Gustave de Molinari, Les Soirées de la rue Saint-Lazare: entretiens
sur les lois économiques et défense de la propriété (Evenings on Saint
Lazarus Street: Discussions on Economic Laws and the Defence of Property)
[A Draft of Liberty Fund's new translation]
[May 17, 2012]
[SUMMARY: Attacks made on external property. – Literary
and artistic property.
– Counterfeiting – Ownership of inventions.]
Title Page of the original 1849 edition
The photo of Molinari (1819-1912) which accompanied
his obituary in the Journal des économistes
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Molinari's book Les Soirées de la rue Saint-Lazare; entretiens sur les
lois économiques et défense de la propriété. (Paris: Guillaumin, 1849)
is being translated by Liberty Fund. The translation was done by Dennis O'Keeffe
and it is being edited by David M. Hart. The critical apparatus of foontnotes
and glossary entries, and introduction are being provided by David Hart.
We welcome feedback from Molinari scholars to ensure that this edition will
be a great one and thus befitting Molinari in his centennial year.
page has a detailed Table of Contents and links to other Chapters.
The Second Evening
SUMMARY: Attacks made on external property. – Literary and artistic
– Counterfeiting – Ownership of inventions.
You have undertaken to prove to us that the ills attributed to property, in
reality stem from attacks made on property. Are you in the frame of mind to
begin proving this paradox?
Would to God you were teaching such paradoxes… I drew the distinction between
internal and external property. The first consists in the right every man has
to dispose of his physical, moral and intellectual faculties, as well as of
the body which both houses those faculties and serves them as a tool. The second
inheres in the right every man has over that portion of his faculties which
he has deemed fit to separate from himself and to apply to external objects.
Where do our property rights with respect to external objects begin and end?
They begin at the moment when we apply some portion of our resources and faculties
to the things which nature has put freely at our disposal;[p. 43] at the moment
when we complete the work of nature by giving these things a new aspect; at
the moment when we add to the natural value which inheres in them, an artificial
value. They finish at the time when that artificial value is extinguished.
What do you mean by “value”?
I mean by “value”that quality things possess which enables them to satisfy
Thus man possesses his own being and the things, artificial or natural, which
depend on his being, his faculties, his body and the things he makes.
The works of man, from which external property derives, are of two kinds:
material and non-material.
The law recognizes material property in perpetuity, that is to say as long
as the object owned, lasts. By contrast, law restricts non-material property
to a rather brief time period. Both have the same origin, however.
Do you mean to say that you are treating the property of an invention or a
piece of music in the same way as property in houses or land?
Absolutely. Do they not both have their origin equally in work? From the moment
effort is expended and value created, whether the effort involves the nerves
or the muscles, whether the value be applied to a palpable object [p44] or
an intangible one, a new property is created. It matters little under what
form it manifests itself.
If it is a question of a plot of land under cultivation, it will be for the
most part physical force which has been expended; if it is a piece of music,
it is the intellectual faculties, with the help of certain physical and moral
resources which will have been set to work. But short of placing cognitive
faculties below physical powers, or even more, short of claiming that man possesses,
in his intelligence, less legitimate claims than those of his physical powers,
can one establish some difference between these two sorts of property?
So you would want the inventor of a machine, the author of a book, the composer
of an aria, to retain total ownership of their work and in perpetuity be able
to give them away, bequeath them or sell them. You would want them to be granted
even the right to destroy them. You would want the heirs of Bossuet, Pascal and
be allowed to deprive humanity of the immortal works of these mighty geniuses.
Well, that is taking exaggeration to barbarous heights.
Applaud, that is the right response. Are you quite aware of what doctrine
you have just been supporting, Mr Conservative?
The doctrine of common sense in my opinion.
Not so, the doctrine of Communism.
You must be joking. I maintained the rights of society over the products of
intelligence, that is all.
That is just what the Communists do. Only, they are more logical than you.
They support the rights of society over everything, over material products
as well as non-material ones. They say to the workers: fulfill your daily tasks,
according to your powers, but instead of claiming the products of your labors,
the valuable things you have created, for yourselves, hand them over to the
general body of the citizens, to the community itself, which will take upon
itself the responsibility of sharing equitably among all, the fruits of each
person’s efforts. You will get your share. Now is it not true that that is
the language of the Communists? 
Yes, that is just the language of that insane sect which robs the worker of
the legitimate fruit of his labor, in order to give him some arbitrary share
of the output of all.
Truly you speak with the voice of wisdom. Do you not admit, therefore, that
they are stealing all or part of the fruits of his labor, in order to place
that whole or that part with the community?
This is theft!
Well this theft is something society practices every day [p46] to the detriment
of men of letters, artists and inventors.
You are familiar with the law in France regulating literary property. While
the ownership of material things –
land, houses, furniture – is without date, literary property is limited
to the twenty years following the death of the author/proprietor. The Constituent
Assembly had even gone so far as granting only ten years.
Before the Revolution the legislation was in some respects much more equitable…
Before the Revolution you say?
Yes. You know that at that time all rights, the right to work as well as the
right to own, emanated from the King. Authors therefore obtained for themselves
and their heirs, when they asked for it, the exclusive right to exploit their
books commercially. This privilege was without limits; unfortunately it was
revocable at will; moreover, it was subject in practice to tiresome restrictions.
When an author sold his work to a book seller, the exclusive right to exploit
his works died with him. Only those who had inherited could keep this right
So the heirs of Molière, La Fontaine and
Racine had sole right to benefit from the
works of their illustrious ancestors until 1789?
Yes. One can find a proclamation by the Council of 14 September, 1761, which maintains
La Fontaine’s grandchildren in the [p47] prerogatives of their ancestor, seventy
years after his death. If the Constituent Assembly had understood its mission
fully and properly, it would have recognized and guaranteed literary property
by freeing it from the shackles of ancient privilege, which the ancien régime
had recognized even while circumscribing it. Unfortunately, communist ideas
had already germinated at that time in French society. A living resumé of the
philosophical and economic doctrines of the eighteenth century, the Constituent
Assembly included the disciples of Rousseau and Morelly as well as those of
Quesnay and Turgot. It
drew back therefore from outright recognition of intellectual property. It
mutilated that legitimate property in order to bring down the price of works
of the mind.
Was not this praiseworthy end achieved? Suppose that the literary property
of Pascal, Molière and La Fontaine had not been annulled to the benefit of
the community, would we not be obliged to pay more for the work of these illustrious
geniuses? And can one equate the interests of the few with the interests of
“When the savages of Louisiana want some fruit”, says Montesquieu, “they cut
the tree at its base and gather the fruit. That is what despotism does”. That is what communism
does too, the author of The Spirit of the Laws would have said had he lived
in our times. When you limit literary property thus, what are you doing? You
are diminishing its market price. – I produce a book and I offer to sell
it to a book seller. If the ownership of this book is guaranteed to him in
perpetuity, he will obviously be able to pay me for it and [p48] at a better
price than if twenty years after my death this property perishes.
Surely that is very unimportant in practice. How many books live another twenty
years after the death of their author?
You are furnishing me with another weapon to use against you. There are two
sorts of books; those which do not last and those which do. Your law limiting
the life of intellectual property leaves the value of the first kind intact
and diminishes the value of the second. Let me give you an example. A man of
genius has written a book destined to last down the ages. He is going to take
it to his book-seller. Can the latter pay more for this immortal book than
for run of the mill stuff destined for oblivion, after a fleeting success?
No, because while the book may not die, the property in the work dies, or,
which comes to the same thing, it falls into the public domain. After a certain
number of years, its titleholder is legally dispossessed. Your law rewards
mediocrity and penalizes genius.
So what happens? What we see is the number of lasting books diminishing and
the number of short-lived ones increasing. “Time”, says Aeschylus, “respects
only what it has founded”. With
very few exceptions, the masterpieces which the past has bequeathed us have
been the fruit of very long labor. Descartes gave most of his life to writing
made as many as thirteen copies of his Provincial Letters before handing them
over to the printers. Adam Smith pondered the economic problems of society
for thirty years [p49] before penning his immortal treatise The Wealth of Nations. When
the man of genius does not, however, enjoy a degree of affluence, can he sow
for so long without harvesting? Is he not, pressed by the spur of life’s necessities,
to supply the fruits of his intelligence while they are not yet mature?
Facile writing is much denounced, but can we have any other kind? How can
we avoid light-weight work when the value of painfully achieved creations is
brought down to the level of trivial writings? You will propose in vain that
men of letters sacrifice their personal interests to those of art. The men
of letters will not listen and in the main they are right. They too have family
duties to fulfill, children to raise, parents to care for, debts to pay, a
position to maintain. Can they neglect these natural and sacred duties, out
of a love of art?
They make do and they head for the type of literature in which making do is
easiest. In science the same situation engenders the same deplorable results.
It is no longer observation which dominates modern science, but hypothesis.
Why? Because you can construct a hypothesis quicker than you can observe a
law. Because you can make books more easily out of hypotheses than you can
out of observations. And one also has to add that the hypothesis is often more
striking. Paradox is more astonishing than truth. It becomes successful more
easily. It probably loses that success more rapidly too. Meanwhile, the fellow
who improvises with paradox gets rich, while the [p50] patient seeker after
truth battles with poverty. Given this, is it surprising that paradoxes abound
and real science becomes more and more rare?
You neglect to say that the government undertakes to look after men with distinguished
careers in science or the arts. Society has rewards and honors for truly learned
men and real men of letters.
Yes, and in this whole absurd system there is nothing less absurd. Just look
at it. You devalue the property of real learned men and writers, in the alleged
interests of posterity. Some sense or other of natural equity, warns you, however,
that you are plundering them. So you extract from society a tax whose proceeds
you allot to them. You have a budget for the arts and letters. I take it that the
funds raised in this budget are always equitably shared and reach the people
the law is aiming at (and you will know whether my hypothesis is correct);
is this penalty any the less tainted with iniquity? Is it right to oblige taxpayers
to finance a tax to the advantage of future consumers of literature? Is not
this a communism of the worst kind, this one which reaches beyond the grave?
Where do you see this alleged communism?
In a communist society, what does the government do? It seizes the product
which the work of each man yields in order to distribute it freely to all.
Well, what does [p51] government do, when it puts a time limitation on literary
property? It takes a part of the property of the learned man and the man of
letters and hands it over free to posterity; after which it obliges taxpayers
to hand over a part of their property to learned men and men of letters.
The latter lose out in this communist arrangement, since the proportion of
property stolen from them is larger than the benefit which is granted to them.
Taxpayers lose even more in this way, for they get nothing for the amount
which they are forced to pay.
Do at least the readers of books gain something?
Present day readers gain nothing since writers gain temporarily an absolute
right of property over their works.
Future consumers are able, probably, to buy ancient works more cheaply; on
the other hand they are less lavishly supplied with them. In other respects
books which last across the ages experience all the inconveniences which attach
to communism. Fallen into the public domain they cease to be the objects of
that attentive and vigilant care that an owner knows how to give to his own.
Even the best editions are full of alterations and mistakes.
Shall I say something of the indirect harm which results from the constraints
on literary property – shall I speak about counterfeiting?
What connections do you see between counterfeit editions and the legal limitations
on literary property?
What is counterfeiting, in effect, other than a limitation on literary property,
in terms of place, where your law limits it in terms of time? Is
there in reality the least difference between these two sorts of attack on
property? I will go further. It is the limitation in time which gives rise
to the limitation in place.
When material property was thought of as a simple privilege emanating from
the sovereign’s goodwill, this privilege expired at the borders of each state.
The property of foreigners was subject to the right of confiscation.
When material property came to be recognized everywhere as an imprescriptible
and sacred right, the right of confiscation ceased to be applied to it.
Only intellectual property is
still subject to this barbarous law. In all justice, however, can we justifiably
complain? If we respect intellectual property less than material property,
can we oblige outsiders to respect it equally?
Perhaps not. But you are taking no account of the moral advantages of counterfeiting.
It is thanks to them that French ideas spread abroad. Doubtless our men of
letters and our pundits lose out; but civilization gains. What does the interest
of a few hundred individuals matter compared to the wider interests of humanity?
You are now using with respect to the advantage of foreign consumers the same
argument you have just used about the [p53] advantages to future ones. I will
set myself up to refute the argument from the point of view of consumption
France is perhaps in all the world, the country where literary production
is most active and abundant. Books are very expensive here, however. We pay
15 francs for a two-volume novel, while in Belgium the same two volumes cost
only 1 franc 50c. Should we attribute this price difference solely to the rights
of authors? Not so. On the admission of the interested parties themselves,
it stems mainly from the slender market base available to French booksellers.
If illegal printing came to be suppressed, the two volumes which sell at 15
francs in France would probably fall to 5 francs on the general market, or
perhaps even lower. In this case the foreign consumer would pay 3 francs 50c
more than under the system of counterfeiting; on the other hand the French
consumer would pay 10 francs less. From the viewpoint of general consumption,
would this not be obviously advantageous?
A few years back I heard M. Chaix d’Est-Ange, in the Chamber of Deputies,
defending counterfeiting in terms of the dissemination of enlightenment. It
is thanks to counterfeiting, he said, that French ideas penetrate foreign parts. – Possibly
so, one might have replied to this distinguished lawyer; on the other hand
this practice prevents French ideas from penetrating France herself.
Foreign consumers would pay a little more for our books if counterfeiting
ceased, and so on. We would supply them, however, with better and [p54] more
numerous ones. Would they not benefit equally with us?
I agree. I am most decidedly of the opinion that you are right and I feel
much disposed to rally to the cause of literary property.
I would have been able to develop further some considerations on the expansion
and stability which full recognition of literary property would bestow not
only on the work of literary people but on book selling too… Since I have won
my case, however, I do not insist on it.
Since you grant me literary property you must also grant me artistic property.
In what does artistic property consist?
If it is a question of a painting, statue or monument, artistic property consists
in the right to dispose of it like any other material property and to have
it reproduced or give exclusive right to its reproduction by sketching or engraving
etc. If it is an industrial design or technical drawing, artistic property
resides likewise in an exclusive right of reproduction. It goes without saying
that this property can be given away or sold like any other property.
I don’t see any difficulty here. It might be agreed, however, to make an exception
for industrial designs and technical drawings. Craftsmen, draftsmen, and industrial
designers [p55] would make excessive demands if they were granted absolute
property rights over their work.
Ah, so I’ve got you again Mr Communist/Conservative. Well let me tell you
that quite inadvertently the statutory administrators under the Empire left
that form of property outside the framework of limitation. This salutary forgetfulness
inevitably bore excellent fruit. Our industrial designs and technical drawings
are today unrivalled in the world.
This is easily explained. On the one hand the industrialists who buy from
the craftsmen these industrial designs and technical drawings, being guaranteed
perpetual tenure of this property, can pay the highest possible price. On the
other hand the craftsmen, guaranteed a good price, put in the time and care
necessary for their production.
But are you also aware of what has happened? I bet you will never guess. These
industrialists, who are such fierce protectors of property, one day realised
that they were paying too much for their industrial designs and technical drawings.
The issue was put on the agenda one day in the committees where they debate
business and profitability. It was unanimously agreed that the ills arose from
the perpetual nature of property. As a result they immediately demanded that
the government should curtail it. The government hastened to comply with this
demand from the big barons of industry. The Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce
rushed through a legal reform reducing to three, five, ten and fifteen years,
the property rights pertaining to industrial designs and technical drawings
[p56]. The project was presented to both Chambers and discussed in the Upper
No! The February Revolution forced it from the agenda. You can be quite sure,
nevertheless, that discussion of the matter will be resumed and that the law
will be passed. These conservatives, however, who strike so ruthlessly at the
property of craftsmen, who never hesitate to engage in communism when it is
to their advantage, hound communists like so many wild beasts.
If the industrialists of whom you speak had thought properly about their true
interests; if they had entertained a few sound notions of political economy,
they would have understood that in hurting craftsmen they would inevitably
hurt themselves too. When the law has limited property rights to industrial
designs and technical drawings, these creative works will probably be sold
at a lower price; but will they retain the same degree of perfection. Will
not elite craftsmen turn away from this branch of work when their output is
not properly rewarded?
They could still be paid properly, it seems to me.
If houses could be possessed for three years only, would not their prices
Assuredly. One would not put a high price on a house of which one could be
dispossessed in three years’ time.
Under these arrangements we would build only hovels.
Well if the law likewise reduced the market value of industrial designs and
technical drawings, henceforth industrial designs and technical drawings would
be nothing but cheap junk.
In this case, however, will our fabrics and bronzes, in which the design,
the pattern itself, often constitutes the whole price, still be able to meet
foreign competition? In limiting the property rights of craftsmen, will our
industrialists not be cutting down the tree to obtain the fruit?
This is true.
You see where constriction of property leads. Maybe things become ordinary;
but either they are badly produced or no longer produced.
If you support indefinite property rights over creative works, you must support
them also in respect of inventions.
Indefinite property rights over inventions! This would be the death of industry,
which is already mercilessly fleeced by inventors.
In fact, however, inventions, like works of literature and art, are the fruit
of intelligence put to work. [p58] If the latter give rise to unlimited and
absolute property rights, why should the former, which have the same origin,
give rise only to limited and conditional rights?
Are not the interests of society at stake here? I understand granting a right
of unlimited and absolute ownership to writers and artists. That has only minor
importance. At a pinch the world could do without artists and writers.
But we could not get by without inventors. It is they who supply the tools
and techniques of agriculture and industry.
Thus it is not a question of getting rid of inventors or reducing their numbers.
It is a question of increasing their numbers by guaranteeing that their labor
receives the remuneration due to it.
This is something I want to see. In decreeing the ownership of inventions
in perpetuity, however, are you not putting agriculture and industry forever
under the yoke of a small number of inventors? Are you not subjecting the most
vital branches of production to demanding, intractable, odious monopolies?
Suppose, for example, that the inventor of the plough had retained the property
rights of his invention, and that that right had been transmitted intact until
the present era, what would have happened?
We would have had today more and better instruments for ploughing.
This is completely absurd!
Let us talk about it. You are familiar with the legislation which regulates
inventions today. Inventors are guaranteed property rights over their inventions
for five, ten and fifteen years, on the condition of paying the Exchequer 500
francs in the first case, 1000 francs in the second, and 1500 francs in the
third. Now it is perfectly possible for an invention not to yield the inventor
what he had expected from it. In this case he finds himself punished, fined
for having invented something.
I have never said the present law is perfect. It can be reformed. But to grant
the inventor perpetual ownership rights to his work: madness!
In whose interest do you wish to deprive the inventor of part of his property
rights. Is this in the interests of present consumers? No, because you accord
the inventor his property for five, ten or fifteen years. In this period he
naturally draws the maximum possible share which will soon be denied him. He
exploits his monopoly very rigorously. It is therefore solely in the interests
of posterity that you would dispossess inventors.
It is in the interests of progress and civilization. [p60] Moreover, how could
we disentangle and demarcate the rights of inventors. All inventions interlock
somewhere or other.
As do all forms of material property. That does not stop each person at the
end of the day protecting the integrity of his own.
Yes, but this would be much more difficult in the domain of invention. Would
not the identification of the property of inventors give rise to a myriad of
Is not the abolition of property a strange way of preserving it from the dangers
of legal wrangling? Moreover, the difficulty you are emphasizing occurs every
day and is every day resolved. The fact that the property from inventions is
guaranteed for five, ten or fifteen years, gives rise to legal cases, just
as though it were perpetual. These cases are judged and that is that. Your
objection fails before the facts. So again I say that you wish to limit the
property rights to inventions in the interests of posterity.
There are in the West of the American Union immense, virgin lands which are
every day taken up by the intrepid emigrants who go there. When these pioneers
of civilization see a plot which takes their fancy, they stop their wagons,
pitch the tent and first with the axe [p61] and secondly with the plough, they
dig and clear the soil. They give value to this soil which previously had none.
Well, this value created by labor, would you find it equitable for the community
to appropriate it after five, or ten or fifteen years, instead of allowing
the worker to bequeath it to his posterity?
Heavens above; but that would be communism, barbarism! Who would want to clear
land on these terms? Even so, is there even the least analogy between the work
of the pioneer and that of the inventor? Is not intelligence a common fund
of humanity? Can one limit its fruits entirely to oneself? Does not the inventor
draw considerable benefit, moreover, from the discoveries of predecessors and
the knowledge which has been built up in society? If he did not engage in invention,
would not someone else, drawing advantage from these discoveries and this common
knowledge, engage in invention in his place?
The objection applies to the clearing of land as much as to invention. Society
would not be able to say to this first occupant of the land: you are going
to make land hitherto unproductive, valuable: all right; we consent. Do not
forget, however, that the soil is God’s work and not yours. Do not forget that
while its fruits belong to all, the land itself belongs to no one. So enjoy
this plot of land for a few years, but after that be sure to restore it to
humanity, which holds it from God. If you do not submit with good grace to
this legitimate restitution, we know very well how to use force [p62] to make
the will of all prevail against the egoism of a single person. What? Are you
resisting? Are you objecting that you alone, in the sweat of your brow, created
the value that I am now demanding be removed from you? You rebellious and unnatural
proprietor! Could you have created this value, without the tools and the knowledge
which society supplied you with? Reply!
And the proprietor would doubtless reply: The community has indeed supplied
me with tools and knowledge but I have paid for them. My forebears and I have
acquired by our work everything we possess. Society has therefore no claim
on the fruits of my present work. And if, abusing its power, it steals my property,
holding it in common or handing it over to men who did not create it, it will
be committing the most iniquitous and odious plunder.
Well replied. Answer that one for me, you communist gentlemen!
Answer it yourself. If society accepts that it has no claim on the property
of land-clearers, although they work on previously common land, although they
use prior discoveries and knowledge, it would obviously not be able to claim
anything against the property of inventors.
That depends on the demands of the general interest. If the [p63] community
seizes some land, five, ten or fifteen years after it has been cleared….
And if that community forces the clearer to pay 500 francs, 1000 francs or
1500 francs before he knows whether or no the land will be fertile….
And whatever the extent of the cleared land….
It is certain that there will not be much clearing of land and that the community
itself will be the loser.
It is the same with inventions. Much less is invented under a regime of limited
property rights than would be invented under a regime of unlimited property
rights. Now since society can advance only on the basis of feats of invention,
posterity, whose interests you have invoked, would obviously gain from the
recognition of inventors’ property rights, just as it benefits from recognition
of landed property.
Perhaps you are right for the majority of inventions. There are some, however,
so necessary that one could not leave them long in private possession. I cited
the case of the plough. Would it not be a dreadful misfortune if a single individual
had the right to make and sell ploughs, if the property rights with respect
to that tool, so vital to agriculture, had not entered the public domain?
It would be disastrous in fact.
Let us examine together how things would have turned out if the inventor of
the plough had enjoyed property rights over his invention, instead of being
denied these. Above all, however, here is my reply: No! Society serves its
true interests by recognizing the rights of the inventor of the plough, not
not by seizing for itself this property which is due to the work of one of
its own members and rendering it common to all. No! Society has hindered the
progress of agriculture instead of facilitating it and in plundering the inventor
it is plundering itself.
We will see this clearly. What is the plough and what use is it?
The plough is an instrument pulled by beasts of burden, horses or bullocks,
in the charge of a man, and which serves to open up the soil. Before the invention
of the plough what did people use to cultivate the ground? They used the spade.
There you have two very distinct tools therefore, with the aid of which the
same work can be accomplished; two tools which compete the one with the other.
This competition is, in truth, very unequal since the plough is infinitely
better than the spade; and rather than resorting to this latter tool, the least
economic of them all, most farmers would resign themselves to paying a substantial
surcharge to the patent holders of the plough. But in the end the fields will
not remain uncultivated. The spade would be used to that point when the plough’s
patent holders, [p65] noticing that in extremity people could get by without
them, would be more accommodating.
What would result however from this situation in society, with its being faced
with the inflated claims of the owners of certain indispensable tools? That
there would be a huge interest in multiplying the number of these tools and
making more perfect versions.  At
a time when the price of the plough, for example, was soaring, would not anyone
who invented a tool as economic or more so to do the same job, make a fortune?
And if he wished in his turn to raise considerably the price of his invention,
would he not find his claims checked, first by the very fact of two old instruments,
to which one could always revert, and secondly by the fear of stirring up a
wave of new competition, since he would have increased interest in discovering
a more perfect tool. So you see that monopoly ought never to be feared because
there would always be on the one hand the existing and effective competition
of less perfect tools and on the other hand the eventual competition of more
perfect tools, quite soon.
Is not the field of invention limited?
The plains of intelligence are still more vast than the earth. In what branch
of production can one assert that there is no further progress to be realized,
nor discoveries to be made? Have no fear that the history of invention is ending;
the powers of humanity will fail [p66] before invention has come to an end.
Do you believe for example that we could not find anything better, when it
comes to ploughing instruments, than the present ones? Is not the plough, compared
to the devices employed in manufacturing, a barbarous implement? The plough
is a device moved by animal force. Now, does not manufacturing industry owe
the immense progress it has realized over half a century to the substitution
of the inanimate power of steam for the brute force of animals? Why does this
economic substitution of inanimate for animal power not operate in agriculture
too? Why has a steam driven device not replaced the plough in the way that
the mule jenny has replaced the hand loom, and as the steam mill has replaced
the grinding wheel turned by a blind horse, as the plough itself drawn by the
power of beasts of burden replaced the spade powered by man?
If from the beginning, property rights over inventions had been recognized
and respected to the same degree as material property, is it not at least probable
that this benevolent progress would already have been accomplished? Is it not
probable that steam would have already transformed and multiplied agricultural
production as it has transformed and multiplied industrial production? Would
not the result have been an immense advantage to the whole of humanity?
From all this my conclusion is that society would have had, from the start
the very greatest interest in recognizing and respecting [p67] property rights
applied to inventions including the invention of the plough.
So you believe that there will be all the more invention insofar as the property
rights of invention are more extensive and better guaranteed?
Most assuredly I do. It was as late as the eighteenth century that people
began to recognize property rights in invention. So let us compare the discoveries
within a given period before and after that time.
That would seem to argue against your theories because property rights in
invention are not unlimited.
If property rights in a field of wheat after the field had long been in common
ownership, came to be recognized and guaranteed for five, ten or fifteen years
vested in a single individual, would the growth in the production of wheat
prove anything against unlimited property rights?
Probably not…But do not certain things discover themselves, so to speak, all
on their own? There are discoveries which are in the air.
Just as there are harvests which are under the earth. It is a question only
of making them emerge. But rest assured that “chance” does not take care of
this requirement. How did you discover the law of gravity? they asked Newton
one day. “By thinking about it all the time”, replied the man of genius. Watt, Jacquart, Fulton,,
[p68] would probably have given the same reply to a similar question. Chance
invents nothing. It does not open up the realm of intelligence any more than
that of material things. So let us leave chance out of it.
They say that if a discovery were not made today it would be made tomorrow;
but could this hypothesis quite as justly be applied to the clearing of land,
as to new combinations of ideas and to inventions? If the backwoodsmen who
emigrate to the west stayed at home, might one not agree that other backwoodsmen
would go to set themselves up on the same virgin lands before five, ten or
fifteen years? So why therefore don’t we limit the property rights of the former?
Why? Because if we did limit them nobody would wish to lose himself in the
solitude of the west either today or tomorrow. Likewise, believe you me, nobody
would strive to take up the discoveries which are in the air if no one had
a personal interest in so doing.
You forget that glory and the even more noble desire to serve humanity act
no less powerfully than personal interest does on inventors.
Glory and the desire to serve the human race constitute a part of human interest
and are not distinct from it as I have already shown you. But these elevated
motives are not enough. Like writers and artists, inventors are subject to
human weakness. Like them, they are obliged to feed, clothe and house themselves
and usually also to look after a family. If you offer them no other appeal
than glory and the satisfaction of having [p69] served humanity they will be
obliged for the most part to give up pursuing invention as a career. The rich
alone will be able to invent, write, sculpt and paint. Now since rich people
are not very active workers civilization will scarcely advance.
Now then Mr Conservative admit with good grace that you have been beaten.
If you support the perpetuity of material property you cannot but support that
of intellectual property. There are the same right and the same necessities
in both forms (always supposing of course that one recognizes this right and
these necessities). Agree therefore to recognize property rights in invention
as you have recognized the other kinds.
All that may be true in theory but, goodness me, in practice I prefer stay
with the status quo.
If we decide to let you!  
 At this time both Molinari and Bastiat were participating in a rethinking
of the theory of value which challenged the Smithian-Ricardian orthodoxy
of the Economists. Each in their own way wanted to replace the traditional
"objective” amounts of a quantity such as labour which was supposedly
"embedded” in the object being exchanged, with a radically new focus
on the "subjective” assessment or evaluation of the value of an object
by each individual participating in the exchange. Bastiat turned to the idea
of the mutual exchange of "services"; Molinari turned to the idea
of a subjectively determined and changing hierarchy of individual needs and
the gradual reduction of scarcity caused by technological and economic progress.
The definition of value which Molinari gives in the Cours d’économie politique (1855)
is: “Exchange takes place because goods and services have value. Value is
composed of two quite distinct elements - utility and scarcity. Utility is
the property which things possess which satisfy or contribute to satisfying
our needs/wants. Scarcity is a result of the difficulties which must be overcome
in order to make things available in order to satisfy our needs/wants.” (reconstructed
from Cours, vol. 1, pp. 83-84). [See the glossary entry "Molinari and Bastiat
 Molinari is here building upon the work done by J.-B. Say in the Traité
d'Économie politique (1803, 1817) and Cours complet (1828)
and Charles Dunoyer in La Liberté
du travail (1845) on the difference between
"produits matériels” (material or physical products, or goods) and
"produits immatériels” (non-material products, or services). This was
one of Say's most important contributions to economic theory in an attempt
to move beyond the limitations of Smithian orthodoxy which emphasized the
production and exchange of physical goods which were durable and embodied
quantities of labour which gave them value. Say argued that agricultural
and manufactured goods (physical or “material” goods) were not the only source
of wealth and that the activities which produced them were not the only "productive”
economic activities that people could engage in. Furthermore, Say argued
that “non-material” goods (services) like education, creative writing, and
scientific inventions also created wealth and satisfied the needs of consumers
and that the economic activities which produced them were just as productive
as the production of material goods. Molinari was to go much farther than
Say and the other Economists in his exploration of the possibilities of the
market provision of non-material products, such as public goods like water
supply, police services, and even national defense (see Soirée 11). [See,
"Produits immatériels,” DEP,
vol. 2, pp. 450-52, Charles Dunoyer, “Production,” DEP, vol. 2, pp. 439-50, and the glossary entry on “Material and Non-material
 Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (1627-1704) was a French bishop and court priest
to King Louis XIV. Politically, Bossuet was a defender of the theory of
the divine right of kings. He was a noted orator and writer whose sermons
and orations were widely studied as models of French style.
 Blaise Pascal (1623-62) was a French mathematician and philosopher whose
best-known work, Pensées (Thoughts),
appeared posthumously. His Provincial Letters (1656)
was a controversial work which attacked the casuistry of the Jesuit school.
 Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (1622-1673) is better known by his stage name
Molière. He was a brilliant playwright who made a name for himself with
witty comedies which explored the foibles of the French bourgeoisie. He
wrote Le Misanthrope (The
Misanthrope) (1666), L'Avare (The Miser) (1668), Le
Bourgeois Gentilhomme (The Bourgeois Gentleman)
(1670), and Le Malade
imaginaire (The Imaginary Invalid) (1673).
 Molinari wrote the article on “Propriété littéraire”for the DEP, vol. 2 pp. 473-78 in which he gives a brief history of copyright
legislation in France and directs considerable criticism towards Louis
Blanc and the socialists who wished to end the ownership of intellectual
property for good. He concludes optimistically (1852) that “it is therefore
hoped that, although it will no doubt displease M. Louis Blanc and his
school, literary and artistic property will sooner or later be fully recognized
and guaranteed within its natural limits” (p. 478). [See glossary entry
 Louis Wolowski and Émile Levasseur, “Propriété” dans Dictionnaire générale
de la politique par Maurice Block avec la collaboration d’hommes d’état,
de publicistes et d’écrivains de tous les pays (Paris:
O. Lorenz. 1st ed. 1863-64), vol. 2, pp. 682-93. See especially the section "Propriété
littéraire et artistique" pp. 691 ff. where Wolowski talks about the
debate within political economy over intellectual property. On one side
were those like Molinari, Laboulaye, Fr. Passy, Modeste, and Paillottet
who believed in a "complete (and) perpetual" right to intellectual
property and on the other side those like Wolowski, Renouard, de Lavergne,
Foucher, and Dupuit who believed that it should be a limited right of short
duration, that it was a "license" for first use but not an absolute
and eternal property right.
 Under the old regime copyright (droit de copie) existed in perpetuity
but it was enjoyed at the pleasure of the sovereign and not by legal right.
This right was lost if an author granted the copyright to a publisher.
The author then only had copyright until his death, after which the book
entered the public domain. During the Revolution copyright was protected
under the law and it could be transferred without restriction but it was
limited in duration. According to the law of 19 July 1793 copyright was
granted to the author for life and to his/her heirs for 10 years after
their death; the Decree of 5 February 1810 extended the right of heirs
to 20 years. These laws remained in effect up until the mid-19th century,
with only a slight modification with the law of 3 August 1844. [See, Édouard
Romberg, Compte rendu des travaux
du Congrès de la propriété littéraire et artistique. Suivi d'un grand hombre
de documents et d'un Appendice contenant les lois de tous les pays sur
les droits de l'auteur, aver notice historique (Paris:
Guillaumin, 1859), 2 vols. "France. - Notice historique sur la propriété
littéraire,” pp. 161-67; Législation, pp. 168 ff. Alfred Villefort, De la propriété
littéraire et artistique au point de vue international. Aperçu sur les
législations étrangères et sur les traités relatifs à la répression de
la contrefaçon (Paris: De Cosse, 1851). "La
France,” pp. 1-9. Molinari, "Propriété littéraire et artistique,” DEP, vol. 2, pp. 473-78.]
 Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695) was a French writer of Fables and a poet.
In his Fables (1668-1694)
he turned what appeared to be simple children's tales about animals into
witty and insightful stories about the human condition.
 Jean-Baptiste Racine (1639-1699) was a French dramatist who wrote tragedies
based upon ancient Greek themes and stories, such as Alexandre le Grand (1665), Andromaque (1667), Britannicus (1669), Mithridate (1673), Iphigénie (1674),
and Phèdre (1677).
 Molinari sees Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) and Morelly (1717-?)
as precursors of the modern socialist school and the Physiocrats Quesnay
(1694-1774) and Turgot (1727-1781) as precursors of the modern Economists.
[See the glossary entries for these authors.]
 Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, The Complete Works
of M. de Montesquieu (London: T. Evans, 1777),
4 vols. Vol. 1. Chapter: CHAP. XIII.: An Idea of despotic Power. </title/837/71184/1688297>.
 Molinari uses the phrase “Le Temps ne respecte que ce qu’il a fondé”
which may come from Aeschylus (525-456 BC) Prometheus
Bound, Line 981 - variously translated as "Time waxing old can many
a lesson teach", "Time as he grows old teaches all things,”
"Time brings all things to pass.” A French translation from 1795 has
Prometheus say to Mercury "Le temps le lui apprendra: le temps mûrit
tout” (Time will teach him, it ripens (matures) everything). See Théatre
d'Aeschyle, traduit en françois, avec des notes philologiques et deux discours
critiques, ed. La Porte Du Theil (Paris: Imprimerie
de la République, 1795), p. 58. It was a commonly quoted phrase. See also
Michel Chevalier, Lettres
sur l'Amérique du Nord, Volume 2 (Société belge de librairie, 1837), Lettre XXI, p. 15:
"Là aussi se vérifie ce principe, si exact à l'égard de la gloire des
hommes et de la splendeur des Empires, que le temps ne respect que ce qu’il
a fondé” (There as well we see verified this principle which is so true with
regard to the glory of men and the splendour of Empires, that time only respects
that which it has founded).
 René Descartes (1596-1650) was a French philosopher and mathematician
who lived much of his life in the Dutch republic. His best known work is Meditations
on First Philosophy (1641).
 Molinari exaggerates slightly here. Adam Smith published the Wealth
of Nations in 1776. He dealt with many economic
matters in his unpublished Lectures
on Jurisprudence which were given between 1762 and 1766. His book Theory
of Moral Sentiments which addresses many related
themes appeared in 1759. Supposing he spent 5 years researching the book,
one could at best say that Smith "pondered the economic problems of
society” for 25 years. [See, Ian Simpson Ross, The
Life of Adam Smith (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), chapter 11 "The Making of The
Theory of Moral Sentiments,” pp. 157-76.]
 According to figures from the 1848 Budget the French government spent
a total of fr. 18,038,033 on "Science and Letters” controlled by the
Ministry of Public Instruction in 1848. Of this, fr. 584,800 went to the
Institute (to which many Economists belonged), fr. 558,823 went to the
Bibliothéque royal (renamed the Bibliothèque national after the 1848 Revolution),
and fr. 170,233 on other public libraries. [See, the Appendix on the Government
Budgets for 1848 and 1849.]
 The French word is “contrefaçon” which may be translated as “counterfeit”
or as “pirated editions,” “unauthorized editions”, “illegal printing”.
 It is not entirely clear what Molinari has in mind here. A better explanation
is given in his article on "Literary Property” in DEP where he makes the following distinction between restrictions on
literary property which take place through time and those that take place
through geographical space. Time limits placed by legislation on the length
of copyright ownership vary from country to country so that countries with
longer periods of exclusive authorial rights (like England (42 years plus
7) and Prussia (life plus 30 years)) are at an advantage compared to countries
with a more limited period (like France (life plus 20) and Belgium (French
law applied after 1817). Copyright is also limited across geographical
space when a state allows counterfeiting within its borders of books which
originate in other countries. Molinari denounced this as "international
communism” which was only slowly being reduced as states like Prussia and
England (1838) began to introduce reciprocal recognition of international
copyright. [See, “Propriété littéraire”for the I, vol. 2 pp. 473-78, especially
 Up until this point Molinari has been talking about "propriété littéraire”
(literary property), "propriété artistique” (artistic property), and "droit
de copie” (copyright). Here he uses the more general term of "propriété
intellectuelle” (intellectual property) which would also include the following, "marques
de fabrique” (trade marks) and
"brevets d’invention” (patents).
 Gustave Louis Chaix d'Est-Ange (1800-1876) was a lawyer and politician.
He took on a number of high profile trials during the July Monarchy (1830-1848)
often in defense of liberal causes. During the July Monarchy he was elected
a member of the Chamber of Deputies and during the Second Empire he served
in the Council of State and then the Senate.
 Here Molinari uses the same term, “la propriété artistique” (artistic
property), for both works of art (like paintings and statues) and industrial
creations (like industrial designs and technical drawings) which is confusing.
When he is referring to industrial property we will use the term “designer”
or “craftsman” instead of “artist”.
 Renouard provides an outline of the government's discussions in the Chamber
between April 1845 and July 1847 when an official Report on "marques
de fabrique” (brands or trade marks) by M. Drouyn de Lhoys was tabled.
Before the official report was tabled the government seemed to favor a
free market solution whereby producers and merchants would use a voluntary
system for establishing and enforcing trade marks ("la marque facultative")
but the official Report came down in favor of a government funded and policed
system of "la marque obligatoire” (compulsory trade marks and brands).
Renouard thought this was a serious setback for the freedom of consumers
to decide for themselves and would prove be a heavy burden on taxpayers.
[See, Augustin Charles Renouard, "Marques de fabrique,” DEP, vol. 2, pp. 135-43; Augustin Charles Renouard, Du droit
industriel dans ses rapports avec les principes du droit civil sur les
personnes et sur les choses (Paris: Guillaumin,
1860), Livre Troisième "Du domaine privilégié” (On Privileged Property),
"Marques de fabrique et de commerce", pp. 370-405. The government
Report of 1847: Chambre
des Députés. Séance du 15 juillet 1847 Rapport fait au nom de la commission
chargée de l'examen du projet de loi sur les marques de fabrique et de commerce, par
M. Edouard Drouyn de Lhuys (Chambre des députés (1847).
 Charles Coquelin strenuously objects to Molinari's view that inventors
should have their inventions ("brevets d'invention” or patents) protected
forever as perpetual property rights. He describes Molinari and Jobard
as "zealous partisans” of this view which is nothing but "puerile
eccentricities". Coquelin argues that inventions are not a right of
property but rather "a right of priority” which the state recognized
but only for a limited period of time. Under the old regime inventors had
no rights under French law until the Revolution introduced the Law of 7
January 1791 sponsored by de Bouffiers who took a very favorable view of
the property rights of inventors. The Law of 5 July 1844 defined what could
and could be protected by patents. The former were new industrial products
and new methods of producing industrial products. What were not protected
by government patent were pharmaceutical products and financial and credit
instruments, in order to prevent the practice of "charlatanism” in
these industries. [See, Charles Coquelin, "Brevets d'invention,” DEP, vol. 1, pp. 209-23; Augustin-Charles Renouard, Traité
des brevets d'invention. Édition entièrement nouvelle (Paris:
Guillaumin, 1844. 1st ed. 1825).
 See footnote ??? in Soirée 3 on Charles Comte theory of the original
and just acquisition of land. [See, Charles Comte, Traité de la Propriété, 2
vols. (Paris: Chamerot, 1834), vol. 1, chap. X "De la conversion du
territoire national en propriétés privées,” pp. 139-61.]
 Adam Smith has a classic statement on how the division of labour and
the use of machines increase the productivity of workers such as the ploughman.
He notes that specializing in one task, such as ploughing, concentrates
the mind and encourages the invention of new devices or improvements in
"Every body must be sensible how much labour is abridged and facilitated
by the application of proper machinery. By means of the plough two men, with
the assistance of three horses, will cultivate more ground than twenty could
do with the spade… It was the division of labour which probably gave
occasion to the invention of the greater part of those machines, by which
labour is so much facilitated and abridged. When the whole force of the mind
is directed to one particular object, as in consequence of the division of
labour it must be, the mind is more likely to discover the easiest methods
of attaining that object than when its attention is dissipated among a great
variety of things. He was probably a farmer who first invented the original,
rude form of the plough. The improvements which were afterwards made upon
it might be owing sometimes to the ingenuity of the plow wright when that
business had become a particular occupation, and sometimes to that of the
farmer. Scarce any of them are so complex as to exceed what might be expected
from the capacity of the latter. The drill plow, the most ingenious of any,
was the invention of a farmer.” [See, Adam Smith, Lectures On Jurisprudence,
ed. R.. L. Meek, D. D. Raphael and P. G. Stein, vol. V of the Glasgow
Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith (Indianapolis:
Liberty Fund, 1982). Chapter 2.: Of the nature and causes of public opulence. </title/196/55656/920810>.
Smith has a less complimentary comment about ploughmen in the Wealth
of Nations [See, Adam Smith, An Inquiry Into the
Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Vol. I ed. R. H. Campbell and A. S. Skinner, vol. II of the Glasgow
Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith (Indianapolis:
Liberty Fund, 1981). Chapter: [I.x.c] part ii: Inequalities occasioned by
the Policy of Europe. </title/220/217407/2313107>.]
 James Watt (1736-1819) was a Scottish engineer whose innovations and
improvements in the technology of steam engines was a major contributing
factor in the spread of the industrial revolution in Britain.
 Joseph Marie Jacquard (1752-1834) was a French inventor who developed
the first programmable loom for weaving complex patterns (the so-called
 Robert Fulton (1765-1815) was an American engineer and inventor who was
involved in developing the first commercially successful steamboat.
 Molinari uses the English word “Backwoodsmen”.
- Intellectual property, as regrettably misunderstood as it is by today’s
property owners, found a witty and dedicated defender in Mr. Jobard, Director
of the Brusselles Museum. In Paris, a distinguished novelist, Mr. Hippolyte
Castille, founded a journal in 1847 in order to defend the cause which
is of interest to so many workers. Unfortunately, Mr. Castille’s enterprise
did not achieve the success that it so well deserved. After a few months
the journal Travail
intellectuel (Intellectual Work or Labor) ceased
appearing. I have limited myself here to summarizing several articles I
published in this journal edited by one of the most dedicated defenders
of intellectual property.
 Hippolyte Castille (1820-1886) was a prolific French author who wrote
popular works on the History
of the Second French Republic (4 vols. 1854-56) and a multi-volume series of Portraits
politiques au dix-neuvième siècle (1857-1862) which
included several small volumes on classical liberal figures such as Mme
de Staël, Benjamin Constant, Béranger, Lafayette, Garibaldi, Cavour, Mazzini,
as well as many other individuals. He founded in 1847 a short-lived journal
devoted to the recognition of intellectual property, Le travail intellectuel,
for which Molinari wrote a number of articles. Molinari is mentioned as
a “collaborator”and other leading economists were listed as “supporters”
(Frédéric Bastiat, Charles Dunoyer, Horace Say, Michel Chevalier, Joseph
Garnier). [See the glossary entry on “Castille.”]
 Marcellin Jobard (1792-1861) was a Belgian lithographer, photographer,
and inventor. From 1841 to 1861 he was the director of the Royal Belgian
Museum of Industry in Brussels. He was a prolific inventor (with 75 patents)
and took up the cause of defending the property rights of inventors. He
wrote dozens of pamphlets expressing his views in a very idiosyncratic
manner. Molinari was sympathetic to his position in favour of absolute
property rights in literary and artistic material but objected to his critique
of economic liberty in the broader sense. [See the glossary entry on “Jobard.”]