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The Philosophy of Misery by Joseph-Pierre Proudhon

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talents and country talents. Clear at the foot of the ladder lay
the gross industrial population, souls imperfectly outlined,
excluded from the glory of the elect. All rhetorics are still
filled with these impertinences, which monarchical interests,
literary vanity, and socialistic hypocrisy strain themselves to
sanction, for the perpetual slavery of nations and the
maintenance of the existing order.

But, if it is demonstrated that all the operations of the mind
are reducible to two, analysis and synthesis, which are
necessarily inseparable, although distinct; if, by a forced
consequence, in spite of the infinite variety of tasks and
studies, the mind never does more than begin the same canvas over
again,--the man of genius is simply a man with a good
constitution, who has worked a great deal, thought a great deal,
analyzed, compared, classified, summarized, and concluded a great
deal; while the limited being, who stagnates in an endemic
routine, instead of developing his faculties, has killed his
intelligence through inertia and automatism. It is absurd
to distinguish as differing in nature that which really differs
only in age, and then to convert into privilege and exclusion the
various degrees of a development or the fortunes of a spontaneity
which must gradually disappear through labor and education.

The psychological rhetoricians who have classified human souls
into dynasties, noble races, bourgeois families, and the
proletariat observed nevertheless that genius was not universal,
and that it had its specialty; consequently Homer, Plato,
Phidias, Archimedes, Caesar, etc., all of whom seemed to them
first in their sort, were declared by them equals and sovereigns
of distinct realms. How irrational! As if the specialty of
genius did not itself reveal the law of the equality of minds!
As if, looking at it in another light, the steadiness of success
in the product of genius were not a proof that it works according
to principles outside of itself, which are the guarantee of the
perfection of its work, as long as it follows them with fidelity
and certainty! This apotheosis of genius, dreamed of with open
eyes by men whose chatter will remain forever barren, would
warrant a belief in the innate stupidity of the majority of
mortals, if it were not a striking proof of their perfectibility.

Labor, then, after having distinguished capacities and arranged
their equilibrium by the division of industries, completes the
armament of intelligence, if I may venture to say so, by
machinery. According to the testimony of history as well as
according to analysis, and notwithstanding the anomalies caused
by the antagonism of economic principles, intelligence differs in
men, not by power, clearness, or reach, but, in the first place,
by specialty, or, in the language of the schools, by qualitative
determination, and, in the second place, by exercise and
education. Hence, in the individual as in the collective
man, intelligence is much more a faculty which comes, forms, and
develops, qu{ae} fit, than an entity or entelechy which exists,
wholly formed, prior to apprenticeship. Reason, by whatever name
we call it,--genius, talent, industry,--is at the start a naked
and inert potentiality, which gradually grows in size and
strength, takes on color and form, and shades itself in an
infinite variety of ways. By the importance of its acquirements,
by its capital, in a word, the intelligence of one individual
differs and will always differ from that of another; but, being a
power equal in all at the beginning, social progress must consist
in rendering it, by an ever increasing perfection of methods,
again equal in all at the end. Otherwise labor would remain a
privilege for some and a punishment for others.

But the equilibrium of capacities, the prelude of which we have
seen in the division of labor, does not fulfil the entire destiny
of machinery, and the views of Providence extend far beyond.
With the introduction of machinery into economy, wings are given

The machine is the symbol of human liberty, the sign of our
domination over nature, the attribute of our power, the
expression of our right, the emblem of our personality. Liberty,
intelligence,--those constitute the whole of man: for, if we
brush aside as mystical and unintelligible all speculation
concerning the human being considered from the point of view of
substance (mind or matter), we have left only two categories of
manifestations,--the first including all that we call sensations,
volitions, passions, attractions, instincts, sentiments; the
other, all phenomena classed under the heads of attention,
perception, memory, imagination, comparison, judgment, reasoning,
etc. As for the organic apparatus, very far from being the
principle or base of these two orders of faculties, it must be
considered as their synthetic and positive realization, their
living and harmonious expression. For just as from the
long-continued issue by humanity of its antagonistic principles
must some day result social organization, so man must be
conceived as the result of two series of potentialities.

Thus, after having posited itself as logic, social economy,
pursuing its work, posits itself as psychology. The education of
intelligence and liberty,--in a word, the welfare of man,--all
perfectly synonymous expressions,--such is the common object of
political economy and philosophy. To determine the laws of the
production and distribution of wealth will be to demonstrate, by
an objective and concrete exposition, the laws of reason and
liberty; it will be to create philosophy and right a posteriori:
whichever way we turn, we are in complete metaphysics.

Let us try, now, with the joint data of psychology and political
economy, to define liberty.

If it is allowable to conceive of human reason, in its origin, as
a lucid and reflecting atom, capable of some day representing the
universe, but at first giving no image at all, we may likewise
consider liberty, at the birth of conscience, as a living point,
punctum saliens, a vague, blind, or, rather, indifferent
spontaneity, capable of receiving all possible impressions,
dispositions, and inclinations. Liberty is the faculty of acting
and of not acting, which, through any choice or determination
whatever (I use the word determination here both passively and
actively), abandons its indifference and becomes WILL.

I say, then, that liberty, like intelligence, is naturally an
undetermined, unformed faculty, which gets its value and
character later from external impressions,--a faculty, therefore,
which is negative at the beginning, but which gradually defines
and outlines itself by exercise,--I mean, by education.

The etymology of the word liberty, at least as I understand it,
will serve still better to explain my thought. The root is
lib-et, he pleases (German, lieben, to love); whence have been
constructed lib-eri, children, those dear to us, a name reserved
for the children of the father of a family; lib-ertas, the
condition, character, or inclination of children of a noble race;
lib-ido, the passion of a slave, who knows neither God nor law
nor country, synonymous with licentia, evil conduct. When
spontaneity takes a useful, generous, or beneficent direction, it
is called libertas; when, on the contrary, it takes a harmful,
vicious, base, or evil direction, it is called libido.

A learned economist, M. Dunoyer, has given a definition of
liberty which, by its likeness to our own, will complete the
demonstration of its exactness.

I call liberty that power which man acquires of using his forces
more easily in PROPORTION AS HE FREES HIMSELF from the obstacles
which originally hindered the exercise thereof. I say that he is
the FREER the more thoroughly DELIVERED he is from the causes
which prevented him from making use of his forces, the farther
from him he has driven these causes, the more he has extended and
cleared the sphere of his action . . . . Thus it is said that a
man has a free mind, that he enjoys great liberty of mind, not
only when his intelligence is not disturbed by any external
violence, but also when it is neither obscured by intoxication,
nor changed by disease, nor kept in impotence by lack of

M. Dunoyer has here viewed liberty only on its negative
side,--that is, as if it were simply synonymous with FREEDOM
FROM OBSTACLES. At that rate liberty would not be a faculty of
man; it would be nothing. But immediately M. Dunoyer, though
persisting in his incomplete definition, seizes the true side of
the matter: then it is that it occurs to him to say that man, in
inventing a machine, serves his liberty, not, as we express
ourselves, because he determines it, but, in M. Dunoyer's style,
because he removes a difficulty from its path.

Thus articulate language is a better instrument than language by
sign; therefore one is freer to express his thought and impress
it upon the mind of another by speech than by gesture. The
written word is a more potent instrument than the spoken word;
therefore one is freer to act on the mind of his fellows when he
knows how to picture the word to their eyes than when he simply
knows how to speak it. The press is an instrument two or three
hundred times more potent than the pen; therefore one is two or
three hundred times freer to enter into relation with other men
when he can spread his ideas by printing than when he can publish
them only by writing.

I will not point out all that is inexact and illogical in this
fashion of representing liberty. Since Destutt de Tracy, the
last representative of the philosophy of Condillac, the
philosophical spirit has been obscured among economists of the
French school; the fear of ideology has perverted their language,
and one perceives, in reading them, that adoration of fact has
caused them to lose even the perception of theory. I prefer to
establish the fact that M. Dunoyer, and political economy with
him, is not mistaken concerning the essence of liberty, a force,
energy, or spontaneity indifferent in itself to every action, and
consequently equally susceptible of any determination, good or
bad, useful or harmful. M. Dunoyer has had so strong a suspicion
of the truth that he writes himself:

Instead of considering liberty as a dogma, I shall present it as
a RESULT; instead of making it the attribute of man, I shall
make it the ATTRIBUTE OF CIVILIZATION; instead of imagining
forms of government calculated to establish it, I shall do my
best to explain how it is BORN OF EVERY STEP OF OUR PROGRESS.

Then he adds, with no less reason:

It will be noticed how much this method differs from that of
those dogmatic philosophers who talk only of rights and duties;
of what it is the duty of governments to do and the right of
nations to demand, etc. I do not say sententiously: men have a
right to be free; I confine myself to asking: how does it happen
that they are so?

In accordance with this exposition one may sum up in four lines
the work that M. Dunoyer has tried to do: A REVIEW of the
obstacles that IMPEDE liberty and the means (instruments,
methods, ideas, customs, religions, governments, etc.) that
FAVOR it. But for its omissions, the work of M. Dunoyer would
have been the very philosophy of political economy.

After having raised the problem of liberty, political economy
furnishes us, then, with a definition conforming in every point
to that given by psychology and suggested by the analogies of
language: and thus we see how, little by little, the study of man
gets transported from the contemplation of the me to the
observation of realities.

Now, just as the determinations of man's reason have received the
name of IDEAS (abstract, supposed a priori ideas, or principles,
conceptions, categories; and secondary ideas, or those more
especially acquired and empirical), so the determinations of
liberty have received the name of VOLITIONS, sentiments, habits,
customs. Then, language, figurative in its nature, continuing to
furnish the elements of primary psychology, the habit has been
formed of assigning to ideas, as the place or capacity where they
reside, the INTELLIGENCE, and to volitions, sentiments, etc.,
the CONSCIENCE. All these abstractions have been long taken for
realities by the philosophers, not one of whom has seen that all
distribution of the faculties of the soul is necessarily a work
of caprice, and that their psychology is but an illusion.

However that may be, if we now conceive these two orders of
determinations, reason and liberty, as united and blended by
organization in a living, reasonable, and free PERSON, we shall
understand immediately that they must lend each other mutual
assistance and influence each other reciprocally. If, through an
error or oversight of the reason, liberty, blind by nature,
acquires a false and fatal habit, the reason itself will not be
slow to feel the effects; instead of true ideas, conforming to
the natural relations of things, it will retain only prejudices,
as much more difficult to root out of the intelligence
afterwards, as they have become dearer to the conscience through
age. In this state of things reason and liberty are impaired;
the first is disturbed in its development, the second restricted
in its scope, and man is led astray, becomes, that is, wicked and
unhappy at once.

Thus, when, in consequence of a contradictory perception and an
incomplete experience, reason had pronounced through the lips of
the economists that there was no regulating principle of value
and that the law of commerce was supply and demand, liberty
abandoned itself to the passion of ambition, egoism, and
gambling; commerce was thereafter but a wager subjected to
certain police regulations; misery developed from the sources of
wealth; socialism, itself a slave of routine, could only protest
against effects instead of rising against causes; and reason was
obliged, by the sight of so many evils, to recognize that it had
taken a wrong road.

Man can attain welfare only in proportion as his reason and his
liberty not only progress in harmony, but never halt in their
development. Now, as the progress of liberty, like that of
reason, is indefinite, and as, moreover, these two powers are
closely connected and solidary, it must be concluded that
liberty is the more perfect the more closely it defines itself in
conformity with the laws of reason, which are those of things,
and that, if this reason were infinite, liberty itself would
become infinite. In other words, the fullness of liberty lies in
the fullness of reason: summa lex summa libertas.

These preliminaries were indispensable in order to clearly
appreciate the role of machinery and to make plain the series of
economic evolutions. And just here I will remind the reader that
we are not constructing a history in accordance with the order of
events, but in accordance with the succession of ideas. The
economic phases or categories are now contemporary, now inverted,
in their manifestation; hence the extreme difficulty always felt
by the economists in systematizing their ideas; hence the chaos
of their works, even those most to be commended in every other
respect, such as Adam Smith's, Ricardo's, and J. B. Say's. But
economic theories none the less have their logical succession and
their series in the mind: it is this order which we flatter
ourselves that we have discovered, and which will make this work
at once a philosophy and a history.

% 2.--Machinery's contradiction.--Origin of capital and wages.

From the very fact that machinery diminishes the workman's toil,
it abridges and diminishes labor, the supply of which thus grows
greater from day to day and the demand less. Little by little,
it is true, the reduction in prices causing an increase in
consumption, the proportion is restored and the laborer set at
work again: but as industrial improvements steadily succeed each
other and continually tend to substitute mechanical operations
for the labor of man, it follows that there is a constant
tendency to cut off a portion of the service and consequently to
eliminate laborers from production. Now, it is with the economic
order as with the spiritual order: outside of the church there is
no salvation; outside of labor there is no subsistence. Society
and nature, equally pitiless, are in accord in the execution of
this new decree.

"When a new machine, or, in general, any process whatever that
expedites matters," says J. B. Say, "replaces any human labor
already employed, some of the industrious arms, whose services
are usefully supplanted, are left without work. A new machine,
therefore, replaces the labor of a portion of the laborers, but
does not diminish the amount of production, for, if it did, it
would not be adopted; IT DISPLACES REVENUE. But the ultimate
advantage is wholly on the side of machinery, for, if abundance
of product and lessening of cost lower the venal value, the
consumer--that is, everybody--will benefit thereby."

Say's optimism is infidelity to logic and to facts. The question
here is not simply one of a small number of accidents which have
happened during thirty centuries through the introduction of one,
two, or three machines; it is a question of a regular, constant,
and general phenomenon. After revenue has been DISPLACED as Say
says, by one machine, it is then displaced by another, and again
by another, and always by another, as long as any labor remains
to be done and any exchanges remain to be effected. That is the
light in which the phenomenon must be presented and considered:
but thus, it must be admitted, its aspect changes singularly.
The displacement of revenue, the suppression of labor and wages,
is a chronic, permanent, indelible plague, a sort of cholera
which now appears wearing the features of Gutenberg, now
assumes those of Arkwright; here is called Jacquard, there James
Watt or Marquis de Jouffroy. After carrying on its ravages for a
longer or shorter time under one form, the monster takes another,
and the economists, who think that he has gone, cry out: "It was
nothing!" Tranquil and satisfied, provided they insist with all
the weight of their dialectics on the positive side of the
question, they close their eyes to its subversive side,
notwithstanding which, when they are spoken to of poverty, they
again begin their sermons upon the improvidence and drunkenness
of laborers.

In 1750,--M. Dunoyer makes the observation, and it may serve as a
measure of all lucubrations of the same sort,--"in 1750 the
population of the duchy of Lancaster was 300,000 souls. In 1801,
thanks to the development of spinning machines, this population
was 672,000 souls. In 1831 it was 1,336,000 souls. Instead of
the 40,000 workmen whom the cotton industry formerly employed, it
now employs, since the invention of machinery, 1,500,000."

M. Dunoyer adds that at the time when the number of workmen
employed in this industry increased in so remarkable a manner,
the price of labor rose one hundred and fifty per cent.
Population, then, having simply followed industrial progress, its
increase has been a normal and irreproachable fact,--what do I
say?--a happy fact, since it is cited to the honor and glory of
the development of machinery. But suddenly M. Dunoyer executes
an about-face: this multitude of spinning-machines soon being out
of work, wages necessarily declined; the population which the
machines had called forth found itself abandoned by the machines,
at which M. Dunoyer declares: Abuse of marriage is the cause of

English commerce, in obedience to the demand of the immense body
of its patrons, summons workmen from all directions, and
encourages marriage; as long as labor is abundant, marriage is an
excellent thing, the effects of which they are fond of quoting in
the interest of machinery; but, the patronage fluctuating, as
soon as work and wages are not to be had, they denounce the abuse
of marriage, and accuse laborers of improvidence. Political
economy--that is, proprietary despotism--can never be in the
wrong: it must be the proletariat.

The example of printing has been cited many a time, always to
sustain the optimistic view. The number of persons supported
today by the manufacture of books is perhaps a thousand times
larger than was that of the copyists and illuminators prior to
Gutenberg's time; therefore, they conclude with a satisfied air,
printing has injured nobody. An infinite number of similar facts
might be cited, all of them indisputable, but not one of which
would advance the question a step. Once more, no one denies that
machines have contributed to the general welfare; but I affirm,
in regard to this incontestable fact, that the economists fall
short of the truth when they advance the absolute statement that
WHATEVER. What the economists ought to say is that machinery,
like the division of labor, in the present system of social
economy is at once a source of wealth and a permanent and fatal
cause of misery.

In 1836, in a Manchester mill, nine frames, each having three
hundred and twenty-four spindles, were tended by four spinners.
Afterwards the mules were doubled in length, which gave each of
the nine six hundred and eighty spindles and enabled two men to
tend them.

There we have the naked fact of the elimination of the workman by
the machine. By a simple device three workmen out of four are
evicted; what matters it that fifty years later, the population
of the globe having doubled and the trade of England having
quadrupled, new machines will be constructed and the English
manufacturers will reemploy their workmen? Do the economists
mean to point to the increase of population as one of the
benefits of machinery? Let them renounce, then, the theory of
Malthus, and stop declaiming against the excessive fecundity
of marriage.

They did not stop there: soon a new mechanical improvement
enabled a single worker to do the work that formerly occupied

A new three-fourths reduction of manual work: in all, a reduction
of human labor by fifteen-sixteenths.

A Bolton manufacturer writes: "The elongation of the mules of
our frames permits us to employ but twenty-six spinners where we
employed thirty-five in 1837."

Another decimation of laborers: one out of four is a victim.

These facts are taken from the "Revue Economique" of 1842; and
there is nobody who cannot point to similar ones. I have
witnessed the introduction of printing machines, and I can say
that I have seen with my own eyes the evil which printers have
suffered thereby. During the fifteen or twenty years that the
machines have been in use a portion of the workmen have gone back
to composition, others have abandoned their trade, and some have
died of misery: thus laborers are continually crowded back in
consequence of industrial innovations. Twenty years ago eighty
canal-boats furnished the navigation service between Beaucaire
and Lyons; a score of steam-packets has displaced them all.
Certainly commerce is the gainer; but what has become of the
boating-population? Has it been transferred from the boats to
the packets? No: it has gone where all superseded industries
go,--it has vanished.

For the rest, the following documents, which I take from the same
source, will give a more positive idea of the influence of
industrial improvements upon the condition of the workers.

The average weekly wages, at Manchester, is ten shillings. Out
of four hundred and fifty workers there are not forty who earn
twenty shillings.

The author of the article is careful to remark that an Englishman
consumes five times as much as a Frenchman; this, then, is as if
a French workingman had to live on two francs and a half a week.

"Edinburgh Review," 1835: "To a combination of workmen (who did
not want to see their wages reduced) we owe the mule of Sharpe
and Roberts of Manchester; and this invention has severely
punished the imprudent unionists."

PUNISHED should merit punishment. The invention of Sharpe and
Roberts of Manchester was bound to result from the situation; the
refusal of the workmen to submit to the reduction asked of them
was only its determining occasion. Might not one infer, from the
air of vengeance affected by the "Edinburgh Review," that
machines have a retroactive effect?

An English manufacturer: "The insubordination of our workmen has
given us the idea of DISPENSING WITH THEM. We have made and
stimulated every imaginable effort of the mind to replace the
service of men by tools more docile, and we have achieved our
object. Machinery has delivered capital from the oppression of
labor. Wherever we still employ a man, we do so only
temporarily, pending the invention for us of some means of
accomplishing his work without him."

What a system is that which leads a business man to think with
delight that society will soon be able to dispense with men!
That is exactly as if the cabinet should undertake to deliver the
treasury from the oppression of the taxpayers. Fool! though the
workmen cost you something, they are your customers: what will
you do with your products, when, driven away by you, they shall
consume them no longer? Thus machinery, after crushing the
workmen, is not slow in dealing employers a counter-blow; for, if
production excludes consumption, it is soon obliged to stop

During the fourth quarter of 1841 four great failures, happening
in an English manufacturing city, threw seventeen hundred and
twenty people on the street.

These failures were caused by over-production,--that is, by an
inadequate market, or the distress of the people. What a pity
that machinery cannot also deliver capital from the oppression of
consumers! What a misfortune that machines do not buy the
fabrics which they weave! The ideal society will be reached when
commerce, agriculture, and manufactures can proceed without a man
upon earth!

In a Yorkshire parish for nine months the operatives have been
working but two days a week.


At Geston two factories valued at sixty thousand pounds sterling
have been sold for twenty-six thousand. They produced more than
they could sell.


In 1841 the number of children UNDER thirteen years of age
engaged in manufactures diminishes, because children OVER
thirteen take their place.

Machines! The adult workman becomes an apprentice, a child,
again: this result was foreseen from the phase of the division of
labor, during which we saw the quality of the workman degenerate
in the ratio in which industry was perfected.

In his conclusion the journalist makes this reflection: "Since
1836 there has been a retrograde movement in the cotton
industry";--that is, it no longer keeps up its relation with
other industries: another result foreseen from the theory of the
proportionality of values.

Today workmen's coalitions and strikes seem to have stopped
throughout England, and the economists rightly rejoice over this
return to order,-- let us say even to common sense. But because
laborers henceforth--at least I cherish the hope--will not add
the misery of their voluntary periods of idleness to the misery
which machines force upon them, does it follow that the situation
is changed? And if there is no change in the situation, will not
the future always be a deplorable copy of the past?

The economists love to rest their minds on pictures of public
felicity: it is by this sign principally that they are to be
recognized, and that they estimate each other. Nevertheless
there are not lacking among them, on the other hand, moody and
sickly imaginations, ever ready to offset accounts of growing
prosperity with proofs of persistent poverty.

M. Theodore Fix thus summed up the general situation in December,

The food supply of nations is no longer exposed to those terrible
disturbances caused by scarcities and famines, so frequent up to
the beginning of the nineteenth century. The variety of
agricultural growths and improvements has abolished this double
scourge almost absolutely. The total wheat crop in France in
1791 was estimated at about 133,000,000 bushels, which gave,
after deducting seed, 2.855 bushels to each inhabitant. In 1840
the same crop was estimated at 198,590,000 bushels, or 2.860
bushels to each individual, the area of cultivated surface being
almost the same as before the Revolution. . . . The rate of
increase of manufactured goods has been at least as high as
that of food products; and we are justified in saying that the
mass of textile fabrics has more than doubled and perhaps tripled
within fifty years. The perfecting of technical processes has
led to this result. . . .

Since the beginning of the century the average duration of life
has increased by two or three years,--an undeniable sign of
greater comfort, or, if you will, a diminution of poverty.

Within twenty years the amount of indirect revenue, without any
burdensome change in legislation, has risen from $40,000,000
francs to 720,000,000,--a symptom of economic, much more than of
fiscal, progress.

On January 1, 1844, the deposit and consignment office owed the
savings banks 351,500,000 francs, and Paris figured in this sum
for 105,000,000. Nevertheless the development of the institution
has taken place almost wholly within twelve years, and it should
be noticed that the 351,500,000 francs now due to the savings
banks do not constitute the entire mass of economies effected,
since at a given time the capital accumulated is disposed of
otherwise. . . . In 1843, out of 320,000 workmen and 80,000
house-servants living in the capital, 90,000 workmen have
deposited in the savings banks 2,547,000 francs, and 34,000
house-servants 1,268,000 francs.

All these facts are entirely true, and the inference to be drawn
from them in favor of machines is of the exactest,--namely, that
they have indeed given a powerful impetus to the general welfare.

But the facts with which we shall supplement them are no less
authentic, and the inference to be drawn from these against
machines will be no less accurate,--to wit, that they are a
continual cause of pauperism. I appeal to the figures of M. Fix

Out of 320,000 workmen and 80,000 house-servants residing in
Paris, there are 230,000 of the former and 46,000 of the
latter--a total of 276,000--who do not deposit in the savings
banks. No one would dare pretend that these are 276,000
spendthrifts and ne'er-do-weels who expose themselves to misery
voluntarily. Now, as among the very ones who make the savings
there are to be found poor and inferior persons for whom the
savings bank is but a respite from debauchery and misery, we may
conclude that, out of all the individuals living by their labor,
nearly three-fourths either are imprudent, lazy, and depraved,
since they do not deposit in the savings banks, or are too poor
to lay up anything. There is no other alternative. But common
sense, to say nothing of charity, permits no wholesale accusation
of the laboring class: it is necessary, therefore, to throw the
blame back upon our economic system. How is it that M. Fix did
not see that his figures accused themselves?

They hope that, in time, all, or almost all, laborers will
deposit in the savings banks. Without awaiting the testimony of
the future, we may test the foundations of this hope immediately.

According to the testimony of M. Vee, mayor of the fifth
arrondissement of Paris, "the number of needy families inscribed
upon the registers of the charity bureaus is 30,000,-- which is
equivalent to 65,000 individuals." The census taken at the
beginning of 1846 gave 88,474. And poor families not
inscribed,--how many are there of those? As many. Say, then,
180,000 people whose poverty is not doubtful, although not
official. And all those who live in straitened circumstances,
though keeping up the appearance of comfort,--how many are there
of those? Twice as many,--a total of 360,000 persons, in Paris,
who are somewhat embarrassed for means.

"They talk of wheat," cries another economist, M. Louis Leclerc,
"but are there not immense populations which go without bread?
Without leaving our own country, are there not populations which
live exclusively on maize, buckwheat, chestnuts?"

M. Leclerc denounces the fact: let us interpret it. If, as there
is no doubt, the increase of population is felt principally
in the large cities,--that is, at those points where the most
wheat is consumed,--it is clear that the average per head may
have increased without any improvement in the general condition.
There is no such liar as an average.

"They talk," continues the same writer, "of the increase of
indirect consumption. Vain would be the attempt to acquit
Parisian adulteration: it exists; it has its masters, its adepts,
its literature, its didactic and classic treatises. . . . France
possessed exquisite wines; what has been done with them? What
has become of this splendid wealth? Where are the treasures
created since Probus by the national genius? And yet, when one
considers the excesses to which wine gives rise wherever it is
dear, wherever it does not form a part of the regular life of the
people; when in Paris, capital of the kingdom of good wines, one
sees the people gorging themselves with I know not what,--stuff
that is adulterated, sophisticated, sickening, and sometimes
execrable,--and well-to-do persons drinking at home or accepting
without a word, in famous restaurants, so-called wines, thick,
violet-colored, and insipid, flat, and miserable enough to make
the poorest Burgundian peasant shudder,--can one honestly doubt
that alcoholic liquids are one of the most imperative needs of
our nature?

I quote this passage at length, because it sums up in relation to
a special case all that could be said upon the INCONVENIENCES of
machinery. To the people it is with wine as with fabrics, and
generally with all goods and merchandise created for the
consumption of the poor. It is always the same deduction: to
reduce by some process or other the cost of manufacture, in
order, first, to maintain advantageously competition with more
fortunate or richer rivals; second, to serve the vast numbers of
plundered persons who cannot disregard price simply because the
quality is good. Produced in the ordinary ways, wine is too
expensive for the mass of consumers; it is in danger of remaining
in the cellars of the retailers. The manufacturer of wines gets
around the difficulty: unable to introduce machinery into the
cultivation of the vine, he finds a means, with the aid of
some accompaniments, of placing the precious liquid within the
reach of all. Certain savages, in their periods of scarcity, eat
earth; the civilized workman drinks water. Malthus was a great

As far as the increase of the average duration of life is
concerned, I recognize the fact, but at the same time I declare
the observation incorrect. Let us explain that. Suppose a
population of ten million souls: if, from whatever cause you
will, the average life should increase five years for a million
individuals, mortality continuing its ravages at the same rate as
before among the nine other millions, it would be found, on
distributing this increase among the whole, that on an average
six months had been added to the life of each individual. It is
with the average length of life, the so-called indicator of
average comfort, as with average learning: the level of knowledge
does not cease to rise, which by no means alters the fact that
there are today in France quite as many barbarians as in the days
of Francois I. The charlatans who had railroad speculation in
view made a great noise about the importance of the locomotive in
the circulation of ideas; and the economists, always on the
lookout for civilized stupidities, have not failed to echo this
nonsense. As if ideas, in order to spread, needed locomotives!
What, then, prevents ideas from circulating from the Institute to
the Faubourgs Saint-Antoine and Saint-Marceau, in the narrow and
wretched streets of Old Paris and the Temple Quarter, everywhere,
in short, where dwells this multitude even more destitute of
ideas than of bread? How happens it that between a Parisian and
a Parisian, in spite of the omnibus and the letter-carrier, the
distance is three times greater today than in the fourteenth

The ruinous influence of machinery on social economy and the
condition of the laborers is exercised in a thousand ways, all of
which are bound together and reciprocally labelled: cessation of
labor, reduction of wages, over-production, obstruction of the
market, alteration and adulteration of products, failures,
displacement of laborers, degeneration of the race, and, finally,
diseases and death.

M. Theodore Fix has remarked himself that in the last fifty years
the average stature of man, in France, has diminished by a
considerable fraction of an inch. This observation is worth his
previous one: upon whom does this diminution take effect?

In a report read to the Academy of Moral Sciences on the results
of the law of March 22, 1841, M. Leon Faucher expressed himself

Young workmen are pale, weak, short in stature, and slow to think
as well as to move. At fourteen or fifteen years they seem no
more developed than children of nine or ten years in the normal
state. As for their intellectual and moral development, there
are some to be found who, at the age of thirteen, have no notion
of God, who have never heard of their duties, and whose first
school of morality was a prison.

That is what M. Leon Faucher has seen, to the great displeasure
of M. Charles Dupin, and this state of things he declares that
the law of March 22 is powerless to remedy. And let us not get
angry over this impotence of the legislator: the evil arises from
a cause as necessary for us as the sun; and in the path upon
which we have entered, anger of any kind, like palliatives of any
kind, could only make our situation worse. Yes, while science
and industry are making such marvellous progress, it is a
necessity, unless civilization's centre of gravity should
suddenly change, that the intelligence and comfort of the
proletariat be diminished; while the lives of the well-to-do
classes grow longer and easier, it is inevitable that those of
the needy should grow harder and shorter. This is established in
the writings of the best--I mean, the most optimistic--thinkers.

According to M. de Morogues, 7,500,000 men in France have only
ninety- one francs a year to spend, 25 centimes a day. Cinq
sous! cinq sous! (Five cents! five cents!). There is something
prophetic, then, in this odious refrain.

In England (not including Scotland and Ireland) the poor-rate

1801.--L4,078,891 for a population of. . . . .8,872,980
1818.--L7,870,801 " " " " . . . .11,978,875
1833.--L8,000,000 " " " " . . . .14,000,000

The progress of poverty, then, has been more rapid than that of
population; in face of this fact, what becomes of the hypotheses
of Malthus? And yet it is indisputable that during the same
period the average comfort increased: what, then, do statistics

The death-rate for the first arrondissement of Paris is one to
every fifty-two inhabitants, and for the twelfth one to every
twenty-six. Now, the latter contains one needy person to every
seven inhabitants, while the former has only one to every
twenty-eight. That does not prevent the average duration of
life, even in Paris, from increasing, as M. Fix has very
correctly observed.

At Mulhouse the probabilities of average life are twenty-nine
years for children of the well-to-do class and TWO years for
those of the workers; in 1812 the average life in the same
locality was twenty-five years, nine months, and twelve days,
while in 1827 it was not over twenty-one years and nine months.
And yet throughout France the average life is longer. What does
this mean?

M. Blanqui, unable to explain so much prosperity and so much
poverty at once, cries somewhere: "Increased production does not
mean additional wealth. . . . Poverty, on the contrary, becomes
the wider spread in proportion to the concentration of
industries. There must be some radical vice in a system which
guarantees no security either to capital or labor, and which
seems to multiply the embarrassments of producers at the same
time that it forces them to multiply their products."

There is no radical vice here. What astonishes M. Blanqui is
simply that of which the Academy to which he belongs has asked a
determination,--namely, the oscillations of the economic
pendulum, VALUE, beating alternately and in regular time good and
evil, until the hour of the universal equation shall strike. If
I may be permitted another comparison, humanity in its march is
like a column of soldiers, who, starting in the same step and at
the same moment to the measured beating of the drum, gradually
lose their distances. The whole body advances, but the distance
from head to tail grows ever longer; and it is a necessary effect
of the movement that there should be some laggards and

But it is necessary to penetrate still farther into the antinomy.

Machines promised us an increase of wealth; they have kept their
word, but at the same time endowing us with an increase of
poverty. They promised us liberty; I am going to prove that they
have brought us slavery.

I have stated that the determination of value, and with it the
tribulations of society, began with the division of industries,
without which there could be no exchange, or wealth, or progress.

The period through which we are now passing--that of
machinery--is distinguished by a special characteristic,--WAGES.

Wages issued in a direct line from the employment of
machinery,--that is, to give my thought the entire generality of
expression which it calls for, from the economic fiction by which
capital becomes an agent of production. Wages, in short, coming
after the division of labor and exchange, is the necessary
correlative of the theory of the reduction of costs, in whatever
way this reduction may be accomplished. This genealogy is too
interesting to be passed by without a few words of explanation.

The first, the simplest, the most powerful of machines is the

Division simply separates the various parts of labor, leaving
each to devote himself to the specialty best suited to his
tastes: the workshop groups the laborers according to the
relation of each part to the whole. It is the most elementary
form of the balance of values, undiscoverable though the
economists suppose this to be. Now, through the workshop,
production is going to increase, and at the same time the

Somebody discovered that, by dividing production into its various
parts and causing each to be executed by a separate workman, he
would obtain a multiplication of power, the product of which
would be far superior to the amount of labor given by the same
number of workmen when labor is not divided.

Grasping the thread of this idea, he said to himself that, by
forming a permanent group of laborers assorted with a view to his
special purpose, he would produce more steadily, more abundantly,
and at less cost. It is not indispensable, however, that the
workmen should be gathered into one place: the existence of the
workshop does not depend essentially upon such contact. It
results from the relation and proportion of the different tasks
and from the common thought directing them. In a word,
concentration at one point may offer its advantages, which are
not to be neglected; but that is not what constitutes the

This, then, is the proposition which the speculator makes to
those whose collaboration he desires: I guarantee you a perpetual
market for your products, if you will accept me as purchaser or
middle-man. The bargain is so clearly advantageous that the
proposition cannot fail of acceptance. The laborer finds in it
steady work, a fixed price, and security; the employer, on the
other hand, will find a readier sale for his goods, since,
producing more advantageously, he can lower the price; in short,
his profits will be larger because of the mass of his
investments. All, even to the public and the magistrate, will
congratulate the employer on having added to the social wealth by
his combinations, and will vote him a reward.

But, in the first place, whoever says reduction of expenses says
reduction of services, not, it is true, in the new shop, but for
the workers at the same trade who are left outside, as well as
for many others whose accessory services will be less needed in
future. Therefore every establishment of a workshop corresponds
to an eviction of workers: this assertion, utterly contradictory
though it may appear, is as true of the workshop as of a machine.

The economists admit it: but here they repeat their eternal
refrain that, after a lapse of time, the demand for the product
having increased in proportion to the reduction of price, labor
in turn will come finally to be in greater demand than ever.
Undoubtedly, WITH TIME, the equilibrium will be restored; but, I
must add again, the equilibrium will be no sooner restored at
this point than it will be disturbed at another, because the
spirit of invention never stops, any more than labor. Now, what
theory could justify these perpetual hecatombs?" When we have
reduced the number of toilers," wrote Sismondi, "to a fourth or a
fifth of what it is at present, we shall need only a fourth or a
fifth as many priests, physicians, etc. When we have cut them
off altogether, we shall be in a position to dispense with the
human race." And that is what really would happen if, in order
to put the labor of each machine in proportion to the needs of
consumption,--that is, to restore the balance of values
continually destroyed,--it were not necessary to continually
create new machines, open other markets, and consequently
multiply services and displace other arms. So that on the one
hand industry and wealth, on the other population and misery,
advance, so to speak, in procession, one always dragging the
other after it.

I have shown the contractor, at the birth of industry,
negotiating on equal terms with his comrades, who have since
become HIS WORKMEN. It is plain, in fact, that this original
equality was bound to disappear through the advantageous position
of the master and the dependence of the wage-workers. In vain
does the law assure to each the right of enterprise, as well as
the faculty to labor alone and sell one's products directly.
According to the hypothesis, this last resource is impracticable,
since it was the object of the workshop to annihilate isolated
labor. And as for the right to take the plough, as they say, and
go at speed, it is the same in manufactures as in agriculture; to
know how to work is nothing, it is necessary to arrive at the
right time; the shop, as well as the land, is to the first comer.

When an establishment has had the leisure to develop itself,
enlarge its foundations, ballast itself with capital, and assure
itself a body of patrons, what can the workman who has only
his arms do against a power so superior? Hence it was not by an
arbitrary act of sovereign power or by fortuitous and brutal
usurpation that the guilds and masterships were established in
the Middle Ages: the force of events had created them long before
the edicts of kings could have given them legal consecration;
and, in spite of the reform of '89, we see them reestablishing
themselves under our eyes with an energy a hundred times more
formidable. Abandon labor to its own tendencies, and the
subjection of three-fourths of the human race is assured.

But this is not all. The machine, or the workshop, after having
degraded the laborer by giving him a master, completes his
degeneracy by reducing him from the rank of artisan to that of
common workman.

Formerly the population on the banks of the Saone and Rhone was
largely made up of watermen, thoroughly fitted for the conduct of
canal-boats or row-boats. Now that the steam-tug is to be found
almost everywhere, most of the boatmen, finding it impossible to
get a living at their trade, either pass three-fourths of their
life in idleness, or else become stokers.

If not misery, then degradation: such is the last alternative
which machinery offers to the workman. For it is with a machine
as with a piece of artillery: the captain excepted, those whom it
occupies are servants, slaves.

Since the establishment of large factories, a multitude of little
industries have disappeared from the domestic hearth: does any
one believe that the girls who work for ten and fifteen cents
have as much intelligence as their ancestors?

"After the establishment of the railway from Paris to Saint
Germain," M. Dunoyer tells us, "there were established between
Pecq and a multitude of places in the more or less immediate
vicinity such a number of omnibus and stage lines that this
establishment, contrary to all expectation, has considerably
increased the employment of horses."

CONTRARY TO ALL EXPECTATION! It takes an economist not to
expect these things. Multiply machinery, and you increase the
amount of arduous and disagreeable labor to be done: this
apothegm is as certain as any of those which date from the
deluge. Accuse me, if you choose, of ill-will towards the most
precious invention of our century,--nothing shall prevent me from
saying that the principal result of railways, after the
subjection of petty industry, will be the creation of a
population of degraded laborers,--signalmen, sweepers, loaders,
lumpers, draymen, watchmen, porters, weighers, greasers,
cleaners, stokers, firemen, etc. Two thousand miles of railway
will give France an additional fifty thousand serfs: it is not
for such people, certainly, that M. Chevalier asks professional

Perhaps it will be said that, the mass of transportation having
increased in much greater proportion than the number of
day-laborers, the difference is to the advantage of the railway,
and that, all things considered, there is progress. The
observation may even be generalized and the same argument applied
to all industries.

But it is precisely out of this generality of the phenomenon that
springs the subjection of laborers. Machinery plays the leading
role in industry, man is secondary: all the genius displayed by
labor tends to the degradation of the proletariat. What a
glorious nation will be ours when, among forty millions of
inhabitants, it shall count thirty-five millions of drudges,
paper-scratchers, and flunkies!

With machinery and the workshop, divine right--that is, the
principle of authority--makes its entrance into political
economy. Capital, Mastership, Privilege, Monopoly, Loaning,
Credit, Property, etc.,--such are, in economic language, the
various names of I know not what, but which is otherwise called
Power, Authority, Sovereignty, Written Law, Revelation, Religion,
God in short, cause and principle of all our miseries and all our
crimes, and who, the more we try to define him, the more eludes

Is it, then, impossible that, in the present condition of
society, the workshop with its hierarchical organization, and
machinery, instead of serving exclusively the interests of the
least numerous, the least industrious, and the wealthiest class,
should be employed for the benefit of all?

That is what we are going to examine.

% 3.--Of preservatives against the disastrous influence of

Reduction of manual labor is synonymous with lowering of price,
and, consequently, with increase of exchange, since, if the
consumer pays less, he will buy more.

But reduction of manual labor is synonymous also with restriction
of market, since, if the producer earns less, he will buy less.
And this is the course that things actually take. The
concentration of forces in the workshop and the intervention of
capital in production, under the name of machinery, engender at
the same time overproduction and destitution; and everybody has
witnessed these two scourges, more to be feared than incendiarism
and plague, develop in our day on the vastest scale and with
devouring intensity. Nevertheless it is impossible for us to
retreat: it is necessary to produce, produce always, produce
cheaply; otherwise, the existence of society is compromised. The
laborer, who, to escape the degradation with which the principle
of division threatened him, had created so many marvellous
machines, now finds himself either prohibited or subjugated by
his own works. Against this alternative what means are proposed?

M. de Sismondi, like all men of patriarchal ideas, would like the
division of labor, with machinery and manufactures, to be
abandoned, and each family to return to the system of primitive
indivision,--that is, to EACH ONE BY HIMSELF, EACH ONE FOR
HIMSELF, in the most literal meaning of the words. That would be
to retrograde; it is impossible.

M. Blanqui returns to the charge with his plan of participation
by the workman, and of consolidation of all industries in a
joint-stock company for the benefit of the collective laborer. I
have shown that this plan would impair public welfare without
appreciably improving the condition of the laborers; and M.
Blanqui himself seems to share this sentiment. How reconcile, in
fact, this participation of the workman in the profits with the
rights of inventors, contractors, and capitalists, of whom the
first have to reimburse themselves for large outlays, as well as
for their long and patient efforts; the second continually
endanger the wealth they have acquired, and take upon themselves
alone the chances of their enterprises, which are often very
hazardous; and the third could sustain no reduction of their
dividends without in some way losing their savings? How
harmonize, in a word, the equality desirable to establish between
laborers and employers with the preponderance which cannot be
taken from heads of establishments, from loaners of capital, and
from inventors, and which involves so clearly their exclusive
appropriation of the profits? To decree by a law the admission
of all workmen to a share of the profits would be to pronounce
the dissolution of society: all the economists have seen
this so clearly that they have finally changed into an
exhortation to employers what had first occurred to them as a
project. Now, as long as the wage-worker gets no profit save
what may be allowed him by the contractor, it is perfectly safe
to assume that eternal poverty will be his lot: it is not in the
power of the holders of labor to make it otherwise.

For the rest, the idea, otherwise very laudable, of associating
workmen with employers tends to this communistic conclusion,
evidently false in its premises: The last word of machinery is to
make man rich and happy without the necessity of labor on his
part. Since, then, natural agencies must do everything for us,
machinery ought to belong to the State, and the goal of progress
is communism.

I shall examine the communistic theory in its place.

But I believe that I ought to immediately warn the partisans of
this utopia that the hope with which they flatter themselves in
relation to machinery is only an illusion of the economists,
something like perpetual motion, which is always sought and never
found, because asked of a power which cannot give it. Machines
do not go all alone: to keep them in motion it is necessary to
organize an immense service around them; so that in the end, man
creating for himself an amount of work proportional to the number
of instruments with which he surrounds himself, the principal
consideration in the matter of machinery is much less to divide
its products than to see that it is fed,--that is, to continually
renew the motive power. Now, this motive power is not air,
water, steam, electricity; it is labor,--that is, the market.

A railroad suppresses all along its line conveyances, stages,
harness- makers, saddlers, wheelwrights, inn-keepers: I take
facts as they are just after the establishment of the road.
Suppose the State, as a measure of preservation or in obedience
to the principle of indemnity, should make the laborers displaced
by the railroad its proprietors or operators: the transportation
rates, let us suppose, being reduced by twenty-five per cent.
(otherwise of what use is the railroad?), the income of all these
laborers united will be diminished by a like amount,--which is to
say that a fourth of the persons formerly living by conveyances
will find themselves literally without resources, in spite of the
munificence of the State. To meet their deficit they have but
one hope,--that the mass of transportation effected over the line
may be increased by twenty-five per cent., or else that they may
find employment in other lines of industry,--which seems at first
impossible, since, by the hypothesis and in fact, places are
everywhere filled, proportion is maintained everywhere, and the
supply is sufficient for the demand.

Moreover it is very necessary, if it be desired to increase the
mass of transportation, that a fresh impetus be given to labor in
other industries. Now, admitting that the laborers displaced by
this over- production find employment, and that their
distribution among the various kinds of labor proves as easy in
practice as in theory, the difficulty is still far from settled.
For the number of those engaged in circulation being to the
number of those engaged in production as one hundred to one
thousand, in order to obtain, with a circulation one- fourth less
expensive,--in other words, one-fourth more powerful,--the same
revenue as before, it will be necessary to strengthen production
also by one-fourth,--that is, to add to the agricultural and
industrial army, not twenty-five,--the figure which indicates the
proportionality of the carrying industry,--but two hundred and
fifty. But, to arrive at this result, it will be necessary
to create machines,--what is worse, to create men: which
continually brings the question back to the same point. Thus
contradiction upon contradiction: now not only is labor, in
consequence of machinery, lacking to men, but also men, in
consequence of their numerical weakness and the insufficiency of
their consumption, are lacking to machinery: so that, pending the
establishment of equilibrium, there is at once a lack of work and
a lack of arms, a lack of products and a lack of markets. And
what we say of the railroad is true of all industries: always the
man and the machine pursue each other, the former never attaining
rest, the latter never attaining satisfaction.

Whatever the pace of mechanical progress; though machines should
be invented a hundred times more marvellous than the mule-jenny,
the knitting-machine, or the cylinder press; though forces should
be discovered a hundred times more powerful than steam,--very far
from freeing humanity, securing its leisure, and making the
production of everything gratuitous, these things would have no
other effect than to multiply labor, induce an increase of
population, make the chains of serfdom heavier, render life more
and more expensive, and deepen the abyss which separates the
class that commands and enjoys from the class that obeys and

Suppose now all these difficulties overcome; suppose the laborers
made available by the railroad adequate to the increase of
service demanded for the support of the locomotive,--compensation
being effected without pain, nobody will suffer; on the contrary,
the well-being of each will be increased by a fraction of the
profit realized by the substitution of the railway for the
stage-coach. What then, I shall be asked, prevents these things
from taking place with such regularity and precision? And what
is easier than for an intelligent government to so manage all
industrial transitions?

I have pushed the hypothesis as far as it could go in order to
show, on the one hand, the end to which humanity is tending, and,
on the other, the difficulties which it must overcome in order to
attain it. Surely the providential order is that progress should
be effected, in so far as machinery is concerned, in the way that
I have just spoken of: but what embarrasses society's march and
makes it go from Charybdis to Scylla is precisely the fact that
it is not organized. We have reached as yet only the second
phase of its evolution, and already we have met upon our road two
chasms which seem insuperable,--division of labor and machinery.
How save the parcellaire workman, if he is a man of intelligence,
from degradation, or, if he is degraded already, lift him to
intellectual life? How, in the second place, give birth among
laborers to that solidarity of interest without which industrial
progress counts its steps by its catastrophes, when these same
laborers are radically divided by labor, wages, intelligence, and
liberty,--that is, by egoism? How, in short, reconcile what the
progress already accomplished has had the effect of rendering
irreconcilable? To appeal to communism and fraternity would be
to anticipate dates: there is nothing in common, there can exist
no fraternity, between such creatures as the division of labor
and the service of machinery have made. It is not in that
direction--at least for the present--that we must seek a

Well! it will be said, since the evil lies still more in the
minds than in the system, let us come back to instruction, let us
labor for the education of the people.

In order that instruction may be useful, in order that it may
even be received, it is necessary, first of all, that the pupil
should be free, just as, before planting a piece of ground, we
clear it of thorns and dog-grass. Moreover, the best system
of education, even so far as philosophy and morality are
concerned, would be that of professional education: once more,
how reconcile such education with parcellaire division and the
service of machinery? How shall the man who, by the effect of
his labor, has become a slave,--that is, a chattel, a thing,--
again become a person by the same labor, or in continuing the
same exercise? Why is it not seen that these ideas are mutually
repellent, and that, if, by some impossibility, the proletaire
could reach a certain degree of intelligence, he would make use
of it in the first place to revolutionize society and change all
civil and industrial relations? And what I say is no vain
exaggeration. The working class, in Paris and the large cities,
is vastly superior in point of ideas to what it was twenty-five
years ago; now, let them tell me if this class is not decidedly,
energetically revolutionary! And it will become more and more so
in proportion as it shall acquire the ideas of justice and order,
in proportion especially as it shall reach an understanding of
the mechanism of property.

Language,--I ask permission to recur once more to
etymology,--language seems to me to have clearly expressed the
moral condition of the laborer, after he has been, if I may so
speak, depersonalized by industry. In the Latin the idea of
servitude implies that of subordination of man to things; and
when later feudal law declared the serf ATTACHED TO THE GLEBE, it
only periphrased the literal meaning of the word servus.[16]
Spontaneous reason, oracle of fate itself, had therefore
condemned the subaltern workman, before science had established
his debasement. Such being the case, what can the efforts of
philanthropy do for beings whom Providence has rejected?

[16] In spite of the most approved authorities, I cannot accept
the idea that serf, in Latin servus, was so called from servare,
to keep, because the slave was a prisoner of war who was kept for
labor. Servitude, or at least domesticity, is certainly prior to
war, although war may have noticeably strengthened it. Why,
moreover, if such was the origin of the idea as well as of the
thing, should they not have said, instead of serv-us, serv-atus,
in conformity with grammatical deduction? To me the real
etymology is revealed in the opposition of serv-are and serv-ire,
the primitive theme of which is ser-o, in-sero, to join, to
press,whence ser-ies, joint, continuity, ser-a, lock, sertir,
insert, etc. All these words imply the idea of a principal
thing, to which is joined an accessory, as an object of special
usefulness. Thence serv-ire, to be an object of usefulness, a
thing secondary to another; serv-are, as we say to press, to put
aside, to assign a thing its utility; serv-us, a man at hand, a
utility, a chattel, in short, a man of service. The opposite of
servus is dom-inus (dom-us, dom-anium, and dom-are); that is, the
head of the household, the master of the house, he who utilizes
men, servat, animals, domat, and things, possidet. That
consequently prisoners of war should have been reserved for
slavery, servati ad servitium, or rather serti ad glebam, is
perfectly conceivable; their destiny being known, they have
simply taken their name from it.

Labor is the education of our liberty. The ancients had a
profound perception of this truth when they distinguished the
servile arts from the liberal arts. For, like profession, like
ideas; like ideas, like morals. Everything in slavery takes on
the character of degradation,-- habits, tastes, inclinations,
sentiments, pleasures: it involves universal subversion. Occupy
one's self with the education of the poor! But that would create
the most cruel antagonism in these degenerate souls; that would
inspire them with ideas which labor would render intolerable to
them, affections incompatible with the brutishness of their
condition, pleasures of which the perception is dulled in them.
If such a project could succeed, instead of making a man of the
laborer, it would make a demon of him. Just study those faces
which people the prisons and the galleys, and tell me if most of
them do not belong to subjects whom the revelation of the
beautiful, of elegance, of wealth, of comfort, of honor, and of
science, of all that makes the dignity of man, has found too
weak, and so has demoralized and killed.

At least wages should be fixed, say the less audacious; schedules
of rates should be prepared in all industries, to be accepted by
employers and workmen.

This hypothesis of salvation is cited by M. Fix. And he answers

Such schedules have been made in England and elsewhere; their
value is known; everywhere they have been violated as soon as
accepted, both by employers and by workmen.

The causes of the violation of the schedules are easy to fathom:
they are to be found in machinery, in the incessant processes and
combinations of industry. A schedule is agreed upon at a given
moment: but suddenly there comes a new invention which gives its
author the power to lower the price of merchandise. What will
the other employers do? They will cease to manufacture and will
discharge their workmen, or else they will propose to them a
reduction. It is the only course open to them, pending a
discovery by them in turn of some process by means of which,
without lowering the rate of wages, they will be able to produce
more cheaply than their competitors: which will be equivalent
again to a suppression of workmen.

M. Leon Faucher seems inclined to favor a system of indemnity.
He says:

We readily conceive that, in some interest or other, the State,
representing the general desire, should command the sacrifice of
an industry.

It is always supposed to command it, from the moment that it
grants to each the liberty to produce, and protects and defends
this liberty against all encroachment.

But this is an extreme measure, an experiment which is always
perilous, and which should be accompanied by all possible
consideration for individuals. The State has no right to take
from a class of citizens the labor by which they live, before
otherwise providing for their subsistence or assuring itself that
they will find in some new industry employment for their minds
and arms. It is a principle in civilized countries that the
government cannot seize a piece of private property, even on
grounds of public utility, without first buying out the
proprietor by a just indemnity paid in advance. Now, labor seems
to us property quite as legitimate, quite as sacred, as a field
or a house, and we do not understand why it should be
expropriated without any sort of compensation. . . .

As chimerical as we consider the doctrines which represent
government as the universal purveyor of labor in society, to the
same extent does it seem to us just and necessary that every
displacement of labor in the name of public utility should be
effected only by means of a compensation or a transition, and
that neither individuals nor classes should be sacrificed to
State considerations. Power, in well- constituted nations, has
always time and money to give for the mitigation of these partial
sufferings. And it is precisely because industry does not
emanate from it, because it is born and developed under the free
and individual initiative of citizens, that the government is
bound, when it disturbs its course, to offer it a sort of
reparation or indemnity.

There's sense for you: whatever M. Leon Faucher may say, he calls
for the organization of labor. For government to see to it that
progress of industry and the liberty of enterprise, the supreme
law of the State,--is without any doubt to constitute itself, in
some way that the future shall determine, the PURVEYOR OF LABOR
IN SOCIETY and the guardian of wages. And, as we have many times
repeated, inasmuch as industrial progress and consequently the
work of disarranging and rearranging classes in society is
continual, it is not a special transition for each innovation
that needs to be discovered, but rather a general principle, an
organic law of transition, applicable to all possible cases and
producing its effect itself. Is M. Leon Faucher in a position to
formulate this law and reconcile the various antagonisms which we
have described? No, since he prefers to stop at the idea of an
SUFFERINGS. I am sorry for M. Faucher's generous intentions, but
they seem to me radically impracticable.

Power has no time and money save what it takes from the
taxpayers. To indemnify by taxation laborers thrown out of work
would be to visit ostracism upon new inventions and establish
communism by means of the bayonet; that is no solution of the
difficulty. It is useless to insist further on indemnification
by the State. Indemnity, applied according to M. Faucher's
views, would either end in industrial despotism, in something
like the government of Mohammed-Ali, or else would degenerate
into a poor-tax,--that is, into a vain hypocrisy. For the good
of humanity it were better not to indemnify, and to let labor
seek its own eternal constitution.

There are some who say: Let government carry laborers thrown out
of work to points where private industry is not established,
where individual enterprise cannot reach. We have mountains to
plant again with trees, ten or twelve million acres of land to
clear, canals to dig, in short, a thousand things of immediate
and general utility to undertake.

"We certainly ask our readers' pardon for it," answers M. Fix;
"but here again we are obliged to call for the intervention of
capital. These surfaces, certain communal lands excepted, are
fallow, because, if cultivated, they would yield no net product,
and very likely not even the costs of cultivation. These lands
are possessed by proprietors who either have or have not the
capital necessary to cultivate them. In the former case, the
proprietor would very probably content himself, if he cultivated
these lands, with a very small profit, and perhaps would forego
what is called the rent of the land: but he has found that,
in undertaking such cultivation, he would lose his original
capital, and his other calculations have shown him that the sale
of the products would not cover the costs of cultivation. . . .
All things considered, therefore, this land will remain fallow,
because capital that should be put into it would yield no profit
and would be lost. If it were otherwise, all these lands would
be immediately put in cultivation; the savings now disposed of in
another direction would necessarily gravitate in a certain
proportion to the cultivation of land; for capital has no
affections: it has interests, and always seeks that employment
which is surest and most lucrative."

This argument, very well reasoned, amounts to saying that the
time to cultivate its waste lands has not arrived for France,
just as the time for railroads has not arrived for the Kaffres
and the Hottentots. For, as has been said in the second chapter,
society begins by working those sources which yield most easily
and surely the most necessary and least expensive products: it is
only gradually that it arrives at the utilization of things
relatively less productive. Since the human race has been
tossing about on the face of its globe, it has struggled with no
other task; for it the same care is ever recurrent,--that of
assuring its subsistence while going forward in the path of
discovery. In order that such clearing of land may not become a
ruinous speculation, a cause of misery, in other words, in order
that it may be possible, it is necessary, therefore, to multiply
still further our capital and machinery, discover new processes,
and more thoroughly divide labor. Now, to solicit the government
to take such an initiative is to imitate the peasants who, on
seeing the approach of a storm, begin to pray to God and to
invoke their saint. Governments--today it cannot be too often
repeated--are the representatives of Divinity,--I had almost said
executors of celestial vengeance: they can do nothing for us.
Does the English government, for instance, know any way of
giving labor to the unfortunates who take refuge in its
workhouses? And if it knew, would it dare? AID YOURSELF, AND
HEAVEN WILL AID YOU! This note of popular distrust of Divinity
tells us also what we must expect of power,--nothing.

Arrived at the second station of our Calvary, instead of
abandoning ourselves to sterile contemplations, let us be more
and more attentive to the teachings of destiny. The guarantee of
our liberty lies in the progress of our torture.



Between the hundred-headed hydra, division of labor, and the
unconquered dragon, machinery, what will become of humanity? A
prophet has said it more than two thousand years ago: Satan
looks on his victim, and the fires of war are kindled, Aspexit
gentes, et dissolvit. To save us from two scourges, famine and
pestilence, Providence sends us discord.

Competition represents that philosophical era in which, a semi-
understanding of the antinomies of reason having given birth to
the art of sophistry, the characteristics of the false and the
true were confounded, and in which, instead of doctrines, they
had nothing but deceptive mental tilts. Thus the industrial
movement faithfully reproduces the metaphysical movement; the
history of social economy is to be found entire in the writings
of the philosophers. Let us study this interesting phase, whose
most striking characteristic is to take away the judgment of
those who believe as well as those who protest.

% 1.--Necessity of competition.

M. Louis Reybaud, novelist by profession, economist on occasion,
breveted by the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences for
his anti-reformatory caricatures, and become, with the lapse of
time, one of the writers most hostile to social ideas,--M. Louis
Reybaud, whatever he may do, is none the less profoundly imbued
with these same ideas: the opposition which he thus exhibits is
neither in his heart nor in his mind; it is in the facts.

In the first edition of his "Studies of Contemporary Reformers,"
M. Reybaud, moved by the sight of social sufferings as well as
the courage of these founders of schools, who believed that they
could reform the world by an explosion of sentimentalism, had
formally expressed the opinion that the surviving feature of all
their systems was ASSOCIATION. M. Dunoyer, one of M. Reybaud's
judges, bore this testimony, the more flattering to M. Reybaud
from being slightly ironical in form:

M. Reybaud, who has exposed with so much accuracy and talent, in
a book which the French Academy has crowned, the vices of the
three principal reformatory systems, holds fast to the principle
common to them, which serves as their base,--association.
Association in his eyes, he declares, is THE GREATEST PROBLEM OF
MODERN TIMES. It is called, he says, to solve that of the
distribution of the fruits of labor. Though authority can do
nothing towards the solution of this problem, association COULD
DO EVERYTHING. M. Reybaud speaks here like a writer of the
phalansterian school. . . .

M. Reybaud had advanced a little, as one may see. Endowed with
too much good sense and good faith not to perceive the precipice,
he soon felt that he was straying, and began a retrograde
movement. I do not call this about-face a crime on his part: M.
Reybaud is one of those men who cannot justly be held responsible
for their metaphors. He had spoken before reflecting, he
retracted: what more natural! If the socialists must blame any
one, let it be M. Dunoyer, who had prompted M. Reybaud's
recantation by this singular compliment.

M. Dunoyer was not slow in perceiving that his words had not
fallen on closed ears. He relates, for the glory of sound
principles, that, "in a second edition of the `Studies of
Reformers,' M. Reybaud has himself tempered the absolute tone of
his expressions. He has said, instead of could do EVERYTHING,
could do MUCH."

It was an important modification, as M. Dunoyer brought clearly
to his notice, but it still permitted M. Reybaud to write at the
same time:

These symptoms are grave; they may be considered as prophecies of
a confused organization, in which labor would seek an equilibrium
and a regularity which it now lacks. . . . At the bottom of all
these efforts is hidden a principle, association, which it would
be wrong to condemn on the strength of irregular manifestations.

Finally M. Reybaud has loudly declared himself a partisan of
competition, which means that he has decidedly abandoned the
principle of association. For if by association we are to
understand only the forms of partnership fixed by the commercial
code, the philosophy of which has been summarized for us by MM.
Troplong and Delangle, it is no longer worth while to distinguish
between socialists and economists, between one party which seeks
association and another which maintains that association exists.

Let no one imagine, because M. Reybaud has happened to say
heedlessly yes and no to a question of which he does not seem to
have yet formed a clear idea, that I class him among those
speculators of socialism, who, after having launched a hoax into
the world, begin immediately to make their retreat, under the
pretext that, the idea now belonging to the public domain, there
is nothing more for them to do but to leave it to make its way.
M. Reybaud, in my opinion, belongs rather to the category of
dupes, which includes in its bosom so many honest people and
people of so much brains. M. Reybaud will remain, then, in my
eyes, the vir probus dicendi peritus, the conscientious and
skilful writer, who may easily be caught napping, but who never
expresses anything that he does not see or feel. Moreover, M.
Reybaud, once placed on the ground of economic ideas, would find
the more difficulty in being consistent with himself because of
the clearness of his mind and the accuracy of his reasoning. I
am going to make this curious experiment under the reader's eyes.

If I could be understood by M. Reybaud, I would say to him: Take
your stand in favor of competition, you will be wrong; take your
stand against competition, still you will be wrong: which
signifies that you will always be right. After that, if,
convinced that you have not erred either in the first edition of
your book or in the fourth, you should succeed in formulating
your sentiment in an intelligible manner, I will look upon you as
an economist of as great genius as Turgot and A. Smith; but I
warn you that then you will resemble the latter, of whom you
doubtless know little; you will be a believer in equality. Do
you accept the wager?

To better prepare M. Reybaud for this sort of reconciliation with
himself, let us show him first that this versatility of judgment,
for which anybody else in my place would reproach him with
insulting bitterness, is a treason, not on the part of the
writer, but on the part of the facts of which he has made himself
the interpreter.

In March, 1844, M. Reybaud published on oleaginous seeds--a
subject which interested the city of Marseilles, his
birthplace--an article in which he took vigorous ground in favor
of free competition and the oil of sesame. According to the
facts gathered by the author, which seem authentic, sesame would
yield from forty-five to forty-six per cent. of oil, while the
poppy and the colza yield only twenty-five to thirty per cent.,
and the olive simply twenty to twenty-two. Sesame, for this
reason, is disliked by the northern manufacturers, who have
asked and obtained its prohibition. Nevertheless the English are
on the watch, ready to take possession of this valuable branch of
commerce. Let them prohibit the seed, says M. Reybaud, the oil
will reach us mixed, in soap, or in some other way: we shall have
lost the profit of manufacture. Moreover, the interest of our
marine service requires the protection of this trade; it is a
matter of no less than forty thousand casks of seed, which
implies a maritime outfit of three hundred vessels and three
thousand sailors.

These facts are conclusive: forty-five per cent. of oil instead
of twenty-five; in quality superior to all the oils of France;
reduction in the price of an article of prime necessity; a saving
to consumers; three hundred ships, three thousand sailors,--such
would be the value to us of liberty of commerce. Therefore, long
live competition and sesame!

Then, in order to better assure these brilliant results, M.
Reybaud, impelled by his patriotism and going straight in pursuit
of his idea, observes--very judiciously in our opinion--that the
government should abstain henceforth from all treaties of
reciprocity in the matter of transportation: he asks that French
vessels may carry the imports as well as the exports of French

"What we call reciprocity," he says, "is a pure fiction, the
advantage of which is reaped by whichever of the parties can
furnish navigation at the smallest expense. Now, as in France
the elements of navigation, such as the purchase of the ships,
the wages of the crews, and the costs of outfit, rise to an
excessive figure, higher than in any of the other maritime
nations, it follows that every reciprocity treaty is equivalent
on our part to a treaty of abdication, and that, instead of
agreeing to an act of mutual convenience, we resign ourselves,
knowingly or involuntarily, to a sacrifice."

And M. Reybaud then points out the disastrous consequences of

France consumes five hundred thousand bales of cotton, and the
Americans land them on our wharves; she uses enormous quantities
of coal, and the English do the carrying thereof; the Swedes and
Norwegians deliver to us themselves their iron and wood; the
Dutch, their cheeses; the Russians, their hemp and wheat; the
Genoese, their rice; the Spaniards, their oils; the Sicilians,
their sulphur; the Greeks and Armenians, all the commodities of
the Mediterranean and Black seas."

Evidently such a state of things is intolerable, for it ends in
rendering our merchant marine useless. Let us hasten back, then,
into our ship yards, from which the cheapness of foreign
navigation tends to exclude us. Let us close our doors to
foreign vessels, or at least let us burden them with a heavy tax.

Therefore, down with competition and rival marines!

Does M. Reybaud begin to understand that his
economico-socialistic oscillations are much more innocent than he
would have believed? What gratitude he owes me for having
quieted his conscience, which perhaps was becoming alarmed!

The reciprocity of which M. Reybaud so bitterly complains is only
a form of commercial liberty. Grant full and entire liberty of
trade, and our flag is driven from the surface of the seas, as
our oils would be from the continent. Therefore we shall pay
dearer for our oil, if we insist on making it ourselves; dearer
for our colonial products, if we wish to carry them ourselves.
To secure cheapness it would be necessary, after having abandoned
our oils, to abandon our marine: as well abandon straightway our
cloths, our linens, our calicoes, our iron products, and then, as
an isolated industry necessarily costs too much, our wines, our
grains, our forage! Whichever course you may choose, privilege
or liberty, you arrive at the impossible, at the absurd.

Undoubtedly there exists a principle of reconciliation; but,
unless it be utterly despotic, it must be derived from a law
superior to liberty itself: now, it is this law which no one has
yet defined, and which I ask of the economists, if they really
are masters of their science. For I cannot consider him a savant
who, with the greatest sincerity and all the wit in the world,
preaches by turns, fifteen lines apart, liberty and monopoly.

Is it not immediately and intuitively evident that COMPETITION
DESTROYS COMPETITION? Is there a theorem in geometry more
certain, more peremptory, than that? How then, upon what
conditions, in what sense, can a principle which is its own
denial enter into science? How can it become an organic law of
society? If competition is necessary; if, as the school says, it
is a postulate of production,--how does it become so devastating
in its effects? And if its most certain effect is to ruin those
whom it incites, how does it become useful? For the
INCONVENIENCES which follow in its train, like the good which it
procures, are not accidents arising from the work of man: both
follow logically from the principle, and subsist by the same
title and face to face.

And, in the first place, competition is as essential to labor as
division, since it is division itself returning in another form,
or rather, raised to its second power; division, I say, no
longer, as in the first period of economic evolution, adequate to
collective force, and consequently absorbing the personality of
the laborer in the workshop, but giving birth to liberty by
making each subdivision of labor a sort of sovereignty in which
man stands in all his power and independence. Competition, in a
word, is liberty in division and in all the divided parts:
beginning with the most comprehensive functions, it tends toward
its realization even in the inferior operations of parcellaire

Here the communists raise an objection. It is necessary, they
say, in all things, to distinguish between use and abuse. There
is a useful, praiseworthy, moral competition, a competition which
enlarges the heart and the mind, a noble and generous
competition,--it is emulation; and why should not this emulation
have for its object the advantage of all? There is another
competition, pernicious, immoral, unsocial, a jealous competition
which hates and which kills,--it is egoism.

So says communism; so expressed itself, nearly a year ago, in its
social profession of faith, the journal, "La Reforme."

Whatever reluctance I may feel to oppose men whose ideas are at
bottom my own, I cannot accept such dialectics. "La Reforme," in
believing that it could reconcile everything by a distinction
more grammatical than real, has made use, without suspecting it,
of the golden mean,-- that is, of the worst sort of diplomacy.
Its argument is exactly the same as that of M. Rossi in regard to
the division of labor: it consists in setting competition and
morality against each other, in order to limit them by each
other, as M. Rossi pretended to arrest and restrict economic
inductions by morality, cutting here, lopping there, to suit the
need and the occasion. I have refuted M. Rossi by asking him
this simple question: How can science be in disagreement with
itself, the science of wealth with the science of duty? Likewise
I ask the communists: How can a principle whose development is
clearly useful be at the same time pernicious?

They say: emulation is not competition. I note, in the first
place, that this pretended distinction bears only on the
divergent effects of the principle, which leads one to suppose
that there were two principles which had been confounded.
Emulation is nothing but competition itself; and, since they have
thrown themselves into abstractions, I willingly plunge in also.
There is no emulation without an object, just as there is no
passional initiative without an object; and as the object of
every passion is necessarily analogous to the passion
itself,--woman to the lover, power to the ambitious, gold to the
miser, a crown to the poet,--so the object of industrial
emulation is necessarily profit.

No, rejoins the communist, the laborer's object of emulation
should be general utility, fraternity, love.

But society itself, since, instead of stopping at the individual
man, who is in question at this moment, they wish to attend only
to the collective man,--society, I say, labors only with a view
to wealth; comfort, happiness, is its only object. Why, then,
should that which is true of society not be true of the
individual also, since, after all, society is man and entire
humanity lives in each man? Why substitute for the immediate
object of emulation, which in industry is personal welfare, that
far-away and almost metaphysical motive called general welfare,
especially when the latter is nothing without the former and can
result only from the former?

Communists, in general, build up a strange illusion: fanatics on
the subject of power, they expect to secure through a central
force, and in the special case in question, through collective
wealth, by a sort of reversion, the welfare of the laborer who
has created this wealth: as if the individual came into existence
after society, instead of society after the individual. For that
matter, this is not the only case in which we shall see the
socialists unconsciously dominated by the traditions of the
regime against which they protest.

But what need of insisting? From the moment that the communist
changes the name of things, vera rerum vocabala, he tacitly
admits his powerlessness, and puts himself out of the question.
That is why my sole reply to him shall be: In denying
competition, you abandon the thesis; henceforth you have no place
in the discussion. Some other time we will inquire how far man
should sacrifice himself in the interest of all: for the moment
the question is the solution of the problem of competition,--that
is, the reconciliation of the highest satisfaction of egoism with
social necessities; spare us your moralities.

Competition is necessary to the constitution of value,--that is,
to the very principle of distribution, and consequently to the
advent of equality. As long as a product is supplied only by a
single manufacturer, its real value remains a mystery, either
through the producer's misrepresentation or through his neglect
or inability to reduce the cost of production to its extreme
limit. Thus the privilege of production is a real loss to
society, and publicity of industry, like competition between
laborers, a necessity. All the utopias ever imagined or
imaginable cannot escape this law.

Certainly I do not care to deny that labor and wages can and
should be guaranteed; I even entertain the hope that the time of
such guarantee is not far off: but I maintain that a guarantee of
wages is impossible without an exact knowledge of value, and that
this value can be discovered only by competition, not at all by
communistic institutions or by popular decree. For in this there
is something more powerful than the will of the legislator and of
citizens,--namely, the absolute impossibility that man should do
his duty after finding himself relieved of all responsibility to
himself: now, responsibility to self, in the matter of labor,
necessarily implies competition with others. Ordain that,
beginning January 1, 1847, labor and wages are guaranteed to all:
immediately an immense relaxation will succeed the extreme
tension to which industry is now subjected; real value will
fall rapidly below nominal value; metallic money, in spite of its
effigy and stamp, will experience the fate of the assignats; the
merchant will ask more and give less; and we shall find ourselves
in a still lower circle in the hell of misery in which
competition is only the third turn.

Even were I to admit, with some socialists, that the
attractiveness of labor may some day serve as food for emulation
without any hidden thought of profit, of what utility could this
utopia be in the phase which we are studying? We are yet only in
the third period of economic evolution, in the third age of the
constitution of labor,--that is, in a period when it is
impossible for labor to be attractive. For the attractiveness of
labor can result only from a high degree of physical, moral, and
intellectual development of the laborer. Now, this development
itself, this education of humanity by industry, is precisely the
object of which we are in pursuit through the contradictions of
social economy. How, then, could the attractiveness of labor
serve us as a principle and lever, when it is still our object
and our end?

But, if it is unquestionable that labor, as the highest
manifestation of life, intelligence, and liberty, carries with it
its own attractiveness, I deny that this attractiveness can ever
be wholly separated from the motive of utility, and consequently
from a return of egoism; I deny, I say, labor for labor, just as
I deny style for style, love for love, art for art. Style for
style has produced in these days hasty literature and thoughtless
improvisation; love for love leads to unnatural vice, onanism,
and prostitution; art for art ends in Chinese knick-knacks,
caricature, the worship of the ugly. When man no longer looks to
labor for anything but the pleasure of exercise, he soon ceases
to labor, he plays. History is full of facts which attest
this degradation. The games of Greece, Isthmian, Olympic,
Pythian, Nemean, exercises of a society which produced everything
by its slaves; the life of the Spartans and the ancient Cretans,
their models; the gymnasiums, playgrounds, horse-races, and
disorders of the market-place among the Athenians; the
occupations which Plato assigns to the warriors in his Republic,
and which but represent the tastes of his century; finally, in
our feudal society, the tilts and tourneys,--all these
inventions, as well as many others which I pass in silence, from
the game of chess, invented, it is said, at the siege of Troy by
Palamedes, to the cards illustrated for Charles VI. by
Gringonneur, are examples of what labor becomes as soon as the
serious motive of utility is separated from it. Labor, real
labor, that which produces wealth and gives knowledge, has too
much need of regularity and perseverance and sacrifice to be long
the friend of passion, fugitive in its nature, inconstant, and
disorderly; it is something too elevated, too ideal, too
philosophical, to become exclusively pleasure and
enjoyment,--that is, mysticism and sentiment. The faculty of
laboring, which distinguishes man from the brutes, has its source
in the profoundest depths of the reason: how could it become in
us a simple manifestation of life, a voluptuous act of our

But if now they fall back upon the hypothesis of a transformation
of our nature, unprecedented in history, and of which there has
been nothing so far that could have expressed the idea, it is
nothing more than a dream, unintelligible even to those who
defend it, an inversion of progress, a contradiction given to the
most certain laws of economic science; and my only reply is to
exclude it from the discussion.

Let us stay in the realm of facts, since facts alone have a
meaning and can aid us. The French Revolution was effected for
industrial liberty as well as for political liberty: and although
France in 1789 had not seen all the consequences of the principle
for the realization of which she asked,--let us say it
boldly,--she was mistaken neither in her wishes nor in her
expectation. Whoever would try to deny it would lose in my eyes
the right to criticism: I will never dispute with an adversary
who would posit as a principle the spontaneous error of
twenty-five millions of men.

At the end of the eighteenth century France, wearied with
privileges, desired at any price to shake off the torpor of her
corporations, and restore the dignity of the laborer by
conferring liberty upon him. Everywhere it was necessary to
emancipate labor, stimulate genius, and render the manufacturer
responsible by arousing a thousand competitors and loading upon
him alone the consequences of his indolence, ignorance, and
insincerity. Before '89 France was ripe for the transition; it
was Turgot who had the glory of effecting the first passage.

Why then, if competition had not been a principle of social
economy, a decree of destiny, a necessity of the human soul, why,
instead of ABOLISHING corporations, masterships, and
wardenships, did they not think rather of REPAIRING them all?
Why, instead of a revolution, did they not content themselves
with a reform? Why this negation, if a modification was
sufficient? Especially as this middle party was entirely in the
line of conservative ideas, which the bourgeoisie shared. Let
communism, let quasi-socialistic democracy, which, in regard to
the principle of competition, represent--though they do not
suspect it--the system of the golden mean, the
counter-revolutionary idea, explain to me this unanimity of the
nation, if they can!

Moreover the event confirmed the theory. Beginning with the
Turgot ministry, an increase of activity and well-being
manifested itself in the nation. The test seemed so decisive
that it obtained the approval of all legislatures. Liberty of
industry and commerce figure in our constitutions on a level with
political liberty. To this liberty, in short, France owes the
growth of her wealth during the last sixty years.

After this capital fact, which establishes so triumphantly the
necessity of competition, I ask permission to cite three or four
others, which, being less general in their nature, will throw
into bolder relief the influence of the principle which I defend.

Why is our agriculture so prodigiously backward? How is it that
routine and barbarism still hover, in so many localities, over
the most important branch of national labor? Among the numerous
causes that could be cited, I see, in the front rank, the absence
of competition. The peasants fight over strips of ground; they
compete with each other before the notary; in the fields, no.
And speak to them of emulation, of the public good, and with what
amazement you fill them! Let the king, they say (to them the
king is synonymous with the State, with the public good, with
society), let the king attend to his business, and we will attend
to ours! Such is their philosophy and their patriotism. Ah! if
the king could excite competition with them! Unfortunately it is
impossible. While in manufactures competition follows from
liberty and property, in agriculture liberty and property are a
direct obstacle to competition. The peasant, rewarded, not
according to his labor and intelligence, but according to the
quality of the land and the caprice of God, aims, in cultivating,
to pay the lowest possible wages and to make the least possible
advance outlays. Sure of always finding a market for his goods,
he is much more solicitous about reducing his expenses than about
improving the soil and the quality of its products. He sows, and
Providence does the rest. The only sort of competition known to
the agricultural class is that of rents; and it cannot be denied
that in France, and for instance in Beauce, it has led to useful
results. But as the principle of this competition takes effect
only at second hand, so to speak, as it does not emanate directly
from the liberty and property of the cultivators, it disappears
with the cause that produces it, so that, to insure the decline
of agricultural industry in many localities, or at least to
arrest its progress, perhaps it would suffice to make the farmers

Another branch of collective labor, which of late years has given
rise to sharp debates, is that of public works. "To manage the
building of a road, M. Dunoyer very well says, "perhaps a pioneer
and a postilion would be better than an engineer fresh from the
School of Roads and Bridges." There is no one who has not had
occasion to verify the correctness of this remark.

On one of our finest rivers, celebrated by the importance of its
navigation, a bridge was being built. From the beginning of the
work the rivermen had seen that the arches would be much too low
to allow the circulation of boats at times when the river was
high: they pointed this out to the engineer in charge of the
work. Bridges, answered the latter with superb dignity, are made
for those who pass over, not for those who pass under. The
remark has become a proverb in that vicinity. But, as it is
impossible for stupidity to prevail forever, the government has
felt the necessity of revising the work of its agent, and as I
write the arches of the bridge are being raised. Does any
one believe that, if the merchants interested in the course of
the navigable way had been charged with the enterprise at their
own risk and peril, they would have had to do their work twice?
One could fill a book with masterpieces of the same sort achieved
by young men learned in roads and bridges, who, scarcely out of
school and given life positions, are no longer stimulated by

In proof of the industrial capacity of the State, and
consequently of the possibility of abolishing competition
altogether, they cite the administration of the tobacco industry.

There, they say, is no adulteration, no litigation, no
bankruptcy, no misery. The condition of the workmen, adequately
paid, instructed, sermonized, moralized, and assured of a
retiring pension accumulated by their savings, is incomparably
superior to that of the immense majority of workmen engaged in
free industry.

All this may be true: for my part, I am ignorant on the subject.
I know nothing of what goes on in the administration of the
tobacco factories; I have procured no information either from the
directors or the workmen, and I have no need of any. How much
does the tobacco sold by the administration cost? How much is it
worth? You can answer the first of these questions: you only
need to call at the first tobacco shop you see. But you can tell

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