each other, to love and assist our unfortunate
brethren, to study the secrets of nature, and to aspire after perfection
in our existence?

Law is justice.

And it is under the law of justice, under the reign of right, under the
influence of liberty, security, stability, and responsibility, that
every man will attain to the measure of his worth, to all the dignity of
his being, and that mankind will accomplish, with order and with
calmness--slowly, it is true, but with certainty--the progress decreed
to it.

I believe that my theory is correct; for whatever be the question upon
which I am arguing, whether it be religious, philosophical, political,
or economical; whether it affects well-being, morality, equality, right,
justice, progress, responsibility, property, labour, exchange, capital,
wages, taxes, population, credit, or Government; at whatever point of
the scientific horizon I start from, I invariably come to the same
thing--the solution of the social problem is in liberty.

And have I not experience on my side? Cast your eye over the globe.
Which are the happiest, the most moral, and the most peaceable nations?
Those where the law interferes the least with private activity; where
the Government is the least felt; where individuality has the most
scope, and public opinion the most influence; where the machinery of the
administration is the least important and the least complicated; where
taxation is lightest and least unequal, popular discontent the least
excited and the least justifiable; where the responsibility of
individuals and classes is the most active, and where, consequently, if
morals are not in a perfect state, at any rate they tend incessantly to
correct themselves; where transactions, meetings, and associations are
the least fettered; where labour, capital, and production suffer the
least from artificial displacements; where mankind follows most
completely its own natural course; where the thought of God prevails the
most over the inventions of men; those, in short, who realise the most
nearly this idea--That within the limits of right, all should flow from
the free, perfectible, and voluntary action of man; nothing be attempted
by the law or by force, except the administration of universal justice.

I cannot avoid coming to this conclusion--that there are too many great
men in the world; there are too many legislators, organisers,
institutors of society, conductors of the people, fathers of nations,
&c., &c. Too many persons place themselves above mankind, to rule and
patronize it; too many persons make a trade of attending to it. It will
be answered:--"You yourself are occupied upon it all this time." Very
true. But it must be admitted that it is in another sense entirely that
I am speaking; and if I join the reformers it is solely for the purpose
of inducing them to relax their hold.

I am not doing as Vaucauson did with his automaton, but as a
physiologist does with the organisation of the human frame; I would
study and admire it.

I am acting with regard to it in the spirit which animated a celebrated
traveller. He found himself in the midst of a savage tribe. A child had
just been born, and a crowd of soothsayers, magicians, and quacks were
around it, armed with rings, hooks, and bandages. One said--"This child
will never smell the perfume of a calumet, unless I stretch his
nostrils." Another said--"He will be without the sense of hearing,
unless I draw his ears down to his shoulders." A third said--"He will
never see the light of the sun, unless I give his eyes an oblique
direction." A fourth said--"He will never be upright, unless I bend his
legs." A fifth said--"He will not be able to think, unless I press his
brain." "Stop!" said the traveller. "Whatever God does, is well done; do
not pretend to know more than He; and as He has given organs to this
frail creature, allow those organs to develop themselves, to strengthen
themselves by exercise, use, experience, and liberty."

God has implanted in mankind, also, all that is necessary to enable it
to accomplish its destinies. There is a providential social physiology,
as well as a providential human physiology. The social organs are
constituted so as to enable them to develop harmoniously in the grand
air of liberty. Away, then, with quacks and organisers! Away with their
rings, and their chains, and their hooks, and their pincers! Away with
their artificial methods! Away with their social workshops, their
governmental whims, their centralization, their tariffs, their
universities, their State religions, their gratuitous or monopolising
banks, their limitations, their restrictions, their moralisations, and
their equalisation by taxation! And now, after having vainly inflicted
upon the social body so many systems, let them end where they ought to
have begun--reject all systems, and make trial of liberty--of liberty,
which is an act of faith in God and in His work.


[1] A franc is 10d. of our money.

[2] This error will be combated in a pamphlet, entitled "_Cursed

[3] Common people.

[4] The Minister of War has lately asserted that every individual
transported to Algeria has cost the State 8,000 francs. Now it is
certain that these poor creatures could have lived very well in France
on a capital of 4,000 francs. I ask, how the French population is
relieved, when it is deprived of a man, and of the means of subsistence
of two men?

[5] This was written in 1849.

[6] Twenty francs.

[7] General Council of Manufactures, Agriculture, and Commerce, 6th. of
May, 1850.

[8] The French word is _spoliation_.

[9] If protection were only granted in France to a single class, to the
engineers, for instance, it would be so absurdly plundering, as to be
unable to maintain itself. Thus we see all the protected trades combine,
make common cause, and even recruit themselves in such a way as to
appear to embrace the mass of the _national labour_. They feel
instinctively that plunder is slurred ever by being generalised.

[10] Political economy precedes politics: the former has to discover
whether human interests are harmonious or antagonistic, a fact which
must have been decided upon before the latter can determine the
prerogatives of Government.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Essays on Political Economy" ***

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