Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter one: The Outcome of the Preceding Discussion - Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments
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chapter one: The Outcome of the Preceding Discussion - Benjamin Constant, Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments 
Principles of Politics Applicable to a all Governments, trans. Dennis O’Keeffe, ed. Etienne Hofmann, Introduction by Nicholas Capaldi (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003).
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The Outcome of the Preceding Discussion
We have surveyed almost all the matters on which government, exceeding the limits of strict necessity, can take action on grounds of alleged utility. We found that in all these, had people been left to themselves, less bad and more good would have resulted. “When the controls of empires are rooted in good principles,” says Mirabeau,1 “there will be only two concerns, that of maintaining external peace by a good system of defenses, and that of conserving domestic order by the exact, impartial, and inflexible administration of justice. Everything else will be left to individual effort, whose irresistible influence effecting a larger total of satisfactions for each citizen, will infallibly produce a larger amount of public happiness. A sovereign or minister cannot know the affairs even of a thousand men, while each individual in general knows his own very well.”
The governing class create duties for themselves to extend their prerogatives. Overobliging agents of the nation, they constantly assault its freedom, that is to say, the means of happiness nature has given it, and they do this in the name of rendering it happy. They want to control enlightenment, when only experience can guide it. They want to stop crimes, when only the spectacle of punishment stops them surely and without despotism. They want to encourage production, when only individual interest gives it life. They want to establish institutions; habit alone forms them. Governments must watch out that nothing trammels our diverse faculties, but must not permit themselves to take a hand therein. What would the inhabitants of a house say if the guards they had placed at the gates to stop any strangers from intruding and to calm down any domestic disturbance, gave themselves the right to control the actions of those inhabitants  and to prescribe them a way of life, under the pretext of preventing these intrusions and disturbances, or under the even more absurd one that their way of life would be sweeter following these changes? The governors are these guards, put in place by individuals who come together precisely so that nothing shall trouble their peace of mind or upset their doings. If the governors go further, they become themselves a source of trouble and upset.
The use of penal laws then becomes the most culpable abuse of the right to punish. Rather than extend this terrible right, we should strive to restrain it. Instead of multiplying the number of crimes, we should reduce it. It is not a crime in man to mistake his own interest, always supposing he does so; it is not a crime in man to want to manage himself by his own lights, even when government finds them imperfect. It is a crime in government, however, to punish individuals because they do not adopt as their interest what seems so to other men or because they do not rank their own judgments of enlightenment beneath those of others, when, after all, each person is the judge in the last resort. To subordinate individual wishes to the general will, without absolute necessity, is gratuitously to set up obstacles to all our progress. Individual interest is always more enlightened on what concerns it than collective power, whose fault is the sacrificing to its purposes, without care or scruple, of everything which opposes it. It needs to be checked and not to be encouraged.
To increase the force of collective authority is never other than giving more power to some individuals. If the wickedness of men is an argument against freedom, it is an even stronger one against power. For despotism is only the freedom of one or a few against the rest. Burke says that freedom is power.2 One can likewise say that power is freedom. 
[2. ]Edmund Burke, Réflexions sur la Révolution de France et sur les procédés de certaines sociétés à Londres relatifs à cet événement, Paris, Laurent; London, Edward, s.d., p. 12: “But when men act in a body, freedom is power.”
Honoré-Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau, De la monarchie prussienne sous Frédéric le Grand, London, 1788, t. I, pp. viii–ix.