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Title: Harmonies of Political Economy - Translated from the Third French Edition, with a Notice - of the Life and Writings of the Author
Author: Bastiat, Frédéric, 1801-1850
Language: English
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 Second Edition.




The favour with which the English public has received the First
Edition of this translation of Bastiat’s ‹Harmonies Économiques›,
published originally in separate parts, has induced me to have the
whole reprinted in a cheaper and more accessible form, in the hope of
giving the work a wider circulation, and rendering it more generally

The first ten chapters were all that appeared in the lifetime of the
gifted author, or that had the benefit of his finishing touch. It
was Bastiat’s intention, had he lived, to recast the work, and to
give it a wider and more comprehensive scope; embracing in his design
not only the principles of Political Economy, but their applications
to Social Philosophy. Prior to his departure for Italy, on what he
foresaw might be his last journey, he had communicated to his friends
MM. de Fontenay and Paillottet a list of the new chapters in the
order in which they will be found in the subjoined Notice of his
Life.[1] To the same friends, in his last moments, he entrusted the
manuscripts intended for the continuation of the work. The duty thus
committed to them they discharged very judiciously, by arranging the
new portions in the order pointed out, without altering the text,
and, except in a very few instances, without additions of their own,
contenting themselves with adding some explanatory notes, consisting
chiefly of references to the author’s other works. [p004]

Some of the chapters thus added are unfortunately mere fragments,
but most of the others indicate very clearly Bastiat’s opinions on
the subjects to which they relate, and several of them display a
breadth, a vigour, and an originality worthy of the best days of
their lamented author.

Many of the questions purely economical which are discussed in the
posthumous portions of the work,—such, for instance, as those of
Wages, Population, and the relations of Labour and Capital, etc.,—are
still deeply engaging public attention in England, as well as on the
other side of the Channel; and on subjects of such vast practical
importance it is surely desirable that the opinions of so profound
and fearless a thinker as Bastiat should be as widely disseminated as

In conclusion, I may perhaps be permitted to refer to the great
interest taken in this translation by the late Mr Cobden, who was the
correspondent and personal friend of Bastiat, and was, I need not
say, so eminently qualified to form and pronounce an opinion on the
merits of his last great work. A short time after the appearance of
the first ten chapters (26th March 1860), writing from Paris, where
he was then engaged in negotiating the Commercial Treaty, Mr Cobden
says, “My enthusiasm for Bastiat, founded as much on a love of his
personal qualities as on an admiration for his genius, dates back
nearly twenty years. I need not, therefore, express any astonishment
at the warmth with which you speak of his productions. They are doing
their work silently but effectually. M. Guillaumin [the eminent
publisher] tells me the sale of the last edition has been steady and
continuous, and a new one is now in hand. The works of Bastiat, which
are selling not only in France, but throughout Europe, are gradually
teaching those who, by their commanding talents, are capable of
becoming the teachers of others; for Bastiat speaks with the greatest
force to the highest order of intellects. At the same time, he is
almost the only political economist whose style is brilliant and
fascinating, whilst his irresistible logic is [p005] relieved by
sallies of wit and humour which make his ‹Sophismes› as amusing as
a novel. No critic who has read Bastiat will dare to apply again to
Political Economy the sarcastic epithet of the ‘dreary science.’ His
fame is so well established, that I think it would be presumptuous
to do anything to increase it by any other means than the silent but
certain dissemination of his works by the force of their own great

A word as to my mode of rendering Bastiat. I have not aimed at
giving a literal translation. Indeed, the language often employed by
Bastiat hardly admits of literal translation. But the more important
object, I trust, has been attained of conveying fully, plainly, and
intelligibly the author’s precise meaning.

The materials of the following notice of the life and writings of
Bastiat have been borrowed partly from a short account of him in
the ‹Dictionnaire de l’Économie Politique›, partly from the Memoir
and Correspondence prefixed to the author’s ‹Œuvres Complètes›, and
partly from an able article in the ‹Revue des Deux Mondes› from the
pen of M. Louis Reybaud.

 P. J. S.


 Notice of the Life and Writings of Frédéric Bastiat,          9
 To the Youth of France,                                      33
 «Chapter I.» Natural and Artificial Organization,            47
         II. Wants, Efforts, Satisfactions,                   63
        III. Wants of Man,                                    75
         IV. Exchange,                                        97
          V. Of Value,                                       131
         VI. Wealth,                                         180
        VII. Capital,                                        196
       VIII. Property—Community,                             218
         IX. Landed Property,                                249
          X. Competition,                                    288
         XI. Producer—Consumer,                              323
        XII. The Two Aphorisms,                              339
       XIII. Rent,                                           347
        XIV. Wages,                                          352
         XV. Saving,                                         393
        XVI. Population,                                     397
       XVII. Private and Public Services,                    425
      XVIII. Disturbing Causes,                              446
        XIX. War,                                            454
         XX. Responsibility,                                 465
        XXI. Solidarity,                                     488
       XXII. Social Motive Force,                            495
      XXIII. Existence of Evil,                              504
       XXIV. Perfectibility,                                 508
        XXV. Relations of Political Economy with Religion,   513
             Index,                                          518


«Frédéric Bastiat», whose last and greatest, though, alas! unfinished
work—the ‹Harmonies Économiques›—I now venture to introduce to the
English public, was born at Bayonne, on the 19th of June 1801. His
father, an eminent merchant of Bayonne, died young, and his wife
having died before him, Frédéric, their only child, was left an
orphan at the early age of nine years.

The care of his education devolved on his paternal grandfather, who
was proprietor of a land estate near Mugron, in the arrondissement of
Saint-Sever. His aunt, Mademoiselle Justine Bastiat, acted towards
him the part of a mother, and her affection was warmly reciprocated
by Bastiat, who, to the day of his death, never ceased to regard her
with filial love and reverence.

Bastiat’s education was begun at Bayonne, continued at Saint-Sever,
and finished at the College of Sorèze. Here his course of study was
occasionally interrupted by indisposition; but, on his recovery,
his quick parts and steady application soon enabled him to overtake
and keep pace with his fellow-students. At Sorèze. Bastiat formed
a boyish friendship with M. Calmètes, to whom his earliest letters
are addressed. The attachment of the youths was so remarkable, that
the masters permitted them to prepare their exercises together, and
sign them with their joint names. In this way they gained a prize for
poetry. The prize was a gold medal, which, of course, could not be
divided. “Keep it,” said Bastiat to his friend: “I am an orphan; you
have both father and mother, and the medal of right falls to them.”

In 1818, Bastiat left College, and, in compliance with the wishes
of his family, entered his uncle’s counting-house at Bayonne. His
[p010] tastes, however, were for study rather than for business,
and while at Bayonne he devoted his leisure hours by turns to
French, English, and Italian literature. “I aim at nothing less,” he
said, “than to become acquainted with politics, history, geography,
mathematics, mechanics, natural history, botany, and four or five
languages.” He was fond of music, sang agreeably, and played well on
the violoncello.

In 1824, he began to study the works of the leading Economists of
France and England—Adam Smith, Jean Baptiste Say, and Destutt de
Tracy; and even at this early period he took an interest in the
English free-trade measures of Mr Huskisson. From this time he may be
said to have devoted his life to his favourite science.

On the death of his grandfather, in 1825, he gave up commerce as
a profession, and took up his residence on his paternal estate
at Mugron, in the cultivation of which he was at first induced
to engage, but without much success, and he soon relinquished
agriculture, as he had before abandoned trade. Business, in truth,
was not his vocation; he had no turn for details; he cared little
for money; his wants were few and simple; and he had no intention,
as he says in one of his letters, to undergo irksome labour for
three-fourths of his life to ensure for the remainder a useless

It was at this period, and at Mugron, that he formed his lifelong
friendship with M. Felix Coudroy, to whom so much of his
correspondence is addressed, and to whom, a short time before his
death, he had thought of committing the task of finishing the
second volume of the ‹Harmonies›. The two friends, whose tastes and
pursuits were the same, were constantly together,—reading, walking,
or conversing. If Bastiat, whose ardent nature was impatient of
plodding and systematic application, received a new book from Paris,
he immediately carried it to Coudroy, who examined it, and noted the
remarkable passages, which he read afterwards to his friend. Bastiat
would often content himself with such fragments; and it was only when
the book interested him deeply, that he would carry it off to read it
carefully by himself. On these days, says his biographer, music was
laid aside, and the violoncello was mute. It was thus, he continues,
that the two friends passed their lives together, lodging a few paces
from each other, seeing one another three times a-day, sometimes in
their chambers, sometimes in long walks, sauntering together, book
in hand. Works of philosophy, history, politics, religion, poetry,
travels, biography, political economy, socialist [p011] works of
the day,—all passed under the ordeal of this double intelligence. It
was in these conversations that the ideas of Bastiat were developed,
and his thoughts matured. When anything struck him particularly, he
would set to work of a morning and put it into shape without effort.
In this way he wrote his ‹Sophismes›, his article on the French
and English tariffs, etc. It was this literary friendship, which
lasted for more than twenty years, without being once clouded by the
slightest disagreement, which prepared the mind of Bastiat for the
gigantic efforts he was destined afterwards to make, and enabled him,
during the last five years of his life, amid disease and distraction,
to give to the world that mass of original and varied ideas which
compose the six volumes of his collected works.[2]

In the events to which the expulsion of the elder branch of the
Bourbons gave rise in 1830, Bastiat took an active interest. Bayonne
had pronounced in favour of the new order of things. The citadel
alone held out, and continued to display the white flag; and a
concentration of Spanish troops on the frontier was spoken of.
Bastiat did not hesitate. Quitting Mugron, he hurried to Bayonne to
take part in the movement. In conjunction with some of his friends,
he prepared a proclamation, formed an association of six hundred
determined young men, and did not despair of reducing the citadel by
a ‹coup de main›. Happily their martial ardour was not put to the
proof. Before the march of events all resistance gave way, and that
same day the citadel opened its gates. In place of a battle, there
was a feast;—punch, wine, and Béranger enlivened the evening;—and
the officers, like horses just let loose from the stable, were the
merriest of the party.[3] Such was the beginning and the end of
Bastiat’s military career.

In 1831, he became ‹Juge de Paix› of the Canton of Mugron, and, in
1832, a Member of the Council-General of the Landes. The confidence
and esteem of his neighbourhood would have invested him with a trust
still more important, by sending him as a representative to the
Chamber of Deputies; but in this, after three fruitless attempts,
his friends were defeated, and Bastiat did not succeed in becoming a
legislator until after the Revolution of February 1848.

He published, in 1834, ‹Réflexions sur les Pétitions de Bordeaux, le
Havre et Lyon, concernant les douanes›,—a brochure of great vigour,
and which contains the germ of the theory of Value developed fifteen
years afterwards in the ‹Harmonies›. [p012]

In 1840, Bastiat visited Spain and Portugal; and after a sojourn of
some months at Madrid, and afterwards at Lisbon, with great benefit
to his health, he sailed thence for England, and spent a few weeks
in London. On his return to Mugron, he wrote his pamphlet, ‹Le Fisc
et la Vigne›, in which he protests against certain new duties with
which the wine-trade of his native province was threatened. In this
brochure[4] he gives a characteristic anecdote of Napoleon. At the
outset, the duties imposed were so moderate that the receipts would
scarcely defray the cost of collection. The Minister of Finance
remonstrated, and represented that these imposts were making the
Government unpopular, without any benefit to the revenue. “You are a
noodle, Monsieur Maret,” said the Emperor; “since the nation grumbles
at some light burdens, what would have been the consequence had I
added heavy taxes? Accustom them, first of all, to the exercise; and
then we can reform the tariff.” The great captain, adds Bastiat, was
also a skilful financier. Begin by inserting the thin end of the
wedge—accustom them to the exercise—such is the history of all taxes.

In 1843, appeared another pamphlet, entitled ‹Mémoire sur la
question vinicole›; and in 1844, ‹Mémoire sur la répartition de
l’impôt foncier dans le Département des Landes›,—both productions of
extraordinary ability, but having reference principally to questions
of local interest and importance. The great subject of Free Trade, to
which he was afterwards to devote his vast powers, had then assumed
in his mind rather the form of a vague dream of what might perchance
be realized under favourable circumstances at some far distant day,
than of a thing in sober reality to be expected or hoped for. It was
an accidental circumstance which first directed his attention to what
was then passing in England under the auspices of the Anti-corn-law

Among the circle which Bastiat frequented at Mugron there prevailed
a strong prejudice, or rather an inveterate hatred, against England;
and Bastiat, who had cultivated English literature, and imbibed
English ideas, had often to break a lance with his acquaintances on
the subject of this unfounded dislike. One of these ‹Anglophobes›,
accosting him one day, handed him a newspaper. “Read that,” said
he with bitterness, “and see how your friends are treating us!” It
was a translation of a speech of Sir Robert Peel in the House of
Commons, which concluded with the words—“If we adopt this course,
we shall fall, ‹like France›, to the lowest rank among nations.”
His country was insulted, and Bastiat had not a word to say. On
reflection, however, it did [p013] appear strange to him that the
Prime Minister of England should entertain such an opinion of France,
and still more so, that, entertaining it, he should express it openly
and offensively in his place in Parliament. To clear up the matter,
Bastiat wrote instantly to Paris, and became a subscriber to an
English newspaper, requesting that all the numbers for the preceding
month might be sent to him. In a few days the ‹Globe and Traveller›
made its appearance at Mugron, containing Sir Robert Peel’s speech,
when it was discovered that the words “like France,” maliciously
introduced into the French version of it, were ‹not› there, and, in
fact, had never been uttered.

Bastiat continued to read the ‹Globe›, and soon made the more
important discovery that a formidable agitation was at that time
going on in England to which the French newspapers never once
alluded. The Anti-corn-law League was shaking the basis of the
old commercial legislation of England. For two years Bastiat was
thus enabled to watch the progress of the movement, and at length
began to entertain the idea of making known to his countrymen—and,
perhaps, of inducing them to imitate—the important reform about to be
accomplished on the other side of the channel.

It was this feeling which prompted him to send to the ‹Journal des
Économistes› his first contribution, ‹Sur l’influence des tarifs
Anglais et Français›. This article, bearing a signature till then
unknown, and coming from the remote Department of the Landes, was at
once accepted, and created a profound impression. Like Lord Byron,
after the publication of ‹Childe Harold›, Bastiat “awoke one morning
and found himself famous.” Compliments and encouragements showered in
upon him from every side. Further contributions were solicited, and
were sent. The ice was broken, and he was fairly afloat as an author.
Whilst contributing various articles to the ‹Journal›—among others,
the first series of the ‹Sophismes Économiques›—Bastiat began to
write the history of the English Anti-corn-law League; and, in order
to obtain fuller information and more copious materials, he opened
a correspondence with Mr Cobden, with whom he continued to exchange
letters at frequent intervals during the remainder of his life.

It was in 1845 that Bastiat went to Paris to superintend the printing
of this work, which he entitled ‹Cobden et la Ligue, où l’agitation
Anglaise pour la liberté des Échanges›. A luminous and spirited
introduction, giving an account of the economical and political state
of England prior to the Anti-corn-law agitation, and describing the
origin, objects, and progress of the league, is [p014] followed by
extracts from the more prominent speeches of Cobden, Bright, Fox,
Thompson, and the other leaders. All this was new in France,—to the
popular mind of that country it might almost be called a revelation.
“I have distributed a hundred copies in Paris,” writes Bastiat to
Cobden, “and they have produced the best impression. Men who, by
their position and pursuits, ought to know what is going on in
England have been surprised on reading it. They could not believe
their eyes. . . . . . If I had combated directly their prejudices,
I should not have succeeded; but, by allowing the free-traders to
speak and act for themselves—in a word, by simply ‹translating›
you—I hope to have given these prejudices a blow which they cannot
recover—if the book be read.” In a subsequent letter, he says,—“Since
my last letter an unexpected movement has manifested itself in the
French press. All the Parisian, and many of the provincial journals,
in reviewing my book, have given an account of the Anti-corn-law
agitation. They do not, it is true, perceive all its bearings, but
public opinion is awakened, which is the essential point.”

To this work, and the service which it rendered to the cause of Free
Trade, and of sound economic ideas, Bastiat some months afterwards
owed his nomination as a Corresponding Member of the Institute. “I
believe this nomination to be in itself of little importance,” he
writes to M. Calmètes, “and I fear many mediocrities have boasted
of the title; but the peculiar circumstances which preceded my
nomination do not permit me to reject your friendly felicitations. I
have published only one book, and of that book the preface alone is
my work. Having returned to seclusion, that preface has worked for
me, and unknown to me; for the same letter which apprized me of my
candidature announced my election. I had never in my life dreamt of
this honour. The book is entitled ‹Cobden et la Ligue›. I now send it
to you, which will save my saying more about it. In 1842 and 1843 I
endeavoured to attract attention to the subject of which it treats.
I addressed articles to the ‹Presse›, to the ‹Mémorial Bordelais›,
and other journals. They were rejected. I saw that my cause was
about to break down under this ‹conspiracy of silence›, and I had no
resource but to write a book. You see, then, why I have become an
author. And now, engaged in that career, I regret it extremely; for
although always fond of Political Economy, I am reluctant to devote
my attention exclusively to that science, and would rather wander
freely over the whole field of human knowledge. Yet in this science
a single question—freedom of international relations—fascinates and
is about to absorb me,—for, perhaps, you may [p015] have seen that
I have been assigned a place in the association which has just been
formed at Bordeaux. Such is the age; you can take no part in public
life without being garrotted in a speciality.”

At Paris, Bastiat had been introduced to all the leading
Economists, and he was delighted with his reception. “Not one of
these gentlemen,” he says to M. Coudroy, “but had read, re-read,
and perfectly understood my three articles. I might have written
a thousand years in the ‹Chalosse›, the ‹Sentinelle›, and the
‹Mémorial›, without finding a single true reader but yourself. Here
one is read, studied, and understood.” By the whole circle Bastiat
was welcomed and feasted. A desire was expressed that he should
become conductor of the ‹Journal des Économistes›, and there was a
proposal to find him a chair of Political Economy.

From Paris he passed over to England, where, in July 1845, he met
with Mr Cobden, Mr Bright, and the other chiefs of the Anti-corn-law
League. In a letter to his friend Coudroy, he thus describes his
reception in London:—“Having installed myself at the hotel (at 10s.
a-day), I sat down to write six letters, to Cobden, Bright, Fox,
Thompson, Wilson, and the Secretary of the League. Then I wrote six
inscriptions on as many copies of my book, and went to bed. This
morning I carried my six volumes to the apartments of the League,
desiring that they might be sent to the parties for whom they were
intended. I was told that Mr Cobden was in town, and was to leave
London to-day for Manchester, and that I should find him in the
midst of preparations for his journey. (An Englishman’s preparations
consist in swallowing a beef-steak, and stuffing a couple of shirts
into a carpet-bag.) I hastened to Cobden’s residence, where I met
him, and had two hours’ talk. He knows French very well, speaks it a
little, and, moreover, I understood his English. I explained to him
the state of opinion in France, the effects I expected from my work,
etc. He was sorry to leave London, and was on the point of giving up
his intended journey. Then he remarked, ‘The League is free-masonry,
except that everything is public. We have a house here, which we have
hired to accommodate our friends during the bazaar; it is empty at
present, and we must instal you there.’ I made some difficulty about
this; and he rejoined, ‘This arrangement may not be agreeable to you,
but it will be of use to the cause, for Messrs Bright, Moore, and
other members of the League pass their evenings there, and we must
have you always in the midst of them.’ However, as I am to join him
at Manchester the day after to-morrow, I thought it [p016] hardly
worth while to shift my quarters for a couple of days. He took me
afterwards to the Reform Club, a magnificent establishment, and left
me in the library while he took a bath. He afterwards wrote letters
to Bright and Moore, and I accompanied him to the railway. In the
evening I called on Mr Bright. . . . . . Obliged to speak slowly,
in order to make myself understood, and upon subjects which were
familiar to me, and with men who had all our ideas, I found myself
placed in the most favourable circumstances. He took me afterwards to
the Parliament,” etc.

On his return from England, Bastiat again took refuge in his retreat
at Mugron, where he had his time entirely at his own disposal; but
he was not long suffered to enjoy his literary leisure. In February
1846, he assisted in organizing a Free-Trade Association at Bordeaux,
and afterwards went to Paris with a similar object. In this he was
destined to experience innumerable difficulties, not the least of
which arose from his supposed attachment to English opinions. He
imagined the reform of the English tariff might be the means of
furthering a similar reform in France, but in this he soon found that
he was greatly mistaken.

“Of all the prejudices which reign among us,” says M. Louis Reybaud,
in his admirable notice of Bastiat in the ‹Revue des Deux Mondes›,[5]
“there is none more deeply rooted than distrust of England. It is
enough that England leans to one side to induce us to incline to the
other. Everything which England proposes is suspected by us, and we
not unwillingly detect an ambush in all her measures. In matters of
trade this disposition is especially manifested. In vain we imagine
that England in her reforms has only her own interest in view,—her
true object is only to mislead and ruin us by her seductions! If we
give way we shall be fools or dupes. Such is the language of national
opinion; and although enlightened men resist it, that opinion does
not the less prevail and exhibit itself on all occasions. Better
informed in regard to this bias of public opinion, Bastiat would have
seen that the moment was not opportune, and that in the face of the
English agitation he would have done better to delay, than to hasten,
any agitation in France which might seem to be inspired by the spirit
or example of England.”

In fact, it was upon this rock mainly that Bastiat’s Free-trade
enterprise ultimately foundered, and he soon became convinced of the
intensity of the prejudice against which he had to struggle. In a
letter to Mr Cobden, written in December 1846, he says,—“This cry
against England stifles us, and gives rise to formidable [p017]
obstacles. If this hatred to ‹perfidious Albion› were only the
fashion of the day, I should wait patiently until it passed away.
But it has deep root in men’s hearts. It is universal, and I believe
I told you that my friends dare no longer talk of me in my own
village, but ‹en famille›. This blind passion, moreover, is found so
convenient by protected interests and political parties, that they
avail themselves of it in the most shameless manner.”

Other circumstances contributed to discourage Bastiat: “I suffer from
my poverty,” he tells Mr Cobden. “If, instead of running from one to
another on foot, splashed and bespattered to the back, in order to
meet only one or two people a-day, and obtain evasive and dilatory
answers, I could assemble them at my table in a rich ‹salon›, how
many difficulties would be removed! I want neither head nor heart,
but I feel that this superb Babylon is not the place for me, and I
must hasten back to my solitude.” His heart was constantly reverting
to the happy and peaceful days he had passed at Mugron. “I suffer,”
he says in a letter to Coudroy, “from leaving Mugron, and my old
habits, my desultory labours, and our nice little chats. It is a
frightful ‹déchirement›; but can I recede?” “Paris and I are not made
for each other.” “Often I think of Mugron, its philosophic calm, and
its fruitful leisure. Here life is wasted in doing nothing, or at
least in producing nothing.”

Bastiat’s appearance in Paris at this epoch is thus described by one
of his friends. “He had not had time to call in the assistance of a
Parisian hatter and tailor,” says M. de Molinari; “and with his long
hair, his tiny hat, his ample frock-coat, and his family umbrella,
you would have been apt to mistake him for an honest peasant, who had
come to town for the first time to see the wonders of the metropolis.
But the physiognomy of this apparent clown was arch and spiritual;
his large black eye was luminous, and his square well-proportioned
forehead bore the impress of thought.”

“I remember, as if it were yesterday,” says M. Louis Reybaud, “the
impression which he produced. It was impossible to see a more
characteristic specimen of a provincial scholar, simple in his
manner, and plain in his attire. But, under that homely garb, and
that air of ‹bonhomie›, there were flashes of intelligence, and a
native dignity of deportment; and you were not long in discovering an
honest heart and a generous soul. The eye, above all, was lighted up
with singular brightness and fire. His emaciated features and livid
complexion betrayed already the ravages of that disease which, in
a few years, was destined to carry him off. His [p018] voice was
hollow, and formed a contrast with the vivacity of his ideas and
the briskness of his gestures. When the conversation was animated,
his voice became feebler, and his lungs performed their office with
difficulty. Better taken care of, his constitution, feeble as it was,
might have lasted a long time. But Bastiat took counsel only of his
energy. He never thought of how many days he had to live, but how he
might employ them well.”[6]

“I accept resolutely the hard life on which I am about to enter,” he
says in one of his letters. “What gives me courage is not the ‹non
omnis moriar› of Horace, but the thought that, perhaps, my life may
not have been useless to mankind.”[7]

During the eighteen months that the Free-trade Association lasted,
Bastiat’s life was one of feverish activity and incessant unremitting
toil. Before the doors of the Association could be opened to the
public, a Government ‹autorisation› had to be obtained; and it was
obtained at length with much difficulty and after long delay. On
Bastiat, as secretary, the care of all the arrangements devolved.
He had to communicate with journalists, wait upon ministers, issue
manifestoes, organize committees, obtain subscriptions, correspond
with branch associations, undertake journeys to Lyons, to Marseilles,
to Havre, attend meetings, make speeches, besides conducting a
weekly newspaper, called the ‹Libre-Échange›—the organ of the
Association—and contributing numerous articles to other newspapers,
and to the ‹Journal des Économistes›. “If at daybreak he observed a
Protectionist sophism appear in a newspaper of any reputation,” says
M. de Molinari, “he would immediately seize his pen, demolish the
sophism before breakfast, and our language counted one ‹chef-d’œuvre›
the more.”

It is to the marvellous exertions of this period that we owe the
‹Sophismes Économiques›,—a work which arose out of the circumstances
in which Bastiat found himself placed; and which, although written
from day to day, amid the distractions we have described, exhibits
his genius in its most brilliant light. “As examples of dialectical
skill in reducing an opponent to absurdity,” says Professor Cairnes,
“of simple and felicitous illustration, of delicate and polished
raillery, attaining occasionally the pitch of a refined irony,
the ‹Sophismes Économiques› may almost claim a place beside the
‹Provincial Letters›.” Sprightly, lucid, and conclusive, full of
fire and irony, playfulness and wit, these two little volumes afford
the most unanswerable reply ever given to the [p019] fallacies of
the Protectionist school; and, had Bastiat written nothing else,
they would have conferred on him a just title to be regarded as the
most distinguished economist of his day. The ‹Sophismes› have been
translated into four languages, and are the best known, if not the
most original, of all the works of their lamented author.

The success of the work was instant and complete. Bastiat at first
complained that “three or four pleasantries had made the fortune of
the book, while the serious parts were neglected;” but he afterwards
confessed that “parables and pleasantries had more success, and
effected more good, than the best treatises.” Of these pleasantries,
‹The Candlemakers’ Petition›, in the first series of the ‹Sophismes›,
is perhaps the happiest, and I cannot forbear presenting the reader
with a translation of this choice morsel:—

   «Petition» of the Manufacturers of Candles, Wax-Lights, Lamps,
   Candlesticks, Street Lamps, Snuffers, Extinguishers, and of the
   Producers of Oil, Tallow, Rosin, Alcohol, and, generally, of
   everything connected with Lighting,

   «To Messieurs the Members of the Chamber of Deputies.»

 «Gentlemen»,—You are on the right road. You reject abstract
 theories, and have little consideration for cheapness and plenty.
 Your chief care is the interest of the producer. You desire to
 emancipate him from external competition, and reserve the ‹national
 market› for ‹national industry›.

 We are about to offer you an admirable opportunity of applying
 your—what shall we call it? your theory? No; nothing is more
 deceptive than theory; your doctrine? your system? your
 principle?—but you dislike doctrines, you abhor systems, and as for
 principles, you deny that there are any in Social Economy: we shall
 say, then, your practice, your practice without theory and without

 We are suffering from the intolerable competition of a foreign
 rival, placed, it would seem, in a condition so far superior to ours
 for the production of light, that he absolutely ‹inundates› our
 ‹national market› with it at a price fabulously reduced. The moment
 he shows himself, our trade leaves us—all consumers apply to him;
 and a branch of native industry, having countless ramifications,
 is all at once rendered completely stagnant. This rival, who is
 no other than the Sun, wages war to the knife against us, and we
 suspect he has been raised up by ‹perfidious Albion› (good policy
 as times go); inasmuch as he displays towards that haughty island a
 circumspection with which he dispenses in our case.

 What we pray for is, that it may please you to pass a law ordering
 the shutting up of all Windows, Sky-lights, Dormer-windows, Outside
 and Inside Shutters, Curtains, Blinds, Bull’s-eyes; in a word, of
 all Openings, Holes, Chinks, Clefts, and Fissures, by or through
 which the light of the Sun has been allowed to enter houses, to the
 prejudice of the meritorious manufactures with which we flatter
 ourselves we have accommodated our country,—a country which, in
 gratitude, ought not to abandon us now to a strife so unequal.

 We trust, Gentlemen, that you will not regard this our request as a
 satire, or refuse it without at least previously hearing the reasons
 which we have to urge in its support.

 And, first, if you shut up as much as possible all access to natural
 light, and create a demand for artificial light, which of our French
 manufactures will not be encouraged by it?

 If more tallow is consumed, then there must be more oxen and sheep;
 and, consequently, we shall behold the increase of artificial
 meadows, meat, wool, hides, and, above all, manure, which is the
 basis and foundation of all agricultural wealth.

 If more oil is consumed, then we shall have an extended cultivation
 of the poppy, of the olive, and of rape. These rich and exhausting
 plants will come at the right [p020] time to enable us to avail
 ourselves of the increased fertility which the rearing of additional
 cattle will impart to our lands.

 Our heaths will be covered with resinous trees. Numerous swarms of
 bees will, on the mountains, gather perfumed treasures, now wasting
 their fragrance on the desert air, like the flowers from which
 they are derived. No branch of agriculture but will then exhibit a
 cheering development.

 The same remark applies to navigation. Thousands of vessels will
 proceed to the whale fishery; and, in a short time, we shall possess
 a navy capable of maintaining the honour of France, and gratifying
 the patriotic aspirations of your petitioners, the undersigned
 Candlemakers and others.

 But what shall we say of the manufacture of ‹articles de Paris›?
 Henceforth you will behold gildings, bronzes, crystals, in
 candlesticks, in lamps, in lustres, in candelabra, shining forth, in
 spacious warerooms, compared with which those of the present day can
 be regarded but as mere shops.

 No poor ‹Resinier› from his heights on the sea-coast, no Coal-miner
 from the depth of his sable gallery, but will rejoice in higher
 wages and increased prosperity.

 Only have the goodness to reflect, Gentlemen, and you will be
 convinced that there is, perhaps, no Frenchman, from the wealthy
 coal-master to the humblest vender of lucifer matches, whose lot
 will not be ameliorated by the success of this our Petition.

 We foresee your objections, Gentlemen, but we know that you can
 oppose to us none but such as you have picked up from the effete
 works of the partisans of Free Trade. We defy you to utter a single
 word against us which will not instantly rebound against yourselves
 and your entire policy.

 You will tell us that, if we gain by the protection which we seek,
 the country will lose by it, because the consumer must bear the loss.

 We answer:

 You have ceased to have any right to invoke the interest of the
 consumer; for, whenever his interest is found opposed to that of the
 producer, you sacrifice the former. You have done so for the purpose
 of ‹encouraging labour› and ‹increasing employment›. For the same
 reason, you should do so again.

 You have yourselves obviated this objection. When you are told
 that the consumer is interested in the free importation of iron,
 coal, corn, textile fabrics,—yes, you reply, but the producer is
 interested in their exclusion. Well, be it so;—if consumers are
 interested in the free admission of natural light, the producers of
 artificial light are equally interested in its prohibition.

 But, again, you may say that the producer and consumer are
 identical. If the manufacturer gain by protection, he will make the
 agriculturist also a gainer; and, if agriculture prospers, it will
 open a vent to manufactures. Very well; if you confer upon us the
 monopoly of furnishing light during the day,—first of all, we shall
 purchase quantities of tallow, coals, oils, resinous substances,
 wax, alcohol,—besides silver, iron, bronze, crystal—to carry on
 our manufactures; and then we and those who furnish us with such
 commodities, having become rich, will consume a great deal, and
 impart prosperity to all the other branches of our national industry.

 If you urge that the light of the Sun is a gratuitous gift of
 nature, and that to reject such gifts is to reject wealth itself
 under pretence of encouraging the means of acquiring it, we would
 caution you against giving a death-blow to your own policy. Remember
 that hitherto you have always repelled foreign products, ‹because›
 they approximate more nearly than home products to the character of
 gratuitous gifts. To comply with the exactions of other monopolists,
 you have only ‹half a motive›; and to repulse us simply because
 we stand on a stronger vantage ground than others, would be to
 adopt the equation, + × + = -; in other words, it would be to heap
 ‹absurdity› upon ‹absurdity›.

 Nature and human labour co-operate in various proportions (depending
 on countries and climates) in the production of commodities. The
 part which nature executes is always gratuitous; it is the part
 executed by human labour which constitutes value, and is paid for.

 If a Lisbon orange sells for half the price of a Paris orange, it is
 because natural, and consequently gratuitous heat, does for the one,
 what artificial, and therefore expensive heat, must do for the other.

 When an orange comes to us from Portugal, we may conclude that
 it is furnished in part gratuitously, in part for an onerous
 consideration; in other words, it comes to us at ‹half-price› as
 compared with those of Paris.

 Now, it is precisely the ‹gratuitous half› (pardon the word) which
 we contend should be excluded. You say, how can national labour
 sustain competition with foreign labour, when the former has all the
 work to do, and the latter only does one-half,—the Sun supplying
 the remainder? But if this ‹half›, being ‹gratuitous›, determines
 [p021] you to exclude competition, how should the ‹whole›,
 being ‹gratuitous›, induce you to admit competition? If you were
 consistent, you would, while excluding as hurtful to native industry
 what is half gratuitous, exclude, ‹a fortiori› and with double zeal,
 that which is altogether gratuitous.

 Once more, when products, such as coal, iron, corn, or textile
 fabrics, are sent us from abroad, and we can acquire them with less
 labour than if we made them ourselves, the difference is a free
 gift conferred upon us. The gift is more or less considerable in
 proportion as the difference is more or less great. It amounts to a
 quarter, a half, or three-quarters of the value of the product, when
 the foreigner only asks us for three-fourths, a half, or a quarter
 of the price we should otherwise pay. It is as perfect and complete
 as it can be, when the donor (like the Sun in furnishing us with
 light) asks us for nothing. The question, and we ask it formally,
 is this, Do you desire for our country the benefit of gratuitous
 consumption, or the pretended advantages of onerous production? Make
 your choice, but be logical; for as long as you exclude as you do,
 coal, iron, corn, foreign fabrics, ‹in proportion› as their price
 approximates to ‹zero›, what inconsistency would it be to admit the
 light of the Sun, the price of which is already at ‹zero› during the
 entire day!

In addition to his other engrossing avocations in Paris, Bastiat,
in the end of 1847 and beginning of 1848, delivered a course of
lectures to young men on the principles of Political Economy and
the Harmony of the Social Laws. He had no opportunity of committing
these lectures to writing, as he wished, but we have doubtless
the substance of them in his published works, especially in the
‹Harmonies Économiques›. “Something tells me,” he says in one of his
letters to M. Coudroy, “that this course addressed to the young, who
have logic in their heads, and warmth and fervour in their hearts,
will not be useless.” “My auditors,” he says elsewhere, “are not very
numerous; but they attend assiduously, and take notes. The seed falls
into good ground.”

It was in the midst of these harassing occupations and herculean
exertions that the Revolution of February came to surprise
Bastiat,—to put an end to the Free-trade Association,—and to bring
a far more formidable set of agitators—namely, the Socialists and
Communists—to the surface of society. Bastiat doubted if his country
was ripe for a Republic; but when it came, he gave in his adhesion
to it, and was returned by his native Department of the Landes as
a Deputy to the Constituent, and afterwards to the Legislative
Assembly. He took his seat on the left, says his accomplished
friend and biographer M. de Fontenay, in an attitude of moderation
and firmness; and, whilst remaining somewhat isolated, he was
surrounded with the respect of all parties. A Member of the Committee
of Finance, of which he was named Vice-President eight times in
succession, he exercised a very marked influence on that department,
although quietly and within doors. The increasing feebleness of his
lungs prevented his often ascending the tribune or addressing the
Assembly, although it was often a hard trial for him to be thus,
as it were, nailed to his seat.[8] It is to this he alludes in the
second chapter [p022] of the ‹Harmonies›:—“If, when the much-loved
vessel of the State is beaten by the tempest, I sometimes appear to
absent myself from my post in order to collect my scattered thoughts,
it is because I feel my feeble hands unfitted for the work. Is it,
besides, to betray my mission to reflect upon the causes of the
tempest itself, and endeavour to act upon these causes? And then,
what I find I cannot do to-day, who knows but it may be given me to
accomplish to-morrow?”

In a letter to M. Coudroy, in June 1848, Bastiat thus describes his
daily occupations:—“I rise at six o’clock, dress, shave, breakfast,
and read the newspapers; this occupies me till seven, or half-past
seven. About nine, I am obliged to go out, for at ten commences the
sitting of the Committee of Finance, of which I am a member. It
continues till one, and then the public sitting begins, and continues
till seven. I return to dinner, and it very rarely happens that there
are not after-dinner meetings of Sub-Committees charged with special
questions. The only hour at my disposal is from eight to nine in the
morning, and it is at that hour that I receive visitors. . . . . I am
profoundly disgusted with this kind of life.”

But the grand work of Bastiat in 1848 and 1849—a work to which he
devoted the best energies of his mind and genius—was the open and
incessant war which he waged with the Socialist and Communist writers
and agitators whom the Revolution had let loose on French society,
and who were then shaking the social and political fabric to its
centre. Bastiat, like the porcupine, had a quill pointed against
every assailant. To each error he opposed a pamphlet. With Louis
Blanc and the national workshops, he did battle in the brochure
entitled ‹Propriété et Loi›, in which he exposes the illusions
with which the public mind had been stuffed by the Socialists.
The doctrine of Concidérant he attacked in another little volume,
bearing the title, ‹Propriété et Spoliation›. In another, ‹Justice
et Fraternité›, he demolished the absurdities of Pierre Leroux’s
democratic and social constitution. Proudhon’s doctrine he disposed
of in ‹Capital et Rente›, where he refutes the foolish notions in
vogue in 1848 on the subject of gratuitous loans—a subject which he
again discussed in 1850, in the larger volume entitled ‹Gratuité du
Credit›. In ‹Protectionisme et Communisme›, Bastiat demonstrated that
what is called ‹protection› is nothing else than practical communism
or spoliation. ‹Paix et Liberté, ou le Budget Républicain›, another
brochure from his prolific pen, is a brilliant and vigorous onslaught
on the excessive taxation of that day, and the overgrown military and
naval armaments which gave [p023] rise to it. Many passages of this
admirable production, full of force and practical good sense, might
be read with benefit at the present day, as applicable not only to
France as it was, but to France as it is, and not to France alone,
but to the other nations of Europe.

In the tract entitled ‹L’État›, Bastiat maintains his favourite
doctrine that all which a Government owes to its subjects is
security; that, as it acts necessarily through the intervention of
force, it can equitably enforce nothing save Justice; and that its
duty consists in holding the balance equal among various interests,
by guarding the liberty of all, by protecting person and property,
by enforcing covenants, and thereby upholding credit, but leaving
Demand and Supply in all cases to perform their appropriate functions
without restraint and without encouragement. He exposes the absurdity
of men expecting everything from Government, and trusting to public
employments rather than to individual exertion. He shows that, since
the State is only an aggregate of individuals, it can give nothing
to the people but what it has previously taken from them. ‹Tout le
monde›, as he says elsewhere, ‹veut vivre aux dépens de l’état, et on
oublie que l’état vit aux dépens de tout le monde›.

To this tract another is appended, to which he gives the quaint
title of ‹Maudit Argent!› in which he exposes the popular errors
which arise from confounding capital with money, and money with
inconvertible paper. In this little work, Bastiat of course could
not treat the subject systematically and in detail, as M. Michel
Chevalier has since done in his philosophical treatise ‹Sur la
Monnaie›;[9] but Bastiat’s tract contains many excellent passages.
The effect of an enlargement of the volume of currency on the value
of money, for instance, is thus happily illustrated:—

 Ten men sat down to play a game, in which they agreed to stake
 1000 francs. Each man was provided with ten counters—each counter
 representing ten francs. When the game was finished, each received
 as many times ten francs as he happened to have counters. One of the
 party, who was more of an arithmetician than a logician, remarked
 that he always found at the end of the game that he was richer in
 proportion as he had a greater number of counters, and asked the
 others if they had observed the same thing. What holds in my case,
 said he, must hold in yours, for what is true of each must be true
 of all. He proposed, therefore, that each should have double the
 former number of counters. No sooner said than done. Double the
 number of counters were distributed; but, when the party finally
 rose from play they found themselves no richer than before. The
 stake had not been increased, and fell to be proportionally divided.
 Each man, no doubt, had double the number of counters, but each
 counter, instead of being worth ten francs, was found to be worth
 only five; and it was at length discovered that what is true of each
 is ‹not› always true of all.

The pamphlets, ‹Baccalauréat et Socialisme›, and ‹Ce qu’on voit
et ce qu’on ne voit pas›, belong to the following year, 1850,
the last [p024] of the author’s life. In the first of these,
Bastiat complains of the monopoly of university degrees, and
the too exclusive addiction of his countrymen to classical
learning—especially Greek and Roman history—to which he attributes
much of that democratic and revolutionary fervour which was ever and
anon breaking out in France.

The second, ‹Ce qu’on voit et ce qu’on ne voit pas›, is a masterpiece
worthy of the author of the ‹Sophismes›, and well deserves its second
title of “Political Economy in One Lesson.” The following extract
from the first chapter of this admirable little work will give the
reader some idea of the argument, and of Bastiat’s lively manner of
treating a subject in itself so dry and uninviting:—

 «The Broken Pane.»

 Have you ever had occasion to witness the fury of the honest
 burgess, Jacques Bonhomme, when his scapegrace son has broken a
 pane of glass? If you have, you cannot fail to have observed that
 all the bystanders, were there thirty of them, lay their heads
 together to offer the unfortunate proprietor this never-failing
 consolation,—“There is some good in every misfortune—such accidents
 give a fillip to trade. Everybody must live. If no windows were
 broken, what would become of the glaziers?”

 Now, this formula of condolence contains a theory, which it is
 proper to lay hold of, ‹flagrante delicto›, in this very simple
 case, because it is exactly the same theory which unfortunately
 governs the greater part of our economic institutions.

 Assuming that it becomes necessary to expend six francs in repairing
 the damage, if you mean to say that the accident brings in six
 francs to the glazier, and to that extent encourages his trade, I
 grant it fairly and frankly, and allow that you reason justly. The
 glazier arrives, does his work, pockets his money, rubs his hands,
 and blesses the scapegrace son. This is ‹what we see›.

 But if, by way of deduction, you come to conclude, as is too often
 done, that it is a good thing to break windows, that it makes money
 circulate, and that encouragement to trade in general is the result,
 I am obliged to cry halt! Your theory stops at ‹what we see›, and
 takes no account of ‹what we don’t see›.

 ‹We don’t see› that, since our burgess has been obliged to spend his
 six francs on one thing, he can no longer spend them on another—‹We
 don’t see› that, if he had not had this pane to replace, he would
 have replaced, for example, his shoes, which are down at the heels,
 or placed a new book on his shelf. In short, he would have employed
 his six francs in a way in which he cannot now employ them.

 Let us see, then, how the account stands with trade ‹in general›.

 The pane being broken, the glazier’s trade is benefited to the
 extent of six francs. This is ‹what we see›.

 If the pane had not been broken, the shoemaker’s (or some other)
 trade would have been encouraged to the extent of six francs. That
 is what ‹we don’t see›.

 And if we take into account what ‹we don’t see›, which is a
 negative fact, as well as what ‹we do see›, which is a positive
 fact, we shall discover that trade ‹in general›, or the aggregate
 of ‹national industry›, has no interest, one way or other, whether
 windows are broken or not.

 Let us see, again, how the account stands with Jacques Bonhomme.

 On the last hypothesis—that of the pane being broken—he spends six
 francs, and gets neither more nor less than he had before,—namely,
 the use and enjoyment of a pane of glass.

 On the other hypothesis,—namely, that the accident had not happened,
 he would have expended six francs on shoes, and would have had the
 use and enjoyment both of the shoes and of the pane of glass.

 Now, as the good burgess, Jacques Bonhomme constitutes a fraction of
 society at large, we are forced to conclude that society, taken in
 the aggregate, and after all accounts of labour and enjoyment have
 been squared, has lost the value of the pane which has been broken.

 Whence, on generalizing, we arrive at this unexpected conclusion,
 that “Society loses the value of things uselessly destroyed;” and
 we arrive also at this aphorism, which will make the hair of the
 prohibitionists stand on end, that “to smash, break, [p025] and
 dissipate is not to encourage national industry;” or, more briefly,
 that “there is no profit in destruction.”

 The reader will take notice that there are not two persons only, but
 three, in the little drama to which we have called his attention.
 One of them—namely, Jacques Bonhomme—represents the consumer,
 reduced by destruction to one enjoyment in place of two. The glazier
 represents the producer, whose trade is encouraged by the accident.
 The third is the shoemaker (or some other tradesman), whose trade is
 discouraged to the same extent by the same cause. It is this third
 personage who is always kept in the shade, and who, as representing
 ‹what we don’t see›, is a necessary element in the problem. It is he
 who enables us to discover how absurd it is to try to find profit
 in destruction. It is he who will soon teach us that it is not less
 absurd to try to discover profit in restriction, which is, after
 all, only partial destruction. Go to the bottom of all the arguments
 which are urged in favour of restriction, and you will find only a
 paraphrase of the vulgar saying,—“‹If no windows were broken, what
 would the glaziers do?›”

The distinction thus established between immediate effects and
ultimate consequences, between surface appearances and substantial
realities, between ‹what we see and what we don’t see›, the author
proceeds, in the same happy vein, to apply to taxation, the proceeds
of which are said to come back to the labour-market like refreshing
showers,—to overgrown and unnecessary armaments, and extravagant
public works, which are defended as affording employment to the
working-classes,—to industrial and commercial restrictions, which
are justified on the same ground,—to the questions of machinery, of
credit, of colonization, of luxury and unproductive consumption, etc.
The entire work does not extend to eighty pages, and in every one of
its twelve short chapters Bastiat demolishes a specious fallacy or a
pernicious error.

But Bastiat had been for some time meditating a greater, more
elaborate, and more systematic work than any of those of which
we have hitherto spoken; and it is curious to trace in his
correspondence the progress of the ideas which were at length
developed in the ‹Harmonies Économiques›. Writing to M. Coudroy
in June 1845, he says—“If my little treatise of the ‹Sophismes
Économiques› is successful, we may follow it up by another entitled
‹Harmonies Sociales›. It would be of the greatest utility; for it
would meet the desires of an age in search of artificial harmonies
and organizations, by demonstrating the beauty, order, and
progressive principle of the natural and providential harmonies.” In
June 1846, he writes to Mr Cobden, “I must bring out a second edition
of my ‹Sophismes›, and I should wish much to write a little book to
be entitled ‹Harmonies Économiques›. It will be the counterpart of
the other—the first pulls down, the second will build up.” In another
letter, written the year after, he exclaims—“Oh, that the Divine
Goodness would give me yet one year of strength, and permit me to
explain to my young fellow-citizens what I regard as the true social
theory, under the twelve following heads:—‹Wants›, ‹production›,
‹property›, ‹competition›, ‹population›, ‹liberty›, [p026]
‹equality›, ‹responsibility›, ‹solidarity›, ‹fraternity›, ‹unity›,
‹province of public opinion›. I should then without regret, with joy,
resign my life into His hands!”

On the eve of being elected a Deputy to the National Assembly in
1848, he writes from Mugron, “Here I am in my solitude. Would that
I could bury myself here for ever, and work out peacefully this
Economic synthesis which I have in my head, and which will never
leave it! For, unless there occur some sudden change in public
opinion, I am about to be sent to Paris charged with the terrible
mandate of a Representative of the People. If I had health and
strength, I should accept this mission with enthusiasm. But what can
my feeble voice, my sickly and nervous organization, accomplish in
the midst of revolutionary tempests? How much wiser it had been to
devote my last days to working out in silence the great problem of
the social destinies, for something tells me I should have arrived
at a solution! Poor village, humble home of my fathers, I am about
to bid you an eternal adieu; and I quit you with the presentiment
that my name and my life, lost amidst storms, will not have even that
modest utility for which you had prepared me!” . . . .

In his letters to M. Coudroy at this period, we discover the same
idea working and fermenting in the mind of Bastiat, and struggling
for vent and utterance. Amid the anxieties and distractions in which
his duties as a Deputy involved him, he writes—“I am still convinced
that the practice of affairs excludes the possibility of producing
a work truly scientific, and yet I cannot conceal from you that I
always retain that old chimera of my ‹Social Harmonies›; and I cannot
divest myself of the thought that, if I had remained with you, I
should have succeeded in imparting to the world a useful idea. I long
much to make my retreat.” In another letter to the same friend, after
describing his feebleness, and intimating his intention to leave
Paris to try what effect a change to his native air might produce,
he adds—“I must renounce public life, and all my ambition now is to
have three or four months of tranquillity to write my poor ‹Harmonies
Économiques›. They are in my head, but I fear they will never leave
it.” “The crystal,” he says elsewhere, “is formed drop by drop in
silence and obscurity; but retirement, quiet, time, freedom from
care—all are wanting to me.”

In April 1849, he writes again to M. Coudroy, “I have my theory to
work out, and powerful encouragements have reached me opportunely.
I read those words yesterday in an English Review,—‘In Political
Economy, the French school has had [p027] three phases, expressed by
the three names, Quesnay, Say, Bastiat.’ They assign me this rank and
this part prematurely; but it is certain that I have in my head a new
and suggestive idea, which I believe to be true. This idea I have
never developed methodically. It runs accidentally through some of my
articles, and as that has been enough to attract the attention of the
‹savants›, and as it has already had the honour conferred on it of
being considered as forming an ‹epoch› in the science, I am certain
now that, when I give that theory in its complete state to the world,
it will at least be examined. Is not that all I could desire? With
what ardour I am about to turn to account my retirement in order
to elaborate that doctrine, certain as I am to have judges who can
understand it, and who are waiting for it!”

The three months of leisure, so long and so anxiously wished for,
came at last; and in the beginning of 1850 the ‹Harmonies› (or rather
the portions which the author had intended should form the first
volume of that work) made their appearance. The reception of the work
was not at first what might have been expected; and Bastiat, again
in Paris, writes to his friend M. Coudroy, “The ‹Harmonies› pass
unnoticed here, unless by some dozen connoisseurs. I expected this—it
could not be otherwise. I have not even in my favour the wonted zeal
of our own little circle, who accuse me of heterodoxy; but in spite
of this, I am confident that the book will make its way by degrees.
In Germany it has been very differently received. . . . . I pray
Heaven to vouchsafe me a year to write the second volume; after which
I shall sing, ‹Nunc dimittis›.”

To Mr Cobden, in August 1850, he writes—“I went to my native country
to try to cure these unfortunate lungs, which are to me very
capricious servants. I have returned a little better, but afflicted
with a disease of the larynx, accompanied with a complete extinction
of voice. The doctor enjoins absolute silence; and, in consequence, I
am about to pass two months in the country, near Paris. There I shall
try to write the second volume of the ‹Harmonies Économiques›. The
first has been nearly unnoticed by the learned world. I should not be
an ‹author› if I gave in to that judgment. I appeal to the future,
for I am conscious that that book contains an important idea, ‹une
idée mère›, and time will come to my assistance.”

This great work, the child of Bastiat’s anxious hopes, the subject
of his dying thoughts, although at first but coldly received, is
perhaps the most important and the most original contribution which
the science of Political Economy has received since the days [p028]
of Adam Smith. On that most abstruse and difficult subject, the first
principles of Value, it opens up entirely new views; while on almost
every other branch of the subject, it either propounds a new theory,
or corrects and improves the nomenclature of the science. Throughout,
it treats Political Economy (and it is perhaps the only work which
does so, at least systematically) in connexion with final causes, and
demonstrates the Wisdom and Goodness of God in the economy of civil
society. On some questions we may venture to differ from Bastiat. On
the question of Rent, for instance, he would seem to have followed
too implicitly the theory of Mr Carey, the able American Economist;
but Bastiat’s work, as a whole, has a freshness, a vigour, and an
originality which all must admire. He writes like a man thoroughly
in earnest,—a devout believer in the doctrines which he teaches, and
he seldom fails to carry conviction to the mind of his readers. The
leading idea of the work—the harmony of the social laws—is admirable,
and is admirably worked out. The motto of the book, in fact, might
have been the well-known lines of Dryden,—

  From harmony, from heavenly harmony,
        This universal frame began:
        From harmony to harmony
  Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
  The diapason ending full in Man.

Bastiat undertakes to demonstrate the harmony of the Economic
laws,—that is to say, their tendency towards a common design,
which is the progressive improvement of the human race. He proves
convincingly that individual interests, taken in the aggregate, far
from being antagonistic, aid each other mutually; and that, so far is
it from being true that the gain of one is necessarily the loss of
another, each individual, each family, each country has an interest
in the prosperity of all others. He shows that, between agriculturist
and manufacturer, capitalist and labourer, producer and consumer,
native and foreigner, there is in reality no antagonism, but, on
the contrary, a community of interest; and that, in order that the
natural Economic laws should act constantly so as to produce this
result, one thing alone is necessary—namely, respect for Liberty and
Property. His design is best explained in his own words: “I undertake
in this work,” he says, “to demonstrate the Harmony of those laws
of Providence which govern human society. What makes these laws
harmonious and not discordant is, that all principles, all motives,
all springs of action, all interests, co-operate towards a grand
final result, which humanity will never reach by reason of its native
‹imperfection›, [p029] but to which it will always approximate more
and more by reason of its unlimited ‹capability of improvement›. And
that result is, the indefinite approximation of all classes towards a
level, which is always rising; in other words, the ‹equalization› of
individuals in the general ‹amelioration›.”

Bastiat was not one of those pessimists who persist in looking at the
existing fabric of Society as if it were some ill-made, ill-going
clock, requiring constantly to be wound up, and to have its springs
adjusted, its wheels lubricated, and its hands altered and set right.
Far from this, he regarded Society as a self-acting, self-regulating
mechanism, bearing the stamp of the Divine hand by which it was
constructed, and subject to laws and checks not less wise, not less
immutable, not less trustworthy, than the laws which govern the
inanimate and material world.

“God made the country, but man made the towns,” was the exclamation
of an amiable but a morbid poet. He might as well have said—God made
the blossom, but bees make the comb. Reason asks, who then made the
bees? Who made man, with all his noble instincts, and admirable
inventive reasoning and reflective faculties?

A manlier, because a juster, philosophy enabled Bastiat rather to say
with Edmund Burke, “Art is man’s nature.” Looking at the existing
fabric and mechanism of Society, and the beautiful harmony of the
Economic laws which regulate it, he could see nothing to warrant
constant legislative tampering with the affairs of trade. He had
faith in moral and material progress under the empire of Freedom.
Sweeping away all Socialist Utopias and artificial systems of social
organization, he pointed to Society as it exists, and exclaimed,
‹Digitus Dei est hic›. Unlike the sickly poet, he believed that the
same Good and Wise Being who created both town and country, upholds
and sustains them both; and that the laws of Value and Exchange, left
to their own free and beneficent action, are as much His ordinance,
as the laws of motion, attraction, or chemical affinity.[10]

Engaged upon the second volume of the ‹Harmonies›, Bastiat found
his subject growing upon him, and discovered, as he thought, when
too late, that he had not in the first instance perceived all its
bearings. He felt, as he said, crushed by the mass [p030] of
harmonies which presented themselves to him on every side; and
a posthumous note, found among his papers, informs us that this
expansion of his subject under his hand had led him to think of
recasting the entire work. “I had thought at first,” he says, “to
begin with the exposition of ‹Economic Harmonies›, and, consequently,
to treat only of subjects purely economical—‹Value›, ‹Property›,
‹Wealth›, ‹Competition›, ‹Wages›, ‹Population›, ‹Money›, ‹Credit›,
etc. Afterwards, if I had had time and strength, I should have
directed the attention of the reader to the larger subject of
‹Social Harmonies›, and treated of the ‹Human Constitution›, ‹Social
Motives›, ‹Responsibility›, ‹Solidarity›, etc. The work thus
conceived[11] had been begun, when I saw that it was better to mingle
together than to separate these two classes of considerations. But
then logic required that the study of Man should precede the Economic
investigations; and—there was no longer time.”

Alas! the hours of Bastiat were numbered. He ran a desperate
steeple-chase with death, to use the expression of his biographer,
and he lost the day. His mind, his genius, shone as brightly, worked
as intensely, as ever; but the material frame-work was shattered
and in ruins. By the advice of his physicians, after resorting to
the waters of the Pyrenees without benefit, he repaired to Italy
in the autumn of 1850, and took up his residence at Pisa. Scarcely
had he arrived there, when he read in the newspapers a premature
announcement of his own death, and common-place expressions of regret
for the loss of the “great Economist” and “illustrious author.” He
wrote immediately to a friend to contradict the report. “Thank God,”
he says, “I am not dead, or even much [p031] worse. And yet if the
news were true, I must just accept it and submit. I wish all my
friends could acquire in this respect the philosophy I have myself
acquired. I assure you I should breathe my last without pain, and
almost with joy, if I were certain of leaving to the friends who
love me, not poignant regrets, but a gentle, affectionate, somewhat
melancholy remembrance of me.”

After lingering some time at Pisa without improvement, he went on to
Rome. From Rome he writes to M. Coudroy—“Here I am in the Eternal
City, but not much disposed to visit its marvels. I am infinitely
better that I was at Pisa, surrounded as I am with excellent
friends. . . . . I should desire only one thing, to be relieved of
the acute pain which the disease of the windpipe occasions. This
continuity of suffering torments me. Every meal is a punishment.
To eat, drink, speak, cough, are all painful operations. Walking
fatigues me—carriage airings irritate the throat—I can no longer
work, or even read, seriously. You see to what I am reduced. I shall
soon be little better than a dead body, retaining only the faculty
of suffering.” . . . . Even in this state of extreme debility he was
thinking of his favourite but unfinished work. He adds, “If health
is restored to me, and I am enabled to complete the second volume of
the ‹Harmonies›, I shall dedicate it to you. If not, I shall prefix a
short dedication to the second edition of the first volume. On this
last hypothesis, which implies the end of my career, I can explain my
plan, and bequeath to you the task of fulfilling it.”

Bastiat’s career was in reality fast drawing to a close. His
end was calm and serene. He seemed himself to regard it as an
indifferent spectator, conversing with his friends on his favourite
topics,—Political Economy, Philosophy, and Religion. He desired to
die as a Christian. To his cousin the Abbé Monclar, and his friend M.
Paillottet, who stood by, he said—“On looking around me, I observe
that the most enlightened nations of the world have been of the
Christian faith, and I am very happy to find myself in communion
with that portion of the human race.” “His eye,” says M. Paillottet,
“sparkled with that peculiar expression which I had frequently
noticed in our conversations, and which intimated the solution of
a problem.” He beckoned his friends to come near him, as if he had
something to say to them—he murmured twice the words ‹La verité›—and
passed away.

His death took place at Rome, on the 24th of December 1850, in the
fiftieth year of his age. His obsequies were celebrated in the church
of Saint Louis des Français. It was in the year 1845 that he took up
his residence in Paris, so that his career as an [p032] Economist
had extended over little more than five years. He died a martyr to
his favourite science, and we may well apply to him the beautiful
lines of Lord Byron,—

  Oh! what a noble heart was here undone,
  When Science’ self destroy’d her favourite son!
  Yes, she too much indulged his fond pursuit,
  She sow’d the seeds, but death has reap’d the fruit.
  ’Twas his own genius gave the final blow,
  And help’d to plant the wound that laid him low:
  So the struck eagle, stretch’d upon the plain,
  No more through rolling clouds to soar again,
  View’d his own feather on the fatal dart,
  And wing’d the shaft that quiver’d in his heart;
  Keen were his pangs, but keener far to feel
  He nursed the pinion which impell’d the steel;
  While the same plumage that had warm’d his nest
  Drank the last life-drop of his bleeding breast.


Love of study, and lack of fixed opinions,—a mind free from
prejudice, a heart devoid of hate, zeal for the propagation
of truth,—ardent sympathies, disinterestedness, devotion,
candour,—enthusiasm for all that is good and fair, simple and great,
honest and religious,—such are the precious attributes of youth. It
is for this reason that I dedicate my work to you. And the seed must
have in it no principle of life if it fail to take root in a soil so

I had thought to offer you a picture, and all I have given you
is a sketch; but you will pardon me; for who, in times like the
present,[12] can sit down to finish a grave and important work?
My hope is that some one among you, on seeing it, will be led to
exclaim, with the great artist, ‹Anch’ io son pittore!› and, seizing
the pencil, impart to my rude canvas colour and flesh, light and
shade, sentiment and life.

You may think the title of the work somewhat ambitious; and assuredly
I make no pretension to reveal the designs of Providence in the
social order, and to explain the mechanism of all the forces with
which God has endowed man for the realization of progress. All
that I have aimed at is to put you on the right track, and make
you acquainted with the truth, that ‹all legitimate interests are
in harmony›. That is the predominant idea of my work, and it is
impossible not to recognise its importance.

For some time it has been the fashion to laugh at what has been
called the ‹social problem›: and no doubt some of the solutions which
have been proposed afford but too much ground for raillery. But in
the problem itself there is nothing laughable. It is the ghost of
Banquo at the feast of Macbeth—and no dumb ghost either; for in
formidable accents it calls out to terror-stricken society—a solution
or death! [p034]

Now this solution, you will at once see, must be different according
as men’s interests are held to be naturally harmonious or naturally

In the one case, we must seek for the solution in Liberty—in the
other, in Constraint. In the one case, we have only to be passive—in
the other, we must necessarily offer opposition.

But Liberty assumes only one shape. Once convinced that each of
the molecules which compose a fluid possesses in itself the force
by which the general level is produced, we conclude that there is
no surer or simpler way of seeing that level realized than not to
interfere with it. All, then, who set out with this fundamental
principle, that ‹men’s interests are harmonious›, will agree as
to the practical solution of the social problem,—to abstain from
displacing or thwarting those interests.

Constraint, on the other hand, may assume a thousand shapes,
according to the views which we take of it, and which are infinitely
varied. Those schools which set out with, the principle, that ‹men’s
interests are antagonistic›, have done nothing yet towards the
solution of the problem, unless it be that they have thrust aside
Liberty. Among the infinite forms of Constraint, they have still to
choose the one which they consider good, if indeed any of them be so.
And then, as a crowning difficulty, they have to obtain universal
acceptance, among men who are free agents, for the particular form of
Constraint to which they have awarded the preference.

But, on this hypothesis, if human interests are, by their very
nature, urged into fatal collision, and if this shock can be avoided
only by the accidental invention of an artificial social order, the
destiny of the human race becomes very hazardous, and we ask in

1st, If any man is to be found who has discovered a satisfactory form
of Constraint?

2d, Can this man bring to his way of thinking the innumerable schools
who give the preference to other forms?

3d, Will mankind give in to that particular form which, by
hypothesis, runs counter to all individual interests?

4th, Assuming that men will allow themselves to be rigged out in this
new attire, what will happen if another inventor presents himself,
with a coat of a different and improved cut? Are we to persevere in a
vicious organization, knowing it to be vicious; or must we resolve to
change that organization every morning according as the caprices of
fashion and the fertility of inventors’ brains may dictate? [p035]

5th, Would not all the inventors whose plans have been rejected
unite together against the particular organization which had been
selected, and would not their success in disturbing society be in
exact proportion to the degree in which that particular form of
organization ran counter to all existing interests?

6th, And, last of all, it may be asked, Does there exist any human
force capable of overcoming an antagonism which we presuppose to be
itself the very essence of human force?

I might multiply such questions ‹ad infinitum›, and propose, for
example, this difficulty:

If individual interest is opposed to the general interest, where are
we to place the active principle of Constraint? Where is the fulcrum
of the lever to be placed? Beyond the limits of human society? It
must be so if we are to escape the consequences of your law. If we
are to intrust some men with arbitrary power, prove first of all that
these men are formed of a different clay from other mortals; that
they in their turn will not be acted upon by the fatal principle of
self-interest; and that, placed in a situation which excludes the
idea of any curb, any effective opposition, their judgments will be
exempt from error, their hands from rapacity, and their hearts from

The radical difference between the various Socialist schools (I
mean here, those which seek the solution of the social problem in
an artificial organization) and the Economist school, does not
consist in certain views of detail or of governmental combination. We
encounter that difference at the starting point, in the preliminary
and pressing question—Are human interests, when left to themselves,
antagonistic or harmonious?

It is evident that the Socialists have set out in quest of an
artificial organization only because they judge the natural
organization of society bad or insufficient; and they have judged
the latter bad and insufficient, only because they think they see in
men’s interests a radical antagonism, for otherwise they would not
have had recourse to Constraint. It is not necessary to constrain
into harmony what is in itself harmonious.

Thus they have discovered antagonism everywhere:

  Between the proprietor and the ‹prolétaire›;[13]
  Between capital and labour;
  Between the masses and the ‹bourgeoisie›;
  Between agriculture and manufactures;
  Between the rustic and the burgess;
  Between the native and the foreigner;
  Between the producer and the consumer;
  Between civilisation and organization;
        In a word,
  Between Liberty and Harmony.

And this explains why it happens that, although a certain kind of
sentimental philanthropy finds a place in their hearts, gall and
bitterness flow continually from their lips. Each reserves all his
love for the new state of society he has dreamt of; but as regards
the society in which we actually live and move, it cannot, in their
opinion, be too soon crushed and overthrown, to make room for the New
Jerusalem they are to rear upon its ruins.

I have said that the ‹Economist› school, setting out with the natural
harmony of interests, is the advocate of Liberty.

And yet I must allow that if Economists in general stand up for
Liberty, it is unfortunately not equally true that their principles
establish solidly the foundation on which they build—the harmony of

Before proceeding further, and to forewarn you against the
conclusions which will no doubt be drawn from this avowal, I must
say a word on the situations which Socialism and Political Economy
respectively occupy.

It would be folly in me to assert that Socialism has never lighted
upon a truth, and that Political Economy has never fallen into an

What separates, radically and profoundly, the two schools is their
difference of methods. The one school, like the astrologer and the
alchemist, proceeds on hypothesis; the other, like the astronomer and
the chemist, proceeds on observation.

Two astronomers, observing the same fact, may not be able to arrive
at the same result.

In spite of this transient disagreement, they feel themselves
united by the common process which sooner or later will cause
that disagreement to disappear. They recognise each other as of
the same communion. But between the astronomer, who observes, and
the astrologer, who imagines, the gulf is impassable, although
accidentally they may sometimes approximate.

The same thing holds of Political Economy and Socialism.

The Economists observe man, the laws of his organization, and the
social relations which result from those laws. The Socialists conjure
up an imaginary society, and then create a human heart to suit that
society. [p037]

Now, if philosophy never errs, philosophers often do. I deny not that
Economists may make false observations; I will add, that they must
necessarily begin by doing so.

But, then, what happens? If men’s interests are harmonious, it
follows that every incorrect observation will lead logically to
antagonism. What, then, are the Socialist tactics? They gather from
the works of Economists certain incorrect observations, follow
them out to their consequences, and show those consequences to be
disastrous. Thus far they are right. Then they set to work upon the
observer, whom we may assume to be Malthus or Ricardo. Still they
have right on their side. But they do not stop there. They turn
against the science of Political Economy itself, accusing it of being
heartless, and leading to evil. Here they do violence to reason
and justice, inasmuch as science is not responsible for incorrect
observation. At length they proceed another step. They lay the blame
on society itself:—they threaten to overthrow it for the purpose
of reconstructing the edifice:—and why? Because, say they, it is
proved by science that society as now constituted is urged onwards
to destruction. In this they outrage good sense—for either science
is not mistaken, and then why attack it?—or it is mistaken, and in
that case they should leave society in repose, since society is not

But these tactics, illogical as they are, have not been the less
fatal to economic science, especially when the cultivators of that
science have had the misfortune, from a chivalrous and not unnatural
feeling, to render themselves liable, ‹singuli in solidum›, for their
predecessors and for one another. Science is a queen whose gait
should be frank and free:—the atmosphere of the ‹coterie› stifles her.

I have already said that in Political Economy every erroneous
proposition must lead ultimately to antagonism. On the other hand,
it is impossible that the voluminous works of even the most eminent
economists should not include some erroneous propositions. It is
ours to mark and to rectify them in the interest of science and of
society. If we persist in maintaining them for the honour of the
fraternity, we shall not only expose ourselves, which is of little
consequence, but we shall expose truth itself, which is a serious
affair, to the attacks of Socialism.

To return: the conclusion of the Economists is for Liberty. But
in order that this conclusion should take hold of men’s minds and
hearts, it must be solidly based on this fundamental principle, that
interests, left to themselves, tend to harmonious combinations, and
to the progressive preponderance of the general good. [p038]

Now many Economists, some of them writers of authority, have advanced
propositions, which, step by step, lead logically to ‹absolute evil›,
necessary injustice, fatal and progressive inequality, and inevitable
pauperism, etc.

Thus, there are very few of them who, so far as I know, have not
attributed ‹value› to natural agents, to the gifts which God has
vouchsafed ‹gratuitously› to His creatures. The word ‹value› implies
that we do not give away the portion of it which we possess except
for an equivalent consideration. Here, then, we have men, especially
proprietors of land, bartering for effective labour the gifts of God,
and receiving recompense for utilities in the creation of which their
labour has had no share—an evident, but a necessary, injustice, say
these writers.

Then comes the famous theory of Ricardo, which may be summed up in a
few words: The price of the necessaries of life depends on the labour
required to produce them on the least productive land in cultivation.
Then the increase of population obliges us to have recourse to soils
of lower and lower fertility. Consequently mankind at large (all
except the landowners) are forced to give a larger and larger amount
of labour for the same amount of subsistence; or, what comes to the
same thing, to receive a less and less amount of subsistence for
the same amount of labour,—whilst the landowners see their rentals
swelling by every new descent to soils of an inferior quality.
Conclusion: Progressive opulence of men of leisure—progressive
poverty of men of labour; in other words, fatal inequality.

Finally, we have the still more celebrated theory of Malthus, that
population has a tendency to increase more rapidly than the means
of subsistence, and that at every given moment of the life of man.
Now, men cannot be happy, or live in peace, if they have not the
means of support; and there are but two obstacles to this increase
of population which is always threatening us, namely, a diminished
number of births, or an increase of mortality in all its dreadful
forms. Moral restraint, to be efficacious, must be universal, and
no one expects that. There remains, then, only the repressive
obstacles—vice, poverty, war, pestilence, famine; in other words,
pauperism and death.

I forbear to mention other systems of a less general bearing,
which tend in the same way to bring us to a dead-stand. Monsieur
de Tocqueville, for example, and many others, tell us, if we admit
the right of primogeniture, we arrive at the most concentrated
aristocracy—if we do not admit it, we arrive at ruin and sterility.

And it is worthy of remark, that these four melancholy theories do
not in the least decree run foul of each other. If they did, we might
console ourselves with the reflection that they are alike false,
since they refute each other. But no,—they are in unison, and make
part of one and the same general theory, which, supported by numerous
and specious facts, would seem to explain the spasmodic state of
modern society, and, fortified by the assent of many masters in the
science, presents itself with frightful authority to the mind of the
confused and discouraged inquirer.

We have still to discover how the authors of this melancholy theory
have been able to lay down, as their principle, the ‹harmony of
interests›, and, as their conclusion, Liberty.

For if mankind are indeed urged on by the laws of Value towards
Injustice,—by the laws of Rent towards Inequality,—by the laws of
Population towards Poverty,—by the laws of Inheritance towards
Sterility,—we can no longer affirm that God has made the moral as
He has made the natural world—a harmonious work; we must bow the
head and confess that it has pleased Him to base it on revolting and
irremediable dissonance.

You must not suppose, young men, that the Socialists have refuted
and repudiated what, in order to wound no one’s susceptibilities,
I shall call the theory of dissonances. No; let them say as they
will, they have assumed the truth of that theory, and it is just
because they have assumed its truth that they propose to substitute
Constraint for Liberty, artificial for natural organization, their
own inventions for the work of God. They say to their opponents (and
in this, perhaps, they are more consistent than the latter),—if, as
you have told us, human interests when left to themselves tend to
harmonious combination, we cannot do better than welcome and magnify
Liberty as you do. But you have demonstrated unanswerably that those
interests, if allowed to develop themselves freely, urge mankind
towards injustice, inequality, pauperism, and sterility. Your theory,
then, provokes reaction precisely because it is true. We desire to
break up the existing fabric of society just because it is subject to
the fatal laws which you have described; we wish to make trial of our
own powers, seeing that the power of God has miscarried.

Thus they are agreed as regards the premises, and differ only on the

The Economists to whom I have alluded say that ‹the great
providential laws urge on society to evil›; but that we must take
care not to disturb the action of those laws, because such action
is happily impeded by the secondary laws which retard the final
[p040] catastrophe; and arbitrary intervention can only enfeeble the
embankment, without stopping the fatal rising of the flood.

The Socialists say that ‹the great providential laws urge on society
to evil›; we must therefore abolish them, and select others from our
inexhaustible storehouse.

The Catholics say that ‹the great providential laws urge on society
to evil›; we must therefore escape from them by renouncing worldly
interests, and taking refuge in abnegation, sacrifice, asceticism,
and resignation.

It is in the midst of this tumult, of these cries of anguish and
distress, of these exhortations to subversion, or to resignation and
despair, that I endeavour to obtain a hearing for this assertion, in
presence of which, if it be correct, all difference of opinion must
disappear—‹it is not true that the great providential laws urge on
society to evil›.

It is with reference to the conclusions to be deduced from their
common premises that the various schools are divided and combat each
other. I deny those premises, and I ask, Is not that the best way of
putting an end to these disputes?

The leading idea of this work, the harmony of interests, is ‹simple›.
Is simplicity not the touchstone of truth? The laws of light,
of sound, of motion, appear to us to be all the truer for being
simple—Why should it be otherwise with the law of interests?

This idea is ‹conciliatory›. What is more fitted to reconcile parties
than to demonstrate the harmony of the various branches of industry:
the harmony of classes, of nations, even of doctrines?

It is ‹consoling›, seeing that it points out what is false in those
systems which adopt, as their conclusion, progressive evil.

It is ‹religious›, for it assures us that it is not only the
celestial but the social mechanism which reveals the wisdom of God,
and declares His glory.

It is ‹practical›, for one can scarcely conceive anything more easily
reduced to practice than this,—to allow men to labour, to exchange,
to learn, to associate, to act and react on each other,—for,
according to the laws of Providence, nothing can result from their
intelligent spontaneity but order, harmony, progress, good, and
better still; better ‹ad infinitum›.

Bravo, you will say; here we have the optimism of the Economists
with a vengeance! These Economists are so much the slaves of their
own systems that they shut their eyes to facts for fear of seeing
them. In the face of all the poverty, all the injustice, all the
oppressions which desolate humanity, they coolly deny the existence
of evil. The smell of revolutionary gunpowder does not [p041] reach
their blunted senses—the pavement of the barricades has no voice
for them; and were society to crumble to pieces before their eyes,
they would still keep repeating, “All is for the best in the best of

No indeed,—we do not think that all is for the best; but I have faith
in the wisdom of the laws of Providence, and for the same reason I
have faith in Liberty.

The question is, Have we Liberty?

The question is, Do these laws act in their plenitude, or is their
action not profoundly troubled by the countervailing action of human

Deny evil! deny suffering! Who can? We must forget that our subject
is man. We must forget that we are ourselves men. The laws of
Providence may be regarded as harmonious without their necessarily
excluding evil. Enough that evil has its explanation and its mission,
that it checks and limits itself, that it destroys itself by its
own action, and that each suffering prevents a greater suffering by
repressing the cause of suffering.

Society has for its element man, who is a ‹free› agent; and
since man is free, he may choose,—since he may choose, he may be
mistaken,—since he may be mistaken, he may suffer.

I go further. I say he must be mistaken and suffer—for he begins his
journey in ignorance, and for ignorance there are endless and unknown
roads, all of which, except one, lead to error.

Now, every Error engenders suffering; but either suffering reacts
upon the man who errs, and then it brings Responsibility into
play,—or, if it affects others who are free from error, it sets in
motion the marvellous reactionary machinery of Solidarity.

The action of these laws, combined with the faculty which has been
vouchsafed to us of connecting effects with their causes, must bring
us back, by means of this very suffering, into the way of what is
good and true.

Thus, not only do we not deny the existence of evil, but we
acknowledge that it has a mission in the social, as it has in the
material world.

But, in order that it should fulfil this mission, we must not stretch
Solidarity artificially, so as to destroy Responsibility,—in other
words, we must respect Liberty.

Should human institutions step in to oppose in this respect the
divine laws, evil would not the less flow from error, only it would
shift its position. It would strike those whom it ought not to
strike. It would be no longer a warning and a monitor. It would no
longer have the tendency to diminish and die away by its own [p042]
proper action. Its action would be continued, and increase, as would
happen in the physiological world if the imprudences and excesses of
the men of one hemisphere were felt in their unhappy effects only by
the inhabitants of the opposite hemisphere.

Now this is precisely the tendency not only of most of our
governmental institutions, but likewise, and above all, of those
which we seek to establish as remedies for the evils which we
suffer. Under the philanthropical pretext of developing among men
a factitious Solidarity, we render Responsibility more and more
inert and inefficacious. By an improper application of the public
force, we alter the relation of labour to its remuneration, we
disturb the laws of industry and of exchange, we offer violence to
the natural development of education, we give a wrong direction to
capital and labour, we twist and invert men’s ideas, we inflame
absurd pretensions, we dazzle with chimerical hopes, we occasion a
strange loss of human power, we change the centres of population, we
render experience itself useless,—in a word, we give to all interests
artificial foundations, we set them by the ears, and then we exclaim
that—Interests are antagonistic: Liberty has done all the evil,—let
us denounce and stifle Liberty.

And yet, as this sacred word has still power to stir men’s hearts
and make them palpitate, we despoil Liberty of its ‹prestige› by
depriving it of its name, and it is under the title of ‹Competition›
that the unhappy victim is led to the sacrificial altar, amid the
applause of a mob stretching forth their hands to receive the
shackles of servitude.

It is not enough, then, to exhibit, in their majestic harmony, the
natural laws of the social order; we must also explain the disturbing
causes which paralyze their action; and this is what I have
endeavoured to do in the second part of this work.

I have striven to avoid controversy; and, in doing so, I have no
doubt lost an opportunity of giving to the principles which I desire
to disseminate the stability which results from a thorough and
searching discussion. And yet, might not the attention of the reader,
seduced by digressions, have been diverted from the argument taken as
a whole? If I exhibit the edifice as it stands, what matters it in
what light it has been regarded by others, even by those who first
taught me to look at it?

And now I would appeal with confidence to men of all schools, who
prefer truth, justice, and the public good to their own systems.

Economists! like you, I am the advocate of «Liberty»; and if I
succeed in shaking some of those premises which sadden your generous
hearts, perhaps you will see in this an additional incentive to love
and to serve our sacred cause. [p043]

Socialists! you have faith in «Association». I conjure you,
after having read this book, to say whether society as it is now
constituted, apart from its abuses and shackles, that is to say,
under the condition of Liberty, is not the most beautiful, the most
complete, the most durable, the most universal, the most equitable,
of all Associations.

‹Egalitaires!› you admit but one principle, the «Mutuality of
Services». Let human transactions be free, and I assert that they
are not and cannot be anything else than a reciprocal exchange of
‹services›,—services always diminishing in ‹value›, always increasing
in ‹utility›.

Communists! you desire that men, become brothers, should enjoy in
common the goods which Providence has lavished on them. My aim is to
demonstrate that society as it exists has only to acquire freedom
in order to realize and surpass your wishes and your hopes. For all
things are common to all, on the single condition that each man takes
the trouble to gather what God has given, which is very natural; or
remunerate freely those who take that trouble for him, which is very

Christians of all communions! unless you stand alone in casting doubt
on the divine wisdom, manifested in the most magnificent of all God’s
works which have come within the range of our knowledge, you will
find in this book no expression which can shock the severest morals,
or the most mysterious dogmas of your faith.

Proprietors! whatever be the extent of your possessions, if I
establish that your rights, now so much contested, are limited, like
those of the most ordinary workman, to the receiving of services in
exchange for real and substantial services which have been actually
rendered by you, or by your forefathers, those rights will henceforth
repose on a basis which cannot lie shaken.

‹Prolétaires!› men who live by wages! I undertake to demonstrate that
you obtain the fruits of the land of which you are not the owners
with less pain and effort than if you were obliged to raise those
fruits by your own direct labour,—with less than if that land had
been given to you in its primitive state, and before being prepared
for cultivation by labour.

Capitalists and labourers! I believe myself in a position to
establish the law that, in proportion as capital is accumulated,
the ‹absolute› share of the total product falling to the capitalist
increases, and his ‹proportional› share is diminished; while both
the ‹absolute› and ‹relative› share of the product falling to the
labourer is augmented,—the reverse effects being produced when
capital is lessened or dissipated.[14] If this law be established,
the obvious deduction is, [p044] a harmony of interests between
labourers and those who employ them.

Disciples of Malthus! sincere and calumniated philanthropists, whose
only fault has been in warning mankind against the effects of a law
which you believe to be fatal, I shall have to submit to you another
law more reassuring:—“‹Cæteris paribus›, increasing density of
population is equivalent to increasing facility of production.” And
if it be so, I am certain it will not be you who will grieve to see a
stumbling-block removed from the threshold of our favourite science.

Men of spoliation! you who, by force or fraud, by law or in spite of
law, batten on the people’s substance; you, who live by the errors
you propagate, by the ignorance you cherish, by the wars you light
up, by the trammels with which you hamper trade; you who tax labour
after having rendered it unproductive, making it lose a sheaf for
every handful you yourselves pluck from it; you who cause yourselves
to be paid for creating obstacles, in order to get afterwards paid
for partially removing those obstacles; incarnations of egotism
in its worst sense; parasitical excrescences of a vicious policy,
prepare for the sharpest and most unsparing criticism. To you alone
I make no appeal, for the design of this book is to sacrifice
you, or rather to sacrifice your unjust pretensions. In vain we
cherish conciliation. There are two principles which can never be
reconciled—Liberty and Constraint.

If the laws of Providence are harmonious, it is when they act with
freedom, without which there is no harmony. Whenever, then, we remark
an absence of harmony, we may be sure that it proceeds from an
absence of liberty, an absence of justice. Oppressors, spoliators,
contemners of justice, you can have no part in the universal harmony,
for it is you who disturb it.

Do I mean to say that the effect of this work may be to enfeeble
power, to shake its stability, to diminish its authority? My design
is just the opposite. But let me not be misunderstood.

It is the business of political science to distinguish between what
ought and what ought not to fall under State control; and in making
this important distinction we must not forget that the State always
acts through the intervention of Force. The services which it renders
us, and the services which it exacts from us in return, are alike
imposed upon us under the name of contributions. [p045]

The question then comes back to this: What are the things which
men have a right to impose upon each other ‹by force›? Now, I know
but one thing in this situation, and that is ‹Justice›. I have no
right to ‹force› any one whatever to be religious, charitable, well
educated, or industrious; but I have a right to ‹force› him to be
‹just›,—this is a case of legitimate defence.

Now, individuals in the aggregate can possess no right which did
not pre-exist in individuals as such. If, then, the employment of
individual force is justified only by legitimate defence, the fact
that the action of government is always manifested by Force should
lead us to conclude that it is essentially limited to the maintenance
of order, security, and justice.

All action of governments beyond this limit is a usurpation upon
conscience, upon intelligence, upon industry; in a word, upon human

This being granted, we ought to set ourselves unceasingly and without
compunction to emancipate the entire domain of private enterprise
from the encroachments of power. Without this we shall not have
gained Freedom, or the free play of those laws of harmony which God
has provided for the development and progress of the human race.

Will Power by this means be enfeebled? Will it have lost in stability
because it has lost in extent? Will it have less authority because
it has fewer functions to discharge? Will it attract to itself less
respect because it calls forth fewer complaints? Will it be more
the sport of factions, when it has reduced those enormous budgets
and that coveted influence which are the baits and allurements
of faction? Will it encounter greater danger when it has less

To me it seems evident, that to confine public force to its one,
essential, undisputed, beneficent mission,—a mission desired and
accepted by all,—would be the surest way of securing to it respect
and universal support. In that case, I see not whence could
proceed systematic opposition, parliamentary struggles, street
insurrections, revolutions, sudden changes of fortune, factions,
illusions, the pretensions of all to govern under all forms, those
dangerous and absurd systems which teach the people to look to
government for everything, that compromising diplomacy, those wars
which are always in perspective, or armed truces which are nearly
as fatal, those crushing taxes which it is impossible to levy on
any equitable principle, that absorbing and unnatural mixing up of
politics with everything, those great artificial displacements of
capital and labour, which are the source of fruitless heartburnings,
fluctuations, stoppages, and commercial crises. All these causes of
trouble, of [p046] irritation, of disaffection, of covetousness,
and of disorder, and a thousand others, would no longer have any
foundation, and the depositaries of power, instead of disturbing,
would contribute to the universal harmony,—a harmony which does not
indeed exclude evil, but which leaves less and less room for those
ills which are inseparable from the ignorance and perversity of our
feeble nature, and whose mission it is to prevent or chastise that
ignorance and perversity.

Young men! in these days in which a grievous Scepticism would seem
to be at once the effect and the punishment of the anarchy of ideas
which prevails, I shall esteem myself happy if this work, as you
proceed in its perusal, should bring to your lips the consoling
words, «I believe»,—words of a sweet-smelling savour, which are at
once a refuge and a force, which are said to remove mountains, and
stand at the head of the Christian’s creed—I believe. “I believe,
not with a blind and submissive faith, for we are not concerned here
with the mysteries of revelation, but with a rational and scientific
faith, befitting things which are left to man’s investigation.—I
believe that He who has arranged the material universe has not
withheld His regards from the arrangements of the social world.—I
believe that He has combined, and caused to move in harmony, free
agents as well as inert molecules.—I believe that His overruling
Providence shines forth as strikingly, if not more so, in the laws
to which He has subjected men’s interests and men’s wills, as in the
laws which He has imposed on weight and velocity.—I believe that
everything in human society, even what is apparently injurious, is
the cause of improvement and of progress.—I believe that Evil tends
to Good, and calls it forth, whilst Good cannot tend to Evil; whence
it follows that Good must in the end predominate.—I believe that the
invincible social tendency is a constant approximation of men towards
a common moral, intellectual, and physical level, with, at the same
time, a progressive and indefinite elevation of that level.—I believe
that all that is necessary to the gradual and peaceful development
of humanity is that its tendencies should not be disturbed, but have
the liberty of their movements restored.—I believe these things, not
because I desire them, not because they satisfy my heart, but because
my judgment accords to them a deliberate assent.”

Ah! whenever you come to pronounce these words, «I believe», you will
be anxious to propagate your creed, and the social problem will soon
be resolved, for, let them say what they will, it is not of difficult
solution. Men’s interests are harmonious,—the solution, then, lies
entirely in this one word—«Liberty». [p047]



Is it quite certain that the mechanism of society, like the mechanism
of the heavenly bodies, or that of the human frame, is subject to
general laws? Does it form a harmoniously ‹organized› whole? Or
rather, do we not remark in it the absence of all ‹organization›? Is
not an ‹organization› the very thing which all men of heart and of
the future, all advanced publicists, all the pioneers of thought,
are in search of at the present day? Is society anything else than
a multitude of individuals placed in juxtaposition, acting without
concert, and given up to the movements of an anarchical liberty? Are
our countless masses, after having with difficulty recovered their
liberties one after the other, not now awaiting the advent of some
great genius to arrange them into a harmonious whole? Having pulled
down all, must we not now set about laying the foundation of a new

And yet, it may be asked, have these questions any other meaning than
this: Can society dispense with written laws, rules, and repressive
measures? Is every man to make an unlimited use of his faculties,
even when in so doing he strikes at the liberties of [p048] another,
or inflicts injury on society at large? In a word, must we recognise
in the maxim, ‹laissez faire, laissez passer›, the absolute formula
of political economy? If that were the question, no one could
hesitate about the solution. The economists do not say that a man may
kill, sack, burn, and that society has only to be quiescent,—‹laisser
faire›. They say that even in the absence of all law, society
would resist such acts; and that consequently such resistance is a
general law of humanity. They say that civil and penal laws must
regulate, and not counteract, those general laws the existence of
which ‹they presuppose›. There is a wide difference between a social
organization, founded on the general laws of human nature, and an
artificial organization, invented, imagined,—which takes no account
of these laws, or repudiates and despises them,—such an organization,
in short, as many modern schools would impose upon us.

For, if there be general laws which act independently of written
laws, and of which the latter can only regulate the action, we must
study these ‹general laws›. They can be made the object of a science,
and Political Economy exists. If, on the other hand, society is a
human invention, if men are regarded only as inert matter, to which a
great genius, like Rousseau, must impart sentiment and will, movement
and life, then there is no such science as Political Economy.
There are only an indefinite number of possible and contingent
arrangements, and the fate of nations must depend upon the ‹Founder›
to whom chance shall have committed their destinies.

In order to prove that society is subject to general laws, no
elaborate dissertation is necessary. All I shall do is to notice
certain facts, which, although trite, are not the less important.

Rousseau has said, ‹Il faut beaucoup de philosophie pour observer
les faits qui sont trop près de nous›—“Much philosophy is needed to
observe accurately things which are too near us.” And such are the
social phenomena in the midst of which we live and move. Habit has
so familiarized us with these phenomena that we cease to observe
them, unless something striking and exceptional forces them on our

Let us take, by way of illustration, a man in the humble walks of
life—a village carpenter, for instance,—and observe the various
services he renders to society, and receives from it; we shall not
fail to be struck with the enormous disproportion which is apparent.

This man employs his day’s labour in planing boards, and making
tables and chests of drawers. He complains of his condition; yet in
truth what does he receive from society in exchange for his work?

First of all, on getting up in the morning, he dresses himself; and
he has himself personally made none of the numerous articles of
which his clothing consists. Now, in order to put at his disposal
this clothing, simple as it is, an enormous amount of labour,
industry, and locomotion, and many ingenious inventions, must have
been employed. Americans must have produced cotton, Indians indigo,
Frenchmen wool and flax, Brazilians hides; and all these materials
must have been transported to various towns where they have been
worked up, spun, woven, dyed, etc.

Then he breakfasts. In order to procure him the bread which he eats
every morning, land must have been cleared, enclosed, laboured,
manured, sown; the fruits of the soil must have been preserved
with care from pillage, and security must have reigned among an
innumerable multitude of people; the wheat must have been cut down,
ground into flour, kneaded, and prepared; iron, steel, wood, stone,
must have been converted by industry into instruments of labour; some
men must have employed animal force, others water power, etc.; all
matters, of which each, taken singly, presupposes a mass of labour,
whether we have regard to space or time, of incalculable amount.

In the course of the day this man will have occasion to use sugar,
oil, and various other materials and utensils.

He sends his son to school, there to receive an education, which,
although limited, nevertheless implies anterior study and research,
and an extent of knowledge which startles the imagination.

He goes out. He finds the street paved and lighted.

A neighbour goes to law with him. He finds advocates to plead his
cause, judges to maintain his rights, officers of justice to put the
sentence in execution; all which implies acquired knowledge, and,
consequently, intelligence and means of subsistence.

He goes to church. It is a stupendous monument, and the book which
he carries thither is a monument perhaps still more stupendous, of
human intelligence. He is taught morals, he has his mind enlightened,
his soul elevated; and in order to this we must suppose that another
man had previously frequented schools and libraries, consulted all
the sources of human learning, and while so employed had been able to
live without occupying himself directly with the wants of the body.

If our artizan undertakes a journey, he finds that, in order to save
him time and exertion, other men have removed and levelled the soil,
filled up valleys, hewed down mountains, united the banks of rivers,
diminished friction, placed wheeled carriages on blocks [p050] of
sandstone or bands of iron, and brought the force of animals and the
power of steam into subjection to human wants.

It is impossible not to be struck with the measureless disproportion
which exists between the enjoyments which this man derives from
society and what he could obtain by his own unassisted exertions. I
venture to say that in a single day he consumes more than he could
himself produce in ten centuries.

What renders the phenomenon still more strange is, that all other men
are in the same situation. Every individual member of society has
absorbed millions of times more than he could himself produce; yet
there is no mutual robbery. And, if we regard things more nearly,
we perceive that the carpenter has paid, in services, for all the
services which others have rendered to him. If we bring the matter
to a strict reckoning, we shall be convinced that he has received
nothing which he has not paid for by means of his modest industry;
and that every one who, at whatever interval of time or space, has
been employed in his service has received, or will receive, his

The social mechanism, then, must be very ingenious and very powerful,
since it leads to this singular result, that each man, even he whose
lot is cast in the humblest condition, has more enjoyment in one day
than he could himself produce in many ages.

Nor is this all. The mechanism of society will appear still more
ingenious, if the reader will be pleased to turn his regards upon

I suppose him a plain student. What is his business in Paris? How
does he live? It cannot be disputed that society places at his
disposal food, clothing, lodging, amusements, books, means of
instruction, a multitude of things, in short, which would take a
long time not only to produce, but even to explain how they were
produced. And what services has this student rendered to society
in return for all these things which have exacted so much labour,
toil, fatigue, physical and intellectual effort, so many inventions,
transactions, and conveyances hither and thither? None at all. He is
only preparing to render services. Why, then, have so many millions
of men abandoned to him the fruits of their positive, effective,
and productive labour? Here is the explanation:—The father of this
student, who was a lawyer, perhaps, or a physician, or a merchant,
had formerly rendered services—it may be to society in China,—and
had been remunerated, not by immediate services, but by a ‹title› to
demand services, at the time, in the place and under the form that
might be most suitable and convenient to him. [p051] It is of these
past and distant services that society is now acquitting itself, and
(astonishing as it seems) if we follow in thought the infinite range
of transactions which must have had place in order to this result
being effected, we shall see that every one has been remunerated
for his labour and services; and that these ‹titles› have passed
from hand to hand, sometimes divided into parts, sometimes grouped
together, until, in the consumption of this student, the entire
account has been squared and balanced. Is not this a very remarkable

We should shut our eyes to the light of day, did we fail to perceive
that society could not present combinations so complicated, and in
which civil and penal laws have so little part, unless it obeyed
the laws of a mechanism wonderfully ingenious. The study of that
mechanism is the business of ‹Political Economy›.

Another thing worthy of observation is, that of the incalculable
number of transactions to which the student owed his daily
subsistence, there was not perhaps a millionth part which contributed
to it directly. The things of which he has now the enjoyment, and
which are innumerable, were produced by men the greater part of
whom have long since disappeared from the earth. And yet they were
remunerated as they expected to be, although he who now profits by
the fruits of their labours had done nothing for them. They knew him
not; they will never know him. He who reads this page, at the very
moment he is reading it, has the power, although perhaps he has no
consciousness of it, to put in motion men of every country, of all
races, I had almost said of all time—white, black, red, tawny—to
make bygone generations, and generations still unborn, contribute to
his present enjoyments; and he owes this extraordinary power to the
services which his father had formerly rendered to other men, who
apparently had nothing in common with those whose labour is now put
in requisition. Yet despite all differences of time and space, so
just and equitable a balance has been struck, that every one has been
remunerated, and has received exactly what he calculated he ought to

But, in truth, could all this have happened, and such phenomena been
witnessed, unless society had had a natural and wise ‹organization›,
which acts, as it were, unknown to us?

Much has been said in our day of inventing a new ‹organization›. Is
it quite certain, that any thinker, whatever genius we may attribute
to him, whatever power we may suppose him to possess, could imagine
and introduce an organization superior to that of which I have just
sketched some of the results? [p052]

But what would be thought of it if I described its machinery, its
springs, and its motive powers?

The machinery consists of men, that is to say, of beings capable of
learning, reflecting, reasoning, of being deceived and undeceived,
and consequently of contributing to the amelioration or deterioration
of the mechanism itself. They are capable of pleasure and pain; and
it is that which makes them not only the wheels but the springs of
the mechanism. They are also the motive power; for it is in them that
the active principle resides. More than that, they are themselves the
very end and object of the mechanism, since it is into individual
pains and enjoyments that the whole definitely resolves itself.

Now it has been remarked, and it is unhappily obvious enough, that
in the action, the development, and even the progress (by those who
acknowledge progress) of this powerful mechanism, many of the wheels
have been inevitably, fatally injured; and that, as regards a great
number of human beings, the sum of unmerited suffering surpasses by
much the sum of enjoyment.

This view of the subject has led many candid minds, many generous
hearts, to suspect the mechanism itself. They have repudiated it,
they have refused to study it, they have attacked, often with
passion, those who have investigated and explained its laws. They
have risen against the nature of things, and at length they have
proposed to ‹organize› society upon a new plan, in which injustice
and suffering and error shall have no place.

God forbid that I should set myself against intentions manifestly
pure and philanthropical! But I should desert my principles, and do
violence to the dictates of my own conscience, did I not declare that
these men are in my opinion upon a wrong path.

In the first place, they are reduced, by the very nature of their
propagandism, to the melancholy necessity of disowning the good which
society develops, of denying its progress, of imputing to it all
sufferings, of hunting after these with avidity, and exaggerating
them beyond measure.

When a man believes that he has discovered a social organization
different from that which results from the ordinary tendencies of
human nature, it is quite necessary, in order to obtain acceptance
for his invention, to paint the organization he wishes to abolish
in the most sombre colours. Thus the publicists to whom I am
alluding, after having proclaimed enthusiastically, and perhaps
with exaggeration, the perfectibility of man, fall into the strange
contradiction of maintaining that society is becoming more [p053]
and more deteriorated. According to them, men are a thousand times
more unhappy than they were in ancient times under the feudal
‹régime›, and the yoke of slavery. The world is become a hell. Were
it possible to conjure up the Paris of the tenth century, I venture
to think that such a thesis would be found untenable.

Then they are led to condemn the very mainspring of human action—I
mean a regard to ‹personal interest›, because it has brought about
such a state of things. Let us remark that man is so organized
as to seek for enjoyment and avoid suffering. From this source I
allow that all social evils take their rise—war, slavery, monopoly,
privilege; but from the same source springs all that is good, since
the satisfaction of wants and repugnance to suffering are the motives
of human action. The business then is to discover whether this
incitement to action, by its universality—from individual becoming
social—is not in itself a principle of progress.

At all events, do the inventors of new organizations not perceive
that this principle, inherent in the very nature of man, will follow
them into their systems, and that there it will make greater havoc
than in our natural organization, in which the interest and unjust
pretensions of one are at least restrained by the resistance of
all? These writers always make two inadmissible suppositions—the
first is, that society, such as they conceive it, will be directed
by infallible men denuded of this motive of self-interest; and,
secondly, that the masses will allow themselves to be directed by
these men.

Finally, these system-makers appear to give themselves no trouble
about the means of execution. How are they to establish their system?
How are they to induce all mankind at once to give up the principle
upon which they now act—the attraction of enjoyment, and the
repugnance to pain? It would be necessary, as Rousseau has said, ‹to
change the moral and physical constitution of man›.

In order to induce men at once to throw aside, as a worn-out garment,
the existing social order in which the human race has lived and been
developed from the beginning to our day, to adopt an organization of
human invention and become docile parts of another mechanism, there
are, it seems to me, only two means which can be employed—Force, or
Universal Consent.

The founder of the new system must have at his disposal a force
capable of overcoming all resistance, so that humanity shall be in
his hands only as so much melting wax to be moulded and [p054]
fashioned at his pleasure—or he must obtain by persuasion an assent
so complete, so exclusive, so blind even, as to render unnecessary
the employment of force.

I defy any one to point out to me a third means of establishing or
introducing into human practice a ‹Phalanstère›,[16] or any other
artificial social organization.

Now, if there be only two assumed means, and if we have demonstrated
that the one is as impracticable as the other, we have proved that
these system-makers are losing both their time and their trouble.

As regards the disposal of a material force which should subject
to them all the kings and peoples of the earth, this is what these
dotards, senile as they are, have never dreamt of. King Alphonsus
had presumption and folly enough to exclaim, that “If he had been
taken into God’s counsels, the planetary system should have been
better arranged.” But although he set his ‹wisdom› above that of the
Creator, he was not mad enough to wish to struggle with the ‹power›
of Omnipotence, and history does not tell us that he ever actually
tried to make the stars turn according to the laws of his invention.
Descartes likewise contented himself with constructing a tiny world
with dice and strings, knowing well that he was not ‹strong› enough
to remove the universe. We know no one but Xerxes who, in the
intoxication of his power, dared to say to the waves, “Thus far shall
ye come, and no farther.” The billows did not recede before Xerxes,
but Xerxes retreated before the billows; and without this humiliating
but wise precaution he would certainly have been drowned.

Force, then, is wanting to the organizers who would subject humanity
to their experiments. When they shall have gained over to their cause
the Russian autocrat, the shah of Persia, the khan of Tartary, and
all the other tyrants of the world, they will find that they still
want the power to distribute mankind into groups and classes, and
to annihilate the general laws of property, exchange, inheritance,
and family; for even in Russia, in Persia, and in Tartary, it is
necessary to a certain extent to consult the feelings, habits, and
prejudices of the people. Were the emperor of Russia to take it into
his head to set about ‹altering the moral and physical constitution
of his subjects›, it is probable that he would soon have a successor,
and that his successor would be better advised than to pursue the

But since ‹force› is a means quite beyond the reach of our [p055]
numerous system-makers, no other resource remains to them but to
obtain ‹universal consent›.

There are two modes of obtaining this—namely, Persuasion and

Persuasion! but have we ever found two minds in perfect accord upon
all the points of a single science? How then are we to expect men
of various tongues, races, and manners, spread over the surface
of the globe, most of them unable to read, and destined to die
without having even heard the name of the ‹reformer›, to accept
with unanimity the universal science? What is it that you aim at?
At changing the whole system of labour, exchanges, and social
relations, domestic, civil, and religious; in a word, at altering
the whole physical and moral constitution of man; and you hope to
rally mankind, and bring them all under this new order of things, by

Verily you undertake no light or easy duty.

When a man has got the length of saying to his fellows:

“For the last five thousand years there has been a misunderstanding
between God and man;

“From the days of Adam to our time, the human race have been upon
a wrong course—and, if only a little confidence is placed in me. I
shall soon bring them back to the right way;

“God desired mankind to pursue a different road altogether, but they
have taken their own way, and hence evil has been introduced into
the world. Let them turn round at my call, and take an opposite
direction, and universal happiness will then prevail.”

When a man sets out in this style it is much if he is believed by
five or six adepts; but between that and being believed by one
thousand millions of men the distance is great indeed.

And then, remember that the number of social inventions is as vast as
the domain of the imagination itself; that there is not a publicist
or writer on social economy who, after shutting himself up for a
few hours in his library, does not come forth with a ready-made
plan of artificial organization in his hand; that the inventions of
Fourier, Saint Simon, Owen, Cabet, Blanc, etc., have no resemblance
whatever to each other; that every day brings to light a new scheme;
and that people are entitled to have some little time given them
for reflection before they are called upon to reject the social
organization which God has vouchsafed them, and to make a definite
and irrevocable choice among so many newly invented systems. For what
would happen if, after having selected one of these plans, a better
should present itself! Can the institutions [p056] of property,
family, labour, exchange, be placed every day upon a new basis? Are
we to be forced to change the organization of society every morning?

“Thus, then,” says Rousseau, “the legislator being able to employ
effectively neither force nor persuasion, he is under the necessity
of having recourse to an authority of another kind, which carries us
along without violence, and persuades without convincing us.”

What is that authority? Imposture. Rousseau dares not give utterance
to the word, but, according to his invariable practice in such a
case, he places it behind the transparent veil of an eloquent tirade.

“This is the reason,” says he, “which in all ages has forced the
Fathers of nations to have recourse to the intervention of heaven,
and to give the credit of their own wisdom to the gods, in order
that the people, submitting to the laws of the state as to those ‹of
nature›, and acknowledging the same power in the formation of man
and of the commonwealth, should obey ‹freely› and bear willingly the
yoke of the public felicity. This ‹sublime› reason, which is above
the reach of vulgar souls, is that ‹whose decisions the legislator
puts into the mouth of the immortals›, in order to ‹carry along› by
divine authority those who cannot be moved by considerations of human
prudence. But it is not for every man to make ‹the gods› speak,” etc.

And in order that there may be no mistake, he cites Machiavel, and
allows him to complete the idea: “Mai non fu alcuno ordinatore de
leggi «STRAORDINARIE» in un popolo che non ricorresse a Dio.”

But why does Machiavel counsel us to have recourse to ‹God›, and
Rousseau to ‹the gods›, to the ‹immortals›? The reader can answer
that question for himself.

I do not indeed accuse the modern ‹Fathers of nations› of making
use of these unworthy deceptions. But when we place ourselves in
their point of view, we see that they readily allow themselves to
be hurried along by the desire of success. When an earnest and
philanthropical man is deeply convinced that he possesses a social
secret by means of which all his fellow-men may enjoy in this world
unlimited happiness,—when he sees clearly that he can practically
establish that idea neither by force nor by reasoning, and that
deception is his only resource, he is laid under a very strong
temptation. We know that the ministers of religion themselves, who
profess the greatest horror of untruth, have not rejected ‹pious
frauds›; and we see by the example of Rousseau [p057] (that
austere writer, who has inscribed at the head of all his works the
motto, ‹Vitam impendere vero›), that even a proud philosophy can
allow itself to be seduced by the attraction of a very different
maxim, namely, ‹The end justifies the means›. Why then should we be
surprised that modern ‹organisateurs› should think also “‹to place
their own wisdom to the credit of the gods, to put their decisions in
the mouths of the immortals, hurrying us along without violence and
persuading without convincing us›!”

We know that, after the example of Moses, Fourier has preceded his
Deuteronomy by a Genesis. Saint Simon and his disciples had gone
still farther in their apostolic senilities. Others, more discreet,
attached themselves to a latitudinarian faith, modified to suit their
views, under the name of ‹néochristianisme›; and every one must be
struck with the tone of mystic affectation which nearly all our
modern reformers have introduced into their sermons.

Efforts of this kind have served only to prove one thing, and it is
not unimportant—namely, that in our days the man is not always a
prophet who wishes to be one. In vain he proclaims himself a god; he
is believed by no one; neither by the public, nor by his compeers,
nor by himself.

Since I have spoken of Rousseau, I may be permitted to make here some
observations on that manufacturer of systems, inasmuch as they will
serve to point out the distinctions between artificial and natural
organization. This digression, besides, is not out of place, as the
‹Contrat Social› has again for some time been held forth as the
oracle of the future.

Rousseau was convinced that ‹isolation› was man’s ‹natural state›,
and, consequently, that ‹society› was a human invention. “‹The social
order›,” he says in the outset, “‹comes not from nature›, and is
therefore founded on convention.”

This philosopher, although a passionate lover of liberty, had a very
low opinion of men. He believed them to be quite incapable of forming
for themselves good institutions. The intervention of a founder, a
legislator, a father of nations, was therefore indispensable.

“A people subjected to laws,” says he, “should be the authors
of them. It belongs alone to those who associate to adjust the
conditions of their association; but how are they to regulate them?
By common consent, or by sudden inspiration? How should a blind
multitude, who frequently know not what they want, because they
rarely know what is good for them, accomplish of themselves an
enterprise so great and so difficult as the formation of a system
[p058] of laws? . . . Individuals perceive what is good, and reject
it—the public wishes for what is good, but cannot discover it:—all
are equally in want of guides. . . . Hence the necessity of a

That legislator, as we have already seen, “not being able to employ
force or reason, is under the necessity of having recourse to an
authority of another kind;” that is to say, in plain terms, to

It is impossible to give an idea of the immense height at which
Rousseau places his legislator above other men:

“Gods would be necessary in order to give laws to men. . . . He who
dares to found a nation must feel himself in a condition to change
human nature, so to speak, . . . to alter the constitution of man in
order to strengthen it. . . . He must take from man his own force, in
order to give him that which is foreign to him. . . . The lawgiver
is in all respects an extraordinary man in the state, . . . his
employment is a peculiar and superior function which has nothing in
common with ordinary government. . . . If it be true that a great
prince is a rare character, what must a great lawgiver be? The first
has only to follow the model which the other is to propose to him.
The one is the mechanician who invents the machine—the other merely
puts it together and sets it in motion.”

And what is the part assigned to human nature in all this? It is but
the base material of which the machine is composed.

In sober reality, is this anything else than pride elevated to
madness? Men are the materials of a machine, which the prince, the
ruling power, sets in motion. The lawgiver proposes the model.
The philosopher governs the lawgiver, placing himself thus at an
immeasurable distance above the vulgar herd, above the ruler, above
the lawgiver himself. He soars far above the human race, actuates it,
transforms it, moulds it, or rather he teaches the Fathers of nations
how they are to do all this.

But the founder of a nation must propose to himself a design. He has
his human material to set in motion, and he must direct its movements
to a definite result. As the people are deprived of the initiative,
and all depends upon the legislator, he must decide whether the
nation is to be commercial or agricultural, or a barbarous race
of hunters and fishers; but it is desirable at the same time that
the legislator should not himself be mistaken, and so do too much
violence to the nature of things.

Men in ‹agreeing› to enter into an association, or rather in
associating under the fiat of a lawgiver, have a precise and definite
design. “Thus,” says Rousseau, “the Hebrews, and, more recently, the
Arabs, had for their principal object religion; the [p059] Athenians,
letters; Carthage and Tyre, commerce; Rhodes, navigation; Sparta,
war; and Rome, virtue.”

What object is to determine us Frenchmen to leave the state of
isolation and of nature, in order to form a society? Or rather—as we
are only so much inert matter—the materials of a machine,—towards
what object shall our great founder direct us?

Following the ideas of Rousseau, there could be but little room for
learning, commerce, or navigation. War is a nobler object, and virtue
still more so. But there is another, the noblest of all: “The end of
every system of legislation is ‹liberty and equality›.”

But we must first of all discover what Rousseau understands by
liberty. To enjoy liberty, according to him, is not to be free,
but to ‹exercise the suffrage›, when we are “borne along without
violence, and persuaded without being convinced;” for then “we obey
with freedom, and bear willingly the yoke of the public felicity.”

“Among the Greeks,” he says, “all that the people had to do they did
for themselves, they were constantly assembled in the market-place;
they inhabited a genial climate; they were not avaricious; ‹slaves
did all their work; their grand concern was their liberty›.”

“The English people,” he remarks in another place, “believe
themselves free,—they are much mistaken. They are so only during the
election of their members of parliament; the moment the election is
over, they are slaves—they are nothing.”

The people, if they will be free, must, then, themselves perform all
duties in connexion with the public service, for it is in that that
liberty consists. They must be always voting and electing, always in
the market-place. Woe to him who takes it into his head to work for
his living! the moment a citizen begins to mind his own affairs, that
instant (to use Rousseau’s favourite phrase) ‹tout est perdu›—all is
over with him.

And yet the difficulty is by no means trifling. How are we to manage?
for, after all, before we can either practise virtue, or exercise
liberty, we must have the means of living.

We have already remarked the rhetorical veil under which Rousseau
conceals the word ‹Imposture›. We shall now see how, by another dash
of eloquence, he evades the conclusion of his whole work, which is

“Your ungenial climate entails upon you additional wants. For six
months of the year you cannot frequent the market-place, your hoarse
voices cannot make themselves audible in the open air, and you fear
poverty more than slavery.”

“You see clearly that you cannot be free.” [p060]

“What! liberty maintain itself only by the aid of servitude? Very

Had Rousseau stopt short at this dreadful word, the reader would have
been shocked. It was necessary therefore to have recourse to imposing
declamation, and Rousseau never fails in that.

“All things that are unnatural (it is society he is speaking of) are
inconvenient, and civil society more so than all the rest. There are
unfortunate situations in which one man cannot maintain his liberty
but at the expense of another, and where the citizen cannot be
entirely free unless the rigours of slavery are extreme. As for you,
modern people, you have no slavery, but you are yourselves slaves.
You purchase other men’s liberty with your own. In vain you boast of
this advantage. I see in it rather cowardice than humanity.”

I ask, does not this mean: Modern people, you would do infinitely
better not to be slaves, but to possess slaves?

I trust the reader will have the goodness to pardon this long
digression, which is by no means useless or inopportune. Rousseau
and his disciples of the Convention have been held up to us of late
as the apostles of human fraternity. Men for materials, a ruler
for mechanician, a father of nations for inventor, a philosopher
above them all—imposture for means, slavery for result,—is this the
fraternity which is promised us?

This work of Rousseau to which I have referred—the ‹Contrat
Social›—appears to me well fitted to exhibit the characteristics of
these artificial social organizations. The inventors of such systems
set out with the idea that society is a state contrary to nature,
and they seek to subject humanity to different combinations. They
forget that its motive power, its spring of action, is in itself.
They regard men as base materials, and aspire to impart to them
movement and will, sentiment and life; placing themselves at an
immeasurable height above the whole human race. These are features
common to all the inventors of social organizations. The inventions
are different—the inventors are alike.

Among the new arrangements which feeble mortals are invited to make
trial of, there is one which is presented to us in terms worthy of
attention. Its formula is: ‹Association voluntary and progressive›.

But ‹Political Economy› is founded exactly on the datum, that
‹society› is nothing else than ‹association› (such as the above three
words describe it)—association, very imperfect at first, because
man is imperfect; but improving as man improves, that is to say,
‹progressive›. [p061]

Is your object to effect a more intimate association between labour,
capital, and talent, insuring thereby to the members of the human
family a greater amount of material enjoyment—enjoyment more equally
distributed? If such associations are ‹voluntary›; if force and
constraint do not intervene; if the cost is defrayed by those who
enter these associations, without drawing upon those who refuse
to enter them, in what respect are they repugnant to Political
Economy? Is it not the business of Political Economy, as a science,
to examine the various forms in which men may unite their powers,
and divide their employments, with a view to greater and more widely
diffused prosperity? Does trade not frequently afford us examples
of two, three, or four persons uniting to form such associations?
Is ‹Métayage›[17] not a sort of informal association of capital
and labour? Have we not in recent times seen joint stock companies
formed which afford to the smallest capitals the opportunity of
taking part in the most extensive enterprizes? Have we not certain
manufactures in which it is sought to give the labourers an interest
in the profits? Does Political Economy condemn those efforts of men
to make their industry more productive and profitable? Does she
affirm anywhere that human nature has reached perfection? Quite the
contrary. I believe that there is no science which demonstrates more
clearly that society is still in its infancy.

But whatever hopes we may entertain as to the future, whatever
ideas we may conceive as to the measures that men may adopt for
the improvement of their mutual relations, and the diffusion of
happiness, knowledge, and morality, we must never forget that society
is an organization which has for its element a moral and intelligent
agent, endued with free will, and susceptible of improvement. If you
take away Liberty from man, he becomes nothing else than a rude and
wretched machine.

Liberty would seem not to be wanted in our days. In France, the
privileged land of fashion, freedom appears to be no longer in
repute. For myself, I say that he who rejects liberty has no faith
in human nature. Of late the distressing discovery seems to have
been made that liberty leads inevitably to monopoly.[18] This
monstrous union, this unnatural conjunction, does not exist; it is
the imaginary fruit of an error which the light of Political Economy
speedily [p062] dissipates. Freedom engender monopoly! Oppression
the offspring of liberty! To affirm this is to affirm that the
tendencies of human nature are radically bad—bad in themselves, in
their nature, in their essence. It is to affirm that the natural
bent of man is to deterioration; that the human mind is irresistibly
attracted towards error. To what end, then, our schools, our
studies, our inquiries, our discussions, unless to accelerate our
progress towards that fatal descent; since to teach men to judge, to
distinguish, to select, is only to teach them to commit suicide? And
if the tendencies of human nature are essentially perverse, where
are the organizers of new social systems to place the fulcrum of
that lever by which they hope to effect their changes? It must be
somewhere beyond the limits of the present domain of humanity. Do
they search for it in themselves—in their own minds and hearts? They
are not gods yet; they are men, and tending, consequently, along with
the whole human race, towards the fatal abyss. Shall they invoke the
intervention of the state? The state also is composed of men. They
must therefore prove that they form a distinct class, for whom the
general laws of society are not intended, since it is their province
to make these laws. Unless this be proved the difficulty is not
removed, it is not even diminished.

Let us not thus condemn human nature before studying its laws, its
forces, its energies, its tendencies. Newton, after he discovered
attraction, never pronounced the name of God without uncovering his
head. Yet the celestial mechanism is subject to laws of which it has
no consciousness; and the social world is as much superior to that
which called forth the admiration of Newton as mind is superior to
matter. How much more reason, then, have we to bow before Omniscience
when we behold the social mechanism, which universal intelligence no
less pervades (‹mens agitat molem›); and which presents, moreover,
this extraordinary phenomenon, that every atom of which it is
composed is an animated thinking being, endued with marvellous
energy, and with that principle of all morality, all dignity, all
progress, the exclusive attribute of man—«Liberty». [p063]


What a profoundly afflicting spectacle France presents to us!

It would be difficult to say if anarchy has passed from ideas to
facts, or from facts to ideas, but it is certain that it pervades
all, and abounds everywhere.

The poor rise up against the rich, men without fortune or profession
against property; the populace against the bourgeoisie; labour
against capital; agriculture against manufactures; the country
against the town; the provinces against the metropolis; the denizen
against the stranger.

And theorists step in, and form a system of this antagonism. “It is
the ‹inevitable› result, they say, of the nature of things, that
is to say, of Liberty. Man is endued with ‹self-love›, and hence
comes all the evil; for since he is endued with self-love, he seeks
to better his own condition, and he can only do so by entailing
misery on his brethren. Let us hinder him, then, from following his
inclinations; let us stifle his liberty, change the human heart,
substitute other motives for those which God has placed there: let us
invent and constitute an artificial society!”

When they have got this length, an unlimited career opens itself to
their reason or imagination. If they are possessed of a disputatious
turn and a peevish temper, they enter with eagerness into an
analysis of Evil. They dissect it, they put it in the crucible,
they interrogate it, they remount to its causes, they pursue it
to its consequences; and, as by reason of our native imperfection
there is nothing in which Evil is not present, they asperse and
disparage everything. They exhibit to us Property, Family, Capital,
Labour, Competition, Liberty, Personal Interest, only in one of
their aspects, and always on the dark side, the side which injures
or [p064] destroys. Their lectures on the natural history of man
are, if I may use the expression, clinical lectures—the subject is
always on his deathbed. They impiously defy God to reconcile what is
said of His infinite goodness with the existence of evil. They stain
and sully everything; they disgust us with everything; they dispute
everything; and yet they obtain only a melancholy and dangerous
success with those classes whom suffering disposes but too much to

If, on the other hand, such theorists have a heart open to
benevolence, a mind which is pleased with illusions, they rush to the
region of chimeras. They dream of an Oceania, an Atlantis, a Salente,
a Spensonie, an Icarie, a Utopia, a Phalanstère,[20] and they
people these imaginary regions with a docile, loving, devoted race
who always avoid setting themselves up against the fancies of the
dreamer. He installs himself complacently in the seat of Providence.
He arranges, he disposes, he moulds men after his own fancy. Nothing
stops him. He never encounters deceit. He resembles the Roman
preacher, who, after having transformed his square cap into Rousseau,
refuted warmly the ‹Contrat Social›, and triumphantly reduced his
adversary to silence. It is thus that our Reformers dazzle those who
suffer by means of seductive pictures of ideal felicity, well fitted
to disgust them with the hard necessities of real life.

The theorist, however, rarely confines himself to such innocent
chimeras. The moment he aims at leading mankind, he finds the
people impatient of attempted transformations. Men resist, they get
angry. In order to gain them over, he harangues them not only on
the happiness they reject, but more especially on the evils from
which he professes to deliver them. He finds it impossible to make
too striking a picture. He is continually charging his palette and
deepening his colours. He hunts out the evils of existing society
with as much zeal as another employs in discovering the good. He sees
nothing but sufferings, rags, leanness, starvation, pain, oppression.
He is enraged that society has not a deeper sense of its misery. He
neglects no means of making it throw off its insensibility, and,
having begun with benevolence, he ends with misanthropy.[21]

God forbid that I should call in question the sincerity of any one.
But, in truth, I cannot explain to myself how these writers, [p065]
who see a radical antagonism in the natural order of things, can
ever taste a moment’s calm or repose. Discouragement and despair
would seem to be their unhappy portion. For, to sum up all, if
nature is mistaken in making ‹personal interest› the mainspring of
human society (and the mistake is manifest if it be admitted that
the interests of society are fatally antagonistic), how do they not
perceive that the evil is without remedy? Being men ourselves, and
being able to have recourse only to men, where can be our ‹point
d’appui› for changing the tendencies of human nature? Shall we invoke
the Police, the Magistracy, the State, the Legislature? That would
only be to invoke men, that is to say, beings subject to the common
infirmity. Shall we address ourselves to Universal Suffrage? That
would be to give the freest course to the universal tendency.

Only one expedient remains to these gentlemen. It is to hold
themselves out as discoverers, as prophets, made of different
clay from their fellow-men, and deriving their inspiration from a
different source. This is the reason, no doubt, why we find them so
frequently enveloping their systems and their councils in a mystic
phraseology. But if they are ambassadors of God, let them exhibit
their credentials. In effect, what they demand is sovereign power,
despotism the most absolute that ever existed. They not only wish to
govern our acts, but to revolutionize our thoughts. Do they hope that
mankind will believe them on their word, when they are not able to
agree among themselves?

But before even examining their projects of artificial societies, is
there not one point upon which it is necessary to assure ourselves,
namely, whether they are not mistaken in the very foundation of their
argument? Is it quite certain that «MEN’S INTERESTS ARE NATURALLY
ANTAGONISTIC»; that an irremediable cause of inequality is fatally
developed in the natural order of human society under the influence
of personal interest, and that Providence is manifestly in error
in ordaining that the progress of man should be towards ease and

This is what I propose to inquire into.

Taking man as it has pleased God to constitute him, capable of
foresight and experience, perfectible, endued with self-love, it
is true,—but self-love qualified by the sympathetic principle, and
at all events restrained and balanced by encountering an analogous
sentiment universally prevailing in the medium in which it acts,—I
proceed to inquire what social order must necessarily result from the
combination and free play of such elements.

If we find that this result is nothing else than a progressive
[p066] march towards prosperity, improvement, and equality,—a
sustained approximation of all classes towards the same physical,
intellectual, and moral level, accompanied by a constant elevation
of that level, the ways of God to man will be vindicated. We shall
learn with delight that there is no gap, no blank, in creation, and
that the social order, like everything else, attests the existence of
those ‹harmonic laws› before which Newton bowed his head, and which
elicited from the Psalmist the exclamation, “‹The heavens declare the
glory of God.›”

Rousseau has said, “If I were a prince or a legislator, I should not
lose my time in pointing out what was necessary to be done—I should
do it or hold my tongue.”

I am not a ‹prince›, but the confidence of my fellow-citizens has
made me a ‹legislator›. Perhaps they will tell me that this is the
time for me to act and not to write.

Let them pardon me. Whether it be truth itself which urges me on, or
that I am the dupe of an illusion. I have never ceased to feel the
want of concentrating those ideas which have hitherto failed to find
acceptance when presented in detached portions. I think I discover
in the play of the natural laws of society sublime and consoling
‹harmonies›. What I see, or think I see, ought I not to try to
exhibit to others, in order to rally round a sentiment of concord
and fraternity many unsettled minds, many imbittered hearts? If,
when the much-loved vessel of the state is beat by the tempest, I
sometimes appear to absent myself from my post, in order to collect
my scattered thoughts, it is because I feel my feeble hands unfitted
for the work. Is it, besides, to betray my mission, to reflect upon
the causes of the tempest itself, and endeavour to act upon these
causes? And then, what I find I cannot do to-day, who knows but it
may be given me to accomplish to-morrow?

I shall begin by establishing some Economical ideas. Availing myself
of the works of my predecessors, I shall endeavour to sum up the
science in one principle—true, simple, and prolific—of which we have
had a glimpse from the beginning, to which we are constantly drawing
nearer and nearer, and of which, perhaps, the time is now come to fix
the formula. By the light thus afforded, I shall afterwards essay
the solution of some yet disputed problems—Competition, Machinery,
Foreign trade, Luxury, Capital, Rent, etc. I shall note some of
the relations, or, I should rather say, the harmonies of Political
Economy, with the other moral and social sciences, glancing at
the important subjects indicated by the terms—Personal Interest,
Property, Community, Liberty, [p067] Equality, Responsibility,
Solidarity, Fraternity, Unity. Last of all, I shall invite attention
to the artificial obstacles which the pacific, regular, and
progressive development of human society encounters. From these two
ideas—Natural harmonic Laws—Artificial disturbing Causes—will be
deduced the solution of the Social Problem.

It is easy to see that there are two rocks ahead upon which this
undertaking may founder. In the middle of the vortex in which we are
carried along, if this work is abstruse, it will not be read; if it
obtains readers, the questions of which it treats will be but glanced
at. How are we to reconcile the exactions of the reader with the
requirements of science? To satisfy all conditions both in form and
substance, each word would require to be weighed, and have its proper
place assigned to it. It is thus that the crystal is formed drop by
drop in silence and obscurity. Retirement, quiet, time, freedom from
care—all are wanting to me—and I am forced to trust to the sagacity
of the public, and throw myself on its indulgence.

The subject of Political Economy is Man.

But it does not embrace the whole range of human affairs. The science
of morals has appropriated all that comes within the attractive
regions of Sympathy—the religious sentiment, paternal and maternal
tenderness, filial piety, love, friendship, patriotism, charity,
politeness. To Political Economy is left only the cold domain of
Personal interest. This is unjustly forgotten when Economical science
is reproached with wanting the charm and unction of morals. How can
it be otherwise? Dispute its right to existence as a science, but
don’t force it to counterfeit what it is not, and cannot be. If human
transactions which have wealth for their object are vast enough,
complicated enough, to afford materials for a special science, leave
to it its own attractions, such as they are, and don’t force it
to speak of men’s Interests in the language of Sentiment. For my
own part, I believe that little good has been effected of late in
exacting from writers on Political Economy a tone of enthusiastic
sentimentality which in their mouth can only be declamation. Of what
do they treat? Of transactions which take place between people who
know nothing of each other, who owe each other nothing but common
Justice, who seek to defend or advance certain interests. It has to
do with claims and pretensions which limit and restrain each other,
and with which disinterestedness and devotion have nothing to do.
Take a lyre, and chant such themes! As well might Lamartine sing his
odes with the aid of the logarithm tables. [p068]

Not that Political Economy is without its poetry. There is poetry
wherever order and harmony exist. But it is in the results, not in
the demonstrations. It is brought out, not created. Kepler did not
give himself out as a poet, and yet the laws which he discovered are
the true poetry of mind.

Thus, Political Economy regards man only in one aspect, and our first
care must be to study man in that point of view. This is the reason
why we cannot avoid going back to the primary phenomena of human
‹Sensibility› and ‹Activity›. Start not, gentle reader! We shall not
detain you long in those cloudy regions of metaphysics, and we shall
borrow from that science only such notions as are clear, simple, and,
if possible, incontestable.

The soul, or (to get rid of the spiritual question) man, is endued
with ‹Sensibility›. Let this sensibility be either in the soul or in
the body, man, as a ‹passive› being, always experiences ‹sensations›
either painful or agreeable. As an ‹active› being, he makes an effort
to drive away the one set of sensations and to multiply the other.
The result, which affects him again as a ‹passive› being, may be
called ‹Satisfaction›.

The general idea of ‹Sensibility› springs from other ideas which are
more precise: pain, want, desire, taste, appetite, on one side; and,
on the other, pleasure, enjoyment, competence.

Between these two extremes a middle term is interposed, and from the
general idea of ‹Activity› spring the more precise ideas of pain,
effort, fatigue, labour, production.

In analyzing ‹Sensibility› and ‹Activity› we encounter a word common
to both; the word ‹Pain›. To experience certain sensations is a
‹pain›, and we cannot put an end to it but by an effort, which is
also a ‹pain›. We ‹feel pains›; we ‹take pains›. This advertises us
that here below we have only a choice of evils.

In the aggregate of these phenomena all is ‹personal›, as well the
Sensation which precedes the effort, as the Satisfaction which
follows it.

We cannot doubt, then, that ‹Personal interest› is the great
mainspring of human nature. It must be perfectly understood, however,
that this term is here employed as the expression of a universal
fact, incontestable, and resulting from the organization of man,—and
not of a critical judgment on his conduct and actions, as if, instead
of it, we should employ the word ‹egotism›. Moral science would be
rendered impossible, if we were to pervert beforehand the terms of
which it is compelled to make use.

Human effort does not always come necessarily to place itself
between the sensation and the satisfaction. Sometimes the [p069]
satisfaction comes of its own accord. More frequently the effort is
exercised upon ‹materials›, by the intervention of ‹forces› which
nature has placed gratuitously at our disposal.

If we give the name of ‹Utility› to all which effects the
satisfaction of wants, there are, then, utilities of two kinds:—one,
vouchsafed to us gratuitously by Providence; the other (if I may use
the expression), requiring to be purchased by an ‹Effort›.

Thus the complete evolution embraces, or may embrace, these four

  Wants  {Gratuitous Utility,  Onerous Utility}  Satisfaction.

Man is endued with progressive faculties. He compares, he foresees,
he learns, he reforms himself, by experience. If want is a ‹pain›,
effort is a ‹pain› also, and there is therefore no reason why he
should not seek to diminish the latter, when he can do so without
diminishing the satisfaction, which is his ultimate object. This
is the reason of his success when he comes to replace ‹onerous› by
‹gratuitous Utility›, which is the perpetual object of his search.

It follows from the ‹interested› nature of the human heart, that we
constantly seek to increase the proportion which our Satisfactions
bear to our Efforts; and it results from the intelligent nature of
our mind that we manage at each step to augment the proportion which
gratuitous bears to onerous Utility.

Every time a success of this nature is achieved, a part of our
efforts is, so to speak, rendered disposable, and we have the option
of either indulging ourselves with longer repose, or of working
for the satisfaction of new desires, if these are strong enough to
stimulate our activity.

Such is the principle of all economic progress; and it is easy to
see that it is the principle also of all deception; for progress
and error have both their root in that marvellous gift of God to
man—‹Free will›.

We are endued with the faculty of comparing, of judging, of choosing,
and of acting in consequence; which implies that we may form a right
or a wrong judgment, and make a good or a bad choice. It is never
useless to remind men of this when they talk of Liberty.

We never deceive ourselves, it is true, regarding the particular
nature of our sensations, and we discern with an infallible instinct
whether they are painful or agreeable. But how many various forms may
our errors take! We may be labouring under a mistake as to the cause,
and pursue with ardour, as likely to afford us enjoyment, what can
only indict pain upon us; or we may be [p070] mistaken as to the
chain of consequences, and be ignorant that an immediate satisfaction
will be followed by greater ulterior pain; or, again, we may mistake
the relative importance of our wants and our desires.

Not only may we thus give a false direction to our efforts through
ignorance, but also through a perverse will. “Man,” says M. Bonald,
“is an intelligence served by organs.” What! is there nothing else in
us? Have we no passions?

When we speak of harmony, then, we must not be understood to mean
that the natural arrangement of the social world is such that error
and vice have been excluded from it. To maintain that thesis in the
face of plain facts would be to carry the love of system to madness.
To have harmony without dissonance man must either be devoid of free
will or he must be infallible. All we say is this, that the great
social tendencies are harmonious, inasmuch as—all error leading
to deception and all vice to chastisement—the dissonances have a
continual tendency to disappear.

       *       *       *       *       *

A first and vague notion of property may be deduced from these
premises. Since it is the individual who experiences the sensation,
the desire, the want,—since it is he who makes the ‹Effort›,—the
satisfaction must necessarily redound to him, for otherwise the
effort would be without cause or reason.

The same may be said of ‹Inheritance›. No theory, no declamation, is
required in order to make fathers love their children. People who sit
down to manufacture imaginary societies may think it strange, but
it is so;—a father makes as many ‹Efforts› for the ‹satisfaction›
of his children as for his own. Perhaps he makes more. If, then, an
unnatural law should interdict the transmission of property, not only
would that law violate property by the very act, but it would hinder
its formation by abandoning to inaction one-half at least of our

We shall have occasion to return to the subjects of Personal
interest, Property, and Inheritance. Let us, in the first instance,
mark out the limits of the science with which we have more
immediately to do.

I am not one of those who think that a science, as such, has natural
and unalterable boundaries. In the domain of ideas, as in that of
facts, all things are bound up and linked together; truths run into
one another; and there is no science which, in order to be complete,
might not be made to include all. It has been said with reason that
to an infinite intelligence there is but a single verity. It is,
then, our weakness which obliges us to study separately a [p071]
certain order of phenomena, and the classifications which result from
it cannot escape a certain decree of arbitrariness.

The true merit is to explain accurately the facts, their causes,
and their consequences. It is also a merit, although a much less
and a purely relative one, to determine, not rigorously—for that is
impossible—but rationally, the order of the facts which we propose to

I say this in order that it may not be supposed that I intend to
criticise my predecessors if I give to Political Economy limits
somewhat different from those which they have assigned to that

Economists have of late been reproached with addicting themselves
too much to the study of ‹Wealth›. It has been wished that they had
found a place in their science for all that, directly or indirectly,
contributes to the happiness or sufferings of humanity. They have
even been supposed to deny everything which they did not profess to
teach—for example, the phenomena of sympathy, which is as natural
to the heart of man as the principle of self-interest. It is as
if they accused the mineralogist of denying the existence of the
animal kingdom. What! Wealth, the laws of its production, of its
distribution, of its consumption,—is not this a subject vast enough,
and important enough, to be made the object of a special science?
If the conclusions of the Economist were at variance with those of
morals and politics. I could conceive ground for the accusation. One
might say to him, “In limiting your science you are mistaken, for
it is not possible for two verities to run counter to each other.”
Perhaps one result of the work which I now submit to the public may
be, that the Science of Wealth will be found to be in perfect harmony
with all the other sciences.

Of the three terms comprehended in the human destinies—Sensation,
Effort, Satisfaction—the first and the last are always and
necessarily confounded in the same individuality. It is impossible to
imagine them separated. We can conceive a sensation unsatisfied, a
want unappeased, but it is quite impossible to suppose the ‹want› to
be in one man and the ‹satisfaction› to be in another.

If the same observation applied to the middle term, ‹Effort›, man
would be a being completely solitary. The Economic phenomena would
then manifest themselves in an isolated individual. There might be a
juxtaposition of persons, but there could be no society; there might
be a Personal, but not a Political, Economy.

But it is not so. It is very possible, and very often happens, that
the ‹wants› of one owe their ‹satisfaction› to the ‹efforts› of
[p072] another. This is a fact. If any one of us were to pass in
review all the satisfactions he enjoys, he would acknowledge that
he owes them chiefly to efforts which he has not himself made;
and in the same way, the labour which we undergo, each in his own
profession, goes almost always to satisfy the desires of others.

This tells us, that it is neither in the wants nor in the
satisfactions (phenomena essentially personal and intransmissible),
but in the nature of the mean term, ‹human Efforts›, that we must
search for the ‹social› principle—the origin of Political Economy.

It is in fact to this faculty, given to men, and to men alone,
among all creatures, to ‹work the one for the other›; it is this
transmission of efforts, this exchange of services, with all the
infinite and involved combinations to which it gives rise, through
time and through space, it is «THIS» precisely which constitutes
Economic Science, points out its origin, and determines its limits.

I say, then:

‹Every effort, capable of satisfying, on condition of a return,
the wants of a person other than the man who makes the effort, and
consequently the wants and satisfactions relative to this species of
effort, constitute the domain of Political Economy.›

Thus, to give an example: the act of breathing, although it includes
the three terms which constitute the Economic phenomenon, does not
pertain to that science, and we see the reason. What we have here to
do with is a series of facts, of which not only the two extremes—want
and satisfaction—are incapable of transmission (they are always so);
but the mean term, ‹Effort›, is also incapable of transmission. To
enable us to respire we invoke the assistance of no one; in that
there is neither a service to be received nor a service to render.
The fact is in its nature individual, not ‹social›, and consequently
cannot enter into a science which is essentially one of relation, as
its very name indicates.

But if, in peculiar circumstances, people were to render each other
assistance to enable them to breathe, as when a workman descends
in a diving-bell, when a physician treats a patient for pulmonary
complaints, or when the police take measures for purifying the air,
in such cases there is a want satisfied by a person other than the
person who experiences the want; there is a service rendered; and
respiration itself, as far at least as concerns assistance and
remuneration, is brought within the sphere of Political Economy.

It is not necessary that the transaction should be completed, it is
sufficient that it is possible, in order to impart to the ‹labour›
employed an ‹economic› character. The labourer who raises corn
[p073] for his own use accomplishes an economic fact in this respect
that the corn is capable of being exchanged.

To make an effort in order to satisfy another’s wants is to render
him a ‹service›. If a service is stipulated in return, there is
an exchange of ‹services›; and as this is the most ordinary case,
Political Economy may be defined ‹the theory of Exchange›.

Whatever may be for one of the contracting parties the urgency of
the want, or for the other the intensity of the effort, if the
exchange is free, the two services exchanged are ‹worth each other›.
Value, then, consists in the comparative appreciation of reciprocal
‹services›, and Political Economy again may be defined ‹the theory of

I have just defined Political Economy, and marked out its domain,
without mentioning an essential element, ‹gratuitous Utility›.

All authors have remarked that we derive a multitude of satisfactions
from this source. They denominate these utilities, such as
air, water, the light of the sun, etc., ‹natural wealth›, in
contradistinction to ‹social wealth›, and having done so, they take
no more notice of them; and in fact it would seem that, as they give
rise to no effort, to no exchange, to no service, as (being destitute
of value) they figure in no inventory of goods, they should not be
admitted into the domain of Political Economy.

This exclusion would be rational if ‹gratuitous› utility were a
fixed invariable quantity, always separated from ‹onerous› utility;
but they are constantly mixed up, and in inverse proportions. Man’s
constant endeavour is to substitute the one for the other, that
is to say, to arrive, by means of natural and gratuitous agents,
at the same results as by efforts. He accomplishes by the wind,
by gravitation, by heat, by the elasticity of the air, what he
accomplished at first only by muscular exertion.

Now what happens? Although the effect is equally useful, the effort
is less. Less effort implies less service, and less service implies
less value. Each step of progress, then, annihilates value; but how?
Not by suppressing the useful effect, but by substituting gratuitous
for onerous utility, natural for social wealth. In one sense the
portion of value thus annihilated is excluded from the domain of
Political Economy, just as it is excluded from our inventories. It is
no longer exchanged, bought, or sold, and mankind enjoy it without
effort and almost without consciousness. It is no longer accounted
relative wealth, but is ranked among the gifts of God.

But, on the other hand, if science takes it no longer into account,
the error is assuredly committed of losing sight of what [p074]
under all circumstances is the main, the essential thing—the
result, the ‹useful effect›. In that case we overlook the strongest
tendencies towards community and equality, and discover much
less of harmony in the social order. If this book is destined to
advance Political Economy a single step, it will be by keeping
constantly before the eyes of the reader that portion of ‹value›
which is successively annihilated, and recovered, under the form of
‹gratuitous utility›, by mankind at large.

I shall here make an observation which will prove how frequently the
sciences unite and nearly run into each other.

I have just defined ‹service›. It is the ‹effort› in one man,
while the ‹want› and the ‹satisfaction› are in another. Sometimes
the service is rendered gratuitously, without remuneration,
without any service being exacted in return. It proceeds, then,
from the principle of sympathy rather than from the principle of
self-interest. It constitutes gift, not exchange. Consequently it
would seem to appertain not to Political Economy (which is the theory
of exchange), but to morals. In fact, acts of that nature, by reason
of their motive, are rather moral than economical. We shall see,
however, that, by reason of their effects, they concern the science
which now engages us. On the other hand, services rendered for an
onerous consideration, on condition of a return, and, by reason of
that motive (essentially economic), do not on that account remain
excluded from the domain of morals, in so far as their effects are

Thus these two branches of knowledge have an infinite number of
points of contact; and as two truths cannot be antagonistic, when the
economist ascribes to a phenomenon injurious consequences, and the
moralist ascribes to it beneficial effects, we may affirm that one or
other of them is mistaken. It is thus that the sciences verify and
fortify one another. [p075]


It is perhaps impossible, and, at any rate, it would not be of much
use, to present a complete and methodical catalogue of human wants.
Nearly all those which are of real importance are comprised in the
following enumeration:—

Respiration (I retain here that want, as marking the boundary
where the transmission of labour or exchange of services
begins)—Food—Clothing—Lodging—Preservation or re-establishment
of Health—Locomotion—Security—Instruction—Diversion—Sense of the

Wants exist. This is a fact. It would be puerile to inquire whether
we should have been better without wants, and why God has made us
subject to them.

It is certain that man ‹suffers›, and even dies, when he cannot
satisfy the wants which belong to his organization. It is certain
that he ‹suffers›, and may even die, when in satisfying certain of
his wants he indulges to excess.

We cannot satisfy the greater part of our wants without pain or
trouble, which may be considered as ‹suffering›. The same may be said
of the act by which, exercising a noble control over our appetites,
we impose on ourselves a privation.

Thus, ‹suffering› is inevitable, and there remains to us only a
choice of evils. Nothing comes more home to us than suffering, and
hence ‹personal interest›—the sentiment which is branded now-a-days
with the names of egotism and individualism—is indestructible. Nature
has placed ‹sensibility› at the extremity of our nerves, and at all
the avenues to the heart and mind, as an advanced guard, to give us
notice when our satisfactions are either defective or in excess. Pain
has, then, a purpose, a mission. We are asked frequently, whether the
existence of evil can be reconciled with the infinite goodness of
the Creator—a formidable [p076] problem that philosophy will always
discuss, and never probably be able to solve. As far as Political
Economy is concerned, we must take man as he is, inasmuch as it is
not given to imagination to figure to itself—far less can the reason
conceive—a sentient and mortal being exempt from pain. We should
try in vain to comprehend sensibility without pain, or man without

In our days, certain sentimentalist schools reject as false all
social science which does not go the length of establishing a system
by means of which suffering may be banished from the world. They pass
a severe judgment on Political Economy because it admits, what it is
impossible to deny, the existence of suffering. They go farther—they
make Political Economy responsible for it. It is as if they were to
attribute the frailty of our organs to the physiologist who makes
them the object of his study.

Undoubtedly we may acquire a temporary popularity, attract the
regards of suffering classes, and irritate them against the natural
order of society, by telling them that we have in our head a plan of
artificial social arrangement which excludes pain in every form. We
may even pretend to appropriate God’s secret, and to interpret His
presumed will, by banishing evil from the world. And there will not
be wanting those who will treat as ‹impious› a science which exposes
such pretensions, and who will accuse it of overlooking or denying
the foresight of the Author of things.

These schools, at the same time, give us a frightful picture of the
actual state of society, not perceiving that if it be ‹impious› to
foresee suffering in the future, it is equally so to expose its
existence in the past or in the present. For the infinite admits
of no limits; and if a single human being has since the creation
experienced suffering, that fact would entitle us to admit, without
‹impiety›, that suffering has entered into the plan of Providence.

Surely it is more philosophical and more manly to acknowledge at once
great natural facts which not only exist, but apart from which we can
form no just or adequate conception of human nature.

Man, then, is subject to suffering, and consequently society is also
subject to it.

Suffering discharges a function in the individual, and consequently
in society.

An accurate investigation of the social laws discloses to us that
the mission of suffering is gradually to destroy its own causes, to
circumscribe suffering itself within narrower limits, and finally to
assure the preponderance of the Good and the Fair, by enabling us to
purchase or merit that preponderance. [p077]

The nomenclature we have proposed places material wants in the

The times in which we live force me to put the reader on his guard
against a species of sentimental affectation which is now much in

There are people who hold very cheap what they disdainfully term
‹material wants›, ‹material satisfactions›: they will say, as Belise
says to Chrysale,

 “Le corps, cette guenille, est-il d’une importance,
  D’un prix à mériter seulement qu’on y pense?”

And although, in general, pretty well off themselves, they will blame
me for having indicated as one of our most pressing wants, that of
‹food›, for example.

I acknowledge undoubtedly that moral advancement is a higher thing
than physical sustenance. But are we so stuffed with declamatory
affectation that we can no longer venture to say, that before we can
set about moral culture, we must have the means of living. Let us
guard ourselves against these puerilities, which obstruct science.
In wishing to pass for philanthropical we cease to be truthful;
for it is contrary both to reason and to fact to represent moral
development, self-respect, the cultivation of refined sentiments,
as preceding the requirements of simple preservation. This sort of
prudery is quite modern. Rousseau, that enthusiastic panegyrist of
the ‹State of Nature›, steered clear of it; and a man endued with
exquisite delicacy, of a tenderness of heart full of unction, a
spiritualist even to quietism, and, towards himself, a stoic—I mean
Fénélon—has said that, “After all, solidity of mind consists in the
desire to be exactly instructed as to how those things are managed
which lie at the foundation of human life—all great affairs turn upon

Without pretending, then, to classify our wants in a rigorously
exact order, we may say, that man cannot direct his efforts to the
satisfaction of moral wants of the highest and most elevated kind
until after he has provided for those which concern his preservation
and sustenance. Whence, without going farther, we may conclude that
every legislative measure which tells against the material well-being
of communities injures the moral life of nations,—a ‹harmony› which I
commend, in passing, to the attention of the reader.

And since the occasion presents itself, I will here mark another.

Since the inexorable necessities of material life are an obstacle to
moral and intellectual culture, it follows that we ought to find more
virtue among wealthy than among poor nations and classes. [p078]
Good Heaven! what have I just said, and with what clamour shall I
be assailed! But the truth is, it is a perfect mania of our times
to attribute all disinterestedness, all self-sacrifice, all which
constitutes the greatness and moral beauty of man, to the poorer
classes, and this mania has of late been still more developed by a
revolution, which, bringing these classes to the surface of society,
has not failed to surround them with a crowd of flatterers.

I don’t deny that wealth, opulence, especially where it is very
unequally spread, tends to develop certain special vices.

But is it possible to admit as a general proposition that virtue
is the privilege of poverty, and vice the unhappy and unfailing
companion of ease? This would be to affirm that moral and
intellectual improvement, which is only compatible with a certain
amount of leisure and comfort, is detrimental to intelligence and

I appeal to the candour of the suffering classes themselves. To what
horrible ‹dissonances› would such a paradox conduct us!

We must then conclude, that human nature has the frightful
alternative presented to it, either to remain eternally wretched,
or advance gradually on the road to vice and immorality. Then all
the forces which conduct us to wealth—such as activity, economy,
skill, honesty—are the seeds of vice; while those which tie us to
poverty—improvidence, idleness, dissipation, carelessness—are the
precious germs of virtue. Could we conceive in the moral world a
dissonance more discouraging? Or, were it really so, who would dare
to address or counsel the people? You complain of your sufferings
(we must say to them), and you are impatient to see an end of these
sufferings. You groan at finding yourselves under the yoke of the
most imperious material wants, and you sigh for the hour of your
deliverance, for you desire leisure to make your voice heard in the
political world and to protect your interests. You know not what you
desire, or how fatal success would prove to you. Ease, competence,
riches, develop only vice. Guard, then, religiously your poverty and
your virtue.

The flatterers of the people, then, fall into a manifest
contradiction when they point to the region of opulence as an impure
sink of egotism and vice, and, at the same time, urge them on—and
frequently in their eagerness by the most illegitimate means—to a
region which they deem so unfortunate.

Such discordances are never encountered in the natural order of
society. It is impossible to suppose that all men should aspire
to competence, that the natural way to attain it should be by the
exercise of the strictest virtue, and that they should reach it
[p079] nevertheless only to be caught in the snares of vice. Such
declamations are calculated only to light up and keep alive the
hatred of classes. If true, they place human nature in a dilemma
between poverty and immorality. If untrue, they make falsehood the
minister of disorder, and set to loggerheads classes who should
mutually love and assist each other.

Factitious inequality—inequality generated by law, by disturbing the
natural order of development of the different classes of society—is,
for all, a prolific source of irritation, jealousy, and crime. This
is the reason why it is necessary to satisfy ourselves whether this
natural order leads to the progressive amelioration and progressive
equalization of all classes; and we should be arrested in this
inquiry by what lawyers term a ‹fin de non-recevoir›, a peremptory
exception, if this double material progress implied necessarily a
double moral degradation.

Upon the subject of human wants I have to make an important
observation,—and one which, in Political Economy, may even be
regarded as fundamental,—it is, that wants are not a fixed immutable
quantity. They are not in their nature stationary, but progressive.

We remark this characteristic even in our strictly physical wants;
but it becomes more apparent as we rise to those desires and
intellectual tastes which distinguish man from the inferior animals.

It would seem that if there be anything in which men should resemble
each other, it is in the want of food, for, unless in exceptional
cases, men’s stomachs are very much alike.

And yet aliments which are ‹recherchés› at one period become vulgar
at another, and the regimen which suits a Lazzarone would subject a
Dutchman to torture. Thus the want which is the most immediate, the
grossest of all, and consequently the most uniform of all, still
varies according to age, sex, temperament, climate, custom.

The same may be said of all our other wants. Scarcely has a man found
shelter than he desires to be lodged, scarcely is he clothed than he
wishes to be decorated, scarcely has he satisfied his bodily cravings
than study, science, art, open to his desires an unlimited field.

It is a phenomenon well worthy of remark, how quickly, by continuous
satisfaction, what was at first only a vague desire becomes a taste,
and what was only a taste is transformed into a want, and even a want
of the most imperious kind.

Look at that rude artizan. Accustomed to poor fare, plain [p080]
clothing, indifferent lodging, he imagines he would be the happiest
of men, and would have no farther desires, if he could but reach the
step of the ladder immediately above him. He is astonished that those
who have already reached it should still torment themselves as they
do. At length comes the modest fortune he has dreamt of, and then he
is happy, very happy—for a few days.

For soon he becomes familiar with his new situation, and by degrees
he ceases to feel his fancied happiness. With indifference he puts
on the fine clothing after which he sighed. He has got into a new
circle, he associates with other companions, he drinks of another
cup, he aspires to mount another step, and if he ever turns his
reflections at all upon himself, he feels that if his fortune has
changed, his soul remains the same, and is still an inexhaustible
spring of new desires.

It would seem that nature has attached this singular power to
‹habit›, in order that it should be in us what a rochet-wheel is in
mechanics, and that humanity, urged on continually to higher and
higher regions, should not be able to rest content, whatever degree
of civilisation it attains to.

The ‹sense of dignity›, the feeling of self-respect, acts with
perhaps still more force in the same direction. The stoic philosophy
has frequently blamed men for desiring rather to ‹appear› than to
‹be›. But, taking a broader view of things, is it certain that to
‹appear› is not for man one of the modes of ‹being›?

When, by exertion, order, and economy, a family rises by degrees
towards those social regions where tastes become nicer and more
delicate, relations more polished, sentiments more refined,
intelligence more cultivated, who can describe the acute suffering
which accompanies a forced return to their former low estate? The
body does not alone suffer. The sad reverse interferes with habits
which have become as it were a second nature; it clashes with the
sense of dignity, and all the feelings of the soul. It is by no means
uncommon in such a case to see the victim sink all at once into
degrading sottishness, or perish in despair. It is with the social
medium as with the atmosphere. The mountaineer, accustomed to the
pure air of his native hills, pines and moulders away in the narrow
streets of our cities.

But I hear some one exclaim, Economist, you stumble already. You have
just told us that your science is in accord with morals, and here you
are justifying luxury and effeminacy. Philosopher, I say in my turn,
lay aside these fine clothes, which were not those of primitive man,
break your furniture, burn your books, dine on raw flesh, and I shall
then reply to your objection. It is too much [p081] to quarrel with
this power of habit, of which you are yourself the living example.

We may find fault with this disposition which Nature has given to
our organs; but our censure will not make it the less universal.
We find it existing among all nations, ancient and modern, savage
and civilized, at the antipodes as at home. We cannot explain
civilisation without it; and when a disposition of the human heart is
thus proved to be universal and indestructible, social science cannot
put it aside, or refuse to take it into account.

This objection will be made by publicists who pride themselves on
being the disciples of Rousseau; but Rousseau has never denied the
existence of the phenomenon. He establishes undeniably the indefinite
elasticity of human wants, and the power of habit, and admits even
the part which I assign to them in preventing the human race from
retrograding; only, that which I admire is what he deplores, and he
does so consistently. Rousseau fancied there was a time when men
had neither rights, nor duties, nor relations, nor affections, nor
language; and it was then, according to him, that they were happy and
perfect. He was bound, therefore, to abhor the social machinery which
is constantly removing mankind from ideal perfection. Those, on the
contrary, who are of opinion that perfection is not at the beginning,
but at the end, of the human evolution, will admire the spring and
motive of action which I place in the foreground. But as to the
existence and play of the spring itself we are at one.

“Men of leisure,” he says, “employed themselves in procuring
all sorts of conveniences and accommodations unknown to their
forefathers, and that was the first yoke which, without intending
it, they imposed upon themselves, and the prime source of the
inconveniences which they prepared for their descendants. For,
not only did they thus continue to emasculate both mind and body,
but these luxuries having ‹by habit› lost all their relish, and
degenerated into ‹true wants›, their being deprived of them caused
more pain than the possession of them had given pleasure: they were
unhappy at losing what they had no enjoyment in possessing.”

Rousseau was convinced that God, nature, and humanity were wrong.
That is still the opinion of many; but it is not mine.

After all, God forbid that I should desire to set myself against the
noblest attribute, the most beautiful virtue of man, self-control,
command over his passions, moderation in his desires, contempt of
show. I don’t say that he is to make himself a slave to this or that
factitious want. I say that wants (taking a broad and general [p082]
view of them as resulting from man’s mental and bodily constitution),
combined with the power of habit, and the sense of dignity, are
indefinitely expansible, because they spring from an inexhaustible
source—namely, desire. Who should blame a rich man for being sober,
for despising finery, for avoiding pomp and effeminacy? But are there
not more elevated desires to which he may yield? Has the desire for
instruction, for instance, any limits? To render service to his
country, to encourage the arts, to disseminate useful ideas, to
succour the distressed,—is there anything in these incompatible with
the right use of riches?

For the rest, whatever philosophers may think of it, human wants
do not constitute a fixed immutable quantity. That is a certain, a
universal fact, liable to no exception. The wants of the fourteenth
century, whether with reference to food, or lodging, or instruction,
were not at all the wants of ours, and we may safely predict that
ours will not be the wants of our descendants.

The same observation applies to all the elements of Political
Economy—Wealth, Labour, Value, Services, etc.,—all participate in
the extreme versatility of the principal subject, Man. Political
Economy has not, like geometry or physics, the advantage of dealing
with objects which can be weighed or measured. This is one of its
difficulties to begin with, and it is a perpetual source of errors
throughout; for when the human mind applies itself to a certain order
of phenomena, it is naturally on the outlook for a ‹criterion›, a
common measure, to which everything can be referred, in order to give
to that particular branch of knowledge the character of an ‹exact
science›. Thus we observe some authors seeking for fixity in ‹value›,
others in ‹money›, others in ‹corn›, others in ‹labour›, that is to
say, in things which are themselves all liable to fluctuation.

Many errors in Political Economy proceed from authors thus regarding
human wants as a fixed determinate quantity; and it is for this
reason that I have deemed it my duty to enlarge on this subject.
At the risk of anticipating, it is worth while to notice briefly
this mode of reasoning. Economists take generally the enjoyments
which satisfy men of the present day, and they assume that human
nature admits of no other. Hence, if the bounty of nature, or the
power of machinery, or habits of temperance and moderation, succeed
in rendering disposable for a time a portion of human labour,
this progress disquiets them, they consider it as a disaster, and
they retreat behind absurd but specious formulas, such as these:
‹Production is superabundant›,—‹we suffer from plethora›,—‹the power
of producing outruns the power of consuming›, etc. [p083]

It is not possible to discover a solution of the question of
‹machinery›, or that of ‹external competition›, or that of ‹luxury›,
if we persist in considering our ‹wants› as a fixed invariable
quantity, and do not take into account their indefinite expansibility.

But if human ‹wants› are indefinite, progressive, capable of
increase, like desire, which is their never failing source, we must
admit, under pain of introducing discordance and contradiction
into the economical laws of society, that nature has placed
in man and around him indefinite and progressive means of
‹satisfaction›;—equilibrium between the means and the end being the
primary condition of all harmony. This is what we shall now examine.

I said at the outset of this work that the object of Political
Economy is ‹man›, considered with reference to his wants, and his
means of satisfying these wants.

We must then begin with the study of man and his organization.

But we have also seen that he is not a solitary being. If his ‹wants›
and his ‹satisfactions› are, from the very nature of sensibility,
inseparable from his being, the same thing cannot be said of his
‹efforts›, which spring from the active principle. The latter are
susceptible of transmission. In a word, men work for one another.

Now a very strange thing takes place.

If we take a general, or, if I may be allowed the expression,
abstract view, of man, his wants, his efforts, his satisfactions, his
constitution, his inclinations, his tendencies, we fall into a train
of observation which appears free from doubt and self-evident,—so
much so, that the writer finds a difficulty in submitting to the
public judgment truths so vulgar and so palpable. He is afraid
of provoking ridicule; and thinks, not without reason, that the
impatient reader will throw away his book, exclaiming, “I shall not
waste time on such trivialities.”

And yet these truths which, when presented to us in an abstract
shape, we regard as so incontrovertible that we can scarce summon
patience to listen to them, are considered only as ridiculous
errors and absurd theories the moment they are applied to man in
his social state. Regarding man as an isolated being, who ever took
it into his head to say, “Production is superabundant—the power of
consumption cannot keep pace with the power of production—luxury and
factitious tastes are the source of wealth—the invention of machinery
annihilates labour,” and other apophthegms of the same sort,—which,
nevertheless, when applied to mankind in the aggregate, we receive
as axioms so well established that they are actually made the basis
of our commercial and industrial legislation? ‹Exchange› produces in
this respect an illusion of which [p084] even men of penetration
and solid judgment find it impossible to disabuse themselves, and
I affirm that Political Economy will have attained its design, and
fulfilled its mission, when it shall have conclusively demonstrated
this:—that what is true of an individual man is true of society at
large. Man in an isolated state is at once producer and consumer,
inventor and projector, capitalist and workman. All the economic
phenomena are accomplished in his person—he is, as it were, society
in miniature. In like manner, humanity, viewed in the aggregate, may
be regarded as a great, collective, complex individual, to whom you
may apply exactly the same truths as to man in a state of isolation.

I have felt it necessary to make this remark, which I hope will be
justified in the sequel, before continuing what I had to say upon
man. I should have been afraid, otherwise, that the reader might
reject, as superfluous, the following developments, which in fact are
nothing else than veritable ‹truisms›.

I have just spoken of the ‹wants› of man, and after presenting an
approximate enumeration of them, I observed that they were not of a
stationary, but of a progressive nature; and this holds true, whether
we consider these wants each singly, or all together, in their
physical, intellectual, and moral order. How could it be otherwise?
There are wants the satisfaction of which is exacted by our
organization under pain of death, and up to a certain point we may
represent these as fixed quantities, although that is not rigorously
exact, for however little we may desire to neglect an essential
element—namely, the ‹force of habit›—however little we may condescend
to subject ourselves to honest self-examination, we shall be forced
to allow that wants, even of the plainest and most homely kind (the
desire for food, for example), undergo, under the influence of
habit, undoubted transformations. The man who declaims against this
observation as materialist and epicurean, would think himself very
unfortunate, if, taking him at his word, we should reduce him to the
black broth of the Spartans, or the scanty pittance of an anchorite.
At all events, when wants of this kind have been satisfied in an
assured and permanent way, there are others which take their rise
in the most expansible of our faculties, desire. Can we conceive a
time when man can no longer form even reasonable desires? Let us not
forget that a desire which might be unreasonable in a former state
of civilisation—at a time when all the human faculties were absorbed
in providing for low material wants—ceases to be so when improvement
opens to these faculties a more extended field. A desire to travel at
the rate of thirty miles an hour would have been unreasonable [p085]
two centuries ago—it is not so at the present day. To pretend that
the wants and desires of man are fixed and stationary quantities, is
to mistake the nature of the human soul, to deny facts, and to render
civilisation inexplicable.

It would still be inexplicable if, side by side with the indefinite
development of wants, there had not been placed, as possible, the
indefinite development of the means of providing for these wants.
How could the expansible nature of our wants have contributed to the
realization of progress, if, at a certain point, our faculties could
advance no farther, and should encounter an impassable barrier?

Our wants being indefinite, the presumption is that the means of
satisfying these wants should be indefinite also, unless we are to
suppose Nature, Providence, or the Power which presides over our
destinies, to have fallen into a cruel and shocking contradiction.

I say indefinite, not infinite, for nothing connected with man is
infinite. It is precisely because our faculties go on developing
themselves ‹ad infinitum›, that they have no assignable limits,
although they may have absolute limits. There are many points
above the present range of humanity, which we may never succeed in
attaining, and yet for all that, the time may never come when we
shall cease to approach nearer them.[22]

I don’t at all mean to say that ‹desire›, and the ‹means› of
satisfying desire, march in parallel lines and with equal rapidity.
The former runs—the latter limps after it.

The prompt and adventurous nature of desire, compared with the
slowness of our faculties, shews us very clearly that in every
stage of civilisation, at every step of our progress, suffering to
a certain extent is, and ever must be, the lot of man. But it shews
us likewise that this suffering has a mission, for desire could no
longer be an incentive to our faculties if it followed, in place of
preceding, their exercise. Let us not, however, accuse nature of
cruelty in the construction of this mechanism, for we cannot fail
to remark that desire is never transformed into want, strictly so
called, that is, into ‹painful desire›, until it has been made such
by ‹habit›; in other words, until the ‹means› of satisfying the
desire have been found and placed irrevocably within our reach.[23]

We have now to examine the question,—What means have we of
providing for our wants?

It seems evident to me that there are two—namely, Nature and Labour,
the gifts of God, and the fruits of our efforts—or, if you will, the
application of our faculties to the things which Nature has placed at
our service.

No school that I know of has attributed the satisfaction of our wants
to Nature ‹alone›. Such an assertion is clearly contradicted by
experience, and we need not learn Political Economy to perceive that
the intervention of our ‹faculties› is necessary.

But there are schools who have attributed this privilege to Labour
alone. Their axiom is, “All wealth comes from labour—labour is

I cannot help anticipating, so far as to remark, that these formulas,
taken literally, have led to monstrous errors of doctrine, and,
consequently, to deplorable legislative blunders. I shall return to
this subject. I confine myself here to establishing, as a fact, that
‹Nature› and ‹Labour› co-operate for the satisfaction of our wants
and desires.

Let us examine the facts.

The first want which we have placed at the head of our list is that
of ‹breathing›. As regards respiration, we have already shown that
‹nature› in general is at the whole cost, and that human ‹labour›
intervenes only in certain exceptional cases, as where it becomes
necessary to purify the atmosphere.

Another want is that of quenching our ‹thirst›, and it is more or
less satisfied by Nature, in as far as she furnishes us with water,
more or less pure, abundant, and within reach; and Labour concurs
in as far as it becomes necessary to bring water from a greater
distance, to filter it, or to obviate its scarcity by constructing
wells and cisterns.

The liberality of Nature towards us in regard to ‹food› is by no
means uniform; for who will maintain, that the labour to be furnished
is the same when the land is fertile, or when it is sterile, when the
forest abounds with game, the river with fish, or in the opposite

As regards ‹lighting›, human labour has certainly less to do when the
night is short than when it is long.

I dare not lay it down as an absolute rule, but it appears to me that
in proportion as we rise in the scale of wants, the co-operation
of Nature is lessened, and leaves us more room for the exercise of
our faculties. The painter, the sculptor, and the author even, are
forced to avail themselves of materials and instruments which Nature
alone [p087] furnishes, but from their own genius is derived all
that makes the charm, the merit, the utility, and the value of their
works. ‹To learn› is a want which the well-directed exercise of
our faculties almost alone can satisfy. Yet here ‹Nature› assists,
by presenting to us in divers degrees objects of observation and
comparison. With an equal amount of application, may not botany,
geology, or natural history, make everywhere equal progress?

It would be superfluous to cite other examples. We have already
shown undeniably that Nature gives us the means of satisfaction, in
placing at our disposal things possessed of higher or lower degrees
of ‹utility› (I use the word in its etymological sense, as indicating
the ‹property of serving›, of being ‹useful›). In many cases, in
almost every case, labour must contribute, to a certain extent, in
rendering this ‹utility› complete; and we can easily comprehend that
the part which labour has to perform is greater or less in proportion
as Nature had previously advanced the operation in a less or greater

We may then lay down these two formulas:

1. ‹Utility is communicated sometimes by Nature alone, sometimes by
Labour alone, but almost always by the co-operation of both›.

2. ‹To bring anything to its highest degree of› «UTILITY», ‹the
action of Labour is in an inverse ratio to the action of Nature›.

From these two propositions, combined with what I have said of the
indefinite expansibility of our wants, I may be permitted to deduce
a conclusion, the importance of which will be demonstrated in the
sequel. Suppose two men, having no connexion with each other, to be
unequally situated in this respect, that Nature had been liberal to
the one, and niggardly to the other; the first would evidently obtain
a given amount of satisfaction at a less expense of labour. Would it
follow that the part of his forces thus left ‹disposable›, if I may
use the expression, would be abandoned to inaction? and that this
man, on account of the liberality of Nature, would be reduced to
compulsory idleness? Not at all. It would follow that he could, if
he wished it, dispose of these forces to enlarge the circle of his
enjoyments; that with an equal amount of labour he could procure two
satisfactions in place of one; in a word, that his progress would
become more easy.

I may be mistaken, but it appears to me that no science, not even
geometry, is founded on truths more unassailable. Were any one to
prove to me that all these truths were so many errors, I should not
only lose confidence in them, but all faith in evidence itself;
for what reasoning could one employ which should better deserve
the acquiescence of our judgment than the evidence thus [p088]
overturned? The moment an axiom is discovered which shall contradict
this other axiom—that a straight line is the shortest road from one
point to another—that instant the human mind has no other refuge, if
it be a refuge, than absolute scepticism.

I positively feel ashamed thus to insist upon first principles which
are so plain as to seem puerile. And yet we must confess that, amid
the complications of human transactions, such simple truths have been
overlooked; and in order to justify myself for detaining the reader
so long upon what the English call ‹truisms›, I shall notice here a
singular error by which excellent minds have allowed themselves to
be misled. Setting aside, neglecting entirely, the ‹co-operation of
Nature› in relation to the satisfaction of our wants, they have laid
down the absolute principle that ‹all wealth comes from labour›. On
this foundation they have reared the following erroneous syllogism:

“All wealth comes from labour:

“Wealth, then, is in proportion to labour.

“But labour is in an inverse ratio to the liberality of Nature:

“‹Ergo›, wealth is inversely as the liberality of Nature.”

Right or wrong, many economical laws owe their origin to this
singular reasoning. Such laws cannot be otherwise than subversive of
every sound principle in relation to the development and distribution
of wealth; and this it is which justifies me in preparing beforehand,
by the explanation of truths very trivial in appearance, for the
refutation of the deplorable errors and prejudices under which
society is now labouring.

Let us analyze the co-operation of Nature of which I have spoken.
Nature places two things at our disposal—‹materials› and ‹forces›.

Most of the material objects which contribute to the satisfaction of
our wants and desires are brought into the state of ‹utility› which
renders them fit for our use only by the intervention of labour, by
the application of the human faculties. But the elements, the atoms,
if you will, of which these objects are composed, are the gifts, I
will add the ‹gratuitous› gifts, of Nature. This observation is of
the very highest importance, and will, I believe, throw a new light
upon the theory of wealth.

The reader will have the goodness to bear in mind that I am inquiring
at present in a general way into the moral and physical constitution
of man, his wants, his faculties, his relations with Nature—apart
from the consideration of Exchange, which I shall enter upon in the
next chapter. We shall then see in what respect, and in what manner,
social transactions modify the phenomena. [p089]

It is very evident, that if man in an isolated state must, so to
speak, ‹purchase› the greater part of his satisfactions by an
exertion, by an effort, it is rigorously exact to say that prior to
the intervention of any such exertion, any such effort, the materials
which he finds at his disposal are the ‹gratuitous› gifts of Nature.
After the first effort on his part, however slight it may be, they
cease to be ‹gratuitous›; and if the language of Political Economy
had been always exact, it would have been to material objects in
this state, and before human labour had been bestowed upon them,
that the term ‹raw materials› (‹matières premières›) would have been
exclusively applied.

I repeat that this ‹gratuitous› quality of the gifts of Nature,
anterior to the intervention of labour, is of the very highest
importance. I said in my second chapter that Political Economy
was the ‹theory of value›; I add now, and by anticipation, that
things begin to possess ‹value› only when it is given to them by
labour. I intend to demonstrate afterwards that everything which
is ‹gratuitous› for man in an isolated state is gratuitous for man
in his social condition, and that the gratuitous gifts of Nature,
‹whatever be their› «UTILITY», have no value. I say that a man who
receives a benefit from Nature, directly and without any effort on
his part, cannot be considered as rendering himself an ‹onerous
service›, and, consequently, that he cannot render to another any
service with reference to things which are common to all. Now, where
there are no services rendered and received there is no ‹value›.

All that I have said of ‹materials› is equally applicable to the
‹forces› which Nature places at our disposal. Gravitation, the
elasticity of air, the power of the winds, the laws of equilibrium,
vegetable life, animal life, are so many forces which we learn to
turn to account. The pains and intelligence which we bestow in this
way always admit of remuneration, for we are not bound to devote our
efforts to the advantage of others gratuitously. But these natural
forces, in themselves, and apart from all intellectual or bodily
exertion, are ‹gratuitous› gifts of Providence, and in this respect
they remain destitute of ‹value› through all the complications of
human transactions. This is the leading idea of the present work.

This observation would be of little importance, I allow, if the
co-operation of Nature were constantly uniform, if each man, at all
times, in all places, in all circumstances, received from Nature
equal and invariable assistance. In that case, science would be
justified in not taking into account an element which, remaining
always and everywhere the same, would affect the services [p090]
exchanged in equal proportions on both sides. As in geometry we
eliminate portions of lines common to two figures which we compare
with each other, we might neglect a co-operation which is invariably
present, and content ourselves with saying, as we have done
hitherto, “There is such a thing as natural wealth—Political Economy
acknowledges it, and has no more concern with it.”

But this is not the true state of the matter. The irresistible
tendency of the human mind, stimulated by self-interest and assisted
by a series of discoveries, is to substitute natural and gratuitous
co-operation for human and onerous concurrence; so that a given
utility, although remaining the same as far as the result and the
satisfactions which it procures us are concerned, represents a
smaller and smaller amount of labour. In fact, it is impossible not
to perceive the immense influence of this marvellous phenomenon on
our notion of value. For what is the result of it? This, that in
every product the ‹gratuitous› element tends to take the place of the
‹onerous›; that ‹utility›, being the result of two ‹collaborations›,
of which one is remunerated and the other is not, Value, which has
relation only to the first of these united forces, is diminished,
and makes room for a ‹utility› which is identically the same, and
this in proportion as we succeed in constraining Nature to a more
efficacious co-operation. So that we may say that mankind have as
many more ‹satisfactions›, as much more ‹wealth›, as they have less
‹value›. Now, the majority of authors having employed these three
terms, ‹utility›, ‹wealth›, ‹value›, as synonymous, the result has
been a theory which is not only not true, but the reverse of true. I
believe sincerely that a more exact description of this combination
of natural forces and human forces in the business of production,
in other words, a juster definition of Value, would put an end to
inextricable theoretical confusion, and would reconcile schools
which are now divergent; and if I am now anticipating somewhat in
entering on this subject here, my justification with the reader is
the necessity of explaining in the outset certain ideas of which
otherwise he would have difficulty in perceiving the importance.

Returning from this digression, I resume what I had to say upon man
considered exclusively in an economical point of view.

Another observation, which we owe to J. B. Say, and which is almost
self-evident, although too much neglected by many authors, is, that
man ‹creates› neither the ‹materials› nor the ‹forces› of nature,
if we take the word ‹create› in its exact signification. These
materials, these forces, have an independent existence. Man can only
combine them or displace them, for his own benefit or that [p091]
of others. If for his own, ‹he renders a service to himself›,—if for
the benefit of others, ‹he renders service to his fellows›, and has
the right to exact an ‹equivalent› service. Whence it also follows
that ‹value› is proportional to the service rendered, and not at all
to the absolute ‹utility› of the thing. For this ‹utility› may be
in great part the result of the ‹gratuitous› action of Nature, in
which case the human service, the onerous service, the service to be
remunerated, is of little value. This results from the axiom above
established—namely, that ‹to bring a thing to the highest degree of
utility, the action of man is inversely as the action of Nature›.

This observation overturns the doctrine which places value in the
‹materiality› of things. The contrary is the truth. The materiality
is a quality given by Nature, and consequently ‹gratuitous›, and
devoid of ‹value›, although of incontestable utility. Human action,
which can never succeed in ‹creating› matter, constitutes alone the
service which man in a state of isolation renders to himself, or that
men in society render to each other; and it is the free appreciation
of these ‹services› which is the foundation of ‹value›. Far, then,
from concluding with Adam Smith that it is impossible to conceive of
value otherwise than as residing in material substance, we conclude
that between Matter and Value there is no possible relation.

This erroneous doctrine Smith deduced logically from his principle,
that those classes alone are ‹productive› who operate on material
substances. He thus prepared the way for the modern error of the
‹socialists›, who have never done representing as ‹unproductive›
parasites those whom they term ‹intermediaries› between the producer
and consumer—the merchant, the retail dealer, etc. Do they render
services? Do they save us trouble by taking trouble for us? In that
case they create ‹value›, although they do not create matter; and
as no one can create matter, and we all confine our exertions to
rendering reciprocal services, we pronounce with justice that all,
including agriculturists and manufacturers, are ‹intermediaries› in
relation one to another.

This is what I had to say at present upon the co-operation of
Nature. Nature places at our disposal, in various degrees, depending
on climate, seasons, and the advance of knowledge, but ‹always
gratuitously›, materials and forces. Then these materials and
forces are devoid of ‹value›; it would be strange if they had any.
According to what rule should we estimate them? In what way could
Nature be paid, remunerated, compensated? We shall see afterwards
that ‹exchange› is necessary in order to determine ‹value›. We don’t
purchase the goods of Nature—we gather them; and if, in order to
appropriate them, a certain amount of effort is [p092] necessary, it
is in this ‹effort›, not in the gifts of Nature, that the principle
of ‹value› resides.

Let us now consider that action of man which we designate, in a
general way, by the term ‹labour›.

The word ‹labour›, like almost all the terms of Political Economy,
is very vague. Different authors use it in a sense more or less
extended. Political Economy has not had, like most other sciences,
Chemistry for example, the advantage of constructing her own
vocabulary. Treating of subjects which have been familiar to men’s
thoughts since the beginning of the world, and the constant subject
of their daily talk, she has found a nomenclature ready made, and has
been forced to adopt it.

The meaning of the word ‹labour› is often limited exclusively to the
muscular action of man upon materials. Hence those who execute the
mechanical part of production are called the ‹working classes›.

The reader will comprehend that I give to this word a more extended
sense. I understand by ‹labour› the application of our faculties to
the satisfaction of our wants. ‹Wants›, ‹efforts›, ‹satisfactions›,
this is the circle of Political Economy. ‹Effort› may be physical,
intellectual, or even moral, as we shall immediately see.

It is not necessary to demonstrate in this place that all our organs,
all or nearly all our faculties, may concur, and, in point of
fact, do concur, in production. Attention, sagacity, intelligence,
imagination, have assuredly their part in it.

M. Dunoyer, in his excellent work, ‹Sur la Liberté du Travail›, has
included, and with scientific exactness, our moral faculties among
the elements to which we are indebted for our wealth—an idea as
original and suggestive as it is just. It is destined to enlarge and
ennoble the field of Political Economy.

I shall not dwell here upon that idea farther than as it may enable
me to throw a faint light upon the origin of a powerful agent of
production, of which I shall have occasion to speak hereafter—I mean

If we examine in succession the material objects which contribute to
the satisfaction of our wants, we shall discover without difficulty
that all or nearly all require, in order to their being brought to
perfection, more time, a larger portion of our life, than a man can
expend without recruiting his strength, that is to say, without
satisfying his wants. This supposes that those who had made those
things had previously reserved, set aside, accumulated, provisions,
to enable them to subsist during the operation. [p093]

The same observation applies to satisfactions which have nothing
material belonging to them.

A clergyman cannot devote himself to preaching, a professor to
teaching, a magistrate to the maintenance of order, unless, by
themselves, or by others, they are put in possession of means of
subsistence previously created.

Let us go a little higher. Suppose a man isolated and forced to
live by the chase. It is easy to comprehend that if every night he
consumed the whole game which his day’s hunting had furnished, he
could never set himself to any other work, to build a cottage, for
example, or repair his arms or implements. All progress would be
interdicted in his case.

This is not the proper place to define the nature and functions
of Capital. My sole object at present is to show that certain
moral virtues co-operate very directly in the amelioration of
our condition, even when viewed exclusively with reference to
wealth,—among other virtues, order, foresight, self-control, economy.

To ‹foresee› is one of our noblest privileges, and it is scarcely
necessary to say that, in all situations of life, the man who
most clearly foresees the probable consequences of his acts and
determinations has the best chance of success.

To ‹control his appetites›, to govern his passions, to sacrifice
the present to the future, to submit to privations for the sake of
greater but more distant advantages—such are the conditions essential
to the formation of capital; and capital, as we have already
partially seen, is itself the essential condition of all labour that
is in any degree complicated or prolonged. It is quite evident that
if we suppose two men placed in identically the same position, and
possessed of the same amount of intelligence and activity, that man
would make the most progress who, having accumulated provisions,
had placed himself in a situation to undertake protracted works,
to improve his implements, and thus to make the forces of nature
co-operate in the realization of his designs.

I shall not dwell longer on this. We have only to look around us to
be convinced that all our forces, all our faculties, all our virtues,
concur in furthering the advancement of man and of society.

For the same reason, there are none of our vices which are not
directly or indirectly the causes of poverty. Idleness paralyzes
efforts, which are the sinews of production. Ignorance and error
give our efforts a false direction. Improvidence lays us open to
deceptions. Indulgence in the appetites of the hour prevents the
accumulation of capital. Vanity leads us to devote our efforts to
factitious enjoyments, in place of such as are real. Violence and
[p094] fraud provoke reprisals, oblige us to surround ourselves with
troublesome precautions, and entail a great waste and destruction of

I shall wind up these preliminary observations on man with a remark
which I have already made in relation to his wants. It is this, that
the elements discussed and explained in this chapter, and which enter
into and constitute economical science, are in their nature flexible
and changeable. Wants, desires, materials and powers furnished by
Nature, our muscular force, our organs, our intellectual faculties,
our moral qualities, all vary with the individual, and change with
time and place. No two men, perhaps, are entirely alike in any one
of these respects, certainly not in all—nay more, no man entirely
resembles himself for two hours together. What one knows another is
ignorant of—what one values another despises—here nature is prodigal,
there niggardly—a virtue which it is difficult to practise in one
climate or latitude becomes easy in another. Economical science has
not, then, like the exact sciences, the advantage of possessing a
fixed measure, and absolute unconditional truths—a graduated scale,
a standard, which can be employed in measuring the intensity of
desires, of efforts, and of satisfactions. Were we even to devote
ourselves to solitary labour, like certain animals, we should still
find ourselves placed in circumstances in some degree different;
and were our external circumstances alike, were the medium in which
we act the same for all, we should still differ from each other in
our desires, our wants, our ideas, our sagacity, our energy, our
manner of estimating and appreciating things, our foresight, our
activity—so that a great and inevitable inequality would manifest
itself. In truth, absolute isolation, the absence of all relations
among men, is only an idle fancy coined in the brain of Rousseau. But
supposing that this antisocial state, called the ‹state of nature›,
had ever existed, I cannot help inquiring by what chain of reasoning
Rousseau and his adepts have succeeded in planting Equality there? We
shall afterwards see that Equality, like Wealth, like Liberty, like
Fraternity, like Unity, is the end; it is not the starting point. It
rises out of the natural and regular development of societies. The
tendency of human nature is not away from, but towards, Equality.
This is most consoling and most true.

Having spoken of our ‹wants›, and our ‹means› of providing for them,
it remains to say a word respecting our ‹satisfactions›. They are the
result of the entire mechanism we have described.

It is by the greater or less amount of physical, intellectual,
and moral ‹satisfactions› which mankind enjoy, that we discover
whether [p095] the machine works well or ill. This is the reason
why the word ‹consommation› [‹consumption›[24]], adopted by our
Economists would have a profound meaning if we used it in its
etymological signification as synonymous with ‹end›, or ‹completion›.
Unfortunately, in common, and even in scientific, language, it
presents to the mind a gross and material idea, exact without doubt
when applied to our physical wants, but not at all so when used with
reference to those of a more elevated order. The cultivation of
corn, the manufacture of woollen cloth, terminate in ‹consumption›
[consommation]. But can this be said with equal propriety of the
works of the artist, the songs of the poet, the studies of the
lawyer, the prelections of the professor, the sermons of the
clergyman? It is here that we again experience the inconvenience
of that fundamental error which caused Adam Smith to circumscribe
Political Economy within the limits of a material circle; and
the reader will pardon me for frequently making use of the term
‹satisfaction›, as applicable to all our wants and all our desires,
and as more in accordance with the larger scope which I hope to be
able to give to the science.

Political Economists have been frequently reproached with confining
their attention exclusively to the ‹interests of the consumer›.
“You forget the producer,” we are told. But satisfaction being
the end and design of all our efforts—the grand ‹consummation› or
termination of the economic phenomena—is it not evident that it
is there that the touchstone of progress is to be found? A man’s
happiness and well-being are not measured by his ‹efforts›, but by
his ‹satisfactions›, and this holds equally true of society in the
aggregate. This is one of those truths which are never disputed when
applied to an individual, but which are constantly disputed when
applied to society at large. The phrase to which exception has been
taken only means this, that Political Economy estimates the worth of
what we do, not by the labour which it costs us to do it, but by the
ultimate result, which resolves itself definitively into an increase
or diminution of the general prosperity.

We have said, in reference to our wants and desires, that there
are no two men exactly alike. The same thing may be said of our
‹satisfactions›: they are not held in equal estimation by all, which
verifies the common saying, that ‹tastes differ›. Now it is by the
intensity of our desires, and the variety of our tastes, that the
direction of our efforts is determined. It is here that the influence
of morals upon industry becomes apparent. Man, as an individual, may
be the slave of tastes which are factitious, puerile, and [p096]
immoral. In this case it is self-evident that, his powers being
limited, he can only satisfy his depraved desires at the expense of
those which are laudable and legitimate. But when society comes into
play, this evident axiom is marked down as an error. We are led to
believe that artificial tastes, illusory satisfactions, which we
acknowledge as the source of individual poverty, are nevertheless
the cause of national wealth, as opening a vent to manufactures.
If it were so, we should arrive at the miserable conclusion, that
the social state places man between poverty and vice. Once more,
Political Economy reconciles, in the most rigorous and satisfactory
manner, these apparent contradictions. [p097]


Exchange is Political Economy—it is Society itself—for it is
impossible to conceive Society as existing without Exchange, or
Exchange without Society. I shall not pretend in this chapter to
exhaust so vast a subject. To present even an outline of it would
require the entire volume.

If men, like snails, lived in complete isolation, if they did
not exchange their ideas and exertions, and had no bargain or
transactions with each other, we might have multitudes, indeed—human
units—individuals living in juxtaposition—but we could not have

Nay, we should not even have individuals. To man isolation is death.
But then, if he cannot live out of society, the legitimate conclusion
is that the social state is his natural state.

All the sciences tend to establish this truth, which was so little
understood by the men of the eighteenth century that they founded
morals and politics on the contrary assertion. They were not content
with placing the state of nature in opposition to the social
state—they gave the first a decided preference. “Men were blessed,”
said Montaigne, “when they lived without bonds, without laws, without
language, without religion.” And we know that the system of Rousseau,
which exercised, and still exercises, so powerful an influence over
opinions and facts, rests altogether on this hypothesis—that men,
unhappily, ‹agreed› one fine morning to abandon the innocent ‹state
of nature› for the stormy ‹state of society›.

It is not the design of this chapter to bring together all possible
refutations of this fundamental error, the most fatal which has
ever infested the political sciences; for if society is the fruit
of invention and convention, it follows that every one may propose
a new model, and this, since Rousseau’s time, has in fact been the
[p098] direction in which men’s minds have tended. I could easily
demonstrate, I believe, that isolation excludes language, as the
absence of language excludes thought; and man, deprived of thought,
instead of being a child of nature, ceases to be man at all.

But a peremptory refutation of the idea upon which Rousseau’s
doctrine reposes, flows naturally from some considerations on

‹Want›, ‹Effort›, ‹Satisfaction›,—such is man in an economical point
of view.

We have seen that the two extreme terms are essentially
intransmissible, for they terminate in sensation, they are sensation,
which is the most personal thing in the world, as well the sensation
which precedes the effort and determines it, as the sensation which
follows the effort and rewards it.

It is then the ‹Effort› which is exchanged; indeed, it cannot be
otherwise, since exchange implies action, and Effort alone manifests
the principle of activity. We cannot suffer or enjoy for one another,
unless we could experience personally the pains and pleasures of
others. But we can assist each other, work for one another, render
reciprocal ‹services›, and place our faculties, or the results of
their exercise, at the disposal of others, in consideration of a
return. This is society. The causes, the effects, the laws, of these
exchanges constitute the subject of political and social economy.

We not only can exchange efforts and render reciprocal services, but
we do so necessarily. What I affirm is this, that our organization is
such that we are obliged to work for one another under pain of death,
of instant death. If it be so, society is our state of nature, since
it is the only state in which we can live at all.

There is one observation which I have to make upon the equilibrium
between our wants and our faculties, an observation which has always
led me to admire the providential plan which regulates our destinies:—

‹In the state of isolation our wants exceed our powers;›

‹In the social state our powers exceed our wants.›

Hence it follows that man in an isolated state cannot subsist, whilst
in the social state his most imperious wants give place to desires
of a higher order, and continue to do so in an ascending career of
progress and improvement to which it is impossible to set limits.

This is not declamation, but an assertion capable of being [p099]
rigorously demonstrated by reasoning and analogy, if not by
experience. And why can it not be demonstrated by experience, by
direct observation? Precisely because it is true—precisely because,
man not being able to exist in a state of isolation, it becomes
impossible to exhibit in actual nature the effects of absolute
solitude. You cannot lay hold of a nonentity. You can prove to me
that a triangle never has four sides, but you cannot, in support of
your demonstration, place before my eyes a tetragonal triangle. If
you could, the exhibition of such a triangle would disprove your
assertion. In the same way, to ask me for experimental proof, to ask
me to study the effects of isolation in actual nature, is to palm a
contradiction upon me; for life and isolation being incompatible, we
have never seen, and never shall see, men without social relations.

If there are animals (of which I am ignorant) destined by their
organization to make the round of their existence in absolute
isolation, it is very clear that nature must exactly proportion
their wants and their powers. It is possible to conceive that their
powers have the superiority, in which case these animals would be
progressive and capable of improvement. An equilibrium of wants and
powers would render them stationary beings; but the superiority of
their wants to their powers it is impossible to conceive. From their
birth, from their first appearance in life, their faculties must be
complete—relatively to the wants for which they have to provide,
or at least both must be developed in just proportion. Otherwise
the species would die the moment they came into existence, and,
consequently, could not be the subject of our observation.

Of all the species of living beings which surround us, undoubtedly
none have so many wants as man. In none is infancy so long, so
feeble, and so helpless—in none is maturity loaded with so much
responsibility—in none is old age so frail and so liable to
suffering. And, as if we had not enough of wants, man has tastes
also, the satisfaction of which exercises his faculties quite as much
as his wants. Scarcely has he appeased his hunger than he begins
to pamper himself with dainties—no sooner has he clothed himself
than he sighs for finery—no sooner has he obtained shelter than he
proceeds to embellish and decorate his residence. His mind is as
restless as his body is exacting. He seeks to fathom the secrets
of nature, to tame animals, to control the elements, to dive into
the bowels of the earth, to traverse broad seas, to soar above the
clouds, to annihilate time and space. He desires to know the motions,
the springs, the laws, of his mind and heart—to [p100] control his
passions—to conquer immortality—to become a god—to bring all things
into subjection; nature, his fellow-men, himself. In a word, his
desires and aspirations expand continually, and tend towards the

Thus, in no other species are the faculties so susceptible of vast
development as in man. It is his alone to compare and to judge, to
reason and to speak, to foresee, to sacrifice the present to the
future. He alone can transmit, from generation to generation, his
works, his thoughts, the treasures of his experience. He alone is
capable of a perfectibility which is indefinite, which forms a chain
the countless links of which would seem to stretch beyond the limits
of the present world.

Let me here set down an observation which belongs properly to
Political Economy. However extended may be the domain of our
faculties, they do not reach the length of ‹creating› anything.
Man cannot, in truth, augment or diminish the number of existing
particles of matter. His action is limited to subjecting the
substances which he finds around him to modifications and
combinations which fit them for his use.[25]

To modify substances, so as to increase their utility in relation
to us, is to ‹produce›, or rather it is one mode of producing.
From this I conclude that value (as we shall afterwards more fully
explain) does not reside in these substances themselves, but in the
effort which intervenes in order to modify them, and which exchange
brings into comparison with other analogous efforts. This is the
reason why value is simply the appreciation of services exchanged,
whether a material commodity does or does not intervene. As regards
the notion of value, it is a matter of perfect indifference whether
I render to another a direct service, as, for example, in performing
for him a surgical operation, or an indirect service, in preparing
for him a curative substance. In this last case the ‹utility› is in
the substance, but the ‹value› is in the service, in the effort,
intellectual and muscular, made by one man for the benefit of
another. It is by a pure metonymy that we attribute value to the
material substance itself, and here, as on many other occasions,
metaphor leads science astray.

I return to the subject of man’s organization. If we adhere to the
preceding notions, he differs from other animals only in the greater
extent of his wants, and the superiority of his powers. All, in
fact, are subject to the one and provided with the other. A bird
undertakes long journeys in search of the temperature which suits
it best—the beaver crosses the river on a bridge of [p101] his own
construction—the hawk pursues his prey openly—the cat watches for it
with patience—the spider prepares a snare—all labour in order to live
and multiply.

But while Nature has established an exact proportion between the
wants of animals and their faculties, if she has treated man with
greater bounty and munificence, if, in order to force him to be
‹sociable›, she has decreed that in a state of isolation his wants
should surpass his faculties, whilst, on the contrary, in the social
state, his powers, superior to his wants, open to him an unlimited
field for nobler enjoyments, we ought to acknowledge that, as in
his relation with the Creator man is elevated above the beasts by
the religious sentiment, in his relations with his fellow-creatures
by his sense of justice, in his relations with himself by the moral
principle—in like manner, in relation to the means of living and
multiplying, he is distinguished by a remarkable phenomenon, namely,

Shall I essay to paint the state of poverty, of destitution, and
of ignorance, in which, but for the power of exchanging, the human
species would have been sunk, had it not, indeed, as is more likely,
disappeared altogether.

One of the most popular philosophers, in a romance which has been
the charm of the young from generation to generation, has shown us
man surmounting by his energy, his activity, his intelligence, the
difficulties of absolute solitude. For the purpose of setting clearly
before us what are the resources of that noble creature, the author
has exhibited him as accidentally cut off from civilisation. It was
part of Defoe’s plan to throw Robinson Crusoe into the Island of Juan
Fernandez alone, naked, deprived of all that the union of efforts,
the division of employments, exchange, society, add to the human

And yet, although the fancied obstacles are but imaginary, Defoe
would have taken away from his tale even the shadow of probability
if, too faithful to the thought which he wished to develop, he had
not made forced concessions to the social state, by admitting that
his hero had saved from shipwreck some indispensable things, such
as provisions, gunpowder, a gun, a hatchet, a knife, cords, planks,
iron, etc.; a decisive proof that society is the necessary medium in
which man lives, and out of which not even a romance writer could
figure him as existing.

And, observe, that Robinson Crusoe carried with him into solitude
another ‹social› treasure, a thousand times more precious than all
these, and which the waves could not engulf, I mean his ideas, his
recollections, his experience, above all, his language, [p102]
without which he would not have been able to hold converse with
himself, that is to say, to think.

We have the unfortunate and unreasonable habit of attributing to
the ‹social state› the sufferings which we see around us. We are
right so far, if our object be to compare society with itself in
different degrees of advancement and improvement; but we are wrong
if our object be to compare the social state, however imperfect,
with a state of isolation. To authorize us to assert that society
impairs the condition, I do not say of man in general, but of some
men, and these the poorest and most wretched of the species, we must
begin by proving that the worst provided of our fellow-creatures
have to support in the social state a heavier load of privations
and sufferings than the man whose lot has been cast in solitude.
Now, examine the life of the humblest day-labourer. Pass in review,
in all their details, the articles of his daily consumption. He is
covered with some coarse clothing, he eats a little common bread, he
sleeps under shelter, and on boards, at least, if he has no better
couch. Now, let us ask if man in a state of isolation, deprived of
the resources of Exchange, could by any possibility procure for
himself that coarse clothing, that common bread, that rude bed, that
humble shelter? Rousseau himself, the passionate enthusiast of the
‹state of nature›, avows the utter impossibility of it. Men dispensed
with everything, he says; they went naked, they slept in the open
air. Thus Rousseau, to exalt the state of nature, was led to make
happiness consist in privation. And yet I affirm that this negative
happiness is a chimera, and that man in a state of isolation would
infallibly perish in a very few hours. Perhaps Rousseau would have
gone to the length of saying that that would have been the perfection
of his system; and he would have been consistent, for if privation be
happiness, death is perfection.

I trust the reader will not conclude from what precedes that we are
insensible to the social sufferings of our fellow-men. Because these
sufferings are less even in an imperfect state of society than in a
state of isolation, it does not follow that we should not invoke,
with all earnestness, that progress which constantly diminishes them.
But if isolation is something worse than all that is bad in the
social state, then I am justified in saying that it places our wants,
even the most imperious, far above our faculties and our means of
providing for wants.

In what way does Exchange advantageously reverse all this, and place
our faculties above our wants?

And first this is proved by the very fact of civilisation. If our
[p103] wants surpassed our faculties, we should be beings invincibly
retrograde; if there were an equilibrium between them, we should be
invincibly stationary. But we advance; which shows that at every
stage of social life, as compared with the period that preceded it,
a certain portion of our powers, relatively to a given amount of
satisfactions, is left disposable. We shall endeavour to explain this
marvellous phenomenon.

The explanation which Condillac has given appears to me to be quite
unsatisfactory and empirical—in fact, it explains nothing. “From
the very fact,” he says, “that an exchange is made, it follows that
there must be profit for the two contracting parties, for otherwise
it would not take place. Then each exchange includes two gains for

Holding this proposition as true, we see in it only the statement of
a result. It is in this way that the ‹Malade Imaginaire› explains the
narcotic virtue of opium:—

  Quia est in eo
  Virtus dormitiva
  Quæ facit dormire.

Exchange includes two gains, you say. How? Why? It results from the
fact that it takes place. But why does it take place? What motive has
induced the contracting parties to effect the exchange? Has Exchange
in itself a mysterious virtue, necessarily beneficial, and incapable
of explanation?

Others make the advantage consist in this, that the one gives away
a commodity of which he has too much in order to receive another of
which he has too little. Exchange, they say, is a ‹barter of the
superfluous for the necessary›. This is contradicted by facts which
pass under our own eyes; for who can say that the peasant, in giving
away the corn which he has raised, but which he is never to eat,
gives away a superfluity? I see in this axiom very clearly how two
men may make an accidental arrangement, but I see no explanation of

Observation gives us a more satisfactory explanation of the power of

Exchange has two manifestations—namely, union of forces, and
separation of occupations.

It is very clear that in many cases the united force of several men
is superior, all things considered, to the sum of their individual
forces. Suppose that what is wanted is to remove a heavy load. Where
a thousand men in succession may fail, it is possible that four men
may succeed by uniting their efforts. Just let us reflect how few
things were ever accomplished in this world without union! [p104]

And yet this is only the concurrence of muscular forces in a common
design. Nature has endued us with very varied physical, intellectual,
and moral faculties. There are in the co-operation of these faculties
endless combinations. Is it wished to accomplish a useful work, like
the construction of a road, or the defence of a country? One gives
the community the benefit of his strength, another of his agility,
another of his courage, another of his experience, foresight,
imagination, even of his reputation. It is easy to comprehend
that the same men acting singly could not have attained, or even
conceived, the same results.

Now, union of forces implies Exchange. To induce men to co-operate,
they have the prospect of participating in the benefit to be
obtained. Each makes the other profit by his Efforts, and he profits
by the other’s Efforts in return, which is Exchange.

We see how Exchange in this way augments our Satisfactions. The
benefit consists in this, that efforts of equal intensity tend, by
the mere fact of their union, to superior results. There is here no
trace of the pretended ‹barter of the superfluous for the necessary›,
any more than of the double and empirical profit alleged by Condillac.

The same remark applies to division of labour. Indeed, if we regard
the matter more closely, we shall be convinced that the separation
of employments is only another and more permanent manner of uniting
our forces—of co-operating, of ‹associating›; and it is quite correct
to say, as we shall afterwards demonstrate, that the present social
organization, provided Exchange is left free and unfettered, is
itself a vast and beautiful association—a marvellous association,
very different, indeed, from that dreamt of by the Socialists,
since, by an admirable mechanism, it is in perfect accordance with
individual independence. Every one can enter and leave it at any
moment which suits his convenience. He contributes to it voluntarily,
and reaps a satisfaction superior to his contribution, and always
increasing—a satisfaction determined by the laws of justice and the
nature of things, not by the arbitrary will of a chief. But this is
anticipating. All we have to do at present is to explain how the
division of labour increases our power.

Without dwelling much on this subject, as it is one of the few which
do not give rise to controversy, a remark or two may not be out
of place. Its importance has perhaps been somewhat disparaged. In
order to demonstrate the powerful effects of the Division of Labour,
it has been usual to describe its marvellous results in certain
manufactures—in the making of pins, for [p105] example. But the
subject admits of being viewed in a more general and philosophical
light. The force of habit has the singular effect of concealing from
us, and rendering us unconscious of, the phenomena in the midst of
which we live and move. No saying is more profoundly true than that
of Rousseau, “Much philosophy is needed for the observation of what
we see every day.” It may not then be without use to recall what we
owe to Exchange, without perceiving it.

In what way has the power of exchanging elevated mankind to the
height of civilisation we have now attained? I answer, by the
influence which it exerts on ‹Labour›, upon the co-operation of
‹natural agents›, upon the ‹powers and faculties› of man, and upon

Adam Smith has clearly demonstrated its influence on Labour.

“The great increase in the quantity of work, which, in consequence
of the division of labour, the same number of people are capable of
performing, is owing to three circumstances,” says that celebrated
Economist: “‹First›, to the increase of dexterity in every particular
workman; ‹secondly›, to the saving of time which is commonly lost
in passing from one species of work to another; ‹thirdly›, to this,
that men are much more likely to discover easier and readier methods
of attaining an object when the whole attention of their minds is
directed to that single object, than when it is dissipated among a
great variety of things.”

Those who, like Adam Smith, see in Labour the exclusive source of
wealth, confine themselves to inquiring in what way the division
of labour increases its efficiency. But we have seen in the
preceding chapter that labour is not the sole agent in procuring us
satisfaction. ‹Natural forces› co-operate. That is beyond doubt.

Thus, in agriculture, the action of the sun and of the rain, the
moisture of the earth, and the gases diffused in the atmosphere,
are undoubtedly agents which co-operate with human labour in the
production of vegetable substances.

Manufacturing industry owes analogous services to the chemical
qualities of certain substances, to water-power, to the elasticity of
steam, to gravitation, to electricity.

Commerce has turned to the profit of man the vigour and instincts of
certain races of animals, the force of the winds which fill the sails
of his ships, the laws of magnetism, which, acting on the compass,
direct the course of these ships through the pathless ocean.

There are two verities which are beyond all dispute. The [p106]
first is, that ‹the more man avails himself of the forces of nature,
the better he is provided with everything he requires›.

It is sufficiently evident that, with equal exertion, we obtain more
corn from a rich loamy soil than from sterile rocks or arid sands.

The second is, ‹that natural agents are unequally diffused over the
various countries of the world›.

Who would venture to maintain that all soils are equally well fitted
for all kinds of culture, or all countries for the same description
of manufactures?

Now, if it be true on the one hand that natural forces are unequally
diffused in the different countries of the world, and on the other
that men are richer in proportion as they avail themselves of them,
it follows that the faculty of Exchange immeasurably augments the
useful co-operation of these forces.

And here we recur once more to gratuitous and onerous utility, the
former being substituted for the latter by virtue of Exchange. Is it
not very clear, that if men were deprived of the power of Exchange,
and were obliged to produce ice under the equator, and sugar at the
poles, they must spend much pains in doing what heat and cold do
gratuitously, and that for them an immense proportion of the Forces
of nature would remain inoperative? Thanks to Exchange, these forces
are rendered useful to us wherever we encounter them. Corn land is
sown with wheat—in wine-growing countries the land is planted with
vines—there are fishermen on the coasts, and wood-cutters among the
mountains. In one place a wheel which does the work of ten men is set
in motion by water—in another, by wind. Nature becomes a slave, whom
we have neither to feed, nor to clothe, nor to pay—who costs nothing
either to our purse or our conscience.[26] The same amount of human
efforts, that is to say, the same services, the same value, realizes
a constantly increasing amount of utility. For each given result a
certain portion only of human exertion is absorbed; the remainder, by
means of the intervention of natural Forces, is rendered disposable,
and it sets to work to overcome new obstacles, to minister to new
desires, to realize new utilities.

The effects of Exchange upon our intellectual Faculties are so great,
that we can scarcely even imagine their extent.

“Knowledge,” says M. de Tracy, “is the most precious of all our
acquisition, since it directs and governs the employment of our
forces, and renders them more prolific, in proportion as it is
sounder and more extensive. No man can himself observe [p107]
everything, and it is much easier to learn than to invent. But
when several men communicate with each other, what is observed by
one is soon known to the rest; and if there be among them but one
person of superior ingenuity, precious discoveries speedily become
the property of all. In such circumstances, knowledge is much more
rapidly increased than it could be in a state of isolation, without
taking into account the power of preserving it, and consequently of
accumulating it from one generation to another.”

If the resources which nature has accumulated around man and placed
at his disposal are varied, the human faculties themselves are not
less so. We are not all equally endowed with strength, courage,
intelligence, patience, or with artistic, literary, and industrial
aptitudes. Without exchange, this diversity, far from contributing
to our well-being, would contribute to our misery, each feeling less
the advantage of those Faculties he possessed than the deprivation
of those he wanted. Thanks to exchange, a man possessed of bodily
strength may, up to a certain point, dispense with genius, and a man
of intelligence with bodily strength; for by the admirable community
which the power of exchange establishes among men, each individual
participates in the distinctive qualities of his neighbours.

In order to obtain the satisfactions he desires, it is not enough,
in most cases, to work—to exercise his faculties upon, or by means
of, natural agents. He requires also to have tools, instruments,
machines, provisions—in a word, Capital. Suppose a small tribe,
composed of ten families, each, in working exclusively for itself,
being obliged to engage in ten different employments. In that case
each family must have ten sets of industrial apparatus. The tribe
would require to possess ten ploughs, ten teams of oxen, ten forges,
ten joiner’s and carpenter’s workshops, ten looms, etc.; while, with
the power of exchange, a single plough, a single team, a single
forge, a single loom, would be sufficient. It is impossible to
conceive the economy of Capital which we owe to exchange.

The reader now sees clearly what constitutes the true power of
exchange. It is not, as Condillac says, that it implies ‹two gains›,
because of each of the contracting parties valuing more highly what
he receives than what he gives. Neither is it that each gives away
what is superfluous for what is necessary. It lies simply in this,
that when one man says to another, “Do you only this, and I shall
do only that, and we shall divide,” there is a better and more
advantageous employment of labour, of faculties, of natural agents,
of capital, and consequently there is ‹more› to divide. And these
results take place to a still greater extent when [p108] three, ten,
a hundred, a thousand, or several millions of men enter into the

The two propositions which I have laid down, then, are rigorously
true, viz.:—

‹In isolation our wants exceed our powers;›

‹In society our powers exceed our wants.›

The first is true, seeing that the whole surface of our country would
not maintain one man in a state of absolute isolation.

The second is true, seeing that, in fact, the population which is
spread over that same surface multiplies and grows richer.

‹Progress of Exchange.›—The primitive form of exchange is ‹Barter›.
Two persons, one of whom desires an object, and is possessed of
an object which the other desires, agree to cede these objects
reciprocally, or they agree to work separately, each at one thing,
but for the purpose of dividing the total product of their labour in
arranged proportions. This is ‹Barter›, which is, as the Socialists
would say, Exchange, traffic, commerce ‹in embryo›. We observe here
two Desires as motives—two Efforts as means—two Satisfactions as
results, or as the termination and completion of the entire cycle;
and this evolution is not essentially different from the same
evolution accomplished in a state of isolation, except that the
desires and satisfactions have, as their nature requires, remained
intransmissible, and that Efforts alone have been exchanged. In other
words, the two persons have worked for each other, and have rendered
each other reciprocal ‹services›.

It is at this point that Political Economy truly begins, for it is
here that ‹value› first makes its appearance. Barter takes place
only after an arrangement, a discussion. Each of the contracting
parties is governed by considerations of self-interest. Each of
them makes a calculation, which in effect comes to this, “I shall
barter if the barter procures me the ‹satisfaction› I ‹desire› with
a less ‹Effort›.” It is certainly a marvellous phenomenon that
diminished efforts can yet keep pace with undiminished desires
and satisfactions; and this is explained by the considerations
which I have presented in the first part of this chapter. When two
commodities or two services are ‹bartered›, we may conclude that they
are of ‹equal value›. We shall have to analyze afterwards the notion
of ‹value›, but this vague definition is sufficient for the present.

We may suppose a ‹round-about barter›, including three contracting
parties. ‹Paul› renders a service to ‹Peter›, who renders an
equivalent service to ‹James›, who in turn renders an equivalent
service to ‹Paul›, by means of which all is balanced. I need not say
that this round-about transaction only takes place because it [p109]
suits all the parties, without changing either the nature or the
consequences of barter.

The essence of Barter is discovered in all its purity even when
the number of contracting parties is greater. In my ‹commune› the
vine-dresser pays with wine for the services of the blacksmith, the
barber, the tailor, the beadle, the curate, the grocer; while the
blacksmith, the barber, the tailor, in turn deliver to the grocer,
for the commodities consumed during the year, the wine which they
have received from the vine-dresser.

This round-about Barter, I cannot too often repeat, does not change
in the least degree the primary notions explained in the preceding
chapters. When the evolution is complete, each of those who have had
part in it presents still the triple phenomenon, ‹want›, ‹effort›,
‹satisfaction›. We have but to add, the exchange of efforts, the
transmission of services, the separation of employments, with all
their resulting advantages—advantages to which every one of the
parties has contributed, seeing that isolated individual labour
is a ‹pis aller›, always reserved, and which is only renounced in
consideration of a certain advantage.

It is easy to comprehend that Barter in kind, especially the indirect
and round-about barter which I have described, cannot be much
extended, and it is unnecessary to dwell upon the obstacles which
set limits to it. How could he manage, for example, who wished to
exchange his house against the thousand articles which enter into his
annual consumption? In any case, Barter could never take place but
among the few persons who happen to be acquainted with each other.
Progress and the Division of Labour would soon reach their limits if
mankind had not discovered the means of facilitating exchanges.

This is the reason why men, from the earliest ages of society, have
employed an intermediate commodity to effect their transactions—corn,
wine, animals, and almost always, the precious metals. Such
commodities perform this function of facilitating exchanges more or
less conveniently; still any one of them can perform it, provided
that, in the transaction, Effort is represented by ‹value›, the
transmission of which is the thing to be effected.

When recourse is had to an intermediate commodity, two economic
phenomena make their appearance, which we denominate ‹Sale› and
‹Purchase›. It is evident that the idea of ‹sale› and ‹purchase› is
not included in direct Barter, or even in round-about Barter. When a
man gives another something to drink, in consideration of receiving
from him something to eat, we have a [p110] simple fact which we
cannot analyze farther. Now, what we must remark in the very outset
of the science is, that exchanges which are effected by means of
an intermediate commodity do not lose the nature, the essence, the
quality of barter—only the barter is no longer simple, but compound.
To borrow the very judicious and profound observation of J. B. Say,
it is a barter of ‹two factors› [troc à deux facteurs], of which the
one is called ‹sale› and the other ‹purchase›—factors whose union is
indispensable in order to constitute a complete barter.

In truth, this discovery of a convenient means of effecting exchanges
makes no alteration in the nature either of men or of things. We have
still in every case the ‹want› which determines the ‹effort›, and the
‹satisfaction› which rewards it. The Exchange is complete only when
the man who has made an ‹effort› in favour of another has obtained
from him an equivalent service, that is to say, ‹satisfaction›. To
effect this, he ‹sells› his service for the intermediate commodity,
and then with that intermediate commodity he ‹purchases› equivalent
services, when the two factors bring back the transaction to simple

Take the case of a physician, for instance. For many years he has
devoted his time and his faculties to the study of diseases and their
remedies. He has visited patients, he has prescribed for them, in a
word, he has rendered ‹services›. Instead of receiving compensation
from his patients in ‹direct services›, which would have constituted
simple barter, he receives from them an intermediate commodity, the
precious metals, wherewith he purchases the satisfactions which were
the ultimate object he had in view. His patients have not furnished
him with bread, wine, or other goods, but they have furnished
him with the value of these. They could not have given him money
unless they had themselves rendered ‹services›. As far as they are
concerned, therefore, there is a balance of ‹services›, and there
is also a balance as regards the physician; and could we in thought
follow this circulation of services out and out, we should see that
Exchange carried on by the intervention of money resolves itself into
a multitude of acts of simple barter.

In the case of simple barter, ‹value› is the appreciation of two
services exchanged and directly compared with each other. In the
case of ‹Compound Exchange› the two services measure each other’s
value, not directly, but by comparison with this mean term, this
intermediate commodity, which is called Money. We shall see by-and-by
what difficulties, what errors, have sprung from this complication.
At present it is sufficient to remark that [p111] the intervention
of this intermediate commodity makes no change whatever in the notion
of ‹value›.

Only admit that exchange is at once the cause and the effect of the
division of labour and the separation of employments; only admit
that the separation of occupations multiplies ‹satisfactions› in
proportion to ‹efforts›, for the reasons explained at the beginning
of this chapter, and you will comprehend at once the services which
Money has rendered to mankind, by the simple fact that it facilitates
Exchanges. By means of Money, Exchange is indefinitely extended
and developed. Each man casts his services into the common fund,
without knowing who is to enjoy the satisfactions which they are
calculated to procure. In the same way he obtains from society, not
immediate services, but money with which he can afterwards purchase
services, where, when, and how it may best suit him. In this way the
ultimate transactions occur at various times and places, between
people totally unacquainted with each other, and in the greater
number of cases no one knows by whose ‹efforts› his ‹wants› will be
‹satisfied›, or to the ‹satisfaction› of whose ‹desires› his own
‹efforts› will contribute. Exchange, by the intervention of Money,
resolves itself into innumerable acts of ‹barter›, of which the
contracting parties themselves are ignorant.

Exchange, however, confers so great a benefit on society (is it not
society itself?) that it facilitates and extends it by other means
besides the introduction of money. In logical order, after Want and
Satisfaction united in the same individual with isolated Effort—after
simple barter—after barter ‹à deux facteurs›, or Exchange composed
of ‹sale› and ‹purchase›—come other transactions, extended farther
over time and space by means of credit, mortgages, bills of exchange,
bank notes, etc. By means of this wondrous machinery, the result of
civilisation, the improver of civilisation, and itself becoming more
perfect at the same time, an exertion made at the present hour in
Paris may contribute to the satisfaction and enjoyment of an unknown
stranger, separated from us by oceans and centuries; and he who makes
the exertion will not the less receive for it a present recompense,
through the intervention of persons who advance the remuneration,
and wait to be reimbursed in a distant country or at a future day.
Marvellous and astonishing complication! which, when subjected to
analysis, shows us finally the accomplishment of the entire economic
cycle—‹want›, ‹effort›, ‹satisfaction›, taking place in each
individual, according to a just law.

‹Limits of Exchange.›—The general character of Exchange is ‹to
diminish the proportion which the Effort bears to the satisfaction›.
Between our wants and our satisfactions ‹obstacles› are interposed,
[p112] which we succeed in diminishing by the union of forces or the
division of occupations, that is to say, by ‹Exchange›. But Exchange
itself encounters obstacles and demands efforts. The proof of this
is the immense amount of human labour which it sets in motion.
The precious metals, roads, canals, railways, wheeled carriages,
ships—all these things absorb a considerable portion of human
activity. Observe, besides, how many men are exclusively occupied
in facilitating exchanges—how many bankers, merchants, shopkeepers,
brokers, carriers, sailors! This vast and costly apparatus shows us,
better than any reasoning, how much efficacy there is in the power of
Exchange, for why otherwise should society be encumbered with it?

Since it is the nature of Exchange to ‹save› efforts and to ‹exact›
them, it is easy to understand what are its natural limits. In virtue
of that motive which urges man to choose always the least of two
evils, Exchange will go on extending itself indefinitely as long as
the effort it exacts is less than the effort which it saves. And its
extension will stop naturally when, upon the whole, the aggregate of
satisfactions obtained by the division of labour becomes less, by
reason of the increasing difficulties attending Exchange, than if we
procured them by direct production.

Suppose the case of a small tribe. If they desire to procure
themselves satisfactions they must make an effort. They may address
themselves to another tribe, and say to them, “Make this effort for
us, and we shall make another for you.” The stipulation may suit
all parties, if, for example, the second tribe is in a situation to
obtain greater assistance than the other from natural and gratuitous
forces. In that case it may be able to realize the result with an
effort equal to eight, while the first could only accomplish it by an
effort equal to twelve. There is thus an economy equal to four for
the first. But then come the cost of transport, the remuneration of
intermediate agents, in a word, the effort exacted by the machinery
of Exchange. This cost must, then, clearly be added to the figure
eight. Exchange will continue to take place as long as the Exchange
‹itself› does not cost four. The moment it reaches that figure it
will stop. It is quite unnecessary to make laws on this subject; for
either the law intervenes before this level is attained, and then it
is injurious—it prevents an economy of efforts—or it comes after it,
and then it is useless, like an ordinance forbidding people to light
their lamps at noonday.

When Exchange is thus arrested from ceasing to be advantageous, the
slightest improvement in the ‹commercial apparatus› gives it a new
activity. Between Orleans and Angoulême a certain [p113] number of
transactions take place. These towns effect an Exchange as often
as they can obtain a greater amount of enjoyments by that means
than by direct production. They stop short the moment the cost of
obtaining commodities by means of exchange, aggravated by the cost
of effecting the exchange itself, surpasses, or reaches, that of
obtaining them by means of direct production. In these circumstances,
if we improve the conditions under which Exchanges are effected—if
the merchants’ profits are diminished, or the means of transport
facilitated—if roads and railways are made, mountains levelled, and
bridges thrown over rivers—in a word, if obstacles are removed, the
number of Exchanges will be increased; for men are always desirous
to avail themselves of the great advantages which we have ascribed
to Exchange, and to substitute gratuitous for onerous utility. The
improvement of the ‹commercial apparatus›, then, is equivalent
to bringing two cities locally nearer to each other. Whence it
follows that bringing men physically, locally, nearer each other is
equivalent to improving the conditions of exchange. This is very
important. It is, in fact, the solution of the problem of population;
and this is precisely the element in that great problem that Malthus
has neglected. Where Malthus saw Discordance, attention to this
element enables us to discover ‹Harmony›.

When men effect an exchange, it is because they succeed by that means
in obtaining an equal amount of ‹satisfaction› at a less expense of
‹effort›; and the reason of this is, that on both sides services are
rendered which are the means of procuring a greater proportion of
what we have termed ‹gratuitous utility›.

Now, you have always a greater number of exchanges in proportion as
you remove the ‹obstacles› which impede exchanges, and diminish the
‹efforts› which these exchanges exact.

And Exchange encounters fewer obstacles, and exacts fewer efforts,
just in proportion as you bring men nearer each other, and mass them
more together. A greater density of population, then, is accompanied
by a greater proportion of ‹gratuitous utility›. That density imparts
greater power to the machinery of exchange; it sets free and renders
disposable a portion of human efforts; it is a cause of progress.

Now, if you please, let us leave generalities and look at facts.

Does not a street of equal length render more service in Paris than
in a remote village? Is not a mile of railway of more use in the
Department of the Seine than in the Department of the Landes? Is not
a London merchant content with smaller profits [p114] on account of
the greater amount of business which he transacts? In everything we
shall discover two sets of exchange agencies at work, which although
identical in kind, act very differently, according as they operate in
a densely or a thinly peopled locality.

The density of population not only enables us to reap more advantage
from the machinery of exchange, it permits us to improve that
machinery, and increase its power. Where the population is condensed,
these improvements are advantageous, because they save us more
efforts than they exact; but where the population is scattered and
thin-spread, they exact more efforts than they save.

On leaving the metropolis for a time, and going to reside in a small
provincial town, one is astonished to find that in many instances the
most ordinary ‹services› can only be obtained at great expense, and
with time and difficulty.

It is not the material part of the commercial mechanism only which
is turned to account and improved by the single circumstance of the
density of population, but the moral part also. When men are massed
together, they have more facility in dividing their employments,
in uniting their powers, and in combining to found churches and
schools, to provide for their common security, to establish banks and
insurance companies, in a word, to procure themselves all the common
enjoyments with a much smaller proportion of efforts.

We shall revert to these considerations when we come to enter on the
subject of Population. At present we shall make only this remark:—

Exchange enables men to turn their faculties to better account, to
economize capital, to obtain more assistance from the gratuitous
agencies of nature, to increase the proportion of gratuitous to
onerous utility, to diminish, consequently, the ratio of efforts to
results, and to leave at their disposal a part of their forces, so
that they may withdraw a greater and greater portion of them from the
business of providing for their primary and more imperious wants, and
devote them to procuring enjoyments of a higher and higher order.

If Exchange saves efforts, it also exacts them. It extends, and
spreads, and increases, up to the point at which the effort it
exacts becomes equal to the effort which it saves, and it stops
there until, by the improvement of the commercial apparatus, or by
the circumstance exclusively of the condensation of population, and
bringing men together in masses, it again returns to the conditions
which are essential to its onward and ascending march. [p115] Whence
it follows that laws which limit or hamper Exchanges are always
either hurtful or superfluous.

Governments which persuade themselves that nothing good can be
done but through their instrumentality, refuse to acknowledge this
harmonic law.

‹Exchange develops itself› «NATURALLY» ‹until it becomes more onerous
than useful, and at that point it› «NATURALLY» ‹stops›.

In consequence, we find governments everywhere busying themselves in
favouring or restraining trade.

In order to carry it ‹beyond› its natural limits, they set to
conquering colonies and opening new markets. In order to confine it
‹within› its natural bounds, they invent all sorts of restrictions
and fetters.

This intervention of Force in human transactions is the source of
innumerable evils.

The Increase of this force itself is an evil to begin with; for it
is very evident that the State cannot make conquests, retain distant
countries under its rule, or divert the natural course of trade by
the action of tariffs, without greatly increasing the number of its

The Diversion of the public Force from its legitimate functions is
an evil still greater than its Increase. Its rational mission was to
protect Liberty and Property; and here you have it violating Liberty
and Property. All just notions and principles are thus effaced from
men’s minds. The moment you admit that Oppression and Spoliation are
legitimate, provided they are legal—provided they interfere only by
means of the Law or public Force, you find by degrees each class of
citizens demanding that the interest of every other class should be
sacrificed to it.

This intervention of Force in the business of Exchanges, whether
it succeeds in promoting or in restraining them, cannot fail to
occasion both the Loss and Displacement of labour and capital, and,
of consequence, a disturbance of the natural distribution of the
population. On one side, natural interests disappear, on the other,
artificial interests are created, and men are forced to follow the
course of these interests. It is thus we see important branches of
industry established where they ought not to be. France makes sugar;
England spins cotton, brought from the plains of India. Centuries
of war, torrents of blood, the dissipation of vast treasures, have
brought about these results, and the effect has been to substitute in
Europe sickly and precarious for sound and healthy enterprises, and
to open the door to commercial crises, to stoppages, to instability,
and finally to Pauperism.

But I find I am anticipating. What we ought first to do is to [p116]
acquaint ourselves with the free and natural development of human
societies, and then investigate the Disturbances.

‹Moral Force of Exchange.›—We must repeat, at the risk of wounding
modern sentimentalism, that Political Economy belongs to the region
of ‹business›, and business is transacted under the influence of
‹personal interest›. In vain the puritans of socialism cry out, “This
is frightful; we shall change all this.” Such declamations involve a
flat contradiction. Do we make purchases on the Quai Voltaire in the
name of Fraternity?

It would be to fall into another kind of declamation to attribute
morality to acts determined and governed by ‹self-interest›. But
a good and wise Providence may so have arranged the social order
that these very acts, destitute of morality in their motives, may
nevertheless tend to moral results. Is it not so in the case of
labour? Now, I maintain that Exchange, whether in the incipient state
of simple barter, or expanded into a vast and complicated commerce,
develops in society tendencies more noble than the motive which gives
rise to it.

I have certainly no wish to attribute to only one of our powers
all that constitutes the grandeur, the glory, and the charm of our
existence. As there are two forces in the material world—one which
goes from the circumference to the centre, the other from the centre
to the circumference—there are also two principles in the social
world, self-interest and sympathy. It were a misfortune indeed did we
fail to recognise the benefits and joys of the sympathetic principle,
as manifested in friendship, love, filial piety, parental tenderness,
charity, patriotism, religion, enthusiasm for the good and the
beautiful. Some have maintained that the sympathetic principle is
only a magnificent form of self-love, that to love others is at
bottom only an intelligent way of loving ourselves. This is not the
place to enter on the solution of that problem. Whether these two
native energies are distinct or confounded, it is enough for us to
know that, far from being antagonistic, as is constantly said, they
act in combination, and concur in the realization of one and the same
result, the general good.

I have established these two propositions:—

‹In a state of isolation, our wants exceed our powers;›

‹In consequence of Exchange, our powers exceed our wants.›

These propositions show the end and purpose of society. There are two
others which guarantee its indefinite improvement:—

‹In a state of isolation the gain of one may be the loss of another;›

‹In consequence of Exchange, the gain of each is the gain of all.›

Is it necessary to prove that, if nature had destined man to a
[p117] solitary life, the prosperity of one would have been
incompatible with that of another, and the more numerous men had
been, the less chance would they have had of attaining prosperity?
At all events, we see clearly in what way numbers might have been
injurious, and we do not see how they could have been beneficial. And
then, I would ask, under what form could the principle of sympathy
have manifested itself? How, or on what occasion, could it have been
called forth? Could we have even comprehended it?

But men exchange, and Exchange, as we have seen, implies the
separation of employments. It gives birth to professions and trades.
Each man sets himself to overcome a certain class of obstacles, for
the benefit of the Community. Each makes it his business to render a
certain description of ‹services›. Now, a complete analysis of value
demonstrates that each service ‹has value› in the first instance in
proportion to its intrinsic utility, and afterwards in proportion
to the wealth of those to whom it is furnished—that is to say, in
proportion as the community to whom the service is rendered has a
greater demand for it, and is in a better situation to pay for it.
Experience shows us that the artizan, the physician, the lawyer, the
merchant, the carrier, the professor, the ‹savant›, derive greater
returns from their services in Paris, in London, or at New York, than
in the Landes of Gascony, or the mountains of Wales, or the prairies
of the Far West. And does not this confirm the truth, ‹that each man
is more likely to prosper in proportion to the general prosperity of
the community in which he lives›?

Of all the harmonies which have come under my observation, this is
beyond doubt the most important, the finest, the most decisive, the
most suggestive. It sums up and includes all the others. This is why
I can give only a very incomplete demonstration of it in this place.
The whole scope and spirit of this work will establish it; and I
shall deem it a fortunate thing if its probability at least is made
so apparent as to induce the reader to convince himself of its truth
by farther inquiry and reflection.

For it is beyond question that on this turns our decision between
natural and artificial Organizations—that on this, and this alone,
hangs the solution of the Social Problem. If the prosperity of all
be the condition of the prosperity of each, then we can repose
with confidence not only on the economic power of free trade, but
on its moral force. If men only understood their true interests,
restrictions, mercantile jealousies, commercial wars, monopolies,
would go down under the influence of public opinion; [p118] and
before soliciting the interposition of government in any case, the
question would be, not “How am ‹I› to be benefited by it?” but
“What advantage is likely to result from it to the community?” This
last question, I grant, is sometimes elicited by the principle of
sympathy; but let men be once enlightened, and it will be called
forth by Self-interest. Then we shall be enabled to say with truth
that the two motive principles of our nature tend towards the same
result—the General Good; and it will be impossible to deny Moral
Power to self-interest, and the transactions which spring from it, as
far at least as their effects are concerned.

Consider the relations of man to man, family to family, province to
province, nation to nation, hemisphere to hemisphere, capitalist to
labourer, the man of property to the man of no property,—it seems
evident to me that it is impossible to resolve the social problem
from any one of these points of view, or even to enter upon its
solution, before choosing between these two maxims:—

‹The profit of one is the loss of another;›

‹The profit of one is the gain of another.›

For if nature has arranged matters so that antagonism is the law
of free transactions, our only resource is to vanquish nature and
stifle Freedom. If, on the other hand, these free transactions are
harmonious, that is to say, if they tend to ameliorate and equalize
the conditions of men, our efforts must be confined to allowing
nature to act, and maintaining the rights of human Liberty.

This is the reason why I conjure the young people to whom this work
is dedicated to scrutinize with care the formulas which it lays down,
and to analyze the peculiar nature and effects of Exchange. I hope
yet to find at least one among them who will be able to demonstrate
rigorously this proposition: “‹The good of each tends to the good of
all, as the good of all tends to the good of each›;” and who will,
moreover, be able to impress this truth upon men’s minds by rendering
the proof of it simple, lucid, and irrefragable. The man who does
this will have resolved the social problem, and be the benefactor of
the human race.

Depend upon it, that according as this axiom is true or false, the
natural laws of society are harmonious or antagonistic; and that
according as they are harmonious or antagonistic, it is our interest
to conform to them or to deviate from them. Were it once thoroughly
demonstrated, then, that under the empire of freedom men’s interests
harmonize and favour each other, all the efforts which we now see
governments making to disturb the [p119] action of these natural
social laws we should see directed to giving them force, or rather,
no efforts whatever would then be necessary, and all they would
have to do would be to abstain from interfering. In what does the
restraining action of governments consist? We may infer it from
the design they have in view. What is that design? To remedy the
inequality which is supposed to spring from Liberty. Now, there is
only one way of re-establishing the equilibrium, namely, ‹to take
from one in order to give to another›. Such, in fact, is the mission
which governments have arrogated to themselves, or have received;
and it is a rigorous consequence of the formula, that ‹the gain
of one is the loss of another›. If that axiom be true, Force must
repair the evils of Liberty. Thus governments, instituted for the
protection of liberty and property, have undertaken the task of
violating liberty and property in every shape; and they have done
so consistently, if it be in liberty and property that the germ and
principle of evil reside. Hence we see them everywhere engaged in the
artificial displacement and redistribution of labour, capital, and

On the other hand, an incalculable amount of intellectual force is
thrown away in the pursuit of artificial social organizations. ‹To
take from one in order to give to another›, to violate both liberty
and property, is a very simple design, but the means of carrying out
that design may be varied to infinity. Hence arise multitudes of
systems, which strike the producing classes with terror, since from
the very nature of the object they have in view, they menace all
existing interests.

Thus arbitrary and complex systems of government, the negation of
liberty and property, the antagonism of classes and nations, all
these are logically included in the axiom, that ‹the gain of one
is the loss of another›. And, for the same reason, simplicity in
government, respect for individual dignity, freedom of labour and
exchange, peace among nations, security for person and property, are
all contained and shut up in this truth—Interests are harmonious.
They are so, however, only on one condition, which is, that this
truth should be generally admitted.

But it is very far from being so. On reading what I have said on this
subject many people will be led to say, You break through an open
door. Who ever thought of contesting seriously the superiority of
Exchange to Isolation? In what book, unless indeed in the works of
Rousseau, have you encountered this strange paradox?

Those who stop me with this reflection forget only two things, two
[p120] symptoms, or rather two aspects of modern society, the
doctrines with which theorists inundate us, and the practice which
governments impose on us. It is quite impossible that the harmony
of interests can be universally recognised, since, on the one hand,
public force is constantly engaged in interfering to disturb natural
combinations, while, on the other, the great complaint which is made
against the ruling power is, that it does not interfere enough.

The question is this, Are the evils (I do not speak here of evils
which arise from our native infirmity)—are the evils to which society
is subject imputable to the action of natural social laws, or to our
disturbance of that action?

Now, here we have two co-existent facts, Evil,—and Public Force,
engaged to counteract the natural social laws. Is the first of these
facts the consequence of the second? For my own part, I believe so;
I should even say, I am certain of it. But at the same time I can
attest this, that in proportion as evil is developed, governments
invariably seek for a remedy in new disturbances of the natural laws,
and theorists reproach them with not going far enough. Am I not
thence entitled to conclude that they have but little confidence in
these laws?

Undoubtedly, if the question is between Isolation and Exchange we are
at one. But if the question be between free and compulsory exchange,
does the same thing hold? Is there nothing forced, factitious,
restrained, constrained, in France, in the manner in which services
which have relation to trade, to credit, to conveyances, to the
arts, to education, to religion, are exchanged? Are labour and
capital distributed naturally between agriculture and manufactures?
When existing interests are disturbed, are they allowed of their
own accord to return to their natural channels? Do we not encounter
trammels and obstacles on all sides? Are there not a hundred
professions which are interdicted to the majority of the people?
Is the Roman-catholic not ‹forced› to pay for the services of the
Jewish Rabbi, and the Jew for the services of the Catholic priest?
Is there a single man in France who has received the education which
his parents would have given him had they been free? Are not our
minds, our manners, our ideas, our employments, fashioned under the
‹régime› of the arbitrary, or at least of the artificial? Now, I
ask, whether thus to disturb the free exchange of services is not to
abjure and deny the harmony of interests? On what ground am I robbed
of my liberty, unless it be that it is judged hurtful to others? Is
it pretended that it is injurious to myself? This would be but to add
one antagonism the more. And only think! in what a situation [p121]
should we find ourselves if nature had placed in each man’s heart a
permanent irrepressible spring of action, urging him to injure those
around him, and at the same time to injure himself?

Alas! we have tried everything—when shall we make trial of the
simplest thing of all—Liberty. Liberty in all that does not offend
against justice—liberty to live, advance, improve—the free exercise
of our faculties—the free interchange of services. A beautiful and
solemn spectacle it would have been, had the Power which sprang from
the revolution of February thus addressed our citizens:—

“You have invested me with the public Force. I shall apply it
exclusively to those things in which the intervention of Force is
permissible, and there is but one—Justice. I shall force every one
to confine himself within the bounds of right. You may work freely
and as you please during the day, and sleep in peace at night. I have
taken under my charge the security of person and property—that is my
mission, and I will fulfil it—‹but I accept no other›. Let there then
be no longer any misunderstanding between us. Henceforth you shall
pay me only the light tribute which is necessary for the maintenance
of order and the administration of justice. Keep in mind that
henceforth every man must depend upon himself for his subsistence and
advancement. Turn no longer your longing eyes to me. Ask me no longer
for wealth, for employment, for credit, for education, for religion,
for morality. Never forget that the mainspring of your development is
in yourselves. As for me, I never act but through the intervention
of force. I have nothing, absolutely nothing, but what I derive from
you, and for this reason I cannot confer even the smallest advantage
on one except at the expense of another. Cultivate your fields,
then, manufacture and export your products, carry on trade, afford
each other credit, render and receive services freely, educate your
children, set them out in life, cultivate the arts, improve your
minds, refine and purify your tastes and sentiments, unite, form
industrial and charitable associations, join your efforts for your
individual good and that of the public, follow your inclinations,
fulfil your destinies by the free exercise of your powers, your
ideas, and your foresight. Expect from me only two things—Liberty and
Security—and depend upon it you cannot ask me for a third without
losing the other two.”

I am thoroughly persuaded that if the revolution of February had
proclaimed these principles we never should have had another
revolution. Is it possible to conceive that citizens, left perfectly
free in all other respects, would conspire to overturn a Power
[p122] whose action was limited to the satisfaction of the most
pressing, the most deeply felt of all our social requirements, the
requirements of Justice?

But it was unfortunately impossible for the National Assembly to
adopt this course, or make these sentiments heard. They were not in
accordance either with the ideas of the Assembly or the expectations
of the public. They would have terrified society as much as the
proclamation of Communism. To be responsible to ourselves, forsooth!
To trust to the State only for the maintenance of order and peace!
To expect from it neither wealth nor knowledge! To be able no longer
to make it responsible for our faults, our folly, our imprudence! To
trust only to ourselves for the means of subsistence and physical
amelioration, or moral and intellectual improvement! What on earth
is to become of us? Is not society on the eve of being invaded by
poverty, ignorance, error, irreligion, and perversity?

We allow that such undoubtedly would have been the fears which
would have manifested themselves on all sides had the revolution of
February proclaimed Liberty, that is to say, the reign of the natural
laws of society. Then we were either unacquainted with these laws,
or we wanted confidence in them. We could not get rid of the idea
that the motives and springs of action which God has implanted in the
mind of man are essentially perverse; that rectitude resides nowhere
but in the views and intentions of the governing power; that the
tendencies of human nature lead to disorganization, to anarchy,—in a
word, we believed in the inevitable antagonism of interests.

So far was the revolution of February from displaying any tendency
towards a natural organization, that never were the hopes and ideas
of French society so decidedly turned to artificial combinations
as at that epoch. Which of these combinations was in most favour?
I really cannot very well tell. The business, in the language of
the day, was to make experiments—‹Faciamus experimentum in corpore
vili›. Such was their contempt for individuality, so thoroughly
did they assimilate human nature to inert matter, that they talked
of making social experiments with men, just as we make chemical
experiments with acids and alkalies. The first tentative was begun at
the Luxembourg, we know with what success. Erelong the Constituent
Assembly instituted a Committee of Labour, in which a thousand social
schemes were engulfed and swallowed up. A Fourierist representative
seriously demanded lands and money (he would soon have asked for men
also) to enable him to manipulate his model society. Another [p123]
‹Egalitaire› representative offered his recipe, which was rejected.
The manufacturers were more lucky, and succeeded in maintaining
theirs. In the meantime, the Legislative Assembly named a commission
to organize “assistance.”

Now, what strikes us with surprise in all this is, that the Ruling
Power, for the sake of its own stability, did not from time to time
thus enter its protest:—“You are habituating thirty-six millions
of men to regard the State as responsible for all the good or evil
that may befall them in this world. At this rate, Government is

At any rate, if these various social inventions, dignified with the
high sounding title of organization, differ from each other in their
manner of proceeding, they are all founded on the same principle:
Take from one to give to another. Now such a principle clearly
could not meet with such universal sympathy from the people, unless
they were thoroughly convinced that men’s interests are naturally
antagonistic, and that the tendencies of human nature are essentially

To take from one to give to another! I know well that things have
gone on in this way for a long time. But before you set yourselves
to imagine various means of realizing this whimsical principle for
the remedy of existing distress, would it not be well to inquire
whether that distress has not proceeded from the very fact that this
principle in a certain form has been realized already? Before seeking
a remedy in new disturbances of the natural social laws, should you
not make sure that such perturbations do not themselves constitute
the very evil from which society suffers, and which it is your object
to cure?

To take from one in order to give to another! Just allow me to mark
here the danger and the absurdity, in an economical point of view,
of this so-called ‹social› aspiration, which, fermenting among the
masses of our population, broke forth with so terrific a force in the
revolution of February.[27]

Where society consists of several grades, we are apt to think that
people of the highest rank enjoy Privileges or Monopolies at the
expense of all the other members of the community. This is odious,
but it is not absurd.

The second grade, the class immediately below the first, will not
fail to attack and batter down monopolies; and, with the assistance
of the masses, they will succeed sooner or later in bringing about
a Revolution. In that case, power passes into their hands, and they
still think that power implies Monopoly. [p124] This is still
odious, but it is not absurd, at least it is not impracticable; for
Monopolies are possible as long as there is, below the grade which
enjoys them, a lower stratum—namely, the public at large, which
supports and feeds them. If the third and fourth grade succeed, in
their turn, in effecting a revolution, they will, if they can, so
arrange as to make the most of the masses, by means of privileges
or monopolies skilfully combined. But then the masses, emaciated,
ground down, trampled upon, must also have their revolution. Why?
What are they going to do? You think, perhaps, that they are going
to abolish all monopolies and privileges, and to inaugurate the
reign of universal justice; that they are about to exclaim—away
with restrictions—away with shackles and trammels—away with
monopolies—away with Government interferences for the profit of
certain classes; begone taxes and grinding impositions; down with
political and diplomatic intrigues? Not at all. They have quite
another aim. They become their own solicitors, and in their turn
demand to be ‹privileged›! The public at large, imitating their
superiors, ask for monopolies! They urge their right to employment,
their right to credit, their right to education, their right to
assistance! But at whose expense? They are easy on that score. They
feel only that, if they are ensured employment, credit, education
for their children, repose for their old days, and all gratis, they
will be exceedingly happy; and, truly, no one disputes it. But is it
possible? Alas! no; and this is the reason why I say that here the
odious disappears, and the absurd has reached its climax.

Monopolies to the masses! Good people, reflect a little on the
vicious circle in which you are placing yourselves. Monopoly implies
some one to enjoy it, and some one to pay for it. We can understand a
privileged man, or a privileged class, but not a privileged people.
Is there below you a still lower stratum of society upon which you
can throw back the burden? Will you never comprehend the whimsical
mystification of which you are the dupes? Will you never understand
that the state can give you nothing with the one hand but what it
has taken from you with the other? that, far from there being for
you in this combination any possible increase of prosperity, the
final result of the operation must be an arbitrary Government, more
vexatious, more exacting, more uncertain, more expensive;—heavier
taxes,—more injustice, more offensive favouritism,—liberty more
restrained,—power thrown away,—occupations, labour, and capital
displaced,—covetousness excited,—discontent provoked,—and individual
energy extinguished? [p125]

The upper classes have got alarmed, and not without reason, at
this unhappy disposition of the masses. They see in it the germ of
incessant revolutions; for what Government can hold together which
has ventured to say—“I am in possession of force, and I will employ
it to support everybody at the expense of everybody? I undertake
to become responsible for the general happiness.” But is not the
alarm which has seized these classes a just and merited punishment?
Have they not themselves set the people the fatal example of that
grasping disposition of which they now complain? Have they not had
their own eyes perpetually turned to the treasury? Have they ever
failed to secure some monopoly, some privilege, great or small, to
manufactures, to banks, to mines, to landed property, to the arts,
even to the means of diversion, to the ballet, to the opera, to
everything and everybody, in short; except to the industry of the
people—to manual labour? Have they not multiplied beyond bounds
public employments, in order to increase, at the expense of the
people, their own resources? and is there at this day a single head
of a family in France who is not on the outlook for a ‹place› for
his son? Have they ever endeavoured to get rid of any one of the
acknowledged inequalities of taxation? Have they not for a long time
turned to account everything, even the electoral franchise? And yet
they are astonished and horrified that the people should adopt the
same course. When the spirit of mendicity has so long infected the
wealthy orders, how can we suppose that it will not penetrate to the
heart of the suffering masses?

However, a great revolution has taken place. Political power, the
power of making the laws, the disposal of the public force, has
passed virtually, if not yet in fact, into the hands of the people
along with universal suffrage. Thus the people, who have proposed the
problem for solution, will be called upon to solve it themselves:
and woe to the country, if, following the example which has been
set them, they seek its solution in Privilege, which is always an
invasion of another’s rights. They will find themselves mistaken, and
the mistake will bring with it a great lesson; for if it be possible
to violate the rights of the many for the benefit of the few, how can
we violate the rights of all for the benefit of all? But at what cost
will this lesson be taught us? And, in order to obviate so frightful
a danger, what ought the upper classes to do? Two things—renounce
all privileges and monopolies themselves, and enlighten the masses,
for there are only two things which can save society—Justice and
Knowledge. They ought to inquire with earnestness whether they do not
enjoy [p126] some monopoly or other, in order that they may renounce
it—whether they do not profit by some artificial inequalities, in
order that they may efface them—whether Pauperism is not in some
measure attributable to a disturbance of the natural social laws,
in order that they may put an end to it. They should be able to
hold out their hands to the people, and say to them, These hands
are full, but they are clean. Is this what they actually do? If I
am not very much mistaken, they do just the reverse. They begin by
guarding their monopolies, and we have seen them even turning the
revolution to profit by attempting to extend these monopolies. After
having deprived themselves of even the possibility of speaking the
truth and appealing to principles, they endeavour to vindicate their
consistency by engaging to treat the people as they have treated
themselves, and dazzle them with the bait of Privilege. Only, they
think themselves very knowing in conceding at present only a small
privilege, the right to “assistance,” in the hope of diverting them
from demanding a greater one—the right to employment. They do not
perceive that to extend and systematize more and more the maxim,
“Take from one to give to another,” is only to strengthen the
illusion which creates difficulties for the present and dangers for
the future.

We must not exaggerate, however. When the superior classes seek in
privilege a remedy for the evils which privilege has caused, they are
sincere, and act, I am convinced, rather from ignorance than from any
desire to commit injustice. It is an irreparable misfortune that the
governments which have succeeded each other in France have invariably
discouraged the teaching of Political Economy. And it is a still
greater misfortune that University Education fills all our heads
with Roman prejudices; in other words, with all that is repugnant
to social truth. This is what leads the upper classes astray. It
is the fashion at present to declaim against these classes. For my
own part, I believe that at no period have their intentions been
more benevolent. I believe that they ardently desire to solve the
social Problem. I believe that they would do more than renounce
their privileges,—that they would sacrifice willingly, in works of
charity, a part of the property they have acquired, if by that means
they were satisfied that an end could be put to the sufferings of the
working classes. It may be said, no doubt, that they are actuated by
interest or fear, and that it is no great generosity to abandon a
part of their fortune to save the remainder,—that it is, in fact, but
the vulgar prudence of a man who insures his property against fire.
But let us not thus calumniate human nature. Why should we refuse to
[p127] recognise a motive less egotistical? Is it not very natural
that the democratic sentiments which prevail in our country should
render men alive to the sufferings of their brethren? But whatever
may be the dominant sentiment, it cannot be denied that everything by
which public opinion is influenced—philosophy, literature, poetry,
the drama, the pulpit, the tribune, the daily press,—all these organs
of opinion reveal not only a desire, but an ardent longing, on the
part of the wealthier classes to resolve the great problem. Why,
then, is there no movement on the part of our Legislative Assemblies?
Because they are ignorant. Political Economy proposes to them this
solution:—«Public Justice»,—«Private Charity». But they go off upon a
wrong scent, and, obeying socialist influences, without being aware
of the fact, they give charity a place in the statute-book, thereby
banishing justice from it, and destroying by the same act private
charity, which is ever prompt to recede before a compulsory poor-rate.

Why, then, do our legislators thus run counter to all sound notions?
Why do they not leave things in their proper place,—Sympathy in its
natural domain, which is Liberty,—Justice in its own, which is Law?
Why do they not leave law to do its own exclusive work in furthering
justice? Is it that they have no love of justice? No; it is that they
have no confidence in it. Justice is Liberty and Property. But they
are socialists without knowing it; and for the progressive diminution
of poverty, and the indefinite expansion of wealth, let them say what
they will, they have no faith either in liberty or property, nor,
consequently, in justice. This is why we see them, in the sincerity
of their hearts, seeking the realization of what is Good by the
perpetual violation of what is Right.

‹Natural social laws› are the phenomena, taken in the aggregate, and
considered in reference both to their motives and their results,
which govern the transactions of men in a state of freedom.

That being granted, the question is, Are we to allow these laws to
act, or are we to hinder them from acting?

The question, in fact, comes to this:

Are we to leave every man master of his liberty and property, his
right to produce, and exchange his produce, as he chooses, whether
to his benefit or detriment; or are we to interfere by means of
law, which is Force, for the protection of these rights? Or, can we
hope to secure a greater amount of social happiness by violating
liberty and property, by interfering with and regulating labour, by
disturbing exchanges, and shifting responsibility?

In other words: [p128]

Is Law to enforce rigorous Justice, or to be the instrument of
Spoliation, organized with more or less adroitness?

It is very evident that the solution of these questions depends upon
our knowledge and study of the natural laws of society. We cannot
pronounce conclusively upon them until we have discovered whether
property, liberty, the combination of services freely and voluntarily
exchanged, lead to improvement and material prosperity, as the
economists believe, or to ruin and degradation, as the socialists

In the first case, social evils must be attributed to disturbances of
the natural laws, to legal violations of liberty and property, and
these disturbances and violations must be put an end to. In that case
Political Economy is right.

In the second case, it may be said, we have not yet had enough of
Government interference. Forced and factitious combinations have not
yet sufficiently superseded free and natural combinations. These
three fatal principles, Justice, Liberty, Property, have still too
powerful a sway. Our legislators have not yet attacked them boldly
enough. We have not yet acted sufficiently on the maxim of ‹taking
from one in order to give to another›. Hitherto we have taken from
the many to give to the few. Now, we must take from all to give to
all. In a word, we must organize Spoliation, and from Socialism must
come our salvation.[28]

‹Fatal Illusions which spring from Exchange.›—Exchange is society.
Consequently, economic truth consists in a complete view of Exchange;
economic error in a partial view of it.

If man did not exchange, each economic phenomenon would be
accomplished in a single individual, and it would be very easy to
discover from observation its good and its bad effects.

But Exchange has given rise to the separation of occupations, or, in
other words, to the establishment of trades and professions. Each
service (or each product) has, then, two relations, one with the
person who furnishes it, and the other with the person who receives

Undoubtedly, at the end of the evolution, man in a social state,
like man in a state of isolation, is at once producer and consumer,
but we must see clearly the difference. Man in an isolated state is
always the producer of the very thing he consumes, which almost never
happens with man in the social state. This is an unquestionable
fact, which every one can verify for himself. It [p129] follows,
moreover, from this that the social state consists in an interchange
of services.

We are all producers and consumers, not of the thing, but of the
value, that we have produced. In exchanging commodities we remain
always possessed of their value.

It is this which gives rise to all economic errors and illusions, and
it may not be useless to mark here the progress of the human mind in
this respect.

We give the general name of ‹obstacle› to everything which, being
interposed between our wants and our satisfactions, calls for the
intervention of our efforts.

The relations of these four elements—want, obstacle, effort,
satisfaction—are quite apparent, and easily understood in isolated
man. We should never think of saying—

“It is a pity that Robinson Crusoe did not encounter more
‹obstacles›, for in that case he would have had more opportunities of
exerting his energies—he would have been richer.”

“It is unfortunate that the sea should have cast upon the shore
of the desert island useful articles, such as timber, provisions,
arms, books; for this deprived him of the opportunity of exerting
himself—it made him less rich.”

“It is to be regretted that Robinson invented nets to take fish and
game, for that diminished by so much his efforts in relation to each
given result—it made him less rich.”

“It is a pity that Robinson was not more frequently sick, for then
he must have set to doctoring himself, which is labour; and as all
wealth comes from labour, he would have been more wealthy on that

“It is a pity that he succeeded in extinguishing the fire which
threatened his cabin. He lost thus a precious opportunity of work—and
was so much the poorer.”

“It is unfortunate that in the desert island the soil was not more
ungrateful, the spring at a greater distance, the day shorter. For
then Robinson must have exerted himself more to procure food, drink,
and light, and he would have been so much the richer by the exertion.”

I say that no one in his senses would ever think of putting forth
as oracles of truth propositions so absurd. It would be too glaring
an evidence that wealth does not depend upon the intensity of the
effort in proportion to the satisfaction obtained, and that it is
just the contrary which is true. We should then understand that
wealth consists neither in the Want, nor in the Obstacle, nor in
the Effort, but in the Satisfaction; and we should not hesitate to
[p130] acknowledge that, although Robinson Crusoe was both producer
and consumer, yet, in order to judge of his progress, we must have
reference, not to his labour, but to its results. In short, in laying
down the axiom that “the paramount interest is that of the consumer,”
we believe we are merely giving utterance to a ‹truism›.

Happy will it be for nations when they discern clearly how and why
what we have found true or false of man in a state of isolation is
equally true or false of man in his social state!

It is absolutely certain, however, that the five or six propositions
which have appeared to us not only false, but absurd, when applied
to the island of Juan Fernandez, appear, when applied to our own
country, so incontestably true, that they serve as the basis of
our whole economic legislation. On the other hand, the axiom which
appears to us to be truth itself when applied to an individual, is
never invoked in the name of society without calling forth a smile of

Is it true, then, that Exchange so alters our individual organization
that what makes individual poverty constitutes social riches?

No, it is not true, but it is plausible—so very plausible as to be
generally believed.

Society consists in this—that we work for one another. The more
services we render, the more services we receive, and we receive more
in proportion as our own are more appreciated—more in demand. On the
other hand, the separation of occupations, the division of labour,
causes each of us to apply his efforts to the removal of obstacles
which stand in the way of the enjoyments of others. The agricultural
labourer combats the obstacle called hunger—the physician, the
obstacle called disease—the clergyman, the obstacle called vice—the
author, the obstacle called ignorance—the coal miner, the obstacle
called cold, etc., etc.

And as those around us are more disposed to remunerate our services
in proportion as they feel more keenly the particular obstacle which
stands in their own way, it follows that we are all disposed, in this
point of view, and as producers, to magnify the obstacle which it
is our peculiar business to overcome. We consider ourselves richer
if such obstacles are multiplied, and we reason from particulars
to generals—from our own individual advantage to the public
good.[29] . . . . [p131]


All dissertations are wearisome—a dissertation on Value the most
wearisome of all.

What unpractised writer, who has had to face an Economic problem, but
has tried to resolve it without reference to any definition of value?

Yet he soon finds he has engaged in a vain attempt. The theory of
Value is to Political Economy what numeration is to arithmetic. In
what inextricable confusion would not Bezout have landed himself, if,
to save labour to his pupils, he had undertaken to teach them the
four rules and proportion, without having previously explained the
value which the figures derive from their form and position?

The truth is, if the reader could only foresee the beautiful
consequences deducible from the theory of Value, he would undertake
the labour of mastering the first principles of Economical Science
with the same cheerfulness that one submits to the drudgery of
Geometry, in prospect of the magnificent field which it opens to our

But this intuitive foresight is not to be expected; and the more
pains I should take to establish the distinction between Value and
Utility, or between Value and Labour, in order to show how natural it
is that this should form a stumbling-block at the very threshold of
the science, the more wearisome I should become. The reader would see
in such a discussion only barren and idle subtleties, calculated at
best to satisfy the curiosity of Economists by profession.

You are inquiring laboriously, it may be said, whether wealth
consists in the Utility of things, or in their Value, or in their
rarity. Is not this like the question of the schoolmen, Does form
reside in the substance or in the accident? Are you not afraid
[p132] that some street Molière will hold you up to public ridicule
at the Théâtre des Variétés?

Yet truth obliges me to say that, in an economical point of view,
Society is Exchange. The primary element of Exchange is the notion
of ‹Value›, so that every truth and every error which this word
introduces into men’s minds is a social truth or error.

I undertake in this work to demonstrate the Harmony of those laws
of Providence which govern human society. What makes these laws
harmonious and not discordant is, that all principles, all motives,
all springs of action, all interests, co-operate towards a grand
final result, which humanity will never reach by reason of its native
‹imperfection›, but to which it will always approximate more and more
by reason of its unlimited ‹capability of improvement›. And that
result is, the indefinite approximation of all classes towards a
level, which is always rising; in other words, the ‹equalization› of
individuals in the general ‹amelioration›.

But to attain my object. I must explain two things, namely,

‹1st›, That ‹Utility› has a tendency to become more and more
‹gratuitous›, more and more ‹common›, as it gradually recedes from
the domain of individual ‹appropriation›.

‹2d›, That ‹Value›, on the other hand, which alone is capable of
appropriation, which alone constitutes property legitimately and in
fact, has a tendency to diminish more and more in relation to the
utility to which it is attached.

Such a demonstration—founded on Property, but only on the property
of which Value is the subject, and on Community, but only on the
community of utility,—such a demonstration, I say, must satisfy
and reconcile all schools, by conceding to them that all have had
a glimpse of the truth, but only of partial truth, regarded from
different points of view.

Economists! you defend property. There is in the social order no
other property than that of which ‹Value› is the subject, and that is
immovable and unassailable.

Communists! you dream of Community. You have got it. The social order
renders all ‹utilities› common, provided the exchange of those values
which have been appropriated is free.

You are like architects who dispute about a monument of which each
has seen only one side. They don’t see ‹ill›, but they don’t see
‹all›. To make them agree, it is only necessary to ask them to walk
round the edifice.

But how am I to reconstruct the social edifice, so as to exhibit
to mankind all its beautiful harmony, if I reject its two corner
stones. Utility and Value? How can I bring about the desired [p133]
reconciliation of various schools upon the platform of truth if I
shun the analysis of these two ideas, although the dissidence has
arisen from the unhappy confusion which they have caused?

I have felt this kind of introduction necessary, in order, if
possible, to secure from the reader a moment’s attention, and relieve
him from fatigue and ennui. I am much mistaken if the consoling
beauty of the consequences will not amply make up for the dryness of
the premises. Had Newton allowed himself to be repulsed at the outset
by a distaste for elementary mathematics, never would his heart
have beat with rapture on beholding the harmonies of the celestial
mechanism; and I maintain that it is only necessary to make our
way manfully to an acquaintance with certain first principles, in
order to be convinced that God has displayed in the social mechanism
goodness no less touching, simplicity no less admirable, splendour no
less magnificent.

In the first chapter we viewed man as both ‹active› and ‹passive›,
and we saw that ‹Want› and ‹Satisfaction›, acting on ‹sensibility›
alone, were in their own nature personal, peculiar, and
intransmissible; that ‹Effort›, on the contrary, the connecting link
between Want and Satisfaction, the ‹mean› term between the motive
principle of action and the end we have in view, proceeding from our
‹activity›, our spontaneity, our will, was susceptible of conventions
and of transmission. I know that, metaphysically, no one can contest
this assertion, and maintain that Effort also is personal. I have no
desire to enter the territory of ideology, and I hope that my view
of the subject will be admitted without controversy when put in this
vulgar form:—We cannot ‹feel› the wants of others—we cannot ‹feel›
the satisfactions of others; but we can ‹render service› one to

It is this transmission of efforts, this exchange of services, which
forms the subject of Political Economy; and since, on the other hand,
economical science is condensed and summed up in the word ‹Value›, of
which it is only a lengthened explanation, it follows that the notion
of value would be imperfectly, erroneously, conceived if we were
to found it upon the extreme phenomena of our sensibility—namely,
our ‹Wants› and ‹Satisfactions›—phenomena which are personal,
intransmissible, and ‹incommensurable› as between two individuals, in
place of founding it on the manifestations of our ‹activity›, upon
‹efforts›, upon reciprocal ‹services›, which are interchanged because
they are susceptible of being compared, appreciated, ‹estimated›,
and which are capable of being estimated precisely because they are
capable of being interchanged.

In the same chapter we arrived at the following formulas:— [p134]

“‹Utility› (the property which certain things and certain acts have
of serving us, of being useful to us) is complex,—one part we owe to
the action of nature, another to the action of man.”—“With reference
to a given result, the more nature has done the less remains for
human action to do.”—“The co-operation of nature is essentially
‹gratuitous›—the co-operation of man, whether intellectual or
muscular, exchanged or not, collective or solitary, is essentially
‹onerous›, as indeed the word ‹Effort› implies.”

And as what is ‹gratuitous› cannot possess ‹value›, since the idea of
‹value› implies ‹onerous› acquisition, it follows that the notion of
Value would be still erroneously conceived, if we were to extend it,
in whole or in part, to the gifts or to the co-operation of nature,
instead of restricting it exclusively to human co-operation.

Thus, from both sides, by two different roads, we arrive at this
conclusion, that ‹value› must have reference to the ‹efforts› which
men make in order to obtain the ‹satisfaction› of their ‹wants›.

In the third chapter we have established that man cannot exist in a
state of isolation. But if, by an effort of imagination, we fancy him
placed in that chimerical situation, that state ‹contrary to nature›,
which the writers of the eighteenth century extolled as the ‹state of
nature›, we shall not fail to see that it does not disclose to us the
idea of Value, although it presents the manifestation of the active
principle which we have termed ‹effort›. The reason is obvious. Value
implies comparison, appreciation, ‹estimation›, measure. In order
that two things should measure each other, it is necessary that they
be commensurable, and, in order to that, they must be of the same
kind. In a state of isolation, with what could we compare effort?
With want? With satisfaction? In that case, we could go no farther
than to pronounce that the effort was more or less appropriate, more
or less opportune. In the social state, what we compare (and it is
this comparison which gives rise to the idea of Value) is the effort
of one man with the effort of another man,—two phenomena of the same
nature, and, consequently, ‹commensurable›.

Thus, the definition of the word Value, in order to be exact, must
have reference not only to human efforts, but likewise to those
efforts which are exchanged or exchangeable. Exchange does more than
exhibit and measure values—it gives them existence. I do not mean
to say that it gives existence to the acts and the things which are
exchanged, but it imparts to their existence the notion of ‹value›.

Now, when two men transfer to each other their present efforts, or
make over mutually the results of their anterior [p135] efforts,
they ‹serve› each other; they render each other reciprocal ‹service›.

I say, then, «Value is the relation of two services exchanged».

The idea of ‹value› entered into the world the first time that a man
having said to his brother, Do this for me, and I shall do that for
you—they have come to an agreement; for then, for the first time, we
could say—The two ‹services› exchanged are ‹worth each other›.

It is singular enough that the true theory of value, which we search
for in vain in many a ponderous volume, is to be found in Florian’s
beautiful fable of ‹l’Aveugle et le Paralytique›,—

                     Aidons—nous mutuellement,
  La charge des malheurs en sera plus légère.
                   . . . . . . . A nous deux
  Nous possédons le bien à chacun nécessaire.
             J’ai des jambes, et vous des yeux.
  Moi, je vais vous porter; vous, vous serez mon guide:
  Ainsi, sans que jamais notre amitié décide
  Qui de nous deux remplit le plus utile emploi,
  Je marcherai pour vous, vous y verrez pour moi.

Here you have value discovered and defined. Here you have it in
its rigorous economic exactitude, excepting the touching trait
relative to friendship, which carries us into another sphere, that
of sympathy. We may conceive two unfortunates rendering each other
reciprocal ‹service›, without inquiring too curiously ‹which of the
two discharged the most useful employment›. The exceptional situation
imagined by the fabulist explains sufficiently that the principle
of sympathy, acting with great force, comes to absorb, so to speak,
the minute appreciation of the services exchanged—an appreciation,
however, which is indispensable in order to disengage completely
the idea of Value. That idea would be complete if all men, or the
majority of them, were struck with paralysis or blindness; for the
inexorable law of supply and demand would then predominate, and,
causing the permanent sacrifice accepted by him who fulfils the more
useful employment to disappear, would restore the transaction to the
domain of justice.

We are all blind or impotent in some respects, and we soon come to
understand that, by assisting each other, ‹the burden of misfortune
is lightened›. Hence «Exchange». We labour in order to feed, clothe,
shelter, enlighten, cure, defend, instruct one another. Hence
reciprocal «Services». We compare, we discuss, we ‹estimate› or
‹appreciate› these services. Hence «Value».

A multitude of circumstances may augment the relative importance of a
Service. We find it greater or less, according as it is more or less
useful to us—according as a greater or less number of [p136] people
are disposed to render it to us—according as it exacts from them more
or less labour, trouble, skill, time, previous study,—and according
as it saves more or less of these to ourselves. Value depends not
only on these circumstances, but on the judgment we form of them; for
it may happen, and it happens frequently, that we esteem a service
very highly because we judge it very useful, while in reality it is
hurtful. This is the reason why vanity, ignorance, error, exert a
certain influence on the essentially elastic and flexible relation
which we denominate ‹value›; and we may affirm that the appreciation
of services tends to approximate more to absolute truth and justice
in proportion as men become more enlightened, more moral, and more

Hitherto the principle of Value has been sought for in one of those
circumstances which augment or which diminish it, materiality,
durableness, utility, scarcity, labour, difficulty of acquisition,
judgment, etc., and hence a false direction has been given to the
science from the beginning; for the accident which modifies the
phenomenon is not the phenomenon itself. Moreover, each author
has constituted himself the sponsor, so to speak, of some special
circumstance which he thinks preponderates,—the constant result of
generalizing; for all is in all, and there is nothing which we cannot
comprehend under a term by means of extending its sense. Thus the
principle of value, according to Adam Smith, resides in materiality
and durability; according to Jean Baptiste Say, in utility; according
to Ricardo, in labour; according to Senior, in rarity; according to
Storch, in the judgment we form, etc.

The consequence has been what might have been expected. These authors
have unwittingly injured the authority and dignity of the science
by appearing to contradict each other; while in reality each is
right, as from his own point of view. Besides, they have involved the
first principles of Political Economy in a labyrinth of inextricable
difficulties; for the same words, as used by these authors, no longer
represent the same ideas; and, moreover, although a circumstance
may be proclaimed fundamental, other circumstances stand out too
prominently to be neglected, and definitions are thus constantly

The object of the present work is not controversy, but exposition. I
explain what I myself see, not what others have seen. I cannot avoid,
however, calling the attention of the reader to the circumstances
in which the foundation of Value has hitherto been sought for. But,
first of all, I must bring Value itself before him in a series of
examples, for it is by divers applications that the mind lays hold of
a theory. [p137]

I shall demonstrate how all is definitely resolved into a barter of
services; but it is necessary to keep in mind what has been said
on the subject of barter in the preceding chapter. It is rarely
simple—sometimes it forms a circular or round-about transaction among
several parties,—most frequently, by the intervention of money, it
resolves itself into two factors, ‹sale› and ‹purchase›; but as this
complication does not change its nature, I may be permitted, for the
sake of perspicuity, to assume the barter to be direct and immediate.
This will lead to no mistake as to the nature of Value.

       *       *       *       *       *

We are all born with an imperious material want, which must be
satisfied under pain of death, I mean that of breathing. On the other
hand, we all exist in a medium which, in general, supplies that want
without the intervention of any effort on our part. Atmospheric air,
then, has utility without having ‹value›. It has no Value, because,
requiring no Effort, it gives rise to no service. To render a service
to any one is to save him trouble; and where it is not necessary to
take pains in order to realize a satisfaction, no trouble can be

But if a man descend to the bottom of a river in a diving-bell, a
foreign substance is interposed between the air and his lungs, and,
in order to re-establish the communication, a pump must be employed.
Here there is an effort to make, pains to take, and the man below
desires the exertion, for it is a matter of life or death, and he
cannot possibly secure to himself a greater ‹service›.

Instead of making this effort himself, he calls on me to make it for
him, and, in order to induce me to do so, he undertakes in turn to
make an exertion from which I may reap satisfaction. We discuss the
matter, and come to an agreement. Now, what do we discover here? two
wants, two satisfactions, which are not inconsistent with each other;
two efforts, which are the subject of a voluntary transaction; two
‹services›, which are exchanged,—and ‹value› makes its appearance.

Now, we are told that utility is the foundation of value; and as
utility is inherent in the air, we are led to think that it is the
same in regard to value. There is here an evident confusion of
ideas. The air, from its nature, has physical properties in harmony
with one of our physical organs, the lungs. The portion which I
draw from the atmosphere in order to fill the diving-bell does not
change its nature—it is still oxygen and azote. No new physical
quality is combined with it, no reacting power brings out of it a new
element called ‹value›. ‹That› springs exclusively from the service
rendered. [p138]

If, in laying down the general principle, that Utility is the
foundation of Value, you mean that the Service has value because it
is useful to him who receives it and pays for it, I allow the truth
of what you say. It is a truism implied in the very word ‹service›.

But we must not confound the utility of the air with the utility
of the service. They are two utilities distinct from each other,
different in nature, different in kind, which bear no proportion to
one another, and have no necessary relation. There are circumstances
in which, with very slight exertion, by rendering a very small
service, or saving very little trouble, I may bring within the reach
of another an article of very great intrinsic ‹utility›.

Take the case of the diving-bell, and consider how the parties to
the supposed bargain manage to estimate the value of the ‹service›
rendered by the one to the other in supplying him with atmospheric
air. We must have a point of comparison, and that point of comparison
can only be in the ‹service› which the diver renders in return. Their
reciprocal demands will depend on their relative situation, on the
intensity of their desires, on the greater or less need they have of
each other, and on a multitude of circumstances which demonstrate
that the value is in the Service, since it increases with the service.

The reader may easily vary the hypothesis, so as to convince himself
that the Value is not necessarily proportionate to the intensity of
the efforts,—a remark which I set down here as a connecting link in
the chain of reasoning, and of which I shall afterwards have occasion
to make use; for my object is to prove that Value no more resides in
labour than it does in utility.

Nature has so constituted me that I must die if I am deprived of an
opportunity, from time to time, of quenching my thirst, and the well
is a league from the village. For this reason, I take the trouble
every morning to go thither to fetch the water of which I have need,
for in water I have recognised those ‹useful› qualities which are
calculated to assuage the suffering called thirst. Want, Effort,
Satisfaction—we have them all here. I have found Utility—I have not
yet found Value.

But, as my neighbour goes also to the fountain, I say to him—“‹Save
me the pains› of this journey—‹render me the service› of bringing
me water. During the time you are so occupied, I shall do something
for you, I shall teach your child to spell.” This arrangement suits
us both. Here is an exchange of two services, and we are enabled to
pronounce that the one is ‹worth› the other. The things compared here
are two efforts, not two wants and two [p139] satisfactions; for by
what common standard should we compare the benefit of drinking water
and that of learning to spell?

By-and-by I say to my neighbour—“Your child troubles me—I should like
better to do something else for you. You shall continue to bring me
water, and I shall give you twopence.” If the proposal is agreed
to, the Economist may, without fear of mistake, pronounce that ‹the
service› «IS WORTH» ‹twopence›.

Afterwards, my neighbour no longer waits to be requested. He knows by
experience that every day I want water. He anticipates my wishes. At
the same time, he provides water for the other villagers. In short,
he becomes a water merchant. It is then that we begin to say, ‹the
water› «IS WORTH» ‹twopence›.

Has the water, then, changed its nature? Has the Value, which
was but now in the service, become materialized and incorporated
in the water, as if it were a new chemical element? Has a slight
modification in the form of the arrangement between my neighbour and
me had the power to displace the principle of ‹value› and change its
nature? I am not purist enough to find fault with your saying that
the ‹water is worth twopence›, just as you say ‹the sun sets›. But we
must remember that metaphors and metonymies do not affect the truth
of facts; and that, in strict scientific language, value can no more
be said to reside in the water than the sun can be said to go to rest
in the sea.

Let us attribute, then, to things the peculiar qualities which belong
to them—to air, to water, ‹utility›—to services, ‹value›. We may say
with propriety that water is ‹useful›, because it has the property
of allaying thirst; and it is the service which ‹has value›, because
it is the subject of a convention previously debated and discussed.
So true is this, that if the well is brought nearer, or removed to a
greater distance, the Utility of the water remains the same, but its
value is diminished or increased. Why? because the ‹service› is less
or greater. The ‹value›, then, is in the ‹service›, seeing that it
is increased or diminished according as the service is increased or

The ‹diamond› makes a great figure in works of Political Economy.
It is adduced as an illustration of the laws of Value, or of the
supposed disturbance of those laws. It is a brilliant weapon with
which all the schools do battle. The English school asserts that
“Value resides in labour.” The French school exhibits a diamond,
and says—“Here is a commodity which exacts no labour and yet is of
immense value.” The French school affirms that the foundation of
value is utility, and the English school immediately brings forward
the diamond in opposition to the [p140] illustrations drawn from
air, light, and water. “The air is very useful,” says the English
Economist, “but it possesses no value; the ‹utility› of the diamond
is almost inappreciable, and yet it possesses more ‹value› than
the whole atmosphere;” and the reader is inclined to say with
Henri Quatre—“In sooth, they are both right.” They end by landing
themselves in an error more fatal than both the others, and are
forced to avow that ‹value› resides in the works of nature, and that
that value is ‹material›.

My definition, as it seems to me, gets rid of these anomalies, and is
confirmed rather than invalidated by the illustration which has been

I take a walk along the sea-beach, and I find by chance a magnificent
diamond. I am thus put in possession of a great ‹value›. Why? Am I
about to confer a great benefit on the human race? Have I devoted
myself to a long and laborious work? Neither the one nor the other.
Why, then, does this diamond possess so much value? Undoubtedly
because the person to whom I transfer it considers that I have
rendered him a great ‹service›,—all the greater that many rich
people desire it, and that I alone can render it. The grounds of
his judgment may be controverted—be it so. It may be founded on
pride, on vanity—granted again. But this judgment has, nevertheless,
been formed by a man who is disposed to act upon it, and that is
sufficient for my argument.

Far from the judgment being based on a reasonable appreciation
of ‹utility›, we may allow that the very reverse is the case.
Ostentation makes great sacrifices for what is utterly ‹useless›.

In this case, the value, far from bearing a necessary proportion to
the labour ‹performed› by the person who renders the service, may be
said rather to bear proportion to the labour ‹saved› to the person
who receives it. This general law of value, which has not, so far as
I know, been observed by theoretical writers, nevertheless prevails
universally in practice. We shall explain afterwards the admirable
mechanism by which value tends to proportion itself to labour when it
is free; but it is not the less true that it has its principle and
foundation less in the effort of the person who ‹serves› than in the
effort saved to him who ‹is served›.

The transaction relative to the diamond may be supposed to give rise
to the following dialogue:—

“Give me your diamond, Sir.”

“With all my heart; give me in exchange your labour for an entire
year.” [p141]

“Your acquisition has not cost you a minute’s work.”

“Very well, Sir, try to find a similar lucky minute.”

“Yes; but, in strict equity, the exchange ought to be one of ‹equal

“No; in strict equity, you put a value on your own services, and
I upon mine; I don’t force you; why should you lay a constraint
upon me? Give me a whole year’s labour, or seek out a diamond for

“But that might entail upon me ten years’ work, and would probably
end in nothing. It would be wiser and more profitable to devote these
ten years to another employment.”

“It is precisely on that account that I imagined I was rendering you
a ‹service› in asking for only one year’s work. I thus save you nine,
and that is the reason why I attach great ‹value› to the ‹service›.
If I appear to you exacting, it is because you regard only the labour
which I have performed; but consider also the labour which I save
you, and you will find me reasonable in my demand.”

“It is not the less true that you profit by a work of nature.”

“And if I were to give away what I have found for little or nothing,
it is you who would profit by it. Besides, if this diamond possesses
great value, it is not because nature has been elaborating it since
the beginning of time: she does as much for a drop of dew.”

“Yes; but if diamonds were as common as dew-drops, you could no
longer lay down the law to me, and make your own conditions.”

“Very true; because, in that case, you would not address yourself to
me, or would not be disposed to recompense me highly for a ‹service›
which you could easily perform for yourself.”

The result of this dialogue is, that Value no more resides in the
diamond than in the air or in the water. It resides exclusively in
the ‹services› which we suppose to be rendered and received with
reference to these things, and is determined by the free bargaining
of the parties who make the exchange.

Take up the ‹Collection des Économistes›, and read and compare
all the definitions which you will find there. If there be one of
them which meets the cases of the air and the diamond, two cases
in appearance so opposite, throw this book into the fire. But if
the definition which I propose, simple as it is, solves, or rather
obviates, the difficulty, you are bound in conscience, gentle reader,
to go on to the end of the work, or it is in vain that we have placed
an inviting sign-board over the vestibule of the science.

Allow me to give some more examples, in order to elucidate clearly
my thoughts, and familiarize the reader with a new definition.
By exhibiting this fundamental principle in different aspects,
[p142] we shall clear the way for a thorough comprehension of the
consequences, which I venture to predict will be found no less
important than unexpected.

Among the wants to which our physical constitution subjects us is
that of food; and one of the articles best fitted to satisfy that
want is Bread.

As the need of food is personal to me, I should, naturally, myself
perform all the operations necessary to provide the needful supply of
bread. I can the less expect my fellow-men to render me gratuitously
this service, that they are themselves subject to the same want, and
condemned to the same exertion.

Were I to make my own bread, I must devote myself to a labour
infinitely more complicated, but strictly analogous to that which the
necessity of fetching water from the spring would have imposed upon
me. The elements of bread exist everywhere in nature. As J. B. Say
has judiciously remarked, it is neither possible nor necessary for
man to create anything. Gases, salts, electricity, vegetable life,
all exist; my business is to unite them, assist them, combine them,
transport them, availing myself of that great laboratory called the
earth, in which mysteries are accomplished from which human science
has scarcely raised the veil. If the operations to which I must
devote myself in the pursuit of my design are in the aggregate very
complicated, each of them, taken singly, is as simple as the act of
drawing water from the fountain. Every effort I make is simply a
service which I render to myself; and if, in consequence of a bargain
freely entered into, it happens that other persons save me some of
these efforts, or the whole of them, these are so many ‹services›
which I receive. The aggregate of these services, compared with those
which I render in return, constitute the value of the Bread and
determine its amount.

A convenient intermediate commodity intervenes to facilitate
this exchange of services, and even to serve as a measure of
their relative importance—Money. But this makes no substantial
difference,—the principle remains exactly the same, just as in
mechanics the transmission of forces is subject to the same law,
whether there be one or several intermediate wheels.

This is so true that, when the loaf is worth fourpence, for example,
if a good bookkeeper wishes to analyze its value, he will succeed in
discovering, amid the multiplicity of transactions which go to the
accomplishment of the final result, all those whose services have
contributed to form that value,—all those who have saved labour to
the man who finally pays for it as the consumer. He discovers, first
of all, the baker, who retains his five per cent., [p143] and from
that percentage remunerates the mason who has built his oven, the
wood-cutter who prepares his billets, etc. Then comes the miller, who
receives not only the recompense of his own labour, but the means
of remunerating the quarryman who has furnished his millstones, the
labourer who has formed his dam, etc. Other portions of the total
value go to the thresher, the reaper, the labourer, the sower, until
you account for the last farthing. No part of it assuredly goes to
remunerate God and nature. The very idea is absurd, and yet this is
rigorously implied in the theory of the Economists, who attribute
a certain portion of the value of a product to matter or natural
forces. No; we still find that what ‹has value› is not the Loaf, but
the series of ‹services› which have put me in possession of it.

It is true that, among the elementary parts of the value of the
loaf, our book-keeper will find one which he will have difficulty in
connecting with a ‹service›, at least a service implying effort. He
will find of the fourpence, of which the price is made up, a part
goes to the proprietor of the soil, to the man who has the keeping
of the laboratory. That small portion of the value of the loaf
constitutes what is called the ‹rent of land›; and, misled by the
form of expression, by the metonymy which again makes its appearance
here, our calculator may be tempted to think that this portion is
allotted to natural agents—to the soil itself.

I maintain that, if he exercises sufficient skill, he will find that
this is still the price of real ‹services›—services of the same
kind as all the others. This will be demonstrated with the clearest
evidence when we come to treat of ‹landed property›. At present, I
shall only remark, that I am not concerned here with property, but
with ‹value›. I don’t inquire whether all services are real and
legitimate, or whether men do not sometimes succeed in getting paid
for services which they do not render. The world, alas! is full of
such injustices, but ‹rent› must not be included among them.

All that I have to demonstrate here is, that the pretended value of
‹commodities› is only the value of ‹services›, real or imaginary,
received and rendered in connexion with them—that value does not
reside in the commodities themselves, and is no more to be found
in the loaf than in the diamond, the water, or the air—that no
part of the remuneration goes to nature—that it proceeds from the
final consumer of the article, and is distributed exclusively among
men,—and that it would not be accorded to them by him for any other
reason than that they have rendered him services, unless, indeed, in
the case of violence or fraud.

Two men agree that ice is a good thing in summer, and coal a [p144]
still better thing in winter. They supply two of our wants—the one
cools, the other warms us. We do not fail to remark that the Utility
of these commodities consists in certain ‹material› properties
suitably adapted to our ‹material› organs. We remark, moreover, that
among those properties, which physics and chemistry might enumerate,
we do not find ‹value›, or anything like it. How, then, have we come
to regard value as inherent in matter and material?

If the two men we have supposed wished to obtain the satisfaction
of their wants, without acting in concert, each would labour to
provide for himself both the articles wanted. If they came to an
understanding, the one would provide coal for two from the coal-mine,
the other ice for two from the mountain. This presupposes a bargain.
They must then adjust the relation of the two services exchanged.
They would take all circumstances into account—the difficulties to
be overcome, the dangers to be braved, the time to be spent, the
pains to be taken, the skill to be displayed, the risks to be run,
the possibility of providing for their wants in some other way, etc.,
etc. When they came to an understanding, the Economist would say, The
two ‹services› exchanged ‹are worth› each other. In common language,
it would be said by metonymy—Such a quantity of coal ‹is worth› such
a quantity of ice, as if the value had passed physically into these
bodies. But it is easy to see that if the common form of expression
enables us to state the results, the scientific expression alone
reveals to us the true causes.

In place of two services and two persons, the agreement may embrace
a greater number, substituting a complex Exchange for simple Barter.
In that case, money would intervene to facilitate the exchange.
Need I say that the principle of value would be neither changed nor

But I must add here a single observation ‹àpropos› of coal. It may be
that there is only one coal-mine in a country, and that an individual
has got possession of it. If so, this man will make conditions; that
is to say, he will put a high price upon his ‹services›, or pretended

We have not yet come to the question of right and justice, to the
distinction between true and loyal services, and those that are
fraudulent and pretended. What concerns us at this moment is, to
consolidate the true theory of value, and to disembarrass it of one
error with which Economical science is infected. When we say that
what nature has done or given, she has done or given ‹gratuitously›,
and that the notion of ‹value› is excluded, we are answered by an
analysis of the price of coal, or some other natural product. It is
acknowledged, indeed, that the greater part of this [p145] price is
the remuneration of the services of man. One man has excavated the
ground, another has drained away the water, another has raised the
fuel to the surface, another has transported it to its destination;
and it is the aggregate of these works, it is allowed, which
constitutes ‹nearly› the entire ‹value›. Still there remains one
portion of the ‹value› which does not correspond with any labour or
‹service›. This is the value of the coal as it lies under the soil,
still virgin, and untouched by human labour. It forms the share of
the proprietor; and, since this portion of Value is not of human
creation, it follows necessarily that it is the creation of nature.

I reject that conclusion, and I premonish the reader that, if he
admits it to a greater or less extent, he cannot proceed a single
step farther in the science. No; the action of nature does not create
Value, any more than the action of man creates matter. Of two things
one: either the proprietor has usefully co-operated towards the final
result, and has rendered real services, and then the portion of value
which he has conferred on the coal enters into my definition; or else
he obtrudes himself as a parasite, and, in that case, he has had
the address to get paid for ‹services› which he has not rendered,
and the price of the coal is unduly augmented. That circumstance
may prove, indeed, that injustice has entered into the transaction;
but it cannot overturn the theory so as to authorize us to say that
this portion of value is material,—that it is combined as a physical
element with the gratuitous gifts of Providence. Here is the proof
of it. Cause the injustice to cease, if injustice there be, and
the corresponding value will disappear, which it assuredly would
not have done had the value been inherent in matter and of natural

       *       *       *       *       *

Let us now pass to one of our most imperious wants, that of

A certain number of men land upon an inhospitable coast. They begin
to work. But each of them finds himself constantly drawn away from
his employment by the necessity of defending himself against wild
beasts, or men still more savage. Besides the time and the exertion
which he devotes directly to the work of defence, he has to provide
himself with arms and munitions. At length it is discovered that, on
the whole, infinitely less power and effort would be wasted if some
of them, abandoning other work, were to devote themselves exclusively
to this ‹service›. This [p146] duty is assigned to those who are
most distinguished for address, courage, and vigour—and they improve
in an art which they make their exclusive business. Whilst they watch
over the public safety, the community reaps from its labours, now
no longer interrupted, more satisfactions ‹for all› than it loses
by the diversion of ten men from other avocations. This arrangement
is in consequence made. What do we see in it but a new progress in
the ‹division of occupations›, inducing and requiring an exchange of

Are the services of these soldiers, guards, militiamen, or whatever
you may call them, ‹productive›? Undoubtedly they are, seeing that
the sole object of the arrangement is to increase the proportion
which the aggregate Satisfactions of the community bear to the
general efforts.

Have they ‹Value›? They must have it, since we esteem them,
appreciate them, ‹estimate› their worth, and, in fine, pay for them
with other ‹services› with which they are compared.

The form in which this remuneration is stipulated for, the mode of
levying it, the process we adopt in adjusting and concluding the
arrangement, make no alteration on the principle. Are there efforts
saved to some men by others? Are there satisfactions procured
for some by others? In that case there are ‹services› exchanged,
compared, ‹estimated›;—there is ‹Value›.

The kind of services we are now discussing, when social complications
occur, lead sometimes to frightful consequences. The very nature
of the services which we demand from this class of functionaries
requires us to put into their hands Power,—power sufficient to
subdue all resistance,—and it sometimes happens that they abuse it,
and turn it against the very community which employs them. Deriving
from the community services proportioned to the want we have of
‹security›, they themselves may cause insecurity, in order to display
their own importance, and, by a too skilful diplomacy, involve their
fellow-citizens in perpetual wars.

All this has happened, and still happens. Great disturbances of the
just equilibrium of reciprocal services are the result of it. But it
makes no change in the fundamental principle and scientific theory of

       *       *       *       *       *

I must still give another example or two; but I pray the reader
to believe that I feel quite as much as he can how tiresome and
fatiguing this series of hypotheses must be—throwing us back, as
they all do, on the same kind of proof, tending to the same [p147]
conclusion, expressed in the same terms. He must understand,
however, that this process, if not the most interesting, is at least
the surest way of establishing the true theory of Value, and of thus
clearing the road we have to traverse.

We suppose ourselves in Paris. In that great metropolis there is a
vast fermentation of desires, and abundant means also of satisfying
them. Multitudes of rich men, or men in easy circumstances, devote
themselves to industry, to the arts, to politics—and in the evening
they are all eager to obtain an hour’s recreation. Among the
amusements which they relish most is the pleasure of hearing the
music of Rossini sung by Malibran, or the admirable poetry of Racine
interpreted by Rachel. There are in the world only two women who can
furnish these noble and delicate kinds of entertainment, and unless
we could subject them to torture, which would probably not succeed,
we have no other way of procuring their services but by addressing
ourselves to their good will. Thus the services which we expect from
Malibran and Rachel are possessed of great ‹Value›. This explanation
is prosaic enough, but it is true.

If an opulent banker should desire to gratify his vanity by having
the performances of one of these great ‹artistes› in his ‹salons›,
he will soon find by experience the full truth of my theory. He
desires a rich treat, a lively satisfaction—he desires it eagerly—and
only one person in the world can furnish it. He cannot procure it
otherwise than by offering a large remuneration.

Between what extreme limits will the transaction oscillate? The
banker will go on till he reaches the point at which he prefers
rather to lose the satisfaction than to pay what he deems an
extravagant price for it; the singer to that point at which she
prefers to accept the remuneration offered, rather than not be
remunerated at all. This point of equilibrium determines the value
of this particular service, as it does of all others. It may be
that in many cases custom fixes this delicate point. There is too
much taste in the ‹beau monde› to ‹higgle› about certain services.
The remuneration may even be gracefully disguised, so as to veil
the vulgarity of the economic law. That law, however, presides over
this transaction, just as it does over the most ordinary bargain;
and Value does not change its nature because experience or urbanity
dispenses with discussing it formally on every occasion.

This explains how ‹artistes› above the usual standard of excellence
succeed in realizing great fortunes. Another circumstance favours
them. Their services are of such a nature that they can render them,
at one and the same time, and by one and the same effort, to [p148]
a multitude of individuals. However large the theatre, provided
the voice of Rachel can fill it, each spectator enjoys the full
pleasure of her inimitable declamation. This is the foundation of a
new arrangement. Three or four thousand people, all experiencing the
same desire, may come to an understanding, and raise the requisite
sum; and the contribution of each to the remuneration of the great
‹tragedienne› constitutes the equivalent of the unique service
rendered by her to all at once. Such is ‹Value›.

As a great number of auditors may combine in order to witness an
entertainment of this description, so a number of actors may combine
in order to perform in an opera or play. Managers may intervene,
to save them the trouble of a multiplicity of trifling accessory
arrangements. Value is thus multiplied, ramified, distributed, and
rendered complex—but it does not change its nature.

We shall finish with some exceptional cases. Such cases form the best
test of a sound theory. When the rule is correct, exceptions do not
invalidate, but confirm it.

An aged priest moves slowly along, pensive, with staff in hand,
and breviary under his arm. His air is serene, his countenance
expressive,—he looks inspired! Where is he going? Do you see that
church in the distance? The youthful village parson, distrustful
as yet of his own powers, has called to his assistance the old
missionary. But first of all he has some arrangements to make. The
preacher will find, indeed, food and shelter at the parsonage—but
he must live from one year’s end to another. Mons. le Curé, then,
has promoted a subscription among the rich people of the village,
moderate in amount, but sufficient; for the aged pastor is not
exacting, and answered the person who wrote to him—“Du pain pour moi,
voilà mon nécessaire; une obole pour le pauvre, voilà mon superflu.”

Thus are the economic preliminaries complied with; for this meddling
Political Economy creeps into everything, and is to be found
everywhere—‹Nil humani a me alienum puto›.

Let us enlarge a little on this example, which is very apposite to
what we are now discussing.

Here you have an exchange of services. On the one hand you have an
old man who devotes his time, his strength, his talents, his health,
to enlighten the minds of a few villagers, and raise them to a higher
moral level. On the other hand, bread for a few days, and a hat and
cassock, are assured to the man of eloquence.

But there is something more here. There is a rivalry of sacrifices.
The old priest refuses everything that is not absolutely
indispensable. Of that poor pittance the curé takes one half on his
[p149] own shoulders; the village Crœsuses exempt their brethren
from the other half, who nevertheless profit by the sermons.

Do these sacrifices invalidate our definition of value? Not at
all. Each is free to render his services only on such terms as are
agreeable to himself. If these conditions are made easy, or if
none are stipulated for, what is the consequence? The ‹service›,
preserving its utility, loses its value. The old priest is persuaded
that his services will find their reward in another world, and he
cares not for their being recompensed here below. He feels, no doubt,
that he is rendering a service to his auditors in addressing them,
but he also feels that they do him a service in listening to him.
Hence it follows that the transaction is based upon advantage to
one of the contracting parties, with the full consent of the other.
That is all. In general, exchanges are determined and estimated by
reference to self-interest; but, thank God, that is not always the
case: they are sometimes based on the principle of sympathy, and
in that case we either transfer to another a satisfaction which
we might have reserved for ourselves, or we make an effort for
him which we might have devoted to our own profit and advantage.
Generosity, devotion, self-sacrifice, are impulses of our nature,
which, like many other circumstances, influence the actual ‹value› of
a particular service, but they make no change on the general law of

In contrast to this consoling example, I might adduce another of
a very opposite character. In order that a service should possess
value, in the economical sense of the word, it is not at all
indispensable that it should be a real, conscientious, and useful
service; it is sufficient that it is accepted, and paid for by
another service. The world is full of people who palm upon the public
services of a quality more than doubtful, and make the public pay for
them. All depends on the ‹judgment› which we form in each case; and
this is the reason why morals will be always the best auxiliary of
Political Economy.

Impostors succeed in propagating a false belief. They represent
themselves as the ambassadors of Heaven. They open at pleasure the
gates of heaven or of hell. When this belief has once taken firm
root, “Here,” say they, “are some little images to which we have
communicated the virtue of securing eternal happiness to those who
carry them about their persons. In bestowing upon you one of these
images, we render you an immense ‹service›. You must render us, then,
certain ‹services› in return.” Here you have a ‹Value› created. It is
founded on a false appreciation, you say, and that is true. We might
say as much of many material things [p150] which possess a certain
value, for they would find purchasers if set up to auction. Economic
science would become impossible if we admitted as values only values
correctly and judiciously appreciated. At every step we must begin
a new course of the moral and physical sciences. In a state of
isolation, depraved desires and a warped intelligence may cause a man
to pursue with great effort and exertion a chimerical satisfaction—a
delusion. In like manner, in the social state, it sometimes happens,
as the philosopher says, that we buy regret too dear. But if truth is
naturally more in keeping with the human mind than error, all these
frauds are destined to disappear—all these delusive services to be
spurned and lose their ‹value›. Civilisation will, in the long-run,
put everybody and everything in the right place.

But we must conclude this analysis, which has already extended to too
great a length. Among the various wants of our nature, respiration,
hunger, thirst—and the wants and desires which take their rise in
our vanity, in our heads, hearts, and opinions, in our hopes for the
future, whether well or ill grounded—everywhere we have sought for
Value—and we have found it wherever an ‹exchange of service› takes
place. We have found it everywhere of the same nature, based upon a
principle clear, simple, absolute, although influenced by a multitude
of varying circumstances. We might have passed in review all our
other wants; we might have cited the carpenter, the mason, the
manufacturer, the tailor, the physician, the officer of justice, the
lawyer, the merchant, the painter, the judge, the president of the
republic, and we should have found exactly the same thing. Frequently
a material substance; sometimes forces furnished ‹gratuitously› by
nature; always human services interchanged, measuring each other,
estimating, appreciating, ‹valuing› one another, and exhibiting
simply the result of that Valuation—or «Value».

There is, however, one of our wants, very special in its nature,
the cement of society, at once the cause and the effect of all our
transactions, and the everlasting problem of Political Economy, of
which it is necessary to say something in this place—I allude to the
want of ‹Exchanging›.

In the preceding chapter we have described the marvellous effects
of Exchange. They are such that men must naturally feel a desire to
facilitate it, even at the expense of considerable sacrifices. It is
for this end that we have roads, canals, railways, carriages, ships,
merchants, tradesmen, bankers; and it is impossible to believe that
society would submit to such enormous draughts upon its forces for
the purpose of facilitating [p151] exchange, if it did not find in
exchange itself an ample compensation.

We have also seen that direct ‹barter› could give rise only to
transactions at once inconvenient and restrained.

It is on that account that men have thought of resolving barter into
two factors, ‹sale› and ‹purchase›, by means of an intermediate
commodity, readily divisible, and, above all, possessed of ‹value›,
in order to secure public confidence. This intermediate commodity is

And it is worthy of remark that what, by an ellipsis or metonymy,
we designate the value of gold and silver rests on exactly the same
foundation as that of the air, the water, the diamond, the sermons of
our old missionary, or the roulades of Malibran—that is to say, upon
services rendered and received.

The gold, indeed, which we find spread on the favoured banks of the
Sacramento, derives from nature many precious qualities—ductility,
weight, beauty, brilliancy, utility even, if you will. But there is
one quality which nature has not given it, because nature has nothing
to do with that—‹Value›. A man knows that gold supplies a want which
is sensibly felt, and that it is much coveted. He goes to California
to seek for gold, just as my neighbour went to the spring to fetch
water. He devotes himself to hard work—he digs, he excavates, he
washes, he melts down—and then he comes to me and says: I will render
you the service of transferring to you this gold; what service will
you render me in return? We discuss the matter, we weigh all the
circumstances which should influence our determination;—at last we
conclude a bargain, and Value is manifested and fixed. Misled by this
curt form of expression, “Gold is ‹valuable›,” we might suppose that
the value resides in the gold, just as the qualities of ductility
and specific gravity reside in it, and that nature has put it there.
I hope the reader is already satisfied that this is a mistake.
By-and-by he will be convinced that it is a deplorable fallacy.

Another misconception exists on the subject of gold, or rather
of money. As it is the constant medium which enters into all
transactions, the mean term between the two factors of ‹compound
barter›, it is always with its value that we compare the value of the
two services to be exchanged; and hence we are led to regard gold or
money as a ‹measure› of value. In practice it cannot be otherwise.
But science ought never to forget that money, so far as its value
is concerned, is subject to the same fluctuations as any other
product or service. Science does forget this sometimes; nor is it
surprising. Everything tends to make us consider money [p152] as the
measure of value, in the same way as the ‹litre› (or quart) is the
measure of capacity. It plays an analogous part in actual business.
One is not aware of its own fluctuations, because the franc, like its
multiples and sub-multiples, always retains the same denomination.
And arithmetic itself tends to propagate the confusion by ranking the
franc as a measure, along with the measures of quantity in daily use.

I have given a definition of Value, at least of value according
to my idea of it. I have subjected that definition to the test of
divers facts. None of them, so far as I can see, contradict it; and
the scientific signification which I have given to the word agrees
with its vulgar acceptation, which is no small advantage, no slight
guarantee—for what is science but experience classified? What is
theory but the methodical exposition of universal practice?

I may now be permitted to glance rapidly at the systems which have
hitherto prevailed. It is not in a spirit of controversy, much less
of criticism, that I enter upon this examination, and I should
willingly avoid it were I not convinced that it will throw new light
upon the fundamental principles which I am advocating.

We have seen that writers on Political Economy have sought for the
principle of Value in one or more of the accidents which exercise
a notable influence over it, such as materiality, conservability,
utility, rarity, labour, etc.; just like a physiologist who should
seek the principle of life in one or more of the external phenomena
which are necessary to its development, as air, water, light,
electricity, etc.

‹Materiality.›—“Man,” says M. de Bonald, “is mind served by organs.”
If the economists of the materialist school had simply meant that men
can render reciprocal services to each other only through the medium
of their bodily organs, and had thence concluded that there is always
something material in these services, and, consequently, in Value,
I should not have proceeded a step farther, as I have a horror at
word-catching and subtilties, which wit revels in.

But they have not thus understood it. What they believe is that Value
has been communicated to matter, either by the labour of man or by
the action of nature. In a word, deceived by the elliptical form
of expression, gold ‹is worth› so much, corn ‹is worth› so much,
they think they see in matter a quality called ‹Value›, just as the
natural philosopher sees in it resistance and weight—and yet these
attributes have been disputed.

Be that as it may, I dispute formally the existence of Value as an
attribute of matter. [p153]

And first of all, it cannot be denied that Matter and Value are
often found separated. When we say to a man—Carry that letter to
its destination—fetch me some water—teach me this science or that
manufacturing process—give me advice as to my sickness, or my
law-suit—watch over my security, while I give myself up to labour
or to sleep,—what we demand is a Service, and in that service we
acknowledge in the face of the world that there resides a ‹Value›,
seeing that we pay for it voluntarily by an ‹equivalent› service.
It would be strange that we should refuse to admit in theory what
universal consent admits in practice.

True, our transactions have reference frequently to material objects;
but what does that prove? Why, that men, by exercising foresight,
prepare to render services which they know to be in demand. I
purchase a coat ready made, or I have a tailor to come to my house to
work by the day; but does that change the principle of Value, so as
to make it reside at one time in the coat and at another time in the

One might ask here this puzzling question—Must we not see the
principle of Value first of all in the material object, and then
attribute it by analogy to the services? I say that it is just the
reverse. We must recognise it first of all in the services, and
attribute it afterwards, if we choose, by a figure of speech, by
metonymy, to the material objects.

The numerous examples which I have adduced render it unnecessary
for me to pursue this discussion further. But I cannot refrain from
justifying myself for having entered on it, by showing to what fatal
consequences an error, or, if you will, an incomplete truth, may
lead, when placed at the threshold of a science.

The least inconvenience of the definition which I am combating has
been to curtail and mutilate Political Economy. If Value resides
in matter, then where there is no matter there can be no Value.
The ‹Physiocrates›[31] designated three-fourths of the entire
population as ‹sterile›, and Adam Smith, softening the expression, as
‹unproductive› classes.

But as facts in the long run are stronger than definitions, it became
necessary in some way to bring back these classes, and make them
re-enter the circle of economic studies. They were introduced by
way of analogy; but the language of the science, formed beforehand
on other definitions, had been so materialized as to render this
extension repulsive. What mean such phrases as these: “To consume
an immaterial product? Man is accumulated capital? Security is a
commodity?” etc., etc. [p154]

Not only was the language of the science materialized beyond
measure, but writers were forced to surcharge it with subtile
distinctions, in order to reconcile ideas which had been erroneously
separated. Hence Adam Smith’s expression of ‹Value in use›, in
contradistinction to ‹Value in exchange›, etc.

A greater evil still has been that, in consequence of this confusion
of two great social phenomena, ‹property› and ‹community›, the one
has seemed incapable of justification, and the other has been lost
sight of.

In fact, if Value resides in matter, it becomes mixed up with the
physical qualities of bodies which render them useful to man. Now,
these qualities are frequently placed there by nature. Then nature
co-operates in creating ‹Value›, and we find ourselves attributing
value to what is essentially ‹common› and ‹gratuitous›. On what
basis, then, do you place ‹property›? When the remuneration which
I give in order to obtain a material product, corn for example, is
distributed among all the labourers, near or at a distance, who have
rendered me a ‹service› in the production of that commodity,—who
is to receive that portion of the ‹value› which corresponds to
the action of nature, and with which man has nothing to do? Is it
Providence who is to receive it? No one will say so, for we never
heard of Nature demanding wages. Is man to receive it? What title has
he to it, seeing that, by the hypothesis, he has done nothing?

Do not suppose that I am exaggerating, and that, for the sake of my
own definition, I am torturing the definition of the economists, and
deducing from it too rigorous conclusions. No, these consequences
they have themselves very explicitly deduced, under the pressure of

Thus, Senior has said that “those who have appropriated natural
agents receive, under the form of rent, a recompense without having
made any sacrifice. They merely hold out their hands to receive the
offerings of the rest of the community.” Scrope tells us that “landed
property is an artificial restriction imposed upon the enjoyment
of those gifts which the Creator has intended for the satisfaction
of the wants of all.” J. B. Say has these words: “Arable lands
‹would seem› to form a portion of natural wealth, seeing that they
are not of human creation, and that nature has given them to man
‹gratuitously›. But as this description of wealth is not fugitive,
like air and water,—as a field is a space fixed and marked out which
‹certain› men have succeeded in appropriating, to the exclusion of
all others who have given their consent to this appropriation, land,
which was natural [p155] and ‹gratuitous› property, has now ‹become›
social wealth, the use of which must be paid for.”

Truly, if it be so, Proudhon is justified in proposing this terrible
question, followed by an affirmation still more terrible:—

“To whom belongs the rent of land? To the producer of land, without
doubt. Who made the land? God. Then, proprietor, begone!”

Yes, by a vicious definition, Political Economy has handed over logic
to the Communists. I will break this terrible weapon in their hands,
or rather they shall surrender it to me cheerfully. The consequences
will disappear when I have annihilated the principle. And I undertake
to demonstrate that if, in the production of wealth, the action of
nature is combined with the action of man, the first—gratuitous and
common in its own nature—remains gratuitous and common in all our
transactions; that the second alone represents ‹services›, ‹value›;
that the action of man alone is remunerated; and that it alone is the
foundation, explanation, and justification of Property. In a word, I
maintain that, relatively to each other, men are proprietors only of
the value of things, and that in transferring products from hand to
hand, what they stipulate for exclusively is value, that is to say,
reciprocal services:—all the qualities, properties, and utilities,
which these products derive from nature being obtained by them into
the bargain.

If Political Economy hitherto, in disregarding this fundamental
consideration, has shaken the guardian principle of property, by
representing it as an artificial institution, necessary, indeed, but
unjust, she has by the same act left in the shade, and completely
unperceived, another admirable phenomenon the most touching
dispensation of Providence to the creature—the phenomenon of
‹progressive community›.

Wealth, taking the word in its general acceptation, results from the
combination of two agencies—the action of nature, and the action
of man. The first is ‹gratuitous› and ‹common› by the destination
of Providence, and never loses that character. The second alone is
‹provided with value›, and, consequently, ‹appropriated›. But with
the development of intelligence, and the progress of civilisation,
the one takes a greater and greater part, the other a less and less
part, in the realization of each given utility; whence it follows
that the domain of the Gratuitous and the Common is continually
expanding among men relatively to the domain of Value and Property;
a consoling and suggestive view of the subject, entirely hidden from
the eye of science, so long as we continue to attribute Value to the
co-operation of nature. [p156]

Men of all religions thank God for His benefits. The father of a
family blesses the bread which he breaks and distributes to his
children—a touching custom, that reason would not justify were the
liberality of Providence other than gratuitous.

‹Durableness›, ‹conservability›—that pretended ‹sine quâ non›
of Value, is connected with the subject which I have just been
discussing. It is necessary to the very existence of value, as Adam
Smith thinks, that it should be fixed and realized in something which
can be exchanged, accumulated, preserved, consequently in something

“There is one sort of labour which adds[32] to the value of the
subject upon which it is bestowed. There is another which has no such

“The labour of the manufacturer,” he adds, “fixes and realizes itself
in some particular subject or vendible commodity, ‹which lasts for
some time at least› after the labour is past. The labour of the
menial servant, on the contrary” (to which the author assimilates in
this respect that of soldiers, magistrates, musicians, professors,
etc.), “does not fix or realize itself in any particular subject or
vendible commodity. His services perish in the very instant of their
performance, and leave no trace of ‹value› behind them.”

Here we find ‹Value› connected rather with the modifications of
matter than with the satisfactions of men—a profound error; for the
sole good to be obtained from the modification of material things is
the attainment of that satisfaction which is the design, the end,
the ‹consommation›[33] of every Effort. If, then, we realize that
satisfaction by a direct and immediate effort, the result is the
same; and if that effort can be made the subject of transactions,
exchanges, ‹estimation›, it includes the principle of ‹Value›.

As regards the interval which may elapse between the effort and the
satisfaction, surely Adam Smith attributes far too much importance
to it, when he says that the existence or non-existence of Value
depends upon it. “The value of a vendible commodity,” he says,
“‹lasts for some time at least›.” Undoubtedly it lasts until the
commodity has answered its purpose, which is to satisfy a want; and
exactly the same thing may be said of a service. As long as that
plate of strawberries remains on the sideboard it preserves its
‹value›. Why? Because it is the result of a service [p157] which I
have designed to render to myself, or that another has rendered to
me by way of compensation, and ‹of which I have not yet made use›.
The moment I have made use of it, by eating the strawberries, the
value will disappear. ‹The service will vanish and have no trace of
value behind.› The very same thing holds of personal services. The
consumer makes the value disappear, for it has been created only for
that purpose. It is of little consequence, as regards the principle
of value, whether the service is undertaken to satisfy a want to-day,
to-morrow, or a year hence.

Take another case. I am afflicted with a cataract. I call in an
oculist. The instrument he makes use of has ‹value›, because it has
durability; the operation he performs, it is said, has none, and
yet I pay for it, and I have made choice of one among many rival
operators, and arranged his remuneration beforehand. To maintain
that this service has no value is to run counter to notorious facts
and notions universally received. And of what use, I would ask, is
a theory which, far from taking universal practice into account,
ignores it altogether?

I would not have the reader suppose that I am carried away by an
inordinate love of controversy. If I dwell upon these elementary
notions, it is to prepare his mind for consequences of the highest
importance, which will be afterwards developed. I know not whether
it be to violate the laws of method to indicate these consequences
by anticipation, but I venture to depart slightly from the regular
course, in order to obviate the danger of becoming tedious. This is
the reason why I have spoken prematurely of Property and Community;
and for the same reason I shall here say a word respecting ‹Capital›.

As Adam Smith made value to reside in matter, he could not conceive
Capital as existing otherwise than in an accumulation of material
objects. How, then, can we attribute Value to Services not
susceptible of being accumulated or converted into capital?

Among the different descriptions of Capital, we give the first
place to tools, machines, instruments of labour. They serve to make
natural forces co-operate in the work of production, and, attributing
to these forces the faculty of creating value, people were led to
imagine that instruments of labour, as such, were endowed with
the same faculty, independently of any human services. Thus the
spade, the plough, the steam-engine, were supposed to co-operate
simultaneously with natural agents and human forces in creating
not only Utility, but Value also. But all value is remunerated by
exchange. Who, then, is to receive that portion of value which is
independent of all human service? [p158]

It is thus that the school of Proudhon, after having brought the
‹rent of land› into question, has contested also the ‹interest of
capital›—a larger thesis, because it includes the other. I maintain
that the Proudhonian error, viewed scientifically, has its root in
the prior error of Adam Smith. I shall demonstrate that capital,
like natural agents, considered in itself, and with reference to
its own proper action, creates utility, but never creates value.
The latter is essentially the fruit of a legitimate ‹service›. I
shall demonstrate also that, in the social order, capital is not an
accumulation of material objects, depending on material durability,
but an accumulation of ‹Values›, that is to say, of ‹services›. This
will put an end (virtually at least, by removing its foundation) to
the recent attack upon the productiveness of capital, and in a way
satisfactory to the objectors themselves; for if I prove that there
is nothing in the business of exchange but a ‹mutuality of services›,
M. Proudhon must own himself vanquished by my victory over his

‹Labour.›—Adam Smith and his disciples have assigned the principle of
Value to Labour under the condition of Materiality. This is contrary
to the other opinion that natural forces play a certain part in the
production of Value. I have not here to combat the contradictions
which become apparent in all their fatal consequences when these
authors come to discuss the rent of land and the interest of capital.

Be that as it may, when they refer the principle of Value to Labour,
they would be very near the truth if they did not allude to manual
labour. I have said, in fact, at the beginning of this chapter, that
Value must have reference to ‹Effort›,—an expression which I prefer
to the word Labour, as more general, and embracing the whole sphere
of human activity. But I hasten to add that it can spring only from
efforts exchanged—from reciprocal Services; because value is not a
thing having independent existence, but a relation.

There are then, strictly speaking, two flaws in Adam Smith’s
definition. The first is, that it does not take exchange into
account, without which value can be neither produced nor conceived.
The second is, that it makes use of too restricted a term—‹labour›;
unless we give to that term an unusual extension, and include in it
the ideas not only of intensity and duration, but of skill, sagacity,
and even of good or bad fortune.

The word ‹service›, which I substitute in my definition, removes
these defects. It implies, necessarily, the idea of transmission,
for no service can be rendered which is not received; and it implies
[p159] also the idea of Effort, without taking for granted that the
value is proportionate.

It is in this, above all, that the definition of the English
Economists is vicious. To say that Value resides in Labour induces
us to suppose that Value and Labour are proportional, and serve as
reciprocal measures of each other. This is contrary to fact, and a
definition which is contrary to fact must be defective.

It often happens that an exertion, considered insignificant in
itself, passes with the world as of enormous ‹value›. (Take, for
example, the diamond, the performance of the prima donna, a dash
of a banker’s pen, a fortunate privateering adventure, a touch of
Raphael’s pencil, a bull of plenary indulgence, the easy duty of an
English queen, etc.) It still more frequently happens that laborious
and overwhelming labour tends to what is absolutely ‹valueless›; and
if it be so, how can we establish co-relation and proportion between
‹Value› and ‹Labour›?

My definition removes the difficulty. It is clear that in certain
circumstances one can render a great service at the expense of a very
small exertion, and that in others, after great exertion, we render
no service at all. And this is another reason why, in this respect,
it is correct to say that the Value is in the Service rendered,
rather than in the Labour bestowed, seeing that it bears proportion
to the one and not to the other.

I go further. I affirm that value is estimated as much by the labour
saved to the recipient as by the labour performed by the ‹cédant›
[the man who cedes or makes it over]. Let the reader recall the
dialogue which we supposed to take place between the two parties
who bargained for the diamond. In substance, it has reference to
no accidental circumstances, but enters, tacitly, into the essence
and foundation of all transactions. Keep in mind that we here take
for granted that the two parties are at entire liberty to exercise
their own will and judgment. Each of them, in making the exchange, is
determined by various considerations, among which we must certainly
rank, as of the greatest importance, the difficulty experienced by
the recipient in procuring for himself, by a direct exertion, the
satisfaction which is offered to him. Both parties have their eyes
on that difficulty, the one with the view of being more yielding,
the other with the view of being more exacting. The labour undergone
by the ‹cédant› also exerts an influence on the bargain. It is one
of the elements of it, but it is not the only one. It is not, then,
exact to say that value is determined by labour. It is determined by
a multitude of considerations, all comprised in the word ‹service›.

What may be affirmed with great truth is this; that, in consequence
of competition, Value ‹tends› to become more proportioned to
Effort—recompense to merit. It is one of the beautiful Harmonies of
the social state. But, as regards Value, this equalizing pressure
exercised by competition is quite external, and it is not allowable
in strict logic to confound the influence which a phenomenon
undergoes, from an external cause, with the phenomenon itself.[34]

‹Utility.›—J. B. Say, if I am not mistaken, was the first who threw
off the yoke of ‹materiality›. He made out value very expressly
[p161] to be a ‹moral quality›,—an expression which perhaps goes too
far, for value can scarcely be said to be either a physical or a
moral quality—it is simply a relation.

But the great French Economist has himself said, that “It is not
given to any one to reach the confines of science, and Philosophers
mount on each other’s shoulders to explore a more and more extended
horizon.” Perhaps the glory of M. Say (in what regards the special
question with which we are now occupied, for his titles to glory in
other respects are as numerous as they are imperishable) is to have
bequeathed to his successors a view of the subject which is prolific
and suggestive.

M. Say’s principle was this—“‹Value is founded on Utility.›”

If we had here to do with utility as connected with human ‹services›,
I should not contest this principle. At most I could only observe
that it is superfluous, as being self-evident. It is very clear,
as matter of fact, that no one consents to remunerate a ‹service›,
unless right or wrong, he judges it to be useful. The word service
includes the idea of ‹utility›—so much so that it is nothing else
than a literal reproduction of the Latin word ‹uti›; in French,

But, unfortunately, it is not in this sense that Say understands
it. He discovers the principle of value not only in human services,
rendered by means of material things, but in the ‹useful› qualities
put by nature into the things themselves. In this way he places
himself once more under the yoke of materiality, and is very far,
we are obliged to confess, from clearing away the mist in which the
English Economists had enveloped the question of Property.

Before discussing Say’s principle on its own merits, I must explain
its logical bearing, in order to avoid the reproach of landing myself
and the reader in an idle discussion.

We cannot doubt that the Utility of which Say speaks is that which
resides in material objects. If corn, timber, coal, broad cloth, have
value, it is because these products possess qualities which render
them proper for our use, fit to satisfy the want we experience of
food, fuel, and clothing.

Hence, as nature has created Utility, it is inferred that she has
created also Value—a fatal confusion of ideas, out of which the
enemies of property have forged a terrible weapon.

Take a commodity, corn for example. I purchase it at the ‹Halle au
Blé› for sixteen francs. A great portion of these sixteen francs
is distributed—in infinite ramifications, and an inextricable
complication of advances and reimbursements—among all the men,
[p162] here or abroad, who have co-operated in furnishing this corn.
Part goes to the labourer, the sower, the reaper, the thrasher, the
carter,—part to the blacksmith and plough-wright, who have prepared
the agricultural implements. Thus far all are agreed, whether
Economists or Communists.

But I perceive that four out of the sixteen francs go to the
proprietor of the soil, and I have a good right to ask if that
man, like the others, has rendered me a Service to entitle him
incontestably, like them, to remuneration.

According to the doctrine which the present work aspires to
establish, the answer is categorical. It consists of a peremptory
‹yes›. The proprietor ‹has› rendered me a service. What is it?
This, that he has by himself, or his ancestor, cleared and enclosed
the field—he has cleared it of weeds and stagnant water—he has
enriched and thickened the vegetable mould—he has built a house
and a homestead. All this presupposes much labour executed by him
in person; or, what comes to the same thing, by others whom he has
paid. These are services, certainly, which, according to the just
law of reciprocity, must be reimbursed to him. Now, this proprietor
has never been remunerated, at least to the full extent. He cannot
be so by the first man who comes to buy from him a bag of corn.
What is the arrangement, then, that takes place? Assuredly the most
ingenious, the most legitimate, the most equitable arrangement which
it is possible to imagine. It consists in this—That whoever wishes
to purchase a sack of corn shall pay, besides the services of the
various labourers whom we have enumerated, a small portion of the
‹services› rendered by the proprietor. In other words, the ‹Value›
of the proprietor’s ‹services› is spread over all the sacks of corn
which are produced by this field.

Now, it may be asked if the supposed remuneration of four francs be
too great or too small. I answer that Political Economy has nothing
to do with that. That science establishes that the value of the
services rendered by the landed proprietor are regulated by exactly
the same laws as the value of other services, and that is enough.

It may be a subject of surprise, too, that this bit-by-bit
reimbursement should not at length amount to a complete liquidation,
and, consequently, to an extinction of the proprietor’s claim. They
who make this objection do not reflect that it is of the nature of
Capital to produce a perpetual return, as we shall see in the sequel.

I shall not dwell longer on that question in this place; and shall
[p163] simply remark, that there is not in the entire price of
the corn a single farthing which does not go to remunerate human
services,—not one which corresponds to the ‹value› that nature is
supposed to have given to the corn by imparting to it ‹utility›.

But if, adhering to the principle of Say and the English Economists,
you assert that, of the sixteen francs, there are twelve which go to
the labourers, sowers, reapers, carters, etc.—two which recompense
the personal services of the proprietor; and finally, that there
are two others which represent a value which has for its foundation
the ‹utility› created by God, by natural agents, and without any
co-operation of man, do you not perceive that you immediately lay
yourself open to be asked, Who is to profit by this portion of
‹value›? Who has a title to this remuneration? Nature does not demand
it, and who dare take nature’s place.

The more Say tries to explain Property on this hypothesis, the more
he exposes himself to attack. He sets out by justly comparing nature
to a laboratory, in which various chemical operations take place,
the result of which is useful to man. “The soil, then,” he adds, “is
the ‹producer of utility›, and when «IT» (the soil) receives payment
in the form of a profit or a rent ‹to its proprietor›, it is not
without giving something to the consumer in exchange for what he
pays «IT» (the soil). «It» (still the soil) gives him the utility it
has produced, and it is in producing this utility that ‹the earth is
productive as well as labour›.”

This assertion is unmistakable. Here we have two pretenders, who
present themselves to share the remuneration due by the consumer of
corn—namely, the earth and labour. They urge the same title, for the
soil, M. Say affirms, is productive as well as labour. Labour asks to
be remunerated for a ‹service›; the soil demands to be remunerated
for a ‹utility›, and this remuneration it demands not for itself (for
in what form should we give it?) but for ‹its proprietor›.

Whereupon Proudhon summons the proprietor, who represents himself as
having the powers of the soil at his disposal, to exhibit his title.

You wish me to pay; in other words, to render a service, in order
that I may receive the ‹utility› produced by natural agents,
independently of the assistance of man, already paid for separately.

But, I ask again, Who is to profit by my service?

Is it the producer of utility,—that is to say, the soil? That is
absurd—the fear of any demand from that quarter need give no great
uneasiness. [p164]

Is it man? but by what title does he demand it? If for having
rendered me a service, well and good. In that case, we are at one. It
is the human service which ‹has value›, not the natural service; and
that is just the conclusion to which I desire to bring you.

That, however, is contrary to your hypothesis. You say that all
the human services are remunerated with fourteen francs, and that
the two francs which make up the price of the corn correspond to
the value created by nature. In that case, I repeat my question—By
what title does any one present himself to receive them? Is it not,
unfortunately, too clear that if you give specially the name of
‹proprietor› to the man who claims right to these two francs, you
justify the too famous saying that ‹Property is theft›?

And don’t imagine that this confusion between utility and value
shakes only the foundation of landed property. After having led you
to contest the ‹rent of land›, it leads you to contest also the
‹interest of capital›.

In fact, machines, the instruments of labour, are, like the soil,
producers of ‹utility›. If that utility has ‹value›, it is paid for,
for the word value implies right to payment. But to whom is the
payment made? To the proprietor of the machine, without doubt. Is it
for a personal service? Then say at once that the value is in the
service. But if you say that it is necessary to make a payment first
for the service, and a second payment for the utility produced by the
machine independently of the human action, which has been already
recompensed, then I ask you to whom does this second payment go, and
how has the man who has been already remunerated for all his services
a right to demand anything more?

The truth is, that the utility which is produced by nature is
‹gratuitous›, and therefore ‹common›, like that produced by the
instruments of labour. It is gratuitous and common on one condition,
that we take the trouble, that we render ourselves the service of
appropriating it; or, if we give that trouble to or demand that
service from another, that we cede to him in return an ‹equivalent›
service. It is in these services, thus compared, that value resides,
and not at all in natural utility. The exertion may be more or less
great—that makes a difference in the value, not in the utility.
When we stand near a spring, water is gratuitous for us all on
condition that we stoop to lift it. If we ask our neighbour to take
that trouble for us, then a convention, a bargain, a ‹value› makes
its appearance, but that does not make the water otherwise than
gratuitous. If we are an hour’s walk from the spring, the basis of
the transaction will be different; but the difference is one of
degree, not of principle. The value has not, on that account, passed
into [p165] the water or into its utility. The water continues still
‹gratuitous› on condition of fetching it, or of remunerating those
who, by a bargain freely made and discussed, agree to spare us that
exertion by making it themselves.

It is the same thing in every case. We are surrounded by utilities,
but we must ‹stoop to appropriate them›. That exertion is sometimes
very simple, and often very complicated. Nothing is more easy, in
the general case, than to draw water, the utility of which has been
prepared by nature beforehand. It is not so easy to obtain corn, the
utility of which nature has equally prepared. This is why these two
efforts differ in degree though not in principle. The service is more
or less onerous; therefore more or less ‹valuable›—the utility is,
and remains always, ‹gratuitous›.

Suppose an instrument of labour to intervene, what would be the
result? That the utility would be more easily obtained. The service
has thus less ‹value›. We certainly pay less for our books since the
invention of printing. Admirable phenomenon, too little understood!
You say that the instruments of labour produce Value—you are
mistaken—it is Utility, and gratuitous Utility, you should say. As to
Value, instead of producing it, they tend more and more to annihilate

It is quite true that the person who made the machine has rendered
a service. He receives a remuneration by which the value of the
product is augmented. This is the reason why we fancy we recompense
the utility which the machine produces. It is an illusion. What we
remunerate is the ‹services› which all those who have co-operated in
making and working the machine have rendered to us. So little does
the value reside in the utility produced, that even after having
recompensed these new ‹services›, we acquire the utility on easier
and cheaper terms than before.

Let us accustom ourselves to distinguish Utility from Value. Without
this there can be no Economic science. I give utterance to no paradox
when I affirm that Utility and Value, so far from being identical,
or oven similar, are ideas opposed to one another. Want, Effort,
Satisfaction: here we have man regarded in an Economic point of
view. The relation of utility is with Want and Satisfaction. The
relation of Value is with Effort. Utility is the Good, which puts
an end to the want by the satisfaction. Value is the Evil, for it
springs from the obstacle which is interposed between the want and
the satisfaction. But for these obstacles, there would have been no
Effort either to make or in exchange; Utility would be infinite,
gratuitous, and common, ‹without condition›, and the notion of Value
would never have [p166] entered into the world. In consequence of
these obstacles, Utility is gratuitous only on condition of Efforts
exchanged, which, when compared with each other, give rise to Value.
The more these obstacles give way before the liberality of nature
and the progress of science, the more does utility approximate to
the state of being absolutely common and gratuitous, for the onerous
condition, and, consequently, the ‹value›, diminish as the obstacles
diminish. I shall esteem myself fortunate if, by these dissertations,
which may appear subtle, and of which I am condemned to fear at
once the length and the conciseness, I succeed in establishing this
encouraging truth—‹the legitimate property of value›,—and this other
truth, equally consoling—‹the progressive community of utility›.

One observation more. All that ‹serves› us is ‹useful› (‹uti›,
‹servir›), and in this respect it is extremely doubtful whether
there be anything in the universe (whether in the shape of forces or
materials) which is not ‹useful› to man.

We may affirm at least, without fear of mistake, that a multitude of
things possess a utility which is unknown to us. Were the moon placed
either higher or lower than she is, it is very possible that the
inorganic kingdom, consequently the vegetable kingdom, consequently
also the animal kingdom, might be profoundly modified. But for that
star which shines in the firmament while I write, it may be that the
human race had not existed. Nature has surrounded us with utilities.
The quality of being ‹useful› we recognise in many substances and
phenomena;—in others, science and experience reveal it to us every
day,—in others, again, it may exist in perfection, and yet we may
remain for ever ignorant of it.

When these substances and phenomena exert upon us, but ‹independently
of us›, their useful action, we have no interest in comparing the
degree of their utility to mankind; and, what is more, we have
scarcely the means of making the comparison. We know that oxygen and
azote are useful to us, but we don’t try, and probably we should
try in vain, to determine in what proportion. We have not here the
elements of appreciation—the elements of value. I should say as much
of the salts, the gases, the forces which abound in nature. When all
these agents are moved and combined so as to produce for us, but
‹without our co-operation›, utility, that utility we enjoy without
‹estimating› its value. It is when our co-operation comes into play,
and, above all, when it comes to be exchanged,—it is then, and then
only, that Estimation and Value make their appearance, in connexion
not with the utility of the substances or phenomena, of which we are
often ignorant, but with the co-operation itself. [p167]

This is my reason for saying that “Value is the appreciation of
services exchanged.” These services may be very complicated; they
may have exacted a multitude of operations recent or remote; they
may be transmitted from one generation or one hemisphere to another
generation or another hemisphere, embracing countless contracting
parties, necessitating credits, advances, various arrangements,
until a general balance is effected. But the principle of ‹value›
is always in the services, and not in the utility of which these
services are the vehicle,—utility which is gratuitous in its nature
and essence, and which passes from hand to hand, if I may be allowed
the expression, ‹into the bargain›.

After all, if you persist in seeing in Utility the foundation of
Value, I am very willing, but it must be distinctly understood that
it is not that utility which is in things and phenomena by the
dispensation of Providence or the power of art, but the utility of
human services compared and exchanged.

‹Rarity.›—According to Senior, of all the circumstances which
determine value, rarity is the most decisive. I have no objection
to make to that remark, if it is not that the form in which it is
made presupposes that value is inherent in things themselves—a
hypothesis the very appearance of which I shall always combat. At
bottom, the word ‹rarity›, as applied to the subject we are now
discussing, expresses in a concise manner this idea, that, ‹cæteris
paribus›, a service has more value in proportion as we have more
difficulty in rendering it to ourselves; and that, consequently, a
larger equivalent is exacted from us when we demand it from another.
Rarity is one of these difficulties. It is one ‹obstacle› more to
be surmounted. The greater it is, the greater remuneration do we
award to those who surmount it for us. Rarity gives rise frequently
to large remunerations, and this is my reason for refusing to admit
with the English Economists that Value is proportional to Labour. We
must take into account the parsimony with which nature treats us in
certain respects. The word ‹service› embraces all these ideas and
shades of ideas.

‹Judgment.›—Storch sees ‹value› in the judgment by which we recognise
it. Undoubtedly, whenever we have to do with ‹relation›, it is
necessary to compare and to ‹judge›. Nevertheless, the relation is
one thing and the judgment is another. When we compare the height of
two trees, their magnitude, and the difference of their magnitude,
are independent of our appreciation.

But in the determination of value, what is the relation of which
we have to form a judgment? It is the relation of two services
exchanged. The business is to discover what the services rendered
[p168] ‹are worth› in relation to those received, in connexion
with acts or things exchanged, and taking all circumstances into
account,—not what intrinsic utility resides in these acts or things,
for this utility may, to some extent, be altogether independent of
human exertion, and, consequently, devoid of ‹value›.

Storch falls into the error which I am now combating when he says,—

“Our judgment enables us to discover the relation which exists
between our wants and the utility of things. The determination which
our judgment forms upon the ‹utility of things› constitutes their

And, farther on, he says,—

“In order to create a value, we must have the conjunction of these
three circumstances:—‹1st›, That man experiences or conceives a want;
‹2d›, That there exists something calculated to satisfy that want;
and, ‹3d›, That a judgment is pronounced in favour of the ‹utility of
the thing›. Then the value of things is their relative ‹utility›.”

During the day I experience the want of seeing clearly. There exists
one thing calculated to satisfy that want—namely, the light of the
sun. My judgment pronounces in favour of the utility of that thing,
and . . . it has no value. Why? Because I enjoy it without calling
for the services of any one.

At night I experience the same want. There exists one thing capable
of satisfying it very imperfectly, a wax candle. My judgment
pronounces in favour of the utility, but far inferior utility, of
that thing—and it ‹has value›. Why? Because the man who has taken
the trouble to make the candle will not give it to me except upon
condition of my rendering him an equivalent service.

What we have, then, to compare and to judge of, in order to determine
Value, is not the ‹relative utility› of things, but the relation of
two services.

On these terms, I do not reject Storch’s definition.

Permit me to recapitulate a little, in order to show clearly that
my definition contains all that is true in the definitions of my
predecessors, and eliminates everything in them which is erroneous
either through excess or defect.

The principle of Value, we have seen, resides in a human ‹service›,
and results from the appreciation of two services compared.

Value must have relation to Effort. ‹Service› implies a certain

Value supposes a comparison of Efforts exchanged, at least
exchangeable. ‹Service› implies the terms to give and to receive.

Value is not, however, in fact proportional to the intensity of the
Efforts. ‹Service› does not necessarily imply that proportion.

A multitude of external circumstances influence value without
constituting value itself. The word ‹service› takes all these
circumstances in due measure into account.

‹Materiality.›—When the service consists in transferring a material
thing, nothing hinders us from saying, by metonymy, that it is the
thing which ‹has value›. But we must not forget that this is a figure
of speech, by which we attribute to things themselves the value of
the services which produced them.

‹Conservability.›—Without reference to the consideration of
materiality, value endures until the satisfaction is obtained, and
no longer. Whether the satisfaction follows the effort more or less
nearly—whether the service is personal or real, makes no change in
the nature of value.

‹Capability of Accumulation.›—In a social point of view, what is
accumulated by saving is not matter, but value or services.[35]

‹Utility.›—I admit, with M. Say, that Utility is the foundation of
Value, provided it is granted me that we have no concern with the
utility which resides in commodities, but with the relative utility
of services.

‹Labour.›—I admit, with Ricardo, that Labour is the foundation
of Value, provided, first of all, the word labour is taken in
the most general sense, and that you do not afterwards assert a
proportionality which is contrary to fact; in other words, provided
you substitute for the word ‹labour› the word ‹service›.

‹Rarity.›—I admit, with Senior, that rarity influences ‹value›. But
why? Because it renders the ‹service› so much more precious.

‹Judgment.›—I admit, with Storch, that value results from a judgment
formed, provided it is granted me that the judgment so formed is not
upon the utility of things, but on the utility of ‹services›.

Thus I hope to satisfy Economists of all shades of opinion. I [p170]
admit them all to be right, because all have had a glimpse of the
truth in one of its aspects. Error is no doubt on the reverse of
the medal; and it is for the reader to decide whether my definition
includes all that is true, and rejects all that is false.

I cannot conclude without saying a word on that ‹quadrature› of
Political Economy—‹the measure of value›; and here I shall repeat,
and with still more force, the observation with which I terminated
the preceding chapters.

I said that our wants, our desires, our tastes, have neither limit
nor exact measure.

I said also that our means of providing for our wants—the gifts
of nature, our faculties, activity, discernment, foresight—had no
precise measure. Each of these elements is variable in itself—it
differs in different men—it varies from hour to hour in the same
individual,—so that the whole forms an aggregate which is mobility

If, again, we consider what the circumstances are which influence
value—utility, labour, rarity, judgment—and reflect that there is not
one of these circumstances which does not vary ‹ad infinitum›, we may
well ask why men should set themselves so pertinaciously to try to
discover a fixed measure of Value?

It would be singular, indeed, if we were to find fixity in a mean
term composed of variable elements, and which is nothing else than a
Relation between two extreme terms more variable still!

The Economists, then, who go in pursuit of an ‹absolute measure of
value› are pursuing a chimera; and, what is more, a thing which, if
found, would be positively useless. Universal practice has adopted
gold and silver as standards, although practical men are not ignorant
how variable is the value of these metals. But of what importance
is the variability of the measure, if, affecting equally and in
the same manner the two objects which are exchanged, it does not
interfere with the fairness and equity of the exchange? It is a ‹mean
proportional›, which may rise or fall, without, on that account,
failing to perform its office, which is to show the ‹Relation› of two

The design of the science is not, like that of exchange, to
discover the ‹present Relation of two services›, for, in that case,
money would answer the purpose in view. What the science aims at
discovering is ‹the Relation between Effort and Satisfaction›; and
for this purpose, a measure of value, did it exist, would teach us
nothing, for the effort brings always to the satisfaction a varying
proportion of gratuitous utility which has no value. It is because
this element of our well-being has been lost sight of that the
[p171] majority of writers have deplored the absence of a measure
of Value. They have not reflected that it would not enable them
to answer the question proposed—What is the comparative Wealth or
prosperity of two classes, of two countries, of two generations?

In order to resolve that question, the science would require a
measure which should reveal to it not only ‹the relation of two
services›, which might be the vehicle of very different amounts
of gratuitous utility, but the relation ‹of the Effort to the
Satisfaction›, and that measure could be no other than the effort
itself, or labour.

But how can labour serve as a measure? Is it not itself a most
variable element? Is it not more or less skilful, laborious,
precarious, dangerous, repugnant? Does it not require, more or less,
the intervention of certain intellectual faculties, of certain moral
virtues? and, according as it is influenced by these circumstances,
is it not rewarded by a remuneration which is in the highest degree

There is one species of labour which, at all times, and in all
places, is identically the same, and it is that which must serve as a
type. I mean labour the most simple, rude, primitive, muscular,—that
which is freest from all natural co-operation—that which every man
can execute—that which renders services of a kind which one can
render to himself—that which exacts no exceptional force or skill,
and requires no apprenticeship,—industry such as is found in the
very earliest stages of society: the work, in short, of the simple
day-labourer. That kind of labour is everywhere the most abundantly
supplied, the least special, the most homogeneous, and the worst
remunerated. Wages in all other departments are proportioned and
graduated on this basis, and increase with every circumstance which
adds to its importance.

If, then, we wish to compare two social states with each other, we
cannot have recourse to a ‹standard of value›, and for two reasons,
the one as logical as the other—first, because there is none; and,
secondly, because, if there were, it would give a wrong answer to
our question, neglecting, as it must, a considerable and progressive
element in human prosperity—gratuitous utility.

What we must do, on the contrary, is to put Value altogether out of
sight, particularly the consideration of money; and ask the question,
What, in such and such a country, and, at such and such an epoch, is
the amount of each kind of special utility, and the sum total of all
utilities, which correspond to a given amount of unskilled labour? In
other words, what amount of material comfort and prosperity can an
unskilled workman earn as the reward of his daily toil? [p172]

We may affirm that the natural social order is harmonious, and goes
on improving, if, on the one hand, the number of unskilled labours,
receiving the smallest possible remuneration, continues to diminish;
and if, on the other, that remuneration, measured not in value or
in money, but in real satisfactions, continues constantly on the

The ancients have well described all the combinations of Exchange:—

‹Do ut des› (commodity against commodity), ‹Do ut facias› (commodity
against service), ‹Facio ut des› (service against commodity), ‹Facio
ut facias› (service against service).[37]

Seeing that products and services are thus exchanged for one another,
it is quite necessary that they should have something in common,
something by which they can be compared and estimated—namely, ‹Value›.

But value is always identically the same. Whether it be in the
product or in the service, it has always the same origin and

This being so, we may ask, is Value originally and essentially in the
‹commodity›, and is it only by analogy that we extend the notion to
the ‹service›?

Or, on the contrary, does Value reside in the service, and is it not
mixed up and amalgamated with the product, simply and exclusively
because the service is so?

Some people seem to think that this is a question of pure subtilty.
We shall see by-and-by. At present I shall only observe, that it
would be strange if, in Political Economy, a good or a bad definition
of Value were a matter of indifference.

I cannot doubt that, at the outset, Political Economists thought they
discovered value rather in the product, as such, than in the matter
of the product. The Physiocrates [the ‹Économistes› of Quesnay’s
school] attributed value exclusively to land, and stigmatized as
‹sterile› such classes as added nothing to matter,—so strictly in
their eyes were ‹value› and ‹matter› bound up together.

Adam Smith ought to have discarded this idea, since he makes ‹value›
flow from ‹labour›. Do not pure services, services ‹per se›, exact
labour, and, consequently, do they not imply value? Near to the
truth as Smith had come, he did not make himself master of it; for,
besides pronouncing formally that labour, in order to possess value,
must be applied to matter, to something physically [p173] tangible
and capable of accumulation, we know that, like the Physiocrates,
he ranked those who simply render services among the unproductive

These classes, in fact, occupy a prominent position in the Wealth of
Nations. But this only shows us that the author, after having given a
definition, found himself straitened by it, and, consequently, that
that definition is erroneous. Adam Smith would not have gained his
great and just renown had he not written his magnificent chapters on
Education, on the Clergy, and on Public Services, and if he had, in
treating of Wealth, confined himself within the limits of his own
definition. Happily, by this inconsistency, he freed himself from the
fetters which his premises imposed upon him. This always happens.
A man of genius who sets out with a false principle never escapes
inconsistency, without which he would get deeper and deeper into
error, and, far from appearing a man of genius, would show himself no
longer a man of sense.

As Adam Smith advanced a step beyond the Physiocrates, Jean Baptiste
Say advanced a step beyond Smith. By degrees Say was led to refer
value to services, but only by way of analogy. It is in the product
that he discovers true value, and nothing shows this better than
his whimsical denomination of services as “immaterial products”—two
words which absolutely shriek out on finding themselves side by side.
Say, in the outset, agrees with Smith; for the entire theory of the
master is to be found in the first ten lines of the work of the
disciple.[38] But he thought and meditated on the subject for thirty
years, and he made progress. He approximated more and more to the
truth, without ever fully attaining it.

Moreover, we might have imagined that Say did his duty as an
Economist as well by referring the value of the service to the
product, as by referring the value of the product to the service,
if the Socialist propaganda, founding on his own deductions, had
not come to reveal to us the insufficiency and the danger of his

The question I propose, then, is this:—Seeing that certain products
are possessed of value, seeing that certain services are possessed
of value, and seeing that value is one and identical, and can have
but one origin, one foundation, one explanation,—is this origin, this
explanation to be found in the product or in the service?

The reply to that question is obvious, and for this unanswerable
[p174] reason, that every product which has value implies service,
but every service does not necessarily imply a product.

This appears to me mathematically certain—conclusive.

A service, as such, has value, whether it assume a material form or

A material object has value if, in transferring it to another, we
render him a service,—if not, it has no value.

Then value does not proceed from the material object to the service,
but from the service to the material object.

Nor is this all. Nothing is more easily explained than this
pre-eminence, this priority, given to the service over the product,
so far as value is concerned. We shall immediately see that this is
owing to a circumstance which might have been easily perceived, but
which has not been observed, just because it is under our eyes. It
is nothing else than that foresight which is natural to man, and in
virtue of which, in place of limiting himself to the services which
are demanded of him, he prepares himself beforehand to render those
services which he foresees are likely to be demanded. It is thus
that the ‹facio ut facias› transforms itself into the ‹do ut des›,
without its ceasing to be the dominant fact which explains the whole

John says to Peter, I want a cup. I could make it for myself, but if
you will make it for me, you will render me a service, for which I
will pay you by an equivalent service.

Peter accepts the offer, and, in consequence, sets out in quest of
suitable materials, mixes them, manipulates them, and, in fine, makes
the article which John wants.

It is very evident that here it is the service which determines the
value. The dominant word in the transaction is ‹facio›. And if,
afterwards, the value is incorporated with the product, it is only
because it flows from the service, which combines the labour executed
by Peter with the labour saved to John.

Now, it may happen that John may make frequently the same proposal
to Peter, and that other people may also make it; so that Peter can
foresee with certainty the kind of services which will be demanded
of him, and prepare himself for rendering them. He may say, I have
acquired a certain degree of skill in making cups. Experience
tells me that cups supply a want which must be satisfied, and I am
therefore enabled to manufacture them beforehand.

Henceforth John says no longer to Peter, ‹facio ut facias›, but
‹facio ut des›. If he in turn has foreseen the wants of Peter, and
laboured beforehand to provide for them, he can then say ‹do ut
des›. [p175]

But in what respect, I ask, does this progress, which flows from
human foresight, change the nature and origin of value? Does service
cease to be its foundation and measure? As regards the true idea of
value, what difference does it make whether Peter, before he makes
the cup, waits till there is a demand for it, or, foreseeing a future
demand, manufactures the article beforehand?

There is another remark which I would make here. In human life,
inexperience and thoughtlessness precede experience and foresight.
It is only in the course of time that men are enabled to foresee
each other’s wants, and to make preparations for satisfying them.
Logically, the ‹facio ut facias› must precede the ‹do ut des›. The
latter is at once the fruit and the evidence of a certain amount of
knowledge diffused, of experience acquired, of political security
obtained, of a certain confidence in the future,—in a word, of
a certain degree of civilisation. This social prescience, this
faith in a future ‹demand›, which causes us to provide a present
‹supply›; this sort of intuitive acquaintance with statistics which
each possesses in a greater or less degree, and which establishes a
surprising equilibrium between our wants and the means of supplying
them, is one of the most powerful and efficacious promoters of
human improvement. To it we owe the division of labour, or at least
the separation of trades and professions. To it we owe one of the
advantages which men seek for with the greatest ardour, the fixity
of remuneration, under the form of ‹wages› as regards labour,
and ‹interest› as regards capital. To it we are indebted for the
institution of credit, transactions having reference to the future,
those which are designed to equalize risk, etc. It is surprising,
in an Economical point of view, that this noble attribute of man,
Foresight, has not been made more the subject of remark. This arises,
as Rousseau has said, from the difficulty we experience in observing
the medium in which we live and move, and which forms our natural
atmosphere. We notice only exceptional appearances and abnormal
facts, while we allow to pass unperceived those which act permanently
around us, upon us, and within us, and which modify profoundly both
individual men and society at large.

To return to the subject which at present engages us. It may be that
human foresight, in its infinite diffusion, tends more and more to
substitute the ‹do ut des› for the ‹facio ut facias›; but we must
never forget that it is in the primitive and ‹necessary› form of
exchange that the notion of value first makes its appearance, that
this primitive form is that of reciprocal service; and that, after
all, [p176] as regards exchange, the product is only a ‹service
foreseen› and provided for.

But although I have shown that value is not inherent in matter, and
cannot be classed among its attributes, I am far from maintaining
that it does not pass from the ‹service› to the ‹product›, so as (if
I may be allowed the expression) to become incorporated with it. I
hope my opponents will not believe that I am pedant enough to wish to
exclude from common language such phrase as these—gold ‹has value›,
wheat ‹has value›, land ‹has value›. But I have a right to demand of
science why this is so? and if I am answered, because gold, wheat,
and land possess in themselves intrinsic ‹value›, then I think I
have a right to say—“You are mistaken, and your error is dangerous.
You are mistaken, for there are gold and land which are destitute of
value, gold and land which have not yet had any human labour bestowed
upon them. Your error is dangerous, for it leads men to regard what
is simply a right to a reciprocity of services as a usurpation of the
gratuitous gifts of God.”

I am quite willing, then, to acknowledge that products are possessed
of value, provided you grant me that it is not essential to them, and
that it attaches itself to services, and proceeds from them.

This is so true, that a very important consequence, and one which is
fundamental in Political Economy, flows from it—a consequence which
has not been, and indeed could not be remarked. It is this:—

‹Where value has passed from the service to the product, it undergoes
in the product all the risks and chances to which it is subject in
the service itself.›

It is not fixed in the product, as it would have been had it been one
of its own intrinsic qualities. It is essentially variable; it may
rise indefinitely, or it may fall until it disappears altogether,
just as the species of service to which it owes its origin would have

The man who makes a cup to-day for the purpose of selling it a year
hence, confers value on it, and that value is determined by that of
the service—not the value which the service possesses at the present
moment, but that which it will possess at the end of the year. If
at the time when the cup comes to be sold such services are more in
demand, the cup will be worth more, or it will be depreciated in the
opposite case.

This is the reason why man is constantly stimulated to exercise
foresight, in order to turn it to account. He has always in [p177]
perspective a possible rise or fall of value,—a recompense for just
and sagacious prevision, and chastisement when it is erroneous. And,
observe, his success or failure coincides with the public good or the
public detriment. If his foresight has been well directed, if he has
made preparations beforehand to give society the benefit of services
which are more in request, more appreciated, more efficacious,
which supply more adequately wants which are deeply felt, he has
contributed to diminish the scarcity, to augment the abundance, of
that description of service, and to bring it within the reach of a
greater number of persons at less expense. If, on the other hand, he
is mistaken in his calculations for the future, he contributes, by
his competition, to depress still farther those services for which
there is little demand. He only effects, and at his own expense, a
negative good,—he advertises the public that a certain description of
wants no longer call for the exertion of much social activity, which
activity must now take another direction, or go without recompense.

This remarkable fact—that ‹value›, ‹incorporated› in a product,
depends on the value of the kind of service to which it owes its
origin—is of the very highest importance, not only because it
demonstrates more and more clearly the theory that the principle of
value resides in the service, but because it explains, easily and
satisfactorily, phenomena which other systems regard as abnormal and

When once the product has been thrown upon the market of the world,
do the general tendencies of society operate towards elevating or
towards depressing its ‹value›? This is to ask whether the particular
kind of services which have engendered this value are liable to
become more or less appreciated, and better or worse remunerated.
The one is as possible as the other, and it is this which opens an
unlimited field to human foresight.

This we may remark at least, that the general law of beings, capable
of making experiments, of acquiring information, and of rectifying
mistakes, is progress. The probability, then, is, that at any given
period a certain amount of time and pains will effect greater
results than were effected by the same agency at an anterior period:
whence we may conclude that the prevailing tendency of ‹value›,
‹incorporated› with a commodity, is to fall. If, for example, we
suppose the cup which I took by way of illustration, and as a symbol
of other products, to have been made many years ago, the probability
is that it has undergone depreciation, inasmuch as we have at the
present day more resources for the manufacture of such articles,
more skill, better tools, capital [p178] obtained on easier terms,
and a more extended division of labour. In this way the person who
wishes to obtain the cup does not say to its possessor, Tell me the
exact amount of labour (quantity and quality both taken into account)
which that cup has cost you, in order that I may remunerate you
accordingly. No, he says, Now-a-days, in consequence of the progress
of art, I can make for myself, or procure by exchange, a similar cup
at the expense of so much labour of such a quality; and that is the
limit of the remuneration which I can consent to give you.

Hence it follows that all labour incorporated with commodities, in
other words, all accumulated labour, all capital, has a tendency to
become depreciated in presence of services naturally improvable and
increasingly and progressively productive; and that, in exchanging
present labour against anterior labour, the advantage is generally on
the side of present labour, as it ought to be, seeing that it renders
a greater amount of service.

This shows us how empty are the declamations which we hear
continually directed against the value of landed property. That value
differs from other values in nothing—neither in its origin, nor in
its nature, nor in the general law of its slow depreciation, as
compared with the labour which it originally cost.

It represents anterior services,—the clearing away of trees and
stones, draining, enclosing, levelling, manuring, building: it
demands the recompense of these services. But that recompense is
not regulated with reference to the labour which has been actually
performed. The landed proprietor does not say. “Give me in exchange
for this land as much labour as it has received from me.” (But he
would so express himself if, according to Adam Smith’s theory, value
came from labour, and were proportional to it.) Much less does he
say, as Ricardo and a number of economists suppose, “Give me first
of all as much labour as this land has had bestowed upon it, and a
certain amount of labour over and above, as an equivalent for the
natural and inherent powers of the soil.” No, the proprietor, who
represents all the possessors of the land who have preceded him, up
to those who made the first clearance, is obliged, in their name, to
hold this humble language:—

“We have prepared services, and what we ask is to exchange these
for equivalent services. We worked hard formerly, for in our days
we were not acquainted with your powerful means of execution—there
were no roads—we were forced to do everything by muscular exertion.
Much sweat and toil, many human lives, are buried under these
furrows. But we do not expect from you [p179] labour for labour—we
have no means of effecting an exchange on those terms. We are quite
aware that the labour bestowed on land now-a-days, whether in this
country or abroad, is much more perfect and much more productive than
formerly. All that we ask, and what you clearly cannot refuse us,
is that our anterior labour and the new labour shall be exchanged,
not in proportion to their comparative duration and intensity, but
proportionally to their results, so that we may both receive the same
remuneration for the same service. By this arrangement we are losers
as regards labour, seeing that three or four times more of ours than
of yours is required to accomplish the same service; but we have no
choice, and can no longer effect the exchange on any other terms.”

And, in point of fact, this represents the actual state of things.
If we could form an exact estimate of the amount of efforts, of
incessant labour, and toil, expended in bringing each acre of our
land to its present state of productiveness, we should be thoroughly
convinced that the man who purchases that land does not give labour
for labour—at least in ninety-nine cases out of the hundred.

I add this qualification, because we must not forget that an
‹incorporated service› may gain value as well as lose it. And
although the general tendency be towards depreciation, nevertheless
the opposite phenomenon manifests itself sometimes, in exceptional
circumstances, as well in the case of land as of anything else, and
this without violating the law of justice, or affording adequate
cause for the cry of monopoly.

Services always intervene to bring out the principle of value. In
most cases the anterior labour probably renders a less amount of
service than the new labour, but this is not an absolute law which
admits of no exception. If the anterior labour renders a less amount
of service than the new, as is nearly always the case, a greater
quantity of the first than of the second must be thrown into the
scale to establish the equiponderance, seeing that the equiponderance
is regulated by services. But if it happen, as it sometimes may, that
the anterior labour renders greater service than the new, the latter
must make up for this by the sacrifice of quantity. [p180]


We have seen that in every commodity which is adapted to satisfy
our wants and desires, there are two things to be considered
and distinguished: what nature does, and what man does,—what is
gratuitous, and what is onerous—the gift of God and the service
of man—‹utility› and ‹value›. In the same commodity the one may
be immense, and the other imperceptible. The former remaining
invariable, the latter may be indefinitely diminished; and is
diminished, in fact, as often as an ingenious process or invention
enables us to obtain the same result with less effort.

One of the greatest difficulties, one of the most fertile sources of
misunderstanding, controversy, and error, here presents itself to us
at the very threshold of the science—

What is ‹wealth›?

Are we ‹rich› in proportion to the utilities which we have at our
disposal,—that is, in proportion to the wants and desires which we
have the means of satisfying? “A man is rich or poor,” says Adam
Smith, “according as he possesses a greater or smaller amount of
‹useful› commodities which minister to his enjoyments.”

Are we ‹rich› in proportion to the ‹values› which we possess,—that
is to say, the ‹services› which we can command? “Wealth,” says J. B.
Say, “is in proportion to Value. It is great if the sum of the value
of which it is composed is great—it is small if the value be small.”

The vulgar employ the word Wealth in two senses. Sometimes we hear
them say—“The abundance of water is Wealth to such a country.” In
this case, they are thinking only of utility. But when one wishes to
reckon up his own wealth, he makes what is called an Inventory, in
which only commercial Value is taken into account.

With deference to the ‹savants›, I believe that the vulgar are
[p181] right for once. Wealth is either ‹actual› or ‹relative›. In
the first point of view, we judge of it by our satisfactions. Mankind
become richer in proportion as they acquire a greater amount of ease
or material prosperity, whatever be the commodities by which it is
procured. But do you wish to know what proportional share each man
has in the general prosperity; in other words, his ‹relative wealth›?
This is simply a relation, which value alone reveals, because value
is itself a relation.

Our science has to do with the general welfare and prosperity of men,
with the proportion which exists between their Efforts and their
Satisfactions,—a proportion which the progressive participation
of gratuitous utility in the business of production modifies
advantageously. You cannot, then, exclude this element from the
idea of Wealth. In a scientific point of view, actual or effective
wealth is not the sum of values, but the aggregate of the utilities,
gratuitous and onerous, which are attached to these values. As
regards satisfactions,—that is to say, as regards actual results of
wealth, we are as much enriched by the value annihilated by progress
as by that which still subsists.

In the ordinary transactions of life, we cease to take utility into
account, in proportion as that utility becomes ‹gratuitous› by the
lowering of value. Why? because what is gratuitous is ‹common›, and
what is common alters in no respect each man’s share or proportion
of actual or effective wealth. We do not exchange what is common to
all; and as in our every-day transactions we only require to be made
acquainted with the proportion which value establishes, we take no
account of anything else.

This subject gave rise to a controversy between Ricardo and J. B.
Say. Ricardo gave to the word Wealth the sense of Utility—Say,
that of Value. The exclusive triumph of one of these champions was
impossible, since the word admits of both senses, according as we
regard wealth as actual or relative.

But it is necessary to remark, and the more so on account of the
great authority of Say in these matters, that if we confound ‹wealth›
(in the sense of actual or effective prosperity) with ‹value›; above
all, if we affirm that the one is proportional to the other, we
shall be apt to give the science a wrong direction. The works of
second-rate Economists, and those of the Socialists, show this but
too clearly. To set out by concealing from view precisely that which
forms the fairest patrimony of the human race, is an unfortunate
beginning. It leads us to consider as annihilated that portion of
wealth which progress renders common to all, and exposes us to the
danger of falling into a ‹petitio principii›, and studying [p182]
Political Economy backwards,—the ‹end›, the design, which it is our
object to attain, being perpetually confounded with the ‹obstacle›
which impedes our efforts.

In truth, but for the existence of obstacles, there could be no
such thing as Value, which is the sign, the symptom, the witness,
the proof of our native weakness. It reminds us incessantly of the
decree which went forth in the beginning—“In the sweat of thy face
shalt thou eat bread.” With reference to Omnipotence, the words
‹Effort›, ‹Service›, and, consequently, ‹Value›, have no meaning. As
regards ourselves, we live in an atmosphere of ‹utilities›, of which
utilities the greater part are gratuitous, but there are others which
we can acquire only by an onerous title. Obstacles are interposed
between these utilities and the wants to which they minister. We are
condemned either to forego the Utility, or vanquish these obstacles
by Efforts. Sweat must drop from the brow before bread can be eaten,
whether the toil be undergone by ourselves or by others for our

The greater the amount of value we find existing in a country, the
greater evidence we have that obstacles have been surmounted, but the
greater evidence we also have that there are obstacles to surmount.
Are we to go so far as to say that these obstacles constitute Wealth,
because, apart from them, Value would have no existence?

We may suppose two countries. One of them possesses the means of
enjoyment to a greater extent than the other with a less amount of
Value, because it is favoured by nature, and it has fewer obstacles
to overcome. Which is the richer?

Or, to put a stronger case, let us suppose the same people at
different periods of their history. The obstacles to be overcome
are the same at both periods. But, now-a-days, they surmount these
obstacles with so much greater facility; they execute, for instance,
the work of transport, of tillage, of manufactures, at so much
less an expense of effort that values are considerably reduced.
There are two courses, then, which a people in such a situation may
take,—they may content themselves with the same amount of enjoyments
as formerly,—progress in that case resolving itself simply into
the attainment of additional leisure; and, in such circumstances,
should we be authorized to say that the Wealth of the society had
retrograded because it is possessed of a smaller amount of value?
Or, they may devote the efforts which progress and improvement
have rendered disposable to the increase and extension of their
enjoyments; but should we be warranted to conclude that, because the
amount of values had remained [p183] stationary, the wealth of the
society had remained stationary also? It is to this result, however,
that we tend if we confound the two things, ‹Riches› and ‹Value›.

Political Economists may here find themselves in a dilemma. Are we to
measure wealth by Satisfactions realized, or by Values created?

Were no obstacles interposed between utilities and desires, there
would be neither efforts, nor services, nor Values in our case, any
more than in that of God and nature. In such circumstances, were
wealth estimated by the satisfactions realized, mankind, like nature,
would be in possession of infinite riches; but, if estimated by the
values created, they would be deprived of wealth altogether. An
economist who adopted the first view might pronounce us ‹infinitely
rich›,—another, who adopted the second view, might pronounce us
‹infinitely poor›.

The infinite, it is true, is in no respect an attribute of humanity.
But mankind direct their exertions to certain ends; they make
efforts, they have tendencies, they gravitate towards progressive
Wealth or progressive Poverty. Now, how could Economists make
themselves mutually intelligible if this successive diminution of
effort in relation to result, of labour to be undergone or to be
remunerated; in a word, if this successive diminution of Value were
considered by some of them as a progress towards Wealth, and by
others as a descent towards Poverty?

Did the difficulty, indeed, concern only Economists, we might say,
let them settle the matter among themselves. But legislators and
governments have every day to introduce measures which exercise a
serious influence on human affairs; and in what condition should we
be if these measures were taken in the absence of that light which
enables us to distinguish Riches from Poverty?

I affirm that the theory which defines Wealth as Value is only
the glorification of Obstacles. Its syllogism is this: “Wealth is
in proportion to Value, value to efforts, efforts to obstacles;
‹ergo›, wealth is in proportion to obstacles.” I affirm also that,
by reason of the division of labour, which includes the case of
every one who exercises a trade or profession, the illusion thus
created is very difficult to be got rid of. We all of us see that
the services which we render are called forth by some obstacle, some
want, some suffering,—those of the physician by disease, those of
the agricultural labourer by hunger, those of the manufacturer of
clothing by cold, those of the carrier by distance, those of the
advocate by injustice, those of the soldier by danger to his country.
There is not, in fact, a single obstacle, the disappearance of which
does not [p184] prove very inopportune and very troublesome to
somebody, or which does not even appear fatal in a public point of
view, because it seems to dry up a source of employment, of services,
of values, of wealth. Very few Economists have been able to preserve
themselves entirely from this illusion; and if the science shall
ever succeed in dispelling it, its practical mission will have been
fulfilled. For I venture to make a third affirmation—namely, that
our official practice is saturated with this theory, and that when
governments believe it to be their duty to favour certain classes,
certain professions, or certain manufactures, they have no other mode
of accomplishing their object than by setting up Obstacles, in order
to give to particular branches of industry additional development,
in order to enlarge artificially the circle of services to which the
community is forced to have recourse,—and thus to increase Value,
falsely assumed as synonymous with Wealth.

And, in fact, it is quite true that such legislation is useful to the
classes which are favoured by it—they exult in it—congratulate each
other upon it,—and what is the consequence? Why this, that the same
favours are successively accorded to all other classes.

What more natural than to confound Utility with Value, and Value
with Riches! The science has never encountered a snare which she has
less suspected. For what has happened? At every step of progress the
reasoning has been this: “The obstacle is diminished, then effort
is lessened, then value is lessened, then utility is lessened, then
wealth is lessened,—then we are the most unfortunate people in the
world to have taken it into our heads to invent and exchange, to have
five fingers in place of three, and two hands in place of one; and
then it is necessary to engage government, which is in possession of
force, to take order with this abuse.”

This Political Economy ‹à rebours›—this Political Economy read
backwards—is the staple of many of our journals, and the life of
legislative assemblies. It has misled the candid and philanthropic
Sismondi, and we find it very logically set forth in the work of M.
de Saint-Chamans.

“There are two kinds of national wealth,” he tells us. “If we have
regard only to ‹useful› products with reference to their quantity,
their abundance, we have to do with a species of wealth which
procures enjoyments to society, and which I shall denominate ‹the
Wealth of enjoyment›.

“If we regard products with reference to their exchangeable Value, or
simply with reference to their value, we have to do with [p185] a
species of Wealth which procures values to society, and which I call
‹the Wealth of value›.

“‹It is this last species of Wealth which forms the special subject
of Political Economy, and it is with it, above all, that governments
have to do.›”

This being so, how are Economists and Statesmen to proceed? The first
are to point out the means of increasing this species of riches, this
‹wealth of value›; the second to set about adopting these means.

But this kind of wealth bears proportion to efforts, and efforts
bear proportion to obstacles. Political Economy, then, is to teach,
and Government to contrive, how to multiply obstacles. M. de
Saint-Chamans does not flinch in the least from this consequence.

Does exchange facilitate our acquiring more of the ‹wealth of
enjoyment› with less of the ‹wealth of value›? We must, then,
counteract this tendency of exchange.[39]

Is there any portion of gratuitous Utility which we can replace by
onerous Utility; for example, by prohibiting the use of a tool or a
machine? We must not fail to do so; for it is very evident, he says,
that if machinery augments the ‹wealth of enjoyment›, it diminishes
the ‹wealth of value›. “‹Let us bless the obstacles› which the
dearness and scarcity of fuel in this country has opposed to the
multiplication of steam-engines.”[40]

Has nature favoured us in any particular respect? It is our
misfortune; for, by that means, we are deprived of the opportunity of
exerting ourselves. “I avow that I could desire to see manufactured
by manual labour, forced exertion, and the sweat of the brow, things
that are now produced without trouble and spontaneously.”[41]

What a misfortune, then, is it for us that we are not obliged to
manufacture the water which we drink! It would have been a fine
opportunity of producing the ‹wealth of value›. Happily we take our
revenge upon wine. “Discover the secret of drawing wine from springs
in the earth as abundantly as you draw water, and you will soon see
that this fine order of things will ruin a fourth part of France.”[42]

According to the ideas which this Economist sets forth with such
‹naïveté›, there are many methods, and very simple methods too, of
obliging men to create what he terms the ‹wealth of value›.

The first is to deprive them of what they have. “If taxation [p186]
lays held of money where it is plentiful, to distribute it where it
is scarce, it is useful, and far from being a loss, ‹it is a gain›,
to the state.”[43]

The second is to dissipate what you take. “Luxury and prodigality,
which are so hurtful to individual fortunes, ‹benefit› public
wealth. You teach me a fine moral lesson, it may be said—I have no
such pretension—my business is with Political Economy, and not with
morals. You seek the means of rendering nations richer, and I preach
up luxury.”[44]

A more prompt method still is to destroy the wealth which you take
from the tax-payer by good sweeping wars. “If you grant me that the
expenditure of prodigals is as productive as any other, and that the
expenditure of governments is equally productive, . . . you will no
longer be astonished at the wealth of England after so expensive a

But, as tending to promote the creation of this ‹Wealth of value›,
all these means—taxes, luxury, wars—must hide their diminished
heads before an expedient infinitely more efficacious—namely,

“To build is a great source of wealth, because it supplies revenues
to proprietors, who furnish the materials, to workmen, and to divers
classes of artisans and artists. Melon cites Sir William Petty, who
regards, as a ‹national profit›, the labour employed in rebuilding
the streets of London after the great fire which consumed two-thirds
of the city, and he estimates it (the profit!) at a million sterling
per annum (in money of 1666) during four years, and this without the
least injury having been done to other branches of trade. Without
regarding this pecuniary estimate ‹of profit› as quite accurate,”
adds M. de Saint-Chamans, “it is certain at least that this event
had no detrimental effect upon the wealth of England at that
period. . . . The result stated by Sir W. Petty is not impossible,
seeing that the necessity of rebuilding London must have created a
large amount of new revenues.”[46]

All Economists, who set out by confounding ‹wealth› with ‹value›,
must infallibly arrive at the same conclusions, if they are logical;
but they are not logical; for on the road of absurdity men of any
common sense always sooner or later stop short. M. de Saint-Chamans
seems himself to recede a little before the consequences of his
principle, when it lands him in a eulogium on conflagration. We see
that he hesitates, and contents himself with a negative panegyric.
He should have carried out his principle to [p187] its logical
conclusions, and told us roundly what he so clearly indicates.

Of all our Economists, M. de Sismondi has succumbed to the difficulty
now under consideration in the manner most to be regretted. Like
M. de Saint-Chamans, he set out with the idea that value forms an
element of wealth; and, like him, he has built upon this datum a
Political Economy ‹à rebours›, denouncing everything which tends
to diminish value. Sismondi, like Saint-Chamans, exalts obstacles,
proscribes machinery, anathematizes exchange, competition, and
liberty, extols luxury and taxation, and arrives at length at this
conclusion, that the more we possess the poorer we become.[47]

From beginning to end of his work, however, M. de Sismondi seems to
have a lurking consciousness that he is mistaken, and that a dark
veil may have interposed itself between his mind and the truth. He
does not venture, like M. de Saint-Chamans, to announce roughly
and bluntly the consequences of his principle—he hesitates, and is
troubled. He asks himself sometimes if it is possible that all men
from the beginning of the world have been in error, and on the road
to self-destruction, in seeking to diminish the proportion which
Effort bears to Satisfaction,—that is to say, ‹value›. At once the
friend and the enemy of liberty, he fears it, since the abundance
which depreciates value leads to universal poverty, and yet he knows
not how to set about the destruction of this fatal liberty. He thus
arrives at the confines of socialism and artificial organization, and
insinuates that government and science should regulate and control
everything. Then he sees the danger of the advice he is giving,
retracts it, and ends by falling into despair, exclaiming—“Liberty
leads to the abyss of poverty—Constraint is as impossible as it is
useless—there is no escape.” In truth and reality, there is none, if
Value be Riches; in other words, if the obstacle to prosperity be
prosperity itself,—that is to say, if Evil be Good.

The latest writer, as far as I know, who has stirred this question
[p188] is M. Proudhon. It made the fortune of his book, ‹Des
Contradictions Économiques›. Never was there a finer opportunity
of seizing a paradox by the forelock, and snapping his fingers
at science. Never was there a fairer occasion of asking—“Do you
see in the increase of value a good or an evil? ‹Quidquid dixeris
argumentabor.›” Just think what a treat![48]

“I call upon any earnest Economist to explain to me, otherwise
than by varying and repeating the question, why value diminishes
in proportion as production increases, and ‹vice versa›. . . . In
technical phrase, value in use and value in exchange, although
necessary to each other, are in an inverse ratio to each
other. . . . . Value in use and value in exchange remain, then,
fatally enchained, although in their own nature they tend to exclude
each other.”

“For this contradiction, which is inherent in the notion of value,
no cause can be assigned, nor is any explanation of it possible. . .
From the data, that man has need of a great variety of commodities,
and that he must provide them by his labour, the necessary conclusion
is, that there exists an antagonism between value in use and value
in exchange, and from this antagonism a contradiction arises at the
very threshold of Political Economy. No amount of intelligence, no
agency, divine or human, can make it otherwise. In place, then, of
beating about for a useless explanation, let us content ourselves
with pointing out clearly the ‹necessity of the contradiction›.”

We know that the grand discovery of M. Proudhon is, that everything
is at once true and false, good and bad, legitimate and illegitimate,
that there exits no principle which is not self-contradictory, and
that contradiction lurks not only in erroneous theories, but in the
very essence of things,—“it is the pure expression of necessity,
the peculiar law of existence,” etc.; so that it is inevitable,
and would be incurable, rationally, but for ‹progression›,
and, practically, but for the ‹Banque du Peuple›. Nature is a
contradiction, liberty a contradiction, competition a contradiction,
property a contradiction,—value, credit, monopoly, community, all
contradictions. When M. Proudhon achieved this wonderful discovery
his heart must have leaped for joy; for since contradiction is
everywhere and in everything, he can never want something to gainsay,
which for him is the supreme good. He said to me one day, “I should
rather like to go to heaven, but I [p189] fear that everybody there
will be of one mind, and I should find nobody to argue with.”

We must confess that the subject of Value gave him an excellent
opportunity of indulging his taste. But, with great deference to
him, the contradictions and paradoxes to which the word Value has
given rise are to be found in the false theories which have been
constructed, and not at all, as he would have us believe, in the
nature of things.

Theorists have set out, in the first instance, by confounding
Value with Utility,—that is to say, evil with good; for utility is
the desired result, and value springs from the obstacle which is
interposed between the desire and the result. This was their first
error, and, when they perceived the consequences of it, they thought
to obviate the difficulty by imagining a distinction between value in
use and value in exchange—an unwieldy tautology, which had the great
fault of attaching the same word—Value—to two opposite phenomena.

But if, putting aside these subtilties, we adhere strictly to facts,
what do we perceive? Nothing, assuredly, but what is quite natural
and consistent.

A man, we shall suppose, works exclusively for himself. If he acquire
skill, if his force and intelligence are developed, if nature becomes
more liberal, or if he learns how to make nature co-operate better in
his work, he obtains ‹more wealth with less trouble›. Where is the
contradiction, and what is there in this to excite so much wonder?

Well, then, in place of remaining an isolated being, suppose this man
to have relations with his fellow-men. They exchange; and I repeat
my observation,—in proportion as they acquire skill, experience,
force, and intelligence,—in proportion as nature (become more
liberal or brought more into subjection) lends them more efficacious
co-operation, they obtain ‹more wealth with less trouble›; they have
at their disposal a greater amount of gratuitous utility; in their
transactions they transfer to one another a greater sum of useful
results in proportion to a given amount of labour. Where, then, is
the contradiction?

If, indeed, following the example of Adam Smith and his successors,
you commit the error of applying the same denomination—‹value›—both
to the results obtained and to the exertion made; in that case, an
antinomy or contradiction will show itself. But be assured that that
contradiction is not at all in the facts, but in your own erroneous
explanation of those facts.

M. Proudhon ought, then, to have shaped his proposition thus: [p190]
It being granted that man has need of a great variety of products,
that he can only obtain them by his labour, and that he has the
precious gift of educating and improving himself, nothing in the
world is more natural than the sustained increase of results in
relation to efforts; and there is nothing at all contradictory in a
given value serving as the vehicle of a greater amount of realized

Let me repeat, once more, that for man Utility is the fair side
of the medal and Value the reverse. Utility has relation only to
our Satisfactions, Value only with our Pains. Utility realizes our
enjoyments, and is proportioned to them; Value attests our native
weakness, springs from obstacles, and is proportioned to those

In virtue of the law of human perfectibility, gratuitous utility
tends more and more to take the place of onerous utility, expressed
by the word ‹value›. Such is the phenomenon, and it presents
assuredly nothing contradictory.

But the question recurs—Should the word Wealth comprehend these two
kinds of utility united, or only the last?

If we could form, once for all, two classes of utilities, putting
on the one side all those which are gratuitous, and on the other
all those which are onerous, we should form, at the same time, two
classes of Wealth, which we should denominate, with M. Say, ‹Natural
Wealth› and ‹Social Wealth›; or else, with M. de Saint-Chamans, the
‹Wealth of Enjoyment› and the ‹Wealth of Value›; after which, as
these authors propose, we should have nothing mere to do with the
first of these classes.

“Things which are accessible to all,” says M. Say, “and which
everyone may enjoy at pleasure, without being forced to acquire them,
and without the fear of exhausting them, such as air, water, the
light of the sun, etc., are the gratuitous gifts of nature, and may
be denominated ‹Natural Wealth›. As these can be neither produced nor
distributed, nor consumed by us, ‹they come not within the domain of
Political Economy›.

“The things which this science has to do with are things which we
possess, and which have a recognised value. These we denominate
‹Social Wealth›, because they exist only among men united in society.”

“It is the ‹Wealth of Value›,” says M. de Saint-Chamans, “‹which
forms the special subject of Political Economy›, and whenever in
this work I mention Wealth without being more specific, I mean that
description of it.”

Nearly all Economists have taken the same view. [p191]

“The most striking distinction,” says Storch, “which presents itself
in the outset, is, that there are certain kinds of value which are
capable of appropriation, and other kinds which are not so.[49] ‹The
first alone are the subject of Political Economy›, for the analysis
of the others would furnish no result worthy of the attention of the

For my own part, I think that that portion of utility which, in the
progress of society, ceases to be onerous and to possess value,
but which does not on that account cease to be utility, and is
about to fall into the domain of the ‹common› and ‹gratuitous›, is
precisely that which should constantly attract the attention of the
statesman and of the Economist. If it do not, in place of penetrating
and comprehending the great results which affect and elevate the
human race, the science will be left to deal with what is quite
contingent and flexible—with what has a tendency to diminish, if not
to disappear—with a relation merely; in a word, with Value. Without
being aware of it, Economists are thus led to consider only labour,
obstacles, and the interest of the producer; and, what is worse, they
are led to confound the interest of the producer with the interest
of the public,—that is to say, to mistake evil for good, and, under
the guidance of the Sismondis and Saint-Chamans, to land at length in
the Utopia of the socialists, or the ‹Système des Contradictions› of

And, then, is not this line of demarcation, which you attempt to
draw between the two descriptions of utility, chimerical, arbitrary,
and impossible? How can you thus disjoin the co-operation of nature
and that of man when they combine and get mixed up everywhere, much
more when the one tends constantly to replace the other, which is
precisely what constitutes progress? If economical science, so dry in
some respects, in other aspects elevates and fascinates the mind, it
is just because it describes the laws of this association between man
and nature,—it is because it shows gratuitous utility substituting
itself more and more for onerous utility, enjoyments bearing a
greater and greater proportion to labour and fatigue, obstacles
constantly lessening, and, along with them, value; the perpetual
mistakes and miscalculations of producers more than compensated by
the increasing prosperity of consumers; natural wealth, ‹gratuitous›
and ‹common›, coming more and more to take the place of wealth which
is ‹personal› and ‹appropriated›. What! are we to exclude from
Political Economy what constitutes its religious Harmony? [p192]

Air, light, water, are gratuitous, you say. True, and if we enjoyed
them under their primitive form, without making them co-operate in
any of our works, we might exclude them from Political Economy just
as we exclude from it the possible and probable utility of comets.
But observe the progress of man. At first he is able to make air,
light, water, and other natural agents co-operate very imperfectly.
His satisfactions were purchased by laborious personal efforts, they
exacted a large amount of labour, and they were transferred to others
as important ‹services›; in a word, they were possessed of great
‹value›. By degrees, this water, this air, this light, gravitation,
elasticity, calorie, electricity, vegetable life, have abandoned
this state of relative inactivity. They mingle more and more with
our industry. They are substituted for human labour. They do for us
gratuitously what labour does only for an onerous consideration.
They annihilate value without diminishing our enjoyments. To speak
in common language, what cost us a hundred francs, costs us only
ten—what required ten days’ labour now demands only one. The whole
value thus annihilated has passed from the domain of Property to that
of Community. A considerable proportion of human efforts has been
set free, and placed at our disposal for other enterprises; so that
with equal labour, equal services, equal value, mankind have enlarged
prodigiously the circle of their enjoyments; and yet you tell me that
I must eliminate and banish from the science this utility, which is
gratuitous and common, which alone explains progress, as well upward
as forward, if I may so speak, as well in wealth and prosperity as in
freedom and equality!

We may, then, legitimately attach to the word Wealth two meanings.

‹Effective Wealth›, real, and realizing satisfactions, or the
aggregate of utilities which human labour, aided by the co-operation
of natural agents, places within the reach of Society.

‹Relative Wealth›,—that is to say, the proportional share of each in
the general Riches, a share which is determined by Value.

This Economic Harmony, then, may be thus stated:

By labour the action of man is combined with the action of nature.

Utility results from that co-operation.

Each man receives a share of the general utility proportioned to
the value he has created,—that is to say, to the services he has
rendered; in other words, to the utility he has himself produced.[50]

‹Morality of Wealth.›—We have just been engaged in studying wealth
in an economical point of view; it may not perhaps be useless to say
something here of its Moral effects.

In all ages, wealth, in a moral point of view, has been the subject
of controversy. Certain philosophers and certain religionists have
commanded us to despise it; others have greatly prided themselves on
the golden mean, ‹aurea mediocritas›. Few, if any, have admitted as
moral an ardent longing after the goods of fortune.

Which are right? Which are wrong? It does not belong to Political
Economy to treat of individual morality. I shall make only one
remark: I am always inclined to think that in matters which lie
within the domain of everyday practice, theorists, savants,
philosophers, are much less likely to be right than this universal
practice itself, when we include in the meaning of the word practice,
not only the actions of the generality of men, but their sentiments
and ideas.

Now, what does universal practice demonstrate in this case? It
shows us all men endeavouring to emerge from their original state
of poverty,—all preferring the sensation of satisfaction to the
sensation of want, riches to poverty; all, I should say, or almost
all, without excepting even those who declaim against wealth.

The desire for wealth is ardent, incessant, universal, irrepressible.
In almost every part of the globe it has triumphed over our natural
aversion to toil. Whatever may be said to the contrary, it displays
a character of avidity still baser among savage than among civilized
nations. All our navigators who left Europe in the eighteenth
century, imbued with the fashionable ideas of Rousseau, and expecting
to find the men of nature at the antipodes disinterested, generous,
hospitable, were struck with the devouring rapacity of these
primitive barbarians. Our military men can tell us, in our own day,
what we are to think of the boasted disinterestedness of the Arab

On the other hand, the opinions of all men, even of those who do not
act up to their opinions, concur in honouring disinterestedness,
generosity, self-control, and in branding that ill-regulated,
inordinate love of wealth which causes men not to shrink from any
means of obtaining it. The same public opinion surrounds with
esteem the man who, in whatever rank of life, devotes his honest
and persevering labour to ameliorating the lot and elevating the
condition of his family. It is from this combination of facts, ideas,
and sentiments, it would seem to me, that we must form our judgment
on wealth in connexion with individual morality. [p194]

First of all, we must acknowledge that the motive which urges us
to the acquisition of riches is of providential creation,—natural,
and consequently ‹moral›. It has its source in that original and
general destitution which would be our lot in everything, if it
did not create in us the desire to free ourselves from it. We must
acknowledge, in the second place, that the efforts which men make to
emerge from their primitive destitution, provided they keep within
the limits of justice, are estimable and respectable, seeing that
they are universally esteemed and respected. No one, moreover, will
deny that labour is in itself of a moral nature. This is expressed
in the common proverb which we find in all countries,—Idleness is
the parent of vice. And we should fall into a glaring contradiction
were we to say, on the one hand, that labour is indispensable to the
morality of men, and, on the other, that men are immoral when they
seek to realize wealth by their labour.

We must acknowledge, in the third place, that the desire of wealth
becomes immoral when it goes the length of inducing us to depart
from the rules of justice, and that avarice becomes more unpopular
in proportion to the wealth of those who addict themselves to that

Such is the judgment pronounced, not by certain philosophers or
sects, but by the generality of men; and I adopt it.

I must guard myself, however, by adding that this judgment may be
different at the present day from what it was in ancient times,
without involving a contradiction.

The Essenians and Stoics lived in a state of society where wealth
was always the reward of oppression, of pillage, and of violence.
Not only was it deemed immoral in itself, but, in consequence of
the immoral means employed in its acquisition, it revealed the
immorality of those who possessed it. A reaction, even an exaggerated
reaction, against riches and rich men was to be expected. Modern
philosophers who declaim against wealth, without taking into account
this difference in the means of acquiring wealth, believe themselves
Senecas, while they are only parrots, repeating what they do not

But the question which Political Economy proposes is this: Is wealth
for mankind a moral good or a moral evil? Does the progressive
development of wealth imply, in a moral point of view, improvement or

The reader anticipates my answer, and will understand that I must
say a few words on the subject of individual morality, in order
to get quit of the contradiction, or rather of the impossibility,
[p195] which would be implied in asserting that what is individual
immorality is general morality.

Without having recourse to statistics, or the records of our prisons,
we must handle a problem which may be enunciated in these terms:—

Is man degraded by exercising more power over nature—by constraining
nature to serve him—by obtaining additional leisure—by freeing
himself from the more imperious and pressing wants of his
organization—by being enabled to rouse from sleep and inactivity his
intellectual and moral faculties,—faculties which assuredly have not
been given him to remain in eternal lethargy?

Is man degraded by being removed from a state the most inorganic, so
to speak, and raised to a state of the highest spiritualism which it
is possible for him to reach?

To enunciate the problem in this form is to resolve it.

I willingly grant, that when wealth is acquired by means which are
immoral, it has an immoral influence, as among the Romans.

I also allow that when it is developed in a very unequal manner,
creating a great gulf between classes, it has an immoral influence,
and gives rise to revolutionary passions.

But does the same thing hold when wealth is the fruit of honest
industry and free transactions, and is uniformly distributed over all
classes? That would be a doctrine which it is impossible to maintain.

Socialist works, nevertheless, are crammed with declamations against
the rich.

I really cannot comprehend how these schools, so opposite in
other respects, but so unanimous in this, should not perceive the
contradiction into which they fall.

On the one hand, wealth, according to the leaders of these schools,
has a deleterious and demoralizing action, which debases the soul,
hardens the heart, and leaves behind only a taste for depraved
enjoyments. The rich have all manner of vices. The poor have
all manner of virtues—they are just, sensible, disinterested,
generous,—such is the favourite theme of these authors.

On the other hand, all the efforts of the Socialists’ imagination,
all the systems they invent, all the laws they wish to impose
upon us, tend, if we are to believe them, to convert poverty into
riches. . . . . . .

Morality of wealth proved by this maxim; the profit of one is
the profit of another. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . [p196]


The economic laws will be found to act on the same principle,
whether we take the case of a numerous agglomeration of men or of
only two individuals, or even of a single individual condemned by
circumstances to live in a state of isolation.

Such an individual, if he could exist for some time in an isolated
state, would be at once capitalist, employer, workman, producer,
and consumer. The whole economic evolution would be accomplished
in him. Observing each of the elements of which that evolution is
made up—want, effort, satisfaction—gratuitous utility, and onerous
utility—he would be enabled to form an idea of the entire mechanism,
even when thus reduced to its greatest simplicity.

One thing is obvious enough, that he could never confound what
was gratuitous with what exacted efforts; for that would imply a
contradiction in terms. He would know at once when a material or a
force was furnished to him by nature without the co-operation of his
labour, even when his own labour was assisted by natural agents, and
thus rendered more productive.

An isolated individual would never think of applying his own labour
to the production of a commodity as long as he could procure it
directly from nature. He would not travel a league to fetch water
if he had a well at his door. For the same reason, whenever his own
labour was called into requisition, he would endeavour to substitute
for it, as much as he possibly could, the co-operation of natural

If he constructed a canoe, he would make it of the lightest
materials, in order to take advantage of the specific gravity of
water. He would furnish it with a sail, that the wind might save him
the trouble of rowing, etc. [p197]

In order to obtain in this way the co-operation of natural agent,
tools and instruments would be wanted.

And here the isolated individual would begin to calculate. He would
ask himself this question: At present I obtain a satisfaction at the
expense of a given effort: when I am in possession of the proper tool
or instrument, shall I obtain the same satisfaction with less effort,
taking into account the labour required for the construction of the
instrument itself?

No one will throw away his labour for the mere pleasure of throwing
it away. Our supposed Robinson Crusoe, then, will be induced to set
about constructing the instrument only if he sees clearly that, when
completed, he will obtain an equal satisfaction at a smaller expense
of effort, or a greater amount of satisfaction with the same effort.

One circumstance will form a great element in his calculation—the
number of commodities in the production of which this instrument will
assist while it lasts. He has a primary standard of comparison—the
present labours to which he is subjected every time he wishes
to procure the satisfaction directly and without assistance. He
estimates how much labour the tool or instrument will save him on
each occasion; but labour is required to make the tool, and this
labour he will in his own mind spread over all the occasions on which
such an instrument can be made available. The greater the number
of these occasions, the stronger will be his motive for seeking
the co-operation of natural agents. It is here—in this spreading
of an ‹advance› over an aggregate of products—that we discover the
principle and foundation of Interest.

When Robin Crusoe has once made up his mind to construct the
instrument, he perceives that his willingness to make it, and the
advantage it is to bring him, are not enough. Tools are necessary to
the manufacture of tools—iron must be hammered with iron—and so you
go on, mounting from difficulty to difficulty, till you reach the
first difficulty of all, which appears to be insuperable. This shows
us the extreme slowness with which Capital must have been formed
at the beginning, and what an enormous amount of human labour each
satisfaction must originally have cost.

Again, in order to construct the instruments of labour, not only
tools, but ‹materials› are wanted. If these materials, as for
instance stones, are furnished gratuitously by nature, we must
still combine them, which costs labour. But the possession of these
materials supposes, in almost every case, anterior labour both long
and complicated, as in the manufacture of wool, flax, iron, lead, etc.

Nor is this all. Whilst a man is thus working for the exclusive
[p198] purpose of facilitating his ulterior labour, he can do
nothing to supply his present wants. Now, here we encounter an order
of phenomena in which there can be no interruption. Each day the
labourer must be fed, clothed, and sheltered. Robinson will perceive,
then, that he can undertake nothing for the purpose of procuring the
co-operation of natural forces until he has previously accumulated
a stock of ‹provisions›. He must every day redouble his activity in
the chase, and store up a portion of the game he kills, and subject
himself to present privations, in order that he may have at his
disposal the time requisite for the construction of the instrument he
has projected. In such circumstances, it is most probable that all he
will accomplish will be the construction of an instrument which is
rude and imperfect, and not very well fitted for the purpose he has
in view.

Afterwards, he will obtain greater facilities. Reflection and
experience will teach him to work better; and the first tool he
makes will furnish him with the means of fabricating others, and of
accumulating provisions with greater promptitude.

Tools, materials, provisions—these, doubtless, Robinson will
denominate his ‹Capital›; and he will readily discover that the more
considerable his capital becomes, the greater command will he obtain
over natural agents—that the more he makes such agents co-operate in
his labour, the more will he augment his satisfactions in proportion
to his efforts.

Let us now vary the hypothesis, and place ourselves in the midst
of the social order. Capital is still composed of instruments of
labour, materials, and provisions, without which no enterprise of any
magnitude can be undertaken, either in a state of isolation, or in
a social state. Those who are possessed of capital have been put in
possession of it only by their labour, or by their privations; and
they would not have undergone that labour (which has no connexion
with present wants), they would not have imposed on themselves those
privations, but with the view of obtaining ulterior advantages—with
the view, for example, of procuring in larger measure the future
co-operation of natural agents. On their part, to give away this
capital would be to deprive themselves of the special advantage they
have in view; it would be to transfer this advantage to others; it
would be to render others a ‹service›. We cannot, then, without
abandoning the most simple principles of reason and justice, fail
to see that the owners of capital have a perfect right to refuse
to make this transfer unless in exchange for another ‹service›,
freely bargained for and voluntarily agreed to. No man in the world,
I believe, will dispute [p199] the equity of the ‹mutuality of
services›, for mutuality of services is, in other words, equity.
Will it be said that the transaction cannot be free and voluntary,
because the man who is in possession of capital is in a position to
lay down the law to the man who has none? But how is a bargain to be
made? In what way are we to discover the ‹equivalence of services›
if it be not in the case of an exchange voluntarily effected on
both sides? Do you not perceive, moreover, that the man who borrows
capital, being free either to borrow it or not, will refuse to do so
unless he sees it to be for his advantage, and that the loan cannot
make his situation worse? The question he asks himself is evidently
this: Will the employment of this capital afford me advantages which
are more than sufficient to make up for the conditions which are
demanded of me? Or this: Is the effort which I am now obliged to
make, in order to obtain a given satisfaction, greater or less than
the sum of the efforts which the loan will entail upon me—first of
all, in rendering the ‹services› which are demanded of me by the
lender, and afterwards in procuring the special satisfaction I have
in view with the aid of the capital borrowed? If, taking all things
into account, there be no advantage to be got, he will not borrow,
he will remain as he is, and what injury is done him? He may be
mistaken, you will say. Undoubtedly he may. One may be mistaken in
all imaginable transactions. Are we then to abandon our liberty? If
you go that length, tell us what we are to substitute for free will
and free consent. Constraint? for if we give up liberty, what remains
but constraint? No, you say—the judgment of a third party. Granted,
on these conditions: First, that the decision of this third party,
whatever name you give him, shall not be put in force by constraint.
Secondly, that he be infallible, for to substitute one fallible man
for another would be to no purpose; and the parties whose judgment
I should least distrust in such a matter are the parties who are
interested in the result. The third and last condition is, that
this arbitrator shall not be paid for his services; for it would
be a singular way of manifesting his sympathy for the borrower,
first of all to take away from him his liberty, and then to lay
on his shoulders an additional burden as the recompense of this
philanthropical service. But let us leave the question of right, and
return to Political Economy.

A Capital which is composed of materials, provisions, and
instruments, presents two aspects—Utility and Value. I must have
failed in my exposition of the theory of value, if the reader does
not understand that the man who transfers capital is paid only for
its ‹value›, that is to say, for the service rendered in [p200]
creating that capital; in other words, for the pains taken by the
‹cédant› combined with the pains saved to the recipient. Capital
consists of commodities or products. It assumes the name of capital
only by reason of its ulterior destination. It is a great mistake
to suppose that capital, as such, is a thing having an independent
existence. A sack of corn is still a sack of corn, although one man
sells it for revenue, and another buys it for capital. Exchange
takes place on the invariable principle of value for value, service
for service; and the portion of gratuitous utility which enters
into the commodity is so much into the bargain. At the same time,
the portion which is gratuitous has no value, and value is the only
thing regarded in bargains. In this respect, transactions which have
reference to capital are in no respect different from others.

This consideration opens up some admirable views with reference to
the social order, but which I cannot do more than indicate here.
Man, in a state of isolation, is possessed of capital only when he
has brought together materials, provisions, and tools. The same
thing does not hold true of man in the social state. It is enough
for the latter to have rendered ‹services›, and to have thus the
power of drawing upon society, by means of the mechanism of exchange,
for equivalent services. I mean by the mechanism of exchange,
money, bills, bank-notes, and even bankers themselves. Whoever has
rendered a ‹service›, and has not yet received the corresponding
‹satisfaction›, is the bearer of a warrant, either possessed of
value, as money, or fiduciary, like bank-notes, which warrant gives
him the power of receiving back from society, when he will, where he
will, and in what form he will, an equivalent ‹service›. This impairs
neither in principle, nor in effect, nor in an equitable point of
view, the great law which I seek to elucidate, that ‹services are
exchanged for services›. It is still the embryo barter, which has
been developed, enlarged, and rendered more complex, but without
losing its identity.

The bearer of such a warrant as I have just described may then demand
back from society, at pleasure, either an immediate satisfaction,
or an object which, in another aspect, may be regarded as capital.
The person who lends or transfers has nothing to do with that. He
satisfies himself as to the ‹equivalence of the services›—that is all.

Again, he may transfer this warrant to another, to use it as he
pleases, under the double condition of ‹restitution›, and of a
‹service›, at a fixed date. If we go to the bottom of the matter,
we shall find that in this case the person who lends or transfers
capital [p201] ‹deprives himself›, in favour of the cessionary or
recipient, either of an immediate satisfaction, which he defers for
some years, or of an instrument of labour which would have increased
his power of production, procured him the co-operation of natural
agents, and augmented, to his profit, the proportion of satisfactions
to efforts. He strips himself of these advantages, in order to invest
another with them. This is undoubtedly to render a ‹service›, and
in equity this service is entitled to a return. Mere restitution
at the year’s end cannot be considered as the remuneration of this
special service. Observe that the transaction here is not a sale,
where the delivery of the thing sold is immediate, and the return
or remuneration is immediate also. What we have to do with here is
delay. And this delay is ‹in itself› a special service, seeing that
it imposes a sacrifice on the person who accords it, and confers
an advantage on the person who asks for it. There must, then, be
remuneration, or we must give up that supreme law of society,
‹service for service›. This remuneration is variously denominated,
according to circumstances—‹hire›, ‹rent›, yearly ‹income›—but its
generic name is ‹Interest›.[51]

Every ‹service› then is, or may become, a Capital, an admirable
phenomenon due to the mechanism of exchange. If workmen are to
commence the construction of a railway ten years hence, we could
not at the present moment store up in kind the corn which is to
feed them, the stuff which is to clothe them, and the barrows and
implements of which they will have need during that protracted
operation. But we can save up and transmit to them the ‹value› of
these things. For this purpose it is enough that we render present
services to society, and obtain for these services the warrants,
in money or credits of which I have spoken, which can be converted
into corn or cloth ten years hence. It is not even necessary that we
should leave these warrants dormant and unproductive in the interval.
There are merchants, bankers, and others in society who, for the use
of our services or their results, render us the service of imposing
upon themselves these privations in our place.

And it is still more remarkable that we can effect an inverse
operation, however impossible at first sight this may appear. We can
convert into instruments of labour, into railways, into houses, a
capital which as yet has no existence—thus making available at once
‹services› which will not be actually rendered till the twentieth
century. There are bankers who are ready to make present advances on
the faith that workmen and railway travellers of the [p202] third
and fourth generation will provide for their payment, and these
drafts upon the future are transmitted from hand to hand, without
remaining for a moment unproductive. I confess I do not believe that
the numerous inventors of artificial societies ever imagined anything
at once so simple and so complex, so ingenious and so equitable, as
this. They would at once abandon their insipid and stupid utopias if
they but knew the fine harmonies of the social mechanism which has
been instituted by God. It was a king of Aragon who bethought him
what advice he should have given to Providence on the construction
of the celestial mechanism, had he been called to the counsels of
Omniscience. Newton never conceived so impious a thought.

We thus see that all transmissions of services from one point of
time or of space to another repose upon this datum, that ‹to accord
delay is to render service›; in other words, they repose on the
legitimacy of Interest. The man who, in our days, has wished to
suppress interest, does not see that he would bring back exchange to
its embryo form,—barter, present barter,—without reference either to
the future or the past. He does not see that, imagining himself the
most advanced, he is in reality the most retrograde of men, since he
would reconstruct society on its most primitive model. He desires,
he says, ‹mutuality of services›. But he begins by taking away the
character of ‹services› exactly from that kind of ‹services› which
unite, tie together, and ‹solidarize› all places and all times. In
spite of the practical audacity of his socialist aphorisms, he has
paid an involuntary homage to the present order of things. He has but
one reform, which is negative. It consists in suppressing in society
the most powerful and marvellous part of its machinery.

I have explained in another place the ‹legitimacy› and ‹perpetuity›
of Interest. I shall content myself at present with reminding the

‹1st›, That the legitimacy of interest rests upon the fact that he
who ‹accords delay renders service›. Interest, then, is legitimate in
virtue of the principle of ‹service for service›.

‹2d›, That the perpetuity of interest reposes on this other fact,
that ‹he who borrows must pay back all that he has borrowed at a
fixed date›. When the thing lent, or its value, is restored to its
owner, he can lend it anew. When returned to him a second time, he
can lend it a third time, and so on to ‹perpetuity›. Which of the
successive and voluntary borrowers can find fault with this?

But since the legitimacy of interest has been contested so [p203]
seriously in our day as to put capital to flight, or force it to
conceal itself, I may be permitted to show how utterly foolish and
insensate this controversy is.

And, first of all, let me ask, would it not be absurd and unjust
either that no remuneration should be given for the use of capital,
or that that remuneration should be the same, whether the loan were
granted and obtained at one year’s, or two years’, or ten years’
date. If, unhappily, under this doctrine of pretended ‹equality›,
such a law should find a place in our code, an entire category of
human transactions would be suppressed on the instant. We should
still have ‹barter›, and ‹sales for ready money›, but we could no
longer have sales on credit, nor ‹loans›. The advocates of equality
would relieve borrowers from the burden of paying interest; but they
would, at the same time, balk them of their loans. At the same rate,
we might relieve men from the inconvenient necessity of paying for
what they buy. We should only have to prohibit them from purchasing;
or, what would come to the same thing, declare ‹prices› illegal.

There is levelling enough, in all conscience, in this pretended
principle of equality. First of all, it would put a stop to the
creation of capital; for who would desire to save when he could reap
no advantage from saving? Then it would reduce wages to zero, for
where there is no capital (instruments, materials, and provisions),
there can be neither future work nor wages. We should very soon
arrive at the most perfect of all equalities, the equality of

But is there any man so blind as not to see that delay is ‹in itself›
a circumstance which is ‹onerous›, and, consequently, entitled to
remuneration? Apart, even, from the consideration of loans, would
not every one endeavour to abridge delays? It is the object of our
perpetual solicitude. Every employer of workmen lays great stress
on the time which must elapse before his returns come in. He sells
dearer or cheaper according as his returns are more or less distant.
Were he indifferent on that subject, he must forget that capital is
power; for if he is alive to that consideration, he must naturally
desire that it should perform its work in the shortest possible time,
so as to enable him the oftener to engage it in a new operation.

They are but short-sighted Economists who think that we pay interest
for capital only when we borrow it. The general rule is, that he who
reaps the satisfaction should bear all the charges of production,
‹delay included›, whether he renders the service to himself, or
has it rendered to him by another. A man in a state of [p204]
isolation, who has no bargains or transactions with any one, would
consider it an ‹onerous› circumstance to be deprived of the use of
his weapons for a year. Why, then, should an analogous circumstance
not be considered as onerous in society? But if a man submits to
it voluntarily for the sake of another who agrees voluntarily to
remunerate it, what should render that remuneration illegitimate?

Nothing would be transacted in the world; no enterprise requiring
advances would be undertaken; we should neither plant, nor sow,
nor labour, were not delay considered as ‹in itself› an ‹onerous›
circumstance, and treated and paid for as such. Universal consent
is so unanimous on this point, that no exchange takes place but on
this principle. Delays, hindrances, enter into the appreciation of
‹services›, and, consequently, into the constitution of ‹value›.

Thus, in their crusade against interest, the advocates of equality
not only trample under foot the most obvious notions of equity—they
ignore not only their own principle of ‹service for service›, but
also the authority of mankind and universal practice. How can they,
in the face of day, exhibit the overweening pride which such a
pretension supposes? Is it not, indeed, a very strange and a very sad
thing, that these sectaries should adopt not only tacitly, but often
in so many words, the motto, that, since the beginning of the world,
all men have been mistaken except themselves? ‹Omnes, ego non.›

Pardon me for thus insisting on the legitimacy of interest, which is
founded on this principle, that, ‹since delay is costly, it must be
paid for›—to ‹cost› and to ‹pay› being correlative terms. The fault
lies in the spirit of our age. It is quite necessary to defend vital
truths, admitted generally by mankind, but attacked and brought into
question by a few fanatical innovators. For a writer who aspires
to demonstrate the harmony of phenomena in the aggregate, it is a
painful thing, you may believe, to be constantly stopped by the
necessity of elucidating the most elementary notions. Would Laplace
have been able to explain the planetary system in all its simplicity,
if, among his readers, there had not existed certain common and
received ideas,—if it had been necessary for him, in order to prove
that the earth turns upon its axis, to begin by teaching numeration?
Such is the hard fate of the Economist of our day. If he neglects
the rudiments, he is not understood—if he explains them, the beauty
and simplicity of his system is lost sight of in the multiplicity of

It is a happy thing for mankind that ‹Interest› can be shown to be
legitimate. We should otherwise be placed in a miserable [p205]
dilemma—we must either perish by remaining just, or make progress by
means of injustice.

Every branch of industry is an aggregate of Efforts. But, as regards
efforts, there is an important distinction to be made. Some efforts
are connected with services which we are presently engaged in
rendering; others with an indefinite series of analogous services.
Let me explain myself.

The day’s work of the water-carrier must be paid for by those who
profit by his labour. But his anterior labour in making his barrow
and his water-cask must, as regards remuneration, be spread over an
indeterminate number of consumers.

In the same way, ploughing, sowing, harrowing, weeding, cutting
down, thrashing, apply only to the present harvest; but clearing,
enclosing, draining, building, improving, apply to and facilitate an
indefinite number of future harvests.

According to the general law of ‹service for service›, those who
receive the ultimate satisfaction must recompense the efforts which
have been made for them. As regards the first class of efforts, there
is no difficulty. They are bargained for and ‹estimated› by the man
who makes them, and the man who profits by them. But how are those of
the second class to be ‹estimated›? How is a just proportion of the
permanent advances, the general costs, and what the Economists term
fixed capital, to be spread over the whole series of satisfactions
which they are destined to realize? By what process can we distribute
the burden among those to whom the water is furnished down to the
time when the barrow shall be worn out, and among all the consumers
of corn until the period when the field will produce no more?

I know not how they would resolve this problem in Icarie, or at
the Phalanstère.[52] But I am inclined to think that the gentlemen
who manufacture artificial societies, and who are so fertile in
arrangements and expedients, and so prompt to compel their adoption
by Law (or constraint), could imagine no solution more ingenious than
the very natural process which men have adopted since the beginning
of the world, and which it is now sought to prohibit them from
following. Here is the process—it flows from the law of ‹Interest›.

Suppose a thousand francs to be laid out on agricultural
improvements, the rate of interest to be five per cent., and the
average return fifty hectolitres of corn. In these circumstances,
each hectolitre would be burdened with one franc. [p206]

This franc is obviously the legitimate recompense of an actual
‹service›, rendered by the proprietor (whom we might term a
labourer), as well to the person who shall acquire a hectolitre of
corn ten years hence as to the man who buys it to-day. The law of
strict justice, then, is observed here.

But if the agricultural improvement, or the barrow and the
water-barrel, have only a limited duration, which we can appreciate
approximately, a sinking fund must be added to the interest, in order
that, when these portions of capital are worn out, the proprietor
may be enabled to renew them. Still it is the law of justice which
governs the transaction.

We must not suppose, however, that the franc with which each
hectolitre is burdened as interest is an invariable quantity. It
represents a value, and is subject to the law of values. It rises
or falls with the variation of supply and demand,—that is to say,
according to the exigencies of the times and the interests of society.

It is generally thought that this species of remuneration has a
tendency to rise, if not in the case of manufacturing, at least in
the case of agricultural improvements. Supposing this rent to have
been equitable at the beginning, it has a tendency, it is said, to
degenerate into abuse; because the proprietor, sitting with his hands
across, sees it increase year after year, solely in consequence of
the increase of population and the enlarged demand for corn.

I allow that this tendency exists, but it is not peculiar to the
rent of land,—it is common to all departments of industry. In all,
value increases with the density of population, and even the common
day-labourer earns more in Paris than he could in Brittany.

And then, as regards the rent of land, the tendency to which we have
referred is powerfully counterbalanced by another tendency—that of
progress. An amelioration, realized at the present day by improved
processes, effected with less manual labour, and at a time when
the rate of interest has fallen, saves our paying too dearly for
improvements effected in former times. The fixed capital of the
landed proprietor, like that of the manufacturer, is deteriorated
in the long-run by the invention of instruments of equal value and
greater efficiency. This is a magnificent Law, which overturns the
melancholy theory of Ricardo; and it will be explained more in detail
when we come to the subject of landed property.

Observe, that the problem of the distribution of the services which
form the remuneration of permanent improvements can be resolved
only by a reference to the law of ‹interest›. The capital [p207]
itself cannot be spread over a succession of purchasers, for this is
rendered impossible by their indeterminate number. The first would
pay for the last, which would be unjust. Besides, a time would arrive
when the proprietor would become possessed both of the capital laid
out in the improvement, and of the improvement itself, which would be
equally unfair. Let us acknowledge, then, that the natural mechanism
of society is too ingenious to require the substitution of artificial

I have presented the phenomenon in its simplest form, in order to
render it intelligible; but, in practice, things do not take place
quite as I have described them.

The proprietor does not regulate the distribution himself, or
determine that each hectolitre shall be charged with one franc, more
or less, as in the hypothetical case which I have put. He finds an
established order of things, as well with reference to the average
price of corn as to the rate of interest. Upon these data he decides
how he shall invest his capital. He will devote it to agricultural
improvements, if he finds that the average price of corn will return
him the ordinary rate of interest. If not, he will devote his capital
to a more lucrative branch of industry—a branch of industry which,
just because it is more lucrative, presents, happily for society,
greater attractions for capital. This movement of capital from one
department to another, which is what actually takes place, tends to
the same result, and presents us with another Harmony.

The reader will understand that I confine myself to a special
instance only for the sake of elucidating a general law, which
applies to all trades and professions.

A lawyer, for example, cannot expect, from the first suit of which
he happens to have charge, to be reimbursed the expense of his
education, of his course of probation, of his establishment in
business, which we may suppose to amount to 20,000 francs. Not only
would this be unjust—it would be impracticable; for were he to make
such a stipulation, his first brief would never make its appearance,
and our Cujacius would be obliged to imitate the gentleman who, on
taking up house, could get nobody to come to his first ball, and
declared that next year he would begin with his second.

The same thing holds with the merchant, the physician, the shipowner,
the artist. In every career we encounter these two classes of
efforts—the second imperatively requires to be spread over an
indeterminate number of consumers, employers, or customers, and it is
impossible to imagine such a distribution without reference to the
mechanism of ‹interest›. [p208]

Great efforts have been made of late to remove the hatred which
exists in the popular mind against capital,—infamous, infernal
capital, as it is called. It has been exhibited to the masses as a
voracious and insatiable monster, more destructive than cholera, more
frightful than revolution, exercising on the body politic the action
of a vampire, whose power of suction goes on increasing indefinitely.
‹Vires acquirit eundo.› The tongue of this blood-sucker is called
usury, revenue, hire, rent, interest. A writer, who might have
acquired reputation by his great powers, and who has preferred to
gain notoriety by his paradoxes, has been pleased to scatter these
paradoxes among a people already in the delirium of a revolutionary
fever. I, too, have an apparent paradox to submit to the reader; and
I beg him to examine it, and see whether it be not in reality a great
and consoling truth.

But, first, I must say a word as to the manner in which M. Proudhon
and his school explain what they term the illegitimacy of ‹interest›.

Capital is an instrument of labour. The use of instruments of labour
is to procure us the co-operation of the ‹gratuitous› forces of
nature. By the steam-engine we avail ourselves of the elasticity of
air; by the watch-spring, of the elasticity of steel; by weights or
waterfalls, of gravitation; by the voltaic pile, of the rapidity of
the electric spark; by the sun’s rays, of the chemical and physical
combinations which we call vegetation, etc., etc. Now, by confounding
Utility with Value, we suppose that these natural agents possess a
value ‹which is inherent in them›; and that, consequently, those who
appropriate them are paid for their use, inasmuch as value implies
payment. We imagine that products are burdened with one item for the
services of man, which we admit to be just; and with another item for
the services of nature, which we reject as iniquitous. Why, it is
asked, should we pay for gravitation, electricity, vegetable life,
elasticity, and so forth?

The answer to this question is to be found in the theory of ‹value›.
Those Socialists who take the name of ‹Égalitaires› confound the
legitimate ‹value› of the instrument, which is the offspring of
human labour, with its useful result, which, under deduction of that
legitimate value, or of the interest which represents it, is always
gratuitous. When I remunerate an agricultural labourer, a miller,
a railway company, I give nothing, absolutely nothing, for the
phenomena of vegetation, gravitation, or the elasticity of steam.
I pay for the human labour required for making the instruments by
means of which these forces are constrained to act; or, what suits
my purpose better, I pay interest for that labour. I render [p209]
service for service, by means of which the useful action of these
forces is turned gratuitously to my profit. It is the same thing as
in the case of Exchange, or simple barter. The presence of capital
does not at all modify this law, for capital is nothing else than
an accumulation of values, of ‹services›, to which is committed the
special duty of procuring the co-operation of nature.

And now for my paradox.

Of all the elements of which the total value of any product is made
up, the part which we should pay for most cheerfully is that element
which we term the interest of the advances, or capital.

And why? Because that element enables us, by paying for ‹one›, to
save ‹two›. Because, by its very presence, it shows clearly that
natural forces have concurred in the final result, without our having
had to pay for their co-operation; and the consequence is, that the
same general utility is placed at our disposal, while at the same
time a certain portion of gratuitous utility has, happily for us,
been substituted for onerous utility; and, in short, the price of the
product has been reduced. We acquire it with a less proportion of our
own labour, and, what happens to society at large, is just what would
happen to an isolated individual who should succeed in realizing an
ingenious invention.

Suppose the case of a common artisan, who earns four francs a-day.
With two francs,—that is to say, with half-a-day’s labour, he
purchases a pair of cotton stockings. Were he to try to procure these
stockings by his own direct labour, I sincerely believe that his
whole life would not suffice for the work. How, then, does it happen
that his half-day’s work pays for all the ‹human services› which
have been rendered to him on this occasion? According to the law of
‹service for service›, why is he not forced to give several years’

For this reason, that the stockings are the result of ‹human
services›, of which natural agents, by the intervention of Capital,
have enormously diminished the proportion. Our artisan, however,
pays not only for the actual labour of all those who have concurred
in the work, but also the interest of the capital by means of
which the co-operation of nature was procured; and it is worthy of
remark, that, without this last remuneration, or were it held to
be illegitimate, capital would not have been employed to secure
the assistance of the natural agents. There would have been in the
product only onerous utility; for in that case the commodity would
have been the exclusive result of human labour, and our artisan
would have been brought back to the point whence he started,—that is
to say, he would have been placed in the [p210] dilemma of either
dispensing with the stockings, or of paying for them the price of
several years’ labour.

If our artisan had learnt to analyze phenomena, he would soon get
reconciled to Capital, on seeing how much he is indebted to it. He
would be convinced, above all, that the gratuitous nature of the
gifts of God has been completely preserved, and that these gifts
have been lavished on him with a liberality which he owes not to his
own merit, but to the beautiful mechanism of the ‹natural› social
order. Capital does not consist in the vegetative force which has
made cotton germinate and flower, but in the ‹pains taken› by the
planter. Capital is not the wind which fills the sails of the ship,
or the magnetism which acts upon the needle, but the ‹pains taken›
by the sailmaker and the optician. Capital is not the elasticity of
steam which turns the spindles of the mill, but the ‹pains taken› by
the machine-maker. Vegetation, the power of the winds, magnetism,
elasticity,—all these are purely gratuitous; and hence the stockings
have so little value. As regards the pains taken by the planter,
the sailmaker, the optician, the shipbuilder, the sailor, the
manufacturer, the merchant, they are spread—or, rather, so far as
capital is concerned, the interest of that capital is spread—over
innumerable purchasers of stockings; and this is the reason why the
portion of labour given by each of these purchasers is so small.

Modern reformers! when I see you desiring to replace this admirable
natural order by an arrangement of your own invention, there are two
things (although they are in reality one and the same) which confound
me,—namely, your want of faith in Providence, and your faith in
yourselves—your ignorance, and your presumption.

       *       *       *       *       *

It follows from what I have said that the progress of mankind
coincides with the rapid creation of Capital; for to say that new
capital is formed, is just to say, in other words, that obstacles,
formerly onerously combated by labour, are now gratuitously combated
by nature; and that, be it observed, not for the profit of the
capitalist, but for the profit of the community.

This being so, the paramount interest of all (in an economical point
of view, and rightly understood) is to favour the rapid creation of
capital. But capital, if I may say so, increases of its own accord
under the triple influence of activity, frugality, and security.
We can scarcely exercise any direct influence on the activity and
frugality of our neighbours, except through the medium of public
opinion, by an intelligent communication of our antipathies and our
sympathies. But as regards security we can do much, for, [p211]
without security, capital, far from being formed and accumulated,
conceals itself, takes flight, and perishes; and this shows us how
suicidal that popular ardour is which displays itself in disturbing
the public tranquillity. Let the working-classes be well assured that
the mission of Capital from the beginning has been to set men free
from the yoke of ignorance, of want, and of despotism; and that to
frighten away Capital is to rivet a triple chain on the energies of
the human race.

The ‹vires acquirit eundo› may be applied with rigorous exactitude
to capital, and its beneficent influence. Capital, when formed,
necessarily leaves disposable both labour and the remuneration of
that labour. It carries in itself, then, a power of progression.
There is in it something which resembles the law of velocities. This
progression economical science has omitted hitherto to oppose to the
other progression which Malthus has remarked. It is a Harmony which
we cannot explain in this place, but must reserve for the chapter on

But I must here put the reader on his guard against a specious
objection. If the mission of capital, it may be said, is to cause
nature to execute work which has been hitherto executed by human
labour, whatever good it may confer upon mankind, it must do injury
to the working-classes, especially to those classes who live by
wages; for everything which throws hands out of employment, and
renders them disposable, renders competition more intense; and
this, undoubtedly, is the secret reason of the antipathy of the
working-classes to men of capital. If this objection were well
founded, we should have a discordant note in the social harmony.

The illusion arises from losing sight of this, that ‹capital,
in proportion as its action is extended, sets free and renders
disposable a certain amount of human efforts, only by setting free
and rendering disposable a corresponding fund of remuneration›, so
that these two elements meet and compensate one another. The labour
is not paralyzed. Replaced in a special department of industry by
gratuitous forces, it sets to work upon other obstacles in the
general march of progress, and with more certainty, inasmuch as it
finds its recompense prepared beforehand.

Recurring to our former illustration, it is easy to see that the
price of stockings (like that of books, and all things else) is
lowered by the action of capital, only by leaving in the hands of
the purchaser a part of the former price. This is too clear for
illustration. The workman who now pays two francs for what he paid
six francs for formerly, has four francs left at his disposal. Now,
it is exactly [p212] in that proportion that human labour has been
replaced by natural forces. These forces, then, are a pure and simple
acquisition, which alters in no respect the relation of labour to
available remuneration. It will be remembered that the answer to this
objection was given formerly,[53] when, observing upon man in a state
of isolation, or reduced once more to the primitive law of barter,
I put the reader on his guard against the illusion which it is my
object here to dispel.

We may leave capital, then, to take care of itself, to be created
and accumulated according to its own proper tendencies, and the
wants and desires of men. Do not imagine that, when the common
labourer economizes for his old days, when the father of a family
sets his son up in business, or provides a dower for his daughter,
they are exercising to the detriment of the public that noble
attribute of man, Foresight; but it would be so, and private virtues
would be in direct antagonism with the general good, were there an
incompatibility between Capital and Labour.

Far from mankind being subjected to this contradiction, or, I might
rather say, this impossibility (for how can we conceive progressive
evil in the aggregate to result from progressive good in individual
cases?) we must acknowledge that Providence, in justice and mercy,
has assigned a nobler part to Labour than to Capital in the work of
progress, and has afforded a stimulant more efficacious, a recompense
more liberal, to the man who lives by the sweat of his brow, than to
the man who subsists upon the exertions of his forefathers.

In fact, having established that every increase of capital is
followed by a necessary increase of general prosperity, I venture to
lay down the following principle with reference to the distribution
of wealth,—a principle which I believe will be found unassailable:—

“‹In proportion to the increase of Capital, the› absolute ‹share of
the total product falling to the capitalist is augmented, and his›
relative ‹share is diminished; while, on the contrary, the labourer’s
share is increased both absolutely and relatively.›”

I shall explain this more clearly by figures:—

Suppose the total products of society, at successive epochs, to be
represented by the figures 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, etc.

I maintain that the share falling to the capitalists will descend,
successively, from 50 per cent., to 40, 35, 30 per cent., and that
the share of the labourers will rise, consequently, from 50 per
cent., to 60, 65, 70 per cent.,—so that the ‹absolute› share of the
[p213] capitalist will be always greater at each period, although
his ‹relative› share will be smaller.

The division will take place in this way,—

                   Total     Share of     Share of
                  Product.  Capitalist.   Labourer.
 First period,     1000         500          500
 Second period,    2000         800         1200
 Third period,     3000        1050         1950
 Fourth period,    4000        1200         2800

Such is the great, admirable, reassuring, necessary, and ‹inflexible›
law of Capital. To demonstrate it, appears to me to be the true way
to strike with discredit the declamations which have so long been
dinned into our ears against the ‹avidity›, the ‹tyranny›, of the
most powerful instrument of civilisation and of ‹equality› which has
ever proceeded from the human faculties.

The demonstration is twofold. First of all, we must prove that the
‹relative› share of the product falling to the capitalist goes on
continually diminishing. This is not difficult; for it only amounts
to saying that ‹the more abundant capital becomes, the more interest
falls›. Now, this is a matter of fact, incontestable and uncontested.
Not only does science explain it—it is self-evident. Schools the most
eccentric admit it. It forms the basis of their theory, for it is
from this very fall of interest that they infer the necessary, the
inevitable annihilation of what they choose to brand as ‹infernal›
Capital. Now, say they, inasmuch as this annihilation is necessary,
is inevitable, and must take place in a given time; and, moreover,
implies the realization of a positive good, it is incumbent on us
to hasten it and insure it. I am not concerned to refute these
principles, or the deductions drawn from them. It is enough that
Economists of all schools, as well as socialists, ‹egalitaires›,
and others, all admit, in point of fact, that interest falls in
proportion as capital becomes more abundant. Whether they admit it
or not, indeed, the fact is not the less certain. It rests upon
the authority of universal experience, and on the acquiescence,
involuntary it may be, of all the capitalists in the world. It is a
fact that the interest of capital is lower in Spain than in Mexico,
in France than in Spain, in England than in France, in Holland than
in England. Now, when interest falls from 20 to 15 per cent., and
then to 10, to 8, to 6, to 5, to 4½, to 4, to 3½, to 3 per cent.,
what does that mean in relation to the question which now engages us?
It means that capital, as the recompense of its co-operation in the
work of production, in the realization of wealth, is content, or, if
you will, is forced to be content, with a smaller and smaller share
of the product in proportion as capital increases. Does it constitute
one-third of the value of corn, of cloth, of houses, of ships, of
[p214] canals? in other words, when these things are sold, does
one-third of the price fall to the capitalist, and two-thirds to the
labourer? By degrees, the capitalist receives no more than a fourth,
a fifth, a sixth. His ‹relative› share goes on diminishing, while
that of the labourer goes on increasing in the same proportion; and
the first part of my demonstration is complete.

It remains for me to prove that the ‹absolute› share falling to
the capitalist goes on constantly increasing. It is very true that
the tendency of interest is to fall. But when, and why? When, and
because, the capital becomes more abundant. It is then quite possible
that the total product should be increased while the ‹percentage› is
diminished. A man has a larger income with 200,000 francs at four per
cent., than with 100,000 francs at five per cent., although, in the
first case, he charges less to the manufacturer for the use of his
capital. The same thing holds of a nation, and of the world at large.
Now, I maintain that the ‹percentage›, in its tendency to fall,
neither does nor can follow a progression so rapid that the ‹sum
total› of interest should be smaller when capital is abundant than
when it is scarce. I admit, indeed, that if the capital of mankind be
represented by 100 and interest by 5,—this interest will amount to
no more than 4 when the capital shall have mounted to 200. Here we
see the simultaneousness of the two effects. The less the ‹relative›
part, the greater the ‹absolute› part. But my hypothesis does not
admit that the increase of capital from 100 to 200 is sufficient to
make interest fall from 5 to 2 per cent., for example; because, if it
were so, the capitalist who had an income of 5000 francs with 100,000
francs of capital, would have no greater income than 4000 francs with
200,000 francs of capital. A result so contradictory and impossible,
an anomaly so strange, would be met with the simplest and most
agreeable of remedies; for then, in order to increase your income,
it would only be necessary to consume half your capital. A happy and
whimsical age it would be when men could enrich by impoverishing

We must take care, then, not to lose sight of the combination of
these two correlative facts. The increase of capital, and the fall
of interest, take place ‹necessarily› in such a way that the total
product is continually augmented.

And let us remark in passing, that this completely exposes the
fallacy of those who imagine that because interest falls, it tends to
annihilation. The effect of that would be, that a time would arrive
when capital would be so much increased as to yield nothing to its
possessors. Keep your mind easy on that score—before [p215] that
time comes, capitalists will dissipate the stock in order to ensure
the reappearance of interest.

Such is the great law of Capital and Labour in what concerns the
distribution of the product of their joint agency. Each of them has a
greater and greater ‹absolute› share, but the ‹proportional› share of
the capitalist is continually diminished as compared with that of the

Cease, then, capitalists and workmen, to regard each other with
an eye of envy and distrust. Shut your ears against those absurd
declamations which proceed from ignorance and presumption, which,
under pretence of insuring future prosperity, blow the flame
of present discord. Be assured that your interests are one and
identical; that they are indisputably knit together; that they tend
together towards the realization of the public good; that the toils
of the present generation mingle with the labours of generations
which are past; that all who co-operate in the work of production
receive their share of the produce; and that the most ingenious and
most equitable distribution is effected among you by the wise laws of
Providence, and under the empire of freedom, independently altogether
of a parasite sentimentalism, which would impose upon you its decrees
at the expense of your well-being, your liberty, your security, and
your self-respect.

Capital has its root in these attributes of man—Foresight,
Intelligence, and Frugality. To set about the creation of capital
we must look forward to the future, and sacrifice the present to
it—we must exercise a noble empire over ourselves and over our
appetites; we must resist the seduction of present enjoyments, the
impulses of vanity and the caprices of fashion and of public opinion,
always so indulgent to the thoughtless and the prodigal. We must
study cause and effect, in order to discover by what processes, by
what instruments, nature can be made to co-operate in the work of
production. We must be animated by love for our families, and not
grudge present sacrifices for the sake of those who are dear to us,
and who will reap the fruits after we ourselves have disappeared from
the scene. To create capital is to prepare food, clothing, shelter,
leisure, instruction, independence, dignity, for future generations.
Nothing of all this can be effected without bringing into play
motives which are eminently social, and, what is more, converting
these virtues into habits.

And yet it is very usual to attribute to capital a sort of fatal
efficacy, the effect of which is to introduce egotism, austerity,
Machiavelism, into the hearts of those who aspire to possess it.
But let us not be misunderstood. There are countries where [p216]
labour is of little value, and the little that is earned is shared
by the government. In order to snatch from you the fruit of your
toil, what is called the State surrounds you with a multitude of
trammels. It interferes with all your actions, and mixes itself up
in all your concerns. It domineers over your mind and your faith.
It disarranges all interests, and places them in an artificial and
precarious position. It enervates individual energy and activity, by
usurping the direction of all affairs. It makes the responsibility
of actions fall upon people with whom it amounts to nothing, so that
by degrees all notions of what is just or unjust are effaced. By its
diplomacy it embroils the nation in quarrels with all the world, and
then the army and navy are brought into play. It warps the popular
mind as much as it can upon all economical questions; for it is
necessary to make the masses believe that its foolish expenditure,
its unjust aggressions, its conquests, its colonies, are for them a
source of riches. In such countries it is difficult to create capital
by natural means. The great object is to purloin it by force or by
fraud from those who have created it. We there see men enriching
themselves by war, by places at court, by gambling, by purveying,
by stockjobbing, by commercial frauds, by hazardous enterprises, by
public contracts, etc. The qualities requisite for thus snatching
capital from the hands of those who create it are precisely the
opposite of those necessary for its formation. It cannot surprise us,
then, that in countries so situated an association is established
between these two ideas—‹capital› and ‹egotism›; and this association
becomes ineradicable when all the moral ideas of the country exhaust
themselves on ancient and mediæval history.

But when we turn our regards, not to this abstraction and abuse of
capital, but to its creation by intelligence and activity, foresight
and frugality, it is impossible not to perceive that a moral and
social virtue is attached to its acquisition.

Nor is there less moral and social virtue in the action of capital
than in its formation. Its peculiar effect is to procure us the
co-operation of nature, to set us free from all that is most
material, muscular, brutal, in the work of production; to render
the intelligent principle more and more predominant; to enlarge
the domain, I do not say of idleness, but of leisure; to render
less imperious the physical wants of our nature, by rendering
their satisfaction more easy, and to substitute for them wants and
enjoyments of a nature more elevated, more delicate, more refined,
more artistic, more spiritual.

Thus, in whatever point of view we place ourselves, whether [p217]
we regard Capital in connexion with our wants, which it ennobles;
with our efforts, which it facilitates; with our enjoyments, which
it purifies; with nature, which it enlists in our service; with
morality, which it converts into habit; with sociability, which
it develops; with equality, which it promotes; with freedom, in
which it lives; with equity, which it realizes by methods the most
ingenious—everywhere, always, provided that it is created and acts
in the regular order of things, and is not diverted from its natural
uses, we recognise in Capital what forms the indubitable note and
stamp of all great providential laws,—Harmony. [p218]


Recognising in the soil, in natural agents, and in instruments of
labour, what they incontestably possess, the gift of engendering
Utility, I have endeavoured to denude them of what has been
erroneously attributed to them, namely, the faculty of creating
Value,—a faculty which pertains exclusively to the Services which men
exchange with each other.

This simple rectification, whilst it strengthens and confirms
Property, by restoring to it its true character, brings to light a
most important fact, hitherto, if I am not mistaken, overlooked by
Economic science—the fact that there exists a real, essential, and
‹progressive› Community,—the natural result of every social system in
which liberty prevails, and the evident design of which is to conduct
all men, as brethren, from primitive Equality, which is the equality
of ignorance and destitution, towards an ultimate Equality in the
possession of truth and material prosperity.

If this radical distinction between the Utility of things and the
value of services be true in itself, and in the consequences which
have been deduced from it, it is impossible to misunderstand its
bearing; for it leads to nothing less than the absorption of utopian
theories in science, and the reconcilement of antagonistic schools in
a common faith, which satisfies all minds and all aspirations.

Men of Property and leisure!—whatever be your rank in the social
scale, whatever step of the social ladder you may have reached by
dint of activity, probity, order, and economy—whence come the fears
which have seized upon you? The perfumed but poisoned breath of
Utopia menaces your existence. You are loudly told that the fortune
you have amassed for the purpose of securing a little repose in
your old age, and food, instruction, and an outset in life for your
children, has been acquired by you at the expense of your brethren;
that you have placed yourselves [p219] between the gifts of God and
the poor; that, like greedy tax-gatherers, you have levied a tribute
on those gifts, under the name of Property, of Interest, and of Rent;
that you have intercepted the benefits which the common Father has
bestowed on his children, in order to make merchandise of them. You
are called upon for restitution; and what augments your terror is,
that your advocates, in conducting your defence, feel themselves
too often obliged to avow that the usurpation is flagrant, but that
it is necessary. Such accusations I meet with a direct and emphatic
negative. You have not intercepted the gifts of God. You have
received them gratuitously, it is true, at the hands of nature; but
you have also gratuitously transferred them to your brethren without
receiving anything. They have acted the same way towards you; and the
only things which have been reciprocally ‹compensated› are physical
or intellectual efforts, toils undergone, dangers braved, skill
exercised, privations submitted to, pains taken, ‹services rendered
and received›. You may perhaps have thought only of yourselves and
your own selfish interest, but that very selfish interest has been an
instrument in the hand of an infinitely prescient and wise Providence
to enlarge unceasingly among men the domain of Community; for without
your efforts all those ‹useful effects› which you have obtained
from nature, in order to distribute them without remuneration
among your brethren, would have remained for ever inert. I say
‹without remuneration›, because what you have received is simply the
recompense of your efforts, and not at all the price of the gifts
of God. Live, then, in peace, without fear and without misgiving.
You have no other property in the world but your right to services,
in exchange for other services, by you faithfully rendered, and by
your brethren voluntarily accepted. Such property is legitimate,
unassailable; no Utopia can prevail against it, for it enters into
the very constitution of our being. No theory can ever succeed in
blighting or in shaking it.

Men of toil and privations! you cannot shut your eyes to this truth,
that the primitive condition of the human race is that of an entire
Community,—a perfect Equality,—of poverty, of destitution, and of
ignorance. Man redeems himself from this estate by the sweat of his
brow, and directs his course towards another Community, that of the
gifts of God, successively obtained with less effort,—towards another
Equality, that of material prosperity, knowledge, and moral dignity.
The progress of men on the road of improvement is unequal, indeed;
and you could not complain were the more hurried and precipitate
march of the vanguard of progress to retard in some measure your
own advance. But in [p220] truth it is quite the reverse. No ray of
light penetrates a single mind without in some degree enlightening
yours. No step of progress, prompted by the conscious possession of
property, but is a step of progress for you. No wealth is created
which does not tend to your enfranchisement; no capital, which
does not increase your enjoyments in proportion to your labour; no
acquisition, which does not increase your facilities of acquisition;
no Property, which does not tend to enlarge, for your benefit,
the domain of Community. The natural social order has been so
skillfully arranged by the Divine Architect, that those who are more
advanced on the road of civilisation hold out to you, voluntarily
or unconsciously, a helping hand; for the order of things has been
so disposed that no man can work honestly for himself without at
the same time working for all. And it is rigorously true to affirm
that every attack upon this marvellous order would on your part be
not only a homicide, but a suicide. Human nature is an admirable
chain, which exhibits this standing miracle, that the first links
communicate to all the others a progressive movement more and more
rapid, onwards to the last.

Men of philanthropy! lovers of equality! blind defenders, dangerous
friends of the suffering classes, who are yet far behind on the road
of civilisation, you who expect the reign of Community in this world,
why do you begin by unsettling all interests and shaking all received
opinions? Why, in your pride, should you seek to subjugate men’s
wills, and bring them under the yoke of your social inventions? Do
you not see that this Community after which you sigh, and which is to
inaugurate the kingdom of God upon earth, has been already thought
of and provided for by God himself? Does He want your aid to provide
a patrimony for his children? Has He need either of your conceptions
or of your violence? Do you not see that this Community is realized
more and more every day, in virtue of His admirable decrees; that
for the execution of these decrees He has not trusted to your
chance services and puerile arrangements, nor even to the growing
expression of the sympathetic principle manifested by charity; but
that He has confided the realization of His providential designs to
the most active, the most personal, the most permanent of all our
energies—Self-interest,—a principle imbedded in our inmost nature,
and which never flags, never takes rest? Study, then, the social
mechanism as it comes from the hand of the Great Mechanician, and
you will find that it testifies to a universal solicitude, which
far outstrips your dreams and chimeras. You will then, I hope, in
place of presumptuously pretending [p221] to reconstruct the divine
workmanship, be content to admire and to bless it.

I say not that there is no room in this world of ours for reforms
and reformers. I say not that mankind are not to call to their
service, and encourage with their gratitude, men of investigation, of
science, and of earnestness,—hearts faithful to the people. Such are
still but too much wanted,—not to overturn the social laws,—but to
combat the artificial obstacles which disturb and reverse the action
of these laws. In truth, it is difficult to understand why people
should keep repeating such commonplaces as this: “Political Economy
is an optimist, as far as existing facts are concerned; and affirms
that whatever is is right. At the sight of what is evil, as at the
sight of what is good. Economists are content to exclaim, ‹Laissez
faire›.” Optimists with reference to existing facts! Then we must be
ignorant that the primitive condition of man is poverty, ignorance,
the reign of brute force! We must be ignorant that the moving spring
of human nature is aversion to all suffering, to all fatigue; and
that labour being fatigue, the earliest manifestation of selfishness
among men is shown in their effort to throw this painful burden on
the shoulders of each other! The words cannibalism, war, slavery,
privilege, monopoly, fraud, spoliation, imposture, must either have
never reached our ears, or else we must see in these abominations
the necessary machinery of progress! But is there not in all this
a certain amount of wilful misrepresentation, a confounding of all
things for the purpose of accusing us of confounding them? When we
admire the providential laws which govern human transactions—when we
assert that men’s interests are harmonious—when we thence conclude
that they naturally tend and gravitate towards the realization of
relative equality and general progress—it is surely from the play and
action of these laws, not from their perturbations and disturbances,
that we educe harmony. When we say ‹laissez faire›, we surely mean,
‹allow these laws to act›, not, ‹allow these laws to be disturbed›.
According as we conform to these laws or violate them, good or evil
is produced; in other words, men’s interests are in harmony, provided
right prevail, and services are freely and voluntarily exchanged
against services. But does this imply that we are ignorant of the
perpetual struggle of Wrong against Right? Does this imply that we
lose sight of, or approve, the efforts which have been made in all
ages, and which are still making, to alter, by force or fraud, the
natural equivalence of services? This is exactly when we repudiate
as a violation of the natural social laws, as an attack upon
property,—for, in our view, the terms, free exchange of services,
justice, property, liberty, [p222] security, all express the same
idea under different aspects. It is not the principle of Property
which we contest, but the antagonistic principle of Spoliation.
Proprietors of all ranks! reformers of all schools! this is the
mission which should reconcile and unite us.

It is time, high time, that this crusade should begin. A mere
theoretical war against Property is by no means the most virulent
or the most dangerous. Since the beginning of the world there has
existed a practical conspiracy against it which is not likely soon
to cease. War, slavery, imposture, oppressive imposts, monopolies,
privileges, commercial frauds, colonies, right to employment, right
to credit, right to assistance, right to instruction, progressive
taxation imposed in direct or inverse proportion to our power of
bearing it, are so many battering-rams directed against the tottering
edifice; and if the truth must come out, would you tell me whether
there are many men in France, even among those who think themselves
conservative, who do not, in one form or another, lend a hand to this
work of destruction?

There are people to whose optics property never appears in any other
form than that of a field or a bag of crown-pieces. If you do not
overstep sacred landmarks, or sensibly empty their pockets, they
feel quite comfortable. But is there no other kind of Property? Is
there not the Property of muscular force and intellectual power, of
faculties, of ideas—in a word, the Property of Services? When I throw
a service into the social scale, is it not my right that it should
be held there, if I may use the expression, suspended, according
to the laws of its natural equivalence; that it may there form a
counterpoise to any other service which my neighbour may consent to
throw into the opposite scale and tender me in exchange? The law of
common consent agreed to establish a public force for the protection
of property thus understood. But in what situation are we placed
if this very force assumes to itself the mission of disturbing the
equilibrium, under the socialist pretext that liberty gives birth
to monopoly, and that the doctrine of ‹laissez faire› is odious and
heartless? When things go on in this way, individual theft may be
rare, and may be severely punished, but spoliation is organized,
legalized, and erected into a system. Comfort yourselves, Reformers!
your work is not yet done—only try to understand what that work
really is.

       *       *       *       *       *

But before proceeding to analyze spoliation, whether public or
private, legal or illegal, and to consider its bearing as an element
in the social problem, and the part which it plays in the business
[p223] of the world, it is necessary to form just ideas, if
possible, of Community and Property; for, as we shall by-and-by see,
spoliation forms a limit to property, just as property forms a limit
to community.

From the preceding Chapters, especially that which treats of Utility
and Value, we may deduce this formula:

‹Every man enjoys› «GRATUITOUSLY» ‹all the utilities furnished or
created by nature, on condition of taking the trouble to appropriate
them, or of returning an equivalent service to those who render him
the service of taking that trouble for him›.

Here we have two facts combined and mixed up together, although in
their own nature distinct.

We have the gifts of nature—gratuitous materials, gratuitous forces.
This is the domain of ‹Community›.

We have also human efforts devoted to the appropriation of these
materials, to the direction of these forces,—efforts which are
exchanged, ‹estimated›, and compensated. This is the domain of

In other words, as regards both, we are not owners of the Utility of
things, but of their Value, and value is simply the appreciation of
reciprocal services.

Property, Community, are two ideas correlative to the ideas of
‹onerosity› and ‹gratuitousness›, on which they are founded.

That which is ‹gratuitous› is ‹common›, for every one enjoys a
portion of it, and enjoys it unconditionally.

That which is ‹onerous› is ‹appropriated›, because trouble taken,
effort made, is the condition of its enjoyment, as the enjoyment is
the reason for taking the trouble, or making the effort.

Does an exchange intervene? It is effected by a comparative estimate
of the two efforts or the two services.

This reference to trouble, to pains, implies the existence of
an Obstacle. We may then conclude that the object sought for
approximates more nearly to the gratuitous and the common, in
proportion as the obstacle is less; as, by hypothesis, the complete
absence of obstacle would render it perfectly gratuitous and common.

Now, with reference to human nature, which is progressive and
perfectible, the obstacle can never be regarded as an absolute and
invariable quantity. It diminishes. Then the pains taken diminish
along with it—and the service with the pains—and value with the
service—and property with value.

And the Utility remains the same. Then the gratuitous and the common
have gained all that onerosity and property have lost. [p224]

To determine man to labour he must have a motive, and that motive
is the satisfaction he has in view, or utility. His undoubted
and irrepressible tendency is to realize the greatest possible
satisfaction with the least possible labour, to cause the greatest
amount of utility to correspond with the greatest amount of property.
Whence it follows that the mission of Property, or rather of the
spirit of property, is to realize, in a greater and greater degree,

The starting point of the human race being the maximum of poverty,
or the maximum of obstacles to be overcome, it is clear that for all
that is gained from one age to another we are indebted to the spirit
of property.

This being so, is there to be found in the world a single theoretical
adversary of the institution of property? Is it possible to imagine
a social force at once so just and so popular? The fundamental dogma
of Proudhon himself is the ‹mutuality of services›. On this point
we are agreed. What we differ upon is, that I give this the name
of ‹Property›, because, on going to the root of the matter, I am
convinced that men, if they are free, neither have, nor can have, any
other property than that of value, or of services. On the contrary,
Proudhon, like most Economists, thinks that certain natural agents
have ‹a value which is inherent in them›, and that in consequence of
that they are ‹appropriated›. But as regards property in services,
far from contesting it, he adopts it as his creed. Do you wish to
go still farther? to go the length of asserting that a man should
not have a right of property in his own exertions? Will it be said
that by exchange it is not enough to transfer gratuitously the
co-operation of natural agents, but also to cede gratuitously one’s
own efforts? This is indeed a dangerous doctrine; it is to glorify
slavery; for to assert that certain men must render, is to assert
that other men must receive, services which are not remunerated, and
that is slavery. But if you say that this gratuitous interchange must
be reciprocal, you get into an incomprehensible logomachy; for either
there is some equity in exchange, and then the services will, in one
way or another, be ‹estimated› and compensated; or they will not be
estimated and compensated,—in which case the one party will render a
great amount of service, and the other a small amount, and you will
fall back again into slavery.

But it is impossible to contest the legitimate nature of Property
in services which are exchanged on the principle of equivalence.
To explain their legitimacy we have no need to have recourse
to philosophy, or jurisprudence, or metaphysics. Socialists,
Economists, [p225] Advocates of Equality and Fraternity,—I defy
the whole body, numerous as it is, to raise even the shadow of an
objection against the ‹legitimate mutuality of voluntary services›,
and consequently against Property, such as I have defined it, such as
it actually exists in the natural social order.

I know very well that in practice the reign of Property is far from
being an undivided sway, and that we have always to deal with an
antagonistic fact. There are services which are not voluntary; there
is remuneration which is not freely stipulated; there are services
whose equivalence is impaired by force or by fraud; in a word, there
is Spoliation. The legitimate principle of Property, however, is
not thereby invalidated but confirmed. The very fact of its being
violated proves its existence. If we put faith in anything in this
world—in facts, in justice, in universal assent, in human language—we
must admit that these two words, Property and Spoliation, express
ideas which are as opposite, as irreconcilable, as far from being
identical as yes and no, light and darkness, good and evil, harmony
and discord. Taken literally, the celebrated formula that ‹property
is theft› is absurd in the very highest degree. It would not be more
monstrous to say that ‹theft is property›, that what is legitimate is
illegitimate, that what is is not, etc. The author of this whimsical
aphorism probably wished to show how ingeniously he could support a
paradox, and meant no more than this, that certain men are paid not
only for work which they do but for work which they don’t do, thus
appropriating to themselves, exclusively, gratuitous utility—the
gifts vouchsafed by God for the good of all. In this case all that we
have to do is to prove the assertion, and substitute the truism that
‹theft is theft›.

To ‹steal› means, in ordinary language, to appropriate, by force
or fraud, a value, to the prejudice and without the consent of the
person who has created that value. It is easy to see how a false
Political Economy has succeeded in enlarging the sense of that ugly
word ‹steal›. You begin by confounding utility with value. Then, as
nature co-operates in the creation of utility, you conclude that
nature also concurs in the creation of Value, and you say that this
portion of value, being the fruit of no one’s labour, belongs to
all. At length, finding that value is never transferred without
remuneration, you add, that the man who exacts a recompense for
a value which is the creation of nature, which is independent of
all human labour, which is ‹inherent in things›, and is by the
destination of Providence one of their ‹intrinsic qualities›, like
weight or porosity, form or colour, ‹commits a robbery›.

An exact analysis of value overturns this scaffolding of [p226]
subtilties intended to prop up a monstrous assimilation of Property
with Spoliation.

God has placed certain Materials and certain Forces at the disposal
of man. In order to obtain possession of these materials and forces,
Labour is necessary, or it is not. If it be not necessary, no one
will voluntarily consent to purchase from another, by means of an
effort, what, without any effort, he can obtain from the hands of
Nature. In this case, services, exchange, value, ‹Property›, are
out of the question. If, on the other hand, labour be necessary, in
equity it falls upon the person who is to receive the satisfaction;
whence it follows that the satisfaction is the recompense of the
pains taken, the effort made, the labour undergone. Here you have
the principle of Property. This being so, a man takes pains, or
submits to labour, for his own benefit, and becomes possessed of
the whole utility realized by this labour co-operating with nature.
He takes pains, or submits to labour, for another, and in that case
he bargains to receive in return an equivalent service, which is
likewise the vehicle of utility, and the result exhibits two Efforts,
two Utilities which have changed hands, and two Satisfactions. But
we must not lose sight of this, that the transaction is effected by
the comparison, by the ‹appreciation›, not of the two utilities (they
cannot be brought to this test), but of the two services exchanged.
It is then exact to say that, in a personal point of view, man, by
means of labour, becomes proprietor of natural utility (that is the
object of his labour), whatever be the relation (which may vary ‹ad
infinitum›) of labour to utility. But in a ‹social› point of view,
or in reference to each other, men are never proprietors except of
value, the foundation of which is not the liberality of nature, but
human service, pains taken, danger encountered, skill displayed,
in securing that liberality. In a word, in what concerns natural
and gratuitous utility, the last acquirer, the person who is the
recipient of the satisfaction, is placed, by exchange, in the shoes
of the first labourer. The latter has found himself in presence of
a gratuitous utility which he has taken the pains to appropriate;
the former returns him an equivalent service, and thus substitutes
himself in the other’s right and place; utility is acquired by him by
the same title, that is to say, by a gratuitous title, on condition
of pains taken. There is here, neither in fact nor in appearance, any
improper interception of the gifts of God.

I venture, then, to lay down this proposition as unassailable:

‹In relation to one another, men are proprietors only of values, and
values represent only services compared, and voluntarily received and
rendered.› [p227]

That, on the one hand, the true meaning of the word ‹value› is
what I have already demonstrated it to be (Chapter V.); and that,
on the other, men are never, and never can be, as regards each
other, proprietors of anything but ‹value›, is evident as well from
reasoning as from experience. From reasoning—for why should I go to
purchase from a man, by means of an effort, what, without any effort,
I can obtain from nature? From universal experience, which is too
weighty to be despised in this question,—nothing being more fitted
to give us confidence in a theory than the rational and practical
acquiescence of men of all ages and all countries. Now I say that
universal consent ratifies the sense which I give here to the word
Property. When a public officer makes an inventory after a death,
or by authority of justice, of when a merchant, manufacturer, or
farmer does the same thing for his own satisfaction, or when it is
done by officials under a bankruptcy—what do they inscribe on the
stamped rolls as each object presents itself? Is it its ‹utility›,
its intrinsic merit? No, it is its ‹value›, that is to say, the
equivalent of the trouble which, any purchaser taken at random would
have in procuring himself a similar commodity. Does a jury named
by a judge to report upon a work or a commodity inquire whether it
be more useful than another work or commodity? Do they take into
consideration the enjoyments which may be thereby procured? Do
they esteem a hammer more than a china jar, because the hammer is
admirably adapted to make the law of gravitation available to its
possessor? or a glass of water more than a diamond, because the
former is capable of rendering more substantial service? or the
work of Say more than the work of Fourier, because from the former
we can draw more rational enjoyment and more solid instruction? No,
they ‹value›, they set down the ‹value›, in rigorous conformity,
observe, with my definition, or, to say better, it is my definition
which is in conformity with their practice. They take into account,
not the natural advantages, or the gratuitous utility, attached to
each commodity, but the exertion which each acquirer should have to
make for himself, or to require another to make for him, in order
to procure it. They never think of the exertion which nature has
made, if I may hazard the expression, but upon the exertion which
the purchaser would have had to make. And when the operation is
terminated, when the public is told the sum total of Value which is
carried to the balance-sheet, they exclaim with one voice, Here is
the wealth which is available to the «Proprietor».

As property includes nothing but value, and as value expresses only a
relation, it follows that property itself is only a relation. [p228]

When the public, on the inspection of two inventories, pronounces
one man to be richer than another, it is not meant to say that the
relative amount of the two properties is indicative of the relative
absolute wealth of the two men, or the amount of enjoyments they can
command. There enters into positive satisfactions and enjoyments
a certain amount of ‹common and gratuitous utility› which alters
this proportion very much. As regards the light of day, the air we
breathe, the heat of the sun, all men are equal; and Inequality—as
indicative of a difference in property or value —has reference only
to ‹onerous utility›.

Now I have often said, and I shall probably have occasion frequently
to repeat the remark (for it is the finest and most striking,
although perhaps the least understood, of the social harmonies, and
includes all the others), that it is of the essence of progress—and
indeed in this alone progress consists—to transform onerous into
gratuitous utility—to diminish value without diminishing utility—to
permit each individual to procure the same things with less effort,
either to make or to remunerate; to increase continually the mass
of things which are ‹common›, and the enjoyment of which, being
distributed in a uniform manner among all, effaces by degrees the
Inequality which results from difference of fortune.

We must not omit to analyze very carefully the result of this

In contemplating the phenomena of the social world, how often have
I had occasion to feel the profound justice of Rousseau’s saying:
“Il faut beaucoup de philosophie pour observer ce qu’on voit tous
les jours!” It is difficult to observe accurately what we see every
day; ‹Custom›, that veil which blinds the eyes of the vulgar, and
which the attentive observer cannot always throw off, prevents our
discerning the most marvellous of all the Economic phenomena: real
wealth falling incessantly from the domain of Property into that of

Let us endeavour to demonstrate and explain this democratic
evolution, and, if possible, test its range and its effects.

I have remarked elsewhere that if we desire to compare two epochs
as regards real wealth and prosperity, we must refer all to a
common standard, which is unskilled labour measured by time, and
ask ourselves this question—What difference in the amount of
satisfaction, according to the degree of advancement which society
has reached, is a determinate quantity of unskilled labour—for
example, a day’s work of a common labourer—capable of yielding us?

This question implies two others:

What was the relation of the satisfaction to unskilled labour at the
beginning of the period? What is it now?

The difference will be the measure of the advance which gratuitous
utility has made relatively to onerous utility—the domain of
community relatively to that of property.

I believe that for the politician no problem can be proposed more
interesting and instructive than this; and the reader must pardon me
if, in order to arrive at a satisfactory solution of it, I fatigue
him with too many examples.

I made, at the outset, a sort of catalogue of the most common human
wants: respiration, food, clothing, lodging, locomotion, instruction,
amusement, etc.

Let us resume the same order, and inquire what amount of
satisfactions a common day-labourer could at the beginning, and can
now, procure himself, by a determinate number of days’ labour.

‹Respiration.›—Here all is completely gratuitous and common from the
beginning. Nature does all, and leaves us nothing to do. Efforts,
services, value, property, progress, are all out of the question. As
regards utility, Diogenes is as rich as Alexander—as regards value,
Alexander is as rich as Diogenes.

‹Food.›—At present, the value of a hectolitre of corn in France is
the equivalent of from 15 to 20 days’ work of a common unskilled
labourer. This is a fact which we may regard as unimportant, but
it is not the less worthy of remark. It is a fact that in our day,
viewing humanity in its least advanced aspect, and as represented
by a penniless workman, enjoyment measured by a hectolitre of corn
can be obtained by an expenditure of 15 days’ unskilled labour. The
ordinary calculation is, that three hectolitres of corn annually are
required for the subsistence of one man. The common labourer, then,
produces, if not his subsistence, what comes to the same thing, the
value of his subsistence, by an expenditure of from 45 to 60 days’
labour in the year. If we represent the type of value by ‹one› (in
this case ‹one day’s unskilled labour›), the value of a hectolitre of
corn will be expressed by 15, 18, or 20, according to the year. The
relation of these two values is, say, ‹one to fifteen›.

To discover if progress has been made, and to measure it, we must
inquire what this relation was in the early days of the human race.
In truth, I dare not hazard a figure, but there is one way of
clearing up the difficulty. When you hear a man declaiming against
the social order, against the appropriation of the soil, against
rent, against machinery, lead him into the middle [p230] of a
primitive forest and in sight of a pestilential morass. Say to him,
I wish to free you from the yoke of which you complain,—I wish to
withdraw you from the atrocious struggles of anarchical competition,
from the antagonism of interests, from the selfishness of wealth,
from the oppression of property, from the crushing rivalry of
machinery, from the stifling atmosphere of society. Here is land
exactly like what the first clearers had to encounter. Take as much
of it as you please—take it by tens, by hundreds of acres. Cultivate
it yourself. All that you can make it produce is yours. I make but
one condition, that you will not have recourse to that society of
which you represent yourself as the victim.

As regards the soil, observe, this man would be placed in exactly the
same situation which mankind at large occupied at the beginning. Now
I fear not to be contradicted when I assert that this man would not
produce a hectolitre of corn in two years: Ratio 15 to 600.

And now we can measure the progress which has been made. As regards
corn—and despite his being obliged to pay rent for his land, interest
for his capital, and hire for his tools—or rather because he pays
them—a labourer now obtains with 15 days’ work what he would formerly
have had difficulty in procuring with 600 days’ work. The value of
corn, then, measured by unskilled labour, has fallen from 600 to 15,
or from 40 to 1. A hectolitre of corn has for man the same utility
it had the day after the deluge—it contains the same quantity of
alimentary substance—it satisfies the same want, and in the same
degree. It constitutes an equal amount of ‹real wealth›—it does not
constitute an equal amount of ‹relative wealth›. Its production has
been transferred in a great measure ‹to the charge of nature›. It is
obtained with ‹less› human ‹effort›. It renders ‹less service› in
passing from hand to hand, it has less ‹value›. In a word, it has
become ‹gratuitous›—not absolutely, but in the proportion of 40 to 1.

And not only has it become ‹gratuitous›—it has become ‹common› to the
same extent. For it is not to the profit of the person who produces
the corn that 39-40ths of the effort have been annihilated, but to
the advantage of the consumer, whatever be the kind of labour to
which he devotes himself.

‹Clothing.›—We have here again the same phenomenon. A common
day-labourer enters one of the warehouses at the Marais,[54] and
there obtains clothing corresponding to twenty days of his labour,
which we suppose to be unskilled. Were he to attempt to make [p231]
this clothing himself, his whole life would be insufficient. Had he
desired to obtain the same clothing in the time of Henri Quatre, it
would have cost him three or four hundred days’ work. What then has
become of this difference in the ‹value› of these stuffs in relation
to the quantity of unskilled labour? It has been annihilated, because
the ‹gratuitous› forces of nature now perform a great portion of the
work, and it has been annihilated to the advantage of mankind at

For we must not fail to remark here, that every man owes his
neighbour a service equivalent to what he has received from him. If,
then, the art of the weaver had made no progress, if weaving were not
executed in part by ‹gratuitous› forces, the weaver would still be
occupied two or three hundred days in fabricating these stuffs, and
our workman would require to give him two or three hundred days’ work
in order to obtain the clothing he wants. And since the weaver cannot
succeed, with all his wish to do so in obtaining two or three hundred
days’ labour in recompense for the intervention of gratuitous forces,
and for the progress achieved, we are warranted in saving that this
progress has been effected to the advantage of the purchaser or
consumer, and that it is a gain to society at large.

‹Conveyance.›—Prior to all progress, when the human race, like our
day-labourer, was obliged to make use of primitive and unskilled
labour, if a man had desired to have a load of a hundredweight
transported from Paris to Bayonne, he would have had only this
alternative, either to take the load on his own shoulders, and
perform the work himself, travelling over hill and dale, which would
have required a year’s labour, or else to ask some one to perform
this rough piece of work for him; and as, by hypothesis, the person
who undertook this work would have to employ the same means and the
same time, he would undoubtedly demand a remuneration equal to a
year’s labour. At that period, then, the value of unskilled labour
being ‹one›, that of transport was 300 for the weight of a cwt. and a
distance of 200 leagues.

But things are changed now. In fact there is no workman in Paris who
cannot obtain the same result by the sacrifice of two days’ labour.
The alternative indeed is still the same. He must either do the work
himself, or get others to do it for him by remunerating them. If our
day-labourer perform it himself, it will still cost him a year of
fatigue; but if he applies to men who make it their business, he will
find twenty carriers to do what he wants for three or four francs,
that is to say, for the equivalent of two days’ unskilled labour.
Thus the value of such labour being [p232] represented by ‹one›, that
of transport, which was represented by 300, is now reduced to ‹two›.

In what way has this astonishing revolution been brought about? Ages
have been required to accomplish it. Animals have been trained,
mountains have been pierced, valleys have been filled up, bridges
have been thrown across rivers, sledges and afterwards wheeled
carriages have been invented, obstacles, which give rise to labour,
services, value, have been removed; in short, we have succeeded in
accomplishing, with labour equal to two, what our remote ancestors
would have effected only by labour equal to 300. This progress has
been realized by men who had no thought but for their own interests.
And yet, who profits by it now? Our poor day-labourer, and with him
society at large.

Let no one say that this is not Community. I say that it is Community
in the strictest sense of the word. At the outset the satisfaction
in question was, in the estimation of all, the equivalent of 300
days’ unskilled labour, or a proportionally smaller amount of skilled
labour. Now 298 parts of this labour out of 300 are performed by
nature, and mankind are exonerated to a corresponding extent. Now,
evidently all men are in exactly the same situation as regards the
obstacles which have been removed, the distance which has been wiped
out, the fatigue which has been obviated, the value which has been
annihilated, since all obtain the result without having to pay for
it. What they pay for is the human effort which remains still to be
made, as compared with and measured by two days’ work of an unskilled
labourer. In other words, the man who has not himself effected this
improvement, and who has only muscular force to offer in exchange,
has still to give two days’ labour to secure the satisfaction
he wishes to obtain. All other men can obtain it with a smaller
sacrifice of labour. The Paris lawyer, earning 30,000 francs a year,
can obtain it for a twenty-fifth part of a day’s labour, etc.,—by
which we see that all men are equal as regards the value annihilated,
and that the inequality is restrained within the limits of the
portion of value which survives the change, that is, within the
domain of Property.

Economical science labours under a disadvantage in being obliged to
have recourse to hypothetical cases. The reader is taught to believe
that the phenomena which we wish to describe are to be discovered
only in special cases, adduced for the sake of illustration. But it
is evident that what we have said of corn, clothing, and means of
transport, is true of everything else. When an author generalizes,
it is for the reader to particularize; and [p233] when the former
devotes himself to cold and forbidding analysis, the latter may at
least indulge in the pleasures of synthesis.

The synthetic law may be reduced to this formula:

‹Value, which is social property, springs from Effort and Obstacle.›

‹In proportion as the obstacle is lessened, effort, value, or the
domain of property, is diminished along with it.›

‹With reference to each given satisfaction, Property always recedes
and Community always advances.›

Must we then conclude with M. Proudhon that the days of Property are
numbered? Because, as regards each useful result to be realized, each
satisfaction to be obtained, Property recedes before Community, are
we thence to conclude that the former is about to be absorbed and
annihilated altogether?

To adopt this conclusion would be to mistake completely the nature
of man. We encounter here a sophism analogous to the one we have
already refuted on the subject of the interest of capital. Interest
has a tendency to fall, it is said; then it is destined ultimately to
disappear altogether. Value and property go on diminishing; then they
are destined, it is now said, to be annihilated.

The whole sophism consists in omitting the words, ‹for each
determinate result›. It is quite true that men obtain ‹determinate
results› with a less amount of effort—it is in this respect that
they are progressive and perfectible—it is on this account that we
are able to affirm that the ‹relative› domain of property becomes
narrower, looking at it as regards each given satisfaction.

But it is not true that all the ‹results› which it is ‹possible› to
obtain are ever exhausted, and hence it is absurd to suppose that it
is in the nature of progress to lessen or limit the ‹absolute› domain
of property.

We have repeated often, and in every shape, that each given effort
may, in course of time, serve as the vehicle of a greater amount of
gratuitous utility, without our being warranted thence to conclude
that men should ever cease to make efforts. All that we can conclude
from it is, that their forces, thus rendered disposable, will be
employed in combating other obstacles, and will realize, with equal
labour, satisfactions hitherto unknown.

I must enlarge still farther on this idea. These are not times
to leave anything to possible misconstruction when we venture to
pronounce the fearful words, Property and Community.

Man in a state of isolation can, at any given moment of his
existence, exert only a certain amount of effort; and the same thing
holds of society. [p234]

When man in a state of isolation realizes a step of progress, by
making natural agents co-operate with his own labour, the sum of
his efforts is reduced by so much, ‹in relation to the useful
result sought for›. It would be reduced not relatively only, but
‹absolutely›, if this man, content with his original condition,
should convert his progress into leisure, and should abstain from
devoting to the acquisition of new enjoyments that portion of effort
which is now rendered disposable. That would take for granted that
ambition, desire, aspiration, were limited forces, and that the human
heart was not indefinitely expansible; but it is quite otherwise.
Robinson Crusoe has no sooner handed over part of his work to natural
agents, than he devotes his efforts to new enterprises. The sum total
of his efforts remains the same,—but one portion of these efforts,
aided by a greater amount of natural and gratuitous co-operation, has
become more productive, more prolific. This is exactly the phenomenon
which we see realized in society.

Because the plough, the harrow, the hammer, the saw, oxen, and
horses, the sail, water-power, steam, have successively relieved
mankind from an enormous amount of labour, in proportion to each
result obtained, it does not necessarily follow that this labour,
thus set free and rendered disposable, should lie dormant. Remember
what has been already said as to the indefinite expansibility of
our wants and desires—and note what is passing around you—and you
will not fail to see that as often as man succeeds in vanquishing
an obstacle by the aid of natural agents, he sets his own forces
to grapple with other obstacles. We have more facility in the art
of printing than we had formerly, but we print more. Each book
corresponds to a less amount of human effort, to less value, less
property; but we have more books, and, on the whole, the same
amount of effort, value, property. The same thing might be said of
clothing, of houses, of railways, of all human productions. It is not
the aggregate of values which has diminished; it is the aggregate
of utilities which has increased. It is not the ‹absolute› domain
of Property which has been narrowed; it is the absolute domain of
Community which has been enlarged. Progress has not paralyzed labour;
it has augmented wealth.

Things that are gratuitous and common to all are within the domain
of natural forces; and it is as true in theory as in fact that this
domain is constantly extending.

Value and Property are within the domain of human efforts, of
reciprocal services, and this domain becomes narrower and narrower
as regards each given result, but not as regards the aggregate of
results; as regards each determinate satisfaction, but not [p235]
as regards the aggregate of satisfactions, because the amount of
‹possible› enjoyments is without limit.

It is as true, then, that relative Property gives place to Community,
as it is false that absolute Property tends to disappear altogether.
Property is a pioneer which accomplishes its work in one circle,
and then passes into another. Before property could disappear
altogether we must suppose every obstacle to have been removed,
labour to have been superseded, human efforts to have become useless;
we must suppose men to have no longer need to effect exchanges, or
render services to each other; we must suppose all production to
be spontaneous, and enjoyment to spring directly from desire; in a
word, we must suppose men to have become equal to gods. Then, indeed,
all would be gratuitous, and we should have all things in common.
Effort, service, value, property, everything indicative of our native
weakness and infirmity, would cease to exist.

In vain man raises himself in the social scale, and advances on the
road of civilisation—he is as far as ever from Omnipotence. It is
one of the attributes of the Divinity, as far as we can understand
what is so much above human reason, that between volition and result
no obstacle is interposed. God said, ‹Let there be light, and there
was light›. And it is the powerlessness of man to express that to
which there is so little analogous in his own nature, which reduced
Moses to the necessity of supposing between the divine will and the
creation of light the intervention of an obstacle in the shape even
of a word to be pronounced. But whatever advance man, in virtue of
his progressive nature, may be destined yet to make, we may safely
affirm that he will never succeed in freeing himself entirely from
the obstacles which encumber his path, or in rendering himself
independent of the labour of his head and of his hands. The reason
is obvious. In proportion as certain obstacles are overcome, his
desires dilate and expand, and new obstacles oppose themselves to new
efforts. We shall always, then, have labour to perform, to exchange,
to estimate, and to value. Property will exist until the consummation
of all things, increasing in mass in proportion as men become more
active and more numerous; whilst at the same time each effort, each
service, each value, each portion of property, considered relatively,
will, in passing from hand to hand, serve as the vehicle of an
increasing proportion of common and gratuitous utility.

       *       *       *       *       *

The reader will observe that we use the word Property in a very
extended sense, but a sense which on that account is not the [p236]
less exact. ‹Property is the right which a man possesses of applying
to his own use his own efforts, or of not giving them away except
in consideration of equivalent efforts.› The distinction between
Proprietors and Prolétaires, then, is radically false, unless it is
pretended that there is a class of men who do no work, who have no
control over their own exertions, or over the services which they
render and those which they receive in exchange.

It is wrong to restrict the term Property to one of its special
forms, to capital, to land, to what yields interest or rent; and
it is in consequence of this erroneous definition that we proceed
afterwards to separate men into two antagonist classes. Analysis
demonstrates that interest and rent are the fruit of services
rendered, and have the same origin, the same nature, the same rights
as manual labour.

The world may be regarded as a vast workshop which Providence has
supplied abundantly with materials and forces of which human labour
makes use. Anterior efforts, present efforts, even future efforts,
or promises of efforts, are exchanged for each other. Their relative
merit, as established by exchange, and independently of gratuitous
forces and materials, brings out the element of value; and it is of
the value created by each individual that each is owner or proprietor.

But what does it signify, it may be said, that a man is proprietor
only of the value, or of the acknowledged merit of his service? The
possession of the value carries along with it that of the utility
which is mingled with it. John has two sacks of corn. Peter has only
one. John, you say, is twice as rich in ‹value›. Surely, then, he is
also twice as rich in utility, even natural utility. He has twice as
much to eat.

Unquestionably it is so: but has he not performed double the labour?

Let us come, nevertheless, to the root of the objection.

Essential, absolute wealth resides, as we have said, in utility. The
very word implies this. It is ‹utility› alone which renders ‹service›
(‹uti›—in French ‹servir›). It alone has relation to our wants, and
it is it alone which man has in view when he devotes himself to
labour. Utility at all events is the ultimate object of pursuit; for
things do not satisfy our hunger or quench our thirst because they
include value, but because they possess utility.

We muse take into account, however, the phenomenon which society
exhibits in this respect.

Man in a state of isolation seeks to realize utility without [p237]
thinking about value, of which, in that state, he can have no idea.

In the social state, on the contrary, man seeks to realize value
irrespective of utility. The commodity he produces is not intended to
satisfy his own wants, and he has little interest in its being useful
or not. It is for the person who desires to acquire it to judge of
that. What concerns the producer is, that it should bear as high a
value as possible in the market, as he is certain that the utilities
he has to receive in return will be in proportion to the value of
what he carries thither.

The division of labour and of occupation leads to this result, that
each produces what he does not himself consume, and consumes what he
does not himself produce. As producers, what we are in quest of is
value; as consumers, what we seek is utility. Universal experience
testifies to this. The man who polishes a diamond, or embroiders
lace, or distils brandy, or cultivates the poppy, never inquires
whether the consumption of these commodities is good or bad in
itself. He gives his work, and if his work realizes value, that is
enough for him.

And let me here remark in passing, that the moral or immoral has
nothing to do with labour, but with desire; and that society is
improved, not by rendering the producer, but the consumer, more
moral. What an outcry was raised against the English on account of
their cultivating opium in India for the deliberate purpose, it
was said, of poisoning the Chinese! This was to misunderstand and
misapply the principle of morality. No one will ever be effectually
prevented from producing a commodity which, being in demand, is
possessed of value. It is for the man who demands a particular
species of enjoyment to calculate the effects of it; and it is in
vain that we attempt to divorce foresight from responsibility.
Our vine-growers produce wine, and will produce it as long as it
possesses value, without troubling themselves to inquire whether this
wine leads to drunkenness in Europe or to suicide in America. It is
the judgment which men form as to their wants and satisfactions that
determines the direction of labour. This is true even of man in an
isolated state; and if a foolish vanity had spoken more loudly to
Robinson Crusoe than hunger, he would, in place of devoting his time
to the chase, have employed it in arranging feathers for his hat.
It is the same with nations as with individuals—serious people have
serious pursuits, and frivolous people devote themselves to frivolous

But to return:

The man who works for himself has in view utility. [p238]

The man who works for others has in view value.

Now Property, as I have defined it, is founded on Value, and value
being simply a relation, it follows that property is also a relation.

Were there only one man upon the earth, the idea of Property would
never enter his mind. Monarch of all he surveyed, surrounded with
utilities which he had only to adapt to his use, never encountering
any analogous right to serve as a limit to his own, how should it
ever come into his head to say ‹This is mine›? That would imply
the correlative assertion, ‹This is not mine›, or ‹This belongs to
another›. ‹Meum› and ‹tuum› are inconsistent with isolation, and
the word Property necessarily implies relation; but it gives us
emphatically to understand that a thing is ‹proper› to one person,
only by giving us to understand that it is not ‹proper› to anybody

“The first man,” says Rousseau, “who having enclosed a field, took it
into his head to say ‹This is mine›, was the true founder of civil

What does the enclosure mean if it be not indicative of exclusion,
and consequently of relation? If its object were only to defend the
field against the intrusion of animals, it was a precaution, not a
sign of property. A boundary, on the contrary, is a mark of property,
not of precaution.

Thus men are truly proprietors only in relation to one another; and
this being so, of what are they proprietors? Of value, as we discover
very clearly in the exchanges they make with each other.

Let us, according to our usual practice, take a very simple case by
way of illustration.

Nature labours, and has done so probably from all eternity, to invest
spring water with those qualities which fit it for quenching our
thirst, and which qualities, so far as we are concerned, constitute
its ‹utility›. It is assuredly not my work, for it has been
elaborated without my assistance, and quite unknown to me. In this
respect I can truly say that water is to me the gratuitous gift of
God. What is my own ‹proper› work is the effort which I have made in
going to fetch my supply of water for the day.

Of what do I become proprietor by that act?

As regards myself, I am proprietor, if I may use the expression, of
all the utility with which nature has invested this water. I can turn
it to my own use in any way I think proper. It is for that purpose
that I have taken the trouble to fetch it. To dispute my right would
be to say that, although men cannot live without [p239] drinking,
they have no right to drink the water which they have procured by
their own exertions. I do not believe that the Communists, although
they go very far, will go the length of asserting this, and even
under the ‹régime› of Cabet, the lambs of Icaria would be allowed to
quench their thirst in the limpid stream.

But in relation to other men, who are free to do as I do, I am not,
and cannot be, proprietor except of what is called, by metonymy, ‹the
value of the water›, that is to say, the value of the ‹service› which
I render in procuring it.

My right to drink this water being granted, it is impossible to
contest my right to give it away. And the right of the other
contracting party to go to the spring, as I did, and draw water
for himself, being admitted, it is equally impossible to contest
his right to accept the water which I have fetched. If the one
has a right to give, and the other, in consideration of a payment
voluntarily bargained for, to accept, this water, the first is then
the ‹proprietor› in relation to the second. It is sad to write upon
Political Economy at a time when we cannot advance a step without
having recourse to demonstrations so puerile.

But on what basis is the arrangement we have supposed come to? It
is essential to know this, in order to appreciate the whole social
bearing of the word Property,—a word which sounds so ill in the ears
of democratic sentimentalism.

It is clear that, both parties being free, we must take into
consideration the trouble I have had, and the trouble I have
saved to the other party, as the circumstances which constitute
value. We discuss the conditions of the bargain, and, if we come
to terms, there is neither exaggeration nor subtilty in saying
that my neighbour has acquired ‹gratuitously›, or, if you will,
as ‹gratuitously as I did›, all the natural utility of the water.
Do you desire proof that the conditions, more or less onerous, of
the transaction are determined by the human efforts and not by the
intrinsic utility? It will be granted that the utility remains the
same whether the spring is distant or near at hand. It is the amount
of exertion made, or to be made, which depends upon the distance; and
since the remuneration varies with the exertion, it is in the latter,
and not in the utility, that the principle of relative value and
Property resides.

It is certain, then, that, in relation to others, I am, and can be,
proprietor only of my efforts, of my services, which have nothing in
common with the recondite and mysterious processes by which nature
communicates utility to the things which are the subject [p240] of
those services. It would be in vain for me to carry my pretensions
farther—at this point we must always in fact encounter the limit
of Property;—for if I exact more than the value of my services, my
neighbour will do the work for himself. This limit is absolute and
unchangeable. It fully explains and vindicates Property, thus reduced
to the natural and simple right of demanding one service for another.
It shows that the enjoyment of natural utility is appropriated only
nominally and in appearance; that the expression, Property in an acre
of land, in a hundredweight of iron, in a quarter of wheat, in a yard
of cloth, is truly a metonymy, like the expression, Value of water,
of iron, and so forth; and that so far as nature has given these
things to men, they enjoy them gratuitously and in common; in a word,
that Community is in perfect harmony with Property, the gifts of God
remaining in the domain of the one, and human services forming alone
the very legitimate domain of the other.

But from my having chosen a very simple example in order to point
out the line of demarcation which separates the domain of what is
common from the domain of what has been appropriated, you are not
to conclude that this line loses itself and disappears, even in the
most complicated transactions. It continues always to show itself in
every free transaction. The labour of going to fetch water from the
spring is very simple, no doubt; but when you examine the thing more
narrowly, you will be convinced that the labour of raising corn is
only more complicated because it embraces a series of efforts quite
as simple, in each of which the work of nature co-operates with that
of man, so that in fact the example I have shown may be regarded as
the type of every economical fact. Take the case of water, of corn,
of cloth, of books, of transport, of pictures, of the ballet, of
the opera,—in all, certain circumstances, I allow, may impart such
value to certain services, but no one is ever paid for anything else
than services,—never certainly for the co-operation of nature,—and
the reason is obvious, because one of the contracting parties has
it always in his power to say, If you demand from me more than your
service is ‹worth›, I shall apply to another quarter, or do the work
for myself.

But I am not content to vindicate Property; I should wish to make
it an object of cherished affection even to the most determined
Communists. And to accomplish this, all that is necessary is to
describe the popular, progressive, and equalizing part which it
plays; and to demonstrate clearly, not only that it does not
monopolize and concentrate in a few hands the gifts of God, but that
its special mission is to enlarge continually the sphere of [p241]
Community. In this respect the natural laws of society are much more
ingenious than the artificial systems of Plato, Sir Thomas More,
Fénélon, or Monsieur Cabet.

That there are satisfactions which men enjoy, gratuitously and in
common, upon a footing of the most perfect equality,—that there is in
the social order, underlying Property, a real Community,—no one will
dispute. To see this it is not necessary that you should be either an
Economist or a Socialist, but that you should have eyes in your head.
In certain respects all the children of God are treated in precisely
the same way. All are equal as regards the law of gravitation, which
attaches them to the earth, as regards the air we breathe, the light
of day, the water of the brook. This vast and measureless common
fund, which has nothing whatever to do with Value or Property, J. B.
Say denominates ‹natural wealth›, in opposition to ‹social wealth›;
Proudhon, ‹natural property›, in opposition to ‹acquired property›;
Considérant, ‹natural capital›, in opposition to ‹capital which is
created›; Saint-Chamans, the ‹wealth of enjoyment›, in opposition to
the ‹wealth of value›. We have denominated it ‹gratuitous utility›,
in contradistinction to ‹onerous utility›. Call it what you will, it
exists, and that entitles us to say that there is among men a common
fund of gratuitous and equal satisfactions.

And if wealth, ‹social›, ‹acquired›, ‹created›, ‹of value›,
‹onerous›, in a word, Property, is unequally distributed, we cannot
affirm that it is unjustly so, seeing that it is in each man’s case
proportional to the ‹services› which give rise to it, and of which it
is simply the measure and estimate. Besides, it is clear that this
Inequality is lessened by the existence of the common fund, in virtue
of the mathematical rule: the relative inequality of two unequal
numbers is lessened by adding equal numbers to each of them. When our
inventories, then, show that one man is twice as rich as another man,
that proportion ceases to be exact when we take into consideration
their equal share in the gratuitous utility furnished by nature, and
the inequality would be gradually effaced and wiped away if this
common fund were itself progressive.

The problem, then, is to find out whether this ‹common fund› is a
fixed invariable quantity, given to mankind by Providence in the
beginning, and once for all, above which the ‹appropriated fund› is
superimposed, apart from the existence of any relation or action
between these two orders of phenomena.

Economists have concluded that the social order had no influence upon
this natural and common fund of wealth; and this is their reason for
excluding it from the domain of Political Economy. [p242]

The Socialists go farther. They believe that the constitution of
society tends to make this common fund pass into the region of
Property, that it consecrates, to the profit of a few, the usurpation
of what belongs to all; and this is the reason why they rise up
against Political Economy, which denies this fatal tendency, and
against modern society, which submits to it.

The truth is, that Socialism, in this particular, taxes Political
Economy with inconsistency, and with some justice too; for after
having declared that there are no relations between common and
appropriated wealth, Economists have invalidated their own assertion,
and prepared the way for the socialist grievance. They did so the
moment that, confounding value with utility, they asserted that the
materials and forces of nature, that is to say, the gifts of God,
had an intrinsic value, a value inherent in them,—for value implies,
always and necessarily, appropriation. From that moment they lost the
right and the means of logically vindicating Property.

What I maintain—and maintain with a conviction amounting to absolute
certainty—is this: that the appropriated fund exerts a constant
action upon the fund which is common and unappropriated, and in
this respect the first assertion of the Economists is erroneous.
But the second assertion, as developed and explained by socialism,
is still more fatal; for the action in question does not take
place in a way to make the common fund pass into the appropriated
fund, but, on the contrary, to make the appropriated fund pass
incessantly into the common domain. Property, just and legitimate
in itself, because always representing services, tends to transform
onerous into gratuitous utility. It is the spur which urges on human
intelligence to make latent natural forces operative. It struggles,
and undoubtedly for our benefit, against the obstacles which render
utility onerous. And when the obstacle has been to a certain extent
removed, it is found that, to that extent, it has been removed to the
profit and advantage of all. Then indefatigable Property challenges
and encounters other obstacles, and goes on, raising, always and
without intermission, the level of humanity, realizing more and more
Community, and, with Community, Equality, among the great family of

In this consists the truly marvellous Harmony of the natural social
order. This harmony I am unable to describe without combating
objections which are perpetually recurring, and without falling
into wearisome repetitions. No matter, I submit—let the reader also
exercise a little patience on his side. [p243]

Make yourself master, first of all, of this fundamental idea,
that when, in any case, there is no obstacle between desire and
satisfaction (there is none, for instance, between our eyes and the
light of day)—there is no effort to make, no service to render,
either to ourselves or to other people, and value and Property have
no existence. When an obstacle exists, the whole series comes into
play. First, we have Effort—then a voluntary exchange of efforts or
Services—then a comparative appreciation of those services, or Value;
lastly, the right of each to enjoy the utilities attached to these
values, or Property.

If in this struggle against obstacles, which are always uniform, the
co-operation of nature and that of labour were also always in equal
proportion, Property and Community would advance in parallel lines,
without changing their relative proportions.

But it is not so. The universal aim of men in all their enterprises
is to diminish the proportion between effort and result, and for
that purpose to enlist more and more in their work the assistance
of natural agents. No agriculturist, manufacturer, merchant,
artisan, shipowner, artist, but makes this his constant study. In
that direction all their faculties are bent. For that purpose they
invent tools and machines, and avail themselves of the chemical
and mechanical forces of the elements, divide their occupations,
and unite their efforts. To accomplish more with less, such is the
eternal problem which they propose to themselves at all times, in
all places, in all situations, in everything. Who doubts that in all
this they are prompted by self-interest? What other stimulant could
excite them to the same energy? Every man, moreover, is charged with
the care of his own existence and advancement. What, then, should
constitute the mainspring of his movements but self-interest? You
express your astonishment, but wait till I have done, and you will
find that if each cares for himself, God cares for us all.

Our constant study, then, is to diminish the proportion which the
effort bears to the useful effect sought to be produced. But when
the effort is lessened, whether by the removal of obstacles or the
intervention of machinery, by the division of labour, the union of
forces, or the assistance of natural agents, etc., this diminished
effort is less highly appreciated in relation to others;—we render
less ‹service› in making the effort for another. There is less value,
and we are justified in saying that the domain of Property has
receded. Is the useful effect on that account lost? By hypothesis it
is not. Where then has it gone to? It has passed into the domain of
Community. As regards that portion of human effort [p244] which the
useful effect no longer absorbs, it is not on that account sterile—it
is turned to other acquisitions. Obstacles present themselves, and
will always present themselves, to the indefinite expansibility of
our physical, moral, and intellectual wants, to an extent sufficient
to ensure that the labour set free in one department will find
employment in another. And it is in this way that the appropriated
fund remaining always the same, the common fund dilates and expands,
like a circle the radius of which is always enlarging.

Apart from this consideration, how could we explain progress or
civilisation, however imperfect? Let us turn our regards upon
ourselves, and consider our feebleness. Let us compare our own
individual vigour and knowledge with the vigour and knowledge
necessary to produce the innumerable satisfactions which we derive
from society. We shall soon be convinced that were we reduced to
our proper efforts, we could not obtain a hundred thousandth part
of them, even if millions of acres of uncultivated land were placed
at the disposal of each one of us. It is positively certain that a
given amount of human effort will realize an immeasurably greater
result at the present day than it could in the days of the Druids. If
that were true only of an individual, the natural conclusion would
be that he lives and prospers at the expense of his fellows. But
since this phenomenon is manifested in all the members of the human
family, we are led to the comfortable conclusion that things not our
own have come to our aid; that the gratuitous co-operation of nature
is in larger and larger measure added to our own efforts, and that
it remains gratuitous through all our transactions; for were it not
gratuitous, it would explain nothing.

From what we have said, we may deduce these formulas:

‹Property is Value, and Value is Property;›

‹That which has no Value is gratuitous, and what is gratuitous is

‹A fall of Value is an approximation towards the gratuitous;›

‹Such approximation is a partial realization of Community.›

There are times when one cannot give utterance to certain words
without being exposed to false interpretations. There are always
people ready to cry out, in a critical or in a laudatory spirit,
according to the sect they belong to: “The author talks of
Community—he must be a Communist.” I expect this, and resign myself
to it. And yet I must endeavour to guard myself against such hasty

The reader must have been very inattentive (and the most [p245]
formidable class of readers are those who turn over books without
attending to what they read) if he has not observed the great gulf
which interposes itself between Community and Communism. The two
ideas are separated by the entire domain not only of property but of
liberty, right, justice, and even of human personality.

Community applies to those things which we enjoy in common by the
destination of Providence; because, exacting no effort in order to
adapt them to our use, they give rise to no service, no transaction,
no Property. The foundation of property is the right which we possess
to render services to ourselves, or to others on condition of a

What Communism wishes to render common is, not the gratuitous gift of
God, but human effort—service.

It desires that each man should carry the fruit of his labour to the
common stock, and that afterwards an equitable distribution of that
stock should be made by authority.

Now, of two things one. Either the distribution is proportional to
the stake which each has contributed, or it is made upon another

In the first case, Communism aims at realizing, as regards result,
the present order of things—only substituting the arbitrary will of
one for the liberty of all.

In the second case, what must be the basis of the division? Communism
answers, Equality. What! Equality, without regard to the difference
of pains taken, of labour undergone! You are to have an ‹equal share›
whether you have worked six hours or twelve—mechanically, or with
intelligence! Of all inequalities surely that would be the most
shocking; besides it would be the destruction of all liberty, all
activity, all dignity, all sagacity. You pretend to put an end to
competition, but in truth you only transform it. The competition at
present is, who shall work most and best. Under your regime it would
be, who should work worst and least.

Communism misunderstands or disowns the very nature of man. Effort is
painful in itself. What urges us to make it? It can only be a feeling
more painful still, a want to satisfy, a suffering to remove, a good
to be realized. Our moving principle, then, is self-interest. When
you ask the Communists what they would substitute for this, they
answer, by the mouth of Louis Blanc, ‹The point of honour›, and by
that of Monsieur Cabet, ‹Fraternity›. Enable me, then, to experience
the sensations of others, in order that I may know what direction to
impress upon my industry.

I should like to have it explained what this point of honour, [p246]
this fraternity, which are to be set to work in society at the
instigation and under the direction of Messieurs Louis Blanc and
Cabet, really mean.

But it is not my business in this place to refute Communism, which
is opposed in everything to the system which it is my object to

We recognise the right of every man to serve himself, or to serve
others on conditions freely stipulated. Communism denies this right,
since it masses together and centralizes all services in the hands of
an arbitrary authority.

Our doctrine is based upon Property. Communism is founded on
systematic spoliation. It consists in handing over to one, without
compensation, the labour of another. In fact, did it distribute to
each according to his labour, it would recognise property, and would
be no longer Communism.

Our doctrine is founded on liberty. In truth, property and liberty
are in our eyes one and the same thing, for that which constitutes a
man the proprietor of his service is his right and power of disposing
of it. Communism annihilates liberty, since it leaves to no one the
free disposal of his labour.

Our doctrine is founded on justice—Communism on injustice. That
follows clearly from what has been already said.

There is only one point of contact, then, between the communists and
us—it is the similarity of two syllables, in the words ‹communism›
and ‹community›.

But this similarity of sounds should not mislead the reader. Whilst
communism is the negation of Property, we find in our doctrine
of Community the most explicit affirmation and the most positive
demonstration of property.

If the legitimacy of property has appeared doubtful and inexplicable,
even to men who are not communists, the reason is, that they believe
that it concentrates in the hands of some, to the exclusion of
others, those gifts of God which were originally common. We believe
we have entirely dissipated that doubt by demonstrating that what
is common by providential destination remains common in all human
transactions,—the domain of property never extending beyond that of
value—of right onerously acquired by services rendered.

Thus explained, property is vindicated; for who but a fool could
pretend that men have no right to their own labour—no right to
receive the voluntary services of those to whom they have rendered
voluntary services?

There is another word upon which I must offer some explanation,
[p247] for of late it has been strangely misapplied—I mean the word
‹gratuitous›. I need not say that I denominate gratuitous, not what
costs a man nothing because he has deprived another of it, but what
has cost nothing to anyone.

When Diogenes warmed himself in the sun, he might be said to warm
himself gratuitously, for he obtained from the divine liberality
a satisfaction which exacted no labour either from himself or his
contemporaries. Nor does the heat of the sun’s rays cease to be
gratuitous when the proprietor avails himself of it to ripen his corn
and his grapes, seeing that in selling his grapes or his corn he is
paid for his own services and not for those of the sun. This may be
an erroneous view (in which case we have no alternative but to become
communists); but at any rate this is the sense in which I use the
word ‹gratuitous›, and this is what it evidently means.

Much has been said, since the establishment of the Republic, of
‹gratuitous› credit, and ‹gratuitous› instruction. But it is evident
that a gross sophism lurks under this phraseology. Can the State
shed abroad instruction like the light of day without its costing
anything to anybody? Can it cover the country with institutions
and professors without their being paid in one shape or another?
Instead of leaving each individual to demand and to remunerate
voluntarily this description of service, the State may lay hold of
the remuneration, taken by taxation from the pockets of the citizens,
and distribute among them instruction of its own selection, without
exacting from them a second remuneration. This is all that can be
effected by government interference—and in this case, those who do
not learn pay for those who do, those who learn little for those who
learn much, those who are destined to manual labour for those who
embrace learned professions. This is communism applied to one branch
of human activity. Under this régime, of which I am not called upon
here to give an opinion, it might very well be said that ‹instruction
is common›, but it would be ridiculous to say that ‹instruction is
gratuitous›. Gratuitous! Yes, for some of those who receive it, but
not for those who have to pay for it, if not to the teacher, at least
to the tax-gatherer.

For that matter, there is nothing which the State can give
‹gratuitously›; and if the word were not a mystification, it is not
only ‹gratuitous› education which we should demand from the State,
but ‹gratuitous› food, ‹gratuitous› clothing, ‹gratuitous› lodging,
etc. Let us take care. The people are not far from going this
length, and there are already among us those who demand ‹gratuitous›
credit, ‹gratuitous› tools and instruments of labour, etc. Dupes
of a word, [p248] we have made one step towards Communism; why
should we not make a second, and a third, until all liberty, all
justice, and all property have passed away? Will it be urged that
instruction is so universally necessary that we may depart somewhat
from right and principle in this instance? But then, are not food and
sustenance still more necessary than education? ‹Primò vivere, deinde
philosophari›, the people may say; and I know not in truth what
answer we can make to them.

Who knows? Those who charge me with Communism for having demonstrated
the natural community of the gifts of God, are perhaps the very
people who seek to violate justice in the matter of education, that
is to say, to attack property in its essence. Such inconsistencies
are more surprising than uncommon. [p249]


If the leading idea of this work is well founded, the relations of
mankind with the external world must be viewed in this way:

God created the earth. On it, and within it, he has placed a
multitude of things which are useful to man, inasmuch as they are
adapted to satisfy his wants.

God has, besides, endued matter with forces—gravitation, elasticity,
porosity, compressibility, heat, light, electricity, crystallization,
vegetable life.

He has placed man in the middle of these materials and forces, which
he has delivered over to him gratuitously.

Men set themselves to exercise their activity upon these materials
and forces; and in this way they render service to themselves.
They also work for one another, and in this way render reciprocal
services. These services, compared by the act of exchange, give rise
to the idea of Value, and Value to that of Property.

Each man, then, becomes an owner or proprietor in proportion to the
services he has rendered. But the materials and forces given by God
to man gratuitously, at the beginning, have continued gratuitous,
and are and must continue to be so through all our transactions; for
in the estimates and appreciations to which exchange gives rise, the
‹equivalents› are ‹human services›, not the ‹gifts of God›.

Hence it follows that no human being, so long as transactions are
free, can ever cease to be the usufructuary of these gifts. A single
condition is laid down, which is, that we shall execute the labour
necessary to make them available to us, or, if any one makes this
exertion for us, that we make for him an equivalent exertion.

If this account of the matter be true, Property is indeed
unassailable. [p250]

The universal instinct of mankind, more infallible than the
lucubrations of any individual, had adopted this view of the subject
without refining upon it, when theory began to scrutinize the
foundations of Property.

Theory unhappily began in confusion, mistaking Utility for Value, and
attributing an inherent ‹value›, independent of all human service, to
the materials or forces of nature. From that moment property became
unintelligible, and incapable of justification.

For utility is the relation between commodities and our organization.
It necessarily implies neither efforts, nor transactions, nor
comparisons. We can conceive of it ‹per se›, and in relation to man
in a state of isolation. Value, on the contrary, is a relation of man
to man. To exist at all, it must exist in duplicate. Nothing isolated
can be compared. Value implies that the person in possession of it
does not transfer it except for an equivalent value. The theory,
then, which confounds these two ideas, takes for granted that a
person, in effecting an exchange, gives pretended value of natural
creation for true value of human creation, utility which exacts no
labour for utility which does exact it; in other words, that he can
profit by the labour of another without working himself. Property,
thus understood, is called first of all a ‹necessary monopoly›, then
simply a ‹monopoly›,—then it is branded as ‹illegitimate›, and last
of all as ‹robbery›.

Landed Property receives the first blow, and so it should. Not that
natural agents do not bear their part in all manufactures, but these
agents manifest themselves more strikingly to the eyes of the vulgar
in the phenomena of vegetable and animal life, in the production of
food, and of what are improperly called ‹matières premières› [raw
materials], which are the special products of agriculture.

Besides, if there be any one monopoly more revolting than another, it
is undoubtedly a monopoly which applies to the first necessaries of

The confusion which I am exposing, and which is specious in a
scientific view, since no theorist I am acquainted with has got rid
of it, becomes still more specious when we look at what is passing
around us.

We see the landed Proprietor frequently living without labour, and we
draw the conclusion, which is plausible enough, that “he must surely
be remunerated for something else than his work.” And what can this
something else be, if not the fecundity, the productiveness, the
co-operation of the soil as an instrument? It is, then, the ‹rent of
land› which we must brand, in the language [p251] of the times, with
the names of necessary monopoly, privilege, illegitimacy, theft.

We must admit that the authors of this theory have encountered a fact
which must have powerfully tended to mislead them. Few land estates
in Europe have escaped from conquest and all its attendant abuses;
and science has confounded the violent methods by which landed
property has been acquired with the methods by which it is naturally

But we must not imagine that the false definition of the word
‹value› tends only to unsettle landed property. Logic is a terrible
and indefatigable power, whether it sets out with a good or a bad
principle! As the earth, it is said, makes light, heat, electricity,
vegetable life, etc., co-operate in the production of value, does
not capital in the same way make gravitation, elasticity, the wind,
etc., concur in producing value? There are other men, then, besides
agriculturists who are paid for the intervention of natural agents.
This remuneration comes to capitalists in the shape of Interest, just
as it comes to proprietors in the shape of Rent. War, then, must be
declared against Interest as it has been against Rent!

Property has had a succession of blows aimed at it in the name of
this principle, false as I think, true according to the Economists
and ‹Egalitaires›, namely, that ‹natural agents possess or create
value›. This is a postulate upon which all schools are agreed. They
differ only in the boldness or timidity of their deductions.

The Economists say that ‹property› (in land) ‹is a monopoly›, but a
monopoly which is necessary, and which must be maintained.

The Socialists say that ‹property› (in land) ‹is a monopoly›, but a
monopoly which is necessary, and which must be maintained,—and they
demand compensation for it in the shape of right to employment [‹le
droit au travail›].

The Communists and ‹Egalitaires› say that ‹property› (in general) ‹is
a monopoly›, and must be destroyed.

For myself, I say most emphatically that «PROPERTY IS NOT A
MONOPOLY». Your premises are false, and your three conclusions,
although they differ, are false also. «Property is not a monopoly»,
and consequently it is not incumbent on us either to tolerate it by
way of favour, or to demand compensation for it, or to destroy it.

Let us pass briefly in review the opinions of writers of various
schools on this important subject.

The English Economists lay down this principle, upon which they
appear to be unanimous, that ‹value comes from labour›. Were they
consistent in their use of terms, it might be so; but are they
consistent? The reader will judge. He will see whether they [p252]
do not always and everywhere confound gratuitous Utility, which is
incapable of remuneration, and destitute of Value, with onerous
Utility, which we owe exclusively to labour, and which according to
them is alone possessed of value.

 «Adam Smith.»—“In agriculture nature labours along with man; and
 ‹although her labour costs no expense›, its produce ‹has its value›,
 as well as that of the most expensive workmen.”[55]

Here we have nature producing value. The purchaser of corn must pay
for it, although it has cost nothing to anybody, not even labour. Who
then dares come forward to demand this pretended ‹value›? Substitute
for that word the word ‹utility›, and all becomes clear, Property is
vindicated, and justice satisfied.

 “This rent,” proceeds Smith, “may be considered as the produce
 of those ‹powers of nature›, the use of which the landlord lends
 to the farmer. . . . . It (rent!) is the ‹work of nature›, which
 remains after deducting or compensating ‹everything which can be
 regarded as the work of man›. It is seldom less than a fourth, and
 frequently more than a third of the whole produce. No equal quantity
 of productive labour employed in manufactures can ever occasion so
 great a reproduction. In them nature does nothing; man does all.”[56]

Is it possible in as few words to include a greater number of
dangerous errors? At this rate a fourth or a third part of the
‹value› of human subsistence is due ‹exclusively› to the power of
nature. And yet the proprietor is paid by the farmer, and the farmer
by the corn-consumer, for this pretended value which remains after
‹the work of man› has been remunerated. And this is the basis on
which it is desired to place Property! And, then, what becomes of the
axiom that ‹all value comes from labour›?

Next, we have nature doing nothing in Manufactures! Do gravitation,
the elasticity of the air, and animal force, not aid the
manufacturer? These forces act in our manufactures just as they act
in our fields; they produce gratuitously, not value, but utility.
Were it otherwise, property in capital would be as much exposed to
the attacks of Communism as property in land.

«Buchanan.»—This commentator, adopting the theory of his master on
Rent, is pressed by logic to blame him for having represented it as

 “In dwelling on the reproduction of rent as so great an advantage
 to society, Smith does not reflect that rent is the effect of high
 price, and that what the landlord gains in this way, he gains ‹at
 the expense› of the community at large. There is no absolute gain to
 society by the reproduction of rent. It is only one class profiting
 at the expense of another class.”[57]

Here the logical deduction makes its appearance—rent is an injustice.

 «Ricardo.»—“Rent is that portion of the produce of the earth
 ‹which is paid› to the landlord for the use of the ‹original and
 indestructible powers of the soil›.” [p253]

And, in order that there may be no mistake, the author adds:

 “It is often confounded with the interest and profit of
 capital. . . . . It is evident that a portion only of the money
 annually to be paid for the improved farm would be for ‹the original
 and indestructible powers of the soil›, the other portion would
 be paid for the use of the capital which had been employed in
 ameliorating the quality of the land, and in erecting such buildings
 as were necessary to secure and preserve the produce. . . . In
 the future pages of this work, then, whenever I speak of the rent
 of land, I wish to be understood as speaking of that compensation
 which is paid to the owner of land ‹for the use of its original and
 indestructible powers›.”[58]

 «M’Culloch.»—“What is properly termed Rent is the sum paid ‹for the
 use of the natural and inherent powers of the soil›. It is entirely
 distinct from the sum paid for the use of buildings, enclosures,
 roads, or other amelioration. ‹Rent is then always a monopoly›.”

 «Scrope.»—“The value of land, and its power of yielding Rent, are
 due to two circumstances,—1st, The appropriation of ‹its natural
 powers›; 2d, The labour applied to its amelioration.”

We are not kept long waiting for the consequence:

 “Under the first of these relations ‹rent is a monopoly›. It
 restricts our usufruct and enjoyment of the gifts which God has
 given to men for the satisfaction of their wants. This restriction
 ‹is just, only in as far as it is necessary› for the common good.”

In what perplexity must those good souls be landed who refuse to
admit anything to be necessary which is not just?

Scrope ends with these words:

 “When it goes beyond this point, it must be modified on the same
 principle which caused it to be established.”

It is impossible for the reader not to perceive that these authors
lead us to a negation of Property, and lead us to it very logically,
in setting out with the proposition that the proprietor is paid
for the gifts of God. Here we have rent held up as an injustice
established by Law under the pressure of necessity, and which laws
may modify or destroy under the pressure of another necessity. The
Communists have never gone farther than this.

 «Senior.»—“The instruments of production are labour and natural
 agents. Natural agents having been appropriated, proprietors ‹charge
 for their use› under the form of Rent, which is the recompense of
 no sacrifice whatever, and is received by those who have neither
 laboured nor put by, but who merely hold out their hands to accept
 the offerings of the rest of the community.”

After giving this heavy blow to property, Mr Senior explains that one
portion of Rent resolves itself into the Interest of Capital, and
then adds:

 “The surplus is taken by ‹the proprietor of the natural agent›, and
 is his reward, ‹not for having laboured or abstained›, but simply
 for not having withheld what he was able to withhold; for having
 permitted the gifts of nature to be accepted.”

You will observe that this is still the same theory. The proprietor
is supposed to interpose himself between the hungry mouth and the
food which God has vouchsafed under the condition of [p254] labour.
The proprietor who has co-operated in the work of production, charges
first of all for his co-operation, which is just, and then he makes a
second charge for the work of nature, for the use of natural agents,
for the indestructible powers of the soil, which is iniquitous.

This theory of the English Economists, which has been farther
developed by Mill, Malthus, and others, we are sorry to find making
its way also on the Continent.

 “When a franc’s worth of seed,” says «Scialoja», “produces a hundred
 francs’ worth of corn, this augmentation of ‹value› is mainly due to
 the soil.”

This is to confound Utility with value; He might just as well have
said, when water which costs only one sou at ten yards’ distance from
the spring, costs ten sous at 100 yards, this augmentation of value
is due in part to the intervention of nature.

 «Florez Estrada.»—“Rent is that portion of the agricultural
 product which remains ‹after all the costs of production have been

Then the proprietor receives something for nothing.

The English Economists all set out by announcing the principle that
‹value comes from labour›, and they are guilty of inconsistency when
they afterwards attribute value to the inherent ‹powers of the soil›.

The French Economists in general make value to consist in utility;
but, confounding gratuitous with onerous utility, they have not the
less assisted in shaking the foundation of Property.

 «J. B. Say.»—“Land is not the only natural agent which is
 productive, but it is the only one, or almost the only one, that
 man has been able to appropriate. The waters of the sea and of our
 rivers, by their aptitude to impart motion to machines, to afford
 nourishment to fishes, to float our ships, are likewise possessed
 of productive power. The wind and the sun’s rays work for us; but
 ‹happily› no one has been able to say, The wind and the sun are
 mine, and I must be paid for their services.”

M. Say appears from this to lament that any one should be able to
say, The land belongs to me, and I must be paid for the service
which it renders. ‹Happily›, say I, it is no more in the power of
the proprietor to charge for the services of the soil than for the
services of the sun and the wind.

 “The earth,” continues M. Say, “is an admirable chemical workshop,
 in which are combined and elaborated a multitude of materials
 and elements which are produced in the shape of grain, fruit,
 flax, etc. Nature has presented to man, ‹gratuitously›, this vast
 workshop divided into a great number of compartments fitted for
 various kinds of production. But certain individual members of
 society have appropriated them, and proclaimed,—This compartment
 is mine,—that other is mine, and all that is produced in it is my
 exclusive property. And the astonishing thing is, that this ‹usurped
 privilege›, far from having been fatal to the community, has been
 found productive of advantage to it.”

Undoubtedly this arrangement has been advantageous; but why? Just
because it is neither a privilege nor usurped, and [p255] that the
man who exclaims, “This domain is mine,” has not had it in his power
to add, “What has been produced on it is my exclusive property.”
On the contrary, he says, “What has been produced is the exclusive
property of whoever desires to purchase it, by giving me back simply
the same amount of labour which I have undergone, and which in this
instance I have saved his undergoing.” The co-operation of nature in
the work of production, which is gratuitous for me, is gratuitous for
him also.

M. Say indeed distinguishes, in the value of corn, the parts
contributed by Property, by Capital, and by Labour. He has with the
best intention been at great pains to justify this first part of
the remuneration which accrues to the proprietor, and which is the
recompense of no labour, either anterior or present; but he fails;
for, like Scrope, he is obliged to fall back on the last and least
satisfactory of all grounds of vindication, ‹necessity›.

 “If it be impossible,” he remarks, “for production to be effected,
 not only without land and without capital, but without these means
 of production previously becoming ‹property›, may it not be said
 that proprietors of land and capital exercise a productive function,
 since, without the employment of these means, production would
 not take place?—a convenient function no doubt, but which, in the
 present state of society, presupposes accumulation, which is the
 result of production or saving,” etc.

The confusion here is palpable. The accumulation has been effected
by the proprietor in his character of Capitalist—a character with
which at present we have no concern. But what M. Say represents
as convenient is the part played by the proprietor, in his proper
character of proprietor, exacting a price for the gifts of God. It is
this part which it is necessary to vindicate, and it has no connexion
with either accumulation or saving.

 “If, then, property in land and in capital” (why assimilate the
 two?) “be the fruit of production, I am warranted in representing
 such property as a working and productive machine, for which its
 author, although sitting with his hands across, is entitled to exact
 a recompense.”

Still the same confusion. The man who constructs a machine is
proprietor of a ‹capital›, from which he legitimately derives an
income, because he is paid, not for the labour of the machine, but
for his own labour in constructing it. But ‹land›, or ‹territorial›
property, is ‹not the result of human production›. What right, then,
have we to be paid for its co-operation? The author has here mixed up
two different kinds of property in the same category, in order that
the same reasons which justify the one may serve for the vindication
of the other.

 «Blanqui.»—“The agriculturist who tills, manures, sows, and
 reaps his field, furnishes labour, without which nothing would be
 produced. But the action of the soil in making the seed germinate,
 and of the sun in bringing the plant to maturity, are independent
 of that labour, and co-operate in the formation of the ‹value›
 represented by the harvest. . . Smith and other Economists pretend
 that the labour of [p256] man is the exclusive source of value.
 Assuredly the industry of the labourer is not the exclusive source
 of the value of a sack of corn or a bushel of potatoes. His skill
 can no more succeed in producing the phenomenon of germination than
 the patience of the alchymist could succeed in discovering the
 philosopher’s stone. This is evident.”

It is impossible to imagine a more complete confusion than we have
here, first between utility and value, and then between onerous and
gratuitous utility.

 «Joseph Garnier.»—“The rent of the proprietor differs essentially
 from the wages of the labourer and the profits of the capitalist,
 inasmuch as these two kinds of remuneration are the recompense,
 the one of trouble or pains taken, the other of a privation
 submitted to, and a risk encountered, whilst Rent is received by the
 proprietor ‹gratuitously, and in virtue alone of a legal convention›
 which recognises and maintains in certain individuals the right to
 landed property.”—(‹Eléments de l’Économie Politique›, 2^e edition,
 p. 293.)

In other words, the labourer and capitalist are paid, in the name of
equity, for the services they render; and the proprietor is paid, in
the name of law, for services which he does not render.

 “The boldest innovators do not go farther than to propose the
 substitution of collective for individual property. ‹It seems to us
 that they have reason on their side as regards human right›; but
 they are wrong practically, inasmuch as they are unable to exhibit
 the advantages of a better Economical system.” . . . —(‹Ibid.›, pp.
 377, 378.)

 “But at the same time, ‹in avowing that property is a privilege,
 a monopoly›, we must add, that it is a natural and a useful
 monopoly. . . .

 “In short, it seems to be admitted by Political Economy” [it is so,
 alas! and here lies the evil] “that property does not flow from
 divine right, demesnial right, or any other speculative right, but
 simply from its utility. ‹It is only a monopoly tolerated in the
 interest of all›,” etc.

This is precisely the judgment pronounced by Scrope, and repeated in
modified terms by Say.

I think I have now satisfactorily shown that Political Economy,
setting out with the false datum, that “natural agents possess or
create value,” has arrived at this conclusion, “that property (in
as far as it appropriates and is remunerated for this value, which
is independent of all human service) is a privilege, a monopoly,
a usurpation; but that it is a necessary monopoly, and must be

It remains for me to show that the Socialists set out with the same
postulate, only they modify the conclusion in this way: “Property is
a necessary monopoly; it must be maintained, but we must demand, from
those who have property, compensation to those who have none, in the
shape of Right to Employment.”

I shall, then, dispose of the doctrine of the Communists, who,
arguing from the same premises, conclude that “Property is a
monopoly, and ought to be abolished.”

Finally, and at the risk of repetition, I shall, if I can, expose
the fallacy of the premises on which all the three conclusions are
based, namely, that ‹natural agents possess or create value›. If I
succeed in [p257] this, if I demonstrate that natural agents, even
when appropriated, produce, not Value, but Utility, which, passing
from the hands of the proprietor without leaving anything behind it,
reaches the consumer gratuitously,—in that case, all—Economists,
Socialists, Communists—must at length come to a common understanding
to leave the world, in this respect, just as it is.

 «M. Considérant.»[59]—“In order to discover how and under what
 conditions ‹private property› may Legitimately manifest and develop
 itself, we must get possession of the ‹fundamental principle of the
 Right of Property›; and here it is:

 “Every man «POSSESSES LEGITIMATELY THE THINGS» ‹which have been›
 «CREATED» ‹by his labour, his intelligence, or›, to speak more
 generally, «BY HIS ACTIVITY».

 “This Principle is incontestable, and it is right to remark that
 it contains implicitly the acknowledgment of the Right of all to
 the Soil. The earth not having been created by man, it follows in
 fact, from the fundamental principle of Property, that the Soil,
 which is a common fund given over to the species, can in no shape
 legitimately become the absolute and exclusive property of this or
 that individual who has not created ‹this value›. Let us establish,
 then, the true Theory of Property, by basing it exclusively on the
 unexceptionable principle which makes ‹the legitimacy of Property›
 hinge upon the fact of ‹the› «CREATION» ‹of the thing, or of the
 value possessed›. To accomplish this we must direct our reasoning
 to the origin of industry, that is to say, to the origin and
 development of agriculture, manufactures, the arts, etc., in human

 “Suppose that on a solitary island, on the territory of a nation, or
 on the entire surface of the earth (for the extent of the field of
 action makes no difference in our estimate of facts), a generation
 of mankind devotes itself for the first time to industry—for
 the first time engages in agriculture, manufactures, etc. Each
 generation, by its labour, by its intelligence, by the exertion
 of its own proper activity, ‹creates products, develops value›,
 which did not exist on the earth in its rude and primitive state.
 Is it not perfectly evident that, among the first generation of
 labourers, Property would conform to Right, «PROVIDED» ‹the value
 or wealth produced by the activity of all› were distributed among
 the producers «IN PROPORTION TO THE CO-OPERATION» of each in the
 creation of the general riches? That is beyond dispute.

 “Now, the results of the labour of this generation may be divided
 into two categories, which it is important to distinguish.

 “The ‹first category› includes the products of the soil, which
 belong to this first generation in its character of usufructuary,
 as having been increased, refined, or manufactured by its labour,
 by its industry. These products, whether raw or manufactured,
 consist either of objects of consumption or of instruments of
 labour. It is clear that these products belong, ‹in entire and
 legitimate property›, to those who have created them by their
 activity. Each of them, then, has «RIGHT», either to consume these
 products immediately, to store them up to be disposed of afterwards
 at pleasure, or to employ them, exchange them, give them away, or
 transmit them to any one he chooses, without receiving authority
 from anyone. On this hypothesis, this Property is evidently
 ‹Legitimate›, respectable, sacred. We cannot assail it without
 assailing ‹Justice›, ‹Right›, ‹individual liberty›,—without, in
 short, being guilty of Spoliation.

 “‹Second category.› But the creations attributable to the
 industrious activity of this first generation are not all included
 in the preceding category. This generation has created not only the
 products which we have just described (objects of consumption and
 instruments of labour),—it has also added an ‹additional value› to
 the ‹primitive value› of the soil, by cultivation, by erections, by
 the permanent improvements which it has executed.

 “This additional value constitutes evidently a product, a value, due
 to the activity of the first generation. Now, if by any means (we
 are not concerned at present with the question of means),—if by any
 means whatever the property of this additional value is equitably
 distributed among the different members of society, that is to say,
 is distributed among them proportionally to the co-operation of
 each in its creation, each will possess ‹legitimately› the portion
 which has fallen to him. He may, then, dispose of this individual
 Property, legitimate as he sees it to be, exchange it, give it away,
 or transmit it without control, society having over these values no
 right or power whatsoever. [p258]

 “We may, therefore, easily conceive that when the second generation
 makes its appearance, it will find upon the land two sorts of

 “1st, The ‹primitive or natural capital›, which has not been created
 by the men of the first generation—that is, the ‹value› of the land
 in its rough, uncultivated state.

 “2d, The ‹capital created› by the first generation: including (1),
 the ‹products›, commodities, and instruments, which shall not have
 been consumed or used by the first generation; (2), the additional
 value which the labour of the first generation has added to the
 value of the rough, uncultivated land.

 “It is evident, then, and results clearly and necessarily from the
 fundamental principle of the Right of Property, which I have just
 explained, that each individual of the second generation has an
 equal right to the ‹primitive or natural capital›, whilst he has no
 right to the other species of ‹capital› which has been ‹created› by
 the labour of the first generation. Each individual of the first
 generation may, then, dispose of his share of this ‹created capital›
 in favour of whatever individual of the second generation he may
 please to select, children, friends, etc., and no one, not even the
 State itself, as we have just seen, has the slightest right (on
 pretence of Property) to control the disposal which, as donor or
 testator, he may have made of such capital.

 “Observe that on this hypothesis the man of the second generation
 is already in a better situation than the man of the first, seeing
 that, besides his right to the ‹primitive capital›, which is
 preserved to him, he has his chance of receiving a portion of the
 ‹created capital›, that is to say, of a value which he has not
 produced, and which represents anterior labour.

 “If, then, we suppose things to be arranged in society in such a way

 “1st, The right to the ‹primitive capital›, that is, the usufruct of
 the soil in its natural state, is preserved, or that an «EQUIVALENT
 RIGHT» is conferred on every individual born within the territory;

 “2d, That the ‹created capital› is continually distributed among
 men, ‹as it is produced›, in proportion to the co-operation of each
 in the production of that capital;

 “If, we say, the mechanism of the social organization shall satisfy
 these two conditions, «PROPERTY», under such a régime, would be
 established «IN ITS ABSOLUTE LEGITIMACY», and ‹Fact› would be in
 unison with ‹Right›.”—(‹Théorie du droit de propriété et du droit au
 travail›, 3^e edition, p. 17.)

We see here that the socialist author distinguishes between two
kinds of value, ‹created value›, which is the subject of legitimate
property, and ‹uncreated value›, which he denominates the ‹value of
land in its natural state›, ‹primitive capital›, ‹natural capital›,
which cannot become individual property but by usurpation. Now,
according to the theory which I am anxious to establish, the ideas
expressed by the words ‹uncreated›, ‹primitive›, ‹natural›, exclude
radically these other ideas, ‹value›, ‹capital›. This is the error in
M. Considérant’s premises, by which he is landed in this melancholy

 “That, under the régime of Property, in all civilized nations, the
 common fund, over which the entire species has a full right of
 usufruct, has been invaded—has been confiscated—by the few, to the
 exclusion of the many. Why, were even a single human being excluded
 from his Right to the Usufruct of this common fund, that very
 exclusion would of itself constitute an attack upon Right by the
 Institution of Property, and that institution, by sanctioning such
 invasion of right, would be unjust and illegitimate.”

M. Considérant, however, acknowledges that the earth could not be
cultivated but for the institution of individual property. Here,
then, is a ‹necessary monopoly›. What can we do, then, to reconcile
all, and preserve the rights which the ‹prolétaires›, or men of no
property, have to the primitive, natural, uncreated capital, and to
the value of the land in its rough and uncultivated state? [p259]

 “Why, let Society, which has taken possession of the land, and taken
 away from man the power of exercising, freely and at will, his four
 natural rights on the surface of the soil,—let this industrious
 society cede to the individual, in compensation for the rights of
 which it has deprived him, the ‹Right to Employment›.”—[«Le Droit au

Now, nothing in the world is clearer than that this theory, except
the conclusion which it seeks to establish, is exactly the theory
of the Economists. The man who purchases an agricultural product
remunerates three things: 1st, The actual labour—nothing more
legitimate; 2dly, the ‹additional value› imparted to the soil by
anterior labour—still nothing more legitimate; 3dly, and lastly, the
‹primitive›, or ‹natural›, or ‹uncreated capital›,—that gratuitous
gift of God, which M. Considérant denominates the ‹value of the land
in its rough and natural state›; Adam Smith, the ‹indestructible
powers of the soil›; Ricardo, the ‹productive and indestructible
powers of the land›; Say, ‹natural agents›. ‹This› is the part
which has been ‹usurped›, according to M. Considérant; ‹this› is
what has been ‹usurped›, according to J. B. Say. It is ‹this› which
constitutes ‹illegitimacy› and ‹spoliation› in the eyes of the
Socialists; which constitutes ‹monopoly› and ‹privilege› in the
eyes of the Economists. They are at one as to the ‹necessity› and
the utility of this arrangement. Without it the earth would produce
nothing, say the disciples of Smith; without it we should return to
the savage state, re-echo the disciples of Fourier.

We find that in theory, and as regards right (at least with reference
to this important question), the understanding between the two
schools is much more cordial than we should have imagined. They
differ only as to the legislative consequences to be deduced from
the fact on which they agree. “Seeing that property is tainted with
illegitimacy, inasmuch as it assigns to the proprietor a part of the
remuneration to which he has no right; and seeing, at the same time,
that it is necessary, let us respect it, but demand indemnities.
No, say the Economists, although it is a monopoly, yet seeing that
it is a necessary monopoly, let us respect it, and let it alone.”
And yet they urge this weak defence but feebly; for one of their
latest organs, M. J. Garnier, adds, “You have reason on your side, as
regards human right, but you are wrong practically, inasmuch as you
have failed to point out the effects of a better system.” To which
the Socialists immediately reply, “We have found it; it is the Right
to Employment—try it.”

In the meantime M. Proudhon steps in. You imagine, perhaps, that
this redoubtable objector is about to question the premises on which
the Economists and Socialists ground their agreement. Not at all.
He can demolish property without that. [p260] He appropriates the
premises, grasps them, closes with them, and most logically deduces
his conclusion. “You grant,” he says, “that the gifts of God are
possessed not only of utility but of ‹value›, and that these gifts
the proprietor usurps and sells. Then Property is theft; and it
is not necessary to maintain it; it is not necessary to demand
compensation for it; what ‹is› necessary is to ‹abolish› it.”

M. Proudhon has brought forward many arguments against landed
Property. The most formidable one—indeed the only formidable one—is
that with which these authors have furnished him, by confounding
utility with value.

 “Who has the right,” he asks, “to charge for the use of the
 soil,—for that wealth which does not proceed from man’s act? Who
 is entitled to the rent of land? The producer of the land, without
 doubt. Who made it? God. Then, proprietor, begone.

 “ . . . . But the Creator of the earth does not sell it—he gives
 it; and in giving it he shows no respect of persons. Why, then,
 among all his children, are some treated as eldest sons, and some
 as bastards? If equality of inheritance be our original right, why
 should our posthumous right be inequality of conditions?”

Replying to J. B. Say, who had compared land to an instrument, he

 “I grant it that land is an instrument; but who is the workman? Is
 it the proprietor? Is it he who, by the efficacious virtue of the
 right of property, communicates to it vigour and fertility? It is
 precisely here that we discover in what consists the monopoly of
 the proprietor,—he did not make the instrument, and he charges for
 its use. Were the Creator to present Himself and demand the rent
 of land, we must account for it to Him; but the proprietor, who
 represents himself as invested with the same power, ought to exhibit
 his procuration.”

That is evident. The three systems in reality make only one.
Economists, Socialists, Egalitaires, all direct against landed
proprietors the same reproach, that of charging for what they have
no right to charge for. This wrong some call ‹monopoly›, some
‹illegitimacy›, others ‹theft›—these are but different phases of the
same complaint.

Now I would appeal to every intelligent reader whether this complaint
is or is not well founded? Have I not demonstrated that there is but
one thing which comes between the gifts of God and the hungry mouth,
namely, human service?

Economists say, that “Rent is what we pay to the proprietor for the
use of the productive and indestructible powers of the soil.” I say,
No—Rent is like what we pay to the water-carrier for the pains he
has taken to construct his barrow, and the water would cost us more
if he had carried it on his back. In the same way, corn, flax, wool,
timber, meat, fruits, would have cost us more if the proprietor had
not previously improved the instrument which furnishes them.

Socialists assert that “originally the masses enjoyed their right
[p261] to the land on condition of labour, but that now they are
excluded and robbed of their natural patrimony.” I answer, No—they
are neither excluded nor robbed—they enjoy, gratuitously, the utility
contributed by the soil on condition of labour, that is to say, by
repaying that labour to those who have saved it to them.

Égalitaires allege that “the monopoly of the proprietor consists in
this, that not having made the instrument, he yet charges for its
use.” I answer, No—the land-instrument, so far as it is the work of
God, produces ‹utility›, and that utility is gratuitous; it is beyond
the power of the proprietor to charge for it. The land-instrument, so
far as it is prepared by the proprietor,—so far as he has laboured
it, enclosed it, drained it, improved it, and furnished it with other
necessary instruments, produces ‹value›, and that value represents
actual human ‹services›, and for these alone is the proprietor paid.
You must either admit the legitimacy of this demand, or reject your
own principle—the ‹mutuality of services›.

In order to satisfy ourselves as to the true elements of the value of
land, let us attend to the way in which landed property is formed—not
by conquest and violence, but according to the laws of labour and
exchange. Let us see what takes place in the United States.

Brother Jonathan, a laborious water-carrier of New York, set out for
the Far-west, carrying in his purse a thousand dollars, the fruit of
his labour and frugality.

He journeyed across many fertile provinces, where the soil, the sun,
and the rain worked wonders, but which nevertheless ‹were entirely
destitute of value› in the economical and ‹practical› sense of the

Being a little of a philosopher, he said to himself—“Let Adam Smith
and Ricardo say what they will, ‹value› must ‹be something else than
the natural and indestructible productive power of the soil›.”

At length, having reached the State of Arkansas, he found a beautiful
property of about 100 acres, which the government had advertised for
sale at the price of a dollar an acre.

A dollar an acre! he said—that is very little, almost nothing. I
shall purchase this land, clear it, and sell the produce, and the
drawer of water shall become a lord of the soil!

Brother Jonathan, being a merciless logician, liked to have a reason
for everything. He said to himself, But why is this land worth even
a dollar an acre? No one has yet put a spade in it, or has bestowed
on it the least labour. Can Smith and Ricardo, and the whole string
of theorists down to Proudhon, be right after all? Can land have
a value independent of all labour, all service, [p262] all human
intervention? Must I admit that the productive and indestructible
powers of the soil ‹have value›? In that case, why should they have
no value in the countries through which I have passed? And, besides,
since the powers of the soil surpass so enormously the powers of men,
which, as Blanqui well remarks, can never go the length of creating
the phenomena of germination, why should these marvellous powers be
worth no more than a dollar?

But he was not long in perceiving that this value, like all other
values, is of human and social creation. The American government
demanded a dollar for the concession of each acre; but, on the
other hand, it undertook to guarantee to a certain extent the
security of the acquirer; it had formed in a rough way a road to
the neighbourhood, facilitated the transmission of letters and
newspapers, etc. Service for service, said Jonathan;—the government
makes me pay a dollar, but it gives me an adequate equivalent. With
deference to Ricardo, I can now account naturally for the value
of this land, which value would be still greater if the road were
extended and improved, the post more frequent and regular, and the
protection more efficacious and secure.

While Jonathan argued, he worked; for we must do him the justice to
say that he always made thinking and acting keep pace.

He expended the remainder of his dollars in buildings, enclosures,
clearances, trenching, draining, improving, etc.; and after having
dug, laboured, sowed, harrowed, reaped, at length came the time to
dispose of his crop. “Now I shall see,” said Jonathan, still occupied
with the problem of value, “if in becoming a landed proprietor I
have transformed myself into a monopolist, a privileged aristocrat,
a plunderer of my neighbour, an engrosser of the bounties of divine

He carried his grain to market, and began to talk with a
Yankee:—Friend, said he, how much will you give me for this Indian

The current price, replied the other.

The current price! but will that yield me anything beyond the
interest of my capital and the wages of my labour?

I am a merchant, said the Yankee, and I know that I must content
myself with the recompense of my present and former labour.

And I was content with it when I was a mere drawer of water, replied
the other, but now I am a landed proprietor. The English and French
Economists have assured me that in that character I [p263] ought,
over and above the double remuneration you point at, to derive a
profit from the ‹productive and indestructible powers of the soil›,
and levy a tax on the gifts of God.

The gifts of God belong to all, said the merchant. I avail myself of
the ‹productive power› of the wind for propelling my ships, but I
make no one pay for it.

Still, as far as I am concerned, I expect that you will pay me
something for these powers, in order that Messieurs Senior,
Considérant, and Proudhon, should not call me a monopolist and
usurper for nothing. If I am to have the disgrace, I may at least
have the profit, of a monopolist.

In that case, friend, I must bid you good morning. To obtain the
maize I am in quest of, I must apply to other proprietors, and if I
find them of your mind, I shall cultivate it for myself.

Jonathan then understood the truth, that, under the empire of
freedom, a man cannot be a monopolist at pleasure. As long as there
are lands in the Union to clear, said he, I can never be more
than the simple setter in motion of these famous ‹productive and
indestructible forces›. I shall be paid for my trouble, that is all,
just as when I was a drawer of water I was paid for my own labour,
and not for that of nature. I see now very clearly that the true
usufructuary of the gifts of God is not the man who raises the corn,
but the man who consumes it.

Some years afterwards, another enterprise having engaged the
attention of Jonathan, he set about finding a tenant for his land.
The dialogue which took place between the two contracting parties
was curious, and would throw much light on the subject under
consideration were I to give it entire.

Here is part of it:

‹Proprietor.› What! you would give me no greater rent than the
interest, at the current rate, of the capital I have actually laid

‹Farmer.› Not a cent more.

‹Proprietor.› Why so, pray?

‹Farmer.› Just for this reason, that, with the outlay of an equal
capital, I can put as much land in as good condition as yours.

‹Proprietor.› That seems conclusive. But consider that when you
become my tenant, it is not only my capital which will work for you,
but also ‹the productive and indestructible powers of the soil›. You
will have enlisted in your service the marvellous influences of the
sun and the moon, of affinity and electricity. Am I to give you all
these things for nothing?

‹Farmer.› Why not, since they cost you nothing, and since you derive
nothing from them, any more than I do? [p264]

‹Proprietor.› Derive nothing from them? I derive everything from
them. Zounds! without these admirable phenomena, all my industry
could not raise a blade of grass.

‹Farmer.› Undoubtedly. But remember the Yankee you met at market. He
would not give you a farthing for all this co-operation of nature any
more than, when you were a water-carrier, the housewives of New York
would give you a farthing for the admirable elaboration by means of
which nature supplied the spring.

‹Proprietor.› Ricardo and Proudhon, however, . . . .

‹Farmer.› A fig for Ricardo. We must either treat on the basis which
I have laid down, ‹or I shall proceed to clear land› alongside yours,
where the sun and the moon will work for me gratis.

It was always the same argument, and Jonathan began to see that God
had wisely arranged so as to make it difficult for man to intercept
His gifts.

Disgusted with the trade of proprietor, Jonathan resolved to employ
his energies in some other department, and he determined to put up
his land to ‹sale›.

It is needless to say that no one would give him more for it than it
cost himself. In vain he cited Ricardo, and represented the inherent
value of the indestructible powers of the soil—the answer always
was, “There are other lands close by;” and these few words put an
extinguisher on his exactions and on his illusions.

There is, moreover, in this transaction a fact of great Economic
importance, and to which little attention has been paid.

It is easy to understand that if a manufacturer desires, after ten
or fifteen years, to sell his apparatus and materials, even in their
new state, he will probably be forced to submit to a loss. The
reason is obvious. Ten or fifteen years can scarcely elapse without
considerable improvements in machinery taking place. This is the
reason why the man who sends to market machinery fifteen years old
cannot expect a return exactly equal to the labour he has expended;
for with an equal expenditure of labour the purchaser could, owing to
the progress subsequently made, procure himself machinery of improved
construction—which, we may remark in passing, proves more and more
clearly that value is not in proportion to labour, but to services.

Hence we may conclude that machinery and instruments of labour have a
tendency to lose part of their value in consequence of the mere lapse
of time, without taking into account their deterioration by use—and
we may lay down this formula, that “‹one of the effects of progress
is to diminish the value of all existing instruments›.” [p265]

It is clear, in fact, that the more rapid that progress is, the
greater difficulty will the former instruments have in sustaining the
rivalry of new and improved ones.

I shall not stop here to remark the harmony exhibited by the results
of this law. What I desire you to observe at present is, that landed
property no more escapes from the operation of this law than any
other kind of property.

Brother Jonathan experiences this. He holds this language to the
purchaser—“What I have expended on this property in permanent
improvements represents a thousand days’ labour. I expect that you
will, in the first place, reimburse me for these thousand days’ work,
and then add something for the value which is inherent in the soil
and independent of all human exertion.”

The purchaser replies:

“In the first place, I shall give you nothing for the value inherent
in the soil, which is simply utility, which the adjoining property
possesses as well as yours. Such native superhuman utility I can
obtain gratis, which proves that it possesses no value.

“In the second place, since your books show that you have expended
a thousand days’ work in bringing your land to its present state,
I shall give you only 800 days’ labour; and my reason for it is,
that with 800 days’ labour I can now-a-days accomplish the same
improvements on the adjoining land as you have executed with 1000
days’ labour on yours. Pray consider that in the course of fifteen
years the art of draining, clearing, building, sinking wells,
designing farm-offices, transporting materials, has made great
progress. Less labour is now required to effect each given result,
and I cannot consent to give you ten for what I can get for eight,
more especially as the price of grain has fallen in proportion to
this progress, which is a profit neither to you nor to me, but to
mankind at large.”

Thus Jonathan was left no alternative but to sell his land at a loss,
or to keep it.

Undoubtedly the value of land is not affected by one circumstance
exclusively. Other circumstances—such as the construction of a canal,
or the erection of a town—may act in an opposite direction, and raise
its value, but the improvements of which I have spoken, which are
general and inevitable, always necessarily tend to depress it.

The conclusion to be deduced from all I have said is, that as long
as there exists in a country abundance of land to be cleared and
brought under cultivation, the proprietor, whether he cultivates,
or lets, or sells it, enjoys no privilege, no monopoly, no
exceptional [p266] advantage,—above all, that he levies no tax
upon the gratuitous liberality of nature. How could it be so,
if we suppose men to be free? Have not people who are possessed
of capital and energy a perfect right to make a choice between
agriculture, manufactures, commerce, fisheries, navigation, the
arts, or the learned professions? Will not capital and industry
always tend to those departments which give extraordinary returns?
Will they not desert those which entail loss? Is this inevitable
shifting and redistribution of human efforts not sufficient to
establish, according to our hypothesis, an equilibrium of profit and
remuneration? Do agriculturists in the United States make fortunes
more rapidly than merchants, shipowners, bankers, or physicians,—as
would necessarily happen if they received the wages of their labour
like other people, and the recompense of nature’s work into the

Would you like to know how a proprietor even in the United States
could establish for himself a monopoly? I shall try to explain it.

Suppose Jonathan to assemble all the proprietors of the United
States, and hold this language to them:

“I desired to sell my crops, and I found no one who would give me
a high enough price for them. I wished then to let my land, and
encountered the same difficulty. I resolved to sell it, but still
experienced the same disappointment. My exactions have always
been met by their telling me, that ‹there is more land in the
neighbourhood›; so that, horrible to say, my services are estimated
by the community like the services of other people, ‹at what they
are worth›, in spite of the flattering promises of theorists. They
will give me nothing, absolutely nothing, for those productive and
indestructible powers of the soil, for those natural agents, for
the solar and lunar rays, for the rain, the wind, the dew, the
frost, which I was led to believe were mine, but of which I turn
out to be only the nominal proprietor. Is it not an iniquitous
thing that I am remunerated only for my services, and at a rate,
too, reduced by competition? You are all suffering under the same
oppression, you are all alike the victims of anarchical competition.
It would be no longer so, you may easily perceive, if we ‹organized›
landed property, if we laid our heads together to prevent anyone
henceforward from clearing a yard of American soil. In that case,
population pressing, by its increase, on a nearly fixed amount of
subsistence, we should be able to make our own prices and attain
immense wealth, which would be a great boon for all other classes;
for being rich, we should provide them with work.”

If, in consequence of this discourse, the combined proprietors
[p267] seized the reins of government, and passed an act
interdicting all new clearances, the consequence undoubtedly would
be a temporary increase of their profits. I say temporary, for the
natural laws of society would be wanting in harmony if the punishment
of such a crime did not spring naturally from the crime itself.
Speaking with scientific exactitude, I should not say that the new
law we have supposed would impart value to the powers of the soil,
or to natural agents (were this the case, the law would do harm to
no one);—but I should say, that the equilibrium of services had been
violently upset; that one class robbed all other classes, and that
slavery had been introduced into that country.

Take another hypothesis, which indeed represents the actual state of
things among the civilized nations of Europe—and suppose all the land
to have passed into the domain of private property.

We are to inquire whether in that case the mass of consumers, or the
‹community›, would continue to be the gratuitous usufructuary of the
productive powers of the soil, and of natural agents; whether the
proprietors of land would be owners of anything else than of its
‹value›, that is to say, of their services fairly estimated according
to the laws of competition; and whether, when they are recompensed
for those services, they are not forced like everyone else to give
the gifts of God into the bargain.

Suppose, then, the entire territory of Arkansas alienated by the
government, parcelled into private domains, and subjected to culture.
When Jonathan brings his grain or his land to market, can he not
now take advantage of the productive power of the soil, and make it
an element of value? He could no longer be met, as in the preceding
case, with the overwhelming answer. “There is more uncultivated land
adjacent to yours.”

This new state of things presupposes an increase of population,
which may be divided into two classes: 1st, That which furnishes
to the community agricultural services; 2dly, That which furnishes
manufacturing, intellectual, or other services.

Now this appears to me quite evident. Labourers (other than owners
of land) who wished to procure supplies of grain, being perfectly
free to apply either to Jonathan or to his neighbours, or to the
proprietors of adjoining states, being in circumstances even to
proceed to clear lands beyond the territory of Arkansas, it would
be absolutely impossible for Jonathan to impose an unjust law upon
them. The very fact that lands which have no value exist elsewhere
would oppose to monopoly an invincible obstacle, and we should be
landed again in the preceding hypothesis. Agricultural services are
subject to the law of Universal Competition, [p268] and it is quite
impossible to make them pass for more than they ‹are worth›. I add,
that they are worth no more (‹cæteris paribus›) than services of
any other description. As the manufacturer, after charging for his
time, his anxiety, his trouble, his risk, his advances, his skill
(all which things constitute human service, and are represented
by value), can demand no recompense for the law of gravitation,
the expansibility of steam, the assistance of which he has availed
himself of,—so in the same way, Jonathan can include in the value
of his grain only the sum total of the personal services, anterior
or recent, and not the assistance he has derived from the laws of
vegetable physiology. The equilibrium of services is not impaired
so long as they are freely exchanged, the one for the other, at an
agreed price; and the gifts of God, of which these services are the
vehicle, given on both sides into the bargain, remain in the domain
of community.

It may be said, no doubt, that in point of fact the value of the
soil is constantly increasing; and this is true. In proportion as
population becomes more dense and the people more wealthy, and the
means of communication more easy, the landed proprietor derives
more advantage from his services. Is this law peculiar to him?
Does the same thing not hold of all other producers? With equal
labour, does not a physician, a lawyer, a singer, a painter, a day
labourer, procure a greater amount of enjoyments in the nineteenth
than he could in the fourth century? in Paris than in Brittany? in
France than in Morocco? But is this increased enjoyment obtained at
the expense of any other body? That is the point. For the rest, we
shall investigate still farther this law of value (using the word
metonymically) of the soil, in a subsequent part of the work, when we
come to consider the theory of Ricardo.

At present it is sufficient to show that Jonathan, in the case we
have put, can exercise no oppression over the industrial classes,
provided the exchange of services is free, and that labour can,
without any legal impediment, be distributed, either in Arkansas or
elsewhere, among different kinds of production. This liberty renders
it impossible for the proprietors to intercept, for their own profit,
the gratuitous benefits of nature.

It would no longer be the same thing if Jonathan and his brethren,
availing themselves of their legislative powers, were to proscribe
or shackle the liberty of trade,—were they to decree, for example,
that not a grain of foreign corn should be allowed to enter the
territory of Arkansas. In that case the value of services exchanged
between proprietors and non-proprietors would no longer be regulated
by justice. The one party could no longer control the [p269]
pretensions of the other. Such a legislative measure would be as
iniquitous as the one to which we have just alluded. The effect would
be quite the same as if Jonathan, having carried to market a sack
of corn, which in other circumstances would have sold for fifteen
francs, should present a pistol at the purchaser’s head, and say,
Give me three francs more, or I will blow out your brains.

This (to give the thing its right name) is ‹extortion›. ‹Brutal› or
‹legal›, the character of the transaction is the same. Brutal, as
in the case of the pistol, it violates property; legal, as in the
case of the prohibition, it still violates property, and repudiates,
moreover, the very principle upon which property is founded. The
exclusive subject of property, as we have seen, is value, and
Value is the appreciation of two services freely and voluntarily
exchanged. It is impossible, then, to conceive anything more directly
antagonistic to the very principle of property, than that which, in
the name of right, destroys the equivalence of services.

It may not be out of place to add, that laws of this description are
iniquitous and injurious, whatever may be the opinions entertained
by those who impose them, or by those who are oppressed by their
operation. In certain countries we find the working-classes standing
up for these restrictions, because they enrich the proprietors.
They do not perceive that it is at their expense, and I know from
experience that it is not always safe to tell them so.

Strange! that people should listen willingly to sectaries who preach
Communism, which is slavery; for when a man is no longer master of
his own services, he is a slave;—and that they should look askance at
those who are always and everywhere the defenders of Liberty, which
is the Community of the gifts of God.

We now come to the third hypothesis, which assumes that all the land
capable of cultivation throughout the world has passed into the
domain of individual appropriation.

We have still to do with two classes—those who possess land—and those
who do not. Will the first not oppress the second? and will the
latter not be always obliged to give more labour in exchange for the
same amount of subsistence?

I notice this objection merely for argument’s sake, for hundreds of
years must elapse before this hypothesis can become a reality.

Everything forewarns us, however, that the time must at last come
when the exactions of proprietors can no longer be met by the words,
There are other lands to clear.

I pray the reader to remark, that this hypothesis implies another—it
implies that at the same epoch population will have reached [p270]
the extreme limit of the means of subsistence which the earth can

This is a new and important element in the question. It is very much
as if one should put the question, What will happen when there is no
longer enough of oxygen in the atmosphere to supply the lungs of a
redundant population?

Whatever view we take of the principle of population, it is at
least certain that population is capable of ‹increase›, nay, that
it has a ‹tendency› to increase, since in point of fact it does
increase. All the economic arrangements of society appear to have
been organized with the previous knowledge of this tendency, and are
in perfect harmony with it. The landed proprietor always endeavours
to get paid for the natural agents which he has appropriated, but
he is as constantly foiled in this foolish and unjust pretension
by the abundance of analogous natural agents which have not been
appropriated. The liberality of nature, which is comparatively
indefinite, constitutes him a simple custodier. But now you drive me
into a corner, by supposing a period at which this liberality reaches
its limit. Men have then no longer anything to expect from that
quarter. The consequence is inevitable, that the tendency of mankind
to increase will be paralyzed, that the progress of population will
be arrested. No economic régime can obviate this necessity. According
to the hypothesis we have laid down, every increase of population
would be repressed by mortality. No philanthropy, no optimism, can
make us believe that the increase of human beings can continue
its progression when the progressive increase of subsistence has
conclusively terminated.

Here, then, we have a new order of things and the harmony of the
social laws might be called in question, had they not provided for a
state of matters the existence of which is possible, although very
different from that which now obtains.

The difficulty we have to deal with, then, comes to this: When a
ship in mid-ocean cannot reach land in less than a month, and has
only a fortnight’s provisions on board, what is to be done? Clearly
this, reduce the allowance of each sailor. This is not cruelty—it is
prudence and justice.

In the same way, when population shall have reached the extreme limit
that all the land in the world can maintain, a law which, by gentle
and infallible means prevents the further multiplication of mankind,
cannot be considered either harsh or unjust. Now, it is landed
property still which affords us solution of the difficulty. The
institution of property, by applying the stimulant of self-interest,
causes the land to produce the greatest possible [p271] quantity of
subsistence, and by the division of inheritances puts each family
in a situation to estimate the danger to itself of an imprudent
multiplication. It is very clear that any other régime—Communism, for
example—would be at once a less effective spur to production, and a
less powerful curb to population.

After all, it appears to me that Political Economy has discharged
her duty when she has proved that the great and just law of the
‹mutuality of services› operates harmoniously, so long as human
progress is not conclusively arrested. Is it not consoling to think
that up to that point, and under the empire of freedom, it is not
in the power of one class to oppress another? Is economic Science
bound to solve this further problem: Given the tendency of mankind
to multiply, what will take place when there is no longer room in
the world for new inhabitants? Does God hold in reserve for that
epoch some creative cataclasm, some marvellous manifestation of His
almighty power? Or, as Christians, do we believe in the doctrine
of the world’s destruction? These evidently are not economical
problems, and there is no science which does not encounter similar
difficulties. Natural philosophers know well, that all bodies which
move on the surface of the earth have a tendency to descend, not to
ascend. After all, a day must come when the mountains shall have
filled up the valleys, when the embouchure of our rivers will be on
the same level as their source, when the waters can no longer flow,
etc., etc. What will happen then? Is Natural Science to cease to
observe and to admire the harmony of the actual world because she
cannot divine by what other harmony God will provide for a state of
things far distant, no doubt, but inevitable? It seems to me that
at this point the Economist, like the natural philosopher, should
substitute for an exercise of curiosity an exercise of faith. He who
has so marvellously arranged the medium in which we now live, knows
best how to prepare another medium suitable to other circumstances.

We judge of the productiveness of the soil and of human skill by
the facts of which we are witnesses. Is this a rational mode of
proceeding? Then, adopting it, we may say, Since it has required six
thousand years to bring a tenth part of the earth to the sorry state
of cultivation in which we find it, how many hundreds of ages must
elapse before its entire surface shall be converted into a garden?

Yet in this appreciation, comforting as it is, we suppose merely
the more general diffusion of our present knowledge, or rather our
present ignorance, of agriculture. But is this, I repeat, an [p272]
admissible rule? Does not analogy tell us that an impenetrable
veil conceals from us the power—the indefinite power it may be—of
art? The savage who lives by the chase requires a square league of
territory. What would be his surprise were he told that the pastoral
life enables ten times the number of men to subsist upon the same
space? The nomad shepherd would, in like manner, be quite astonished
to be told that a system of triennial cultivation [‹la culture
triennale›] admits easily of a population ten times greater still.
Tell the peasant accustomed to this routine that the same progress
will again be the result of alternate culture[60] [‹la culture
alterne›], and he will not believe you. Alternate culture is for us
the latest improvement—Is it the latest improvement for the human
race? Let us comfort ourselves regarding the future destiny of the
species—a long tract of ages is before us. At all events, let us not
require Political Economy to resolve problems which are not within
her domain—and let us with confidence commit the destinies of future
races to the keeping of that great and good and wise Being who shall
have called them into existence.

       *       *       *       *       *

Let us recapitulate the ideas contained in this chapter.

These two phenomena, Utility and Value—the co-operation of nature
and the co-operation of man, consequently Community and Property—are
combined in the work of agriculture, as in every other department of

In the production of corn which appeases our hunger, we remark
something analogous to what takes place in the formation of water
which quenches our thirst. The ocean, which is the theme of the
poet’s inspiration, offers to the Economist also a fine subject of
meditation. It is this vast reservoir which gives drink to all human
creatures. And yet how can that be, when many of them are situated
at a great distance from its shores, and when its water is besides
undrinkable? It is here that we have to admire the marvellous
industry of nature. We mark how the sun warms the heaving mass, and
subjects it to a slow evaporation. The water takes the form of gas,
and, disengaged from the salt, which rendered it unfit for use,
it rises into the high regions of the atmosphere. Gales of wind,
increasing in all directions, drift it towards inhabited continents.
There it encounters cold, which condenses it, and attaches it in a
solid form to the sides of mountains. By-and-by the gentle heat of
spring melts it. Carried along by its weight, [p273] it is filtered
and purified through beds of schist and gravel. It ramifies and
distributes itself, and supplies and feeds refreshing springs in all
parts of the world. Here we have an immense and ingenious industry
carried on by nature for the benefit of the human race. Change of
form, change of place, utility, nothing is wanting. But where is
‹value›? Value has not yet come into existence; and if what we must
call the work of God is to be paid for (it would be paid for if it
possessed exchangeable ‹value›)—who could tell the ‹value› of a
single drop of this precious liquid?

All men, however, have not a spring of pure water at their door. In
order to quench their thirst they must take pains, make efforts,
exert foresight and skill. It is this ‹supplementary› human labour
which gives rise to arrangements, transactions, ‹estimates›. It is
here, then, that we discover the origin and foundation of value.

Man is originally ignorant. Knowledge is acquired. At the beginning,
then, he is forced to carry water, to accomplish the supplementary
labour which nature has left him to execute with the ‹maximum› of
trouble. It is at this stage that water has the greatest ‹value› in
exchange. By degrees the water-carrier invents a barrow and wheels,
trains horses, constructs pipes, discovers the law of the siphon,
etc.; in short, he transfers part of his labour to the gratuitous
forces of nature; and, in proportion as he does so, the value of
water, but not its utility, is diminished.

There is here, however, a circumstance which it is necessary
thoroughly to comprehend, if we would not see discordance where there
is in reality only harmony. It is this, that the purchaser of water
obtains it on easier terms, that is to say, gives a less amount of
labour in exchange for a given quantity of it, each time that a step
of progress of this kind is gained, although in such circumstances
he has to give a remuneration for the instrument by means of which
nature is constrained to act. Formerly he paid for the labour of
carrying the water; now he pays not only for that, but for the labour
expended in constructing the barrow, the wheel, and the pipe—and yet,
‹everything included›, he pays less; and this shows us how false and
futile the reasoning is which would persuade us that that part of
the remuneration which is applicable to capital is a burden on the
consumer. Will these reasoners never understand that, for each result
obtained, capital supersedes more labour than it exacts?

All that I have said is equally applicable to the production of
corn. In that case also, anterior to all human labour, there has
[p274] been an immense, a measureless, amount of natural industry at
work, the secrets of which the most advanced science can yet give
no account of. Gases, salts, are diffused through the soil and the
atmosphere. Electricity, affinity, the wind, the rain, light, heat,
vegetable life, play successively their parts, often unknown to us,
in transporting, transforming, uniting, dividing, combining these
elements; and this marvellous industry, the activity and utility of
which elude our appreciation and even our imagination, has yet no
‹value›. Value makes its appearance at the first intervention of
the labour of man, who has, in this, more perhaps than in the other
instance we have given, a ‹supplementary› labour to perform, in order
to complete what nature has begun.

To direct these natural forces, and remove the obstacles which impede
their action, man takes possession of an instrument, which is the
soil, and he does so without injury to anyone; for this instrument
had previously no value. This is not a matter of argument, but a
matter of fact. Show me, in any part of the world you choose, land
which has not been subjected directly or indirectly to human action,
and I will show you land destitute of value.[61] [p275]

In the meantime, the agriculturist, in order to effect, in
conjunction with nature, the production of corn, executes two kinds
of labour which are quite distinct. The one kind is applicable
directly and immediately to the crop of the year—is applicable only
to that, and must be paid for by that—such as sowing, weeding,
reaping, etc. The other, as building, clearing, draining, enclosing,
is applicable to an indefinite series of crops, and must be charged
to and spread over a course of years, and calculated according to
the tables of interest and annuities. The crops constitute the
remuneration of the agriculturist if he consumes them himself. If
he exchanges them, it is for services of another kind, and the
appreciation of the services so exchanged constitutes their value.

Now it is easy to see that this class of permanent works executed
by the agriculturist upon the land is a ‹value› which has not yet
received its entire recompense, but which cannot fail to receive
it. It cannot be supposed that he is to throw up his land and allow
another to step into his shoes without compensation. The value has
been incorporated and mixed up with the soil, and this is the reason
why we can with propriety employ a metonymy and say ‹the land has
value›. It has value, in fact, because it can be no longer acquired
without giving in exchange the equivalent for this labour. But what
I contend for is, that this land, on which its natural productive
power had not originally conferred any value, [p276] has no value
yet in this respect. This natural power, which was gratuitous then,
is gratuitous now, and will be always gratuitous. We may say, indeed,
that the land has ‹value›, but when we go to the root of the matter
we find, that what possesses value is the human labour which has
improved the land, and the capital which has been expended on it.
Hence it is rigorously exact to say that the proprietor of the land
is, after all, the proprietor only of a value which he has created,
of services which he has rendered; and what property can be more
legitimate? It is property created at no one’s expense, and neither
intercepts nor taxes the gifts of God.

Nor is this all. The capital which has been advanced, and the
interest of which is spread over the crop of successive years, is so
far from increasing the price of the produce, and forming a burden
on the consumers, that the latter acquire agricultural products
cheaper in proportion as this capital is augmented, that is to say,
in proportion as the value of the soil is increased. I have no doubt
that this assertion will be thought paradoxical and tainted with
exaggerated optimism, so much have people been accustomed to regard
the value of land as a calamity, if not a piece of injustice. For my
own part, I affirm, that it is not enough to say that the value of
the soil has been created at no one’s expense; it is not enough to
say that it injures no one; we should rather say that it benefits
everybody. It is not only legitimate, but advantageous, even to those
who possess no property.

We have here, in fact, the phenomenon of our previous illustration
reproduced. We remarked that from the moment the water-carrier
invented the barrow and the wheel, the purchaser of the water had
to pay for two kinds of labour: 1st, The labour employed in making
the barrow and the wheel, or rather the interest of the capital, and
an annual contribution to a sinking fund to replace that capital
when worn out; 2d, The direct labour which the water-carrier must
still perform. But it is equally true that these two kinds of labour
united do not equal in amount the labour which had to be undergone
before the invention. Why? because a portion of the work has now been
handed over to the gratuitous forces of nature. It is, indeed, in
consequence of this diminution of human labour that the invention has
been called forth and adopted.

All this takes place in exactly the same way in the case of land and
the production of corn. As often as an agriculturist expends capital
in permanent ameliorations, it is certain that the successive crops
are burdened with the interest of that capital. But it is [p277]
equally certain that the other species of labour—rude, unskilled,
present, direct labour—is rendered unnecessary in a still greater
proportion; so that each crop is obtained by the proprietor, and
consequently by the consumer, on easier terms, on less onerous
conditions—the proper action of capital consisting precisely in
substituting natural and gratuitous co-operation for human labour
which must be paid for.

Here is an example of it. In order to obtain a good crop, it is
necessary that the field should be freed from superfluous moisture.
Suppose this species of labour to be still included in the first
category. Suppose that the cultivator goes every morning with a jar
to carry off the stagnant water where it is productive of injury.
It is clear that at the year’s end the land would have acquired no
additional ‹value›, but the price of the grain would be enormously
enhanced. It would be the same in the case of all those who followed
the same process while the art of draining was in this primitive
state. If the proprietor were to make a drain, that moment the
land would acquire ‹value›, for this labour pertains to the second
category—that which is incorporated with the land—and must be
reimbursed by the products of consecutive years; and no one could
expect to acquire the land without recompensing this work. Is it not
true, however, that it would tend to lower the value of the crop?
Is it not true that although during the first year it exacted an
extraordinary exertion, it saves in the long-run more labour than it
has occasioned? Is it not true that the draining thenceforth will be
executed by the gratuitous law of hydrostatics more economically than
it could be by muscular force? Is it not true that the purchasers
of corn will benefit by this operation? Is it not true that they
should esteem themselves fortunate in this new value acquired by
the soil? And, having reference to more general considerations, is
it not true, in fine, that the value of the soil attests a progress
realized, not for the advantage of the proprietor only, but for that
of society at large? How absurd, then, and suicidal in society to
exclaim: The additional price charged for corn, to meet the interest
of the capital expended on this drain, and ultimately to replace that
capital, or its equivalent, as represented in the value of the land,
is a privilege, a monopoly, a theft! At this rate, to cease to be a
monopolist and a thief, the proprietor should have only to fill up
his drain and betake himself to his jar. Would the man who has no
property, and lives by wages, be any gainer by that?

Review all the permanent ameliorations of which the sum total makes
up the value of land, and you will find that to each of them [p278]
the same remark applies. Having filled up the drain, demolish the
fence, and so force the agriculturist to mount guard upon his field;
destroy the well, pull down the barn, dig up the road, burn the
plough, efface the levelling, remove the artificial mould; replace
in the field the loose stones, the weeds, the roots of trees; you
will then have realized the Utopia of Equality. The land, and the
human race along with it, wall have reverted to the primitive state,
and will have no longer any value. The crops will have no longer any
connexion with capital. Their price will be freed from that accursed
element called interest. Everything, literally everything, will be
done by actual labour, visible to the naked eye. Political Economy
will be much simplified. Our country will support a man to the square
league. The rest of her inhabitants will have died of hunger;—but
then it can no longer be said that property is a monopoly, an
injustice, and a theft.

Let us not be insensible, then, to those economic harmonies which
unfold themselves to our view more and more as we analyze the ideas
of exchange, of value, of capital, of interest, of property, of
community.—Will it indeed be given me to describe the entire circle,
and complete the demonstration?—But we have already, perhaps,
advanced sufficiently far to be convinced that the social world, not
less than the material world, bears the impress of a Divine hand,
from which flows wisdom and goodness, and towards which we should
raise our eyes in gratitude and admiration.

I cannot forbear reverting here to the view of this subject taken by
M. Considérant.

Setting out with the proposition, that the soil has a proper value,
independent of all human labour, that it constitutes ‹primitive and
uncreated capital›, he concludes, in perfect consistency with his own
views, that ‹appropriation› is ‹usurpation›. This supposed iniquity
leads him to indulge in violent tirades against the institutions
of modern society. On the other hand, he allows that permanent
ameliorations confer an ‹additional value› on this primitive capital,
an accessory so mixed up with the principal that we cannot separate
them. What are we to do, then? for we have here a total value
composed of two elements, of which one, the fruit of labour, is
legitimate property; and the other, the gift of God, appropriated by
man, is an iniquitous usurpation.

This is no trifling difficulty. M. Considérant resolves it by
reference to the Right to Employment [‹Droit au travail›].

 “The development of Mankind evidently demands that the Soil shall
 not be left in its wild and uncultivated state. The destiny of the
 human race is opposed to property in land retaining ‹its rude and
 primitive form›.

 “In the midst of forests and savannas, the savage enjoys four
 natural rights, [p279] namely, the rights of Hunting, of Fishing,
 of Gathering the fruits, of Pasturing. Such is the primitive form of
 property in land.

 “In all civilized societies, the working-classes, the Prolétaires,
 who inherit nothing and possess nothing, are simply despoiled of
 these rights. We cannot say that the primitive Right has changed its
 form, for it no longer exists. The form and the substance have alike

 “Now in what Form can such Rights be reconciled with the conditions
 of an industrial Society? The answer is plain:

 “In the savage state, in order to avail himself of his Right, man is
 ‹obliged to act›. The ‹labour› of Fishing, of Hunting, of Gathering,
 of Pasturing are the conditions of the exercise of his Right. The
 primitive Right, then, is a Right ‹to engage in these employments›.

 “Very well, let an industrial Society, which has appropriated the
 land, and taken away from man the power of exercising freely and
 at will his four natural Rights, let this society cede to the
 individual, in compensation for those Rights, of which it had
 despoiled him, the ‹Right to Employment›. On this principle, rightly
 understood and applied, the individual has no longer any reason to

 “The condition ‹sine quâ non›, then, of the Legitimacy of Property
 is, that Society should concede to the Prolétaire—the man who has
 no property—the ‹Right to Employment›; and, in exchange for a given
 exertion of activity, ‹assure› him of means of subsistence, at
 least as adequate as such exercise ‹could› have procured him in the
 primitive state.”

I cannot, without being guilty of tiresome repetition, discuss this
question with M. Considérant in all its bearings. If I demonstrate,
that what he terms ‹uncreated capital› is no capital at all;
that what he terms the ‹additional value› of the soil, is not an
additional value, but the ‹total value›; he must acknowledge that
his argument has fallen to pieces, and, with it, all his complaints
of the way in which mankind have judged it proper to live since the
days of Adam. But this controversy would oblige me to repeat all that
I have already said upon the essentially and indelibly gratuitous
character of natural agents.

I shall only remark, that if M. Considérant speaks in behalf of the
non-proprietary class, he is so very accommodating that they may
think themselves betrayed. What! proprietors have usurped the soil,
and all the miracles of vegetation which it displays! they have
usurped the sun, the rain, the dew, oxygen, hydrogen, and azote, so
far at least as these co-operate in the production of agricultural
products—and you ask them to assure to the man who has no property,
as a compensation, at least as much of the means of subsistence, in
exchange for a given exertion of activity, as that exertion could
have procured him in the primitive and savage state!

But do you not see that landed property has not waited for your
injunctions in order to be a million times more generous? for to what
is your demand limited?

In the primitive state, your four rights of fishing, hunting,
gathering the fruits, and pasturing, maintain in existence, or rather
in a state of vegetation, amid all the horrors of destitution, nearly
one man to the square league of territory. The usurpation of the
[p280] land will then be legitimate, according to you, when those
who have been guilty of that usurpation support one man for every
square league, exacting from him at the same time as much activity
as is displayed by a Huron or an Iroquois. Pray remark, that France
consists of only thirty thousand square leagues; that consequently,
if its whole territory supports thirty thousand inhabitants in that
condition of existence which the savage state affords, you renounce
in behalf of the non-proprietary class all farther demands upon
property. Now, there are thirty millions of Frenchmen who have not an
inch of land, and among the number we meet with many—the president of
the republic, ministers, magistrates, bankers, merchants, notaries,
advocates, physicians, brokers, soldiers, sailors, professors,
journalists, etc.—who would certainly not be disposed to exchange
their condition for that of an Ioway. Landed property, then, must
do much more for us than you exact from it. You demand from it the
‹Right to Employment›, up to a certain point—that is to say, until it
yields to the masses—and in exchange for a given amount of labour,
too—as much subsistence as they could earn in a state of barbarism.
Landed property does much more than that—it gives more than the Right
to employment—it gives Employment itself, and did it only clear the
land-tax, it would do a hundred times more than you ask it to do.

I find to my great regret that I have not yet done with landed
property and its value. I have still to state, and to refute, in
as few words as possible, an objection which is specious and even

It is said,

“Your theory is contradicted by facts. Undoubtedly, as long as there
is in a country abundance of uncultivated land, the existence of
such land will of itself hinder the cultivated land from acquiring
an undue value. It is also beyond doubt, that even when all the land
has passed into the appropriated domain, if neighbouring nations have
extensive tracts ready for the plough, freedom of trade is sufficient
to restrain the value of landed property within just limits. In these
two cases it would seem that the Price of land can only represent the
capital advanced, and the Rent of land the interest of that capital.
Whence we must conclude, as you do, that the proper action of the
soil and the intervention of natural agents, going for nothing,
and not influencing the value of the crops, remain gratuitous, and
therefore common. All this is specious. We may have difficulty in
discovering the error, and yet this reasoning is erroneous. In order
to be convinced of it, it [p281] is sufficient to point to the fact,
that there are in France cultivated lands which are worth from 100
francs to 6000 francs the hectare, an enormous difference, which is
much easier explained by the difference of fertility than by the
difference of the anterior labour applied to these lands. It is vain
to deny, then, that fertility has its own value, for not a sale
takes place which does not attest it. Every one who purchases a land
estate examines its quality, and pays for it accordingly. If, of two
properties which lie alongside each other, the one consists of a
rich alluvium, and the other of barren sand, the first is surely of
more value than the second, although both may have absorbed the same
capital, and to say truth, the purchaser gives himself no trouble
on that score. His attention is fixed upon the future, and not upon
the past. What he looks at is not what the land has cost, but what
it will yield, and he knows that its yield will be in proportion to
its fertility. Then this fertility has a proper and intrinsic value
which is independent of all human labour. To maintain the contrary is
to endeavour to base the legitimacy of individual appropriation on a
subtilty, or rather on a paradox.”

Let us inquire, then, what is the true foundation of the value of

I pray the reader not to forget that this question is of grave
importance at the present moment. Hitherto it has been neglected or
glossed over by Economists, as a question of mere curiosity. The
legitimacy of individual appropriation was not formerly contested,
but this is no longer the case. Theories which have obtained but too
much success have created doubts in the minds of our best thinkers on
the institution of property. And upon what do the authors of these
theories found their complaints? Why, exactly upon the assertion
contained in the objection which I have just explained—upon the
fact, unfortunately admitted by all schools, that the soil, by
reason of its fertility, possesses an inherent value communicated to
it by nature and not by human means. Now value is not transferred
gratuitously. The very word excludes the idea of gratuitousness. We
say to the proprietor, then—you demand from me a value which is the
fruit of my labour, and you offer me in exchange a value which is not
the fruit of your labour, or of any labour, but of the liberality of

Be assured that this would be a fearful complaint were it well
founded. It did not originate with Messieurs Considérant and
Proudhon. We find it in the works of Smith, of Ricardo, of Senior, of
all the Economists without exception, not as a theory [p282] merely,
but as a subject of complaint. These authors have not only attributed
to the soil an extra-human value, they have boldly deduced the
consequence, and branded landed property as a privilege, a monopoly,
a usurpation. No doubt, after thus branding it, they have defended it
on the plea of ‹necessity›. But what does such a defence amount to,
but an error of reasoning which the Communist logicians have lost no
time in rectifying?

It is not, then, to indulge an unhappy love for subtilties that I
enter on this delicate subject. I should have wished to save both the
reader and myself the ennui which even now I feel hovering over the
conclusion of this chapter.

The answer to the objection now under consideration is to be found in
the theory of Value, explained in the ‹fifth› chapter of this work. I
there said that value does not essentially imply labour; still less
is it necessarily proportionate to labour. I have shown that the
foundation of value is not so much the ‹pains taken› by the person
who transfers it as the ‹pains saved› to the person who receives it;
and it is for that reason that I have made it to reside in something
which embraces these two elements—in ‹service›. I have said that a
person may render a great service with very little effort, or that
with a great effort one may render a very trifling service. The sole
result is, that labour does not obtain necessarily a remuneration
which is always in proportion to its intensity, in the case either of
man in an isolated condition, or of man in the social state.

Value is determined by a bargain between two contracting parties. In
making that bargain, each has his own views. You offer to sell me
corn. What matters it to me the time and pains it may have cost you
to produce it? What I am concerned about is the time and pains it
would have cost me to procure it from another quarter. The knowledge
you have of my situation may render you more or less exacting; the
knowledge I have of yours may render me more or less anxious to make
the purchase. There is no necessary measure, then, of the recompense
which you are to derive from your labour. That depends upon the
circumstances, and the value which these circumstances confer upon
the two services which we are desirous to exchange. By-and-by we
shall call attention to an external force called Competition,
whose mission is to regulate values, and render them more and more
proportional to efforts. Still this proportion is not of the essence
of value, seeing that the proportion is established under the
pressure of a contingent fact.

Keeping this in view, I maintain that the value of land arises,
fluctuates, and is determined, like that of gold, iron, water, the
[p283] lawyer’s advice, the physician’s consultation, the singer’s
or dancer’s performance, the artist’s picture—in short, like all
other values; that it is subject to no exceptional laws; that it
constitutes a property the same in origin, the same in nature, and
as legitimate, as any other property. But it does not at all follow,
as you must now see, that, of two exertions of labour applied to the
soil, one should not be much better remunerated than the other.

Let us revert again to that industry, the most simple of all, and the
best fitted to show us the delicate point which separates the onerous
labour of man from the gratuitous co-operation of nature. I allude to
the humble industry of the water-carrier.

A man procures and brings home a barrel of water. Does he become
possessed of a value necessarily proportionate to his labour? In that
case, the value would be independent of the service the water may
render. Nay more, it would be fixed; for the labour, once over, is no
longer susceptible of increase or diminution.

Well, the day after he procures and brings home this barrel of water,
it may lose its value, if, for example, it has rained during the
night. In that case every one is provided—the water can render no
service, and is no longer wanted. In economic language, it has ceased
to be in demand.

On the other hand, it may acquire considerable value, if
extraordinary wants, unforeseen and pressing, come to manifest

What is the consequence? that man, working for the future, is not
exactly aware beforehand what value the future will attach to his
labour. Value incorporated in a material object will be higher or
lower, according as it renders more or less service, or, to express
it more clearly, human labour, which is the source of value, receives
according to circumstances a higher or lower remuneration. Such
eventualities are an exercise for foresight, and foresight also has a
right to remuneration.

But what connexion is there, I would ask, between these fluctuations
of value, between these variations in the recompense of labour, and
that marvellous natural industry, those admirable physical laws,
which without our participation have brought the water of the ocean
to the spring? Because the value of this barrel of water varies
according to circumstances, are we to conclude that nature charges
sometimes more, sometimes less, sometimes nothing at all, for
evaporation, for carrying the clouds from the ocean to the mountains,
for freezing, melting, and the whole of that admirable industry which
supplies the spring? [p284]

It is exactly the same thing in the case of agricultural products.

The value of the soil, or rather of the capital applied to the soil,
is made up not of one element but of two. It depends not only on the
labour which has been employed, but also on the ability which society
possesses to remunerate that labour—on Demand as well as on Supply.

Take the case of a field. Not a year passes, perhaps, in which
there is not some labour bestowed upon it, the effects of which are
permanent, and of course an increase of value is the result.

Roads of access, besides, are improved and made more direct, the
security of person and property becomes more complete, markets are
extended, population increases in number and in wealth—different
systems of culture are introduced, and a new career is opened to
intelligence and skill; the effect of this change of medium, of this
general prosperity, being to confer additional value on both the
present and the anterior labour, and consequently on the field.

There is here no injustice, no exception in favour of landed
property. No species of labour, from that of the banker to that of
the day-labourer, fails to exhibit the same phenomenon. No one fails
to see his remuneration improved by the improvement of the society
in which his work is carried on. This action and reaction of the
prosperity of each on the prosperity of all, and ‹vice versa›, is the
very law of value. So false is the conclusion which imputes to the
soil and its productive powers an imaginary value, that intellectual
labour, professions and trades which have no connexion with matter or
the co-operation of physical laws, enjoy the same advantage, which in
fact is not exceptional but universal. The lawyer, the physician, the
professor, the artist, the poet, receive a higher remuneration for
an equal amount of labour, in proportion as the town or country to
which they belong increases in wealth and prosperity, in proportion
as the taste or demand for their services becomes more generally
diffused, in proportion as the public is more able and more willing
to remunerate them. The acquisition of clients and customers is
regulated by this principle. It is still more apparent in the case of
the Basque Giant and Tom Thumb, who lived by the simple exhibition
of their exceptional stature, and reap a much better harvest, from
the curiosity of the numerous and wealthy crowds of our large towns,
than from that of a few poor and straggling villagers. In this case,
demand not only enhances value, it creates it. Why, then, should
we think it exceptional or unjust that demand should also exert an
influence on the value of land and of agricultural products? [p285]

Is it alleged that land may thus attain an exaggerated value? They
who say so have never reflected on the immense amount of labour
which arable land has absorbed. I dare affirm, that there is not a
field in this country which ‹is worth› what it has cost, which could
be exchanged for as much labour as has been expended in bringing
it to its present state of productiveness. If this observation is
well founded, it is conclusive. It frees landed property from the
slightest taint of injustice. For this reason, I shall return to the
subject when I come to examine Ricardo’s theory of Rent, and I shall
show that we must apply to agricultural capital the law which I have
stated in these terms: In proportion as capital increases, products
are divided between capitalists or proprietors and labourers, in such
a way that the ‹relative› share of the former goes on continually
diminishing, although their ‹absolute› share is increased, whilst the
share of the latter is increased both absolutely and relatively.

The illusion which has induced men to believe that the productive
powers of the soil have an independent value, because they possess
Utility, has led to many errors and catastrophes. It has driven them
frequently to the premature establishment of colonies, the history
of which is nothing else than a lamentable martyrology. They have
reasoned in this way: In our own country we can obtain value only
by labour, and when we have done our work, we have obtained a value
which is only proportionate to our labour. If we emigrate to Guiana,
to the banks of the Mississippi, to Australia, to Africa, we shall
obtain possession of vast territories, uncultivated but fertile; and
our reward will be, that we shall become possessed not of the value
we have created, but also of the inherent and independent value of
the land we may reclaim. They set out, and a cruel experience soon
confirms the truth of the theory which I am now explaining. They
labour, they clear, they exhaust themselves; they are exposed to
privations, to sufferings, to diseases; and then if they wish to
dispose of the land which they have rendered fit for production, they
cannot obtain for it what it has cost them, and they are forced to
acknowledge that value is of human creation. I defy you to give me
an instance of the establishment of a colony which has not at the
beginning been attended with disaster.

 “Upwards of a thousand labourers were sent out to the Swan River
 Colony; but the extreme cheapness of land (eighteenpence, or less
 than two francs, an acre) and the extravagant rate of wages,
 afforded them such facilities and inducements to become landowners,
 that capitalists could no longer get any one to cultivate their
 lands. A capital of £200,000 (five millions of francs) was lost
 in consequence, and the colony became a scene of desolation. The
 labourers having left their employers from the delusive desire
 to become landowners, agricultural implements were allowed to
 rust—seeds rotted—and sheep, cattle, and horses perished for
 want of attention. A frightful famine [p286] cured the labourers
 of their infatuation, and they returned to ask employment from
 the capitalists; but it was too late.”—‹Proceedings of the South
 Australian Association.›

The association, attributing this disaster to the cheapness of
land, raised its price to 12s. an acre. But, adds Carey, from whom
I borrow this quotation, the real cause was, that the labourers,
being persuaded that land possesses an ‹inherent› value, apart from
the labour bestowed on it, were anxious to exercise “the power of
appropriation,” to which the power to demand Rent is attributed.

What follows supplies us with an argument still more conclusive:

 “In 1836, the landed estates in the colony of Swan River were to be
 purchased from the original settlers at one shilling an acre.”—‹New
 Monthly Magazine.›

Thus the land which was sold by the company at 12s.—upon which the
settlers had bestowed much labour and money—was disposed of by them
at one shilling! What then became of the value of ‹the natural and
indestructible productive powers of the soil›?[62]

I feel that the vast and important subject of the Value of Land has
not been exhausted in this chapter, written by snatches and amid many
distractions. I shall return to it hereafter; but in the meantime
I cannot resist submitting one observation to my readers, and more
especially to Economists.

The illustrious ‹savants› who have done so much to advance
the science, whose lives and writings breathe benevolence and
philanthropy, and who have disclosed to us, at least in a certain
aspect, and within the limits of their researches, the true solution
of the social problem—the Quesnays, the Turgots, the Smiths, the
Malthuses, the Says—have not however escaped, I do not say from
refutation, for that is always legitimate, but from calumny,
disparagement, and insult. To attack their writings, and even their
motives, has become fashionable. It may be said, perhaps, that in
this chapter I am furnishing arms to their detractors, and truly
the moment would be ill chosen for me to turn against those whom I
candidly acknowledge as my initiators, my masters, and my guides.

But supreme homage is, after all, due to Truth, or what I regard as
Truth. No book was ever written without some admixture of error.
Now, a single error in Political Economy, if we press it, torture
it, deduce from it rigorously its logical consequences, involves
all kinds of errors—in fact, lands us in chaos. There never was a
book from which we could not extract one proposition, isolated,
incomplete, false, including consequently a whole world [p287]
of errors and confusion. In my conscience, I believe that the
definition which the Economists have given of the word ‹Value› is of
this number. We have just seen that this definition has led them to
cast a serious doubt on the legitimacy of property in land, and, by
consequence, in capital; and they have only been stopped short on
this fatal road by an inconsistency. This inconsistency has saved
them. They have resumed their march on the road of Truth; and their
error, if it be one, is, in their works, an isolated blot. Then the
Socialists have come to lay hold of this false definition, not to
refute it, but to adopt it, strengthen it, make it the foundation
of their propaganda, and deduce from it all its consequences. Hence
has arisen in our day an imminent social danger; and it is for that
reason that I have thought it my duty to be explicit on this subject,
and trace the erroneous theory to its source. If you conclude that I
have separated myself from my masters Smith and Say, from my friends
Blanqui and Garnier, because, by an oversight in their learned and
admirable works, they have made, as I think, an erroneous application
of the word ‹value›; if you conclude from this that I have no longer
faith in Political Economy and Political Economists, I can only
protest, and appeal to the very title of the present volume. [p288]


There is not in the whole vocabulary of Political Economy a word
which has roused the fury of modern reformers so much as the word
‹Competition›, which, in order to render it the more odious, they
never fail to couple with the epithet ‹anarchical›.

What is the meaning of ‹anarchical competition›? I really don’t know.
What could we substitute for it? I am equally ignorant.

I hear people, indeed, calling out ‹Organization! Association!›
What does that mean? Let us come to an understanding, once for all.
I desire to know what sort of authority these writers intend to
exercise over me, and all other living men; for I acknowledge only
one species of authority, that of reason, if indeed they have it
on their side. Is it their wish then to deprive me of the right of
exercising my judgment on what concerns my own subsistence? Is their
object to take from me the power of comparing the services which I
render with those which I receive? Do they mean that I should act
under the influence of restraint, exerted over me by them and not
by my own intelligence? If they leave me my liberty, Competition
remains. If they deprive me of freedom, I am their slave. Association
will be ‹free and voluntary›, they say. Be it so. But then each
group of associates will, as regards all other groups, be just what
individuals now are in relation to each other, and we shall still
have ‹Competition›. The association will be ‹integral›. A good joke
truly. What! Anarchical Competition is now desolating society, and
we must wait for a remedy, until, by dint of your persuasion, all
the nations of the earth—Frenchmen, Englishmen, Chinese, Japanese,
Caffres, Hottentots, Laplanders, Cossacks, Patagonians—make up
their minds to unite in one of the forms of association which
you have devised? Why, this is just to avow that competition is
indestructible; and will you venture to say that a phenomenon which
[p289] is indestructible, and consequently providential, can be

After all, what is Competition? Is it a thing which exists and is
self-acting like the cholera? No, Competition is only the absence of
constraint. In what concerns my own interest, I desire to choose for
myself, not that another should choose for me, or in spite of me—that
is all. And if any one pretends to substitute his judgment for mine
in what concerns me, I should ask to substitute mine for his in what
concerns him. What guarantee have we that things would go on better
in this way? It is evident that Competition is Liberty. To take away
the liberty of acting is to destroy the possibility, and consequently
the power, of choosing, of judging, of comparing; it is to annihilate
intelligence, to annihilate thought, to annihilate man. From whatever
quarter they set out, to this point all modern reformers tend—to
ameliorate society they begin by annihilating the individual, under
the pretext that all evils come from this source—as if all good did
not come from it too.

We have seen that services are exchanged for services. In reality,
every man comes into the world charged with the responsibility of
providing for his satisfactions by his efforts. When another man
saves us an effort, we ought to save him an effort in return. He
imparts to us a satisfaction resulting from his effort; we ought to
do the same for him.

But who is to make the comparison? for between these efforts, these
pains, these services exchanged, there is necessarily a comparison
to be made, in order to arrive at equivalence, at justice;—unless
indeed injustice, inequality, chance, is to be our rule, which would
just be another way of putting human intelligence ‹hors de cause›.
We must, then, have a judge; and who is this judge to be? Is it
not quite natural that in every case wants should be judged of by
those who experience them, satisfactions by those who seek them,
efforts by those who exchange them? And is it seriously proposed to
substitute for this universal vigilance of the parties interested,
a social authority (suppose that of the reformer himself), charged
with determining in all parts of the world the delicate conditions
of these countless acts of interchange? Do you not see that this
would be to set up the most fallible, the most universal, the most
arbitrary, the most inquisitorial, the most insupportable—we are
fortunately able to add, the most impossible—of all despotisms ever
conceived in the brain of pasha or mufti?

It is sufficient to know that Competition is nothing else than
[p290] the absence of an arbitrary authority as judge of exchanges,
in order to be satisfied that it is indestructible. Illegitimate
force may no doubt restrain, counteract, trammel the liberty of
exchanging, as it may the liberty of walking; but it can annihilate
neither the one nor the other without annihilating man. This being
so, it remains for us to inquire whether Competition tends to the
happiness or misery of mankind; a question which amounts to this,—Is
the human race naturally progressive, or are its tendencies fatally

I hesitate not to say that Competition, which, indeed, we might
denominate Liberty, despite the repulsion which it excites, despite
the declamations to which it has given rise, is a law which is
democratical in its essence. Of all the laws to which Providence has
confided the progress of human society, it is the most progressive,
levelling, and ‹communautaire›. It is this law which brings
successively into the ‹common› domain the use and enjoyment of
commodities which nature has accorded gratuitously only to certain
countries. It is this law, again, which brings into the ‹common›
domain all the conquests which the genius of each age bequeaths to
succeeding generations, leaving them only supplementary labours to
execute, which last they continue to exchange with one another,
without succeeding, as they desire, in obtaining a recompense for
the co-operation of natural agents; and if these labours, as happens
always in the beginning, possess a value which is not proportionate
to their intensity, it is still Competition which, by its incessant
but unperceived action, restores an equilibrium which is sanctioned
by justice, and which is more exact than any that the fallible
sagacity of a human magistracy could by possibility establish. Far
from Competition leading to inequality, as has been erroneously
alleged, we may assert that all ‹factitious› inequality is imputable
to its absence; and if the gulf between the Grand Lama and a Paria is
more profound than that which separates the President from an artisan
of the United States, the reason is this, that Competition (or
Liberty), which is curbed and put down in Asia, is not so in America.
This is the reason why, whilst the Socialists see in Competition
the source of all that is evil, we trace to the attacks which have
been made upon it the disturbance of all that is good. Although this
great law has been misunderstood by the Socialists and their adepts;
although it is frequently harsh in its operation, no law is more
fertile in social harmonies, more beneficent in general results;
no law attests more brilliantly the measureless superiority of the
designs of God over the vain and powerless combinations of men.

I must here remind the reader of that singular but unquestionable
result of the social order to which I have already invited his
attention,[63] and which the power of habit hides too frequently from
our view. It is this, ‹that the sum total of satisfactions which
falls to each member of society is much superior to those which he
could procure for himself by his own efforts›. In other words, there
is an evident disproportion between our consumption and our labour.
This phenomenon, which all of us can easily verify, if we turn our
regards upon ourselves, ought, it seems to me, to inspire some
gratitude to society, to which we owe it.

We come into this world destitute of everything, tormented with
numerous wants, and provided with nothing but faculties to enable
us to struggle against them. ‹A priori›, it would seem that all we
could expect would be to obtain satisfactions proportionate to our
labour. If we obtain more, infinitely more, to what do we owe the
excess? Precisely to that natural organization against which we are
constantly declaiming, when we are not engaged in seeking to subvert

In itself the phenomenon is truly extraordinary. That certain men
consume more than they produce is easily explained, if in one way
or other they usurp the rights of other people—if they receive
services without rendering them. But how can that be true of all men
at the same time? How happens it that, after having exchanged their
services without constraint, without spoliation, upon a footing of
‹equivalence›, each man can say to himself with truth, I consume in a
day more than I could produce in a century?

The reader has seen that the additional element which resolves the
problem is the co-operation of natural agents, constantly becoming
more and more effective in the work of production; it is gratuitous
utility falling continually into the domain of ‹Community›; it is the
labour of heat and of cold, of light, of gravitation, of affinity, of
elasticity, coming progressively to be added to the labour of man,
diminishing the value of services by rendering them more easy.

I must have but feebly explained the theory of ‹value› if the reader
imagines that value diminishes immediately and of its own accord,
by the simple fact of the co-operation of natural forces, and the
relief thereby afforded to human labour. It is not so; for then we
might say with the English Economists that value is proportional
to labour. The man who is aided by a natural and gratuitous force
renders his services more easily; but he does not [p292] on that
account renounce voluntarily any portion whatever of his accustomed
remuneration. To induce him to do that, external coercion—pressure
from without—severe but not unjust pressure—is necessary. It is
Competition which exerts this pressure. As long as Competition does
not intervene, as long as the man who has availed himself of a
natural agent preserves his secret, that natural agent is gratuitous,
but it is not yet ‹common›. The victory has been gained, but to the
profit only of a single man, or a single class. It is not yet a
benefit to mankind at large. No change has yet taken place, except
that one description of ‹services›, although partly relieved from the
pain of muscular exertion, still exacts all its former remuneration.
We have, on the one hand, a man who exacts from all his fellows the
same amount of labour as formerly, although he offers them a limited
amount of his own labour in return. On the other, we have mankind at
large, who are still obliged to make the same sacrifice of time and
of labour in order to obtain a product now realized in part by nature.

Were things to remain in this state, a principle of indefinite
inequality would be introduced into the world with every new
invention. Not only could we not say that value is proportional to
labour; we could not even say that value tends to become proportional
to labour. All that we have said in the preceding chapters about
‹gratuitous utility› and ‹progressive community› would be chimerical.
It would not be true that services are exchanged against services,
in such a way that the gifts of God are transferred gratuitously
from one man to another, down to the ultimate recipient, who is the
consumer. Each would continue to be paid, not only for his labour,
but for the natural forces which he had once succeeded in setting
to work; in a word, society would be constituted on the principle
of universal Monopoly, in place of on the principle of progressive

But it is not so. God, who has bestowed on all His creatures heat,
light, gravitation, air, water, the soil, the marvels of vegetable
life, electricity, and countless other benefits which it is beyond
my power to enumerate,—God, who has placed in the human breast the
feeling of ‹personal interest›, which, like a magnet, attracts
everything to itself,—God, I say, has placed also in the bosom of
society another spring of action, which He has charged with the care
of preserving to His benefits their original destination, which was,
that they should be gratuitous and common. This spring of action is

Thus, Personal Interest is that irrepressible force belonging to the
individual which urges us on to progress and discovery, which [p293]
spurs us on to exertion, but leads also to monopoly. Competition is
that force belonging to the species which is not less irrepressible,
and which snatches progress, as it is realized, from individual
hands, and makes it the common inheritance of the great family of
mankind. These two forces, in each of which, considered individually,
we might find something to blame, thus constitute social Harmony, by
the play of their combinations, when regarded in conjunction.

And we may remark, in passing, that we ought not to be at all
surprised that the individual interests of men, considered as
producers, should from the beginning have risen up against
Competition, should have rebuked it, and sought to destroy it—calling
in for this purpose the assistance of force, fraud, privilege,
sophistry, monopoly, restriction, legislative protection, etc. The
morality of the means shows us clearly enough the morality of the
end. But the astonishing and melancholy thing is, that science
herself—false science, it is true—propagated with so much zeal by
the socialist schools, in the name of philanthropy, equality, and
fraternity, should have espoused the cause of Individualism, in its
narrowest and most exclusive manifestation, and should have deserted
the cause of humanity.

Let us see now how Competition acts:—

Man, under the influence of self-interest, is always, and
necessarily, on the outlook for such circumstances as may give the
greatest ‹value› to his services. He is not long in discovering that,
as regards the gifts of God, he may be favoured in three ways:

1. He may appropriate to his own exclusive use these gifts
themselves; or,

2. He may alone know the ‹process› by which they can be made useful;

3. He alone may possess the ‹instrument› by means of which their
co-operation in the work of production can be secured.

In any of these cases, he gives ‹little› of his own labour in
exchange for ‹much› of the labour of other men. His services have a
high relative ‹value›, and we are led to believe that this excess
of value resides in the natural agent. If it were so, this value
would not be subject to fall. Now, what proves that the value is in
the service is, that we find Competition diminishing both value and
service simultaneously.

1. Natural agents—the gifts of God—are not distributed uniformly
over the different countries of the world. What an infinite variety
of vegetable productions are spread over the wide range [p294]
extending from the region of the pine to the region of the palm
tree! Here the soil is more productive, there the heat is more
vivifying. In one quarter we meet with stone, in another with lime,
in another with iron, copper, or coal. Water-power is not to be
found everywhere, nor can we everywhere avail ourselves to an equal
extent of the power of the winds. Distance, from the objects we find
essential, of itself makes a vast difference in the obstacles which
our efforts encounter. Even the human faculties vary in some measure
with climate and races.

It is easy to see that, but for the law of Competition, this
inequality in the distribution of the gifts of God would lead to a
corresponding inequality in the condition of men.

Whoever happened to have within reach a natural advantage would
profit by it, but his fellow-men would not. He would not permit
other men to participate in it through his instrumentality, without
stipulating an excessive remuneration, the amount of which he
would have the power of fixing arbitrarily. He could attach to his
services any value he pleased. We have seen that the extreme limits
between which it must be determined are, the ‹pains taken› by the
man who renders the service and the ‹pains saved› to the man who
receives it. Competition alone hinders its being always raised to
the maximum. The inhabitant of the tropics, for example, would say
to the European—“Thanks to the sun’s rays, I can, with labour
‹equal to ten›, procure a given quantity of sugar, coffee, cocoa, or
cotton, whilst you, obliged in your cold climate to have recourse
to hot-houses, stoves, and shelter, cannot obtain the same quantity
but with labour equal ‹to a hundred›. You wish to obtain my coffee,
sugar, or cotton, and you would not be sorry were I to take into
account in the transaction only the pains which I have taken, the
labour I have expended. But what I regard principally is the pains,
the labour, I have saved you; for, aware that that is the limit
of your resistance, I make it the limit of my exaction. As what I
produce with an amount of labour equal to ‹ten›, you could produce
only with labour equal to ‹a hundred›, were I to demand in exchange
for my sugar a commodity which cost you labour equal to 101, you
would certainly refuse; but all that I ask is labour equal to 99.
You may higgle and look gruff for a little, but you will come to my
terms; for at this rate you have still an advantage by the exchange.
You think these terms unfair; but, after all, it is not to you but
to me that God has vouchsafed the advantage of a higher temperature.
I know that I am in a position to take advantage of this gift of
Providence, by depriving you of it unless you pay me a tax, for
[p295] I have no competitors. Here, then, are my sugar, my cocoa, my
coffee, my cotton—take them on the conditions I impose—or raise them
for yourself—or do without them.”

It is true that the European might hold to the inhabitant of the
tropics some such language as this: “Turn over your soil, dig pits,
search for iron and coal, and felicitate yourself if you find any;
for if not, it is my determination to push my exactions to an extreme
also. God has vouchsafed to us both precious gifts. We appropriate as
much of them as we require, but we will not suffer others to touch
them without paying us a tax.”

Even if things took place in this way, scientific exactness would
not allow us to attribute to natural agents that Value which resides
only in ‹services›. But the error would be harmless, for the result
would be absolutely the same. Services would still be exchanged
against services, but they would exhibit no tendency to conform
to efforts, or labour, as a measure. The gifts of God would be
‹personal› privileges, not ‹common› benefits; and we might perhaps
have some reason to complain that the Author of things had treated
us in a way so incurably unequal. Should we, then, be brethren?
Could we regard ourselves as the children of a common Father? The
absence of Competition, that is to say of Liberty, would in the first
instance be an insuperable bar to Equality. The absence of Equality
would exclude all idea of Fraternity—and nothing of the republican
motto[64] would then be left.

But let Competition be introduced, and we shall see it instantly
present an insuperable barrier to all such leonine bargains, to
all such forestalling of the gifts of God, to all such revolting
pretensions in the appreciation of services, to all such inequalities
with efforts exchanged.

And let us remark, first of all, that Competition acts forcibly,
called forth as it is by these very inequalities. Labour betakes
itself instinctively to the quarter where it is best remunerated,
and never fails to put an end to this exceptional advantage, so that
Inequality is only a spur which urges us on in spite of ourselves
towards Equality. It is in truth one of the most beautiful ‹final
intentions› observable in the social mechanism. Infinite Goodness,
which manifests beneficence everywhere, would seem to have made
choice of the avaricious producer in order to effect an equitable
distribution among all; and truly it is a marvellous sight this, of
self-interest realizing continually what it ever desires to avoid.
Man, as a producer, is necessarily, inevitably, attracted by [p296]
excessive returns, which he thus reduces to the ordinary rate. He
pursues his own interest; and without knowing it, without wishing it,
without seeking it, he promotes the general good.

Thus, to recur to our former example, the inhabitant of the tropics,
trafficking in the gifts of God, realizes an excessive remuneration,
and by that very means brings down upon himself Competition.
Human labour exerts itself in proportion to the magnitude of the
inequality, if I may use the expression, and never rests until that
inequality is effaced. Under the action of Competition, we see the
tropical labour, which was ‹equal to ten›, exchanged successively for
European labour equal to 80, 50, 40, 20, and finally to 10. Under
the empire of the natural laws of society, there is no reason why
this should not take place; that is to say, there is no reason why
services exchanged should not be measured by the labour performed,
the pains taken,—the gifts of God on both sides being gratuitous and
into the bargain. We have only to consider, in order to appreciate
and bless the revolution which is thus effected. In the first
instance, the labour undergone on both sides is equal, and this
satisfies the human mind, which always desires justice. Then what
has become of the gift of God? Attend to this, reader. No one has
been deprived of it. In this respect we have not allowed ourselves
to be imposed upon by the clamours of the tropical producer. The
Brazilian, in as far as he is himself a consumer of sugar, or cotton,
or coffee, never ceases to profit by the sun’s rays—his good fortune
does not cease to aid him in the work of production. What he has
lost is only the unjust power of levying a tax upon the consumption
of the inhabitants of Europe. The beneficence of Providence, because
‹gratuitous›, has become, as it ought to become, ‹common›; for
‹common› and ‹gratuitous› are in reality the same thing.

The gift of God has become common—and the reader will observe that I
avail myself here of a special fact to elucidate a phenomenon which
is universal—this gift, I say, has become common to all. This is not
declamation, but the expression of a truth which is demonstrable. Why
has this beautiful phenomenon been misunderstood? Because community
is realized under the form of ‹value annihilated›, and the mind
with difficulty lays hold of negations. But I ask, Is it not true
that when, in order to obtain a certain quantity of sugar, coffee,
or cotton, I give only one-tenth of the labour which I should find
it necessary to expend in producing the commodity myself, and this
because the Brazilian sun performs the other nine-tenths of the
work,—Is it not true, I say, that in that case I still exchange
labour for labour, and [p297] really and truly obtain, over and
above the Brazilian labour, and into the bargain, the co-operation of
the climate of the tropics? Can I not affirm with rigorous exactitude
that I have become, that all men have become, in the same way as the
Indians and Americans, that is to say gratuitously, participators in
the liberality of nature, so far as the commodities in question are

England possesses productive coal mines. That is no doubt a great
‹local› advantage, more especially if we suppose, as I shall do for
the sake of argument, that the Continent possesses no coal mines.
Apart from the consideration of exchange, the advantage which this
gives to the people of England is the possession of fuel in greater
abundance than other nations,—fuel obtained with less labour, and
at less expense of useful time. As soon as exchange comes into
operation—keeping out of view Competition—the exclusive possession of
these mines enables the people of England to demand a considerable
remuneration, and to set a high price upon their labour. Not being in
a situation to perform this labour ourselves, or procure what we want
from another quarter, we have no alternative but to submit. English
labour devoted to this description of work will be well remunerated;
in other words, coal will be dear, and the bounty of nature may be
considered as conferred on the people of one nation, and not on
mankind at large.

But this state of things cannot last; for a great natural and social
law is opposed to it—Competition. For the very reason that this
species of labour is largely remunerated in England, it will be in
great demand there, for men are always in quest of high remuneration.
The number of miners will increase, both in consequence of the
sons of miners devoting themselves to their fathers’ trade, and in
consequence of men transferring their industry to mining from other
departments. They will offer to work for a smaller recompense, and
their remuneration will go on diminishing until it reach the ‹normal
rate›, or the rate generally given in the country for analogous work.
This means that the price of English coal will fall in France; that
a given amount of French labour will procure a greater and greater
quantity of English coal, or rather of English labour incorporated
and worked up in coal; and, finally (and this is what I pray you to
remark), that the gift which nature would appear to have bestowed
upon England has in reality been conferred on the whole human
race. The coal of Newcastle is brought within the reach of all men
‹gratuitously›, as far as the mere material is concerned. This is
neither a paradox nor an exaggeration,—it is brought within their
reach like the [p298] water of the brook, on the single condition
of going to fetch it, or remunerating those who undertake that
labour for us. When we purchase coal, it is not the coal that we
pay for, but the labour necessary to extract it and transport it.
All that we do is to give a corresponding amount of labour which
we have worked up or incorporated in wine or in silk. So true is
it that the liberality of nature has been extended to France, that
the labour which we refund is not greater than that which it would
have been necessary to undergo had the deposit of coal been in
France. Competition has established equality between the two nations
as far as coal is concerned, except as regards the inevitable and
inconsiderable difference resulting from distance and carriage.

I have given two examples, and, to render the phenomenon more
striking, I have selected international transactions, which are
effected on a great scale. I fear I may thus have diverted the
reader’s attention from the same phenomena acting incessantly around
us in our every-day transactions. Let him take in his hand the
most familiar objects, a glass, a nail, a loaf, a piece of cloth,
a book. Let him meditate on such ordinary products, and reflect
how great an amount of gratuitous utility would never but for
Competition have become ‹common› for humanity at large, although
remaining gratuitous for the producer. He will find that, thanks to
Competition, in purchasing his loaf he pays nothing for the action
of the sun, nothing for the rain, nothing for the frost, nothing for
the laws of vegetable physiology, nothing even for the powers of
the soil, despite all that has been said on that subject; nothing
for the law of gravitation set to work by the miller; nothing for
the law of combustion set to work by the baker; nothing for the
horse-power set to work by the carrier; that he pays only for the
services rendered, the pains taken, by human agents; and let him
reflect that, but for Competition, he must have paid, over and above,
a tax for the intervention of all these natural agents; that that
tax would have had no other limit than the difficulty which he might
himself have experienced in procuring the loaf by his own efforts,
and that consequently a whole life would not have been sufficient to
supply the remuneration which would have been demanded of him. Let
him think farther, that he does not make use of a single commodity
which might not give rise to the same reflections, and that these
reflections apply not to him only, but to all mankind, and he will
then comprehend the radical error of those socialist theories which,
looking only at the surface of things, the epidermis of society, have
been set up with so much levity against Competition, in other words,
against human Liberty. He will then regard [p299] Competition, which
preserves to the gifts of nature, unequally distributed, their common
and gratuitous character, as the principle of a just and natural
equalization; he will admire it as the force which holds in check
the egotism of individual interest, with which at the same time it
is so artistically combined as to serve both as a curb to avarice
and a spur to exertion; and he will bless it as a most striking
manifestation of God’s impartial solicitude for the good of all His

From what has been said, we may deduce the solution of one of the
problems which have been most keenly controverted, namely, that of
free trade as between nation and nation. If it be true, as seems to
me incontestable, that Competition leads the various countries of
the globe to exchange with one another nothing else than labour,
exertion more and more equalized, and to transfer at the same time
reciprocally, and ‹into the bargain›, the natural advantages that
each possesses; how blind and absurd must those men be who exclude
foreign products by legislative measures, under the pretext that they
are cheap, and have little value in proportion to their aggregate
utility; that is to say, precisely because they include a large
proportion of gratuitous utility!

I have said, and I repeat it, that I have confidence in a theory when
I find it in accordance with universal practice. Now, it is certain
that countries would effect many exchanges with each other were they
not interdicted ‹by force›. It requires the bayonet to prevent them;
and for that reason it is wrong to prevent them.

2. Another circumstance places certain men in a favourable and
exceptional situation as regards remuneration—I mean the personal and
exclusive knowledge of the ‹processes› by means of which ‹natural
agents› can alone be appropriated. What we term invention is a
conquest by human genius; and these beautiful and pacific conquests,
which are, in the first instance, a source of wealth for those who
achieve them, become by-and-by, under the action of Competition, the
‹common and gratuitous› patrimony of all.

The forces of nature belong indeed to all. Gravitation, for instance,
is common property; it surrounds us, pervades us, commands us. And
yet were there but one mode of making gravitation co-operate towards
a useful and determinate result, and but one man acquainted with
that mode, this man might set a high price upon his work, or refuse
to work except in exchange for a very high remuneration. His demands
would have no limit [p300] until they reached the point at which
the consumers must make greater sacrifices than the old processes
entailed upon them. He may have contrived, for example, to annihilate
nine-tenths of the labour necessary to produce a certain commodity,
‹x›. But ‹x› has at present a current market-price determined by
the labour which its production by the ordinary methods exacts. The
inventor sells ‹x› at the market-price; in other words, his labour
receives a recompense ten times higher than that of his rivals. This
is the first phase of the invention.

So far we discover nothing unjust or unfair. It is just and equitable
that the man who makes the world acquainted with a useful process
should be rewarded for it;—‹A chacun selon sa capacité›.

Observe, too, that as yet mankind, with the exception of the
inventor, have gained nothing unless virtually, and in perspective,
so to speak, since in order to procure the commodity ‹x›, each
acquirer must make a sacrifice equal to the former cost.

Now, however, the invention enters its second phase—that of
‹imitation›. Excessive remuneration awakens covetousness. The new
process is more generally adopted; the price of the commodity ‹x›
continues to fall, and the remuneration goes on diminishing in
proportion as the imitation becomes more distant in date from the
original invention, that is to say, in proportion as it becomes more
easy, and for that reason less meritorious. Surely there is nothing
in all this that cannot be avowed by a legislation the most advanced
and the most impartial.

At length the invention reaches its third phase, its final stage,
that of universal ‹diffusion›, when it becomes ‹common› and
‹gratuitous›. The cycle has been completed when Competition has
brought back the remuneration of the producers of ‹x› to the general
and normal rate yielded by all analogous work. Then the nine-tenths
of the labour, which by the hypothesis we supposed to be saved by the
invention, become an acquisition to mankind at large. The utility of
the commodity ‹x› remains the same; but nine-tenths of that commodity
are now the product of gravitation, a force which was formerly
common to all in principle, but has now become common to all in this
special application. So true is this, that all the consumers of that
commodity throughout the world may now acquire it with one-tenth
of the labour which it formerly cost. The surplus labour has been
entirely annihilated by the new process.

If we consider that there is no human invention which has not
described this circle, that ‹x› is here an algebraical sign which
represents corn, clothing, books, ships,—in the production of
which an [p301] incalculable amount of Labour or Value has been
annihilated, by the plough, the spinning-jenny, the printing-press,
and the sail; that this observation is applicable to the humblest of
tools as well as to the most complicated mechanism, to the nail, the
wedge, the lever, as well as to the steam-engine and the electric
telegraph, we shall come, I trust, to understand the solution of
this grand problem of human society, ‹that an amount of utility and
enjoyment, always greater, and more and more equally distributed,
comes to remunerate each determinate quantity of human labour›.

3. I have shown how Competition brings into the domain of the ‹common
and gratuitous› both ‹natural agents› and the ‹processes› by which
they are made operative. It remains to show that Competition executes
the same function with reference to the instruments by means of which
we set these agents to work. It is not enough that there should exist
in nature a force, such as heat, light, gravitation, electricity;
it is not enough that intelligence conceives the means of making
that force available;—there must be ‹instruments› to realize this
conception of the mind, and ‹provisions› to maintain those who devote
themselves to it during the operation.

As regards remuneration, there is a third circumstance which favours
a man, or a class of men, namely, the possession of ‹Capital›.
The man who has in his hands the tools necessary for labour, the
materials to work upon, and the provisions for his subsistence during
the operation, is in a situation to determine his own remuneration.
The principle of this is equitable, for capital is only anterior
labour which has not yet been remunerated. The capitalist is in a
good position to impose terms; but observe that, even when free from
Competition, there is a limit which his demands never can exceed—this
limit is the point at which his remuneration would absorb all the
advantages of the service which he renders. In these circumstances,
it is unreasonable to talk, as is so often done, of the ‹tyranny of
capital›, seeing that even in the most extreme cases neither its
presence nor its absence can injure the condition of the labourer.
Like the inhabitant of the tropics, who has an intensity of heat at
his disposal which nature has denied to colder regions—or like the
inventor, who possesses the secret of a process unknown to other
men—all that the capitalist can say is: “Would you profit by my
labour—I set such a price upon it; if you find it too high, do as you
have done hitherto—do without it.”

But Competition takes place among capitalists. Tools, materials, and
provisions, contribute to the creation of utilities only [p302]
when employed. There is an emulation, then, among capitalists to
find employment for their capital. All that this emulation forces
them to abate from the extreme demand, of which I have just assigned
the limits, resolving itself into a reduction of the price of the
commodity, is so much clear profit, so much ‹gratuitous› gain, for
the consumer, that is to say, for mankind.

This gain, however, can clearly never be ‹absolutely gratuitous›;
for, since capital represents labour, that capital must always
possess in itself the principle of remuneration.

Transactions relative to Capital are subject to the universal law
of exchanges; and exchanges take place only because there is an
advantage for the two contracting parties in effecting them,—an
advantage which has no doubt a tendency to be equalized, but which
accidentally may be greater for the one than for the other. There is
a limit to the remuneration of capital, beyond which limit no one
will consent to borrow it. This limit is the minimum of service for
the borrower. In the same way, there is a limit beyond which no one
will consent to lend, and this limit is the minimum of remuneration
for the lender. This is self-evident. If the requirements of one
of the contracting parties are pushed so far as to reduce to zero
the benefit to be derived by the other from the transaction, the
loan becomes impossible. The remuneration of capital oscillates
between these two extreme terms, pressed towards the maximum by the
Competition of borrowers, brought back towards the minimum by the
Competition of lenders; so that, by a necessity which is in harmony
with justice, it rises when capital is scarce, and falls when it is

Many Economists imagine that the number of borrowers increases more
rapidly than it is possible to create capital to lend to them, whence
it would follow that the natural tendency of interest is to rise.
The ‹fact› is decidedly the other way, and on all sides accordingly
we perceive civilisation lowering the return for capital. This
return, it is said, is 30 or 40 per cent. at Rome, 20 per cent. in
Brazil, 10 per cent. in Algeria, 8 per cent. in Spain, 6 per cent. in
Italy, 5 per cent. in Germany, 4 per cent. in France, 3 per cent. in
England, and still less in Holland. Now all that part of the return
for capital which is annihilated by progress, although lost to the
capitalist, is not lost to mankind. If interest, originally at 40 per
cent., is reduced to 2 per cent., all commodities will be freed from
38 parts in 40 of this element of cost. They will reach the consumer
freed from this charge to the extent of nineteen-twentieths. This is
a force which, like ‹natural agents›, like expeditive ‹processes›,
resolves itself into ‹abundance›, ‹equalization›, [p303] and,
finally, into an elevation of the general level of the human race.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have still to say a few words on the Competition of labourer with
labourer,—a subject which in these days has given rise to so much
sentimental declamation. But have we not already exhausted this
subject? I have shown that, owing to the action of Competition, men
cannot long receive an exceptional remuneration for the co-operation
of ‹natural forces›, for their acquaintance with new ‹processes›,
or for the possession of ‹instruments› by means of which they avail
themselves of these forces. This proves that efforts have a tendency
to be exchanged on a footing of equality, or, in other words, that
value tends to become proportionate to labour. Then I do not see
what can justly be termed the Competition of labourers; still less
do I see how it can injure their condition, since in this point of
view workmen are themselves the consumers. The working class means
everybody, and it is precisely this vast community which reaps
ultimately the benefits of Competition, and all the advantage of
values successively annihilated by progress.

The evolution is this: Services are exchanged against services,
values against values. When a man (or a class) appropriates a
natural agent or a new process, his demands are regulated, not by
the labour which he undergoes, but by the labour which he saves to
others. He presses his exactions to the extreme limit, without ever
being able to injure the condition of others. He sets the greatest
possible value on his services. But gradually, by the operation of
Competition, this value tends to become proportioned to the labour
performed; so that the evolution is brought to a conclusion when
equal labour is exchanged for equal labour, both serving as the
vehicle of an ever-increasing amount of gratuitous utility, to the
benefit of the community at large. In such circumstances, to assert
that Competition can be injurious to the labourer, would be to fall
into a palpable contradiction.

And yet this is constantly asserted, and constantly believed; and
why? Because by the word labourer is understood not the great
labouring community, but a particular class. You divide the community
into two classes. On one side you place all those who are possessed
of capital, who live wholly or partly on anterior labour, or by
intellectual labour, or the proceeds of taxation; on the other, you
place those who have nothing but their hands, who live by wages,
or—to use the consecrated expression—the ‹prolétaires›. You look to
the relative position of these two classes, [p304] and you ask if,
in that relative position, the Competition which takes place among
those who live by wages is not fatal to them?

The situation of men of this last class, it is said, is essentially
precarious. As they receive their wages from day to day, they live
from hand to mouth. In the discussion which, under a free régime,
precedes every bargain, they cannot wait; they must find work for
to-morrow on any terms, under pain of death. If this be not strictly
true of them all, it is at least true of many of them, and that
is enough to depress the entire class; for those who are the most
pressed and the poorest capitulate first, and establish the general
rate of wages. The result is, that wages tend to fall to the lowest
rate which is compatible with bare subsistence—and in this state of
things, the occurrence of the least excess of Competition among the
labourers is a veritable calamity, for, as regards them, the question
is not one of diminished prosperity, but of simple existence.

Undoubtedly there is much that is true, much that is too true, ‹in
fact›, in this description. To deny the sufferings and wretchedness
of that class of men who bear so material a part in the business of
production, would be to shut our eyes to the light of day. It is, in
fact, this deplorable condition of a great number of our brethren
which forms the subject of what has been justly called the ‹social
problem›; for although other classes of society are visited also
with disquietudes, sufferings, sudden changes of fortune, commercial
crises, and economic convulsions, it may nevertheless be said with
truth that ‹liberty› would be accepted as a solution of the problem,
did mere liberty not appear powerless to cure that rankling sore
which we denominate Pauperism.

And although it is here, pre-eminently, that the social problem lies,
the reader will not expect that I should enter upon it in this place.
Its solution, please God, may be the result of the entire work, but
it clearly cannot be the result of a single chapter.

I am at present engaged in the exposition of general laws, which I
believe to be harmonious; and I trust the reader will now begin to be
convinced that these laws exist, and that their action tends towards
community, and consequently towards equality. But I have not denied
that the action of these laws is profoundly troubled by disturbing
causes. If, then, we now encounter inequality as a stubborn ‹fact›,
how can we be in circumstances to form a judgment regarding it until
we have first of all investigated the regular laws of the social
order, and the causes which disturb the action of these laws? [p305]

On the other hand, I have ignored neither the existence of evil nor
its mission. I have ventured to assert, that ‹free-will› having been
vouchsafed to man, it is not necessary to confine the term ‹harmony›
to an aggregate from which evil should be excluded; for free-will
implies error, at least possible error, and error is evil. Social
harmony, like everything which concerns man, is relative. Evil
is a necessary part of the machinery destined to overcome error,
ignorance, injustice, by bringing into play two great laws of our
nature—responsibility and solidarity.

Now, taking pauperism as an existing fact, are we to impute it to the
natural laws which govern the social order,—or to human institutions
which act in a sense contrary to these laws,—or, finally, to the
people themselves, who are the victims, and who, by their errors and
their faults, have brought down this severe chastisement on their own

In other words, does pauperism exist by providential destination,—or,
on the contrary, by what remains of the artificial in our political
organization,—or as a personal retribution? Fatality, Injustice,
Responsibility—to which of these three causes must we attribute this
frightful sore?

I hesitate not to assert that it cannot be the result of the natural
laws which have hitherto been the subject of our investigations,
seeing that these laws all tend to equalization by amelioration; that
is to say, to bring all men to one and the same level, which level is
continually rising. This, then, is not the place to seek a solution
of the problem of pauperism.

At present, if we would consider specially that class of labourers
who execute the most material portion of the work of production, and
who, in general, having no interest in the profits, live upon a fixed
remuneration called ‹wages›, the question we have to investigate
is this: Apart from the consideration of good or bad economic
institutions—apart from the consideration of the evils which the men
who live by wages [the ‹prolétaires›] bring upon themselves by their
faults—what is, as regards them, the proper effect of Competition?

For this class, as for all, the operation of Competition is twofold.
They feel it both as buyers and as sellers of services. The error
of those who write upon these subjects is never to look but at one
side of the question, like natural philosophers, who, if they took
into account only centrifugal force, would never cease to believe and
to prophesy that all was over with us. Grant their false datum, and
you will see with what irrefragable logic they conduct you to this
sinister conclusion. The same may be said of the [p306] lamentations
which the Socialists found upon the exclusive consideration of
centrifugal Competition, if I may be allowed the expression. They
forget to take into account centripetal Competition; and that is
sufficient to reduce their doctrines to puerile declamation. They
forget that the workman, when he presents himself in the market with
the wages he has earned, becomes a centre towards which innumerable
branches of industry tend, and that he profits then by that universal
Competition of which all trades complain in their turn.

It is true that the labourer, when he regards himself as a producer,
as the person who supplies labour or services, complains also of
Competition. Grant, then, that Competition benefits him on one side,
while it pinches him on the other, the question comes to be, Is the
balance favourable or unfavourable—or is there compensation?

I must have explained myself very obscurely if the reader does not
see that in the play of this marvellous mechanism, the action of
Competition, apparently antagonistic, tends to the singular and
consoling result, that there is a balance which is favourable to all
at the same time; caused by gratuitous Utility continually enlarging
the circle of production, and falling continually into the domain
of Community. Now, that which becomes common is profitable to all
without hurting any one; we may even say—for this is mathematically
certain—is profitable to each in proportion to his previous poverty.
It is this portion of ‹gratuitous› utility, forced by Competition
to become ‹common›, which causes the tendency of value to become
proportioned to labour, to the evident benefit of the labourer. This,
too, renders evident the social solution which I have pressed so much
on the attention of the reader, and which is only concealed by the
illusions of habit,—for a determinate amount of labour each receives
an amount of satisfactions which tends to be increased and equalized.

Moreover, the condition of the labourer does not depend upon one
economic law, but upon all. To become acquainted with that condition,
to discover the prospects and the future of the labourer, this is
Political Economy; for what other object could that science have in
view? . . . But I am wrong—we have still spoliators. What causes the
equivalence of services? Liberty. What impairs that equivalence?
Oppression. Such is the circle we have still to traverse.

As regards the condition of that class of labourers who execute the
more immediate work of production, it cannot be appreciated until
we are in a situation to discover in what manner the law of [p307]
Competition is combined with that of Wages and Population, and also
with the disturbing effects of unequal taxes and monopolies.

I shall add but a few words on the subject of Competition. It is
very clear that it has no natural tendency to diminish the amount of
the enjoyments which are distributed over society. Does Competition
tend to make this distribution unequal? If there be anything evident
in the world, it is that after having, if I may so express myself,
attached to each service, to each value, a larger proportion of
utility, Competition labours incessantly to level the services
themselves, to render them proportional to efforts. Is Competition
not the spur which urges men into profitable branches of industry,
and urges them out of those which are unprofitable? Its proper
action, then, is to realize equality more and more, by elevating the
social level.

Let us not misunderstand each other, however, on this word equality.
It does not imply that all men are to have the same remuneration, but
that they are to have a remuneration proportioned to the quantity,
and even to the quality of their efforts.

A multitude of circumstances contribute to render the remuneration
of labour unequal (I speak here only of free labour, subject to
Competition); but if we look at it more narrowly, we shall find that
this fancied inequality, almost always just and necessary, is in
reality nothing else than substantial equality.

‹Cæteris paribus›, there are larger profits in those trades which are
attended with danger than in those which are not so; in those which
require a lengthened apprenticeship, and expensive training long
unremunerated—which imply the patient exercise of certain domestic
virtues—than in those where mere muscular exertion is sufficient; in
professions which demand a cultivated mind and refined taste, than
in trades which require mere brute force. Is not all this just? Now,
‹Competition› establishes necessarily these distinctions—and society
has no need of the assistance of Fourier or Louis Blanc in the matter.

Of all these circumstances, that which operates in the greatest
number of cases is the inequality of instruction. Now here, as
everywhere else, we find Competition exerting its twofold action,
levelling classes, and elevating society.

If we suppose society to be composed of two layers or strata,
placed one above another, in one of which the intelligent principle
prevails, and in the other the principle of brute force; and if
we study the natural relations of these two layers, we shall
easily discover a force of attraction in the one, and a force of
aspiration in the other, which co-operate towards their fusion.
The very inequality [p308] of profits breathes into the inferior
ranks an inextinguishable ardour to mount to the region of ease
and leisure; and this ardour is seconded by the superior knowledge
which distinguishes the higher classes. The methods of teaching are
improved; books fall in price; instruction is acquired in less time,
and at a smaller cost; science, formerly monopolized by a class or a
caste, and veiled in a dead language, or sealed up in hieroglyphics,
is written and printed in the vulgar tongue; it pervades the
atmosphere, if I may use the expression, and is breathed as freely as
the air of heaven.

Nor is this all. At the same time that an education more universal
and more equal brings the two classes of society into closer
approximation, some very important economic phenomena, which are
connected with the great law of Competition, come to aid and
accelerate their fusion. The progress of the mechanical arts
diminishes continually the proportion of manual labour. The division
of labour, by simplifying and separating each of the operations
which concur in a productive result, brings within the reach of
all, branches of industry which could formerly be engaged in only
by a few. Moreover, a great many employments which required at the
outset much knowledge and varied acquirements, fall, by the mere
lapse of time, into ‹routine›, and come within the sphere of action
of classes generally the least instructed, as has happened in the
case of agriculture. Agricultural processes, which in ancient times
procured to their discoverers the honours of an apotheosis, are now
inherited and almost monopolized by the rudest of men; and to such a
degree, that this important branch of human industry is, so to speak,
entirely withdrawn from the ‹well-educated› classes.

From the preceding observations it is possible that a false
conclusion may be drawn. It may be said—“We perceive, indeed, that
Competition lowers remuneration in all countries, in all departments
of industry, in all ranks, and levels, ‹by reducing›, it; but in that
case the wages of unskilled labour, of physical exertion, must become
the type, the standard, of all remuneration.”

I must have been misunderstood, if you have not perceived that
‹Competition›, which labours to bring down all excessive remuneration
towards an average more and more uniform, raises ‹necessarily› this
average. I grant that it pinches men in their capacity of producers,
but in so doing it ameliorates the condition of the human race
in the only way in which it can reasonably be elevated, namely,
by an increase of material prosperity, ease, leisure, moral and
intellectual improvement, in a word, by enlarging ‹consumption›.

Will it be said that, in point of fact, mankind have not made the
progress that this theory seems to imply?

I answer, in the first place, that in modern society Competition
is far from occupying the sphere of its natural action. Our laws
run counter to it, at least in as great a degree as they favour its
action; and when it is asked whether the inequality of conditions is
owing to its presence or its absence, it is sufficient to look at
the men who make the greatest figure among us, and dazzle us by the
display of their scandalous wealth, in order to assure ourselves that
inequality, so far as it is artificial and unjust, has for foundation
conquests, monopolies, restrictions, privileged offices, functions,
and places, ministerial trafficking, public borrowing,—all things
with which Competition has nothing to do.

Moreover, I believe we have overlooked the real progress which
mankind have made since the very recent epoch to which we must
assign the partial enfranchisement of labour. It has been justly
said that much philosophy is needed in order to discern facts which
are continually passing before us. We are not astonished at what an
honest and laborious family of the working class daily consumes,
because habit has made us familiar with this strange phenomenon. If,
however, we compare the comfortable circumstances in which such a
family finds itself, with the condition in which it would be placed
under a social order which excluded Competition—if statisticians,
armed with an instrument of sufficient precision, could measure,
as with a dynamometer, the relation of a working man’s labour to
his enjoyments at two different periods, we should acknowledge that
liberty, restrained as it still is, has accomplished in his favour
a prodigy which its very permanency hinders us from remarking. The
contingent of human efforts which, in relation to a given result, has
been annihilated, is truly incalculable. Time was when the artisan’s
day’s labour would not have sufficed to procure him the most trumpery
almanac. At the present day, for a halfpenny, or the fiftieth
part of his day’s wages, he can obtain a gazette containing the
matter of a volume. The same might be said of clothing, locomotion,
carriage, lighting, and a multitude of other satisfactions. To what
is this result owing? To this, that an enormous proportion of human
labour, which had formerly to be paid for, has been handed over
to be performed by the gratuitous forces of nature. It is a value
annihilated, and to be no longer recompensed. Under the action of
Competition, it has been replaced by common and gratuitous utility.
And it is worthy of remark, that when, in consequence of progress,
the price of any commodity comes to fall, [p310] the labour ‹saved›
to the poor purchaser in obtaining it is always ‹proportionally›
greater than the labour saved to the rich purchaser. That is

In fine, this constantly increasing current of utilities which labour
pours into all the veins of the body politic, and which Competition
distributes, is not all summed up in an accession of wealth. It is
absorbed, in great part, by the stream of advancing numbers. It
resolves itself into an increase of population, according to laws
which have an intimate affinity with the subject which now engages
us, and which will be explained in another chapter.

Let us now stop for a moment and take a rapid glance at the ground
over which we have just travelled.

Man has wants which are unlimited—desires which are insatiable. In
order to provide for them he has materials and agents which are
furnished to him by nature—faculties, instruments, all things which
‹labour› sets in motion. Labour is the resource which has been most
equally distributed to all. Each man seeks instinctively, and of
necessity, to avail himself to the utmost of the co-operation of
natural forces, of talents natural and acquired, and of capital, in
order that the result of this co-operation may be a greater amount
of utilities produced, or, what comes to the same thing, a greater
amount of satisfactions acquired. Thus, the more active co-operation
of natural agents, the indefinite development of intelligence,
the progressive increase of capital, give rise to this phenomenon
(which at first sight seems strange)—that a given quantity of labour
furnishes an always increasing amount of utilities, and that each
man can, without despoiling anyone, obtain a mass of consumable
commodities out of all proportion to what his own efforts could have

But this phenomenon, which is the result of the divine harmony which
Providence has established in the mechanism of society, would have
been detrimental to society, by introducing the germ of indefinite
inequality, had there not been combined with it a harmony no less
admirable, namely, Competition, which is one of the branches of the
great law of human ‹solidarity›.

In fact, were it possible for an individual, a family, a class, a
nation, possessed of certain natural advantages, of an important
discovery in manufactures, or of the instruments of production in the
shape of accumulated capital, to be set permanently free from the law
of Competition, it is evident that this individual, this family, this
nation, would have for ever the monopoly of an exceptionally high
remuneration, at the expense of mankind at large. In what situation
should we be if the inhabitants of the tropical [p311] regions,
set free from all rivalry with each other, could exact from us, in
exchange for their sugar, their coffee, their cotton, their spices,
not the equivalent of labour equal to their own, but an amount of
labour equal to what we must ourselves undergo in order to produce
these commodities under our inclement skies? What an incalculable
distance would separate the various conditions of men, if the race
of Cadmus alone could read, if the direct descendants of Triptolemus
alone could handle the plough, if printing were confined to the
family of Gutenberg, cotton-spinning to the children of Arkwright,
and if the posterity of Watt could alone work the steam engine!
Providence has not ordered things thus, but, on the contrary, has
placed in the social machine a spring whose power is only less
surprising than its simplicity—a spring by the operation of which all
productive power, all superiority in manufacturing processes, in a
word, all exclusive advantages, slip from the hands of the producer,
having remained there, in the shape of exceptional remuneration, only
long enough to excite his zeal, and come at length to enlarge the
common and gratuitous patrimony of mankind, and resolve themselves
into individual enjoyments always progressive, and more and more
equally distributed—this spring is ‹Competition›. We have already
seen its economical effects—and it now remains for us to take a rapid
survey of its moral and political consequences. I shall confine
myself to the more important of these.

Superficial thinkers have accused Competition of introducing
‹antagonism› among men. This is true and inevitable, if we consider
men only in the capacity of producers, but, regarded from another
point of view, as consumers, the matter appears in a very different
light. You then see this very Competition binding together
individuals, families, classes, nations, and races, in the bonds of
universal fraternity.

Seeing that the advantages which appear at first to be the property
of certain individuals become, by an admirable law of Divine
beneficence, the common patrimony of all; seeing that the ‹natural
advantages› of situation, of fertility, of temperature, of mineral
riches, and even of manufacturing aptitude, slip in a short time from
the hands of producers, by reason of their competition with each
other, and turn exclusively to the profit of consumers, it follows
that there is no country which is not interested in the advancement
and prosperity of all other countries. Every step of progress made in
the East is wealth in perspective for the West. Fuel discovered in
the South warms the men of the North. Great Britain makes progress
in her spinning mills; [p312] but her capitalists do not alone reap
the profit, for the interest of money does not rise; nor do her
operatives, for the wages of labour remain the same. In the long-run,
it is the Russian, the Frenchman, the Spaniard; in a word, it is
the human race, who obtain equal satisfactions at a less expense of
labour, or, what comes to the same thing, superior satisfactions with
equal labour.

I have spoken only of the advantages—I might say as much of the
disadvantages—which affect certain nations and certain regions.
The peculiar action of Competition is to render general what was
before exclusive. It acts exactly on the principle of ‹Insurance›.
A scourge visits the fields of the agriculturist, and the consumers
of the bread are the sufferers. An unjust tax is laid upon the vines
of France, and this means dear ‹wine› for all wine-drinkers. Thus,
advantages and disadvantages, which have any permanence, only glance
upon individuals, classes, or nations. Their providential destination
in the long-run is to affect humanity at large, and elevate or
lower the condition of mankind. Hence to envy a certain people the
fertility of their soil, or the beauty of their harbours and rivers,
or the warmth of their sun, is to overlook the advantages in which
we are called to participate. It is to contemn the abundance which
is offered to us. It is to regret the labour which is saved to us.
Hence national jealousies are not only perverse feelings;—they are
absurd. To hurt others is to injure ourselves. To place obstacles in
the way of others—tariffs, wars, or workmen’s strikes—is to obstruct
our own progress. Hence bad passions have their chastisement, just
as generous sentiments have their reward. The inevitable sanction of
an exact distributive justice addresses itself to men’s interests,
enlightens opinion, proclaims and establishes among men these maxims
of eternal truth: that the useful is one of the aspects of the just;
that Liberty is the fairest of social Harmonies; and that Honesty is
the best Policy.

Christianity has introduced into the world the grand principle of
human fraternity. It addresses itself to our hearts, our feelings,
our noble instincts. Political Economy recommends the same principle
to our cool judgment; and, exhibiting the connexion of effects
with their causes, reconciles in consoling harmony the vigilant
calculations of interest with the inspirations of the sublimest

A second consequence which flows from this doctrine is, that society
is truly a ‹Community›. Messieurs Owen and Cabet may save themselves
the trouble of seeking the solution of the great [p313] ‹Communist›
problem—it is found already—it results not from their arbitrary
combinations, but from the organization given by God to man, and
to society. Natural forces, expeditive processes, instruments of
production, everything is ‹common› among men, or has a tendency to
become so, everything ‹except pains›, labour, individual effort.
There is, and there can be, but one ‹inequality›—an inequality which
Communists the most absolute must admit,—that which results from
the inequality of efforts. These efforts are what are exchanged for
one another at a price bargained for. All the utility which nature,
and the genius of ages, and human foresight, have implanted in the
commodities exchanged, we obtain ‹into the bargain›. Reciprocal
remunerations have reference only to reciprocal efforts, whether
actual under the name of Labour, or preparatory under the name
of Capital. Here then is Community in the strictest sense of the
word, unless we are to pretend that the personal share of enjoyment
should be equal, although the quota of labour furnished is not so,
which indeed would be the most iniquitous, the most monstrous, of
inequalities,—I will add, the most fatal; for it would not destroy
Competition—it would only give it a retrograde action. We should
still compete, but the Competition would be a rivalry of idleness,
stupidity, and improvidence.

In fine, the doctrine—so simple, and, as we think, so true—which
we have just developed, takes the great principle of human
‹perfectibility› out of the domain of declamation, and transfers
it to that of rigorous demonstration. This internal motive, which
is never at rest in the bosom of the individual, but stirs him up
to improve his condition, gives rise to the progress of art, which
is nothing else than the progressive co-operation of forces, which
from their nature call for no remuneration. To Competition is owing
the concession to the community of advantages at first individually
obtained. The intensity of the labour required for the production of
each given result goes on continually diminishing, to the advantage
of the human race, which thus sees the circle of its enjoyments and
its leisure enlarging from one generation to another, whilst the
level of its physical, intellectual, and moral improvement is raised;
and by this arrangement, so worthy of our study and of our profound
admiration, we behold mankind recovering the position they had lost.

Let me not be misunderstood, however. I do not say that all
fraternity, all community, all perfectibility, are comprised and
included in Competition. I say only that Competition is allied and
combined with these three great social dogmas—that it forms part
[p314] of them, that it exhibits them, that it is one of the most
powerful agents of their realization.

I have endeavoured to describe the general effects of Competition,
and consequently its benefits, for it would be impious to suppose
that any great law of nature should be at once hurtful and
permanent; but I am far from denying that the action of Competition
is accompanied with many hardships and sufferings. It appears to
me that the theory which has just been developed explains at once
those sufferings, and the inevitable complaints to which they give
rise. Since the work of Competition consists in ‹levelling›, it must
necessarily run counter to all who proudly attempt to rise above
the general level. Each producer, in order to obtain the highest
price for his labour, endeavours, as we have seen, to retain as long
as possible the exclusive use of an ‹agent›, a ‹process›, or an
‹instrument›, of production. Now the proper mission and result of
Competition being to withdraw this exclusive use from the individual,
in order to make it ‹common› property, it is natural that all
men, in their capacity of producers, should unite in a concert of
maledictions against ‹Competition›. They cannot reconcile themselves
to Competition otherwise than by taking into account their interests
as consumers, and regarding themselves, not as members of a coterie
or a corporation, but as men.

Political Economy, we must say, has not yet exerted herself
sufficiently to dissipate this fatal illusion, which has been the
source of so much heartburning, calamity, and irritation, and of so
many wars. This science, from a preference not very philosophical,
has exhausted her efforts in analyzing the phenomena of production.
The very nomenclature of the science, in fact, convenient as it
is, is not in harmony with its object. Agriculture, manufactures,
commerce, may be an excellent classification, when the object is
to describe the ‹processes› of art; but that description, however
essential in technology, has little connexion with social economy;—I
should even say that it is positively dangerous. When we have classed
men as agriculturists, manufacturers, and merchants, of what can we
speak but of their class interests, of those special interests to
which Competition is antagonistic, and which are placed in opposition
to the general good? It is not for the sake of agriculturists that
agriculture exists, of manufacturers that we have manufactures, or of
merchants that we have exchanges, but in order that men should have
at their disposal the greatest amount of commodities of every kind.
‹Consumption›, its laws, what favours it, and renders it equitable
and moral—that is the interest which is truly social, and which truly
affects the human [p315] race. It is the interest of the consumer
which constitutes the real object of Political Economy, and upon
which the science should concentrate its clearest lights. This, in
truth, forms the bond which unites classes, nations, races—it is the
principle and explanation of human fraternity. It is with regret,
then, that we see Economists expending their talents and sagacity on
the anatomy of production, and throwing into the fag-end of their
books, or into supplementary chapters, a few common-places on the
phenomena of consumption. Have we not even seen a justly celebrated
professor suppressing entirely that branch of the science, confining
himself to the ‹means›, without ever speaking of the ‹result›,
and banishing from his course everything in connexion with the
‹consumption of wealth›, as pertaining, in his opinion, to morals
rather than to Political Economy? Can we be surprised that men are
more struck with the inconveniences of Competition than with its
advantages, since the former affect them specially as producers,—in
which character they are constantly considered and talked of; while
the latter affect them only in their capacity of consumers,—a
capacity which is altogether disregarded and overlooked?

I repeat that I do not deny or ignore, on the contrary I deplore
as much as any one can, the sufferings attendant on Competition;
but is this any reason for shutting our eyes to its advantages? And
it is all the more consoling to observe these advantages, inasmuch
as I believe Competition, like all the great laws of nature, to
be indestructible. Had it been otherwise, it would assuredly have
succumbed to the universal resistance which all the men who have ever
co-operated in the production of commodities since the beginning
of the world have offered to it, and more especially it would have
perished under the ‹levée en masse› of our modern reformers. But if
they have been foolish enough to attempt its destruction, they have
not been strong enough to effect it.

And what progressive principle, I would ask, is to be found in the
world, the beneficent action of which is not mingled, especially in
the beginning, with suffering and misery? The massing together of
human beings in vast agglomerations is favourable to boldness and
independence of thought, but it frequently sets private life free
from the wholesome restraint of public opinion, and gives shelter to
debauchery and crime. Wealth and leisure united give birth to mental
cultivation, but they also give birth to pride and luxury among the
rich, and to irritation and covetousness among the poor. The art of
printing brings home knowledge and truth to all ranks of society,
but it has brought also afflicting doubt and subversive error.
Political liberty has unchained [p316] tempests and revolutions,
and has modified the simple manners of primitive nations, to such a
decree as to induce thinking men to ask themselves whether they would
not have preferred tranquillity under the cold shade of despotism.
Christianity herself has cast the noble seed of love and charity into
a soil saturated with the blood of martyrs.

Why has it entered into the designs of Infinite Goodness and Justice
that the happiness of one region or of one era should be purchased at
the expense of the sufferings of another region or of another era?
What is the Divine purpose which is concealed under this great law
of ‹solidarity›, of which Competition is only one of the mysterious
aspects? Human science cannot answer. What we do know is this, that
good always goes on increasing, and that evil goes on diminishing.
From the beginning of the social state, such as conquest had made
it, when there existed only masters and slaves, and the inequality
of conditions was extreme, the work of Competition in approximating
ranks, fortunes, intelligences, could not be accomplished without
inflicting individual hardships, the intensity of which, however,
as the work proceeded, has gone on diminishing, like the vibrations
of sound and the oscillations of the pendulum. To the sufferings
yet in reserve for them, men learn every day to oppose two powerful
remedies—namely, ‹foresight›, which is the fruit of knowledge and
experience; and ‹association›, which is organized foresight.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the first part of this work—alas! too hastily written—I have
endeavoured to keep the reader’s attention fixed upon the line of
demarcation, always flexible, but always marked, which separates the
two regions of the economic world—natural co-operation, and human
labour—the bounty of God, and the work of man—the gratuitous, and
the onerous—that which in exchange is remunerated, and that which
is transferred without remuneration—aggregate utility, and the
fractional and supplementary utility which constitutes value—absolute
wealth, and relative wealth—the co-operation of chemical or
mechanical forces, constrained to aid production by the instruments
which render them available, and the just recompense of the labour
which has created these instruments themselves—Community and Property.

It is not enough to mark these two orders of phenomena which are
so essentially different, it is necessary also to describe their
relations, and, if I may so express myself, their harmonious
evolutions. I have essayed to explain how the business of Property
consists in conquering utility for the human race, and, casting it
[p317] into the domain of Community, to move on to new conquests—so
that each given effort, and consequently the aggregate of efforts,
should continually be delivering over to mankind satisfactions which
are always increasing. Human services exchanged, while preserving
their relative value, become the vehicle of an always increasing
proportion of utility which is gratuitous, and, therefore, common;
and in this consists progress. The possessors of value, then,
whatever form it assumes, far from usurping and monopolizing the
gifts of God, multiply these gifts, without causing them to lose the
character which Providence has affixed to them, of being—Gratuitous.

In proportion as the satisfactions which are handed over by progress
to the charge of nature fall by that very fact into the domain of
Community, they become ‹equal›—it being impossible for us even to
conceive inequality except in the domain of human services, which are
compared, appreciated, and ‹estimated› with a view to an exchange;
whence it follows that Equality among men is necessarily progressive.
It is so, likewise, in another respect, the action of Competition
having for its inevitable result to level and equalize the services
themselves, and to bring their recompense more and more into
proportion with their merit.

Let us now throw a glance back on the ground over which we have

By the light of the theory, the foundation of which has been laid in
the present volume, we shall have to investigate:

The relations of man with the Economic phenomena, in his capacity of
producer, and in his character of consumer;

The law of Rent;

That of Wages;

That of Credit;

That of Taxation, which, introducing us into the domain of Politics,
properly so called, will lead us to compare those services which are
private and voluntary with those which are public and compulsory;

The law of Population.

We shall then be in a situation to solve some practical problems
which are still disputed—Free-trade, Machinery, Luxury, Leisure,
Association, Organization of Labour, etc.

I hesitate not to say, that the result of this exposition may be
expressed beforehand in these terms: ‹The constant approximation
of all men towards a level which is always rising›—in other terms:
‹Improvement and Equalization›; in a single word, «Harmony».

Such is the definitive result of the arrangements of Providence—of
[p318] the great laws of nature—when they act without impediment,
when we regard them as they are in themselves, and apart from any
disturbance of their action by error and violence. On beholding this
Harmony, the Economist may well exclaim, like the astronomer who
regards the planetary movements, or the physiologist who contemplates
the structure and arrangement of the human organs—‹Digitus Dei est

But man is a free agent, and consequently fallible. He is subject
to ignorance and to passion. His will, which is liable to err,
enters as an element into the play of the economic laws. He may
misunderstand them, forget them, divert them from their purpose. As
the physiologist, after admiring the infinite wisdom displayed in
the structure and relations of our organs and viscera, studies these
organs likewise in their abnormal state when sickly and diseased,
we shall have to penetrate into a new world—the world of social

We shall pave the way for this new study by some considerations on
man himself. It would be impossible for us to give an account of
‹social evil›, of its origin, its effects, its design—of the limits,
always more and more contracted, within which it is shut up by its
own action (which constitutes what I might almost venture to call
a harmonic dissonance), did we not extend our investigation to the
necessary consequences of Free-Will, to the errors of Self-Interest,
which are constantly corrected, and to the great laws of human
Responsibility and Solidarity.

We have seen the germ of all the ‹social Harmonies› included in these
two principles—«Property», «Liberty». We shall see that all ‹social
Dissonances› are only the development of these two antagonistic
principles—«Spoliation», «Oppression».

The words Property and Liberty, in fact, express only two aspects
of the same idea. In an economical point of view, Liberty is allied
to the act of production—Property to the things produced. And since
Value has its foundation in the human act, we may conclude that
Liberty implies and includes Property. The same relation exists
between Oppression and Spoliation.

Liberty! here at length we have the principle of harmony. Oppression!
here we have the principle of dissonance. The struggle of these two
powers fills the annals of the human race.

And as the design of Oppression is to effect an unjust appropriation,
as it resolves itself into and is summed up in spoliation, it is
Spoliation that must form the subject of our inquiry.

Man comes into this world bound to the yoke of Want, which is pain.

He cannot escape from it but by subjecting himself to the yoke of
Labour, which is pain also.

He has, then, only a choice of pains, and he detests pain.

This is the reason why he looks around him, and if he sees that
his fellow-man has accumulated wealth, he conceives the thought of
appropriating it. Hence comes false property, or Spoliation.

Spoliation! here we have a new element in the economy of society.

From the day when it first made its appearance in the world down to
the day when it shall have completely disappeared, if that day ever
come, this element has affected and will affect profoundly the whole
social mechanism; it will disturb, and to the extent of rendering
them no longer recognisable, those laws of social harmony which we
have endeavoured to discover and describe.

Our duty, then, will not have been accomplished until we have
completed the monography of Spoliation.

It may be imagined that we have here to do with an accidental
and exceptional fact, a transient derangement unworthy of the
investigations of science.

But in truth it is not so. On the contrary, Spoliation, in the
traditions of families, in the history of nations, in the occupations
of individuals, in the physical and intellectual energies of classes,
in the schemes and designs of governments, occupies nearly as
prominent a place as Property itself.

No; Spoliation is not an ephemeral scourge, affecting accidentally
the social mechanism, and which economical science may disregard as

The sentence pronounced upon man in the beginning was, ‹In the sweat
of thy brow shalt thou eat bread›. Whence it appears that effort and
satisfaction are indissolubly united, and that the one must be always
the recompense of the other. But on all sides we find man revolting
against this law, and saying to his brother, Thine be the labour, and
mine the fruit of that labour.

Repair to the hut of the savage hunter, or to the tent of the nomad
shepherd, and what spectacle meets your eyes? The wife, lank, pale,
disfigured, affrighted, prematurely old, bears the whole burden of
the household cares, while the man lounges in idleness. What idea can
we form of family Harmonies? The idea has disappeared, for Strength
here throws upon Feebleness the weight of labour. And how many ages
of civilizing effort will be needed to raise the wife from this state
of frightful degradation?

Spoliation, in its most brutal form, armed with torch and sword,
[p320] fills the annals of the world. Of what names is history made
up? Cyrus, Sesostris, Alexander, Scipio, Cæsar, Attila, Tamerlane,
Mahomet, Pizarro, William the Conqueror—pure Spoliation from
beginning to end in the shape of Conquest. Hers are the laurels, the
monuments, the statues, the triumphal arches, the song of the poet,
the intoxicating enthusiasm of the fair!

The Conqueror soon finds that he can turn his victories to more
profitable account than by putting to death the vanquished; and
Slavery covers the earth. Down to our own times, all over the world
this has been the form in which societies have existed, bringing with
it hates, resistance, internal struggles, and revolutions. And what
is Slavery but organized oppression—organized for the purpose of

But Spoliation not only arms Force against Feebleness—she turns
Intelligence against Credulity. What hard-working people in the
world has escaped being sweated by sacerdotal theocracies, Egyptian
priests, Greek oracles, Roman auguries, Gallic druids, Indian
brahmins, muftis, ulemas, bonzes, monks, ministers, mountebanks,
sorcerers, soothsayers,—spoliators of all garbs and of all
denominations. Assuming this guise, Spoliation places the fulcrum
of her lever in heaven, and sacrilegiously prides herself on the
complicity of the gods! She enslaves not men’s limbs only, but their
souls. She knows how to impress the iron of slavery as well upon the
conscience of Séide[65] as upon the forehead of Spartacus—realizing
what would seem impossible—Mental Slavery.

Mental Slavery! what a frightful association of words! O Liberty! we
have seen thee hunted from country to country, crushed by conquest,
groaning under slavery, insulted in courts, banished from the
schools, laughed at in saloons, misunderstood in workshops, denounced
in churches. It seems thou shouldst find in thought an inviolable
refuge. But if thou art to surrender in this thy last asylum, what
becomes of the hopes of ages, and of what value is human existence?

At length, however, the progressive nature of man causes Spoliation
to develop in the society in which it exists, resistance which
paralyzes its force, and knowledge which unveils its impostures.
But Spoliation does not confess herself conquered for all that; she
only becomes more crafty, and, enveloping herself in the forms of
government and in a system of checks and counterpoises, she gives
birth to Politics, long a prolific resource. We then see her usurping
the liberty of citizens, the better to get hold of their wealth,
[p321] and draining away their wealth to possess herself more
surely of their liberty. Private activity passes into the domain of
public activity. Everything is transacted through functionaries,
and an unintelligent and meddling bureaucracy overspreads the land.
The public treasury becomes a vast reservoir into which labourers
pour their savings, to be immediately distributed among placemen.
Transactions are no longer regulated by free bargaining and
discussion, and the ‹mutuality of services› disappears.

In this state of things the true notion of Property is extinguished,
and every one appeals to the Law to give his services a factitious

We enter then upon the era of privileges. Spoliation, ever
improving in subtilty, fortifies herself in Monopoly, and takes
refuge behind Restrictions. She displaces the natural current of
exchanges, and sends capital into artificial channels, and with
capital, labour—and with labour, population. She gets painfully
produced in the North what is produced with facility in the South;
creates precarious classes and branches of industry; substitutes
for the gratuitous forces of nature the onerous fatigues of labour;
cherishes establishments which can sustain no rivalry, and invokes
against competitors the employment of force; provokes international
jealousies; flatters patriotic arrogance; and invents ingenious
theories, which make auxiliaries of her own dupes. She constantly
renders imminent industrial crises and bankruptcies, shakes to its
foundation all confidence in the future, all faith in liberty, all
consciousness of what is just. At length, when science exposes
her misdeeds, she stirs up against science her own victims, by
proclaiming a Utopia! and ignores not only the science which places
obstacles in her path, but the very idea of any possible science, by
this crowning sentence of scepticism—There are no principles!

Under the pressure of suffering, at length the masses rise, and
overturn everything which is above them. Government, taxes,
legislation, everything is at their mercy, and you imagine perhaps
that there is now an end to the reign of Spoliation;—that the
mutuality of services is about to be established on the only possible
or even imaginable basis—Liberty. Undeceive yourself. The fatal idea,
alas! has permeated the masses, that Property has no other origin, no
other sanction, no other legitimacy, no other foundation, than Law;
and then the masses set to work legislatively to rob one another.
Suffering from the wounds which have been inflicted upon them, they
undertake to cure each of their members by conceding to him the
right to oppress his neighbour, and call [p322] this Solidarity
and Fraternity. “You have produced—I have not produced—we are
‹solidaires›—let us divide.” “You have something—I have nothing—we
are brethren—let us share.” It will be our duty then to examine
the improper use which has been made in these latter days of the
terms association, organization, labour, ‹gratuité du crédit›, etc.
We shall have to subject them to this test—Do they imply Liberty
or Oppression? In other words, are they in unison with the great
Economical laws, or are they disturbances of those laws?

Spoliation is a phenomenon too universal, too persistent, to permit
us to attribute to it a character purely accidental. In this, as in
many other matters, we cannot separate the study of natural laws from
the study of their Perturbations.

But, it may be said, if spoliation enters necessarily into the play
of the social mechanism as a ‹dissonance›, how can you venture to
assert the Harmony of the Economic laws?

I must repeat here what I have said in another place, namely, that
in all which concerns man, a being who is only ‹perfectible› because
he is ‹imperfect›, Harmony consists, not in the absolute absence of
‹evil›, but in its gradual diminution. The social body, like the
human body, is provided with a curative force, a ‹vis medicatrix›,
the laws and infallible power of which it is impossible to study
without again exclaiming, ‹Digitus Dei est hic›. [p323]


If the level of the human race is not continually rising, man is not
a perfectible being.

If the social tendency is not a constant approximation of all men
towards this progressive elevation, the economic laws are not

Now, how can the level of humanity be rising, if each given
quantity of labour does not yield a constantly increasing amount
of enjoyments, a phenomenon which can be explained only by the
transformation of onerous into gratuitous utility.

And, on the other hand, how can this utility, having become
gratuitous, bring men nearer and nearer to a common level, if the
utility has not at the same time itself become common?

Here, then, we discover the essential law of social harmony.

I should have been pleased had the language of Political Economy
furnished me with two words other than the terms ‹production› and
‹consumption›, to designate services which are rendered and received.
These terms savour too much of materiality. There are evidently
services, like those of the clergyman, the professor, the soldier,
the artist, which tend to the furtherance of morality, education,
security, taste, which have nothing in common with mechanical or
manufacturing industry, except this, that the end to be attained is
‹satisfaction› or enjoyment.

The terms I have referred to are those generally employed, and I
have no wish to become a neologist. But let it be understood that by
‹production› I mean what confers utility, and by ‹consumption› the
enjoyment to which that utility gives rise.

Let the protectionist school—which is in reality a phase of
Communism—believe that in employing the terms ‹producer› and
‹consumer› we are not absurd enough to wish to represent the human
race as divided into two distinct classes, the one engaged [p324]
exclusively in the work of producing, the other exclusively in that
of consuming. The naturalist divides the human race into whites
and blacks, or into men and women, and the economist, forsooth, is
not to classify them as producers and consumers, because, as the
protectionist gentlemen sagely remark, ‹producer and consumer make
but one person›!

Why, it is for the very reason that they do make but one that each
individual comes to be considered by the science of Political Economy
in this double capacity. Our business is not to divide the human
race into two classes, but to study man under two very different
aspects. If the protectionists were to forbid grammarians to employ
the pronouns ‹I› and ‹thou›, on the pretext that every man is in
turn ‹the person speaking› and ‹the person spoken to›, it would be
a sufficient answer to say, that although it be perfectly true that
we cannot place all the tongues on one side, and all the ears on the
other, since every man has both ears and a tongue, it by no means
follows that, with reference to each proposition enunciated, the
tongue does not pertain to one man and the ear to another. In the
same way, ‹with reference to every service›, the man who renders it
is quite distinct from the man who receives it. The producer and
consumer are always set opposite each other, so much so that they
have always a controversy.

The very people who object to our studying mankind under the double
aspect of producers and consumers have no difficulty in making this
distinction when they address themselves to legislative assemblies.
We then find them demanding monopoly or freedom of trade, according
as the matter in dispute refers to a commodity which they sell, or a
commodity which they purchase.

Without dwelling longer, then, on this preliminary exception taken by
the protectionists, let us acknowledge that in the social order the
separation of employments causes each man to occupy two situations,
sufficiently distinct to render their action and relations worthy of
our study.

In general, we devote ourselves to some special trade, profession, or
career, and it is not from that particular source that we expect to
derive our satisfactions. We render and receive services; we supply
and demand values; we make purchases and sales; we work for others,
and others work for us; in short, we are ‹producers and consumers›.

According as we present ourselves in the market in one or other of
these capacities, we carry thither a spirit which is very different,
or rather, I should say, very opposite. Suppose, for example, that
corn is the subject of the transaction. The same man has very [p325]
different views when he goes to market as a purchaser, from what
he has when he goes there as a seller. As a purchaser, he desires
abundance; as a seller, scarcity. In either case, these desires
may be traced to the same source—personal interest; but as to sell
or buy, to give or to receive, to supply or to demand, are acts as
opposite as possible, they cannot but give rise, and from the same
motive, to opposite desires.

Antagonistic desires cannot at one and the same time coincide with
the general good.

In another work,[66] I have endeavoured to show that the wishes or
desires of men in their capacity of consumers are those which are
in harmony with the public interest; and it cannot be otherwise.
For seeing that enjoyment is the end and design of labour, and that
the labour is determined only by the obstacle to be overcome, it is
evident that labour is in this sense an ‹evil›, and that everything
should tend to diminish it; that enjoyment is a ‹good›, and that
everything should tend to increase it.

And here presents itself the great, the perpetual, the deplorable
illusion which springs from the erroneous definition of ‹value›, and
from confounding value with ‹utility›.

Value being simply a relation, is of as much greater importance to
each individual as it is of less importance to society at large.

What renders service to the masses is utility alone; and value is not
at all the measure of it.

What renders service to the individual is still only utility. But
value is the measure of it; for, with each determinate value, he
obtains from society the utility of his choice, in the proportion of
that value.

If we regard man as an isolated being, it is as clear as day that
consumption, and not production, is the essential thing; for
consumption to a certain extent implies labour, but labour does not
imply consumption.

The separation of employments has led certain economists to measure
the general prosperity, not by consumption, but by labour. And by
following these economists we have come to this strange subversion of
principle, to favour labour at the expense of its results.

The reasoning has been this: The more difficulties are overcome the
better. Then augment the difficulties to be conquered.

The error of this reasoning is manifest.

No doubt, a certain amount of difficulties being given, it is
fortunate that a certain quantity of labour also given should [p326]
surmount as many of these difficulties as possible. But to diminish
the power of the labourer or augment that of the difficulties, in
order to increase value, is positively monstrous.

An individual member of society is interested in this, that his
services, while preserving even the same degree of utility, should
increase in value. Suppose his desires in this respect to be
realized, it is easy to perceive what will happen. He is better off,
but his brethren are worse off, seeing that the total amount of
utility has not been increased.

We cannot then reason from particulars to generals, and say: Pursue
such measures as in their result will satisfy the desire which all
individuals entertain to see the value of their services augmented.

Value being a relation, we should have accomplished nothing if the
increase in all departments were proportionate to the anterior value;
if it were arbitrary and unequal for different services, we should
have done nothing but introduce injustice into the distribution of

It is of the nature of every bargain or mercantile transaction to
give rise to a ‹debate›. But by using this word debate, shall I not
bring down upon myself all the sentimental schools which are nowadays
so numerous? ‹Debate› implies ‹antagonism›, it will be said. You
admit, then, that antagonism is the natural state of society. Here
again I have to break another lance; for in this country economic
science is so little understood, that one cannot make use of a word
without raising up an opponent.

I have been justly reproached for using the phrase that “Between
the seller and buyer there exists a radical antagonism.” The word
‹antagonism›, when strengthened by the word ‹radical›, implies much
more than I meant to express. It would seem to imply a permanent
opposition of interests, consequently an indestructible social
dissonance; while what I wished to indicate was merely that transient
debate or discussion which precedes every commercial transaction, and
which is inherent in the very idea of a bargain.

As long as, to the regret of the sentimental utopiast, there shall
remain a vestige of liberty in the world, buyers and sellers will
discuss their interests, and higgle about prices; nor will the
social laws cease to be harmonious on that account. Is it possible
to conceive that the man who ‹offers› and the man who ‹demands› a
service should meet each other in the market without having for the
moment a different idea of its ‹value›? Is that to set the world on
fire? Must all commercial transactions, all exchanges, all barter,
all liberty, be banished from this earth, or are we to allow each of
[p327] the contracting parties to defend his position, and urge and
put forward his motives? It is this very free debate or discussion
which gives rise to the equivalence of services and the equity of
transactions. By what other means can our system-makers ensure this
equity which is so desirable? Would they by legislation trammel the
liberty of one of the parties only? Then the one must be in the power
of the other. Would they take away from both the liberty of managing
their own affairs, under the pretext that they ought henceforth
to buy and sell on the principle of fraternity? Let me tell the
Socialists that it is here their absurdity becomes apparent, for,
in the long-run, these interests must be regulated and adjusted. Is
the discussion to be inverted, the purchaser taking the part of the
seller and ‹vice versa›? Such transactions would be very diverting,
we must allow. “Please, sir, give me only 10 francs for this cloth.”
“What say you? I will give you 20 for it.” “But, my good sir, it
is worth nothing—it is out of fashion—it will be worn out in a
fortnight,” says the merchant. “It is of the best quality, and will
last two winters,” replies the customer. “Very well, sir, to please
you, I will add 5 francs—this is all the length that fraternity will
allow me to go.” “It is against my Socialist principles to pay less
than 20 francs, but we must learn to make sacrifices, and I agree.”
Thus this whimsical transaction will just arrive at the ordinary
result, and our system-makers will regret to see accursed liberty
still surviving, although turned upside down and engendering a new

That is not what we want, say the ‹organisateurs›; what we desire
is liberty. Then, what would you be at? for services must still
be exchanged, and conditions adjusted. We expect that the care of
adjusting them should be left to us. I suspected as much. . . . . .

Fraternity! bond of brotherhood, sacred flame kindled by heaven in
man’s soul, how has thy name been abused! In thy name all freedom
has been stifled. In thy name a new despotism, such as the world had
never before seen, has been erected; and we are at length driven to
fear that the very name of fraternity, after being thus sullied, and
having served as the rallying cry of so many incapables, the mask of
so much ambition, and proud contempt of human dignity, should end by
losing altogether its grand and noble significance.

Let us no longer, then, aim at overturning everything, domineering
over everything and everybody, and withdrawing all—men and
things—from the operation of natural laws. Let us leave the world
as God has made it. Let us, poor scribblers, not imagine [p328]
ourselves anything else than observers, more or less exact, of what
is passing around us. Let us no longer render ourselves ridiculous
by pretending to change human nature, as if we were ourselves beyond
humanity and its errors and weaknesses. Let us leave producers and
consumers to take care of their own interests, and to arrange and
adjust these interests by honest and peaceful conventions. Let us
confine ourselves to the observation of relations, and the effects
to which they give rise. This is precisely what I am about to do,
keeping always in view this general law, which I apprehend to be the
law of human society, namely, the gradual equalization of individuals
and of classes, combined with general progress.

A line no more resembles a force or a velocity, than it does a value
or a utility. Mathematicians, nevertheless, make use of diagrams; and
why should not the economist do the same?

We have values which are equal, values the mutual relations of which
are known as the half, the quarter, double, triple, etc. There is
nothing to prevent our representing these differences by lines of
various lengths.

But the same thing does not hold with reference to ‹utility›. General
utility, as we have seen, may be resolved into gratuitous utility
and onerous utility, the former due to the action of nature, the
latter the result of human labour. This last being capable of being
estimated and measured, may be represented by a line of determinate
length; but the other is not susceptible of estimation or of
measurement. No doubt in the production of a measure of wheat, of a
cask of wine, of an ox, of a stone of wool, a ton of coals, a bundle
of faggots, nature does much. But we have no means of measuring this
natural co-operation of forces, most of which are unknown to us, and
which have been in operation since the beginning of time. Nor have we
any interest in doing so. We may represent gratuitous utility, then,
by an indefinite line.

Now, let there be two products, the ‹value› of the one being double
that of the other, they may be represented by these lines:—

 I              A                   B

 I              C         D

 IB, ID, represent the total product, general utility, what satisfies
 man’s wants, absolute wealth. [p329]

 IA, IC, the co-operation of nature, gratuitous utility, the part
 which belongs to the domain of community.

 AB, CD, human service, onerous utility, ‹value›, relative wealth,
 the part which belongs to the domain of property.

I need not say that AB, which you may suppose, if you will, to
represent a house, a piece of furniture, a book, a song sung by Jenny
Lind, a horse, a bale of cloth, a consultation of physicians, etc.,
will exchange for twice CD, and that the two men who effect the
exchange will give into the bargain, and without even being aware of
it, the one, once IA, the other twice IC.

Man is so constituted that his constant endeavour is to diminish the
proportion of effort to result, to substitute the action of nature
for his own action; in a word, to accomplish more with less. This is
the constant aim of his skill, his intelligence, and his energy.

Let us suppose then that John, the producer of IB, discovers a
process by means of which he accomplishes his work with one-half the
labour which it formerly cost him, taking everything into account,
even the construction of the instrument by means of which he avails
himself of the co-operation of nature.

As long as he preserves his secret, we shall have no change in the
figures we have given above; AB and CD will represent the same
values, the same relations; for John alone of all the world being
acquainted with the improved process, he will turn it exclusively to
his own profit and advantage. He will take his ease for half the day,
or else he will make, each day, twice the quantity of IB, and his
labour will be better remunerated. The discovery he has made is for
the good of mankind, but mankind in this case is represented by one

And here let us remark, in passing, how fallacious is the axiom of
the English Economists that ‹value comes from labour›, if thereby
it is intended to represent ‹value› and ‹labour› as proportionate.
Here we have the labour diminished by one-half, and yet no change
in the value. This is what constantly happens, and why? Because the
service is the same. Before as after the discovery, as long as it
is a secret, he who gives or transfers IB renders the same service.
But things will no longer be in the same position when Peter, the
producer of ID, is enabled to say, “You ask me for two hours of my
labour in exchange for one hour of yours; but I have found out your
process, and if you set so high a price on your service, I shall
serve myself.”

Now this day must necessarily come. A process once realized [p330]
is not long a mystery. Then the value of the product IB will fall by
one-half, and we shall have these two figures.

 I                 A              A´         B

 I                                C          D

AA´ represent value annihilated, relative wealth which has
disappeared, property become common, utility formerly onerous, now

For, as regards John, who here represents the producer, he is
reinstated in his former condition. With the same effort which it
cost him formerly to produce IB, he can now produce twice as much. In
order to obtain twice ID, we see him constrained to give twice IB, or
what IB represents, be it furniture, books, houses, or what it may.

Who profits by all this? Clearly Peter, the producer of ID, who here
represents consumers in general, including John himself. If, in fact,
John desires to consume his own product, he profits by the saving of
time represented by the suppression of AA´. As regards Peter, that
is to say as regards consumers in general, they can now purchase IB
with half the expenditure of time, effort, labour, value, compared
with what it would have cost them before the intervention of natural
forces. These forces, then, are gratuitous, and, moreover, common.

Since I have ventured to illustrate my argument by geometrical
figures, perhaps I may be permitted to give another example, and I
shall be happy if by this method—somewhat whimsical, I allow, as
applied to Political Economy—I can render more intelligible to the
reader the phenomena which I wish to describe.

As a producer, or as a consumer, every man may be considered as a
centre from whence radiate the services which he renders, and to
which tend the services which he receives in exchange.

Suppose then that there is placed at A (Fig. 1) a producer, a
copyist, for example, or transcriber of manuscripts, who here
represents all producers, or production in general. He furnishes to
society four manuscripts. If at the present moment the ‹value› of
each of these manuscripts is equal to 15, he renders services equal
to 60, and receives an equal value, variously spread over a multitude
of services. To simplify the demonstration, I suppose only [p331]
four of them, proceeding from four points of the circumference BCDE.

 [Illustration: «Fig. 1.»
 Value produced   = 60
 Value received   = 60
 Utility produced =  4]

 [Illustration: «Fig. 2.»
 Value produced   = 60
 Value received   = 60
 Utility produced =  6]

This man, we now suppose, discovers the art of printing. He can
thenceforth produce in 40 hours what formerly would have cost him
60. Admit that competition forces him to reduce proportionally the
price of his books, and that in place of being worth 15, they are now
worth only 10. But then in place of four our workman can now produce
six books. On the other hand, the fund of remuneration proceeding
from the circumference, amounting to 60, has not changed. There is
remuneration for six books, worth 10 each, just as there was formerly
remuneration for four manuscripts, each worth 15.

This, let me remark briefly, is what is always lost sight of in
discussing the question of machinery, of free-trade, and of progress
in general. Men see the labour set free and rendered disposable by
the expeditive process, and they become alarmed. They do not see that
a corresponding proportion of remuneration is rendered disposable
also by the same circumstance.

The new transactions we have supposed are represented by Fig. 2,
where we see radiate from the centre A, a total value of 60, spread
over six books, in place of four manuscripts. From the circumference
still proceeds a value, equal to 60, necessary now as formerly, to
make up the balance.

Who then has gained by the change? As regards ‹value›, no one. As
regards real wealth, positive satisfactions, the countless body
of consumers ranged round the circumference. Each of them can now
purchase a book with an amount of labour reduced by one-third. But
the consumers are the human race. For observe that [p332] A himself,
if he gains nothing in his capacity of producer,—if he is obliged,
as formerly, to perform 60 hours’ labour in order to obtain the old
remuneration,—nevertheless, in as far as he is a consumer of books,
gains exactly as others do. Like them, if he desires to read, he can
procure this enjoyment with an economy of labour equal to one-third.

But if, in his character of producer, he finds himself at length
deprived of the profit of his own inventions, by competition, where
in that case is his compensation?

His compensation consists, ‹1st›, in this, that as long as he was
able to preserve his secret, he continued to sell 15 of what he
produced at the cost of 10; ‹2dly›, In this, that he obtains books
for his own use at a smaller cost, and thus participates in the
advantages he has procured for society. But, ‹3dly›, His compensation
consists above all in this, that just in the same way as he has been
forced to impart to his fellow-men the benefit of his own progress,
he benefits by the progress of his fellow-men.

[Illustration: «Fig. 3.»]

Just as the progress accomplished by A has profited B, C, D, E, the
progress realized by B, C, D, E has profited A. By turns A finds
himself at the centre and at the circumference of universal industry,
for he is by turns producer and consumer. If B, for example, is a
cotton-spinner who has introduced improved machinery, the profit will
redound to A as well as to C, D. If C is a mariner who has replaced
the oar by the sail, the economy of labour will profit B, A, E.

In short, the whole mechanism reposes on this law:—

Progress benefits the producer, as such, only during the time
necessary to recompense his skill. It soon produces a fall of value,
and leaves to the first imitators a fair, but small, recompense. At
length value becomes proportioned to the diminished labour, and the
whole saving accrues to society at large.

Thus all profit by the progress of each, and each profits by the
progress of all. The principle, ‹each for all, all for each›, put
forward by the Socialists, and which they would have us receive as a
novelty, the germ of which is to be discovered in their organizations
founded on oppression and constraint, God himself has given us; and
He has educed it from liberty. [p333]

God, I say, has given us this principle, and He has not established
it in a model community, presided over by M. Considérant, or in
a ‹Phalanstère› of six hundred ‹harmoniens›, or in a tentative
‹Icarie›,[67] on condition that a few fanatics should submit
themselves to the arbitrary power of a monomaniac, and that the
faithless should pay for the true believers. No, God has established
the principle ‹each for all and all for each› generally, universally,
by a marvellous mechanism, in which justice, liberty, utility, and
sociability are mingled and reconciled in such a degree as ought to
discourage these manufacturers of social organizations.

Observe that this great law of ‹each for all and all for each› is
much more universal than my demonstration supposes it. Words are
dull and heavy, and the pen still more so. The writer is obliged
to exhibit successively, and one after the other, with despairing
slowness, phenomena which recommend themselves to our admiration only
in the aggregate.

Thus, I have just spoken of ‹inventions›. You might conclude that
this was the only case in which progress, once attained, escapes from
the producer, and goes to enlarge the common fund of mankind. It is
not so. It is a general law that every advantage of whatever kind,
proceeding from local situation, climate, or any other liberality
of nature, slips rapidly from the hands of the person who first
discovered and appropriated it—not on that account to be lost, but to
go to feed the vast reservoir from which the enjoyments of mankind
are derived. One condition alone is attached, which is, that labour
and transactions should be free. To run counter to liberty is to run
counter to the designs of Providence; it is to suspend the operation
of God’s law, and limit progress in a double sense.

What I have just said with reference to the transfer of advantages
holds equally true of evils and disadvantages. Nothing remains
permanently with the producer—neither advantages nor inconveniences.
Both tend to disseminate themselves through society at large.

We have just seen with what avidity the producer seeks to avail
himself of whatever may facilitate his work; and we have seen,
too, in how short a time the profit arising from inventions and
discoveries slips from the inventor’s hands. It seems as if that
profit were not in the hands of a superior intelligence, but of a
blind and obedient instrument of general progress.

With the same ardour he shuns all that can shackle his action; and
this is a happy thing for the human race, for it is to mankind
[p334] at large that in the long-run obstacles are prejudicial.
Suppose, for example, that A, the producer of books, is subjected to
a heavy tax. He must add the amount of that tax to the price of his
books. It will enter into the value of the books as a constituent
part, the effect of which will be that B, C, D, E must give more
labour in exchange for the same satisfaction. Their compensation will
consist in the purpose to which Government applies the tax. If the
use to which it is applied is beneficial, they may gain instead of
losing by the arrangement. If it is employed to oppress them, they
will suffer in a double sense. But as far as A is concerned, he is
relieved of the tax, although he pays it in the first instance.

I do not mean to say that the producer does not frequently suffer
from obstacles of various kinds, and from taxes among others.
Sometimes he suffers most seriously from the operation of taxes,
and it is precisely on that account that taxes tend to shift their
incidence, and to fall ultimately on the masses.

Thus, in France, wine has been subjected to a multitude of exactions.
And then a system has been introduced which restricts its sale abroad.

It is curious to observe what skips and bounds such burdens make
in passing from the producer to the consumer. No sooner has the
tax or restriction begun to operate than the producer endeavours
to indemnify himself. But the ‹demand› of the consumers, as well
as the supply of wine, remaining the same, the price cannot
rise. The producer gets no more for his wine after, than he did
before, the imposition of the tax. And as before the tax he
received no more than an ordinary and adequate price, determined
by services freely exchanged, he finds himself a loser by the
whole amount of the tax. To cause the price to rise, he is
obliged to diminish the quantity of wine produced.[68] . . . . .
 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The consumer, then,—the public,—is relatively to the loss or profit
which affects in the first instance certain classes of producers what
the earth is to electricity—the great common reservoir. All proceeds
from it, and after some detours, longer or shorter as the case may
be, and after having given rise to certain phenomena more or less
varied, all returns to it again.

       *       *       *       *       *

We have just shown that the economic effects only glance upon the
producer, so to speak, on their way to the consumer, and that
consequently all great and important questions of this kind must
[p335] be regarded from the consumer’s point of view if we wish to
make ourselves masters of their general and permanent consequences.

This subordination of the interests of the producer to that of the
consumer, which we have deduced from the consideration of ‹utility›,
is fully confirmed when we advert to the consideration of ‹morality›.

Responsibility, in fact, always rests with the initiative. Now where
is the initiative? In ‹demand›.

‹Demand› (which implies the means of remuneration) determines all—the
direction of capital and of labour, the distribution of population,
the morality of professions, etc. ‹Demand› answers to Desire, while
‹Supply› answers to Effort. Desire is reasonable or unreasonable,
moral or immoral. Effort, which is only an effect, is morally neuter,
or has only a reflected morality.

Demand or Consumption says to the producer, “Make that for me.”
The producer obeys. And this would be evident in every case if the
producer always and everywhere waited for the demand.

But in practice this is not the case.

Is it exchange which has led to the division of labour, or the
division of labour which has given rise to exchange? This is a subtle
and thorny question. Let us say that man makes exchanges, because,
being intelligent and sociable, he comprehends that this is one means
of increasing the proportion of result to effort. That which results
exclusively from the division of labour and from foresight, is that
a man does not wait for a specific request to work for another.
Experience teaches him tacitly that demand exists.

He makes the effort beforehand which is to satisfy the demand, and
this gives rise to trades and professions. Beforehand he makes shoes,
hats, etc., or prepares himself to sing, to teach, to plead, to
fight, etc. But is it really the supply which precedes the demand,
and determines it?

No. It is because there is a sufficient certainty that these
different services will be demanded that men prepare to render them,
although they do not always know precisely from what quarter the
demand may come. And the proof of it is, that the relation between
these different services is sufficiently well known, that their value
has been so widely tested that one may devote himself with some
security to a particular manufacture, or embrace a particular career.

The impulse of demand is then pre-existent, seeing that one may
calculate the intensity of it with so much precision. [p336]

Moreover, when a man betakes himself to a particular trade or
profession, and sets himself to produce commodities, about what
is he solicitous? Is it about the utility of the article which
he manufactures, or its results, good or bad, moral or immoral?
Not at all; he thinks only of its ‹value›. It is the demander who
looks to the ‹utility›. Utility answers to his want, his desire,
his caprice. Value, on the contrary, has relation only to the
effort made, to the service transferred. It is only when, by means
of exchange, the producer in his turn becomes the demander that
utility is looked to. When I resolve to manufacture hats rather than
shoes, I do not ask myself the question, whether men have a greater
interest in protecting their heads or their heels. No, that concerns
the demander, and determines the demand. The demand in its turn
determines the value, or the degree of esteem in which the public
holds the service. Value, in short, determines the effort or the

Hence result some very remarkable consequences in a moral point of
view. Two nations may be equally furnished with values, that is to
say, with relative wealth (see chap. vi), and very unequally provided
with real utilities, or absolute wealth; and this happens when one
of them forms desires which are more unreasonable than those of the
other—when the one considers its real wants, and the other creates
for itself wants which are factitious or immoral.

       *       *       *       *       *

Among one people a taste for education may predominate; among another
a taste for good living. In such circumstances we render a service to
the first when we have something to teach them; to the other, when we
please their palate.

Now, services are remunerated according to the degree of importance
we attach to them. If we do not exchange, if we render these services
to ourselves, what should determine us if not the nature and
intensity of our desires?

In one of the countries we have supposed, professors and teachers
will abound; in the other, cooks.

In both, the services exchanged may be equal in the aggregate, and
may consequently represent equal values, or equal relative wealth,
but not the same absolute wealth. In other words, the one employs its
labour well, and the other employs it ill.

And as regards satisfactions the result will be this, that the one
people will have much instruction, and the other good dinners.
The ultimate consequences of this diversity of tastes will have
considerable influence not only upon real, but upon relative wealth;
[p337] for education may develop new means of rendering services,
which good dinners never can.

We remark among nations a prodigious diversity of tastes, arising
from their antecedents, their character, their opinions, their
vanity, etc.

No doubt there are some wants so imperious (hunger and thirst, for
example) that we regard them as determinate quantities. And yet it
is not uncommon to see a man scrimp himself of food in order to have
good clothes, while another never thinks of his dress until his
appetite is satisfied. The same thing holds of nations.

But these imperious wants once satisfied, everything else depends
greatly on the will. It becomes an affair of taste, and in that
region morality and good sense have much influence.

The intensity of the various national desires determines always the
quantity of labour which each people subtracts from the aggregate of
its efforts in order to satisfy each of its desires. An Englishman
must, above all things, be well fed. For this reason he devotes
an enormous amount of his labour to the production of food, and
if he produces any other commodities, it is with the intention of
exchanging them abroad for alimentary substances. The quantity
of corn, meat, butter, milk, sugar, etc., consumed in England
is frightful. A Frenchman desires to be amused. He delights in
what pleases his eye, and in frequent changes. His labours are in
accordance with his tastes. Hence we have in France multitudes of
singers, mountebanks, milliners, elegant shops, coffee-rooms, etc.
In China, the natives dream away life agreeably under the influence
of opium, and this is the reason why so great an amount of their
national labour is devoted to procuring this precious narcotic,
either by direct production, or indirectly by means of exchange. In
Spain, where the pomp of religious worship is carried to so great a
height, the exertions of the people are bestowed on the decoration of
churches, etc.

I shall not go the length of asserting that there is no immorality
in services which pander to immoral and depraved desires. But the
immoral principle is obviously in the desire itself.

That would be beyond doubt were man living in a state of isolation;
and it is equally true as regards man in society, for society is only
individuality enlarged.

Who then would think of blaming our labourers in the south of France
for producing brandy? They satisfy a ‹demand›. They dig their
vineyards, dress their vines, gather and distil the grapes, without
concerning themselves about the use which will be made of the
product. It is for the man who seeks the enjoyment to [p338] consider
whether it is proper, moral, rational, or productive of good. The
responsibility rests with him. The business of the world could be
conducted on no other footing. Is the tailor to tell his customer
that he cannot make him a coat of the fashion he wants because it is
extravagant, or because it prevents his breathing freely, etc., etc.

Then what concern is it of our poor vine-dressers if rich diners-out
in London indulge too freely in claret? Or can we seriously accuse
the English of raising opium in India with the deliberate intention
of poisoning the Chinese?

A frivolous people requires frivolous manufactures, just as a serious
people requires industry of a more serious kind. If the human race is
to be improved, it must be by the improved morality of the consumer,
not of the producer.

This is the design of religion in addressing the rich—the great
‹consumers›—so seriously on their immense responsibility. From
another point of view, and employing a different language, Political
Economy arrives at the same conclusion, when she affirms that we
cannot check the ‹supply› of any commodity which is in ‹demand›; that
as regards the producer, the commodity is simply a ‹value›, a sort
of current coin which represents nothing either good or evil, whilst
it is in the intention of the consumer that ‹utility›, or moral or
immoral enjoyment, is to be discovered; consequently, that it is
incumbent on the man who manifests the desire or makes the demand for
the commodity to weigh the consequences, whether useful or hurtful,
and to answer before God and man for the good or bad direction which
he impresses upon industry.

Thus from whatever point of view we regard the subject, we see
clearly that consumption is the great end of Political Economy;
and that good and evil, morality and immorality, harmonies and
dissonances, all come to centre in the consumer, for he represents
mankind at large. [p339]


Modern moralists who oppose the maxim, ‹Chacun pour tous, tous pour
chacun›, to the old proverb, ‹Chacun pour soi, chacun chez soi›, have
formed a very incomplete, and for that reason a very false, and, I
would add, a very melancholy idea of Society.

Let us eliminate, in the first place, from these two celebrated
sayings what is superfluous. ‹All for each› is a redundancy,
introduced from love of antithesis, for it is expressly included in
‹each for all›. As regards the saying ‹chacun chez soi›, the idea has
no direct relation with the others; but, as it is of great importance
in Political Economy, we shall make it hereafter the subject of

It remains for us to consider the assumed opposition between
these two members of the adages we have quoted, namely, ‹each
for all›—‹each for himself›. The one, it is said, expresses the
sympathetic principle, the other the individualist or selfish
principle. The first unites, the second divides.

Now, if we refer exclusively to the motive which determines the
effort, the opposition is incontestable. But I maintain that if we
consider the aggregate of human efforts in their results, the case
is different. Examine Society, as it actually exists, obeying, as
regards services which are capable of remuneration, the individualist
or selfish principle; and you will be at once convinced that every
man in working ‹for himself› is in fact working ‹for all›. This is
beyond doubt. If the reader of these lines exercises a profession or
trade, I entreat him for a moment to turn his regards upon himself;
and I would ask him whether all his labours have not the satisfaction
of others for their object, and, on the other hand, whether it is not
to the exertions of others that he himself owes all his satisfactions.

It is evident that they who assert that ‹each for himself› and ‹each›
[p340] ‹for all› are contradictory, conceive that an incompatibility
exists between individualism and association. They think that ‹each
for himself› implies isolation, or a tendency to isolation; that
personal interest divides men, in place of uniting them, and that
this principle tends to the ‹chacun chez soi›, that is to say, to the
absence of all social relations.

In taking this view, I repeat, they form a false, because incomplete
idea of society. Even when moved only by personal interest, men
seek to draw nearer each other, to combine their efforts, to
unite their forces, to work for one another, to render reciprocal
services, to ‹associate›. It would not be correct to say that they
act in this way in spite of self-interest; they do so in obedience
to self-interest. They ‹associate› because they find their account
in it. If they did not find it for their advantage, they would not
associate. Individualism, then, or a regard to personal interest,
performs the work which the sentimentalists of our day would confide
to Fraternity, to self-sacrifice, or some other motive opposed to
self-love. And this just establishes the conclusion at which we never
fail to arrive—that Providence has provided for the social state
much better than the men can who call themselves its prophets. For
of two things one; either union is injurious to individuality, or
it is advantageous to it. If it injures it, what are the Socialist
gentlemen to do, how can they manage, and what rational motive
can they have to bring about a state of things which is hurtful
to everybody? If, on the contrary, union is advantageous, it will
be brought about by the action of personal interest, which is the
strongest, the most permanent, the most uniform, the most universal,
of all motives, let men say what they will.

Just look at how the thing actually works in practice. A ‹squatter›
goes away to clear a field in the ‹Far West›. Not a day passes
without his experiencing the difficulties which isolation creates.
A second squatter now makes his way to the desert. Where does he
pitch his tent? Does he retire ‹naturally› to a distance from the
first? No; he draws near to him ‹naturally›—and why? Because he knows
all the advantages that men derive, with equal exertion, from the
very circumstance of proximity. He knows that on various occasions
they can accommodate each other by lending and borrowing tools and
instruments, by uniting their action, by conquering difficulties
insurmountable by individual exertion, by creating reciprocally a
market for produce, by interchanging their views and opinions, and
by providing for their common safety. A third, a fourth, a fifth
squatter penetrates into [p341] the desert, and is invariably
attracted by the smoke of the first settlements. Other people will
then step in with larger capital, knowing that they will find hands
there ready to be set to work. A colony is formed. They change
somewhat the mode of culture; they form a path to the highway, by
which the mail passes; they import and export; construct a church,
a school-house, etc., etc. In a word, the power of the colonists is
augmented by the very fact of their proximity, and to such a degree
as to exceed, to an incalculable extent, the sum of their isolated
and individual forces; and this is the motive which has attracted
them towards each other.

But it may be said that ‹every man for himself› is a frigid maxim,
which all the reasoning and paradoxes in the world cannot render
otherwise than repugnant; that it smells of egotism a mile off, and
that egotism is more than an evil in society, being itself the source
of most other evils.

Now, listen a little, if you please.

If the maxim ‹every man for himself› is understood in this sense,
that it is to regulate all our thoughts, acts, and relations, that we
are to find it at the root of all our family and domestic affections,
as fathers, sons, brothers, husbands, friends, citizens, or rather
that it is to repress and to extinguish these affections, then I
admit that it is frightful, horrible, and such, that were there
one man upon the earth heartless enough to make it the rule of his
conduct, that man dared not even proclaim it in theory.

But will the Socialists, in the teeth of fact and experience, always
refuse to admit that there are two orders of human relations—one
dependent on the sympathetic principle, and which we leave to
the domain of morals,—another springing from self-interest, and
regulating transactions between men who know nothing of each other,
and owe each other nothing but justice,—transactions regulated by
voluntary covenants freely adjusted? Covenants of this last species
are precisely those which come within the domain of Political
Economy. It is, in truth, no more possible to base commercial
transactions on the principle of sympathy, than it is to base family
and friendly relations on self-interest. To the Socialists I shall
never cease to address this remonstrance: You wish to mix up two
things which cannot be confounded. If you were fools enough to wish
to confound them, you have not the power to do it. The blacksmith,
the carpenter, and the labourer, who exhaust their strength in rude
avocations, may be excellent fathers, admirable sons; they may have
the moral sense thoroughly developed, and carry in their breasts
hearts of large and expansive sympathy. [p342] In spite of all
that, you will never persuade them to labour from morning to night
with the sweat of their brow, and impose upon themselves the hardest
privations, upon a mere principle of devotion to their fellow-men.
Your sentimental lectures on this subject are, and always will be,
powerless. If, unfortunately, they could mislead a few operatives,
they would just make so many dupes. Let the merchant set to work
to sell his wares on the principle of Fraternity, and I venture to
predict that, in less than a month, he will see himself and his
children reduced to beggary.

Providence has done well, then, in giving to the social state very
different guarantees. Taking man as we find him,—sensibility and
individuality, benevolence and self-love being inseparable,—we
cannot hope, we cannot desire to see the motive of personal
interest universally eradicated—nor can we understand how it could
be. And yet nothing short of this would be necessary in order to
restore the equilibrium of human relations; for if you break this
mainspring of action only in certain chosen spirits, you create two
classes,—scoundrels whom you thus tempt to make victims of their
fellow-men—and the virtuous, for whom the part of victims is reserved.

Seeing, then, that as regards labour and exchanges, the principle
‹each for himself› must inevitably have the predominance as a motive
of action, the marvellous and admirable thing is, that the Author of
all should have made use of that principle in order to realize, in
the social order, the maxim of the advocates of Fraternity, ‹each for
all›. In His skilful hand the obstacle has become the instrument.
The general interest has been intrusted to personal interest, and
the one has become infallible because the other is indestructible.
To me it would seem that, in presence of these wondrous results,
the constructors of artificial societies might, without any excess
of humility, acknowledge that, as regards organization, the Divine
Architect has far surpassed them.

Remark, too, that in the natural order of society, the principle
of ‹each for all›, based upon the principle of ‹each for himself›,
is much more complete, much more absolute, much more personal,
than it would be in the Socialist and Communist point of view. Not
only do we work for all, but we cannot realize a single step of
progress without its being profitable to the Community at large. (See
chapter x., and ‹ante›, chapter xi.) The order of things has been so
marvellously arranged, that when we have invented a new process, or
discovered the liberality of nature in any department—some new source
of fertility in the soil, or some new mode of [p343] action in one
of the laws of the physical world,—the profit is ours temporarily,
transiently, so long as to prove just as a recompense, and useful as
an encouragement,—after which the advantage escapes from our grasp,
in spite of all our efforts to retain it. From individual it becomes
social, and falls for ever into the domain of the common and the
gratuitous. And while we thus impart the fruits of our progress to
our fellow-men, we ourselves become participators in the progress
which other men have achieved.

In short, by the rule ‹each for himself›, individual efforts,
reinforced and invigorated, act in the direction of ‹each for all›,
and every partial step of progress brings a thousand times more to
society, in gratuitous utility, than it has brought to its inventor
in direct profits.

With the maxim ‹each for all› no one would act exclusively ‹for
himself›. What producer would take it into his head to double his
labour in order to add a thirty-millionth part to his wages?

It may be said, then, why refute the Socialist aphorism? What
harm can it do? Undoubtedly it will not introduce into workshops,
counting-rooms, warehouses, nor establish in fairs and markets, the
principle of self-sacrifice. But then it will either tend to nothing,
and then we may let it sleep in peace, or it will bend somewhat
that stiffness of the egotistical principle, which, excluding all
sympathy, has scarcely right to claim any.

What is false is always dangerous. It is always a dangerous thing
to represent as detestable and pernicious an eternal and universal
principle which God has evidently destined to the conservation and
advancement of the human race; a principle, I allow, as far as motive
is concerned, which does not come home to our heart, but which, when
viewed with reference to its results, astonishes and satisfies the
mind; a principle, moreover, which leaves the field perfectly free to
the action of those more elevated motives which God has implanted in
the heart of man.

But, then, what happens? The Socialist public adopts only one-half
the Socialist maxim—the last half, ‹all for each›. They continue as
before to work ‹each for himself›, but they require, over and above,
that all should work for them.

It must be so. When dreamers desired to change the grand mainspring
of human exertion, by substituting fraternity for individualism,
they found it necessary to invent a hypocritical contradiction. They
set themselves to call out to the masses,—“Stifle self-love in your
hearts and follow us; you will be rewarded for it [p344] by unbounded
wealth and enjoyment.” When men try to parody the Gospel, they
should come to a Gospel conclusion. Self-denial implies sacrifice
and pain—self-devotion means, “Take the lowest seat, be poor, and
suffer voluntarily.” But under pretence of abnegation to promise
enjoyment; to exhibit wealth and prosperity behind the pretended
sacrifice; to combat a passion which they brand with the name of
egotism by addressing themselves to the grossest and most material
tendencies;—this is not only to render homage to the indestructible
vitality of the principle they desire to overthrow, but to exalt it
to the highest point while declaiming against it; it is to double the
forces of the enemy, instead of conquering him; to substitute unjust
covetousness for legitimate individualism; and, in spite of all the
artifice of a mystical jargon, to excite the grossest sensualism. Let
avarice answer this appeal.[69]

And is that not the position in which we now are? What is the
universal cry among all ranks and classes? ‹All for each.› In
pronouncing the word ‹each›, we are thinking of ourselves, and what
we ask is to have a share which we have not merited, in the fruits
of other men’s labour. In other words, we systematize spoliation. No
doubt, spoliation, simple and naked, is so unjust that we repudiate
it; but, by dint of the maxim ‹all for each›, we allay the scruples
of conscience. We impose upon others the ‹duty› of working for us,
and we arrogate to ourselves the ‹right› to enjoy the fruits of
other men’s labour. We summon the State, the law, to impose the
pretended ‹duty›, to protect the pretended ‹right›, and we arrive at
the whimsical result of robbing one another in the sacred name of
Fraternity. We live at other men’s expense, and attribute heroism
to the sacrifice. What an odd, strange thing the human mind is! and
how subtle is covetousness! It is not enough that each of us should
endeavour to increase his share at the expense of his fellows, it is
not enough that we should desire to profit by labour that we have
not performed; we persuade ourselves that in acting thus we are
displaying a sublime example of self-sacrifice. We almost go the
length of comparing ourselves to the primitive Christians, and yet we
blind ourselves so far as not to see that the sacrifices which make
us weep in fond admiration [p345] of our own virtue, are sacrifices
which we do not make, but which, on the contrary, we exact.[70]

It is worth observing the manner in which this mystification is

Steal! Oh fy, that is mean—besides it leads to the hulks, for the law
forbids it. But if the law authorized it, and lent its aid, would not
that be very convenient? . . . . What a happy thought! . . . .

No time is lost in soliciting from the law some trifling privilege,
a small monopoly, and as it may cost some pains to protect it, the
State is asked to take it under its charge. The State and the law
come to an understanding to realize exactly that which it was their
business to prevent or to punish. By degrees the taste for monopolies
gains ground. No class but desires a monopoly. ‹All for each›, they
cry; we desire also to appear as philanthropists, and show that we
understand solidarity.

It happens that the privileged classes, in thus robbing each other,
lose at least as much by the exactions to which they are subject, as
they gain by the contributions which they levy. Besides, the great
body of the working classes, to whom no monopolies can be accorded,
suffer from them until they can endure it no longer. They rise up,
and cover the streets with barricades and blood; and then we must
come to a reckoning with them.

What is their demand? Do they require the abolition of the abuses,
privileges, monopolies, and restrictions under which they suffer?
Not at all. They also are imbued with philanthropy. They have
been told that the celebrated apophthegm ‹all for each› is the
solution of the social problem. They have had it demonstrated to
them over and over again that monopoly (which in reality is only a
theft) is nevertheless quite moral if sanctioned by law. Then they
demand . . . . What? . . . . Monopolies! They also summon the State
to supply them with education, employment, credit, assistance, at the
expense of the people. What a strange illusion! and how long will it
last? We can very well conceive how all the higher classes, beginning
with the highest, can come to demand favours and privileges. Below
them there is a great popular mass upon whom the burden falls. But
that the people, when once conquerors, should take it into their
heads to enter into the privileged class, and create monopolies for
themselves at their own expense; that they should enlarge the area of
abuses in order to live upon them; that they should not [p346] see
that there is nothing below them to support those acts of injustice:
this is one of the most astonishing phenomena of our age, or of any

What has been the consequence? By pursuing this course, Society has
been brought to the verge of shipwreck. Men became alarmed, and with
reason. The people soon lost their power, and the old spread of
abuses has been provisionally resumed.

The lesson, however, has not been quite lost upon the higher
classes. They find that it is necessary to do justice to the
working class. They ardently desire to succeed in this, not only
because their own security depends upon it, but impelled, as we
must acknowledge, by a spirit of equity. Of this I am thoroughly
convinced, that the wealthier classes desire nothing more than to
discover the solution of the great problem. I am satisfied that if
we were to ask the greater part of our wealthy citizens to give
up a considerable portion of their fortune in order to secure
the future happiness and contentment of the people, they would
cheerfully make the sacrifice. They anxiously seek the means of
coming (according to the consecrated phrase) ‹to the assistance of
the labouring classes›. But for that end on what plan have they
fallen! . . Still the communism of monopolies; a mitigated communism,
however, and which they hope to subject to prudential regulation.
That is all—they go no farther. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . [p347]


If, with an increase in the value of land, a corresponding
augmentation took place in the value of the products of the soil, I
could understand the opposition which the theory I have explained in
the present work (chap. ix.) has encountered. It might be argued,
“that in proportion as civilisation is developed the condition of the
labourer becomes worse in comparison with that of the proprietor.
This may be an inevitable necessity, but assuredly it is not a law of

Happily it is not so. In general those circumstances which cause an
augmentation of the value of land diminish at the same time the price
of landed produce. . . . . Let me explain this by an example.

Suppose a field worth £100 situated ten leagues from a town. A road
is made which passes near this field, and opens up a market for its
produce. The field immediately becomes worth £150. The proprietor
having by this means acquired facilities for improvement and for a
more varied culture, then increases the value of the land, and it
comes to be worth £200.

The value of the field is now doubled. Let us examine this added
value—both as regards the question of justice and as regards the
utility which accrues, not to the proprietor, but to the consumers of
the neighbouring town.

As far as concerns the increase of value arising from ameliorations
which the proprietor has made at his own cost, there can be no
question. The capital he has expended follows the law of all capital.

I venture to say the same thing of the capital expended in [p348]
forming the road. The operation is more circuitous, but the result is
the same.

In point of fact, the proprietor has contributed to the public
expenditure in proportion to the value of his field. For many
years he contributed to works of general utility executed in more
remote parts of the country, and at length a road has been made in
a direction which is profitable to him. The gross amount of taxes
which he has paid may be compared to shares taken in a Government
enterprise, and the annual augmentation of rent which he derives from
the formation of this new road may be compared to ‹dividends› upon
these shares.

Will it be said that a proprietor may pay taxes for ever, without
receiving anything in return? . . . . But this just comes back to
the case we have already put. The amelioration, although effected by
the complex and somewhat questionable process of taxation, may be
considered as made by the proprietor at his own cost, in proportion
to the partial advantage he derives from it.

I have put the case of a road. I might have cited any other instance
of Government intervention. Security, for example, contributes to
give value to land, like capital, or labour. But who pays for this
security? The proprietor, the capitalist, the labourer.

If the State expends its revenue judiciously, the value expended
will reappear and be replaced, in some form or other, in the hands
of the proprietor, the capitalist, or the labourer. In the case of
the proprietor, it must take the form of an increase in the value
of his land. If, on the other hand, the State expends its revenue
injudiciously, it is a misfortune. The tax is lost; and that is the
taxpayer’s look-out. In that case, there is no augmentation of the
value of the land, but that is no fault of the proprietor.

But for the produce of the soil thus augmented in value, by the
action of Government and by individual industry, do the consumers of
the neighbouring town pay an enhanced price? In other words, does the
interest of the £100 become a charge on each quarter of wheat which
the field produces? If we paid formerly £15 for it, shall we now be
obliged to pay more than £15? That is an interesting question, seeing
that justice and the universal harmony of interests depend on its

I answer boldly, ‹No›.

No doubt the proprietor will now get £5 more (I assume the rate of
interest to be 5 per cent.); but he gets this addition at the expense
of nobody. On the contrary, the purchaser will derive a still greater
profit. [p349]

The field we have supposed having been formerly at a distance from
the market, was made to produce little, and on account of the
difficulty of transit what was sent to market sold at a high price.
Now, production is stimulated, and transport made cheaper, a greater
quantity of wheat comes to market, and comes there at less cost, and
is sold cheaper. Whilst yielding the proprietor a total profit of £5,
its purchaser, as we have already said, may realize a still greater

In short, an economy of power has been realized. For whose benefit?
For the benefit of both of the contracting parties. According to what
law is this gain distributed? According to the law which we have
described in the case of capital, seeing that this augmentation of
value is itself capital.

When capital increases, the portion falling to the proprietor or
capitalist increases in absolute value and diminishes in relative
value; while the portion falling to the labourer (or consumer)
increases both in absolute and relative value. . . . .

Observe how this takes place. In proportion as civilisation
advances, lands which are situated near populous centres rise in
value. Productions of an inferior kind in such places give way to
productions of a superior description. First of all, pasture gives
way to cereal crops, then cereal crops give way to market gardening.
Products are brought from a greater distance at less cost, so that
(and this in point of fact is incontestable) meat, bread, vegetables,
even flowers, are sold in such places cheaper than in neighbourhoods
less advanced, although manual labour costs more. . . . . . .


 . . . . ‹Services are exchanged for services.› Frequently services
prepared beforehand are exchanged for present or future services.

The value of services is determined not by the labour they exact or
have exacted, but by the labour which they save.

Now, in point of fact, human labour goes on constantly improving in

From these premises we may deduce a phenomenon which is very
important in social economy, which is, that ‹in general› anterior
labour loses in exchange with present labour.

Twenty years ago I manufactured a commodity which cost me [p350] 100
days’ labour. I propose an exchange, and I say to the purchaser, Give
me in exchange a thing which cost you also 100 days’ labour. Probably
he will be in a situation to make this reply, That great progress has
been made in twenty years. What you ask 100 days’ labour for can be
made now in 70 days. I don’t measure your service by the time it has
cost you, but by the service it renders me. That service is equal
only to 70 days’ labour, for in that time I can render it to myself,
or find one who will render it to me.

The consequence is that the value of capital goes on continually
deteriorating, and that anterior labour and capital are not so much
favoured as superficial economists believe.

Apart from tear and wear, there is no machine a little old but loses
value, for the single reason that better machines of the same kind
are made nowadays.

The same thing holds in regard to land. There are few soils, to bring
which into their present state of culture and fertility, has not
cost more labour than would be necessary now with our more effective
modern appliances.

This is what happens in the ‹usual› case, but not ‹necessarily› so.

Anterior labour may, at the present day, render greater services
than it did formerly. This is rare, but it sometimes happens. For
example, I store up wine which cost me twenty days’ labour to
produce. Had I sold it immediately, my labour would have yielded me
a certain remuneration. I have preserved my wine; it has improved;
the succeeding vintage has failed; in short, the price has risen, and
my remuneration is greater. Why? Because I render a greater amount
of service—my customers would have greater difficulty in procuring
themselves such wine than I myself experienced—I satisfy a want which
has become greater, more felt, etc. . . . .

This is a consideration which must always be looked to.

There are a thousand of us. Each has his piece of land, and clears
it. Some time elapses, and we sell it. Now it so happens that out of
1000 there are 998 who never receive as many days’ present labour
in exchange for their land as it cost them formerly; and this
just because the anterior labour, which was of a ruder and less
efficient description, does not render as great an amount of service
comparatively as present labour. But there are two of the proprietors
whose labour has been more intelligent, or, if you will, more
successful. When they bring their land to market, they find that it
is capable of rendering service which cannot be rivalled. Every man
says to himself, It would cost me a great [p351] deal to render this
service to myself, therefore I must pay well for it, for I am quite
certain that it would cost me more to obtain what I am in quest of by
my own exertions.

This is just the case of the celebrated vineyard, the Clos-Vougeot,
and it is the same case as that of the man who finds a diamond,
or possesses a fine voice, or other personal advantages or
peculiarities, etc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

       *       *       *       *       *

In my neighbourhood there is much uncultivated land. A stranger
asks, Why not cultivate this field? Because the soil is bad. But
here, alongside of it, you have another of the same quality which is
cultivated. To this objection the native has no answer.

Was he wrong in the first answer he gave, namely, ‹It is bad›?

No. The reason which induces him not to clear new fields is not
that they are bad, for there are excellent fields which also remain
uncultivated. His reason is that it would cost him more to bring this
field into the same state of cultivation as the adjoining field which
is cultivated, than to buy the latter.

Now, to any thinking man this proves incontestably that the field has
no intrinsic value.

(Illustrate this idea by considering it in various points of
view.)[73] [p352]


 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
 . . . . . . . .


 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
 . . . . . . . .


Men are always anxiously on the outlook for something fixed. We
meet sometimes with restless and unquiet spirits who have a craving
for risk and adventure. But, taking mankind in the gross, we may
safely affirm that what they desire is to be tranquil as regards
their future, to know what they have to count upon, and be enabled
to make their arrangements beforehand. To be convinced how precious
fixity is in their eyes, we have only to observe how very anxious
men are to obtain for themselves Government employments. Nor is this
on account of the honour which such places confer, for there are
many of these situations where the work is not of a very elevated
description, consisting in watching and vexing their fellow-citizens,
and prying into their affairs. Such places, however, are not the
less sought after—and why? Because they confer an assured position.
Who has not heard a father speak [p353] thus of his son: “I am
soliciting for him a place as a candidate or supernumerary in such
or such a Government office. It is a pity, no doubt, that so costly
an education is required—an education which might have ensured his
success in a more brilliant career. As a public functionary he will
not get rich, but he is certain to live. He will always have bread.
Four or five years hence he will begin to receive a salary of thirty
pounds a year, which will rise by degrees to a hundred and twenty or
a hundred and sixty. After thirty years’ service he will be entitled
to retire. His livelihood then is secured, and he must learn to live
upon a small income,” etc.

Fixity, then, has for most men an irresistible attraction.

And yet, when we consider the nature of man, and of his occupations,
fixity would seem to be incompatible with them.

Go back in imagination to the origin of human society, and you
will have difficulty in comprehending how men can ever succeed in
obtaining from the community a fixed, assured, and constant quantity
of the means of subsistence. Yet this is one of those phenomena which
strike us less because we have them constantly before our eyes. We
have public functionaries who receive fixed salaries; proprietors
who can count beforehand on their revenues; men of fortune who can
calculate on their dividends; workmen who earn every day the same
wages. Apart from the consideration of money, which is only employed
to facilitate exchanges and estimates of value, we perceive that what
is fixed is the quantity of the means of subsistence, the value of
the satisfactions received by the various classes of workmen. Now, I
maintain that this fixity, which by degrees extends to all men and
all departments of industry, is a miracle of civilisation, and a
marvellous effect of that social state which, in our day, is so madly

For, let us go back to a primitive social state, and suppose a nation
of hunters, or fishers, or shepherds, or warriors, or agriculturists,
to be told, “In proportion as you advance on the road of progress,
you will know more and more beforehand what amount of enjoyment will
be secured to you for each year,” they would not believe us. They
would reply, “That must always depend on something which eludes
calculation,—the inconstancy of the seasons, etc.” The truth is, they
could form no idea of the ingenious efforts by means of which men
have succeeded in establishing a sort of mutual assurance between all
places and all times.

Now, this mutual assurance against all the risks and chances of the
future is entirely dependent on a branch of human science which
I shall denominate ‹experimental statistics›. This department
[p354] of science, depending as it does upon experience, admits of
indefinite progress, and consequently the fixity of which we have
spoken also admits of indefinite progress. That fixity is favoured
by two circumstances which are permanent in their operation: ‹1st›,
Men desire it. ‹2dly›, They acquire every day greater facilities for
realizing it.

Before showing how this fixity is established in human transactions,
in which it is little thought of, let us first of all see how it
operates in a transaction of which it is the special object. The
reader will, in this way, comprehend what I mean by experimental

A number of men have each a house. One of these houses happens to
be burnt down and its owner is ruined. All the rest immediately
take alarm, and each says to himself, “The same thing may happen to
me.” We cannot be surprised, then, that these proprietors should
unite and divide the risk of such accidents as much as possible, by
establishing a mutual assurance against fire. The bargain is very
simple—here is its formula: “If the house of one of us is burnt down,
the rest will club to make good the loss to the man who is burnt out.”

By this means each proprietor acquires a double security; in the
first instance he must take a small share in all losses of this
nature; but then he is assured that he will never himself be obliged
to suffer the whole loss arising from any such misfortune.

In reality, and if we extend the calculation over a great number of
years, we see that the proprietor makes, so to speak, a bargain with
himself. He sets aside a sufficient fund to repair the misfortunes
which may afterwards befall him.

This is ‹association›. Indeed it is to arrangements of this nature
that the Socialists give exclusively the name of ‹association›.
Whenever speculation intervenes, association, as they think,
disappears. It is improved and perfected, as I think, and as we shall
afterwards see.

What has led the proprietors to associate, to enter into this mutual
assurance, is the love of fixity, of security. They prefer known
risks to risks which are unknown, a multitude of small risks to one
great one.

Their design, however, has not yet been completely attained, and
there is still much uncertainty in their position. Each of them
may say, “If accidents are multiplied, my ‹quota› will become
insupportable. In any case, I should like to know beforehand, and
to have insured in the same way my furniture, my merchandise, etc.”

It would seem that such inconveniences belong to the nature of
things, and that it is impossible for men to get rid of them. After
each step of progress we are tempted to think that all has been
accomplished. How, indeed, can we elude this ‹uncertainty›, which
depends upon accidents still unknown to us?

But mutual assurance has developed in the social state an
experimental knowledge, namely, the average annual proportion between
the values lost by accident and the values assured.

Having made all the necessary calculations, a company or an
individual says to the proprietors, “In entering into a mutual
assurance, you have wished to purchase freedom from anxiety, and the
indeterminate quota which you reserve annually to cover accidents is
the price which you pay for this immunity. But if you do not know
what this price is beforehand, your tranquillity is never perfect. I
now propose to you, therefore, another expedient. In consideration of
a ‹fixed annual premium› which you shall pay me, I take upon myself
all your chances of accidents. I will insure you all, and here is the
capital which will guarantee the fulfilment of my engagement.”

The proprietors accept the proposal, even although this fixed premium
should amount to somewhat more than the sum which their mutual
assurance cost them; for their object is not so much to save a few
shillings as to obtain perfect repose and freedom from anxiety.

At this point the Socialists pretend that the principle of
association is destroyed. For my part, I think it is improved, and on
the road to other improvements to which I can see no limits.

But, say the Socialists, the assured have no longer any mutual tie.
They no longer see each other and come to a common understanding.
Intermediary parasites have come among them, and the proof that the
proprietors are now paying more than is required to cover accidents
is to be found in the fact, that the insurers obtain large profits.

It is not difficult to answer this objection.

First of all, association exists, but under another form. The premium
contributed by the assured is still the fund which is to make good
the losses. The assured have found the means of remaining in the
association without taking part in its business. This is evidently
an advantage to each of them, seeing that the design they have in
view is nevertheless attained; and the possibility of remaining
in the association whilst they have their [p356] independence of
movement and free use of their faculties restored to them, is just
the characteristic of social progress.

As regards the profit obtained by the intermediate party, it is
easily explained and justified. The assured remain associated for the
purpose of repairing accidents and making good what is lost. But a
company has stepped in which offers them the following advantages:
‹1st›, It takes away whatever of uncertainty remained in the position
of the assured; ‹2dly›, It frees them from all care and trouble in
connexion with accidents. These are ‹services›, and the rule is,
service for service. The proof that the intervention of the company
is a service possessed of value is to be found in the fact that it
is freely accepted and paid for. The Socialists only make themselves
ridiculous when they declaim against such middlemen. Do they intrude
themselves into commercial transactions by force? Have they any other
means of introducing themselves and their services than by saying to
the parties with whom they deal, “I will cost you some trouble, but I
will save you more?” How, then, can they be called parasites or even

I affirm, moreover, that association thus transformed is on the
direct road of progress in every sense.

In fact, companies which expect to realize profits proportioned to
the extent of their business, promote insurances. To aid them in this
they have agents in all quarters, they establish credits, they devise
a thousand combinations to increase the number of the assured—in
other words, of the ‹associated› parties. They undertake a multitude
of risks which were unknown to the primitive mutual insurance
associations. In short, association is extended progressively to a
greater number of men and things. In proportion as this development
takes place, the companies find they can lower their prices; they are
even forced by competition to do so. And here we again get a glimpse
of the great law, that profit soon escapes from the hands of the
producer to settle in those of the consumer.

Nor is this all: companies insure each other by reassurances, so
that, with a view to providing for losses, which is the principal
object in view, a thousand associations scattered over England,
France, Germany, and America, are melted into one grand and unique
association. And what is the result? If a house is burnt down at
Bordeaux, Paris, or elsewhere, the proprietors of the whole world,
English, Belgians, Germans, Spaniards, club together and repair the

This is an example of the degree of power, universality, and
perfection, which may be reached by means of free and voluntary
[p357] association. But to attain this they must be left free to
manage their own business. Now, what happened when the Socialists,
those great partisans of association, were in power? Their chief
business was to threaten association in every form, and principally
association for insurance. And why? Just because, in order to render
itself more universal, it adopted those expedients which left each of
its members in a state of independence. How little these unfortunate
Socialists understand the social mechanism! They would bring us
back to the rude and primitive forms which association assumed when
society was in its infancy, and they would suppress all progress
under the pretext that it has departed from these forms.

We shall see, by-and-by, that from the same prejudices, the same
ignorance, arise their incessant declamations against ‹interest›. The
‹interest› and ‹wages› are ‹fixed›, and, consequently, improved forms
of remuneration for the use of labour and capital.

The wages-system [‹salariat›] has been peculiarly the butt of the
Socialists. They have almost gone the length of representing it as a
modified, and not greatly modified, system of slavery and thraldom.
At all events, they see in it only a bargain which is one-sided and
leonine, founded on liberty merely in appearance, an oppression of
the weak by the strong, or the tyranny of capital over labour.

Continually wrangling about new institutions to be founded, the
Socialists display in their common hatred of existing institutions,
and especially of the system of remuneration by wages, a striking
unanimity. If they cannot attain unity as to the new social
organization to be established, they are at least marvellously united
in calumniating, decrying, running down, hating, and making hated,
everything which actually exists. I have assigned the reason for this

Much unfortunately takes place which is beyond the domain of
philosophical discussion; and the Socialist propaganda, seconded by
an ignorant and cowardly press, which, without avowing Socialism,
seeks for popularity in fashionable declamations, has succeeded in
instilling hatred of the wages-system into the minds of the very
people who live by wages. Workmen have become disgusted with this
form of remuneration. It appears to them unjust, humiliating, and
odious. They think it brands them with the mark of servitude. They
desire to participate on another principle in the distribution of
wealth. Hence they have fallen passionately in love with the most
extravagant Utopias. They had but one [p358] step to take, and
they have taken it. When the revolution of February broke out,
the grand object of the working classes was to get rid of wages.
Upon the means of accomplishing this they consulted their oracles;
but when these oracles did not remain mute, they followed the
usual mode by giving obscure utterances, in which the word which
predominated was ‹association›, as if ‹association› and ‹wages›
were incompatible. Then the workmen would try all the forms of this
liberty-giving association; and, to impart to it greater attraction,
they were pleased to invest it with all the charms of Solidarity,
and attributed to it all the merits of Fraternity. For the moment,
one would have been led to believe that the human heart itself had
been about to undergo a grand transformation, and to throw off the
yoke of self-interest, in order to give place to the principle of
sympathy. By a singular contradiction, they hoped from association to
reap at once all the glory of self-sacrifice, and material profits
of hitherto unheard-of amount. They fell down before the statue of
Fortune, prayed, and decreed to themselves the glory of martyrdom. It
seemed as if these workmen, thus misled, and on the point of being
seduced into a career of injustice, felt it necessary to shut their
eyes to their true position, to glorify the methods of spoliation
which had been taught them by their apostles, and place them covered
with a veil in the sanctuary of a new revelation. Never, perhaps,
had so many and such dangerous errors, so many and such gross
contradictions, found their way before into the human brain.

Let us inquire, then, what wages really are, and consider their
origin, form, and effects. Let us trace the subject to its
foundation, and make sure whether, in the development of humanity,
wages constitute retrogression or progress—whether in receiving wages
there be anything humiliating or degrading, or which can in any
degree be allied with slavery.

Services are exchanged for services, labour, efforts, pains, cares,
natural or acquired ability,—these are what we give and receive.
What we confer on one another is satisfaction or enjoyment. What
determines the exchange is the common advantage, and its measure
is the free appreciation of reciprocal services. The various
combinations to which human transactions give rise have necessitated
a voluminous economic vocabulary; but the words, Profits, Interest,
Wages, although indicating shades of difference, do not change the
nature and foundation of things. We have still the ‹do ut des›, or
rather the ‹facio ut facias›, which constitutes the basis of the
whole economic evolution.[77] [p359]

The class which lives by wages forms no exception to this law.
Examine the subject attentively. Do these men render services?
Unquestionably they do. Are services rendered to them? Undoubtedly
they are. Are these services exchanged freely and voluntarily? Do
we perceive in this kind of transaction any appearance of fraud or
violence? It is at this point, perhaps, that the grievances of the
workman begin. They don’t go the length of pretending that they
are deprived of their liberty, but they assert that this liberty
is merely nominal and a mockery, because the man whose necessities
force the determination is not really free. It remains for us to
inquire, then, whether the defect of liberty thus understood does not
belong to the situation of the workman rather than to the mode of his

When one man enters into the service of another, his remuneration may
consist in a part of the work produced, or in a determinate wage. In
either case he must bargain for this part of the product—for it may
be greater or less,—or for this wage—for it may be higher or lower.
If the man is in a state of absolute destitution, if he cannot wait,
if he acts on the spur of urgent necessity, he must submit, and
cannot get rid of the other’s exactions. But you will observe that it
is not the form of remuneration which gives rise to this dependence.
Whether he runs the risk of the enterprise by stipulating for a share
of the product, or bargains for a fixed remuneration whether the
other gain or lose, it is his precarious situation which gives him an
inferior position in the discussion which precedes the arrangement.
Those innovators who have represented association to the working
classes as an infallible remedy have misled them, and are themselves
mistaken. They can convince themselves of this by observing
attentively the circumstances in cases where the indigent workman
receives part of the product in place of wages. There are assuredly
no men in the country worse off than fishermen or vine-dressers,
although they have the satisfaction of enjoying all the benefits
which the Socialists denominate, exclusively, ‹association›.

But before proceeding to inquire into the circumstances which
influence the quota of wages, I must define, or rather describe, the
nature of the transaction.

Men have a tendency—which is natural, and, therefore, advantageous,
moral, universal, indestructible—to desire security with reference to
the means of subsistence, to seek fixity, and avoid uncertainty.

However, in the early stages of society uncertainty reigns supreme,
and it has frequently astonished me that Political [p360] Economy
has failed to mark the great and happy efforts which have been made
to restrain this uncertainty within narrower and narrower limits.

Take the case of a tribe of hunters, or a nomad people, or a colony
newly founded,—is there a single man who can say with certainty what
to-morrow’s labour will be worth? Would there not even seem to be an
incompatibility between the two ideas, and that nothing can be of a
more causal nature than the result of labour, whether applied to the
chase, to fishing, or to agriculture?

It will be difficult, then, to find, in an infant society, anything
which resembles stipends, salaries, wages, revenues, rents, interest,
assurance, etc., which are all things which have been invented in
order to give more and more fixity to personal situations, to get
quit, to a greater and greater degree, of that feeling so painful to
men of uncertainty with reference to the means of subsistence.

The progress which has been made in this direction is indeed
admirable, although custom has so familiarized us with this
phenomenon that we fail to attend to it. In fact, since the results
of labour, and consequently the enjoyments of mankind, may be so
profoundly modified by events, by unforeseen circumstances, by the
caprices of nature, the uncertainty of the seasons, and accidents of
every kind, we may ask how it comes to pass that so great a number of
men find themselves set free for a time, and some of them for life,
by means of rents, salaries, and retiring pensions, from this species
of ‹eventuality›, of uncertainty, which would seem to be essentially
part of our nature.

The efficient cause, the motive power of this beautiful evolution of
the human race, is the tendency of all men towards competency and
material prosperity, of which Fixity is so essential a part. The
means consist in the substitution of a fixed unconditional bargain
for one dependent merely on appreciable chances, or the gradual
abandonment of that primitive form of association which consists in
committing all the parties concerned irrevocably to all the risks
and chances of the enterprise; in other words, the improvement of
association. It is singular, at least, that all our great modern
reformers exhibit association to us as destroyed by the very element
which improves and perfects it.

In order that men should consent to take upon themselves,
unconditionally, risks which fall naturally on others, it is
necessary that a species of knowledge, which I have called
‹experimental statistics›, should have made some progress; for
experience alone can place them in a situation to appreciate these
risks, at least [p361] approximately, and consequently to appreciate
the ‹value of the service› rendered in securing them against such
risks. This is the reason why the bargains and transactions of rude
and ignorant nations admit no stipulations of this nature, and hence,
as I have said, uncertainty exercises over such people uncontrolled
power. Were a savage, grown old, and having laid up some stock of
game, to take a young hunter into his service, he would not give him
fixed wages, but a share in the produce of the chase. How, indeed,
could either of them, from the known infer the unknown? The teachings
of past experience do not permit them to insure the future beforehand.

In times of barbarism and inexperience, men, no doubt, ‹associate›,
for we have demonstrated that otherwise they could not exist; but
association can assume among them only that primitive and elementary
form which the Socialists represent as the only one which can secure
our future safety.

When two men have long worked on together, encountering equal risks,
there at length comes a time when, from experience, they can estimate
and appreciate the value of these risks, and one of them consents to
take the entire risk upon his own shoulders, in consideration of a
fixed recompense.

This arrangement is undoubtedly a step of progress, and it is shown
to be so by the very fact that it has been effected freely and
voluntarily by the two parties, who would not have entered into it
had it not been felt to be for their mutual benefit. It is easy to
see in what the benefit consists. The one party gains by obtaining
the exclusive management of an undertaking of which he takes all the
risks upon himself; the other by obtaining that fixity of position
which is so much desired. And society at large must be benefited by
having an enterprise, formerly subjected to two minds and two wills,
henceforth conducted with unity of views and unity of action.

But although association is modified in this way, it by no means
follows that it is dissolved. The co-operation of the two men is
continued, although the mode of dividing the product of their
enterprise has been changed. Association is not vitiated by an
innovation voluntarily agreed to, and which satisfies all parties.

The co-operation of anterior labour and present labour is always, or
almost always, required in order to realize new means of satisfaction
and enjoyment. Capital and labour, in uniting in a common
undertaking, are, in the first instance, forced to undertake each its
share of the risk; and this continues until the value of the risk can
be experimentally estimated. Then two tendencies, which are [p362]
alike natural to the human heart, manifest themselves—I mean the
tendencies towards ‹unity of direction› and ‹fixity of situation›.
Capital then says to labour: “Experience has taught us that your
eventual profit amounts, on an average, to so much. If you wish it, I
will ensure you this amount, and take charge of the operation, taking
upon myself the chances of profit or loss.”

Labour may possibly answer: “This proposal suits me very well.
Sometimes I earned twenty pounds a year; sometimes I earn sixty.
These fluctuations are very inconvenient, for they hinder me from
regulating uniformly my own expenditure and that of my family. It is
an advantage to me to get rid of this uncertainty, and to receive a
fixed recompense of forty pounds.”

By this arrangement the terms of the contract will be changed. They
will continue to ‹unite their efforts›, and to ‹share the proceeds›,
and consequently the association will not be dissolved; but it will
be modified in this way, that the capitalist will take all the risks
with the compensation of all the extraordinary profits, whilst the
labourer will be secured the advantages of fixity. Such is the origin
of Wages.

The agreement may take place in the reverse way. Frequently the
person who undertakes a commercial enterprise says to the capitalist:
“Hitherto we have worked together, sharing the risks. Now that we are
in a situation to appreciate these risks, I propose to make a fixed
bargain. You have invested a thousand pounds in the undertaking,
for which one year you receive twenty-five pounds, another year
seventy-five. If you agree to it, I will give you fifty pounds, or 5
per cent. per annum, and free you from all risk, on condition that I
have henceforth the entire management of the concern.”

The capitalist will probably answer: “Since, with great and
troublesome fluctuations, I receive, on an average, only fifty pounds
per annum, I should much prefer to have that sum regularly assured to
me. I shall, therefore, allow my capital to remain in the concern,
but I am to be exempted from all risk. My activity and intelligence
will now be free to engage in some other undertaking.”

This is an advantage in a social, as well as an individual point of

We see that men are constantly in quest of a fixed and stable
position, and that there is an incessant effort to diminish and
circumscribe on all sides the element of uncertainty. Where two
men participate in a common risk, this risk, having a substantive
existence, cannot be annihilated; but the tendency is for one of
[p363] them to take that risk upon himself. If the capitalist
undertakes the risk, the labourer’s remuneration is fixed under the
name of ‹wages›. If the labourer runs the chances of profit or loss,
then the remuneration of the capitalist is fixed under the name of

And as capital is nothing else than human services, we may say that
‹capital› and ‹labour› are two words which in reality express one
and the same idea; and, consequently, the same thing may be said of
‹interest› and ‹wages›. Thus, where false science never fails to find
antagonism, true science ever finds identity.

Considered, then, with reference to their origin, nature, and form,
‹wages› have in them nothing degrading or humiliating any more
than ‹interest› has. Both constitute the return for present and
anterior labour derived from the results of a common enterprise.
Only it almost always happens that one of the two associates agrees
to take upon himself the risk. If it be the present labour which
claims a uniform remuneration, the chances of profit are given up in
consideration of wages. If it be the anterior labour which claims a
fixed return, the capitalist gives up his eventual chance of profits
for a determinate rate of ‹interest›.

For my own part, I am convinced that this new stipulation which is
ingrafted on the primitive form of association, far from destroying
it, improves and perfects it. I have no doubt of this, when I
consider that such a stipulation takes its rise from a felt want,
from the natural desire of all men for stability; and, moreover, that
it satisfies all parties, without injury, but, on the contrary, by
serving the interests of the public.

Modern reformers, who, under pretence of having invented association,
desire to bring it back to its primitive and rudimentary forms, ought
to tell us in what respect these ‹fixed bargains› are opposed to
justice or equity, in what respect they are prejudicial to progress,
and on what principle they wish to interdict them. They ought also to
tell us why, if such stipulations bear the stamp of barbarism, they
are constantly and more and more mixed up with that association which
is represented as the perfection of human society.

In my opinion, such stipulations are among the most marvellous
manifestations, as they are among the most powerful springs, of
progress. They are at once the perfection and reward of a past and
very ancient civilisation, and the starting-point of a new and
unlimited career of future civilisation. Had society adhered to
that primitive form of association which saddles all the parties
interested with a share of the risks of an enterprise, ninety-nine
[p364] out of every hundred of such enterprises never would have
been undertaken. The man who at the present day participates in a
score of enterprises would have been tied down for ever to one. Unity
of design and of will would have been wanting in all commercial
operations; and mankind would never have tasted that precious good
which is perhaps the source of genius—stability.

The ‹wages-system› [‹salariat›], then, takes its rise in a natural
and indestructible tendency. Observe, however, that it satisfies
men’s desires but imperfectly. It renders the remuneration of workmen
more uniform, more equal, and brings it nearer to an average; but
there is one thing which it cannot do, and which their admission to a
participation in profits and risks could not accomplish, namely, to
ensure them employment.

And here I cannot help remarking how powerful the feeling is to which
I have made reference throughout the whole of this chapter, and the
very existence of which our modern reformers do not seem even to
suspect,—I mean men’s aversion to uncertainty. It is exactly this
very feeling which has made it so easy for Socialist declaimers to
create such a hatred on the part of the working classes to receive
their remuneration in the shape of wages.

We can conceive three phases in the condition of the labourer: the
predominance of uncertainty; the predominance of stability; and an
intermediate state, from which uncertainty is partly excluded, but
not sufficiently so to give place to fixity and stability.

What the working classes do not sufficiently understand is, that the
association which the Socialists preach up to them is the infancy
of society, the period when men are groping their way, the time of
quick transitions and fluctuations, of alternations of plethora
and atrophy—in a word, the period when absolute uncertainty reigns
supreme. The wages-system, on the contrary, forms the intermediate
link between uncertainty and fixity.

Now, the working classes, being far as yet from feeling themselves in
a state of stability, place their hopes—like all men ill at ease—on
a certain change of position. This is the reason why it has been an
easy task for Socialism to impose upon them by the use of the grand
term ‹association›. The working classes fancy themselves pushed
forward when they are in reality falling behind.

Yes, these unfortunate people are falling back to the primitive and
rudimentary stage of the social movement; for what is the association
now so loudly preached up to them but the subjection of all to all
risks and contingencies? This is inevitable in times of ignorance,
since fixed bargains presuppose some progress at [p365] least in
experimental statistics. But the doctrine now inculcated is nothing
else than a pure and simple revival of the reign of uncertainty.

The workmen who were enthusiasts for association when they knew it
only in theory, were enchanted when the revolution of February seemed
to render possible its practical adoption.

At that period many employers of labour, either infected with the
universal infatuation, or giving way to their fears, offered to
substitute a participation in the returns for payment by wages.
But the workmen did not much fancy this solidarity of risk. They
understood very well what was offered them; for in case the
enterprise turned out a losing concern, they would have had no
remuneration of any kind,—which to them was death.

We saw then what would not have been to the credit of our working
classes, had the blame not lain with the pretended reformers, in
whom, unhappily, they placed confidence. The working classes demanded
a sort of bastard association in which the rate of wages was to be
maintained, and in which they were to be entitled to a share of the
profits without being subject to any of the losses.

The workmen would probably never of themselves have thought of
putting forward such pretensions. There is in human nature a fund of
good sense and a feeling of justice to which such barefaced iniquity
is repugnant. To corrupt man’s heart, you must begin by depraving his

This is what the leaders of the Socialist school did not fail to do;
and with this fact before us I am frequently asked whether their
intentions were not perverse. I am always inclined to respect men’s
motives; but it is exceedingly difficult, under such circumstances,
to exculpate the Socialist chiefs.

After having, by the unjust and persevering declamations with which
their books are filled, irritated the working classes against their
employers, after having persuaded them that they were in a state of
war, in which everything is fair against the enemy, they enveloped
the ultimatum of the workmen in scientific subtleties, and even in
clouds of mysticism. They figured an abstract being called Society,
which owed to each of its members a ‹minimum›, that is to say,
an assured means of subsistence. “You have, then, a right,” they
told the workmen, “to demand a fixed wage.” In this way they began
by satisfying the natural desire of men for stability. Then they
proceeded to teach them that, independently of wages, the workmen
should have a share in the profits; and when asked whether he was
also to bear his share of the losses, [p366] their answer was, that
in virtue of State intervention and the guarantee of the taxpayer,
they had invented a system of universal industry, protected from all
loss. By this means they removed all the remaining scruples of the
unfortunate workmen; and when the revolution of February broke out we
saw them, as I have said, disposed to make three stipulations:—

 ‹1st›, Continuance of wages;
 ‹2d›, Participation in profits;
 ‹3d›, Immunity from losses.

It may be said, perhaps, that these stipulations were neither so
unjust nor so impossible as they appeared, seeing that they are
introduced in many enterprises, having reference to newspapers,
railways, etc.

I answer that there is something truly puerile in allowing oneself
to be duped by high-sounding names applied to very trivial things.
A little candour will at once convince us that this participation
in profits, which some concerns allow to their workmen receiving
wages, does not constitute association, nor merit that title, nor is
it a great revolution introduced into the relations of two classes
of society. It is only an ingenious and useful encouragement given
to workmen receiving wages, under a form which is not exactly new,
although it has been represented as an adhesion to Socialism.
Employers who, in adopting this custom, devote a tenth, a twentieth,
or a hundredth part of their profits, when they have any, to this
‹largesse› bestowed on their workmen, may make a great noise about
it, and proclaim themselves the generous renovators of the social
order; but it is really unworthy of occupying more of our time at
present, and I return to my argument.

The system of payment by wages, then, was a step of progress. In the
first instance, anterior labour and present labour were associated
together with common risks, in common enterprises, the circle of
which, in such circumstances, must have been very limited. If society
had not discovered other combinations, no important work could ever
have been undertaken. Men would have remained hunters and fishers,
and there might have been perhaps some rude attempts at agriculture.

Afterwards, in obedience to the double feeling which prompts us to
seek stability, and, at the same time, retain the direction of those
operations of which we must encounter the risks, the two associates,
without putting an end to the association, seek to supersede the
joint hazard by a fixed bargain, and agree that one of them should
give the other a fixed remuneration, and take [p367] upon himself
the whole risk, along with the exclusive direction of the enterprise.
When this fixity applies to the anterior labour, or capital, it is
called ‹interest›; when it applies to the present labour, it is
called ‹wages›.

But, as I have already said, wages serve only imperfectly to
constitute a state of stability for a certain class of men, or of
security in regard to the means of subsistence. It is one step, and
a very marked one, towards the realization of this benefit, and so
difficult that at first sight we should have thought it impossible;
but it does not effect its entire realization.

And it is perhaps worthy of remark in passing, that fixity of
situation, stability, resembles in one respect all the great results
of which mankind are in pursuit. We are always approximating to such
results, but we never fully attain them. For the very reason that
stability is a good, a benefit, we must always be making efforts more
and more to extend its domain; but it is not in our nature ever to
obtain complete possession of it. We may even go the length of saying
that to obtain such possession would not be desirable for man in his
present state. Absolute good of whatever kind would put an end to all
desire, all effort, all combination, all thought, all foresight, all
virtue. Perfection excludes the notion of perfectibility.

The working classes having then, with the lapse of time and the
progress of civilisation, reached the improved system of payment by
wages, have not stopped short at that point, or relaxed their efforts
to realize stability.

No doubt wages come in with certainty at the conclusion of the
day’s work; but when circumstances—as, for example, an industrial
crisis, or a protracted illness—have interrupted work, the wages are
interrupted also. What, then, is the workman to do? Are he and his
wife and children to be deprived of food?

He has but one resource, and that is, to save, while employed, the
means of supplying his wants in sickness and old age.

But, in the individual case, who can estimate beforehand the
comparative length of time in which he has to assist, or be assisted?

What cannot be done in the individual case may be found more
practicable with reference to the masses in virtue of ‹the law of
averages›. The tribute paid by the workman while employed to provide
for his support in periods of stoppage answers the purpose much
more effectually, and with much more irregularity and certainty,
when it is centralized by association, than when it is abandoned to
individual chances. [p368]

Hence the origin of ‹Friendly Societies›—admirable institutions which
benevolence had given birth to long before the name of Socialism
was ever heard of. It would be difficult to say who was their
inventor. The true inventor, I believe, was the felt want of some
such institutions—the desire of men for something fixed, the restless
active instinct which leads us to remove the obstacles which mankind
encounter in their progress towards stability.

I have myself seen friendly societies rise up spontaneously, more
than five-and-twenty years ago, among the most destitute labourers
and artisans of the poorest villages in the department of the Landes.

The obvious design of these societies is to equalize enjoyments, and
to spread and distribute over all periods of life the wages earned in
days of health and prosperity. In all localities in which they exist,
these societies have conferred immense benefits. The contributors
are sustained by a feeling of security, a feeling the most precious
and consolatory which can enter the heart of man in his pilgrimage
here below. Moreover, they feel their reciprocal dependence and their
usefulness to each other. They see at what point the prosperity or
adversity of each individual, or of each profession, becomes the
prosperity or adversity of all.

They meet together on certain occasions for religious worship,
as provided by their rules; and then they are called to exercise
over each other that vigilant surveillance so proper to inspire
self-respect, which is the first and most difficult step in the march
of civilisation.

What has hitherto ensured the success of these societies,—a success
which has been slow, indeed, like everything which concerns the
masses,—is liberty: of this there can be no doubt.

The natural danger which they encounter is the removal of the sense
of responsibility. It is never without creating great dangers and
great difficulties for the future, that we set an individual free
from the consequences of his own acts.[78]

Were all our citizens to say, “We will club together to assist
those who cannot work, or who cannot find employment,” we should
fear to see developed to a dangerous extent man’s natural tendency
to idleness; we should fear that the laborious would soon become
the dupes of the slothful. Mutual assistance, then, implies mutual
surveillance, without which the common fund would soon be exhausted.
This reciprocal surveillance is for such association a necessary
guarantee of existence—a security for each contributor that he shall
not be made to play the part of dupe; [p369] and it constitutes
besides the true morality of the institution. By this means we see
drunkenness and debauchery gradually disappear; for what right
could that man have to assistance from the common fund who has
brought disease and want of employment upon himself by his own
vicious habits? It is this surveillance which re-establishes that
responsibility which the association might otherwise tend to enfeeble.

Now, in order that this surveillance should operate beneficially,
friendly societies must be free and select, and have the control of
their own rules, as well as of their own funds. It is necessary also
that they should be able to suit their rules to the requirements of
each locality.

Suppose Government to interfere, it is easy to see the part which
it would play. Its first business would be to lay hold of all these
funds, under the pretence of centralizing them; and to give a colour
to the proceeding, it would promise to enlarge the funds from
resources taken from the taxpayer. “Is it not,” it would be said,
“very natural and very just that the State should contribute to so
great, so generous, so philanthropic, so humane a work?” This is the
first injustice—to introduce the element of force into the society,
and, along with the contributions, to obtrude citizens who have no
right to a share of the fund. And then, under pretence of unity, of
solidarity, the State would set itself to fuse all these associations
into one, subject to the same rules.

But, I would ask, what will become of the morality of the institution
when its funds are augmented by taxation; when no one except a
Government official has an interest to defend the common stock; when
every one, instead of feeling it his duty to prevent abuses, will
take pleasure in favouring them; when all mutual surveillance has
ceased; and when to feign disease would only be to play off a good
trick on the Government? The Government, to do it justice, is well
disposed to defend itself; but being no longer able to avail itself
of private action, it must necessarily substitute official action. It
will name examiners, controllers, inspectors. Countless formalities
will be interposed between want and assistance. In short, what was
originally an admirable institution will be transformed into a mere
department of police.

The State will, in the first instance, perceive only the advantage
of swelling the mob of its creatures, of multiplying the places at
its disposal, and of extending its patronage and electioneering
influence. It will not remark that in arrogating to itself a new
function, it has assumed a new responsibility,—a responsibility
[p370] which I venture to designate as fearful. For what must the
immediate consequence be? The working classes will no longer regard
the common fund as a property which they administer and keep up, and
the limits of which are the limits of their rights. They will soon
accustom themselves to regard assistance in cases of sickness or
want of employment, not as proceeding from a limited fund prepared
by their own foresight, but as a debt due to them by society. Its
resources will appear to them unbounded, and they will never be
contented with their share. The State will find itself under the
necessity of demanding constant additions to the budget. Encountering
opposition in that, the Government will find itself involved in
inextricable difficulties. Abuses will go on increasing, which, year
after year, they will shrink from reforming, until an explosion
comes at last. And then it will be found that we have to deal with
a population which can no longer act for itself, which expects
everything from a minister or a prefect, even subsistence, and whose
ideas are so far perverted as to have lost all rational notions of
Right, Property, Liberty, or Justice.

Such are some of the reasons which alarmed me, I confess, when I saw
lately that a Commission of the Legislative Assembly had been charged
to prepare a project of law on friendly societies. It struck me that
the hour of their destruction was approaching, and it afflicted me
the more that I had thought a great future was in store for them,
could we only preserve them in the bracing air of liberty. Is it
then, I would ask, so very difficult a thing to leave men to make
a trial, to feel their way, to make a choice, to find themselves
mistaken, to rectify their mistakes, to inform themselves, to act in
concert, to manage their own property and their own interests, to act
for themselves on their own proper risk and peril, and on their own
responsibility? Is it not evident that this is the way to make them
really men? Shall we never cease to begin with the fatal hypothesis
that all governors are guardians, and the governed only children?

I maintain that, left to the vigilance of the parties interested, our
Friendly Societies have before them a great future, and I require no
other proof of this than what has taken place on the other side of
the Channel.

“In England, individual foresight has not waited for Government
impulse to organize a powerful and reciprocal association between
the working classes. For a long period, ‹free› associations,
administering their own affairs, have been founded in all the
principal towns of Great Britain,” etc. . . . . [p371]

“The total number of these associations for the United
Kingdom amounts to 33,223, including not less than 3,052,000
individuals—one-half of the adult population of Great
Britain.” . . . .

“This great confederation of the working classes, this institution of
effective and practical fraternity, rests on the most solid basis.
Their revenue is five millions sterling, and their accumulated
capital amounts to eleven millions and two hundred thousand pounds.”

“It is upon this fund that the contributors draw when out of
employment. We are astonished to see how England rallies from the
immense and profound perturbations which her gigantic industry
experiences from time to time, and almost periodically—and the
explanation of the phenomenon is to a great extent to be found in the
facts now stated.”

“Mr Roebuck wished, on account of the great importance of the
question, that the Government ‹would assume the initiative› by taking
the question into its own hands. . . . This was opposed by the
Chancellor of the Exchequer.”

“Where individual interests are sufficient for their own free
government, power, in England, judges it useless to interpose its
action. It watches from above to see that all goes on regularly;
but it leaves to every man the merit of his exertions, and the care
of administering his affairs, according to his own notions and
convenience. It is to this independence of her citizens that England
assuredly owes a portion of her greatness as a nation.”[79]

It might have been added that it is to that independence also that
the citizens owe their experience and personal worth. To that
independence, too, the English Government owes its relative freedom
from responsibility, and consequently its stability.

Among the institutions which may take their rise from Friendly
Societies, when they shall have made that advance which has scarcely
yet been begun, I should give the first place, on account of their
social importance, to the labourer’s ‹Caisse de Retraite›.[80]

There are persons who treat such an institution as a chimera. Such
people, no doubt, pretend to be acquainted with the extreme limits
as regards Stability, beyond which the human race is not permitted
to go. I would ask them a few simple questions: If they had never
known anything beyond the social state of those barbarous tribes who
live by hunting and fishing, would they have been able to anticipate
the existence, I do not say of our present [p372] land revenues,
of Government funds, and fixed salaries, but even of the system of
payment by wages, which is the first step towards fixity in the
condition of the poorest classes? And then, if they had never seen
anything beyond this wages-system, as it exists in countries which
have not yet displayed the spirit of association, would they have
ventured to predict the destinies reserved for ‹Friendly Societies›
as we find them at work in our own day in England? Do they imagine
that these first steps of progress were more easy than it is for us
to establish ‹Caisses de Retraite›? Is this third step more difficult
to take than the other two?

For myself, I see clearly that mankind thirsts after stability. I see
them, century after century, adding to their incomplete conquests,
for the benefit of one class or another, and this by marvellous
processes, which would seem to be much above individual invention,
and I confess that I dare not venture to predict at what point men
will stop short on the road of progress.

One thing is certain, that these ‹Caisses de Retraite› are
universally, unanimously, ardently desired by all our workmen; and
very naturally so.

I have frequently interrogated them, and I have always found that
the great pain and grief of their existence is not the severity of
their work, nor the smallness of their wages, nor even the irritation
which the spectacle of inequality is calculated to excite. No, what
affects them, discourages them, pains them, tortures them, is their
uncertainty as regards the future. Whatever profession we may belong
to, whether we are public functionaries, or men of independent
fortune, or landed proprietors, or merchants, physicians, lawyers,
soldiers, magistrates, we enjoy without perceiving it, consequently
without acknowledging it, the progress which has been realized by
Society—so that we cannot comprehend the torture of uncertainty.
Let us place ourselves, then, in the situation of a workman, of an
artisan who, on getting up every morning, is haunted by such thoughts
as these: “I am young and robust; I work on, and sometimes harder
than my neighbours, and have less leisure than they. And yet I have
difficulty in providing for the modest wants of myself and of my
wife and children. But what will become of me, what will become
of them, when old age or disease shall have palsied my arm? To
provide for those days of helplessness by saving from my wages would
require self-control and prudence almost superhuman. Yet in spite of
sickness, I have the prospect of enjoying happiness by means of a
Friendly Society. Old age, however, is not an eventuality; it will
come inevitably and without fail. Every day I feel its approach;
it will soon [p373] overtake me; and then, after a life of honest
labour, what prospect have I before me? For myself the garret, the
hospital, or the jail; fur my wife, beggary; for my daughter, worse
still. Oh, for some social institution which would compel me even by
force, while still young, to secure a provision for old age!”

Such are the thoughts, feebly as I have expressed them, which every
day, and every night, and every hour, haunt the terror-stricken
imaginations of vast numbers of our fellow-men. And when a problem
presents itself under such conditions, you may be very sure that it
is not insoluble.

If in their efforts to impart more stability to their future, the
working classes have disseminated alarm among the other classes of
society, it has arisen from their having given to these efforts a
false, dangerous, and unjust direction. Their first idea, according
to French custom, has been to attack the treasury; to found the
‹Caisses de Retraite› on the contributions of the taxpayer, and to
bring into play the State and the Law, that is to say, to secure all
the profits of spoliation without incurring the dangers, or bearing
the shame of it.

It is not from this quarter of the social horizon that the
institutions so much desired by the working classes may be expected
to come. The ‹Caisse de Retraite›, in order that its origin may be
in keeping with its end and design, and to ensure its being useful,
solid, and respectable, must proceed from the working classes
themselves, must be the fruit of their exertions, their energy, their
sagacity, their experience, their foresight. It must be supported by
their contributions, and fed and nourished by their sacrifices. All
they have to ask from Government is liberty of action and repression
of fraud.

But has the time come when a ‹Caisse de Retraite› for the working
classes is possible? I think it has. In order that an institution
which brings new stability to the interests of a class should be
established, a certain amount of anterior progress is necessary. It
is necessary that a certain stage of civilisation should have been
reached by the Society in the midst of which such an institution
is to be established, a healthful atmosphere must be prepared for
it. If I am not mistaken, it is to friendly societies, with the
material resources which they create, and the spirit of association,
the experience, the foresight, and the sense of dignity which they
infuse into the working classes, that we are to owe the establishment
of those kindred institutions which provide for the old age of the

For if you observe what is going on in England, you will be [p374]
satisfied that all such things are bound up together and depend upon
each other, and that one step of progress, in order to be attainable,
must be preceded by another step of progress.

In England all the adults to whom it is an object to join benefit
societies have done so of their own accord; and that is a point of
very great importance, seeing that operations of this kind require to
be conducted on a great scale, and according to the law of averages.

These societies are possessed of large accumulated capitals, and
have, besides, considerable annual revenues.

We cannot help thinking that, with the advance of civilisation, the
prodigious sums which these societies now require to pay to their
members will become proportionally smaller and smaller.

Good health is one of the benefits which civilisation develops. The
healing art makes progress; machinery performs the harder and more
painful part of labour; longevity increases. All these causes tend to
lessen the calls on such associations.

A still more decisive and infallible symptom is the disappearance of
great commercial crises in England. Such convulsions have had their
origin sometimes in sudden manias with which the English are now
and then seized for enterprises which are more than hazardous, and
which entail a great loss of capital; sometimes they arise from great
fluctuations in the price of food, the consequence of restrictive
laws, for it is evident that when the price of bread and butcher’s
meat is very high, all the resources of the people are absorbed in
the purchase of necessaries, and other branches of trade languish,
and a stoppage of manufactures is the inevitable result.

The first of these causes is now disappearing under the teachings of
experience and public discussion; and we can already foresee that
the English nation, which in former days threw itself into American
loans, Mexican mines, and railway schemes with such sheep-like
credulity, will now be much less a dupe than others to Californian

What shall I say of Free Trade, the triumph of which is due to Mr
Cobden, not to Sir Robert Peel;—for the apostle would always have
called forth a statesman, but the statesman could not have dispensed
with the apostle. Here, then, we have a new power ushered into the
world, which I hope will go far to do away with commercial stoppages
and convulsions. Restriction has the admitted tendency and effect of
placing many of the manufactures of the country, and, consequently,
part of its population, in a precarious situation. As those piled-up
waves which a transient force keeps for a moment above the level of
the sea have a [p375] constant tendency to descend, so factitious
industries, surrounded on every side by victorious competition, have
a constant tendency to collapse. A modification in a single article
of a single home or foreign tariff may bring ruin to them; and then
comes a crisis. The variations in the price of a commodity, moreover,
are much greater when you limit the field of competition. Surround
a department, or a district, with custom-houses, and you render the
fluctuation of prices much more marked. Liberty acts on the principle
of insurance. In different countries, and in successive years, it
compensates bad harvests by good ones. It sustains prices thus
brought back to the average. It is a levelling and equalizing force.
It contributes to stability, and it combats instability which is the
great source of convulsions and stoppages. There is no exaggeration
in asserting that the first fruit of Mr Cobden’s work will be to
lessen many of those dangers which gave rise, in England, to friendly

Mr Cobden has undertaken another task which will have a not less
beneficial influence on the stability of the labourer’s lot, and
I doubt not he will succeed in it; for good service in the cause
of truth is always triumphant. I refer to his efforts for the
suppression of war, or, what is the same thing, for the infusion of
the spirit of peace into that public opinion by which the question
of peace or war comes always to be decided. War constitutes always
the greatest disturbing force to which a nation can be subjected in
its industry, in its commerce, in the disposal of its capital, even
in its tastes. Consequently, it is a powerful cause of derangement
and uneasiness to those classes who have difficulty in changing their
employment. The more, of course, this disturbing force is lessened,
the less onerous will the burdens be which fall upon benefit

On the other hand, by dint of progress, by the mere lapse of time,
the resources of these societies will be extended; and a day will
come when they can undertake something more decisive—with a view to
lessen the instability which is inherent in human affairs. These
societies might then be transformed into ‹Caisses de Retraite›, or
institutions for old age, and this will undoubtedly happen, since it
is the ardent and universal desire of the working classes that it
should be so.

And it is worthy of remark, that while material circumstances
thus pave the way for such a transformation, moral circumstances
arising from the influence of these very societies tend in the same
direction. These societies develop among the working classes habits,
qualities, and virtues, the possession and diffusion of which [p376]
are in this respect an essential preliminary. When we examine the
matter closely, we must be convinced that the creation of such
societies presupposes a very advanced stage of civilisation. They
are at once its effect and its reward. They could, in fact, have no
existence if men had not been previously in the habit of meeting, of
acting in concert, and of managing in common their own affairs; they
could not exist if men were prone to vices which induce premature old
age; nor could they exist were the working classes brought to think
that everything is fair as against the public, and that a common fund
is the object at which every one intent on fraud may legitimately
take aim.

In order that the establishment of ‹Caisses de Retraite› should not
give rise to discord and misunderstanding, the working classes should
be made to feel that they must depend upon nobody but themselves;
that the common fund must be voluntarily created by those who are
to have the benefit of it; and that it is supremely unjust and
anti-social to call for co-operation from other classes, who are to
have no share in the advantage, and who can only be made to concur by
means of the tax-gatherer, that is to say, by means of force. Now,
we have not yet got that length—so far from it that the frequent
appeals to the State show us but too plainly what are the hopes and
pretensions of the working classes. They think that their benefit
society should be fed and alimented by State subventions like that
for public functionaries. And thus it is that one abuse always gives
rise to another.

But if these ‹Caisses de Retraite› are to be maintained exclusively
by the parties interested, may it not be said that they exist
already, seeing that life assurance companies present combinations
which enable every workman to provide for the future by the sacrifice
of the present?

I have dwelt at great length upon friendly societies and ‹Caisses de
Retraite›, although these institutions are only indirectly connected
with the subject of this chapter. I have given way to the desire to
exhibit mankind marching gradually on to the conquest of stability,
or rather (for stability implies something stationary), emerging
victorious from their struggle with ‹uncertainty›—uncertainty, that
standing menace which mars all the enjoyments of life, that sword of
Damocles which seems so fatally suspended over the human destinies.
That this menace may be progressively and indefinitely rendered less
formidable by reducing to an average the risks and chances of all
times, of all places, and of all men, is certainly one of the most
admirable social harmonies which can be presented to the view of the
philosophic economist. [p377]

We must not, however, conclude that this victory depends upon these
two institutions, the establishment of which may be more or less
accidental. No; did experience even demonstrate these institutions to
be impracticable, the human race would not the less find its way to
fixity. It is enough to know that uncertainty is an evil, in order
to be assured that it will be incessantly, and, sooner or later,
successfully, combated; for such is the law of our nature.

If, as we have seen, the system of remunerating labour by wages is,
as regards stability, a more advanced form of association between
capital and labour, it still leaves too much room for the uncertain.
As long as he continues to work, the labourer knows on what he has
to depend. But how long will he have employment, and how long will
he be fit for work? This is what he is ignorant of, and, as regards
his future, it places before him a fearful problem for solution. The
uncertainty which affects the capitalist is different. With him it is
not a question of life or death. “I shall always derive an interest
from my means; but will that interest be higher or lower?” That is
the question which affects capital or anterior labour.

Sentimental philanthropists who see in this a frightful inequality
which they desire to get rid of by artificial, sometimes by unjust
and violent, means, do not consider that after all we cannot change
the nature of things. Anterior labour must necessarily have more
security than present labour, simply for this reason, that products
already created must always present more certain resources than
products which are yet to be created; that services already rendered,
received, and estimated, present a more solid foundation for the
future than services which are still in the state of supply. If
you are not surprised that of two fishermen, the one who, having
long laboured and saved, possesses lines, nets, boats, and some
previous supply of fish, is more at ease as regards his future than
the other who has absolutely nothing but his willingness to take
part in the work, why should you be astonished that the social
order presents to a certain extent the same differences? In order
to justify the envy, the jealousy, the absolute spitefulness with
which the labourer regards the capitalist, it would be necessary to
conclude that the relative stability of the one is caused by the
instability of the other. But it is the reverse which is true. It is
precisely the capital which pre-exists in the hands of one man which
is the guarantee of the wages of another, however insufficient that
guarantee may appear. But for that capital, the uncertainty of the
labourer would be still greater and more striking. Would the [p378]
increase, and the extension to all, of that uncertainty be any
advantage to the labourer?

Two men run equal risks, which we may represent, for each, as equal
to 40. One of them succeeds so well, by his labour and his foresight,
that he reduces the risks which affect him to 10. Those of his
companion from the same cause, and in consequence of a mysterious
solidarity, are reduced, not to 10, but to 20. What can be more just
than that the man who has the greater merit should reap the greater
reward? What more admirable than that the other should profit by
the virtues of his neighbour? Now, this is just what philanthropy
repudiates under the pretext that such an order of things is opposed
to equality.

Suppose that one fine day the old fisherman should thus address his
companion: “You have neither boat, nor nets, nor any instrument to
fish with, except your hands, and you are likely to make but a poor
business of it. You have no stock of provisions, and it is poor
work to fish with an empty stomach. Come along with me—it is your
interest as well as mine. It is yours, for I will give you a share
of the fish which we take, and, whatever the quantity be, it will
at least be greater than the produce of your isolated exertions. It
is my interest also, for the additional quantity caught with your
assistance will be greater than the share I will have to give you.
In short, the union of your labour with my labour and capital, as
compared with their isolated action, will produce a ‹surplus›, and it
is the division of this surplus which explains how association may be
of advantage to both of us.”

They proceed in this way in the first instance; but afterwards the
young fisher will prefer to receive every day a fixed quantity of
fish. His uncertain and fluctuating profits are thus converted into
wages, without the advantages of association being destroyed, and, by
stronger reason, without the association itself being dissolved.

And it is in such circumstances as these that the pretended
philanthropy of the Socialists comes to declaim against the tyranny
of boats and nets, against the situation, naturally less uncertain,
of him who possesses them, and who has come to possess them just
because he has constructed them in order to obviate this uncertainty!
It is in such circumstances that they endeavour to persuade the
destitute young fisherman that he is the victim of his ‹voluntary›
arrangement with the old fisherman, and that he ought instantly to
return to his state of isolation!

To assert that the future of the capitalist is less uncertain than
[p379] that of the workman, is just to assert that the man who
already possesses is in a better situation than the man who does not
yet possess. It is so, and it must be so, for it is for this very
reason that men aspire to possess.

The tendency, then, is for men to cease being workmen in receipt of
wages in order to become capitalists. This progress is in conformity
with human nature. What workman does not desire to have tools of
his own, a stock of his own, a warehouse, a workshop, a field, a
dwelling-house, of his own? What workman but aspires to become an
employer? Who is not delighted to command after having long obeyed?
Do the great laws of the economic world, does the natural play of
the social organs, favour or oppose this tendency? This is the last
question which we shall examine in connexion with the subject of

Can its solution be attended with any doubt?

Let us revert once more to the necessary evolution of production:
gratuitous utility substituting itself incessantly for onerous
utility; human efforts constantly diminishing in relation to each
result, and, when rendered disposable, embarking in new enterprises;
every hour’s labour corresponding to an always increasing amount
of enjoyment. How, from these premises, can we fail to deduce
a progressive increase of ‹useful efforts› to be distributed,
consequently a sustained amelioration of the labourer’s condition,
consequently, also, an endless increase and progression of that

For here the effect having become a cause, we see progress not only
advance, but become accelerated by its advance; ‹vires acquirere
eundo›. In point of fact, from century to century accumulation
becomes more easy, as the remuneration of labour becomes more ample.
Then accumulation increases capital, increases the demand for
labour, and causes an elevation of wages. This rise of wages, in its
turn, facilitates accumulation and the transformation of the paid
labourer into a capitalist. Between the remuneration of labour and
the accumulation of capital, then, there is a constant action and
reaction, which is always favourable to the labouring class, always
tending to relieve that class from the yoke of urgent necessity.

It may be said, perhaps, that I have brought together here all
that can dazzle the hopes of the working classes, and that I have
concealed all that could cause them discouragement. If there
are tendencies towards equality, it may be said, there are also
tendencies towards inequality. Why do you not analyze the whole,
in order to explain the true situation of the labouring classes,
and [p380] thus bring science into accord with the melancholy
facts to which it seems to shut its eyes? You show us gratuitous
utility substituted for onerous utility, the gifts of God falling
more and more into the domain of community, and, by that very fact,
human labour obtaining a continually increasing recompense. From
this increase of remuneration you deduce an increased facility
of accumulation, and from this facility of accumulation a new
increase of remuneration, leading to new and still more abundant
accumulations, and so on ‹ad infinitum›. It may be that this system
is as logical as it is optimist; it may be that we are not in a
situation to oppose to it a scientific refutation. But where are the
facts which confirm it? Where do we find realized this emancipation
from paid labour? Is it in the great centres of manufactures? Is it
among the agricultural labourers? And if your theoretical predictions
are not accomplished, is not this the reason, that alongside the
economic laws which you invoke, there are other laws which act in
an opposite direction, and of which you say nothing. For instance,
why do you tell us nothing of that competition which takes place
among workmen, and which forces them to accept of lower wages; of
that urgent want of the necessaries of life which presses upon
the labourer, and obliges him to submit to the conditions of the
capitalist, so that, in fact, it is the most destitute, famished,
isolated, and consequently the most clamant and exacting workman
who fixes the rate of wages for all? And if, in spite of so many
obstacles, the condition of our unfortunate fellow-citizens comes
to be improved, why do you not show us that law of population which
steps in with its fatal action, multiplying the multitude, stirring
up competition, increasing the supply of labour, deciding the
controversy in favour of the capitalist, and reducing the workman
to receive, for twelve or sixteen hours’ labour, only ‹what is
indispensable› (that, forsooth, is the consecrated phrase) ‹to the
maintenance of life›?

If I have not touched upon all these phases of the question, the
reason is, that it is scarcely possible to include everything
within the limits of a single chapter. I have already explained the
general law of Competition, and we have seen that that law is far
from furnishing any class, especially the poorer class, with serious
reasons for discouragement. I shall, by-and-by, explain the law of
Population, which will be found, I hope, in its general effects, not
more severe. It is not my fault if each great solution—such, for
example, as the future of a whole class of men—cannot be educed from
one isolated economic law, and consequently from [p381] one chapter
of this work, but must be educed from the aggregate of these laws, or
from the work taken as a whole.

And here I must remind the reader of a distinction, which is by no
means a subtlety, that when we have to do with an effect, we must
take good care not to attribute it to the action of general and
providential laws, if, on the contrary, it be found to proceed from a
violation of these very laws.

I by no means ignore the calamities which, under all forms,—excessive
labour, insufficient wages, uncertainty as to the future, a feeling
of inferiority,—bear hard upon those of our fellow-citizens who
have not yet been able, by the acquisition of Property, to raise
themselves to a higher and more comfortable condition. But, then,
we must acknowledge that uncertainty, destitution, and ignorance
constitute the starting-point of the whole human race; and this being
so, the question, it seems to me, is to discover,—‹1st›, If the
general providential laws do not tend to relieve all classes from the
weight of this triple yoke; ‹2dly›, If the conquests already secured
by the more advanced classes do not constitute a facility prepared
beforehand for the classes which yet lag behind. If the answer to
these questions be in the affirmative, we may conclude that the
social harmony is established, and that the ways of Providence are
vindicated, if, indeed, they needed vindication.

Man being endowed with discretion and free will, the beneficent laws
of Providence can profit him only while he conforms himself to their
operation; and although I affirm that man’s nature is perfectible,
I must not be understood to assert that he makes progress when
he misunderstands or violates these laws. Thus, I maintain that
transactions which are natural, free, voluntary, and exempt from
fraud or violence, have in themselves a principle of progress for
all. But that is not to affirm that progress is inevitable, and must
spring from war, monopoly, or imposture. I maintain that wages have a
tendency to rise, that this rise facilitates saving, and that saving,
in its turn, raises wages. But if the class which lives by wages, in
consequence of habits of dissipation and debauchery, neutralize at
the outset this cause of progressive effects, I do not say that those
effects will exhibit themselves in the same way, for the contrary is
implied in my affirmation.

In order to bring the scientific deduction to the test of facts, we
must take two epochs; for example, 1750 and 1850.

We must first of all establish what, at these two periods, was the
proportion of ‹prolétaires› to ‹propriétaires›—of the men who live by
wages without having any realized property, to the men in the actual
possession of property. We shall find, I presume, that for [p382]
a century the number of people who possess some resources has much
increased relatively to the number of those who are in possession of
no resources whatever.

We must then discover the specific situation of each of these
two classes, which we cannot do otherwise than by observing the
enjoyments and satisfactions which they possess; and very probably
we shall find that in our day they derive a greater amount of real
satisfaction and enjoyment, the one from accumulated labour, the
other from present labour, than was possible in the middle of the
last century.

If the respective and relative progress of these classes, especially
of the working class, has not been what we could wish, we must then
inquire whether it has not been more or less retarded by acts of
injustice and violence, by errors, by passions—in a word, by faults
incident to mankind, by contingent causes which we cannot confound
with what are called the great and constant laws of the social
economy. Have we not, for example, had wars and revolutions which
might have been avoided? And have not these atrocities, in the first
instance, absorbed and afterwards dissipated an incalculable amount
of capital, consequently diminished the funds for the payment of
wages, and retarded the emancipation of the working classes? Have
they not diverted capital from its legitimate employment, seeking
to derive from it, not enjoyment, but destruction? Have we not had
monopolies, privileges, and unequal taxation? Have we not had absurd
expenditure, ridiculous fashions, and a loss of power, which can be
attributed only to puerile tastes and prejudices?

And what has been the consequence?

There are general laws to which man may conform himself, or which he
may violate.

If it be incontestable that Frenchmen, during the last hundred
years, have frequently run counter to the natural order of social
development; if we cannot forbear to attribute to incessant wars,
to periodical revolutions, to acts of injustice, to monopolies, to
dissipation, to follies of all kinds, a fearful sacrifice of the
power of capital and of labour;

And if, on the other hand, in spite of all this, which is undeniable,
we can establish another fact—namely, that during this same period of
a hundred years the class possessed of property has been recruited
from the labouring class, and that both have at the same time had at
their command a greater amount of satisfaction and enjoyment—do we
not, by rigorous deduction, arrive at this conclusion, namely, that,

‹The general laws of the social world are in harmony, and that they
tend in all respects to the improvement of the human race?›

For since, after a period of a hundred years, during which these laws
have been so frequently and so deeply violated, men find themselves
in a more advanced state of comfort and well-being, the action of
these laws must be beneficent, and sufficiently so even to compensate
the action of disturbing causes.

How indeed could it be otherwise? Is there not something equivocal,
or rather redundant, in the expression, ‹beneficent general laws›?
How can general laws be other than beneficent? When God placed in
man’s heart an irresistible impulse to what is good, and, to enable
him to discern it, imparted to him sufficient light to enable him to
rectify his errors, from that moment He decreed that the human race
was perfectible, and that, in spite of many errors, difficulties,
deceptions, oppressions, and oscillations, mankind should still march
onwards on the road of progress. This onward march, while error,
deception, and oppression are absent, is precisely what we denominate
the general laws of the social order. Errors and oppressions are
what I call the violation of these laws, or disturbing causes. It is
not possible, then, to doubt that the one should be beneficent, and
the other the reverse, unless we go the length of doubting whether
disturbing causes may not act in a manner more regular and permanent
than general laws. Now that conclusion would contradict the premises.
Our intelligence, which may be deceived, can rectify its errors, and
it is evident that, the social world being constituted as it is,
error might sooner or later be checked by Responsibility, and that,
sooner or later, oppression must be destroyed by Solidarity. Whence
it follows that disturbing causes are not in their nature permanent,
and it is for that reason that the laws which countervail the action
of such disturbances merit the name of General laws.

In order to conform ourselves to general laws, it is necessary to
be acquainted with them. Allow me then to enlarge a little on the
relations, so ill understood, of the capitalist and the labourer.

Capital and labour are indispensable to one another. Perpetually
confronting each other, their adjustment constitutes one of the
most important and most interesting subjects which can come under
the observation of the economist. And it is a solemn consideration
that erroneous notions and superficial observations on this subject,
if they become popular, may give rise to inveterate heartburnings,
struggles, and bloodshed.

Now, I express my deliberate conviction when I say that for [p384]
some years the public mind has been saturated with the falsest
theories on this subject. We have been told that free and voluntary
transactions between the capitalist and the labourer lead, not
accidentally, but necessarily, to monopoly for the capitalist, and
oppression for the labourer; from which the obvious conclusion is,
that liberty ought everywhere to be put down and stifled; for, I
repeat, that when men have accused liberty of engendering monopoly,
they have pretended not only to assert a fact, but to establish a
law. In support of this thesis they have appealed to the action of
machinery and of competition. M. de Sismondi was, I believe, the
founder, and M. Buret the propagator, of these unhappy doctrines,
although the latter has stated his conclusions very timidly, and the
former has not ventured to state any conclusion at all. But bolder
spirits have succeeded them, who, after trumpeting their hatred to
capitalists and men of property, after having got the masses to
accept as an incontestable axiom the discovery that ‹liberty leads
inevitably to monopoly›, have, whether designedly or not, induced the
people to raise their hands against this accursed liberty.[81] Four
days of a sanguinary struggle brought emancipation, without restoring
confidence; for do we not constantly discover the hand of the State
(obedient in this to vulgar prejudices) ever ready to interpose in
the relations of capital and labour?

We have already deduced the action of competition from our theory
of value, and we shall do the same thing as regards the effects of
machinery.[82] We must limit ourselves in this place to an exposition
of some general ideas upon the subject of the reciprocal relations of
the capitalist and the labourer.

The fact with which our pessimist reformers are much struck in the
outset is, that the capitalists are richer than the workmen, and
obtain a greater amount of satisfactions and enjoyments; whence
it results that they appropriate to themselves a greater, and
consequently an unjust, share of the product elaborated by their
joint exertions. It is in this direction that their statistics, more
or less impartial, professing to explain the condition of the working
classes, tend.

These gentlemen forget that absolute poverty and destitution is the
inevitable starting-point of the human race, and that men continue
inevitably in this state until they have acquired something for
themselves, or have had something acquired for them by others.
[p385] To remark, in the gross, that capitalists are better off than
mere workmen, is simply to assert that those who have something, have
more than those who have nothing.

The questions which the workman ought to ask himself are not, “Does
my labour give me much? Does it give me little? Does it give me as
much as it gives to another? Does it give me what I desire?” The
questions he should ask himself are these: “Does my labour give me
less because I employ it in the service of the capitalist? Would it
give me more if I worked in a state of isolation, or if I associated
my labour with that of other workmen as destitute as myself? I am
ill situated, but would I be better off were there no such thing
as capital in the world? If the part which I obtain in consequence
of my arrangement with capital is greater than what I would obtain
without that arrangement, what reason have I to complain? And then,
according to what laws would our respective shares go on increasing
or diminishing were transactions free? If it be of the nature of
these transactions to allow me, in proportion as the total product to
be divided increases, to obtain a continually increasing proportion
of the excess (c. vii., p. 212), then in place of breathing hatred
against capital, ought I not to treat it as a friend? If it be
indisputably established that the presence of capital is favourable
to my interests, and that its absence would be death to me, am I very
prudent or well-advised in calumniating it, frightening it away, and
forcing its dissipation or flight?” In the discussion which precedes
the bargain, an inequality of situation is constantly alleged,
because capital can afford to wait, but labour cannot. The one upon
which the greatest pressure bears must give way to the other, so that
the capitalist in reality fixes the rate of wages.

Undoubtedly, looking at the surface of things, he who has created a
stock, and who in consequence of this foresight can wait on, has the
advantage in the bargain. Taking even an isolated transaction, the
man who says, ‹Do ut facias›, is not in such a hurry to come to a
conclusion as the man who replies, ‹Facio ut des›. For, when a man
can say ‹do›, he possesses something to give; and when he possesses
something to give, he can wait.[83]

We must not, however, lose sight of this, that value has the same
principle, whether it resides in the service or in the product. If
one of the parties says ‹do›, in place of ‹facio›, it is because he
has had the foresight to execute the ‹facio› beforehand. In reality,
it is the service on both sides which is the measure of the value.
Now, [p386] if delay for present labour is a suffering, for anterior
labour it is a loss. We must not then suppose that a man who says
‹do›, the capitalist, will amuse himself (above all if we consider
the aggregate of his transactions) by deferring the bargain. In
point of fact, do we see much capital idle for this reason? Do many
manufacturers stop their mills, or shipowners delay their voyages, or
agriculturists defer their harvests, on purpose to depreciate wages,
and get hold of their workmen by means of famine?

But without denying that the position of the capitalists in relation
to the workman is favourable in this respect, is there not something
else to be considered with reference to their arrangements? For
instance, is it not a circumstance quite in favour of ‹present
labour› that ‹accumulated labour› loses value by mere lapse of time?
I have elsewhere alluded to this phenomenon. But it is important to
solicit the reader’s attention again to it in this place, seeing how
great an influence it has upon the remuneration of present labour.

That which in my opinion renders Adam Smith’s theory, that ‹value
comes from labour›, false, or at least incomplete, is that this
theory assigns to value only one element, whilst, being a relation,
it has necessarily two. Besides, if value springs exclusively from
labour, and represents it, it would be proportionate to that labour,
which is contrary to all observed facts.

No; value comes from service received and rendered; and the service
depends as much, if not more, on the pains saved to the man who
receives it, as upon the pains taken by the man who renders it. In
this respect the most common facts confirm our reasoning. When I
purchase a product, I may indeed ask myself, “How long time has it
taken to make it?” And this undoubtedly is one of the elements of my
estimate of its value. But again, and above all, I ask, “How long
time would it take me to make it? How long time have I taken to make
the thing which is asked from me in exchange?” When I purchase a
service, I not only ask how much it will cost another to render that
service to me, but how much it would cost me to render that service
to myself.

These personal questions, and the answers which they call forth, are
such essential elements in every estimate of value, that they most
frequently determine it.

Try to purchase a diamond which has been found by chance. The seller
will transfer to you very little labour, but he will ask from you a
great deal. Why, then, should you consent to this? Because you take
into account the labour which it saves you, the [p387] labour which
you would be obliged to undergo in order to satisfy by any other
means your desire to possess a diamond.

When an exchange, then, takes place between ‹anterior labour› and
‹present labour›, it is not at all on the footing of their intensity
or duration, but on that of their value, that is to say, of the
service which they render, and their relative utility. If the
capitalist shall say, “Here is a product which cost me formerly ten
hours’ labour;” and if the labourer be in a situation to reply, “I
can produce the same thing in five hours,” the capitalist would be
forced to give up the difference; for, I repeat, that it does not
concern the present acquirer of a commodity to ask how much labour it
formerly cost to produce it. What concerns him is to know what labour
it will save him now, what service he is to expect from it.

A capitalist, in a general sense, is a man who, having foreseen that
such or such a service would be in demand, has prepared beforehand to
satisfy this demand by incorporating the value in a commodity.

When labour has been thus expended by anticipation, in expectation
of future remuneration, we cannot tell whether, on a definite future
day, it will render exactly the same service, or save the same
pains, or preserve, consequently, a uniform value. We cannot even
hazard a probable conjecture as to this. The commodity may be very
‹recherché›, very difficult to procure in any other way; it may come
to render services which will be better appreciated, or appreciated
by more people; it may acquire an increasing value with time,—in
other words, it may exchange for a continually increasing proportion
of present labour. Thus it is not impossible that such a product, a
diamond for example, a violin of Stradivarius, a picture of Raphaël,
a vine-plant from the Château-Laffitte, may come to exchange for a
thousand times more labour than they cost. In fact it just comes to
this, that the anterior labour is well remunerated in these cases,
because it renders a great amount of service.

The contrary may also happen. A commodity which has cost four hours’
labour may come to exchange for one which has cost only three hours’
labour of equal intensity.

But—and this appears to me extremely important as regards the
interests of the working classes, of those classes who aspire so
ardently to get rid of their present state of uncertainty—although
the two alternatives we have stated are both possible, and each may
be realized in its turn, although accumulated labour may sometimes
gain, and sometimes lose value, in [p388] relation to present
labour, the first alternative, nevertheless, is so rare as to be
considered accidental and exceptional; while the second is the result
of a general law which is inherent in the very organization of man.
That man, with all his intellectual and experimental acquisitions, is
of a progressive nature, is at least industrially speaking (for, in a
moral point of view, the assertion might be disputed) beyond doubt.
It is beyond doubt that the greater part of those commodities which
exacted formerly a given amount of labour, exact at the present day
a less amount, in consequence of improvements in machinery and the
gratuitous intervention of natural forces; and we may assert without
hesitation, that in each period of ten years, for example, a given
quantity of labour will accomplish, in the majority of cases, greater
results than the same quantity of labour could have accomplished in
the preceding decennial period.

What is the conclusion to be drawn from this? Obviously, that
anterior labour goes on constantly deteriorating in value relatively
to present labour; that in every act of exchange it becomes necessary
to give, of the first a greater number of hours than you receive of
the second; and this without any injustice, but simply to maintain
the equivalence of services. This is a consequence which progress
forces upon us.

You say to me, “Here is a machine; it was made ten years ago, but
it is still new. It cost 1000 days’ work to make it. I will give it
to you in exchange for an equal number of days’ labour.” To this
I reply, “Within the last ten years so many new tools have been
invented, and so many new processes discovered, that I can now
construct, or, what comes to the same thing, get constructed for
me, an equally good machine, with an expenditure of only 600 days’
labour. I will not, therefore, give you more than 600 for yours.”
“But I should in this way lose 400 days’ labour.” “No,” I reply; “for
6 days’ work now are worth 10 formerly. At all events, what you offer
me for 1000 I can now procure for 600.” This ends the debate; if the
lapse of time has deteriorated the value of your labour, there is no
reason why I should bear the loss.

Again you say to me, “Here is a field. In order to bring it to its
present state of productiveness, I and my ancestors have expended
1000 days’ labour. They were unacquainted, no doubt, with the use
of axe, and saw, and spade, and did all by muscular exertion. But
no matter; give me first of all 1000 of your days’ work, as an
equivalent for the 1000 which I give to you, and then add 300 as
the value of the productive power of the soil, and you [p389] shall
have the field.” I answer, “I will not give you 1300, or even 1000,
days’ labour for it; and here are my reasons: There are on the
surface of the globe an indefinite number of productive powers which
are destitute of value. We are now accustomed to handle spade, and
axe, and saw, and plough, and employ many other means of abridging
labour, and rendering it more productive; so that, with 600 days’
work, I can either bring an uncultivated field into the state in
which yours is, or (which comes absolutely to the same thing as far
as I am concerned) ‹I can procure myself, by an act of exchange, all
the advantages which you reap from your field›. I will give you,
then, 600 days, and no more.” “In that case, not only should I have
no profit from the pretended value of the productive powers of the
soil; I should not even be reimbursed for the actual labour which I
and my ancestors have devoted to the cultivation of this field. Is
it not strange that I should be accused by Ricardo of selling the
powers of nature; by Senior of intercepting the gifts of God; by all
the Economists of being a monopolist; by Proudhon of being a robber;
while in reality I am only a dupe?” You are no more a dupe than a
monopolist. You receive the equivalent of what you give; and it is
neither natural, nor just, nor possible, that rude labour performed
with the hand centuries ago should exchange, day for day, against the
more intelligent and productive labour of the present time.

Thus we see that by an admirable effect of the social mechanism, when
anterior and present labour are brought into juxtaposition, and when
the business is to know in what proportion the joint product of both
is to be divided, the specific superiority of the one and of the
other is taken into account; and they participate in the distribution
according to the relative services which they render. In exceptional
cases it may happen that this superiority is on the side of anterior
labour. But in the great majority of cases it is otherwise; and the
nature of man and the law of progress cause the superiority to be
manifested on the side of present labour. Progress is advanced by the
latter; and the deterioration falls upon capital.

Independently of this result, which shows how vain and hollow the
declamations of our modern reformers on the pretended ‹tyranny of
capital› are, there is another consideration still more fitted to
extinguish in the hearts of the working classes that factitious
hatred of other classes, which it has been attempted but with too
much success to light up.

The consideration I refer to is this:

Capital, however far it may carry its pretensions, and however
[p390] successful it may be in its endeavours to ensure the triumph
of these pretensions, can never place labour in a worse situation
than it would occupy in a state of isolation. In other words, capital
is always more favourable to labour by its presence than by its

Let us revert to the example which I gave a little ago.

Two men live by fishing. One of them has nets, lines, a boat, and
some provisions to enable him to wait for the fruit of his labour.
The other has nothing but his personal exertions. It is their
interest to associate.[84] Whatever may be the terms on which they
agree to share the produce, the condition of either of these two
fishermen, whether the rich one or the poor one, never can be made
worse, and for this obvious reason, that the moment either of them
finds association disadvantageous as compared with isolation, he may
return to isolation.

In savage as in pastoral, in agricultural as in industrial life,
the relations of capital and labour are always represented by this

The absence of capital is a limit which is always within the
power of labour. If the pretensions of capital go the length of
rendering joint action less profitable for labour than isolated
action, labour can take refuge in isolation, an asylum always open
(except in a state of slavery) to voluntary association found to be
disadvantageous. Labour can always say to capital, Rather than work
jointly on the conditions which you offer me, I prefer to work alone.

It may be objected that this resource is illusory and ridiculous,
that to labour isolated action is forbidden by a radical
impossibility, and that to dispense with tools and instruments would
be fatal to it.

This is no doubt true; but it just confirms the truth of my
assertion, that even if capital carries its exactions to an extreme
limit, it still benefits labour by the very fact of its being
associated with it. Labour can be brought into a worse condition than
the worst association only when all association ceases and capital
retires. Cease, then, apostles of misfortune, to cry out against the
tyranny of capital, since you allow that its action is always—in a
greater or less degree, no doubt, but always—beneficent. Singular
tyranny, whose power is beneficial to all those who desire to feel
its effects, and is hurtful only when withdrawn.

But the objector may still insist that, although this might be so in
the earlier stages of society, capital has at the present day [p391]
invaded everything. It occupies every post, it lays hold of every
field. The working man has no longer either air, or space, or soil to
put his foot on, or stone to lay his head on, without the permission
of capital. He is subject to its inexorable law, and you would afford
him no refuge but isolation, which you admit is death!

All this displays a deplorable confusion of ideas, and a total
ignorance of the social economy.

If, as has been said, capital has possessed itself of all the forces
of nature, of all lands, of all space, I would ask for whose profit?
For the profit of the capitalist, no doubt. But then, how does it
happen that a simple workman, who has nothing but his muscular
powers, can obtain in France, in England, in Belgium, a thousand,
a million times greater amount of satisfaction and enjoyment than
he could have reaped in a state of isolation,—not on the social
hypothesis which you repudiate, but on that other hypothesis which
you cherish and cling to, that which presupposes capital to have been
guilty of no usurpation.

I shall continue to entertain this view of the subject, until your
new science can give a better account of it; for I am convinced
I have assigned valid reasons for the conclusion at which I have
arrived.—(Chapter vii.)

Take the first workman you meet with on the streets of Paris. Find
out the amount of his earnings and the amount of enjoyments he can
procure himself, and when you have fired off both against that
monster, capital, I will step in, and thus address the workman:

We are about to annihilate capital and all its works; and I am going
to place you in the midst of a hundred thousand acres of the most
fertile land, which I shall give you in full property and possession,
with everything above and below ground. You will not be elbowed by
any capitalist. You will have the full enjoyment of the four natural
rights of hunting, fishing, reaping the fruits, and pasturing the
land. True, you will have no capital; for if you had, you would be in
precisely the situation you censure in the case of others. But you
will no longer have reason to complain of landlordism, capitalism,
individualism, usurers, stockjobbers, bankers, monopolists. The land
will be absolutely and entirely yours. Think if you would like to
accept this position.

This workman would, no doubt, imagine at first that he had obtained
the fortune of a monarch. On reflection, however, he would probably
say: Well, let us calculate. Even when a man possesses a hundred
thousand acres of land, he must live. Now, how does the ‹bread›
account stand in the two situations? At [p392] present I earn
half-a-crown a day. At the present price of corn I can have three
bushels a week, just as if I myself sowed and reaped. Were I
proprietor of a hundred thousand acres of land, at the utmost I could
not, without capital, produce three bushels of corn in two years, and
in the interim I might, die of famine. . . . . I shall, therefore,
stick to my wages.

The truth is, we do not consider sufficiently the progress which the
human race must have made, to be able even to maintain the wretched
existence of our workmen.[85] . . . . . . . . . . . .

       *       *       *       *       *

Amelioration of the labourer’s lot found in wages themselves and in
the natural laws by which wages are regulated.

‹1st›, The labourer tends to rise to the rank of a capitalist and

‹2d›, Wages tend to rise.

‹Corollary.›—The transition from the state of a paid workman to
that of an employer becomes constantly less desirable, and more
easy. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . [p393]


‹To save› is not to accumulate quantities of corn, of game, or
of crown-pieces. This hoarding-up of material and consumable
commodities, which must necessarily from its nature be restrained
within narrow bounds, represents only ‹the saving› of man in a state
of isolation. All that we have hitherto said of value, of services,
of relative wealth, shows us that, socially, saving, although it
proceeds from the same source, develops itself differently and
assumes another character.

‹To save› is to interpose voluntarily an interval between the time
when we render services to society and the time when we receive back
from society equivalent services. A man, for example, may every
day, from the time he is twenty until he is sixty, render to his
neighbours professional services equal to four, and demand from them
services only equal to three. In that case he reserves the power of
drawing upon society in his old age, and when he can no longer work,
for payment of the remaining fourth of his forty years’ labour.

The circumstance that he has received and accumulated through a
succession of years notes of acknowledgment consisting of bills of
exchange, promissory notes, bank notes, money, is quite secondary,
and belongs only to the form of the transaction. It has relation
only to the means of execution. It changes neither the nature nor
the consequences of saving. The illusion to which the intervention
of money gives rise in this respect is not the less an illusion,
although we are almost always the dupes of it.

In fact, it is with difficulty that we can avoid believing that the
man who saves withdraws from circulation a certain amount of value,
and, in consequence, does a certain amount of harm to society.

And here we encounter one of those apparent contradictions [p394]
which are at war with logic, one of those barriers which would seem
to oppose an insurmountable obstacle to progress, one of those
dissonances which gives us pain by appearing to call in question the
Divine power and will.

On the one hand, we know that the human race can only extend itself,
raise itself, improve itself, acquire leisure, stability, and, by
consequence, intellectual development and moral culture, by the
abundant creation and persevering accumulation of capital. It is
this rapid augmentation of capital on which depends the demand for
labour, the elevation of wages, and, consequently, the progress of
men towards equality.

But, on the other hand, ‹to save› is not the opposite of ‹to spend›,
and if the man who spends gives a fillip to industry and additional
employment to labour, does the man who saves not do exactly the
reverse? If every one set himself to economize as much as possible,
we should see labour languish in the same proportion, and if all
could be saved, we should have no fund for the employment of labour.

In such circumstances, what advice can we give? And what solid basis
can political economy offer to morals, when we appear to be able
to educe from the former only this contradictory and melancholy

“‹If you do not save›, capital will not be replaced, but dissipated,
the labouring class will be multiplied, while the fund for their
remuneration will remain stationary; they will enter into competition
with each other, and offer their services at a lower rate; wages will
be depressed, and society will, in this respect, be on the decline.
It will be on the decline also in another respect, for unless you
save you will be without bread in your old age; you can no longer
set your son out in the world, give a portion to your daughter, or
enlarge your trade,” etc.

“‹If you do save›, you diminish the fund for wages, you injure a
great number of your fellow-citizens, you strike a blow at labour,
which is the universal creator of human satisfactions, and you lower,
consequently, the general level of humanity.”

Now these frightful contradictions disappear before the explanation
which we have given of saving—an explanation founded upon the ideas
to which our inquiries on the subject of value conducted us.

Services are exchanged for services.

Value is the appreciation of two services compared with each other.

In this view, ‹to save› is to have rendered a service, and allow time
[p395] for receiving the equivalent service, or, in other words, to
interpose an interval of time between the service rendered and the
service received.

Now, in what respect can a man do injury to society or to labour who
merely abstains from drawing upon society for a service to which he
has right? I can exact the value which is due to me upon the instant,
or I may delay exacting it for a year. In that case I give society
a year’s respite. During that interval, labour is carried on, and
services are exchanged, just as if I did not exist. I have not by
this means caused any disturbance. On the contrary, I have added one
satisfaction more to the enjoyments of my fellow-citizens, and they
possess it for a year gratuitously.

Gratuitously is not the word, for I must go on to describe the

The interval of time which separates the two services exchanged is
itself the subject of a bargain, of an exchange, for it is possessed
of ‹value›. It is the origin and explanation of ‹interest›.

A man, for instance, renders a present service. His wish is to
receive the equivalent service only ten years hence. Here, then, is
a value of which he refuses himself the immediate enjoyment. Now,
it is of the nature of ‹value› to be able to assume all possible
forms. With a determinate value, we are sure to obtain any imaginable
service, whether productive or unproductive, of an equal value.
He who delays for ten years to call in a debt, not only delays an
enjoyment, but he delays the possibility of further production. It
is on this account that he will meet with people in the world who
are disposed to bargain for this delay. They will say to him: “You
are entitled to receive immediately a certain value. It suits you to
delay receiving it for ten years. Now, for these ten years, make over
your right to me, place me in your room and stead. I shall receive
for you the amount for which you are a creditor. I will employ it
during these ten years in a productive enterprise, and repay you at
the end of that time. By this means you will render me a ‹service›,
and as every service has a value, which we estimate by comparing it
with another service, we have only to estimate this service which I
solicit from you, and so fix its ‹value›. This point being discussed
and arranged, I shall have to repay you at the end of the ten years,
not only the value of the service for which you are a creditor, but
the value likewise of the service which you are about to render me.”

It is the value of this temporary transference of values saved which
we denominate ‹interest›.

For the same reason that a third party may desire that we [p396]
should transfer to him, ‹for an onerous consideration›, the enjoyment
of a value saved, the original debtor may also desire to enter into
the same bargain. In both cases this is called ‹asking for credit›.
To give credit is to give time for the acquittance of a debt, of a
value; it is to deprive oneself of the enjoyment of that value in
favour of another, it is to render a service, it is to acquire a
title to an equivalent service.

But to revert to the economic effects of saving, now that we are
acquainted with all the details of the phenomenon, it is very evident
that it does no injury to general activity or to labour. Even when
the man who economizes realizes his economy, and, in exchange for
services rendered, receives hard cash, and hoards it, he does no harm
to society, seeing that he has not been able to withdraw that amount
of value from society without restoring to it equivalent values. I
must add, however, that such hoarding is improbable and exceptional,
inasmuch as it is detrimental to the personal interests of the man
who would practise it. Money in the hands of such a man may be
supposed to say this: “He who possesses me has rendered services to
society, and has not been paid for them. I have been put into his
hands to serve him as a warrant; I am at once an acknowledgment,
a promise, and a guarantee. The moment he wills it, he can, by
exhibiting and restoring me, receive back from society the services
for which he is a creditor.”

Now this man is in no hurry. Does it follow that he will continue to
hoard his money? No; for we have seen that the lapse of time which
separates two services exchanged becomes itself the subject of a
commercial transaction. If the man who saves intends to remain ten
years without drawing upon society for the services that are owing
to him, his interest is to substitute a representative, in order to
add to the value for which he is a creditor the value of this special
service. Saving, then, implies in no shape actual hoarding.

Let moralists be no longer arrested by this consideration. . .
 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . [p397]


I have been longing to enter upon the subject of this chapter, were
it for no other purpose than to have an opportunity of vindicating
Malthus from the violent attacks which have been made upon him. It is
scarcely credible that a set of writers of no reputation or ability,
and whose ignorance is transparent in every page of their works,
should, by echoing one another’s opinions, have succeeded in lowering
in public estimation a grave, conscientious, and philanthropic
author; representing as absurd a theory which at all events deserves
to be studied with serious attention.

It may be that I do not myself adopt all the opinions of Malthus.
Every question has two phases: and I believe that Malthus may have
fixed his regards too exclusively upon the sombre side. In my own
economical studies and inquiries, I have been so frequently led to
the conclusion, that ‹whatever is the work of Providence is good›,
that when logic has seemed to force me to a different conclusion, I
have been inclined to distrust my logic. I am aware that this faith
in final causes is not unattended with danger to the mind of an
inquirer. But this will not prevent me from acknowledging that there
is a vast amount of truth in the admirable work of this economist, or
from rendering homage to that ardent love of mankind by which every
line of it is inspired.

Malthus, whose knowledge of the social economy was profound, had
a clear view of all the ingenious mechanism with which nature has
provided the human race to assure its onward march on the road of
progress. And yet he believed that human progress might find itself
entirely paralyzed by one principle, namely, the principle of
Population. In contemplating the world, he gave way to the melancholy
reflection, that “God appears to have taken great care of the
species, and very little of the individual. In fact, as regards a
certain class of animated beings, we see them endowed with a [p398]
fecundity so prolific, a power of multiplication so extraordinary, a
profusion of germs so superabundant, that the destiny of the species
would seem undoubtedly well assured, while that of the individuals
of the species appears very precarious; for the whole of these germs
cannot be brought to life and maturity. They must either fail to
live, or must die prematurely.”

“Man makes no exception to this law.” [It is surprising that this
should shock the Socialists, who have never done telling us that
general must take precedence of individual right.] “This much is
certain, that God has secured the continuance of the human race by
providing it with a great power of reproduction. The numbers of
mankind, then, would come naturally, but for prudence and foresight,
to exceed what the earth could maintain. But man is endued with
foresight, and it is his reason and his will which can alone
interpose a check to this fatal progression.”

Setting out from these premises, which you may dispute if you will,
but which Malthus regarded as incontestable, he attached necessarily
the highest value to the exercise of foresight. For there was no
alternative;—man must either restrain voluntarily this excessive
multiplication, or else he must become subject, like all the other
species of living creatures, to the operation of positive or
repressive checks.

Malthus, then, believed that he could never urge men too strongly
to the exercise of foresight. His very philanthropy engaged him
to exhibit in strong relief the fatal consequences of imprudent
reproduction, in order to put men upon their guard. He said to them:
If you multiply inconsiderately, you cannot avoid the chastisement
which awaits you in some form or other, and always in a hideous
form—famine, war, pestilence, etc. Benevolence, charity, poor-laws,
and all other expedients are but ineffectual remedies.

In his ardour, Malthus allowed an expression to escape him, which,
when separated from the rest of his system, and from the sentiment
which dictated it, may appear harsh. It occurred in the first
edition of his work, which was then only a brochure, and has since
become a book of four volumes. It was represented to him that his
meaning in this objectionable passage might give rise to erroneous
interpretations. He immediately suppressed it, and it has never since
reappeared in any of the numerous editions of his Essay on Population.

But Mr Godwin, one of his opponents, had quoted this suppressed
passage, and the consequence was, that M. de Sismondi (a man who,
with the best intentions in the world, has done much [p399]
mischief) reproduced this unlucky sentence. The Socialists instantly
laid hold of it, and on this they proceeded to try, condemn, and
execute Malthus. Truly, they were much indebted to Sismondi’s
learning, for they had never themselves read either Malthus or Godwin.

The Socialists have thus represented an unguarded passage, which
Malthus himself had suppressed, as the basis of his system. They
repeat it ‹ad nauseam›. In a little 18mo volume, M. Pierre Leroux
reproduced it at least forty times, and it forms the stock-in-trade
of all our declamatory second-rate reformers.

The most celebrated and the most vigorous of that school of writers
having written an article against Malthus, I happened one day to
converse with him, and cited some opinions expressed in the Essay
on Population. I thought I perceived that he was not acquainted
with the work. I remarked to him, “You who have refuted Malthus,
have you not read his book from beginning to end?” “I have not read
it at all,” he replied. “His whole system is to be found in one
page, and is condensed in the famous ‘arithmetical and geometrical
progressions’—that is enough for me.” “It seems to me,” I said, “that
you are jesting with the public, with Malthus, with truth, with
conscience, and with yourself.”

This is the way that opinions obtain currency with us. Fifty ignorant
people repeat in chorus something spiteful and absurd, put forward
by one more ignorant than themselves, and if it happens to have the
least connexion with the fashionable opinions or passions of the
hour, it is at once received as an axiom.

Science, however, it must be allowed, cannot enter on the solution
of a problem with the settled intention of establishing a foregone
conclusion, however consolatory. What should we think of a man who
should sit down to the study of physiology, resolved beforehand to
demonstrate that God has not willed that mankind should be afflicted
with diseases? Were one physiologist to found a system on such a
basis as this, and another to controvert it by an appeal to facts,
the former would most likely fly into a rage, and tax his opponent
with ‹impiety›; but it is difficult to believe that he would go
the length of accusing his opponent himself of being the author of

This, however, is what has happened to Malthus. In a work founded on
facts and figures, he explained a law which has given great offence
to our optimists; and in their anxiety to ignore the existence of
this law, they have attacked Malthus with rancorous virulence and
flagrant bad faith, as if he had himself deliberately [p400] thrown
in the way of mankind those obstacles which flowed, as he thought,
from the principle of population. It would surely have been more
philosophical to have proved simply that Malthus was mistaken, and
that his pretended law had in reality no existence.

Population, we must allow, is one of a numerous class of subjects
which serve to remind us that man has frequently left him only a
choice of evils. Whatever may have been its design, suffering: has
entered into the plan of Providence. Let us not, then, seek for
harmony in the absence of evil, but in the tendency of evil to bring
us back to what is good, and in the gradual contraction of its own
domain. God has indued us with free will. It is necessary that we
should ‹learn›,—which is a long and difficult process,—and then it is
necessary that we should ‹act› on the knowledge thus acquired, which
is not much less difficult. In this way we shall gradually emancipate
ourselves from suffering, but without ever altogether escaping from
it; for even when we succeed completely in eluding chastisement, we
have still to exercise the painful effort of foresight. In freeing
ourselves from the one, we must submit ourselves to the other.

It is of no use to rebel against this order of things; for it
envelopes us; it is the atmosphere in which we live and breathe;
and it is with this alternative of restriction or prevention before
us, which we cannot get rid of, and cannot lose sight of, that we
proceed, with Malthus, to enter upon the problem of population. On
this great question I shall first of all assume the function of
a mere reporter, and then give you my own views. If