Front Page Titles (by Subject) 5.: Petition from an Economist - The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics
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5.: Petition from an Economist - Frédéric Bastiat, The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics 
The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics, translated from the French by Jane and Michel Willems, with an introduction by Jacques de Guenin and Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean. Annotations and Glossaries by Jacques de Guenin, Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean, and David M. Hart. Translation editor Dennis O’Keeffe (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2011).
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Petition from an Economist
[vol. 7, p. 227. According to Paillottet,
At the moment a petition is being signed that asks for: A Ministry of Progress or for the Organization of Production.17 On this subject, La Démocratie pacifique has this to say:
“In order to organize production in French society, you have to know how to organize it at the village level, in the living and breathing workshops of the nation. Any serious doctrine of social development must therefore succeed at the level of the basic workshop and be tried out initially on a small parcel of land. Let the Republic therefore create a Ministry of Progress and Organization of Production whose function will be to examine all the plans put forward by the various socialist doctrines and to favor over them a local, free, and voluntary experiment carried out in a territorial unit, the square league.”
If this idea is put into practice, we will ask that we too be given our square league to try out our ideas. Why, after all, should the various socialist schools of thought be the only ones to have the privilege of having at their disposal square leagues, basic workshops, and everything which constitutes a locality, in short, villages?
They say that it is a matter of free and voluntary experiments. Are we to understand that the inhabitants of the commune who will be subjected to socialist experimentation will have to agree to it and that, on the other hand, the state should not take part with revenue raised from other communes? If so, what is the use of the petition, and what prevents the inhabitants of communes from carrying out freely, voluntarily, and at their own expense social experiments on themselves? Or is the intention that the experiment be forced or at the very least supported by funds raised from the entire community?
This in itself will provide a highly inconclusive result for the experiment. It is quite clear that having all the nation’s resources at our disposal, we might squander a great deal of welfare on a square league of land.
In any case, if each inventor in the field of social organization is called upon to carry out his experiment, let us register ourselves and formally request a commune to organize.
Our plan is otherwise very simple.
We will claim from each family and through a single tax a very small part of its income, in order to ensure the respect of persons and ownership, the elimination of fraud, misdemeanors, and crimes. Once we have done this, we will carefully observe how people organize themselves.
Religion, teaching, production, and trade will be perfectly free. We hope that, under this regime of liberty and security, with each inhabitant having the facility, through free trade, to create the largest sum of value possible, in any form which suits him, capital will be built up with great speed. Since all capital is intended to be used, there will be fierce competition between capitalists. Therefore earnings will rise; therefore workers, if they are far-sighted and thrifty, will have a great opportunity to become capitalists; and therefore it will be possible to create alliances or associations whose ideas are conceived and matured by themselves alone.
As the single tax will be modest in the extreme, there will be few civil service posts and few civil servants, no wasted efforts, and few men withdrawn from production.
As the state will have very restricted and well-defined powers, its inhabitants will have total freedom to choose their work. Here it should be noted clearly that any wasteful civil service post is not only a burden on the community but an infringement of the freedom of citizens. About the public services imposed without debate on the citizens, there are no half measures; either they are useful or else essentially harmful; they cannot be neutral. When a man exercises an action with authority, not over things but over his fellow men, if he does not do them good, he must necessarily do them harm.
With taxes thus reduced to the minimum required to procure security for all, lobbyists, abuses, privileges, and the exploitation of laws for individual interests will also be reduced to a minimum.
Since the inhabitants of this experimental commune will have, through free trade, the opportunity of producing the maximum value with the minimum work, the square league will provide as much welfare as the state of knowledge, activity, order, and individual economy allows.
This welfare will tend to spread out in an ever-more egalitarian manner, since, as the highest paid services will be the most sought after,18 it will be impossible to amass huge fortunes, especially since the minimum level of tax will not allow great public contracts, loans, nor speculation, all sources of the scandalous fortunes we see accumulating in a few hands.
Since this small community will be interested in attacking no one and all the others will have an interest in not attacking it, it will enjoy the most profound peace.
Citizens will feel loyal to the country because they will never feel slighted or held back by the agents of the government, and to its laws because they will recognize them as based on justice.
In the conviction that this system, which has the merit at least of being simple and respecting human dignity, is all the better if it applies to a wider territory and a greater number of people, since it is there that the most security is obtained with the least taxes, we conclude that if it succeeds in a commune, it will succeed at the level of the nation.
[17 ]The title of the petition was “A Ministry of Progress, Work Organization, and Abolition of the Exploitation of Man by Man.”
[18 ](Paillottet’s note) In the sense that they attract competition the most.