The Law: Frederic Bastiat's 1850 pamphlet (in English)

THE LAW 1


The law perverted! The law — and in its wake all the collective forces of the nation, — the Law2, I say, not only diverted from its purpose, but applied to pursue a directly opposite goal! The Law has become the instrument of all greed, instead of being its brake! The Law itself fulfilling the iniquity it was its mission to punish! Admittedly, this is a serious fact, if it exists, and on which I must be allowed to call the attention of my fellow citizens.

We hold from God the gift which for us contains all of them, Life — physical, intellectual and moral life.

But life does not support itself. He who gave it to us has left us the task of maintaining it, developing it, perfecting it.

For this, he has provided us with a set of wonderful Faculties; he plunged us into a milieu of diverse elements. It is by the application of our faculties to these elements that the phenomenon of Assimilation, of Appropriation, through which life travels the circle assigned to it, is realized.

Existence, Faculties, Assimilation — in other words, Individuality, Liberty, Property, — that's a man.

It is of these three things that we may say, apart from any demagogic subtility, that they are anterior and superior to all human legislation.

It is not because men have enacted Laws that Individuality, Liberty and Property exist. On the contrary, it is because the Individuality, Liberty and Property pre-exist that men make Laws.

What is the Law? As I have said elsewhere, it is the collective organization of the individual Right of self-defense3.

Each of us certainly holds of nature, of God, the right to defend his Person, his Liberty, his Property, since these are the three constitutive or conservative elements of Life, elements that complement each other and can not be understood without each other. For what are our Faculties, if not an extension of our Individuality, and what is Property, if not an extension of our Faculties?

If every man has the right to defend, even by force, his Person, his Liberty, his Property, several men have the Right to consult, to agree, to organize a common Force to regularly provide for this defense.

The collective Right therefore has its principle, its raison d'être, its legitimacy in individual Right; and the common Force can not rationally have any other purpose or mission than the isolated forces for which it is substituted.

Thus, as the Force of an individual can not legitimately attack the Person, the Liberty, the Property of another individual, for the same reason the common Force can not be legitimately applied to destroy the Person, the Liberty, the property of individuals or classes.

For this perversion of the Force would be, in one case as in the other, in contradiction with our premises. Who will dare to say that the Force was given to us not to defend our Rights, but to destroy the equal Rights of our brothers? And if this is not true of each individual force, acting in isolation, how could that be true of the collective force, which is only the organized union of isolated forces?

So, if there is one obvious thing, it is this: The law is the organization of the natural Right of legitimate self-defense; it is the substitution of the collective force for the individual forces, to act within the circle where they have the right to act, to do what they have the right to do, to guarantee the Persons, the Liberties, the Properties, to maintain each one within his Right, to make Justice prevail among all.

And if there existed a society constituted on this basis, it seems to me that there order would prevail in actions as in ideas. It seems to me that this society would have the simplest, the most economical, the least burdensome, the least felt, the least responsible, the most just, and therefore the most solid government that can be imagined, whatever may otherwise be its political form.

For, under such a regime, everyone would understand that he has all the fullness as all the responsibility of his Existence. Provided that persons were respected, that labor was uncoerced and the fruits of labor guaranteed against any unjust attack, no one would have anything to do with the State. Happy, we would not, it is true, thank it for our success; but unhappy, we would not blame it for our setbacks anymore than our peasants attribute to it hail or frost. We would not be aware of it but by the invaluable benefit of Security.

It may be further asserted that, thanks to the non-intervention of the State in private affairs, the Needs and Satisfactions would develop in the natural order. We would not see poor families seeking literary instruction before having bread. We would not see the city being populated at the expense of the countryside, or the countryside at the expense of the cities. We would not see these large displacements of capital, labor, population, provoked by legislative measures, displacements which render the very sources of existence so uncertain and precarious, and thereby aggravate to a great extent the responsibility of governments.

Unfortunately, the Law is far from being contained in its role. It is even so far from it that it has departed from it only in neutral and debatable views. It has done worse: it has acted contrary to its own end; it has destroyed its own purpose; it has endeavored to annihilate the Justice which it must make reign, to erase, among Rights, the limit which was its mission to enforce; it has put the collective force at the service of those who want to exploit, without risk and without scruple, the Person, the Liberty or the Property of others; she converted Plunder into a Right, to protect it, and self-defense into crime, to punish it.

How did this perversion of the Law happen? What were the consequences?

The Law has been perverted by two very different causes: unintelligent egoism and false philanthropy.

Let's talk about the first one.

To preserve and develop oneself, is the aspiration common to all men, so that if everyone enjoyed the free exercise of his faculties and the free disposition of their products, social progress would be incessant, uninterrupted, infallible.

But there is another tendency that is also common to them. It is to live and develop, when they can, at the expense of each other. This is not a random imputation, emanating from a sorrowful and pessimistic spirit. History bears witness to this by the incessant wars, migrations of peoples, sacerdotal oppressions, the universality of slavery, industrial frauds and monopolies with which its records are filled.

This disastrous disposition originates in the very constitution of man, in that primitive, universal, invincible sentiment which pushes him towards well-being and makes him flee from pain.

Man can live and enjoy only through an assimilation, a perpetual appropriation, that is by a perpetual application of his faculties on things, or by work. From that, Property.

But, in fact, he can live and enjoy by assimilating, by appropriating the product of the faculties of his fellow man. From that, Plunder.

Now, as work is in itself a pain, and man is naturally inclined to flee from trouble, it follows, and history is there to prove it, that wherever plunder is less expensive than work, it prevails; it prevails without any religion or morality being able, in this case, to prevent it.

When does plunder stop? When it becomes more expensive, more dangerous than work.

It is quite evident that the object of the Law should be to oppose the powerful obstacle of the collective force to this fatal tendency; that it should take sides for property and against Plunder.

But the Law is made, most often, by a man or a class of men. And since the Law does not exist without sanction, without the support of a preponderant force, it can not be that it may finally put this force in the hands of those who legislate.

This unavoidable phenomenon, combined with the fatal inclination that we ascertained in the heart of man, explains the almost universal perversion of the Law. We can conceive how, instead of being a brake on injustice, it becomes an instrument and the most invincible instrument of injustice. We can conceive that, depending on the power of the legislator, it destroys, for his benefit, and in various degrees, in the rest of the men, Individuality by slavery, Liberty by oppression, Property by plunder.

It is in the nature of men to react against the iniquity of which they are victims. Therefore, when Plunder is organized by the Law, for the benefit of the classes that make it, all despoiled classes tend, either by peaceful or revolutionary means, to enter somehow into the making of Laws. These classes, according to the degree of knowledge they have reached, can propose to themselves two very different ends as they pursue the conquest of their political rights: either they want to cease legal plunder, or they aspire to take part in it.

Woe, three times woe to the nations where the latter thought dominates among the masses, at the moment when they seize their turn of the legislative power!

Until that time legal plunder was exercised by the few over the many, as is seen among people where the right to legislate is concentrated in a few hands. But here it has become universal, and equilibrium is sought in universal plunder. Instead of extirpating injustice within society, it is generalized. As soon as the deprived classes have recovered their political rights, the first thought that seizes them is not to get rid of the plunder (that would imply them having knowledge they cannot have), but to organize a system of retaliation against the otherclasses and to their own detriment, — as if, before the reign of justice arrives, a cruel retribution should strike all of them, some because of their iniquity, others because of their ignorance.

One could not, therefore, introduce into Society a greater change and a greater misfortune than that: the Law converted into an instrument of plunder.

What are the consequences of such a disturbance? It would take volumes to describe them all. Let's just point out those most salient.

The first is to erase from consciousness the notion of the just and the unjust.

No society can exist if respect for the Laws doesn't reign therein to some degree; but the surest way for laws to be respected is that they be respectable. When Law and Morality are in contradiction, the citizen finds himself in the cruel alternative of losing the notion of Morality or losing respect for the Law, two misfortunes one as great as the other and between which it is difficult to choose.

It is so much the nature of the Law to make Justice reign, that Law and Justice are indistinguishable in the minds of the masses. We all have a strong disposition to regard what is legal as legitimate, to the point that there are many that falsely derive all justice from the Law. It is enough then that the Law order and consecrate Plunder that plunder seems just and sacred to many consciences. Slavery, restrictions, monopoly find defenders not only among those who profit from them, but even among those which suffer from them. Try to suggest some doubts about the morality of these institutions. « You are, they will say, a dangerous innovator, a utopian, a theoretician, one who holds contempt for the laws; you shake the foundation on which society rests. » Do you lecture on morality, or about political economy? There will be official organizations to send this wish to the government:

« That the science henceforth be taught, no longer solely from the point of view of Free Trade (of Freedom, of Property, of Justice), as has been the case so far, but also and above all from the viewpoint of facts and the legislation (contrary to Freedom, to Property, to Justice) which governs French industry. »
« That, in public professorships salaried by the Treasury, the professor strictly abstain from undermining the respect due to the current laws4, etc. »

So if there is a law sanctioning slavery or monopoly, oppression or plunder in any form, it will not even be necessary to talk about it; for how to talk about it without weakening the respect it inspires? Moreover, it will be necessary to teach morality and political economy from the point of view of said Law, that is, under the assumption that it is just merely because it is a Law.

Another effect of this deplorable perversion of the Law is to give an exaggerated preponderance to passions and political struggles, and, in general, to politics proper.

I could prove this proposition in a thousand ways. I will limit myself, by way of example, to bringing it closer to the subject that has recently occupied all minds: universal suffrage.

Whatever may be thought by the followers of the School of Rousseau, which considers itself very advanced and I believe to be retrograde by twenty centuries, universal (taking this word in its rigorous sense) suffrage is not one of those sacred dogmas. in which examination and even doubt are viewed as crimes.

We can oppose him with serious objections.

First, the word universal hides a gross sophism. There are thirty-six million inhabitants in France. For the right of suffrage to be universal, it would have to be recognized for thirty-six million electors. In the broadest system, only nine million are recognized. Three out of four people are therefore excluded and, what is more, they are excluded by that fourth one. On what principle is this exclusion based? on the principle of Incapacity. Universal suffrage means: universal suffrage of the capable. In fact, these questions remain: who are the capable? are age, sex, judicial convictions the only signs by which one can recognize incapacity?

If one looks closely, one sees very quickly the reason why the right of suffrage rests on the presumption of capacity, the broadest system does not differ in this respect from the most restrictive but in the evaluation of the signs by which this capacity can be recognized, which does not constitute a difference in principle, but of degree.

The reason is that the elector does not stipulate for him, but for everyone.

If, as claimed by the republicans of Greek and Roman tinges, the right of suffrage is due to us with life, it would be iniquitous for adults to prevent women and children from voting. Why are they prevented? Because they are presumed to be incapable. And why is Incapacity a reason for exclusion? Because the elector does not garner alone the responsibility for his vote; because each vote engages and affects the entire community; because the community has the right to demand certain guarantees concerning acts on which its well-being and existence depend.

I know what one could answer. I also know what one could rely. This is not the place to exhaust such controversy. What I want to point out is that this very controversy (as well as most political issues) that agitates, impassions and convulses the people, would lose almost all its importance, if the Law had always been what it ought to be.

Indeed, if the Law were limited to ensuring respect of all Persons, all Freedoms, all Properties, if it were only the organization of the individual Right of self-defense, the obstacle, the brake, the punishment opposed to all oppressions, all the plunder, do you think we would argue much, among citizens, about suffrage being more or less universal? Do you think it would call into question the greatest of goods, the public peace? Do you think that the excluded classes would not peacefully wait their turn? Do you think that the admitted classes would be very jealous of their privilege? And is it not clear that the interest being identical and common, some would act, without much inconvenience, for others?

But that this fatal principle comes to be introduced, that, under the pretext of organization, regulation, protection, encouragement, the Law can take some to give to others , draw on the wealth acquired by all classes for increase that of a class; sometimes that of the farmers, sometimes that of the manufacturers, the merchants, the shipowners, the artists, the actors; Oh! certainly, in this case, there is no class which does not claim, with reason, to put its hand on the Law too; who fervently claims his right of election and eligibility; which does not upset the society rather than not to obtain it. The beggars and the vagabonds themselves will prove to you that they have incontestable titles. They will say to you: « We never buy wine, tobacco, salt, without paying taxes, and a portion of this tax is given legislatively in premiums, in subsidies to men richer than us. Others make the law serve to artificially raise the price of bread, meat, iron, cloth. Since everyone exploits the Law to their benefit, we want to exploit it as well. We want to bring forth the Right to assistance, which is part of plunder of the poor. For this, we need to be voters and legislators, so that we may organize on a grand scale Alms for our class, as you have organized on a grand scale Protection for yours. Do not tell us that you will act on our behalf, that you will throw at us, according to the proposal of Mr. Mimerel, a sum of 600,000 francs to silence us and as a bone to gnaw. We have other pretensions and, in any case, we want to stipulate for ourselves as the other classes have stipulated for themselves! »

What can one respond to this argument? Yes, as long as it is accepted in principle that the Law can be diverted from its true mission, that it can violate properties instead of protect them, each class will want to make the Law, either to defend itself against plunder, or also to organize it to its benefit. The political question will always be harmful, dominant, absorbent; in a word, we will fight to the door of the Legislative Palace. The battle will not be less fierce inside. To be convinced of this, just look at what is happening in the Chambers in France and England; it suffices to know how the question is posed there.

Is it necessary to prove that this odious perversion of the Law is a perpetual cause of hatred, of discord, even up to social disorganization? Cast your look on the United States. It is the country of the world where the Law stays the most within its role, which is to guarantee to each one his liberty and his property. It is also the country where the social order appears to rest on the most stable bases. Nevertheless, even in the United States, there are two issues, and only two of them, which, since the beginning, have put the political order in jeopardy several times. And which are these two issues? Slavery and Tariffs, that is to say, precisely the two areas where, contrary to the general spirit of that republic, the Law has taken the plundering character. Slavery is a violation, sanctioned by the law, of the rights of the Person. Protection is a violation, perpetrated by the law, of the right to Property; and surely, it is very remarkable that in the midst of so many other debates, this double legal scourge, a sad legacy of the old world, is the only one that can and perhaps will bring about the rupture of the Union. Indeed, one cannot imagine, within a society, a fact more significant than this: The Law has become an instrument of injustice. And if this fact engenders such formidable consequences in the United States, where it is but an exception, what must it be in our Europe, where it is a Principle, a System?

Mr. de Montalembert, appropriating the thought of a famous proclamation of Mr. Carlier, said: We have to make war on Socialism. — And by Socialism, it must be thought, according to the definition of Mr. Charles Dupin, that he meant Plunder.

But about what Plunder did he want to talk? Because there are two kinds. There is extra-legal plunder and legal plunder.

As for extra-legal plunder, that called theft, fraud, which is defined, prefigured and punished by the Penal Code, in truth, I do not think one can decorate it with the name of Socialism. This is not the one that systematically threatens society in its bases. Besides, the war against this kind of plunder did not wait for the signal of Mr. de Montalembert or Mr. Carlier. It has proceeded from the beginning of the world; France has provided for it long before the revolution of February, long before the appearance of Socialism, with a whole apparatus of magistracy, police, gendarmerie, prisons, penitentiaries and gallows. It is the Law itself which leads this war, and what would be desirable, in my opinion, is that the Law always maintain this attitude with regard to Plunder.

But it is not so. The Law sometimes takes sides for itself. Sometimes it does it with its own hands, in order to spare the beneficiary the shame, danger and scruple. Sometimes it puts all this apparatus of magistracy, police, gendarmerie, and prison at the service of the plunderer, and treats as criminal the plundered who defends himself. In a word, there is legal plunder, and without doubt about that is what Mr. de Montalembert talks.

This plunder may be only an exceptional stain in the legislation of a people, and, in that case, what is the best to do, without so many declamations and jeremiads, is to erase it as soon as possible, notwithstanding the clamor of interested parties. How to recognize this? It is very simple. One must examine whether the Law takes what belongs to some to give to others what does not belong to them. One must examine whether the Law accomplishes, for the benefit of a citizen and to the detriment of others, an act that this citizen could not accomplish by himself without commiting a crime. Hurry to repeal this Law; it is not only an iniquity, it is a fertile source of iniquities; for it calls for reprisals, and if you are not careful, the exceptional feat will spread, multiply, and become systematic. Without doubt, the beneficiary will utter loud cries; he will invoke acquired rights. He will say that the State owes Protection and Stimulus to his industry; he will allege that it is good for the State to enrich him, because, being richer, he spends more, and thus spreads a shower of wages to the poor workers. Beware of listening to this sophist, because it is precisely through the systematization of these arguments that legal plunder will be systematized.

That is what has come about. The chimera of the day is to enrich all classes, some at the expense of the others; it is to generalize Plunder under the pretext of organizing it. Now, legal plunder can be exercised in an infinite multitude of ways; hence an infinite multitude of organizational plans: tariffs, protection, bounties, subsidies, incentives, progressive taxation, free education, Right to work, Right to profit, Right to wages, Right to get assistance, Right to work tools, free credit, etc., etc. And it is the set of all these plans, in what they have in common, legal plunder, which takes the name of Socialism.

Now socialism, thus defined, forming a body of doctrine, what war do you want to make on it, if not a war of doctrine? You find this doctrine false, absurd, abominable. Refute it. This will be all the easier for you the falser, more absurd, more abominable it is. Above all, if you want to be strong, begin by eradicating from your legislation all that has slipped into it of Socialism, — and the task is not small.

Mr. de Montalembert has been reproached for wanting to turn brutal force against Socialism. It is a reproach from which he should be exonerated, since formally he said: It is necessary against Socialism to make war compatible with law, honor and justice.

But how does Mr. de Montalembert not realize that he is placing himself in a vicious circle? Do you want to oppose to Socialism the Law? But precisely Socialism invokes the Law. It does not aspire to extra-legal plunder, but to legal plunder. It is from the Law itself, like the monopolists of all kinds, that it claims to be an instrument; and once it has the Law on its side, how would you turn the Law against it? How would you place it under the power of your tribunals, your gendarmes, your prisons?

So what do you do? You want to prevent it from putting the hand in the making of the Laws. You want to keep it outside the Legislative Palace. You will not succeed, I dare to predict, while within we legislate on the principle of legal Plunder. It's too iniquitous, it's too absurd.

It is absolutely necessary that this question of legal Plunder be cleared up, and there are only three solutions:

That the few may plunder the many.

That everybody may plunder everybody.

That no one may plunder anyone.

Partial Plunder, universal Plunder, absence of Plunder, it is necessary to choose. The law can pursue only one of these three results.

Partial Plunder — is the system that prevailed as long as the electorate was partial, system to which one comes back to avoid the invasion of Socialism.

Universal Plunder — is the system by which we have been threatened when the electorate became universal, the mass having conceived the idea of ​​legislating on the principle of the legislators who preceded it.

Absence of Plunder — is the principle of justice, peace, order, stability, conciliation, common sense that I will proclaim with all the force of my lungs, alas! quite insufficient, until my last breath.

And, sincerely, can we ask something else from the Law? The Law, having Force as necessary sanction, can it be reasonably used for anything other than to maintain each one within his Right? I challenge anyone to take it out of this circle, without turning it around, and, consequently, without turning Force against Right. And as this is the direst, most illogical social disruption that can be imagined, it must be acknowledged that the real solution, so much sought after, to the social problem is contained in these simple words: the law, it is organized Justice.

Now, note well: to organize Justice by the Law, that is, by Force, excludes the idea of ​​organizing by Law or by Force any given manifestation of human activity: Labor, Charity, Agriculture, Commerce, Industry, Education, Fine Arts, Religion; for it is not possible for one of these secondary organizations not to annihilate the essential organization. How can one imagine, indeed, Force thrust upon the Freedom of the citizens, without undermining Justice, without acting against its own goal?

Here I clash with the most popular prejudice of our time. We do not just want the Law to be just; we also want it to be philanthropic. We are not satisfied that it guarantee to every citizen the free and harmless exercise of his faculties, applied to his physical, intellectual, and moral development; we demand that it spread directly on the nation the well-being, education and morality. This is the seductive side of Socialism.

But, I repeat, these two missions of the Law contradict each other. We must opt. The citizen cannot at the same time be free and not be. Mr. de Lamartine once wrote to me: « Your doctrine is only half of my program; you have stayed at Liberty, I am at Fraternity. » I replied, « The second half of your program will destroy the first. » And, indeed, it is quite impossible for me to separate the word fraternity from the word voluntary. It is quite impossible for me to conceive of legally enforced Fraternity, without Liberty being legally destroyed, and Justice legally trampled underfoot.

Legal Plunder has two roots: one, as we have just seen, is in human Egoism; the other is in false Philanthropy.

Before going any further, I think I have to explain myself about the word Spoliation (Plunder).5

I do not consider it, as is done too often, in a vague, indeterminate, approximate, metaphorical sense. I use it in an entirely scientific sense, and as expressing the idea opposite to that of Property. When some portion of riches passes from the one who acquired them, without his consent and without compensation, to one who did not create them, whether by force or by ruse, I say that there is an attack on Property, that there is Spoliation. I say that this is precisely what the law should repress everywhere and always. That if the Law itself achieves the act that it should repress, I say that there is no less Spoliation, and even, socially speaking, with an aggravating circumstance. Only, in this case, it is not he one who profits from Spoliation who is responsible for it, it is the Law, it is the legislator, it is society, and it is that what makes the political danger.

It is regrettable that this word is somewhat offensive. I have sought in vain for another, for at no time, and especially not now, would I want to cast an irritating word in the midst of our discords. Further, whether believed or not, I declare that I do not intend to accuse the intentions or morality of anyone. I attack an idea which I believe to be false, a system that appears to me to be unjust, and which is so far outside of intentions, that each one of us profits from it without meaning to and suffers from it unwittingly. One must write under the influence of partisan spirit or of fear to cast doubt on the sincerity of Protectionism, Socialism and even Communism, which are one and the same plant, at three different stages of its growth. All one could say is that Spoliation is more visible by its partiality in Protectionism6, by its universality in communism; from this it follows that of the three systems Socialism is still the most vague, the most undecided, and consequently the most sincere.

Anyway, to agree that legal plunder has one of its roots in false philanthropy is, evidently, to put intentions out of the question.

This being understood, let us examine what has worth, where does this popular aspiration, which professes to achieve the general Good by means of general Plunder, come from and where does it lead.

The Socialists tell us: since the Law organizes justice, why could it not organize work, education, religion?

Why? Because it would not know how to organize work, education, religion, without disrupting Justice.

Observe, then, that the Law is Force, and that, consequently, the domain of the Law may not legitimately exceed the rightful domain of Force.

When the law and the Force hold a man within Justice, they impose on him nothing but a mere negation. They only impose on him to abstain from doing harm. They attack neither his Person, nor his Liberty, nor his Property. They only safeguard the Person, Liberty, and Property of others. They are on the defensive; they defend the equal Right of all. They fulfill a mission whose innocuousness is evident, its utility palpable, and its legitimacy undisputed.

This is so true that, as one of my friends pointed out, to say that the purpose of the Law is to make Justice reign, is to use an expression that is not rigorously accurate. One should say: The purpose of the Law is to prevent Injustice from reigning. Indeed, it is not Justice that has an existence of its own, it is Injustice. One results from the absence of the other.

But when the Law, — through its necessary agent, the Force, — imposes a mode of work, a method or subject for teaching, a faith or a cult, it is no longer a negative, it is positively acting on men. It substitutes the will of the legislator for their own will, the initiative of the legislator for their own initiative. They no longer have to confer together, to compare, to foresee; the law does all this for them. Their intelligence becomes a useless piece of furniture; they cease to be men; they lose their Individuality, their Liberty, their Property.

Try to imagine a form of work imposed by Force, which is not an attack on Liberty; a transmission of wealth imposed by Force, which is not an attack on Property. If you fail to do so, then acknowledge that the Law cannot organize work and industry without organizing Injustice.

When, from the depths of his office, a publicist7 casts his looks on society, he is struck by the spectacle of inequality that presents itself. He groans at the sufferings that are the lot of so many of our brothers, sufferings whose appearance is made even more saddening by the contrast of luxury and opulence.

Perhaps he should ask himself whether such social state is not caused by ancient Plunders, carried out by way of conquest, and new Plunders, exercised by means of the Laws. He should ask himself if, given the aspiration of all men towards well-being and betterment, the reign of justice is not enough to achieve the greatest activity of Progress and the greatest sum of Equality, compatible with that individual responsibility that God has arranged as just retribution for virtues and vices.

He does not dream only about that. His thinking goes towards combinations, arrangements, legal or fictitious organizations. He seeks remedy in the perpetuity and exaggeration of that which has produced evil.

Given that, apart from Justice, which, as we have seen, is only a true negation, is there even one of those legal arrangements which does not contain the principle of Plunder?

You say, « Here are men who lack riches, » — and you address the Law. But the Law is not a breast that refills itself, or whose lactiferous ducts go to draw from somewhere other than from society. Nothing enters the public treasury, in favor of a citizen or a class, except what other citizens and other classes have been forced to put in. If each one draws only the equivalent of what he has paid into it, your Law, it is true, is not plundering, but it does nothing for those men who lack wealth, it does not do anything for equality. It cannot be an instrument of equalization as long as it takes from some to give to others, and then it is an instrument of Plunder. Examine from this point of view the Protection tariffs, the development awards, the Right to profit, the Right to work, the Right to assistance, the Right to education, the progressive tax, the free credit, the social workshop, at bottom you will always find legal Plunder, organized injustice.

You say, « Here are men who lack knowledge, » — and you address the Law. But the Law is not a torch spreading from far a clarity of its own. It hovers over a society where there are men who know and others who do not know; citizens who need to learn and others who are willing to teach. It can only do one of two things: either allow such transactions to take place freely, to allow this nature of needs to be freely satisfied; or to force the wills in this respect and take from some to pay the professors charged with instructing others for free. But it cannot prevent, in the second case, an attack on Liberty and Property, legal Plunder.

You say, « These are men who lack morality or religion, » — and you are speaking to the Law. But the Law is the Force, and do I need to say how violent and crazy it is to bring in force in these matters?

At the end of its systems and efforts, it seems that Socialism, however self-indulgent it may be, cannot help but perceive the monster of legal Plunder. But what does it do? It disguises it skillfully to all eyes, even its own, under the seductive names of Fraternity, Solidarity, Organization, Association. And because we do not ask so much from the Law, because we only demand Justice from it, it is supposed that we reject fraternity, solidarity, organization, association, and we are reproached with the epithet of individualists.

Let it be known then that what we reject is not natural organization, but forced organization.

It is not free association, but the forms of association that it intends to impose on us.

It is not spontaneous fraternity, but legal fraternity.

It is not providential solidarity, but artificial solidarity, which is but an unjust transfer of Responsibility.

Socialism, like the old politics from which it emanates, confounds Government and Society. That is why, whenever we do not want something to be done by Government, it concludes that we do not want that to be done at all. We reject education by the State; hence we do not want any education. We reject a State religion; hence we do not want religion. We reject equalization by the State; hence we do not want equality, etc., etc. It's as if we are accused of not wanting people to eat, because we reject wheat cultivation by the State.

How could it prevail, in the political world, the bizarre idea of deriving from the Law what is not there: the Good, in a positive sense, Wealth, Science, Religion?

Modern publicists, particularly those of the socialist school, base their various theories on a common hypothesis, and assuredly the strangest, most proud that can be found in a human brain.

They divide humanity into two parts. The totality of men, minus one, forms the first part; the publicist, on his own, forms the second and, by far, the most important.

Indeed, they begin by supposing that men do not bear within themselves a principle of action nor a means of discernment; that they are devoid of initiative; that they are inert matter, passive molecules, atoms without spontaneity, at most a vegetation indifferent to its own mode of existence, capable of receiving, from an external will and hand, an infinite number of more or less symmetrical, artistic, perfected forms.

Then each one of them supposes without fuss that his own self is, under the names of Organizer, Revealer, Legislator, Teacher, Founder, this will and this hand, this universal motive, this creative power whose sublime mission is to unite in society these scattered materials, which are men.

From this datum, as each gardener, according to his whim, sculpts his trees into pyramids, parasols, cubes, cones, in vases, espaliers, as distaffs, fans, each socialist, following his chimera, sculpts poor humanity into groups, series, centers, subcenters, cells, in social, harmonic, contrasted workshops, etc., etc.

And just like the gardener, to carry out the sculpting of the trees, needs axes, saws, billhooks and scissors, the publicist, in order to arrange his society, needs forces which he can find only in the Laws; customs law, tax law, law of assistance, law of instruction.

It is so true that socialists consider humanity as material for social combinations, that if, by chance, they are not sure of the success of these combinations, they demand at least a parcel of humanity as material for experiments: we know how popular among them is the idea of experimenting with all systems, and we have seen one of their chiefs seriously come to ask the constituent assembly for a township with all its inhabitants, to make his try.

This is how every inventor makes his machine in small scale before making it large. This is how the chemist sacrifices some reagents, how the farmer sacrifices some seeds and a corner of his field to test an idea.

But what an immeasurable distance between the gardener and his trees, between the inventor and his machine, between the chemist and his reagents, between the farmer and his seeds!... The socialist believes in good faith that the same distance separates him from humanity.

One should not be surprised that 19th-century publicists view society as an artificial creation come forth from the Legislator's genius.

This idea, the fruit of classical education, has dominated all the thinkers, all the great writers of our country.

All have seen between humanity and the legislator the same relationships which exist between the clay and the potter.

Moreover, if they have consented to recognize, in the heart of man, a principle of action and, in his intelligence, a principle of discernment, they thought that God had given him, in this, a baneful talent and that humanity, under the influence of these two engines, was fatally tending towards its degradation. They have posited in fact that abandoned to its inclinations, humanity would not busy itself with religion but to end in atheism, with education but to arrive at ignorance, with work and exchanges but to extinguish itself in misery.

Fortunately, according to these same writers, there are some men, named Governors, Legislators, who received opposite tendencies from heaven, not only for themselves, but for all others.

While humanity leans towards Evil, they are inclined to the Good; while humanity marches towards darkness, they aspire for the light; while humanity is driven towards vice, they are attracted by virtue. And, thus placed, they claim the Force, so that it will allow them to substitute their own tendencies for the tendencies of humankind.

It suffices to open, almost at random, a book of philosophy, politics or history to see how deeply rooted in our country is this idea, the daughter of classical studies and mother of Socialism, that humanity is an inert matter receiving from power its life, organization, morality, and wealth; — or, what is even worse, that by itself humanity tends towards its degradation and does not stop on this slope but by the mysterious hand of the Legislator. Classical Conventionalism everywhere shows us, behind the passive society an occult power which, under the name of Law, Legislator, or under that more convenient and vague expression of someone, moves humanity, animates it, enriches it, and moralizes it.

Bossuet. « One of the things that someone (who?) imprinted most strongly in the spirit of the Egyptians was love of the homeland. ... It was not allowed to be useless to the State; the law assigned to each his job, which was perpetuated from father to son. Someone could not have two jobs or change his profession ... But there was an occupation that had to be common, it was the study of laws and of wisdom. Ignorance of the religion and the police of the country was not excused in any state. Moreover, each profession had its canton assigned to it (by whom?) ... Among the good laws, the best thing was that everyone was nurtured (by whom?) with the spirit of observing them.... Its mercuries9 filled Egypt with marvelous inventions, and had not let it ignore next to nothing of what could make life convenient and serene. »8

So, according to Bossuet, men draw nothing of themselves: patriotism, riches, activity, wisdom, inventions, ploughing, sciences, everything came to them through the operation of the Laws or the Kings. He did not act on his own but to be carried along. It is at this point that Diodorus having accused the Egyptians of rejecting fighting and music, Bossuet rebukes him. How is that possible, he says, since these arts had been invented by Trismegistus?

Similarly among the Persians:

« One of the first cares of the prince was to make agriculture flourish... As there were posts established for the direction of the armies, there were also some to watch over the rural jobs... The respect for royal authority that someone inspired the Persians went up to excess. »10

The Greeks, though full of spirit, were no less strangers to their own destinies, until, by themselves, they would have risen, like dogs and horses, to the height of the simplest games. Classically, it is agreed that everything comes to the peoples from without.

« The Greeks, naturally full of spirit and courage, had been cultivated early by the Kings and colonies arrived from Egypt. It was from this that they had learned the exercises of the body, race on foot, on horseback and on chariots. What the Egyptians had taught them best was to become docile, to let themselves be formed by laws for the public good. »11

Fénelon. Nourished in the study and admiration of antiquity, witness of the power of Louis XIV, Fénelon could hardly escape this idea that humanity is passive, and that its adversities as well as its prosperities, its virtues as well as its vices come from an external action, exerted on it by the Law or the one who makes it. Also, in his utopian Salento, he puts men, with their interests, faculties, desires and property, at the absolute discretion of the Legislator. In any matter whatsoever, it is never they who judge for themselves, it is the Prince. The nation is but a shapeless substance, of which the Prince is the soul. It is in him that lies the thought, the foresight, the principle of all organization, of all progress and, consequently, the Responsibility.

To prove this assertion, I would have to transcribe here the whole Xth book of Telemachus. I refer the reader to it, and content myself with quoting some passages chosen at random from this celebrated poem, to which, in every other respect, I am the first to render justice.

With this surprising credulity which characterizes the classics, Fénelon admits, in spite of the authority of reasoning and the facts, the general happiness of the Egyptians, and attributes it, not to their own wisdom, but to that of their Kings.

« We could not cast our eyes on the two shores without perceiving opulent cities, pleasantly situated country houses, lands which are covered every year with a golden harvest, without ever resting; meadows full of flocks; plowmen overwhelmed by the weight of the fruits which the earth spilled from its bosom; shepherds who made the sweet sounds of their flutes and chalumeaux echo through all the surroundings. Happy, said Mentor, the people who are led by a wise King.

« Then Mentor made me notice the joy and abundance spread throughout the Egyptian countryside, where one counted as many as twenty-two thousand towns; justice applied in favor of the poor against the rich; the good education of children who they accustomed to obedience, work, sobriety, love of the arts and letters; the exactness in all religious ceremonies, the disinterest, the desire for honor, fidelity to men and fear for the gods, that each father inspired in his children. He never tired of admiring this beautiful order. Happy, he said, the people whom a wise King leads thus. »12

Fénelon makes an even more seductive idyll about Crete. So he adds, through Mentor's mouth:

« All that you will see on this marvelous island is fruit from the laws of Minos. The education he sought to give to children makes the body healthy and robust. Someone first gets them used to a simple, frugal and industrious life; someone supposes that all voluptuousness softens the body and the spirit; no one ever suggests to them a pleasure other than of being invincible due to virtue and of acquiring much glory.... Here someone punishes three vices that go unpunished among other peoples, ingratitude, insincerity and avarice. For ostentation and sloth, no one ever needs to suppress them because they are unknown in Crete... no one there tolerates precious furniture, magnificent clothes, delicious feasts, nor gilded palaces. »13

Thus Mentor prepares his pupil to crush and manipulate, from the most philanthropic points of view, no doubt, the people of Ithaca, and, for greater certainty, he gives him the example of Salento.

This is how we receive our first political notions. Someone teaches us to treat men more or less as Olivier de Serres teaches farmers to treat and mix the soils.

Montesquieu. « To maintain the spirit of commerce, all laws ought to favor it; that these same laws, by their dispositions, dividing fortunes while commerce increases them, put each poor citizen sufficiently at ease to be able to work like the others, and each rich citizen in such a mediocrity that he needs to work to preserve or acquire .... »14

Thus the Laws dispose of all fortunes.

« Although in a democracy real equality is the soul of the State, nevertheless it is so difficult to establish that extreme accuracy in this respect would not always be suitable. It suffices that someone establish a census which reduces or fixes the differences up to a certain point. After which it is for particular laws to equalize, so to speak, the inequalities, by the burdens they impose on the rich, and the relief they grant to the poor.... »15

This is still the equalization of fortunes by law, by force.

« There were two kinds of republics in Greece. Some were military, like Lacedaemon; others were merchants, like Athens. In some someone wanted the citizens to be idle; in others someone sought to impart love for labor. »16

« I ask that some attention be paid to the extent of the genius that it took these legislators to see that by shocking all accepted customs, by confusing all the virtues, they would show the universe their wisdom. Lycurgus, mixing larceny with the spirit of justice, the hardest slavery with extreme freedom, the most atrocious feelings with the greatest moderation, gave stability to his city. He seemed to take away all the resources, the arts, the commerce, the money, the walls: there is ambition without hope to be better; there are natural feelings, and someone there is neither child nor husband nor father; even modesty is removed from chastity. It is by this path that Sparta is led to greatness and glory.... »

« This extraordinary thing which we saw in the institutions of Greece, we have seen in the dregs and corruption of modern times. An honest and learned legislator has formed a people where probity seems as natural as bravery among the Spartans. Mr. Penn is a true Lycurgus, and though the former has had peace as objective while the other had war, they are alike in the singular path on which they put their people, in the influence they had on free men, in the prejudices they have conquered, in the passions they have subdued. »

« Paraguay can furnish us another example. Someone has wanted to make it a crime against Society, which regards the pleasure of commanding as the only good of life; but it will always be noble to govern men by making them happier.... »

« Those who wish to make similar institutions will establish the communal property* of the Republic of Plato, that respect he demanded for the gods, that separation from foreigners for the preservation of customs, and the city, and not the citizens, doing commerce; they will give us our arts without our luxury, and our needs without our desires. »17

The vulgar zeal will exclaim in vain: It's from Montesquieu, so it's brilliant! it's sublime! I will have the courage of my opinion to say:

What! you have the gall to call that beautiful!

But it's dreadful! abominable! and these excerpts, which I could multiply, show that, in Montesquieu's ideas, the persons, liberties, properties, and all of humanity are only materials appropriate for exercising the sagacity of the Legislator.

Rousseau. Although this publicist, supreme authority of the democrats, bases the social edifice on the general will, no one has admitted, as completely as him, the hypothesis of the total passivity of humankind in the presence of the Legislator.

« If it is true that a great prince is a rare man, what then of a great legislator? The first needs but to follow the model that the other must propose. This one is the mechanic who invents the machine, that one is just the worker who assembles it and makes it work. »18

And what are men in all this? The machine that is assembled and works, or rather the raw material of which the machine is made!

Thus between the Legislator and the Prince, between the Prince and the subjects, there are the same relations as between the agronomist and the farmer, the farmer and the soil. How high above humanity is the publicist then placed, who dictates to the Legislators themselves and teaches them their craft in these imperative terms:

« Do you want to give consistency to the State? bring the extremes as close as possible. Do not endure opulent people nor beggars.

« Is the soil poor or barren, or the country too cramped for the inhabitants, turn yourself on the side of industry and the arts, whose products you will exchange for the provisions you are lacking.... On a good terrain, but you lack inhabitants, give all your attention to agriculture, which multiplies men, and banish the arts, which would do nothing but depopulate the country.... Do you occupy extensive and convenient shores, cover the sea with vessels, you will have a brilliant and short existence. The sea bathes your shores only on inaccessible rocks, remain barbaric and ichthyophagous, you will live more restfully, perhaps better, and, certainly, happier. In a word, besides the maxims common to all, each people contains some cause that orders them in a particular manner, and renders their legislation proper only to themselves. It was thus that formerly the Hebrews, and recently the Arabs, had religion as principal objective; the Athenians, literature; Carthage and Tyre, commerce; Rhodes, the navy; Sparta, war, and Rome, virtue. The author of the Spirit of the Laws showed by which art the legislator directs the institution towards each of these objectives*.... But if the legislator, mistaking his objective, takes a principle different from that which springs from the nature of things, where one tends to servitude and the other to liberty; one to riches, the other to population; one to peace, the other to conquests; we shall see the laws weaken imperceptibly, the constitution altered, and the State will not cease to be agitated until it is destroyed or changed, and invincible nature has retaken its mandate. »19

But if nature is invincible enough to retake its mandate, why does not Rousseau admit that she did not need the Legislator to take that mandate from the outset? Why does he not admit that by obeying their own initiatives, men will turn by themselves towards commerce on extensive and convenient shores, without a Lycurgus, a Solon, a Rousseau being involved, at the risk of being mistaken?.

Be that as it may, we understand the terrible responsibility that Rousseau imposes on the inventors, teachers, directors, legislators and manipulators of Societies. So, regarding them, he is very demanding.

« Whoever dares to undertake to establish a people must feel able to change, so to speak, human nature, to transform each individual who, by himself, is a perfect and solitary whole, to be part of a greater whole, from which this individual receives, in full or in part, his life and his being; to alter the constitution of man to strengthen it, to substitute a partial and moral existence for the physical and independent existence that we have all received from nature. In a word, it is necessary to remove from man his own strengths to give him others that are foreign to him.... »20

Poor human species, what would the followers of Rousseau do to your dignity?

Raynal. « The climate, that is, the sky and the soil, is the first rule of the legislator. His resources dictate his duties. It is first his local position that he must consult. A population placed on seacoasts will have laws related to navigation.... If the colony is located on lands, a legislator must plan for their kind and their degree of fertility.... »

« It is especially in the distribution of property that the wisdom of the legislation will break out. In general, and in all countries of the world, when a colony is founded, it is necessary to give land to all men, that is to say, to each one a sufficient extent for the sustenance of a family.... »

« In a wild island that someone would populate with children, someone would only have to let the germs of truth hatch in the developments of reason.... But when someone establishes an already aged people in a new country, the skill consists in not letting harmful opinions and habits where they cannot be cured and corrected. If one wants to prevent them from being transmitted, someone will keep watch over the second generation through a common and public education of children. A prince, a legislator, should never found a colony without sending in advance wise men for the instruction of the youth.... In a nascent colony, all facilities are open to the precautions of the Legislator who wants to purify the blood and the customs of a people. What he may have of genius and virtue, the lands and the men he will have in his hands will inspire in his soul a plan of society, which a writer can never trace but in a vague manner and subject to the instability of hypotheses, which vary and become complicated with an infinity of circumstances too difficult to foresee and to combine.... »21

Does it not seem like hearing an agricultural professor say to his students: The climate is the first rule of the farmer? His resources dictate his duties. It is first his local position that he must consult. If he is on a clay soil, he must behave in such a way. If he is faced with sand, this is how he should proceed. All facilities are open to the farmer who wants to clear and improve his soil. What he may have of skill, the land, the fertilizer he will have in his hands will inspire in him a plan of exploitation, which a professor can never trace but in a vague manner and subject to the instability of hypotheses, which vary and become complicated with an infinity of circumstances too difficult to foresee and combine.

But, o sublime writers, please do remember sometime that this clay, this sand, this manure, of which you dispose so arbitrarily, are Men, your equals, intelligent and free beings like you, who have received from God, like you, the faculty to see, to foresee, to think and to judge for themselves!

Mably. (He presumes laws worn out by the rust of time, the neglect of security, and continues thus:)

« In these circumstances, one must be convinced that the government's springs have relaxed. Give them a new tension (it is the reader whom Mably addresses), and the evil will be cured.... Think less about punishing faults than about encouraging the virtues that you need. By this method you will render the vigor of youth to your republic. It is because this has not been known by free people that they have lost their liberty! But if the progress of evil is such that ordinary magistrates cannot remedy it effectively, resort to an extraordinary magistracy, whose time is short and its power considerable. The imagination of the citizens then needs to be shaken.... »22

And everything with this taste for twenty volumes.

It has been a time when, under the influence of such teachings, which are the foundation of classical education, everyone has wanted to place himself outside and above humanity, to arrange, organize and establish it in his way.

Condillac. « Set yourself, my Lord, as Lycurgus or Solon. Before continuing to read this writing, amuse yourself by giving laws to some savage people of America or Africa. Establish these wandering men in fixed dwellings; teach them to feed herds....; work to develop the social qualities that nature has put in them.... Order them to begin practicing the duties of humanity.... Poison with punishments the pleasures promised by the passions, and you will see these barbarians, for every article of your legislation, lose a vice and gain a virtue. »

« All peoples have had laws. But few of them have been happy. What is the cause? it is that legislators have almost always ignored that the objective of society is to unite families by a common interest. »

« The impartiality of laws consists of two things: to establish equality in fortune and in dignity of the citizens.... As your laws establish greater equality, they will become dearer to each citizen.... How will avarice, ambition, voluptuousness, laziness, idleness, envy, hatred, jealousy agitate men equal in fortune and dignity, and to whom the laws would leave no hope of breaking the equality? » (The idyll continues.)

« What you have been told about the Republic of Sparta must give you great insight into this question. No other State has ever had laws more consistent with the order of nature and of equality23. »24

It is not surprising that the 17th and 18th centuries considered humankind as an inert matter waiting, receiving everything, form, figure, impulse, movement and life from a great Prince, a great Legislator, a great Genius. These centuries were nourished by the study of antiquity, and antiquity offers us indeed everywhere, in Egypt, in Persia, in Greece, in Rome, the spectacle of some men on their whim manipulating humanity subjugated by force or imposture. What does this prove? That, because man and society are perfectible, error, ignorance, despotism, slavery, superstition must accumulate more at the beginning of time. The fault of the writers whom I have cited is not to have ascertained the fact, but to have proposed it, as a rule, for admiration and imitation by future generations. Their fault is to have admitted, with an inconceivable absence of criticism, and on faith of a puerile conventionalism, what is inadmissible, namely, the greatness, the dignity, the morality and the well-being of these artificial societies of the ancient world; to not have understood that time produces and propagates light25; that as light is made, force passes towards the Right, and society retakes possession of itself.

And indeed, what is the political work that we witness? It is none other than the instinctive effort of all peoples toward liberty26. And what is Liberty, this word that has the power to make every heart beat and to agitate the world, if not the set of all liberties, freedom of conscience, of education, of association, of the press, of locomotion, of work, of exchange; in other words, the free exercise, for all, of all harmless faculties; in still other words, the destruction of all despotisms, even legal despotism, and the reduction of the Law to its only rational attribution, which is to regularize the individual Right of self-defense or to supress injustice.

This tendency of humankind, it must be admitted, is greatly thwarted, particularly in our country, by the baneful disposition, — fruit of classical education, — common to all publicists, to place themselves outside of humanity to arrange it, organize it and establish it as they please.

For, while society is agitated to realize Liberty, the great men who put themselves at its head, imbued with the principles of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, only think of curbing it under the philanthropic despotism of their social inventions and to make it bear obediently, according to the expression of Rousseau, the yoke of the public felicity27, just as they had imagined it.

It was plain to see in 1789. Scarcely had the old legal regime been destroyed, that they undertook to subject the new society to other artificial arrangements, always starting from this agreed point: the omnipotence of the Law.

Saint-Just. « The legislator commands the future. It's up to him to want the good. It is up to him to make men what he wants them to be. »27

Robespierre. « The function of government is to direct the physical and moral forces of the nation towards the goal of its institution. »27

Billaud-Varennes. « We have to recreate the people whom we want to return to liberty. Since we have to destroy old prejudices, change ancient habits, improve depraved affections, restrict superfluous wants, extirpate inveterate vices; it is thus necessary a strong action, a vehement impulse... Citizens, the inflexible austerity of Lycurgus became at Sparta the unshakable base of the republic; the weak and trusting character of Solon plunged Athens into slavery. This parallel contains all the science of government. »

Lepelletier. « Considering to what extent mankind is degraded, I have convinced myself of the necessity of making a complete regeneration and, if I may so express myself, of creating a new people. »

As we can see, men are nothing but vile materials. It is not up to them to want the good; — of that they are incapable — it's up to the Legislator, according to Saint-Just. Men are but what he wants them to be.

According to Robespierre, who literally copies Rousseau, the Legislator begins by assigning the goal of the institution of the nation. Then the governments only have to direct towards this goal all the physical and moral forces. The nation itself always remains always passive in all this, and Billaud-Varennes teaches us that it must have only the prejudices, habits, affections and wants that the Legislator authorizes. He goes so far as saying that the inflexible austerity of a man is the basis of the republic.

We have seen that, in the case where evil is so great that ordinary magistrates cannot remedy it, Mably advised dictatorship to make virtue flourish. « Resort, he said, to an extraordinary magistracy, whose time is short and its power considerable. The imagination of the citizens needs to be shaken. » This doctrine has not been lost. Listen to Robespierre:

« The principle of republican government is virtue, and its means, while it is being established, terror. We want to substitute, in our country, morality for selfishness, probity for honor, principles for customs, duties for good manners, the empire of reason for the tyranny of fashion, the contempt for vice for the contempt for misfortune, pride for insolence, greatness of soul for vanity, love of glory for love of money, good people for good company, merit for intrigue, genius for cleverness, truth for splendor, the charm of happiness for the troubles of voluptuousness, the greatness of man for the pettiness of the great, a magnanimous, powerful, happy people, for an affable, frivolous, miserable people; that is to say, all the virtues and all the miracles of the Republic for all the vices and all the ridiculousness of the monarchy. »28

At what height above the rest of humanity does Robespierre place himself here! And observe the circumstance in which he speaks. He is not content with expressing the wish for a great renovation of the human heart; he does not even expect that it will result from a regular government. No, he wants to achieve it himself and by means of terror. The speech, from which this puerile and laborious mass of antitheses is extracted, was intended to expound the principles of morality which should direct a revolutionary government. Observe that when Robespierre comes to demand the dictatorship, it is not only to repel the foreigner and to fight the factions; it is more to make prevail by terror, and before the Constitution coming into play, his own moral principles. His pretentiousness want nothing less than to extirpate from the country, by terror, the selfishness, honor, customs, good manners, fashion, vanity, love of money, good company, intrigue, cleverness, voluptuousness and misery. It is only after he, Robespierre, will have accomplished these miracles, — as he rightly calls them, — that he will allow the laws to retake their mandate. — Hey! wretches, who think you are so great, who judge humanity as so small, who want to reform everything, reform yourselves, this task is enough for you.

However, in general, the gentlemen Reformers, Legislators and Publicists do not ask to exercise an immediate despotism on humanity. No, they are too moderate and too philanthropic for that. They demand only despotism, absolutism, the omnipotence of the Law. They merely aspire to make the Law.

To show how this strange predisposition of spirits has been universal in France, just as I should have copied all Mably, all Raynal, all Rousseau, all Fénelon, and long excerpts of Bossuet and Montesquieu, I would also have to reproduce the entire minutes of the sessions of the Convention. I will refrain from doing so and I refer the reader to them.

One thinks well that this idea must have pleased Bonaparte. He embraced it ardently and put it into practice energetically. Considering himself a chemist, he saw in Europe only a material for experiments. But soon this material manifested itself as a powerful reagent. Three-quarters disillusioned, Bonaparte, at St. Helena, seemed to recognize that there is some initiative in the people, and he appeared to be less hostile to liberty. This did not, however, prevent him from giving his son this lesson in his will: « To govern is to spread morality, education and well-being. »

Is it necessary now to show by tedious quotations from where proceed Morelly, Babeuf, Owen, Saint-Simon, Fourier? I will confine myself to submitting to the reader some excerpts from Louis Blanc's book on the organization of labor.

« In our project, society receives the impulse from power. » (Page 126.)29

In what consists the impulse that Power gives to society? In imposing Mr. L. Blanc's project.

On the other hand, society is humankind.

So, ultimately, humankind receives the impulse from Mr. L. Blanc.

Free to do so, it will be said. No doubt humankind is free to follow the advice of whoever it may be. But that is not how Mr. L. Blanc conceives the matter. He understands that his project is to be converted into Law, and consequently imposed forcibly by those in power.

« In our project, the State only gives to labor a law (no less!), by virtue of which the industrial movement can and should be accomplished in complete liberty. It (the State) does nothing but to place Liberty on a slope (only that) that she descends, once placed there, by the sole force of things and a natural continuation of the established mechanism. »30

But what is this slope? — That indicated by Mr. L. Blanc. — Does it not lead to abysses? — No, it leads to happiness. — How, then, does society not place itself there on its own? — Because it does not know what it wants and that it needs an impulse. — Who will give it this impulse? — Power. — And who will give the impulse to power? — The inventor of the mechanism, Mr. L. Blanc.

We never leave this circle: the passive humanity and a great man who moves it by the intervention of the Law.

Once on this slope, would society enjoy at least some freedom? — Without a doubt. — And what is freedom?

« Let us say once and for all: liberty consists not only in the Right granted, but in the Power given to man to exercise, to develop his faculties, under the influence of justice and the protection of the law. »

« And this is no vain distinction: the sense is profound, the consequences are immense. For as soon as we admit that man, to be truly free, needs the power to exercise and develop his faculties, it follows that society owes to each of its members proper instruction, without which the human spirit can not unfold, and the implements of work, without which human activity can not be carried out. Now, by whose intervention will society give to each of its members the proper instruction and the necessary implements of work, if not by the intervention of the State? »31

Thus freedom is power. — What is this Power? — To have the instruction and the implements of work. — Who will give the instruction and the tools of work? — Society, which owes them. — By whose intervention will society give implements of work to those who have none? — By intervention of the State. — From whom will the State take them?

It is up to the reader to respond and to see where all this leads.

One of the strangest phenomena of our time, and one which probably will greatly surprise our nephews, is that the doctrine on which is based this triple hypothesis: the radical inertia of humanity, — the omnipotence of the Law, — the infallibility of the Legislator, — is the sacred symbol of the party which proclaims itself exclusively democratic.

It is true that it also calls itself social.

As democratic, it has unlimited faith in humanity.

As social, it puts humanity beneath mud.

Is this about political rights, is this about having the Legislator come forth? oh! then, according to him, the people have innate intelligence; they are endowed with an admirable tact; their will is always right, the general will cannot err. Suffrage could not be too universal. No one owes society any guarantee. The will and capability to choose well are always presumed. Can the people make a mistake? Is it not that we are in the century of enlightenment? What! Will the people be eternally under tutelage? Have they not won their rights with much efforts and sacrifices? Have they not given enough proof of their intelligence and wisdom? Have they not attained their maturity? Are they not in a state to judge for themselves? Do they not know their interests? Is there a man or class who dares to claim the right to take the place of the people, to decide and act for them? No, no, the people want to be free, and they will be. They want to manage their own affairs, and they will manage them.

But once the Legislator is released from campaigning by the election, oh! then the language changes. The nation goes back into passivity, into inertia, into nothingness, and the Legislator takes possession of omnipotence. To him goes the inventiveness, to him the leadership, to him the impulse, to him the organization. Humanity only has to let itself be formed; the hour of despotism has struck. And observe that this is fatal; for this people, just now so enlightened, so moral, so perfect, no longer have any tendencies, or, if they do, they all lead to degradation. And we would leave them some Liberty! But do you not know that, according to Mr. Considerant, liberty inevitably leads to monopoly? Do you not know that is competition? and that competition, according to Mr. L. Blanc, is for the people a system of extermination, for the bourgeoisie a cause of ruin? That it is due to this that the people are all the more exterminated and ruined the freer they are, witness Switzerland, Holland, England and the United States? Do you not know, still according to Mr. L. Blanc, that competition leads to monopoly, and that, for the same reason, cheapness leads to the exaggeration of prices? That competition tends to drain the sources of consumption and pushes production to a devouring activity? That competition forces production to increase and consumption to decrease; — whence it follows that free peoples produce in order not to consume; — that it is at the same time oppression and insanity, and that it is absolutely necessary for Mr. L. Blanc to meddle therein?

What liberty, besides, could one leave to men? Would it be freedom of conscience? But we will see them all taking advantage of the permission to become atheists. Freedom of education? But fathers will hasten to pay professors to teach their sons immorality and error; besides, to believe Mr. Thiers, if education were left to national liberty, it would cease to be national, and we would raise our children in the ideas of the Turks or the Hindus, instead, thanks to the legal despotism of the university, they have the good fortune of being raised in the noble ideas of the Romans. Freedom of labor? But it is competition, which has the effect of leaving all the products unconsumed, of exterminating the people and ruining the bourgeoisie. Freedom of exchange? But it is well known, the protectionists have demonstrated it ad nauseam, that a man ruins himself when he exchanges freely and that, to get rich, it is necessary to exchange without freedom. Freedom of association? But, according to the socialist doctrine, liberty and association exclude each other, since precisely one does not aspire to rob men of their liberty only to force them to associate.

You see, then, that the democratic socialists cannot, in good conscience, allow men to have any liberty, since, by their very nature, and if these gentlemen do not put order in that, they tend, from anywhere, to all kinds of degradation and demoralization.

We are left to guess, in this case, on what basis is universal suffrage so insistently claimed for them.

The pretensions of the organizers raise another question, which I have often addressed to them, and which, to my knowledge, they have never answered. Since the natural tendencies of humanity are so bad that we must take away their liberty, how is it possible that the tendencies of the organizers are good? Are the Legislators and their agents not part of humankind? Do they believe they are moulded from another mud than the rest of men? They say that society, abandoned to itself, runs fatally towards the abysses because its instincts are perverse. They pretend to stop it on this slope and impart on it a better direction. Therefore they have received from heaven an intelligence and virtues which place them outside and above humanity; let them show their titles. Tehy want to be shepherds, they want us to be flock. This arrangement presupposes in them a natural superiority, of which we have the right to require previous proof.

Observe that what I dispute them, is not the right to invent social combinations, to spread them, to advise them, to experiment them on themselves, at their own expense and risk; but rather the right to impose them through the Law, that is to say, through forces and public contributions.

I ask that the adherents of Cabet, Fourier, Proudhon, the Academics, the Protectionists renounce not their special ideas, but this idea that is common to them, to subdue us by force to their groups and series, their social workshops, their free-of-charge bank, their Greco-Roman morality, their commercial shackles. What I ask of them, is to allow us the faculty to judge their plans and to not associate ourselves with them, directly or indirectly, if we find that they offend our interests or they are repugnant to our conscience.

As the pretension of intervening with power and taxation, besides being oppressive and plundering, still implies this prejudicial hypothesis: the infallibility of the organizer and the incompetence of humanity.

And if humanity is incompetent to judge for itself, why one comes to talk to us about universal suffrage?

This contradiction in ideas unfortunately has been reproduced in the facts, and while the French people have preceded all others in the conquest of their rights, or rather of their political guarantees, they has nonetheless remained the most governed, directed, administered, imposed, hindered and exploited of all peoples.

Of them all, it is also the one where revolutions are most imminent, and that must be.

Once we start from this idea, admitted by all our publicists and so forcefully expressed by Mr. L. Blanc in these words: « Society receives the impulse from power; » once men consider themselves as sensitive but passive, incapable of raising themselves by their own discernment and their own energy to any morality, to any well-being, and reduced to expecting everything from the Law; in a word, when they admit that their relationships with the State are those of the flock with the shepherd, it is clear that the Responsibility of power is immense. The goods and evils, the virtues and vices, the equality and inequality, the opulence and misery, everything ensues from it. It is in charge of everything, it undertakes everything, it does everything; so it answers for everything. If we are happy, it justly claims our recognition; but if we are miserable, we cannot lay blame on it. Does it not, in principle, dispose of our persons and our property? Is not the Law omnipotent? In creating the university monopoly, it has strained to respond to the hopes of family fathers deprived of liberty; and if these hopes are disappointed, whose fault is it? In regulating industry, it has strained to make it prosper, otherwise it would have been absurd to take away its liberty; and if it suffers, whose fault is it? In meddling to bring equilibrium to the balance of trade, by the game of tariffs, it has strained to make it flourish; and if, far from flourishing, it dies, whose fault is it? In granting maritime armaments its protection in exchange for their liberty, it has strained to make them lucrative; and if they are expensive, whose fault is it?

Thus, there is no pain in the nation for which the Government has not voluntarily made itself responsible. Is it any wonder that every suffering is a cause for revolution?

And what is the remedy that is proposed? It is to expand indefinitely the domain of ​​the Law, that is, the Responsibility of the government.

But if the government takes charge of raising and regulating wages and it can not; if it takes charge to assist all misfortunes and it can not; if it takes charge of assuring retirement to all workers and it can not; if it tacke charge of furnish all laborers with implements of work and it can not; if it takes charge of opening a free credit account to all those hungry for loans and it can not; if, according to the words which with regret we saw slip from Mr. de Lamartine's pen, « the State gives itself the mission to enlighten, to develop, to enlarg, to fortify, to spiritualize, and to sanctify the the soul of the peoples, » and it fails; is it not seen that at the end of each disappointment, alas! more than likely, there is a no less inevitable revolution?

I resume my thesis and say: immediately after economic science and at the start of political science32, a dominant question presents itself. It is this:

What is the Law? what should it be? what is its domain? what are its limits? where, consequently, do the powers of the Legislator end?

I do not hesitate to answer: The Law is the common force organized to obstruct Injustice, — and to shorten, the law, it is justice.

It is not true that the Legislator has absolute power over our persons and our properties, since they pre-exist and his work is to surround them with guarantees.

It is not true that the Law has the mission of governing our consciences, our ideas, our wills, our education, our feelings, our jobs, our exchanges, our skills, our enjoyments.

Its mission is to prevent in any of these matters that the right of one usurps the right of another.

The Law, because it has as necessary sanction the Force, can have as legitimate domain only the legitimate domain of force, namely: Justice.

And as every individual has the right to resort to force only in the case of self-defense, the collective force, which is but the union of the individual forces, could not be rationally applied to any other end.

The law is therefore solely the organization of the pre-existing individual right of self-defense.

The Law, it is justice.

It is so mistaken that it can oppress people or plunder property, even for a philanthropic purpose, since its mission is to protect them.

And let it not be said that at least it can be philanthropic, provided that it abstains from all oppression, from all plunder; this is contradictory. The law cannot not act on our persons or our property; if it does not guarantee them, it violates them solely by acting, solely by what it is.

The Law, it is justice.

Here is what is clear, simple, perfectly defined and delimited, accessible to any intelligence, visible to every eye, for Justice is a given quantity, immutable, unalterable, which admits neither more nor less.

Depart from this, make the law religious, fraternal, egalitarian, philanthropic, industrial, literary, artistic, at once you are in the infinite, in the uncertain, in the unknown, in the imposed utopia, or, what is worse, in the multitude of utopias fighting to seize the Law and impose themselves; for fraternity and philanthropy do not have fixed limits as does justice. Where will you stop? Where will the Law stop? One, as Mr. de Saint-Cricq, will extend his philanthropy only to some classes of industrialists, and he will require the Law to dispose of the consumers in favor of the producers. Another, as Mr. Considerant, will take up the workers' cause and will demand for them of the Law a minimum assured, clothing, lodging, food and all the things necessary for the maintenance of life. A third, Mr. L. Blanc, will say, with good reason, that that there is only a sketch of a fraternity and that the Law must must give to everyone the implements of work and instruction. A fourth will point out that such an arrangement still leaves room for inequality, and that the Law must introduce luxury, literature and the arts into the most remote hamlets. You will be led thus up to communism, or rather, legislation will be... what it is already: — the battlefield for all daydreams and all cupidities.

The Law, it is justice.

In this circle, one conceives a simple, unshakeable government. And I challenge anyone to tell me from where could come the thought of a revolution, an insurrection, a simple riot against a public force limited to repressing injustice. Under such a regime, there would be more well-being, well-being would be more evenly distributed, and as for the sufferings inseparabale from humanity, no one would even think of blaming the government, which would be as alien to them as it is to variations in temperature. Have we ever seen the people rise up against the court of cassation or break into the courtroom of the justice of the peace to demand the minimum wage, free credit, implements of work, tariff favors, or the social workshop? Theyare well aware that these combinations are beyond the power of the judge, and they would learn likewise that they are beyond the power of the Law.

But make the Law on the principle of fraternity, proclaim that the goods and evils emanate from it, that it is responsible for all individual pain, all social inequality, and you open the door to an endless series of complaints, hatreds, disturbances and revolutions.

The Law, it is justice.

And it would be very strange if it could be equitably something else! Is justice not the right? Are rights not equal? How then could the Law intervene to subject me to the social plans of Messrs. Mimerel, de Melun, Thiers, Louis Blanc, rather than to subject these gentlemen to my plans? Does anyone believe that I have not received from nature enough imagination to invent an utopia too? Is it the role of the Law to make a choice between so many chimeras and to put the public force at the service of one of them?

The Law, it is justice.

And let it not be said, as it is constantly done, that the Law thus conceived, atheist, individualistic and heartless, would make humanity in its image. This is an absurd conclusion, well worthy of this governmental infatuation that sees humanity in the Law.

What! Given that we will be free, does it follow that we will cease to act? Given that we do not receive the impulse from the Law, does it follow that we will be devoid of impulse? Given that the Law will confine itself to guaranteeing the free exercise of our faculties, does it follow that our faculties will be struck with inertia? Given that the Law will not impose on us forms of religion, modes of association, methods of teaching, work procedures, directions for exchange, plans of charity, does it follow that we will hasten to plunge ourselves into atheism, isolation, ignorance, misery and selfishness? Does it follow that we will no longer know how to recognize the power and goodness of God, to associate with others, to help one another, to love and to succor our unfortunate brethren, to study the secrets of nature, to aspire to the improvements of our being?

The Law, it is justice.

And it is under the Law of justice, under the regime of rights, under the influence of liberty, security, stability, responsibility, that every man will achieve all his worth, all the dignity of his being, and that humanity will accomplish with order, calmly, no doubt slowly, but with certainty, the progress, which is its destiny.

It seems to me that I have the theory on my side; since whatever question I submit to reasoning, whether religious, philosophical, political, economic; be it about well-being, morality, equality, rights, justice, progress, responsibility, solidarity, property, work, exchange, capital, wages, taxes, population, credit, government; at whichever point of the scientific horizon I place the starting point of my researches, I am always invariably led to this: the solution of the social problem is in Liberty.

And have I not also experience on my side? Cast your eyes around the world. Which peoples are the happiest, the most moral, the most peaceful? Those in which the Law intervenes the least in private activity; where government make itself felt the least; where individuality has the most motivation and public opinion the most influence; where the administrative cogwheels are the least numerous and the least complicated; taxes the least burdensome and the least unequal; the popular discontents the least excited and the least justifiable; where the responsibility of individuals and classes is the most active, and where, consequently, if manners are not perfect, they tend invincibly to rectify themselves; where transactions, agreements, associations are the least hindered; where labor, capital, population, suffer the least artificial displacements; where humanity obeys the most its own inclination; where the thought of God prevails the most over the inventions of men; in a word, those who approach the most this solution: within the limits of right, everything by the free and perfectible spontaneity of man; nothing by Law or force other than universal Justice.

It must be said: there are too many great men in the world; there are too many legislators, organizers, institutors of societies, leaders of peoples, fathers of nations, etc., etc. Too many people put themselves above humanity to rule over it, too many people take the job of taking care of it.

Some will tell me: You take good care of it, you who speak. It is true. But we can agree that it is in a very different sense and point of view, and if I mingle with the reformers it is solely to make them let go.

I take care of it not as Vaucanson, of his automaton, but as a physiologist, of the human organism: to study it and admire it.

I take care of it, in the spirit that animated a famous traveler.

He arrived in the middle of a savage tribe. A child had just been born and a crowd of soothsayers, sorcerers, empiricists surrounded him, armed with rings, hooks and links. One said: this child will never smell the scent of a calumet, unless I lengthen his nostrils. Another: he will be deprived of the sense of hearing, unless I make him bring his ears down to the shoulders. A third: he will not see the light of the sun, unless I give his eyes an oblique direction. A fourth: he will never stand upright, unless I bend his legs. A fifth: he will not be able to think, unless I compress his brain. Stand back, said the traveler, God does well what he does; do not pretend to know more than him, and since he has given organs to this frail creature, let his organs develop, let them be strengthened by exercise, trial and error, experience and Liberty.

God has also put in humanity all that is needed for them to accomplish their destinies. There is a providential social physiology just as there is a providential human physiology. The social organs are also constituted in such a way as to develop harmoniously in the grand air of Liberty. Stand back therefore the empiricists and the organizers! Back off their rings, their chains, their hooks, their pincers! back off their artificial means! back off their social workshop, their phalanstery, their governmentalism, their centralization, their tariffs, their universities, their State religions, their free-of-charge banks or monopolized banks, their compressions, their restrictions, their moralization or their equalization by means of taxing! And since we have vainly inflicted so many systems on the social body, let us finish from where we should have begun, let us repel the systems, let us finally put Liberty to the test — Liberty, which is an act of faith in God and his work.


  1. The author wrote this pamphlet in June 1850, during a few days spent with his family at Mugron.
    (Editor's note.) 

  2. In general, the capitalization of certain words in the original, although uncommon in modern usage, has been retained primarily as a means of emphasizing important concepts.[Translator's note] 

  3. See the last two pages of the pamphlet Spoliation et Loi (Plunder and Law), in volume V. [This means Volume V of Oeuvres complètes de Frédéric Bastiat (The Complete Works of Frédéric Bastiat) (1854) — Transcriber note](Editor's note.) 

  4. General Council of Manufacturing, Agriculture and Commerce (session of 6 May 1850.) 

  5. Elsewhere in the text, we have used the more common word Plunder but here and in the following paragraph we use the more correct, albeit somewhat archaic, Spoliation.[Translator's note] 

  6. If protection were granted, in France, to only one class, for example, to owners of forges, it would be so absurdly spoliating that it could not be maintained. We also see all protected industries banding together, making common cause, and even enlisting themselves to appear as if embracing the collection of national labor. They instinctively feel that Spoliation is disguised by becoming generalized. 

  7. In the now rare sense of a scholar of public law.[Translator's note] 

  8. Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, 1681, Speech of Universal History, Part III, chapter III. (Freedom Circle note) 

  9. "Mercuries", in Bossuet's original, refers to two "authors of sciences" and kings of Thebes, one from the time of the biblical Great Flood, another named (Hermes) Trismegistus (see next paragraph).[Translator's note] 

  10. Ibid., Part III, chapter V. (Freedom Circle note) 

  11. Ibid. (Freedom Circle note) 

  12. François Fénelon, 1699, The adventures of Telemachus, Book II. (Freedom Circle note) 

  13. Ibid., Book V. (Freedom Circle note) 

  14. Montesquieu, 1748, The Spirit of the Laws, Book V, chapter VI. (Freedom Circle note) 

  15. Ibid., Book V, chapter V. (Freedom Circle note) 

  16. Ibid. (Freedom Circle note) 

  17. Ibid., Book IV, chapter VI. (Freedom Circle note) 

  18. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1762, The Social Contract, Book II, chapter VII. (Freedom Circle note) 

  19. Ibid., Book II, chapter XI. (Freedom Circle note) 

  20. Ibid, Book II, chapter VII. (Freedom Circle note) 

  21. Guillaume-Thomas Raynal, 1770, Histoire philosophique et politique des établissements et du commerce des Européens dans les deux Indes ("History of the two Indias"), Tome IV, book XVIII, chapter XXXV. (Freedom Circle note) 

  22. Abbé de Mably, 1789, Concerning the Rights and Duties of the Citizen, Eighth letter. (Freedom Circle note) 

  23. In the pamphlet Baccalaureate and Socialism (the 5th according to our classification), the author, by a series of similar citations, again shows the filiation of the same error.
    (Editor's note.) 

  24. Abbé de Condillac, 1775, Course of Studies for Instruction of the Prince of Parma, Tome XIV, chapters II and III. (Freedom Circle note) 

  25. In the sense of mental or intellectual clarity or capacity.[Translator's note] 

  26. For a people to be happy, it is indispensable that the individuals who comprise it have foresight, prudence, and that trust in one another that arises from security.
    However, he cannot acquire these things but from experience. He becomes provident when he has suffered for not having foreseen; — Prudent, when his recklessness has been punished often, etc., etc.
    It results from this that freedom always begins by being accompanied by the troubles which follow the inconsiderate use which has been made.
    Upon this spectable, there are men who stand and demand that freedom be proscribed.
    « Let the State, they say, be provident and prudent for everyone. »
    On which, I pose these questions:
    1st Is this possible? Can an experienced State spring forth from an inexperienced nation?
    2nd In any case, is this not choking experience in its germ?
    If power imposes individual acts, how will the individual educate himself about the consequences of his actions? Will he be thus in tutelage in perpetuity?
    And the state having ordered everything will be responsible for everything.
    There lies a hearth of revolutions, and of revolutions without a way out, since they will be made by a people to whom, by forbidding experience, it has been forbidden progress.
    (Thought taken from the author's manuscripts..) 

  27. Michel Lepeletier, 1792, "National Education Plan". (Freedom Circle note) 

  28. Maximilien Robespierre, 1794, "Report on the principles of political morality that should guide the National Convention in the internal administration of the Republic". (Freedom Circle note) 

  29. Blanc, Louis, 1848, Organization of Labor, Fifth edition, p. 166. (Freedom Circle note) 

  30. Ibid., page 165. (Freedom Circle note) 

  31. Ibid., pages 19-20. (Freedom Circle note) 

  32. Political economy precedes politics; the former says whether human interests are naturally harmonious or antagonistic; what the latter should know before setting the powers of the government.