Part 4 out of 9
Then, article first of the universal constitution will be:--
"The limited quantity of available material proves the necessity
of dividing the labor among the whole number of laborers. The
capacity, given to all, of accomplishing a social task,--that is,
an equal task,--and the impossibility of paying one laborer save
in the products of another, justify the equality of wages."
% 7.--That Inequality of Powers is the Necessary Condition
of Equality of Fortunes.
It is objected,--and this objection constitutes the second part
of the St. Simonian, and the third part of the Fourierstic,
"That all kinds of labor cannot be executed with equal ease.
Some require great superiority of skill and intelligence; and on
this superiority is based the price. The artist, the savant,
the poet, the statesman, are esteemed only because of their
excellence; and this excellence destroys all similitude between
them and other men: in the presence of these heights of science
and genius the law of equality disappears. Now, if equality is
not absolute, there is no equality. From the poet we descend to
the novelist; from the sculptor to the stonecutter; from the
architect to the mason; from the chemist to the cook, &c.
Capacities are classified and subdivided into orders, genera, and
species. The extremes of talent are connected by intermediate
talents. Humanity is a vast hierarchy, in which the individual
estimates himself by comparison, and fixes his price by the value
placed upon his product by the public."
This objection always has seemed a formidable one. It is the
stumbling-block of the economists, as well as of the defenders of
equality. It has led the former into egregious blunders, and has
caused the latter to utter incredible platitudes. Gracchus
Babeuf wished all superiority to be STRINGENTLY REPRESSED, and
even PERSECUTED AS A SOCIAL CALAMITY. To establish his
communistic edifice, he lowered all citizens to the stature of
the smallest. Ignorant eclectics have been known to object to
the inequality of knowledge, and I should not be surprised if
some one should yet rebel against the inequality of virtue.
Aristotle was banished, Socrates drank the hemlock, Epaminondas
was called to account, for having proved superior in intelligence
and virtue to some dissolute and foolish demagogues. Such
follies will be re-enacted, so long as the inequality of fortunes
justifies a populace, blinded and oppressed by the wealthy, in
fearing the elevation of new tyrants to power.
Nothing seems more unnatural than that which we examine too
closely, and often nothing seems less like the truth than the
truth itself. On the other hand, according to J. J. Rousseau,
"it takes a great deal of philosophy to enable us to observe once
what we see every day;" and, according to d'Alembert, "the
ordinary truths of life make but little impression on men, unless
their attention is especially called to them." The father of the
school of economists (Say), from whom I borrow these two
quotations, might have profited by them; but he who laughs
at the blind should wear spectacles, and he who notices him is
Strange! that which has frightened so many minds is not, after
all, an objection to equality--it is the very condition on which
equality exists! . . .
Natural inequality the condition of equality of fortunes! . . .
What a paradox! . . . I repeat my assertion, that no one may
think I have blundered--inequality of powers is the sine qua
non of equality of fortunes.
There are two things to be considered in society--FUNCTIONS and
I. FUNCTIONS. Every laborer is supposed to be capable of
performing the task assigned to him; or, to use a common
expression, "every workman must know his trade." The workman
equal to his work,--there is an equation between functionary and
In society, functions are not alike; there must be, then,
different capacities. Further,--certain functions demand greater
intelligence and powers; then there are people of superior mind
and talent. For the performance of work necessarily involves a
workman: from the need springs the idea, and the idea makes the
producer. We only know what our senses long for and our
intelligence demands; we have no keen desire for things of which
we cannot conceive, and the greater our powers of conception, the
greater our capabilities of production.
Thus, functions arising from needs, needs from desires, and
desires from spontaneous perception and imagination, the same
intelligence which imagines can also produce; consequently, no
labor is superior to the laborer. In a word, if the function
calls out the functionary, it is because the functionary exists
before the function.
Let us admire Nature's economy. With regard to these various
needs which she has given us, and which the isolated man cannot
satisfy unaided, Nature has granted to the race a power refused
to the individual. This gives rise to the principle of the
DIVISION OF LABOR,--a principle founded on the SPECIALITY OF
The satisfaction of some needs demands of man continual creation;
while others can, by the labor of a single individual, be
satisfied for millions of men through thousands of centuries.
For example, the need of clothing and food requires perpetual
reproduction; while a knowledge of the system of the universe may
be acquired for ever by two or three highly-gifted men. The
perpetual current of rivers supports our commerce, and runs our
machinery; but the sun, alone in the midst of space, gives light
to the whole world. Nature, who might create Platos and Virgils,
Newtons and Cuviers, as she creates husbandmen and shepherds,
does not see fit to do so; choosing rather to proportion the
rarity of genius to the duration of its products, and to balance
the number of capacities by the competency of each one of them.
I do not inquire here whether the distance which separates one
man from another, in point of talent and intelligence, arises
from the deplorable condition of civilization, nor whether that
which is now called the INEQUALITY OF POWERS would be in an
ideal society any thing more than a DIVERSITY OF POWERS. I
take the worst view of the matter; and, that I may not be accused
of tergiversation and evasion of difficulties, I acknowledge all
the inequalities that any one can desire.
 I cannot conceive how any one dares to justify the inequality
of conditions, by pointing to the base inclinations and
propensities of certain men. Whence comes this shameful
degradation of heart and mind to which so many fall victims, if
not from the misery and abjection into which property plunges
Certain philosophers, in love with the levelling idea, maintain
that all minds are equal, and that all differences are the result
of education. I am no believer, I confess, in this doctrine;
which, even if it were true, would lead to a result directly
opposite to that desired. For, if capacities are equal, whatever
be the degree of their power (as no one can be coerced), there
are functions deemed coarse, low, and degrading, which deserve
higher pay,--a result no less repugnant to equality than to the
principle, TO EACH CAPACITY ACCORDING TO ITS RESULTS. Give me,
on the contrary, a society in which every kind of talent bears a
proper numerical relation to the needs of the society, and which
demands from each producer only that which his special function
requires him to produce; and, without impairing in the least the
hierarchy of functions, I will deduce the equality of fortunes.
This is my second point.
II. RELATIONS. In considering the element of labor, I have
shown that in the same class of productive services, the capacity
to perform a social task being possessed by all, no inequality of
reward can be based upon an inequality of individual powers.
However, it is but fair to say that certain capacities seem quite
incapable of certain services; so that, if human industry were
entirely confined to one class of products, numerous incapacities
would arise, and, consequently, the greatest social inequality.
But every body sees, without any hint from me, that the variety
of industries avoids this difficulty; so clear is this that I
shall not stop to discuss it. We have only to prove, then, that
functions are equal to each other; just as laborers, who perform
the same function, are equal to each other.
Property makes man a eunuch, and then reproaches him for being
nothing but dry wood, a decaying tree.
Are you astonished that I refuse to genius, to knowledge, to
courage,--in a word, to all the excellences admired by the
world,--the homage of dignities, the distinctions of power and
wealth? It is not I who refuse it: it is economy, it is justice,
it is liberty. Liberty! for the first time in this discussion I
appeal to her. Let her rise in her own defence, and achieve her
Every transaction ending in an exchange of products or services
may be designated as a COMMERCIAL OPERATION.
Whoever says commerce, says exchange of equal values; for, if the
values are not equal, and the injured party perceives it, he will
not consent to the exchange, and there will be no commerce.
Commerce exists only among free men. Transactions may be
effected between other people by violence or fraud, but there is
A free man is one who enjoys the use of his reason and his
faculties; who is neither blinded by passion, nor hindered or
driven by oppression, nor deceived by erroneous opinions.
So, in every exchange, there is a moral obligation that neither
of the contracting parties shall gain at the expense of the
other; that is, that, to be legitimate and true, commerce must be
exempt from all inequality. This is the first condition of
commerce. Its second condition is, that it be voluntary; that
is, that the parties act freely and openly.
I define, then, commerce or exchange as an act of society.
The negro who sells his wife for a knife, his children for some
bits of glass, and finally himself for a bottle of brandy, is not
free. The dealer in human flesh, with whom he negotiates, is not
his associate; he is his enemy.
The civilized laborer who bakes a loaf that he may eat a slice of
bread, who builds a palace that he may sleep in a stable,
who weaves rich fabrics that he may dress in rags, who produces
every thing that he may dispense with every thing,--is not free.
His employer, not becoming his associate in the exchange of
salaries or services which takes place between them, is his
The soldier who serves his country through fear instead of
through love is not free; his comrades and his officers, the
ministers or organs of military justice, are all his enemies.
The peasant who hires land, the manufacturer who borrows capital,
the tax-payer who pays tolls, duties, patent and license fees,
personal and property taxes, &c., and the deputy who votes for
them,--all act neither intelligently nor freely. Their enemies
are the proprietors, the capitalists, the government.
Give men liberty, enlighten their minds that they may know the
meaning of their contracts, and you will see the most perfect
equality in exchanges without regard to superiority of talent and
knowledge; and you will admit that in commercial affairs, that
is, in the sphere of society, the word superiority is void of
Let Homer sing his verse. I listen to this sublime genius in
comparison with whom I, a simple herdsman, an humble farmer, am
as nothing. What, indeed,--if product is to be compared with
product,--are my cheeses and my beans in the presence of his
"Iliad"? But, if Homer wishes to take from me all that I
possess, and make me his slave in return for his inimitable poem,
I will give up the pleasure of his lays, and dismiss him. I can
do without his "Iliad," and wait, if necessary, for the "AEneid."
Homer cannot live twenty-four hours without my products. Let him
accept, then, the little that I have to offer; and then his muse
may instruct, encourage, and console me.
"What! do you say that such should be the condition of one
who sings of gods and men? Alms, with the humiliation and
suffering which they bring with them!--what barbarous
generosity!" . . . Do not get excited, I beg of you. Property
makes of a poet either a Croesus or a beggar; only equality knows
how to honor and to praise him. What is its duty? To regulate
the right of the singer and the duty of the listener. Now,
notice this point, which is a very important one in the solution
of this question: both are free, the one to sell, the other to
buy. Henceforth their respective pretensions go for nothing; and
the estimate, whether fair or unfair, that they place, the one
upon his verse, the other upon his liberality, can have no
influence upon the conditions of the contract. We must no
longer, in making our bargains, weigh talent; we must consider
In order that the bard of Achilles may get his due reward, he
must first make himself wanted: that done, the exchange of his
verse for a fee of any kind, being a free act, must be at the
same time a just act; that is, the poet's fee must be equal to
his product. Now, what is the value of this product?
Let us suppose, in the first place, that this "Iliad"--this
chef-d' oeuvre that is to be equitably rewarded--is really
above price, that we do not know how to appraise it. If the
public, who are free to purchase it, refuse to do so, it is clear
that, the poem being unexchangeable, its intrinsic value will not
be diminished; but that its exchangeable value, or its productive
utility, will be reduced to zero, will be nothing at all. Then
we must seek the amount of wages to be paid between infinity on
the one hand and nothing on the other, at an equal distance from
each, since all rights and liberties are entitled to equal
respect; in other words, it is not the intrinsic value, but the
relative value, of the thing sold that needs to be fixed. The
question grows simpler: what is this relative value? To
what reward does a poem like the "Iliad" entitle its author?
The first business of political economy, after fixing its
definitions, was the solution of this problem; now, not only has
it not been solved, but it has been declared insoluble.
According to the economists, the relative or exchangeable value
of things cannot be absolutely determined; it necessarily varies.
"The value of a thing," says Say, "is a positive quantity, but
only for a given moment. It is its nature to perpetually vary,
to change from one point to another. Nothing can fix it
absolutely, because it is based on needs and means of production
which vary with every moment. These variations complicate
economical phenomena, and often render them very difficult of
observation and solution. I know no remedy for this; it is not
in our power to change the nature of things."
Elsewhere Say says, and repeats, that value being based on
utility, and utility depending entirely on our needs, whims,
customs, &c., value is as variable as opinion. Now, political
economy being the science of values, of their production,
distribution, exchange, and consumption,--if exchangeable value
cannot be absolutely determined, how is political economy
possible? How can it be a science? How can two economists look
each other in the face without laughing? How dare they insult
metaphysicians and psychologists? What! that fool of a Descartes
imagined that philosophy needed an immovable base--an _aliquid
inconcussum_--on which the edifice of science might be built, and
he was simple enough to search for it! And the Hermes of
economy, Trismegistus Say, devoting half a volume to the
amplification of that solemn text, _political economy is a
science_, has the courage to affirm immediately afterwards that
this science cannot determine its object,--which is equivalent to
saying that it is without a principle or foundation! He does not
know, then, the illustrious Say, the nature of a science; or
rather, he knows nothing of the subject which he discusses.
Say's example has borne its fruits. Political economy, as it
exists at present, resembles ontology: discussing effects and
causes, it knows nothing, explains nothing, decides nothing. The
ideas honored with the name of economic laws are nothing more
than a few trifling generalities, to which the economists thought
to give an appearance of depth by clothing them in high-sounding
words. As for the attempts that have been made by the economists
to solve social problems, all that can be said of them is, that,
if a glimmer of sense occasionally appears in their lucubrations,
they immediately fall back into absurdity. For twenty-five years
political economy, like a heavy fog, has weighed upon France,
checking the efforts of the mind, and setting limits to liberty.
Has every creation of industry a venal, absolute, unchangeable,
and consequently legitimate and true value?--Yes.
Can every product of man be exchanged for some other product of
How many nails is a pair of shoes worth?
If we can solve this appalling problem, we shall have the key of
the social system for which humanity has been searching for six
thousand years. In the presence of this problem, the economist
recoils confused; the peasant who can neither read nor write
replies without hesitation: "As many as can be made in the same
time, and with the same expense."
The absolute value of a thing, then, is its cost in time and
expense. How much is a diamond worth which costs only the labor
of picking it up?--Nothing; it is not a product of man. How much
will it be worth when cut and mounted?--The time and expense
which it has cost the laborer. Why, then, is it sold at so high
a price?--Because men are not free. Society must regulate
the exchange and distribution of the rarest things, as it does
that of the most common ones, in such a way that each may share
in the enjoyment of them. What, then, is that value which is
based upon opinion?--Delusion, injustice, and robbery.
By this rule, it is easy to reconcile every body. If the mean
term, which we are searching for, between an infinite value and
no value at all is expressed in the case of every product, by the
amount of time and expense which the product cost, a poem which
has cost its author thirty years of labor and an outlay of ten
thousand francs in journeys, books, &c., must be paid for by the
ordinary wages received by a laborer during thirty years, PLUS
ten thousand francs indemnity for expense incurred. Suppose the
whole amount to be fifty thousand francs; if the society which
gets the benefit of the production include a million of men, my
share of the debt is five centimes.
This gives rise to a few observations.
1. The same product, at different times and in different places,
may cost more or less of time and outlay; in this view, it is
true that value is a variable quantity. But this variation is
not that of the economists, who place in their list of the causes
of the variation of values, not only the means of production, but
taste, caprice, fashion, and opinion. In short, the true value
of a thing is invariable in its algebraic expression, although it
may vary in its monetary expression.
2. The price of every product in demand should be its cost in
time and outlay--neither more nor less: every product not in
demand is a loss to the producer--a commercial non-value.
3. The ignorance of the principle of evaluation, and the
difficulty under many circumstances of applying it, is the
source of commercial fraud, and one of the most potent
causes of the inequality of fortunes.
4. To reward certain industries and pay for certain products, a
society is needed which corresponds in size with the rarity of
talents, the costliness of the products, and the variety of the
arts and sciences. If, for example, a society of fifty farmers
can support a schoolmaster, it requires one hundred for a
shoemaker, one hundred and fifty for a blacksmith, two hundred
for a tailor, &c. If the number of farmers rises to one
thousand, ten thousand, one hundred thousand, &c., as fast as
their number increases, that of the functionaries which are
earliest required must increase in the same proportion; so that
the highest functions become possible only in the most powerful
societies. That is the peculiar feature of capacities; the
character of genius, the seal of its glory, cannot arise and
develop itself, except in the bosom of a great nation. But this
physiological condition, necessary to the existence of genius,
adds nothing to its social rights: far from that,--the delay in
its appearance proves that, in economical and civil affairs, the
loftiest intelligence must submit to the equality of possessions;
an equality which is anterior to it, and of which it constitutes
 How many citizens are needed to support a professor of
philosophy?--Thirty-five millions. How many for an economist?--
Two billions. And for a literary man, who is neither a savant,
nor an artist, nor a philosopher, nor an economist, and who
writes newspaper novels?--None.
This is severe on our pride, but it is an inexorable truth. And
here psychology comes to the aid of social economy, giving us to
understand that talent and material recompense have no common
measure; that, in this respect, the condition of all producers is
equal: consequently, that all comparison between them, and all
distinction in fortunes, is impossible.
_ _In fact, every work coming from the hands of man--compared
with the raw material of which it is composed--is beyond price.
In this respect, the distance is as great between a pair of
wooden shoes and the trunk of a walnut-tree, as between a statue
by Scopas and a block of marble. The genius of the simplest
mechanic exerts as much influence over the materials which he
uses, as does the mind of a Newton over the inert spheres whose
distances, volumes, and revolutions he calculates. You ask for
talent and genius a corresponding degree of honor and reward.
Fix for me the value of a wood-cutter's talent, and I will fix
that of Homer. If any thing can reward intelligence, it is
intelligence itself. That is what happens, when various classes
of producers pay to each other a reciprocal tribute of admiration
and praise. But if they contemplate an exchange of products with
a view to satisfying mutual needs, this exchange must be effected
in accordance with a system of economy which is indifferent to
considerations of talent and genius, and whose laws are deduced,
not from vague and meaningless admiration, but from a just
balance between DEBIT and CREDIT; in short, from commercial
Now, that no one may imagine that the liberty of buying and
selling is the sole basis of the equality of wages, and that
society's sole protection against superiority of talent lies in a
certain force of inertia which has nothing in common with right,
I shall proceed to explain why all capacities are entitled to the
same reward, and why a corresponding difference in wages would be
an injustice. I shall prove that the obligation to stoop to the
social level is inherent in talent; and on this very superiority
of genius I will found the equality of fortunes. I have just
given the negative argument in favor of rewarding all capacities
alike; I will now give the direct and positive argument.
Listen, first, to the economist: it is always pleasant to see how
he reasons, and how he understands justice. Without him,
moreover, without his amusing blunders and his wonderful
arguments, we should learn nothing. Equality, so odious to the
economist, owes every thing to political economy.
"When the parents of a physician [the text says a lawyer, which
is not so good an example] have expended on his education forty
thousand francs, this sum may be regarded as so much capital
invested in his head. It is therefore permissible to consider it
as yielding an annual income of four thousand francs. If the
physician earns thirty thousand, there remains an income of
twenty-six thousand francs due to the personal talents given him
by Nature. This natural capital, then, if we assume ten per
cent. as the rate of interest, amounts to two hundred and sixty
thousand francs; and the capital given him by his parents, in
defraying the expenses of his education, to forty thousand
francs. The union of these two kinds of capital constitutes his
fortune."--Say: Complete Course, &c.
Say divides the fortune of the physician into two parts: one is
composed of the capital which went to pay for his education, the
other represents his personal talents. This division is just; it
is in conformity with the nature of things; it is universally
admitted; it serves as the major premise of that grand argument
which establishes the inequality of capacities. I accept this
premise without qualification; let us look at the consequences.
1. Say CREDITS the physician with forty thousand francs,--the
cost of his education. This amount should be entered upon the
DEBIT side of the account. For, although this expense was
incurred for him, it was not incurred by him. Then, instead of
appropriating these forty thousand francs, the physician should
add them to the price of his product, and repay them to those who
are entitled to them. Notice, further, that Say speaks of
INCOME instead of REIMBURSEMENT; reasoning on the false
principle of the productivity of capital. The expense of
educating a talent is a debt contracted by this talent. From the
very fact of its existence, it becomes a debtor to an amount
equal to the cost of its production. This is so true and simple
that, if the education of some one child in a family has cost
double or triple that of its brothers, the latter are entitled to
a proportional amount of the property previous to its division.
There is no difficulty about this in the case of guardianship,
when the estate is administered in the name of the minors.
2. That which I have just said of the obligation incurred by
talent of repaying the cost of its education does not embarrass
the economist. The man of talent, he says, inheriting from his
family, inherits among other things a claim to the forty thousand
francs which his education costs; and he becomes, in consequence,
its proprietor. But this is to abandon the right of talent, and
to fall back upon the right of occupancy; which again calls up
all the questions asked in Chapter II. What is the right of
occupancy? what is inheritance? Is the right of succession a
right of accumulation or only a right of choice? how did the
physician's father get his fortune? was he a proprietor, or only
a usufructuary? If he was rich, let him account for his wealth;
if he was poor, how could he incur so large an expense? If he
received aid, what right had he to use that aid to the
disadvantage of his benefactors, &c.?
3. "There remains an income of twenty-six thousand francs due to
the personal talents given him by Nature." (Say,--as above
quoted.) Reasoning from this premise, Say concludes that our
physician's talent is equivalent to a capital of two hundred and
sixty thousand francs. This skilful calculator mistakes a
consequence for a principle. The talent must not be measured by
the gain, but rather the gain by the talent; for it may
happen, that, notwithstanding his merit, the physician in
question will gain nothing at all, in which case will it be
necessary to conclude that his talent or fortune is equivalent to
zero? To such a result, however, would Say's reasoning lead; a
result which is clearly absurd.
Now, it is impossible to place a money value on any talent
whatsoever, since talent and money have no common measure. On
what plausible ground can it be maintained that a physician
should be paid two, three, or a hundred times as much as a
peasant? An unavoidable difficulty, which has never been solved
save by avarice, necessity, and oppression. It is not thus that
the right of talent should be determined. But how is it to be
4. I say, first, that the physician must be treated with as much
favor as any other producer, that he must not be placed below the
level of others. This I will not stop to prove. But I add that
neither must he be lifted above that level; because his talent is
collective property for which he did not pay, and for which he is
ever in debt.
Just as the creation of every instrument of production is the
result of collective force, so also are a man's talent and
knowledge the product of universal intelligence and of general
knowledge slowly accumulated by a number of masters, and through
the aid of many inferior industries. When the physician has paid
for his teachers, his books, his diplomas, and all the other
items of his educational expenses, he has no more paid for his
talent than the capitalist pays for his house and land when he
gives his employees their wages. The man of talent has
contributed to the production in himself of a useful instrument.
He has, then, a share in its possession; he is not its
proprietor. There exist side by side in him a free laborer and
an accumulated social capital. As a laborer, he is charged
with the use of an instrument, with the superintendence of a
machine; namely, his capacity. As capital, he is not his own
master; he uses himself, not for his own benefit, but for that of
Even if talent did not find in its own excellence a reward for
the sacrifices which it costs, still would it be easier to find
reasons for lowering its reward than for raising it above the
common level. Every producer receives an education; every
laborer is a talent, a capacity,--that is, a piece of collective
property. But all talents are not equally costly. It takes but
few teachers, but few years, and but little study, to make a
farmer or a mechanic: the generative effort and--if I may venture
to use such language--the period of social gestation are
proportional to the loftiness of the capacity. But while the
physician, the poet, the artist, and the savant produce but
little, and that slowly, the productions of the farmer are much
less uncertain, and do not require so long a time. Whatever be
then the capacity of a man,--when this capacity is once
created,--it does not belong to him. Like the material fashioned
by an industrious hand, it had the power of BECOMING, and
society has given it BEING. Shall the vase say to the potter,
"I am that I am, and I owe you nothing"?
The artist, the savant, and the poet find their just recompense
in the permission that society gives them to devote themselves
exclusively to science and to art: so that in reality they do not
labor for themselves, but for society, which creates them, and
requires of them no other duty. Society can, if need be, do
without prose and verse, music and painting, and the knowledge of
the movements of the moon and stars; but it cannot live a single
day without food and shelter.
Undoubtedly, man does not live by bread alone; he must, also
(according to the Gospel), LIVE BY THE WORD OF GOD; that is, he
must love the good and do it, know and admire the beautiful, and
study the marvels of Nature. But in order to cultivate his mind,
he must first take care of his body,--the latter duty is as
necessary as the former is noble. If it is glorious to charm and
instruct men, it is honorable as well to feed them. When, then,
society--faithful to the principle of the division of labor--
intrusts a work of art or of science to one of its members,
allowing him to abandon ordinary labor, it owes him an indemnity
for all which it prevents him from producing industrially; but it
owes him nothing more. If he should demand more, society should,
by refusing his services, annihilate his pretensions. Forced,
then, in order to live, to devote himself to labor repugnant to
his nature, the man of genius would feel his weakness, and would
live the most distasteful of lives.
They tell of a celebrated singer who demanded of the Empress of
Russia (Catherine II) twenty thousand roubles for his services:
"That is more than I give my field-marshals," said Catherine.
"Your majesty," replied the other, "has only to make singers of
If France (more powerful than Catherine II) should say to
Mademoiselle Rachel, "You must act for one hundred louis, or else
spin cotton;" to M. Duprez, "You must sing for two thousand four
hundred francs, or else work in the vineyard,"--do you think that
the actress Rachel, and the singer Duprez, would abandon the
stage? If they did, they would be the first to repent it.
Mademoiselle Rachel receives, they say, sixty thousand francs
annually from the Comedie-Francaise. For a talent like hers, it
is a slight fee. Why not one hundred thousand francs, two
hundred thousand francs? Why! not a civil list? What meanness!
Are we really guilty of chaffering with an artist like
It is said, in reply, that the managers of the theatre cannot
give more without incurring a loss; that they admit the superior
talent of their young associate; but that, in fixing her salary,
they have been compelled to take the account of the company's
receipts and expenses into consideration also.
That is just, but it only confirms what I have said; namely, that
an artist's talent may be infinite, but that its mercenary claims
are necessarily limited,--on the one hand, by its usefulness to
the society which rewards it; on the other, by the resources of
this society: in other words, that the demand of the seller is
balanced by the right of the buyer.
Mademoiselle Rachel, they say, brings to the treasury of the
Theatre-Francais more than sixty thousand francs. I admit it;
but then I blame the theatre. From whom does the Theatre-
Francais take this money? From some curious people who are
perfectly free. Yes; but the workingmen, the lessees, the
tenants, those who borrow by pawning their possessions, from whom
these curious people recover all that they pay to the theatre,--
are they free? And when the better part of their products are
consumed by others at the play, do you assure me that their
families are not in want? Until the French people, reflecting on
the salaries paid to all artists, savants, and public
functionaries, have plainly expressed their wish and judgment as
to the matter, the salaries of Mademoiselle Rachel and all her
fellow-artists will be a compulsory tax extorted by violence, to
reward pride, and support libertinism.
It is because we are neither free nor sufficiently enlightened,
that we submit to be cheated in our bargains; that the
laborer pays the duties levied by the prestige of power and
the selfishness of talent upon the curiosity of the idle, and
that we are perpetually scandalized by these monstrous
inequalities which are encouraged and applauded by public
The whole nation, and the nation only, pays its authors, its
savants, its artists, its officials, whatever be the hands
through which their salaries pass. On what basis should it pay
them? On the basis of equality. I have proved it by estimating
the value of talent. I shall confirm it in the following
chapter, by proving the impossibility of all social inequality.
What have we shown so far? Things so simple that really they
That, as the traveller does not appropriate the route which he
traverses, so the farmer does not appropriate the field which he
That if, nevertheless, by reason of his industry, a laborer may
appropriate the material which he employs, every employer of
material becomes, by the same title, a proprietor;
That all capital, whether material or mental, being the result of
collective labor, is, in consequence, collective property;
That the strong have no right to encroach upon the labor of the
weak, nor the shrewd to take advantage of the credulity of the
Finally, that no one can be forced to buy that which he does not
want, still less to pay for that which he has not bought; and,
consequently, that the exchangeable value of a product, being
measured neither by the opinion of the buyer nor that of the
seller, but by the amount of time and outlay which it has cost,
the property of each always remains the same.
Are not these very simple truths? Well, as simple as they seem
to you, reader, you shall yet see others which surpass them in
dullness and simplicity. For our course is the reverse of that
of the geometricians: with them, the farther they advance, the
more difficult their problems become; we, on the contrary, after
having commenced with the most abstruse propositions, shall end
with the axioms.
But I must close this chapter with an exposition of one of those
startling truths which never have been dreamed of by legists or
% 8.--That, from the Stand-point of Justice, Labor destroys
This proposition is the logical result of the two preceding
sections, which we have just summed up.
The isolated man can supply but a very small portion of his
wants; all his power lies in association, and in the intelligent
combination of universal effort. The division and co-operation
of labor multiply the quantity and the variety of products; the
individuality of functions improves their quality.
There is not a man, then, but lives upon the products of several
thousand different industries; not a laborer but receives from
society at large the things which he consumes, and, with these,
the power to reproduce. Who, indeed, would venture the
assertion, "I produce, by my own effort, all that I consume; I
need the aid of no one else"? The farmer, whom the early
economists regarded as the only real producer--the farmer,
housed, furnished, clothed, fed, and assisted by the mason, the
carpenter, the tailor, the miller, the baker, the butcher, the
grocer, the blacksmith, &c.,--the farmer, I say, can he boast
that he produces by his own unaided effort?
The various articles of consumption are given to each by
all; consequently, the production of each involves the
production of all. One product cannot exist without another; an
isolated industry is an impossible thing. What would be the
harvest of the farmer, if others did not manufacture for him
barns, wagons, ploughs, clothes, &c.? Where would be the
savant without the publisher; the printer without the
typecaster and the machinist; and these, in their turn, without a
multitude of other industries? . . . Let us not prolong this
catalogue--so easy to extend--lest we be accused of uttering
commonplaces. All industries are united by mutual relations in a
single group; all productions do reciprocal service as means and
end; all varieties of talent are but a series of changes from the
inferior to the superior.
Now, this undisputed and indisputable fact of the general
participation in every species of product makes all individual
productions common; so that every product, coming from the hands
of the producer, is mortgaged in advance by society. The
producer himself is entitled to only that portion of his product,
which is expressed by a fraction whose denominator is equal to
the number of individuals of which society is composed. It is
true that in return this same producer has a share in all the
products of others, so that he has a claim upon all, just as all
have a claim upon him; but is it not clear that this reciprocity
of mortgages, far from authorizing property, destroys even
possession? The laborer is not even possessor of his product;
scarcely has he finished it, when society claims it.
"But," it will be answered, "even if that is so--even if the
product does not belong to the producer--still society gives each
laborer an equivalent for his product; and this equivalent, this
salary, this reward, this allowance, becomes his property. Do
you deny that this property is legitimate? And if the
laborer, instead of consuming his entire wages, chooses to
economize,--who dare question his right to do so?"
The laborer is not even proprietor of the price of his labor, and
cannot absolutely control its disposition. Let us not be blinded
by a spurious justice. That which is given the laborer in
exchange for his product is not given him as a reward for past
labor, but to provide for and secure future labor. We consume
before we produce. The laborer may say at the end of the day, "I
have paid yesterday's expenses; to-morrow I shall pay those of
today." At every moment of his life, the member of society is in
debt; he dies with the debt unpaid:--how is it possible for him
They talk of economy--it is the proprietor's hobby. Under a
system of equality, all economy which does not aim at subsequent
reproduction or enjoyment is impossible--why? Because the thing
saved, since it cannot be converted into capital, has no object,
and is without a FINAL CAUSE. This will be explained more
fully in the next chapter.
The laborer, in his relation to society, is a debtor who of
necessity dies insolvent. The proprietor is an unfaithful
guardian who denies the receipt of the deposit committed to his
care, and wishes to be paid for his guardianship down to the last
Lest the principles just set forth may appear to certain readers
too metaphysical, I shall reproduce them in a more concrete form,
intelligible to the dullest brains, and pregnant with the most
Hitherto, I have considered property as a power of EXCLUSION;
hereafter, I shall examine it as a power of INVASION.
THAT PROPERTY IS IMPOSSIBLE.
The last resort of proprietors,--the overwhelming argument whose
invincible potency reassures them,--is that, in their opinion,
equality of conditions is impossible. "Equality of conditions is
a chimera," they cry with a knowing air; "distribute wealth
equally to-day--to-morrow this equality will have vanished."
To this hackneyed objection, which they repeat everywhere with
the most marvellous assurance, they never fail to add the
following comment, as a sort of GLORY BE TO THE FATHER: "If
all men were equal, nobody would work."
This anthem is sung with variations.
"If all were masters, nobody would obey."
"If nobody were rich, who would employ the poor?"
And, "If nobody were poor, who would labor for the rich?"
But let us have done with invective--we have better arguments at
If I show that property itself is impossible--that it is property
which is a contradiction, a chimera, a utopia; and if I show it
no longer by metaphysics and jurisprudence, but by figures,
equations, and calculations,--imagine the fright of the astounded
proprietor! And you, reader; what do you think of the retort?
Numbers govern the world--mundum regunt numeri. This proverb
applies as aptly to the moral and political, as to the sidereal
and molecular, world. The elements of justice are identical with
those of algebra; legislation and government are simply the arts
of classifying and balancing powers; all jurisprudence falls
within the rules of arithmetic. This chapter and the next will
serve to lay the foundations of this extraordinary doctrine.
Then will be unfolded to the reader's vision an immense and novel
career; then shall we commence to see in numerical relations the
synthetic unity of philosophy and the sciences; and, filled with
admiration and enthusiasm for this profound and majestic
simplicity of Nature, we shall shout with the apostle: "Yes, the
Eternal has made all things by number, weight, and measure!" We
shall understand not only that equality of conditions is
possible, but that all else is impossible; that this seeming
impossibility which we charge upon it arises from the fact that
we always think of it in connection either with the proprietary
or the communistic regime,--political systems equally
irreconcilable with human nature. We shall see finally that
equality is constantly being realized without our knowledge, even
at the very moment when we are pronouncing it incapable of
realization; that the time draws near when, without any effort or
even wish of ours, we shall have it universally established; that
with it, in it, and by it, the natural and true political order
must make itself manifest.
It has been said, in speaking of the blindness and obstinacy of
the passions, that, if man had any thing to gain by denying the
truths of arithmetic, he would find some means of unsettling
their certainty: here is an opportunity to try this curious
experiment. I attack property, no longer with its own maxims,
but with arithmetic. Let the proprietors prepare to verify
my figures; for, if unfortunately for them the figures prove
accurate, the proprietors are lost.
In proving the impossibility of property, I complete the proof of
its injustice. In fact,--
That which is JUST must be USEFUL;
That which is useful must be TRUE;
That which is true must be POSSIBLE;
Therefore, every thing which is impossible is untrue, useless,
unjust. Then,--a priori,--we may judge of the justice of any
thing by its possibility; so that if the thing were absolutely
impossible, it would be absolutely unjust.
PROPERTY IS PHYSICALLY AND MATHEMATICALLY IMPOSSIBLE.
AXIOM.--Property is the Right of Increase claimed by the
Proprietor over any thing which he has stamped as his own.
This proposition is purely an axiom, because,--
1. It is not a definition, since it does not express all that is
included in the right of property--the right of sale, of
exchange, of gift; the right to transform, to alter, to consume,
to destroy, to use and abuse, &c. All these rights are so many
different powers of property, which we may consider separately;
but which we disregard here, that we may devote all our attention
to this single one,--the right of increase.
2. It is universally admitted. No one can deny it without
denying the facts, without being instantly belied by universal
3. It is self-evident, since property is always accompanied
(either actually or potentially) by the fact which this axiom
expresses; and through this fact, mainly, property manifests,
establishes, and asserts itself.
4. Finally, its negation involves a contradiction. The right of
increase is really an inherent right, so essential a part of
property, that, in its absence, property is null and void.
OBSERVATIONS.--Increase receives different names according to
the thing by which it is yielded: if by land, FARM-RENT; if by
houses and furniture, RENT; if by life-investments, REVENUE;
if by money, INTEREST; if by exchange, ADVANTAGE, GAIN, PROFIT
(three things which must not be confounded with the wages or
legitimate price of labor).
Increase--a sort of royal prerogative, of tangible and consumable
homage--is due to the proprietor on account of his nominal and
metaphysical occupancy. His seal is set upon the thing; that is
enough to prevent any one else from occupying it without HIS
This permission to use his things the proprietor may, if he
chooses, freely grant. Commonly he sells it. This sale is
really a stellionate and an extortion; but by the legal fiction
of the right of property, this same sale, severely punished, we
know not why, in other cases, is a source of profit and value to
The amount demanded by the proprietor, in payment for this
permission, is expressed in monetary terms by the dividend which
the supposed product yields in nature. So that, by the right of
increase, the proprietor reaps and does not plough; gleans and
does not till; consumes and does not produce; enjoys and does not
labor. Very different from the idols of the Psalmist are the
gods of property: the former had hands and felt not; the latter,
on the contrary, _manus habent et palpabunt_.
_ _The right of increase is conferred in a very mysterious and
supernatural manner. The inauguration of a proprietor is
accompanied by the awful ceremonies of an ancient
initiation. First, comes the CONSECRATION of the article;
a consecration which makes known to all that they must offer up a
suitable sacrifice to the proprietor, whenever they wish, by his
permission obtained and signed, to use his article.
Second, comes the ANATHEMA, which prohibits--except on the
conditions aforesaid--all persons from touching the article, even
in the proprietor's absence; and pronounces every violator of
property sacrilegious, infamous, amenable to the secular power,
and deserving of being handed over to it.
Finally, the DEDICATION, which enables the proprietor or patron
saint--the god chosen to watch over the article--to inhabit it
mentally, like a divinity in his sanctuary. By means of this
dedication, the substance of the article--so to speak--becomes
converted into the person of the proprietor, who is regarded as
ever present in its form.
This is exactly the doctrine of the writers on jurisprudence.
"Property," says Toullier, "is a MORAL QUALITY inherent in a
thing; AN ACTUAL BOND which fastens it to the proprietor, and
which cannot be broken save by his act." Locke humbly doubted
whether God could make matter INTELLIGENT. Toullier asserts
that the proprietor renders it MORAL. How much does he lack of
being a God? These are by no means exaggerations.
PROPERTY IS THE RIGHT OF INCREASE; that is, the power to
produce without labor. Now, to produce without labor is to make
something from nothing; in short, to create. Surely it is no
more difficult to do this than to moralize matter. The jurists
are right, then, in applying to proprietors this passage from the
Scriptures,--_Ego dixi: Dii estis et filii Excelsi omnes_,--"I
have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the Most
PROPERTY IS THE RIGHT OF INCREASE. To us this axiom shall
be like the name of the beast in the Apocalypse,--a name in
which is hidden the complete explanation of the whole mystery of
this beast. It was known that he who should solve the mystery of
this name would obtain a knowledge of the whole prophecy, and
would succeed in mastering the beast. Well! by the most careful
interpretation of our axiom we shall kill the sphinx of property.
Starting from this eminently characteristic fact--the RIGHT OF
INCREASE--we shall pursue the old serpent through his coils; we
shall count the murderous entwinings of this frightful taenia,
whose head, with its thousand suckers, is always hidden from the
sword of its most violent enemies, though abandoning to them
immense fragments of its body. It requires something more than
courage to subdue this monster. It was written that it should
not die until a proletaire, armed with a magic wand, had fought
COROLLARIES.--1. THE AMOUNT OF INCREASE IS PROPORTIONAL TO THE
THING INCREASED. Whatever be the rate of interest,--whether it
rise to three, five, or ten per cent., or fall to one-half, one-
fourth, one-tenth,--it does not matter; the law of increase
remains the same. The law is as follows:--
All capital--the cash value of which can be estimated--may be
considered as a term in an arithmetical series which progresses
in the ratio of one hundred, and the revenue yielded by this
capital as the corresponding term of another arithmetical series
which progresses in a ratio equal to the rate of interest. Thus,
a capital of five hundred francs being the fifth term of the
arithmetical progression whose ratio is one hundred, its revenue
at three per cent. will be indicated by the fifth term of the
arithmetical progression whose ratio is three:--
100 . 200 . 300 . 400 . 500.
3 . 6 . 9 . 12 . 15.
An acquaintance with this sort of LOGARITHMS--tables of which,
calculated to a very high degree, are possessed by proprietors--
will give us the key to the most puzzling problems, and cause us
to experience a series of surprises.
By this LOGARITHMIC theory of the right of increase, a piece of
property, together with its income, may be defined as A NUMBER
WHOSE LOGARITHM IS EQUAL TO THE SUM OF ITS UNITS DIVIDED BY ONE
HUNDRED, AND MULTIPLIED BY THE RATE OF INTEREST. For instance;
a house valued at one hundred thousand francs, and leased at five
per cent., yields a revenue of five thousand francs, according to
the formula 100,000 x 5 / 100 = five thousand. Vice versa, a
piece of land which yields, at two and a half per cent., a
revenue of three thousand francs is worth one hundred and twenty
thousand francs, according to this other formula; 3,000 x 100 / 2
1/2 = one hundred and twenty thousand.
In the first case, the ratio of the progression which marks the
increase of interest is five; in the second, it is two and a
OBSERVATION.--The forms of increase known as farm-rent, income,
and interest are paid annually; rent is paid by the week, the
month, or the year; profits and gains are paid at the time of
exchange. Thus, the amount of increase is proportional both to
the thing increased, and the time during which it increases; in
other words, usury grows like a cancer--_foenus serpit sicut
2. THE INCREASE PAID TO THE PROPRIETOR BY THE OCCUPANT IS A
DEAD LOSS TO THE LATTER. For if the proprietor owed, in
exchange for the increase which he receives, some thing more than
the permission which he grants, his right of property would not
be perfect--he would not possess _jure optimo, jure perfecto;_
that is, he would not be in reality a proprietor. Then, all
which passes from the hands of the occupant into those of
the proprietor in the name of increase, and as the price of the
permission to occupy, is a permanent gain for the latter, and a
dead loss and annihilation for the former; to whom none of it
will return, save in the forms of gift, alms, wages paid for his
services, or the price of merchandise which he has delivered. In
a word, increase perishes so far as the borrower is concerned; or
to use the more energetic Latin phrase,--_res perit solventi_.
3. THE RIGHT OF INCREASE OPPRESSES THE PROPRIETOR AS WELL AS THE
STRANGER. The master of a thing, as its proprietor, levies a
tax for the use of his property upon himself as its possessor,
equal to that which he would receive from a third party; so that
capital bears interest in the hands of the capitalist, as well as
in those of the borrower and the commandite. If, indeed,
rather than accept a rent of five hundred francs for my
apartment, I prefer to occupy and enjoy it, it is clear that I
shall become my own debtor for a rent equal to that which I deny
myself. This principle is universally practised in business, and
is regarded as an axiom by the economists. Manufacturers, also,
who have the advantage of being proprietors of their floating
capital, although they owe no interest to any one, in calculating
their profits subtract from them, not only their running expenses
and the wages of their employees, but also the interest on their
capital. For the same reason, money-lenders retain in their own
possession as little money as possible; for, since all capital
necessarily bears interest, if this interest is supplied by no
one, it comes out of the capital, which is to that extent
diminished. Thus, by the right of increase, capital eats itself
up. This is, doubtless, the idea that Papinius intended to
convey in the phrase, as elegant as it is forcible--_Foenus
mordet solidam_. I beg pardon for using Latin so frequently in
discussing this subject; it is an homage which I pay to the
most usurious nation that ever existed.
Property is impossible, because it demands Something for
The discussion of this proposition covers the same ground as that
of the origin of farm-rent, which is so much debated by the
economists. When I read the writings of the greater part of
these men, I cannot avoid a feeling of contempt mingled with
anger, in view of this mass of nonsense, in which the detestable
vies with the absurd. It would be a repetition of the story of
the elephant in the moon, were it not for the atrocity of the
consequences. To seek a rational and legitimate origin of that
which is, and ever must be, only robbery, extortion, and
plunder--that must be the height of the proprietor's folly; the
last degree of bedevilment into which minds, otherwise judicious,
can be thrown by the perversity of selfishness.
"A farmer," says Say, "is a wheat manufacturer who, among other
tools which serve him in modifying the material from which he
makes the wheat, employs one large tool, which we call a field.
If he is not the proprietor of the field, if he is only a tenant,
he pays the proprietor for the productive service of this tool.
The tenant is reimbursed by the purchaser, the latter by another,
until the product reaches the consumer; who redeems the first
payment, PLUS all the others, by means of which the product has
at last come into his hands."
Let us lay aside the subsequent payments by which the product
reaches the consumer, and, for the present, pay attention only to
the first one of all,--the rent paid to the proprietor by the
tenant. On what ground, we ask, is the proprietor entitled to
According to Ricardo, MacCulloch, and Mill, farm-rent,
properly speaking, is simply the EXCESS OF THE PRODUCT OF
THE MOST FERTILE LAND OVER THAT OF LANDS OF AN INFERIOR QUALITY;
so that farm-rent is not demanded for the former until the
increase of population renders necessary the cultivation of the
It is difficult to see any sense in this. How can a right to the
land be based upon a difference in the quality of the land? How
can varieties of soil engender a principle of legislation and
politics? This reasoning is either so subtle, or so stupid, that
the more I think of it, the more bewildered I become. Suppose
two pieces of land of equal area; the one, A, capable of
supporting ten thousand inhabitants; the other, B, capable of
supporting nine thousand only: when, owing to an increase in
their number, the inhabitants of A shall be forced to cultivate
B, the landed proprietors of A will exact from their tenants in A
a rent proportional to the difference between ten and nine. So
say, I think, Ricardo, MacCulloch, and Mill. But if A supports
as many inhabitants as it can contain,--that is, if the
inhabitants of A, by our hypothesis, have only just enough land
to keep them alive,--how can they pay farm-rent?
If they had gone no farther than to say that the difference in
land has OCCASIONED farm-rent, instead of CAUSED it, this
observation would have taught us a valuable lesson; namely, that
farm-rent grew out of a desire for equality. Indeed, if all men
have an equal right to the possession of good land, no one can be
forced to cultivate bad land without indemnification. Farm-
rent--according to Ricardo, MacCulloch, and Mill--would then have
been a compensation for loss and hardship. This system of
practical equality is a bad one, no doubt; but it sprang from
good intentions. What argument can Ricardo, MacCulloch, and
Mill develop therefrom in favor of property? Their theory
turns against themselves, and strangles them.
Malthus thinks that farm-rent has its source in the power
possessed by land of producing more than is necessary to supply
the wants of the men who cultivate it. I would ask Malthus why
successful labor should entitle the idle to a portion of the
But the worthy Malthus is mistaken in regard to the fact. Yes;
land has the power of producing more than is needed by those who
cultivate it, if by CULTIVATORS is meant tenants only. The
tailor also makes more clothes than he wears, and the cabinet-
maker more furniture than he uses. But, since the various
professions imply and sustain one another, not only the farmer,
but the followers of all arts and trades--even to the doctor and
the school-teacher--are, and ought to be, regarded as
CULTIVATORS OF THE LAND. Malthus bases farm-rent upon the
principle of commerce. Now, the fundamental law of commerce
being equivalence of the products exchanged, any thing which
destroys this equivalence violates the law. There is an error in
the estimate which needs to be corrected.
Buchanan--a commentator on Smith--regarded farm-rent as the
result of a monopoly, and maintained that labor alone is
productive. Consequently, he thought that, without this
monopoly, products would rise in price; and he found no basis for
farm-rent save in the civil law. This opinion is a corollary of
that which makes the civil law the basis of property. But why
has the civil law--which ought to be the written expression of
justice--authorized this monopoly? Whoever says monopoly,
necessarily excludes justice. Now, to say that farm-rent is a
monopoly sanctioned by the law, is to say that injustice is based
on justice,--a contradiction in terms.
Say answers Buchanan, that the proprietor is not a monopolist,
because a monopolist "is one who does not increase the utility of
the merchandise which passes through his hands."
How much does the proprietor increase the utility of his tenant's
products? Has he ploughed, sowed, reaped, mowed, winnowed,
weeded? These are the processes by which the tenant and his
employees increase the utility of the material which they consume
for the purpose of reproduction.
"The landed proprietor increases the utility of products by means
of his implement, the land. This implement receives in one
state, and returns in another the materials of which wheat is
composed. The action of the land is a chemical process, which so
modifies the material that it multiplies it by destroying it.
The soil is then a producer of utility; and when it [the soil?]
asks its pay in the form of profit, or farm rent, for its
proprietor, it at the same time gives something to the consumer
in exchange for the amount which the consumer pays it. It gives
him a produced utility; and it is the production of this utility
which warrants us in calling land productive, as well as labor."
Let us clear up this matter.
The blacksmith who manufactures for the farmer implements of
husbandry, the wheelwright who makes him a cart, the mason who
builds his barn, the carpenter, the basket-maker, &c.,--all of
whom contribute to agricultural production by the tools which
they provide,--are producers of utility; consequently, they are
entitled to a part of the products.
"Undoubtedly," says Say; "but the land also is an implement whose
service must be paid for, then. . . ."
I admit that the land is an implement; but who made it? Did the
proprietor? Did he--by the efficacious virtue of the right of
property, by this MORAL QUALITY infused into the soil--endow it
with vigor and fertility? Exactly there lies the monopoly of the
proprietor; in the fact that, though he did not make the
implement, he asks pay for its use. When the Creator shall
present himself and claim farm-rent, we will consider the matter
with him; or even when the proprietor--his pretended
representative--shall exhibit his power-of-attorney.
"The proprietor's service," adds Say, "is easy, I admit."
It is a frank confession.
"But we cannot disregard it. Without property, one farmer would
contend with another for the possession of a field without a
proprietor, and the field would remain uncultivated. . . ."
Then the proprietor's business is to reconcile farmers by robbing
them. O logic! O justice! O the marvellous wisdom of
economists! The proprietor, if they are right, is like Perrin-
Dandin who, when summoned by two travellers to settle a dispute
about an oyster, opened it, gobbled it, and said to them:--
"The Court awards you each a shell."
Could any thing worse be said of property?
Will Say tell us why the same farmers, who, if there were no
proprietors, would contend with each other for possession of the
soil, do not contend to-day with the proprietors for this
possession? Obviously, because they think them legitimate
possessors, and because their respect for even an imaginary right
exceeds their avarice. I proved, in Chapter II., that possession
is sufficient, without property, to maintain social order. Would
it be more difficult, then, to reconcile possessors without
masters than tenants controlled by proprietors? Would laboring
men, who respect--much to their own detriment--the pretended
rights of the idler, violate the natural rights of the producer
and the manufacturer? What! if the husbandman forfeited his
right to the land as soon as he ceased to occupy it, would he
become more covetous? And would the impossibility of demanding
increase, of taxing another's labor, be a source of quarrels and
law-suits? The economists use singular logic. But we are not
yet through. Admit that the proprietor is the legitimate master
of the land.
"The land is an instrument of production," they say. That is
true. But when, changing the noun into an adjective, they alter
the phrase, thus, "The land is a productive instrument," they
make a wicked blunder.
According to Quesnay and the early economists, all production
comes from the land. Smith, Ricardo, and de Tracy, on the
contrary, say that labor is the sole agent of production. Say,
and most of his successors, teach that BOTH land AND labor
AND capital are productive. The latter constitute the eclectic
school of political economy. The truth is, that NEITHER land
NOR labor NOR capital is productive. Production results from
the co-operation of these three equally necessary elements,
which, taken separately, are equally sterile.
Political economy, indeed, treats of the production,
distribution, and consumption of wealth or values. But of what
values? Of the values produced by human industry; that is, of
the changes made in matter by man, that he may appropriate it to
his own use, and not at all of Nature's spontaneous productions.
Man's labor consists in a simple laying on of hands. When he has
taken that trouble, he has produced a value. Until then, the
salt of the sea, the water of the springs, the grass of the
fields, and the trees of the forests are to him as if they were
not. The sea, without the fisherman and his line, supplies no
fish. The forest, without the wood-cutter and his axe, furnishes
neither fuel nor timber. The meadow, without the mower,
yields neither hay nor aftermath. Nature is a vast mass of
material to be cultivated and converted into products; but Nature
produces nothing for herself: in the economical sense, her
products, in their relation to man, are not yet products.
Capital, tools, and machinery are likewise unproductive. The
hammer and the anvil, without the blacksmith and the iron, do not
forge. The mill, without the miller and the grain, does not
grind, &c. Bring tools and raw material together; place a plough
and some seed on fertile soil; enter a smithy, light the fire,
and shut up the shop,--you will produce nothing. The following
remark was made by an economist who possessed more good sense
than most of his fellows: "Say credits capital with an active
part unwarranted by its nature; left to itself, it is an idle
tool." (J. Droz: Political Economy.)
Finally, labor and capital together, when unfortunately combined,
produce nothing. Plough a sandy desert, beat the water of the
rivers, pass type through a sieve,--you will get neither wheat,
nor fish, nor books. Your trouble will be as fruitless as was
the immense labor of the army of Xerxes; who, as Herodotus says,
with his three million soldiers, scourged the Hellespont for
twenty-four hours, as a punishment for having broken and
scattered the pontoon bridge which the great king had thrown
Tools and capital, land and labor, considered individually and
abstractly, are not, literally speaking, productive. The
proprietor who asks to be rewarded for the use of a tool, or the
productive power of his land, takes for granted, then, that which
is radically false; namely, that capital produces by its own
effort,--and, in taking pay for this imaginary product, he
literally receives something for nothing.
OBJECTION.--But if the blacksmith, the wheelwright, all
manufacturers in short, have a right to the products in return
for the implements which they furnish; and if land is an
implement of production,--why does not this implement entitle its
proprietor, be his claim real or imaginary, to a portion of the
products; as in the case of the manufacturers of ploughs and
REPLY.--Here we touch the heart of the question, the mystery of
property; which we must clear up, if we would understand any
thing of the strange effects of the right of increase.
He who manufactures or repairs the farmer's tools receives the
price ONCE, either at the time of delivery, or in several
payments; and when this price is once paid to the manufacturer,
the tools which he has delivered belong to him no more. Never
does he claim double payment for the same tool, or the same job
of repairs. If he annually shares in the products of the farmer,
it is owing to the fact that he annually makes something for the
The proprietor, on the contrary, does not yield his implement;
eternally he is paid for it, eternally he keeps it.
In fact, the rent received by the proprietor is not intended to
defray the expense of maintaining and repairing the implement;
this expense is charged to the borrower, and does not concern the
proprietor except as he is interested in the preservation of the
article. If he takes it upon himself to attend to the repairs,
he takes care that the money which he expends for this purpose is
This rent does not represent the product of the implement, since
of itself the implement produces nothing; we have just proved
this, and we shall prove it more clearly still by its
Finally, this rent does not represent the participation of the
proprietor in the production; since this participation could
consist, like that of the blacksmith and the wheelwright, only in
the surrender of the whole or a part of his implement, in which
case he would cease to be its proprietor, which would involve a
contradiction of the idea of property.
Then, between the proprietor and his tenant there is no exchange
either of values or services; then, as our axiom says, farm-rent
is real increase,--an extortion based solely upon fraud and
violence on the one hand, and weakness and ignorance upon the
other. PRODUCTS say the economists, ARE BOUGHT ONLY BY
PRODUCTS. This maxim is property's condemnation. The
proprietor, producing neither by his own labor nor by his
implement, and receiving products in exchange for nothing, is
either a parasite or a thief. Then, if property can exist only
as a right, property is impossible.
COROLLARIES.--1. The republican constitution of 1793, which
defined property as "the right to enjoy the fruit of one's
labor," was grossly mistaken. It should have said, "Property is
the right to enjoy and dispose at will of another's goods,--the
fruit of another's industry and labor."
2. Every possessor of lands, houses, furniture, machinery, tools,
money, &c., who lends a thing for a price exceeding the cost of
repairs (the repairs being charged to the lender, and
representing products which he exchanges for other products), is
guilty of swindling and extortion. In short, all rent received
(nominally as damages, but really as payment for a loan) is an
act of property,--a robbery.
HISTORICAL COMMENT.--The tax which a victorious nation levies
upon a conquered nation is genuine farm-rent. The seigniorial
rights abolished by the Revolution of 1789,--tithes, mortmain,
statute-labor, &c.,--were different forms of the rights of
property; and they who under the titles of nobles,
seigneurs, prebendaries, &c. enjoyed these rights, were
neither more nor less than proprietors. To defend property to-
day is to condemn the Revolution.
Property is impossible because wherever it exists Production
costs more than it is worth.
The preceding proposition was legislative in its nature; this one
is economical. It serves to prove that property, which
originates in violence, results in waste.
"Production," says Say, "is exchange on a large scale. To render
the exchange productive the value of the whole amount of service
must be balanced by the value of the product. If this condition
is not complied with, the exchange is unequal; the producer gives
more than he receives."
Now, value being necessarily based upon utility, it follows that
every useless product is necessarily valueless,--that it cannot
be exchanged; and, consequently, that it cannot be given in
payment for productive services.
Then, though production may equal consumption, it never can
exceed it; for there is no real production save where there is a
production of utility, and there is no utility save where there
is a possibility of consumption. Thus, so much of every product
as is rendered by excessive abundance inconsumable, becomes
useless, valueless, unexchangeable,--consequently, unfit to be
given in payment for any thing whatever, and is no longer a
Consumption, on the other hand, to be legitimate,--to be true
consumption,--must be reproductive of utility; for, if it is
unproductive, the products which it destroys are cancelled
values--things produced at a pure loss; a state of things
which causes products to depreciate in value. Man has the
power to destroy, but he consumes only that which he reproduces.
Under a right system of economy, there is then an equation
between production and consumption.
These points established, let us suppose a community of one
thousand families, enclosed in a territory of a given
circumference, and deprived of foreign intercourse. Let this
community represent the human race, which, scattered over the
face of the earth, is really isolated. In fact, the difference
between a community and the human race being only a numerical
one, the economical results will be absolutely the same in each
Suppose, then, that these thousand families, devoting themselves
exclusively to wheat-culture, are obliged to pay to one hundred
individuals, chosen from the mass, an annual revenue of ten per
cent. on their product. It is clear that, in such a case, the
right of increase is equivalent to a tax levied in advance upon
social production. Of what use is this tax?
It cannot be levied to supply the community with provisions, for
between that and farm-rent there is nothing in common; nor to pay
for services and products,--for the proprietors, laboring like
the others, have labored only for themselves. Finally, this tax
is of no use to its recipients who, having harvested wheat enough
for their own consumption, and not being able in a society
without commerce and manufactures to procure any thing else in
exchange for it, thereby lose the advantage of their income.
In such a society, one-tenth of the product being inconsumable,
one-tenth of the labor goes unpaid--production costs more than it
Now, change three hundred of our wheat-producers into artisans of
all kinds: one hundred gardeners and wine-growers, sixty
shoemakers and tailors, fifty carpenters and blacksmiths, eighty
of various professions, and, that nothing may be lacking, seven
school-masters, one mayor, one judge, and one priest; each
industry furnishes the whole community with its special product.
Now, the total production being one thousand, each laborer's
consumption is one; namely, wheat, meat, and grain, 0.7; wine and
vegetables, 0.1; shoes and clothing, 0.06; iron-work and
furniture, 0.05; sundries, 0.08; instruction, 0.007;
administration, 0.002; mass, 0.001, Total 1.
But the community owes a revenue of ten per cent.; and it matters
little whether the farmers alone pay it, or all the laborers are
responsible for it,--the result is the same. The farmer raises
the price of his products in proportion to his share of the debt;
the other laborers follow his example. Then, after some
fluctuations, equilibrium is established, and all pay nearly the
same amount of the revenue. It would be a grave error to assume
that in a nation none but farmers pay farm-rent--the whole nation
I say, then, that by this tax of ten per cent. each laborer's
consumption is reduced as follows: wheat, 0.63; wine and
vegetables, 0.09; clothing and shoes, 0.054; furniture and iron-
work, 0.045; other products, 0.072; schooling, 0.0063;
administration, 0.0018; mass, 0.0009. Total 0.9.
The laborer has produced 1; he consumes only 0.9. He loses,
then, one-tenth of the price of his labor; his production still
costs more than it is worth. On the other hand, the tenth
received by the proprietors is no less a waste; for, being
laborers themselves, they, like the others, possess in the nine-
tenths of their product the wherewithal to live: they want for
nothing. Why should they wish their proportion of bread, wine,
meat, clothes, shelter, &c., to be doubled, if they can
neither consume nor exchange them? Then farm-rent, with them as
with the rest of the laborers, is a waste, and perishes in their
hands. Extend the hypothesis, increase the number and variety of
the products, you still have the same result.
Hitherto, we have considered the proprietor as taking part in the
production, not only (as Say says) by the use of his instrument,
but in an effective manner and by the labor of his hands. Now,
it is easy to see that, under such circumstances, property will
never exist. What happens?
The proprietor--an essentially libidinous animal, without virtue
or shame--is not satisfied with an orderly and disciplined life.
He loves property, because it enables him to do at leisure what
he pleases and when he pleases. Having obtained the means of
life, he gives himself up to trivialities and indolence; he
enjoys, he fritters away his time, he goes in quest of
curiosities and novel sensations. Property--to enjoy itself--has
to abandon ordinary life, and busy itself in luxurious
occupations and unclean enjoyments.
Instead of giving up a farm-rent, which is perishing in their
hands, and thus lightening the labor of the community, our
hundred proprietors prefer to rest. In consequence of this
withdrawal,--the absolute production being diminished by one
hundred, while the consumption remains the same,--production and
consumption seem to balance. But, in the first place, since the
proprietors no longer labor, their consumption is, according to
economical principles, unproductive; consequently, the previous
condition of the community--when the labor of one hundred was
rewarded by no products--is superseded by one in which the
products of one hundred are consumed without labor. The deficit
is always the same, whichever the column of the account in which
it is expressed. Either the maxims of political economy are
false, or else property, which contradicts them, is impossible.
The economists--regarding all unproductive consumption as an
evil, as a robbery of the human race--never fail to exhort
proprietors to moderation, labor, and economy; they preach to
them the necessity of making themselves useful, of remunerating
production for that which they receive from it; they launch the
most terrible curses against luxury and laziness. Very beautiful
morality, surely; it is a pity that it lacks common sense. The
proprietor who labors, or, as the economists say, WHO MAKES
HIMSELF USEFUL, is paid for this labor and utility; is he,
therefore, any the less idle as concerns the property which he
does not use, and from which he receives an income? His
condition, whatever he may do, is an unproductive and FELONIOUS
one; he cannot cease to waste and destroy without ceasing to be a
But this is only the least of the evils which property engenders.
Society has to maintain some idle people, whether or no. It will
always have the blind, the maimed, the insane, and the idiotic.
It can easily support a few sluggards. At this point, the
impossibilities thicken and become complicated.
Property is impossible, because, with a given capital,
Production is proportional to labor, not to property.
To pay a farm-rent of one hundred at the rate of ten per cent. of
the product, the product must be one thousand; that the product
may be one thousand, a force of one thousand laborers is needed.
It follows, that in granting a furlough, as we have just done, to
our one hundred laborer-proprietors, all of whom had an equal
right to lead the life of men of income,--we have placed
ourselves in a position where we are unable to pay their
revenues. In fact, the productive power, which at first was one
thousand, being now but nine hundred, the production is also
reduced to nine hundred, one-tenth of which is ninety. Either,
then, ten proprietors out of the one hundred cannot be paid,--
provided the remaining ninety are to get the whole amount of
their farm-rent,--or else all must consent to a decrease of ten
per cent. For it is not for the laborer, who has been wanting in
no particular, who has produced as in the past, to suffer by the
withdrawal of the proprietor. The latter must take the
consequences of his own idleness. But, then, the proprietor
becomes poorer for the very reason that he wishes to enjoy; by
exercising his right, he loses it; so that property seems to
decrease and vanish in proportion as we try to lay hold of it,--
the more we pursue it, the more it eludes our grasp. What sort
of a right is that which is governed by numerical relations, and
which an arithmetical calculation can destroy?
The laborer-proprietor received, first, as laborer, 0.9 in wages;
second, as proprietor, 1 in farm-rent. He said to himself, "My
farm-rent is sufficient; I have enough and to spare without my
labor." And thus it is that the income upon which he calculated
gets diminished by one-tenth,--he at the same time not even
suspecting the cause of this diminution. By taking part in the
production, he was himself the creator of this tenth which has
vanished; and while he thought to labor only for himself, he
unwittingly suffered a loss in exchanging his products, by which
he was made to pay to himself one-tenth of his own farm-rent.
Like every one else, he produced 1, and received but 0.9
If, instead of nine hundred laborers, there had been but five
hundred, the whole amount of farm-rent would have been
reduced to fifty; if there had been but one hundred, it
would have fallen to ten. We may posit, then, the following
axiom as a law of proprietary economy: INCREASE MUST DIMINISH
AS THE NUMBER OF IDLERS AUGMENTS.
_ _This first result will lead us to another more surprising
still. Its effect is to deliver us at one blow from all the
evils of property, without abolishing it, without wronging
proprietors, and by a highly conservative process.
We have just proved that, if the farm-rent in a community of one
thousand laborers is one hundred, that of nine hundred would be
ninety, that of eight hundred, eighty, that of one hundred, ten,
&c. So that, in a community where there was but one laborer, the
farm-rent would be but 0.1; no matter how great the extent and
value of the land appropriated. Therefore, WITH A GIVEN LANDED
CAPITAL, PRODUCTION IS PROPORTIONAL TO LABOR, NOT TO PROPERTY.
Guided by this principle, let us try to ascertain the maximum
increase of all property whatever.
What is, essentially, a farm-lease? It is a contract by which
the proprietor yields to a tenant possession of his land, in
consideration of a portion of that which it yields him, the
proprietor. If, in consequence of an increase in his household,
the tenant becomes ten times as strong as the proprietor, he will
produce ten times as much. Would the proprietor in such a case
be justified in raising the farm-rent tenfold? His right is not,
The more you produce, the more I demand. It is, The more I
sacrifice, the more I demand. The increase in the tenant's
household, the number of hands at his disposal, the resources of
his industry,--all these serve to increase production, but bear
no relation to the proprietor. His claims are to be measured by
his own productive capacity, not that of others. Property is
the right of increase, not a poll-tax. How could a man,
hardly capable of cultivating even a few acres by himself, demand
of a community, on the ground of its use of ten thousand acres of
his property, ten thousand times as much as he is incapable of
producing from one acre? Why should the price of a loan be
governed by the skill and strength of the borrower, rather than
by the utility sacrificed by the proprietor? We must recognize,
then, this second economical law: INCREASE IS MEASURED BY A
FRACTION OF THE PROPRIETORS PRODUCTION.
Now, this production, what is it? In other words, What can the
lord and master of a piece of land justly claim to have
sacrificed in lending it to a tenant?
The productive capacity of a proprietor, like that of any
laborer, being one, the product which he sacrifices in
surrendering his land is also one. If, then, the rate of
increase is ten per cent., the maximum increase is 0.1.
But we have seen that, whenever a proprietor withdraws from
production, the amount of products is lessened by 1. Then the
increase which accrues to him, being equal to 0.1 while he
remains among the laborers, will be equal after his withdrawal,
by the law of the decrease of farm-rent, to 0.09. Thus we are
led to this final formula: THE MAXIMUM INCOME OF A PROPRIETOR
IS EQUAL TO THE SQUARE ROOT OF THE PRODUCT OF ONE LABORER (some
number being agreed upon to express this product). THE
DIMINUTION WHICH THIS INCOME SUFFERS, IF THE PROPRIETOR IS IDLE,
IS EQUAL TO A FRACTION WHOSE NUMERATOR IS 1, AND WHOSE
DENOMINATOR IS THE NUMBER WHICH EXPRESSES THE PRODUCT.
Thus the maximum income of an idle proprietor, or of one who
labors in his own behalf outside of the community, figured at ten
per cent. on an average production of one thousand francs
per laborer, would be ninety francs. If, then, there are in
France one million proprietors with an income of one thousand
francs each, which they consume unproductively, instead of the
one thousand millions which are paid them annually, they are
entitled in strict justice, and by the most accurate calculation,
to ninety millions only.
It is something of a reduction, to take nine hundred and ten
millions from the burdens which weigh so heavily upon the
laboring class! Nevertheless, the account is not finished, and
the laborer is still ignorant of the full extent of his rights.
What is the right of increase when confined within just limits?
A recognition of the right of occupancy. But since all have an
equal right of occupancy, every man is by the same title a
proprietor. Every man has a right to an income equal to a
fraction of his product. If, then, the laborer is obliged by the
right of property to pay a rent to the proprietor, the proprietor
is obliged by the same right to pay the same amount of rent to
the laborer; and, since their rights balance each other, the
difference between them is zero.
_Scholium_.--If farm-rent is only a fraction of the supposed
product of the proprietor, whatever the amount and value of the
property, the same is true in the case of a large number of small
and distinct proprietors. For, although one man may use the
property of each separately, he cannot use the property of all at
the same time.
To sum up. The right of increase, which can exist only within
very narrow limits, defined by the laws of production, is
annihilated by the right of occupancy. Now, without the right of
increase, there is no property. Then property is impossible.
Property is impossible, because it is Homicide.
If the right of increase could be subjected to the laws of reason
and justice, it would be reduced to an indemnity or reward whose
MAXIMUM never could exceed, for a single laborer, a certain
fraction of that which he is capable of producing. This we have
just shown. But why should the right of increase--let us not
fear to call it by its right name, the right of robbery--be
governed by reason, with which it has nothing in common? The
proprietor is not content with the increase allotted him by good
sense and the nature of things: he demands ten times, a hundred
times, a thousand times, a million times as much. By his own
labor, his property would yield him a product equal only to one;
and he demands of society, no longer a right proportional to his
productive capacity, but a per capita tax. He taxes his
fellows in proportion to their strength, their number, and their
industry. A son is born to a farmer. "Good!" says the
proprietor; "one more chance for increase!" By what process has
farm-rent been thus changed into a poll-tax? Why have our
jurists and our theologians failed, with all their shrewdness, to
check the extension of the right of increase?
The proprietor, having estimated from his own productive capacity
the number of laborers which his property will accommodate,
divides it into as many portions, and says: "Each one shall
yield me revenue." To increase his income, he has only to divide
his property. Instead of reckoning the interest due him on his
labor, he reckons it on his capital; and, by this substitution,
the same property, which in the hands of its owner is capable of
yielding only one, is worth to him ten, a hundred, a
thousand, a million. Consequently, he has only to hold himself
in readiness to register the names of the laborers who apply to
him--his task consists in drafting leases and receipts.
Not satisfied with the lightness of his duties, the proprietor
does not intend to bear even the deficit resulting from his
idleness; he throws it upon the shoulders of the producer, of
whom he always demands the same reward. When the farm-rent of a
piece of land is once raised to its highest point, the proprietor
never lowers it; high prices, the scarcity of labor, the
disadvantages of the season, even pestilence itself, have no
effect upon him--why should he suffer from hard times when he
does not labor?
Here commences a new series of phenomena.
Say--who reasons with marvellous clearness whenever he assails
taxation, but who is blind to the fact that the proprietor, as
well as the tax-gatherer, steals from the tenant, and in the same
manner--says in his second letter to Malthus:--
"If the collector of taxes and those who employ him consume one-
sixth of the products, they thereby compel the producers to feed,
clothe, and support themselves on five-sixths of what they
produce. They admit this, but say at the same time that it is
possible for each one to live on five-sixths of what he produces.
I admit that, if they insist upon it; but I ask if they believe
that the producer would live as well, in case they demanded of
him, instead of one-sixth, two-sixths, or one-third, of their
products? No; but he would still live. Then I ask whether he
would still live, in case they should rob him of two-
thirds, . . . then three-quarters? But I hear no reply."
If the master of the French economists had been less blinded by
his proprietary prejudices, he would have seen that farm-rent has
precisely the same effect.
Take a family of peasants composed of six persons,--father,
mother, and four children,--living in the country, and
cultivating a small piece of ground. Let us suppose that by
hard labor they manage, as the saying is, to make both ends meet;
that, having lodged, warmed, clothed, and fed themselves, they
are clear of debt, but have laid up nothing. Taking the years
together, they contrive to live. If the year is prosperous, the
father drinks a little more wine, the daughters buy themselves a
dress, the sons a hat; they eat a little cheese, and,
occasionally, some meat. I say that these people are on the road
to wreck and ruin.
For, by the third corollary of our axiom, they owe to themselves
the interest on their own capital. Estimating this capital at
only eight thousand francs at two and a half per cent., there is
an annual interest of two hundred francs to be paid. If, then,
these two hundred francs, instead of being subtracted from the
gross product to be saved and capitalized, are consumed, there is
an annual deficit of two hundred francs in the family assets; so
that at the end of forty years these good people, without
suspecting it, will have eaten up their property and become
This result seems ridiculous--it is a sad reality.
The conscription comes. What is the conscription? An act of
property exercised over families by the government without
warning--a robbery of men and money. The peasants do not like to
part with their sons,--in that I do not think them wrong. It is
hard for a young man of twenty to gain any thing by life in the
barracks; unless he is depraved, he detests it. You can
generally judge of a soldier's morality by his hatred of his
uniform. Unfortunate wretches or worthless scamps,--such is the
make-up of the French army. This ought not to be the case,--but
so it is. Question a hundred thousand men, and not one will
contradict my assertion.
Our peasant, in redeeming his two conscripted sons, expends four
thousand francs, which he borrows for that purpose; the interest
on this, at five per cent., is two hundred francs;--a sum equal
to that referred to above. If, up to this time, the production
of the family, constantly balanced by its consumption, has been
one thousand two hundred francs, or two hundred francs per
persons--in order to pay this interest, either the six laborers
must produce as much as seven, or must consume as little as five.
Curtail consumption they cannot--how can they curtail necessity?
To produce more is impossible; they can work neither harder nor
longer. Shall they take a middle course, and consume five and a
half while producing six and a half? They would soon find that
with the stomach there is no compromise--that beyond a certain
degree of abstinence it is impossible to go--that strict
necessity can be curtailed but little without injury to the
health; and, as for increasing the product,--there comes a storm,
a drought, an epizootic, and all the hopes of the farmer are
dashed. In short, the rent will not be paid, the interest will
accumulate, the farm will be seized, and the possessor ejected.
Thus a family, which lived in prosperity while it abstained from
exercising the right of property, falls into misery as soon as
the exercise of this right becomes a necessity. Property
requires of the husbandman the double power of enlarging his
land, and fertilizing it by a simple command. While a man is
simply possessor of the land, he finds in it means of
subsistence; as soon as he pretends to proprietorship, it
suffices him no longer. Being able to produce only that which he
consumes, the fruit of his labor is his recompense for his
trouble--nothing is left for the instrument.
Required to pay what he cannot produce,--such is the
condition of the tenant after the proprietor has retired
from social production in order to speculate upon the labor of
others by new methods.
Let us now return to our first hypothesis.
The nine hundred laborers, sure that their future production will
equal that of the past, are quite surprised, after paying their
farm-rent, to find themselves poorer by one-tenth than they were
the previous year. In fact, this tenth--which was formerly
produced and paid by the proprietor-laborer who then took part in
the production, and paid part of the--public expenses--now has
not been produced, and has been paid. It must then have been
taken from the producer's consumption. To choke this
inexplicable deficit, the laborer borrows, confident of his
intention and ability to return,--a confidence which is shaken
the following year by a new loan, PLUS the interest on the
first. From whom does he borrow? From the proprietor. The
proprietor lends his surplus to the laborer; and this surplus,
which he ought to return, becomes--being lent at interest--a new
source of profit to him. Then debts increase indefinitely; the
proprietor makes advances to the producer who never returns them;
and the latter, constantly robbed and constantly borrowing from
the robbers, ends in bankruptcy, defrauded of all that he had.
Suppose that the proprietor--who needs his tenant to furnish him
with an income--then releases him from his debts. He will thus
do a very benevolent deed, which will procure for him a
recommendation in the curate's prayers; while the poor tenant,
overwhelmed by this unstinted charity, and taught by his
catechism to pray for his benefactors, will promise to redouble
his energy, and suffer new hardships that he may discharge his
debt to so kind a master.
This time he takes precautionary measures; he raises the
price of grains. The manufacturer does the same with his
products. The reaction comes, and, after some fluctuation, the
farm-rent--which the tenant thought to put upon the
manufacturer's shoulders--becomes nearly balanced. So that,
while he is congratulating himself upon his success, he finds
himself again impoverished, but to an extent somewhat smaller
than before. For the rise having been general, the proprietor
suffers with the rest; so that the laborers, instead of being
poorer by one-tenth, lose only nine-hundredths. But always it is
a debt which necessitates a loan, the payment of interest,
economy, and fasting. Fasting for the nine-hundredths which
ought not to be paid, and are paid; fasting for the redemption of
debts; fasting to pay the interest on them. Let the crop fail,
and the fasting becomes starvation. They say, "IT IS NECESSARY
TO WORK MORE." That means, obviously, that IT IS NECESSARY TO
PRODUCE MORE. By what conditions is production effected? By
the combined action of labor, capital, and land. As for the
labor, the tenant undertakes to furnish it; but capital is formed
only by economy. Now, if the tenant could accumulate any thing,
he would pay his debts. But granting that he has plenty of
capital, of what use would it be to him if the extent of the land
which he cultivates always remained the same? He needs to
enlarge his farm.
Will it be said, finally, that he must work harder and to better
advantage? But, in our estimation of farm-rent, we have assumed
the highest possible average of production. Were it not the
highest, the proprietor would increase the farm-rent. Is not
this the way in which the large landed proprietors have gradually
raised their rents, as fast as they have ascertained by the
increase in population and the development of industry how much
society can produce from their property? The proprietor is
a foreigner to society; but, like the vulture, his eyes fixed
upon his prey, he holds himself ready to pounce upon and devour
The facts to which we have called attention, in a community of
one thousand persons, are reproduced on a large scale in every
nation and wherever human beings live, but with infinite
variations and in innumerable forms, which it is no part of my
intention to describe.
In fine, property--after having robbed the laborer by usury--
murders him slowly by starvation. Now, without robbery and
murder, property cannot exist; with robbery and murder, it soon
dies for want of support. Therefore it is impossible.
Property is impossible, because, if it exists, Society devours
When the ass is too heavily loaded, he lies down; man always
moves on. Upon this indomitable courage, the proprietor--well
knowing that it exists--bases his hopes of speculation. The free
laborer produces ten; for me, thinks the proprietor, he will
Indeed,--before consenting to the confiscation of his fields,
before bidding farewell to the paternal roof,--the peasant, whose
story we have just told, makes a desperate effort; he leases new
land; he will sow one-third more; and, taking half of this new
product for himself, he will harvest an additional sixth, and
thereby pay his rent. What an evil! To add one-sixth to his