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 : Attitudes to the problem of society. – That
society is governed by natural, immutable and absolute laws. – That
property is the foundation of the natural organization of society. – Property
Listing the attacks mounted today on the principle of property.]
Title Page of the original 1849 edition
The photo of Molinari (1819-1912) which accompanied
his obituary in the Journal des économistes
Related Links in the Library:
Related Links in the Forum:
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.
Saint Lazarus Street: The First Evening
A conservative.- A socialist.- An economist.
SUMMARY : Attitudes to the problem of society. – That society
is governed by natural, immutable and absolute laws. – That property
is the foundation of the natural organization of society. – Property
Listing the attacks mounted today on the principle of property.
Let us debate among ourselves, calmly, the formidable problems thrown up in
these last few years. You [the Socialist], who wage a bitter war against present
institutions, and you [the Conservative], who defend them with certain reservations,
what are you actually seeking?
We want to reconstruct society.
We want to reform it.
Oh you dreamers, my good friends, I would ask for nothing better [p. 6] myself,
were it possible. But you are chasing chimeras.
What? To want the reign of force and cunning to yield to that of justice;
to wish that the poor were no longer exploited by the rich; to want everyone
rewarded according to his labor – is all this to pursue a chimera, then?
This ideal, which all the Utopians have
put forward since the world began, unfortunately cannot be realized on this
earth. It is not given to men to attain it.
I believe quite the opposite. We have lived till now in a corrupt and imperfect
society. Why should we not be permitted to change it? As Louis Blanc said, if society is badly
constructed, can we not rebuild it? Are the laws on which this society rests,
a society gangrenous to the very marrow of its bones, eternal and unchangeable?
We have endured them thus far. Are we condemned to do so forever?
God has willed it thus.
Beware of taking God’s name in vain. Are
you sure that the ills of society really stem from the laws on which society
[p. 7] Where then do they come from?
Could it not be that these ills have their origin in the attacks made on the
fundamental laws of society?
A likely story that such laws exist!
There are economic laws which govern society just as there are physical laws
which govern the material world. Utility and Justice are the essence of these
laws. This means that by observing them absolutely, we are sure to act usefully
and fairly for ourselves and for others.
Are you not exaggerating a little? Are there really principles at work in
the economic and moral sciences, ones absolutely applicable in all ages and
places? I have never believed, I am bound to say, in absolute principles.
What principles do you believe in, then?
My goodness, I believe, along with all the other men who have looked closely
at the things of this world, that the laws of justice and the rules of utility
are essentially shifting and variable. I believe, accordingly, that we cannot
base any universal and absolute system on these laws. M. Joseph de Maistre  was wont to say:
everywhere I have seen men, but nowhere have I seen Man. Well,
I believe that one can say likewise, that there are societies, having particular
laws, appropriate to [p. 8] their nature, but that there is no Society governed
by general laws.
Perhaps so, but we want to establish this unitary and universal society.
I still believe with M. de Maistre that the laws spring from circumstances,
and have nothing fixed about them…Do you not know that a law considered just
in one society, is often regard as iniquitous in another? Theft was permitted
in certain conditions in Sparta; polygamy is allowed in the Orient and castration
tolerated too. Would you say, therefore, that the Spartans were shameless thieves
and that Asians are despicable debaucherers? No! If you consider things rationally,
you will conclude that the Spartans in permitting theft, were obeying particular
exigencies of their situation, while Asians, in authorizing polygamy and tolerating
castration, are subject to the influence of their climate. Read Montesquieu
will persuade you that moral law does not take the same form in all places
and at all times. You will agree with him that justice has nothing absolute
about it. Truth this side of the Pyrenees, error the other side, said Pascal.
Read Pascal again!
What is true of the just is no less true of the useful. You speak of the laws
of utility as if they were universal and permanent. Your error is truly profound!
Do you not know that economic laws have varied, and vary still, endlessly,
as do moral laws?...Will your counter-argument be that nations fail to recognize
their [p. 9] true interests when they adopt diverse and flexible economic legislation?
You have against you, however, centuries of experience. Is it not proven, for
example, that England owed her wealth to protectionism? Was it not Cromwell’s
famous Navigation Act which was the starting point for her maritime and colonial
greatness? She has recently abandoned this protectionism, however. Why? Because
it has ceased to be useful to her, because it would spell her ruin after having
made her rich. A century ago free trade would have been fatal to England; today
it gives a new lease of life to English commerce. That is how much circumstances
In the domain of the Just and the Useful, all is mobility and diversity. To
believe as you seem to do, in the existence of absolute principles, is to go
astray lamentably, to misunderstand the very conditions for the existence of
So you think that there are no absolute principles, either in morality or
in political economy; you think everything is shifting, variable and diverse
in the sphere of the Just and in the sphere of the Useful; you think that Justice
and Utility depend on place, time and circumstance. Well, the Socialists have
the same opinion as you. What do they say? They say that new laws are needed
for new times. That the time has come to change the old moral and economic
laws which govern human societies.
Why? Until now you have governed the world. Why should it not be our turn
to govern it? Are you made of superior stuff to us? Or can you really affirm
that no one is more fit than you to govern men? We put it to the vote of everyone.
Ask the opinion of the wretched souls who languish at the bottom of society,
ask whether they are satisfied with the fate which your lawmakers have left
them. Ask them if they think they have obtained a fair share of the world’s
goods. As to your laws, if you had not framed them according to the selfish
interests of your class, would your class be the only one to prosper? So, what
would be criminal about our establishing laws which advantaged everybody equally?
You accuse us of attacking the eternal and unchanging principles on which
society rests: religion, family and property. On your own admission, however,
there are no eternal and unchanging principles.
Perhaps you might cite property, but in the eyes of your jurists, what is
property in fact? It is a purely human institution which men have founded and
decreed and which they are consequently in a position to abolish. Have they
not, moreover, incessantly recast it? Does property today resemble ancient
Egyptian or Roman property or even that of the Middle Ages? The appropriation
and exploitation of man by man used to be accepted. You no longer accept this
today, or anyway not in law. In most ancient societies the ownership of land
was reserved to the State; you have rendered landed property accessible to
everyone. [p. 11] You have, on the other hand, refused to give full recognition
to certain kinds of property; you have denied the inventor the absolute title
to his invention, and to the man of letters the absolute ownership of his writings.
You also came to understand that society had to be protected against the excesses
of individual ownership of property and for the general good you passed the
law of expropriation.
Well, what are we doing now? We are limiting property a bit more; we are subjecting
it to more numerous restrictions, and to heavier burdens, in the public interest.
So are we so guilty? Was it not you who marked out the direction we now follow?
As to the family, you admit that it has legitimately been able to assume in
other eras and other countries, a different organization from that which prevails
today with us. Why then, should we be forbidden to modify it again? Cannot
man unmake everything he has made?
Then there is religion! Have not your lawmakers, however, always arranged
it as they saw fit? Did they not begin by authorizing the Catholic religion
to the exclusion of the others? Did they not finish by permitting all faiths
and by funding some of them? If they were able to regulate the manifestation
of religious feeling, why should it be forbidden to us to regulate it in our
Property, family, religion – you are soft wax which so many lawmakers
have marked with their successive imprints
– why should we not mark you also with ours? Why should we abstain from
touching things which others have so often touched? Why should we respect relics
[p. 12] whose guardians themselves have felt no scruple in profaning?
The reproof is deserved. You Conservatives, who admit no absolute, pre-existing
and eternal principle in morality, any more than in political economy, no principle
equally applicable to all eras and places, look where your doctrines lead!
People throw them back at you. After having heard your moralists and your jurists
deny the eternal laws of the just and the useful, only to put in their place
this or that fleeting expedient, adventurous and committed minds, substituting
their ideas for yours, wish to rule the world after you and differently from
you. And if you conservatives are right, when you insist that no fixed and
absolute rule governs the moral and material arrangement of human affairs,
can one condemn these reorganizers of society? The human mind is not infallible.
Your lawmakers were perhaps wrong. Why should it not be given to other lawmakers
to do better?
When Fourier, drunk
with pride, said: All the legislators before me were wrong, and their books
are fit only to be burned, might he not, according to your own judgment, have
been right? If the laws of the Just and the Useful come from men, and if it
falls to men to modify them according to time, place and circumstance, was
not Fourier justified in saying, with his eyes on history, that long martyrology
of the nations, that the social legislation of the Ancients had been conceived
within a false system and that the organization of a new social state was called
for? In your insistence that no absolute and superhuman principle governs [p.
13] societies, have you not opened the floodgates to the Utopian torrent? Have
you not authorized the firstcomer to refashion these societies you claim to
have made? Does not socialism flow from your own doctrines?
What can we do about it? We are well aware, please believe me, of the chink
in our armor. Therefore we have never denied socialism absolutely. What words
do we use, for the most part, for socialists? We tell them: between you and
us the difference is only a matter of time. You are wrong today, but perhaps
in three hundred years, you will be right. Just wait!
And if we do not want to wait?
In that case, so much the worse for you! Since without prejudice to the future
of your theories, we regard them as immoral and subversive for the present,
we will hound them to our utmost ability. We will cut them down as the scythe
cuts down tares…We
will dispatch you to our prisons and to penal servitude, there to attack the
present institutions of religion, family and property.
So much the better. We rely on persecution to advance our doctrines. The finest
platform one can give to an idea is the scaffold or the stake. Fine us, imprison
us, deport us… we ask nothing better. If you could reestablish the Inquisition
against socialists we would be assured of the triumph of our cause.
We are still in a position not to need this extreme remedy. The Majority and
Power are on our side.
Until the Majority and Power turn in our direction.
Oh I am quite aware that the danger is immense; still we will resist until
And you will lose the contest. You conservatives are powerless to conserve
That is a very categorical statement.
We will see if it is well-founded or not. If you do not believe in absolute
principles, you must – is it not the case? – consider nations as
artificial aggregations, successively constituted and perfected by the hand
of man. These aggregations may have similar principles and interests, but they
can also have opposing principles and interests. That which is just for one,
may not be just for the other. What is useful for this one, may be harmful
to that one. What is the necessary result, however, of this antagonism in principles
and interests? War. If it be true that the world is not governed by universal
and permanent laws, if it is true that each nation has principles and interests
which are special to it, interests and principles essentially variable according
to circumstances and the [p. 15] times, is war not in the nature of things?
Obviously we have never dreamed the dream of perpetual peace like the noble
Abbé de Saint-Pierre. M.
Joseph de Maistre has anyway shown beyond doubt that war is inevitable and
You admit then, and in effect you cannot not admit, that the world is eternally
condemned to war?
War occurred in the past, we have it in the present, so why should it cease
to be in the future?
Yes, but in the past in all societies the vast majority of the population
were slaves or serfs. Well,
slaves and serfs did not read newspapers or frequent political clubs and knew
nothing of socialism. Take the serfs of Russia! Are they not such stuff as
despotism can mould at will? Does it not make of them, just as it pleases,
mere drudges or cannon-fodder?
Yet it is clear that there was good in serfdom.
Unfortunately, there is no longer any way of reestablishing it among us. There
are no longer slaves nor serfs. There are the needy masses to whom you cannot
deny the free exchange of thought, to whom indeed you are constantly requested
all the time to make [p. 16] the realm of general knowledge more accessible.
Would you prevent these masses, who are today sovereign, from drinking from
the poisoned well of socialist writings? Would you prevent their listening
to the dreamers who tell them that a society where the masses work hard and
earn little, while above them lives a class of men who earn a lot while working
very little, is a flawed society and one in need of change? No! You can proscribe
socialist theories as much as you like, but you will not stop their being produced
and propagating themselves. The press will defy your prohibitions.
Ah, the press, that monumental poisoner. 
You can muzzle it and proscribe it for all you are worth. You will never be
done with slaying it. It is a Hydra whose millions of heads would defeat even
the strength of Hercules.
If we had a decent absolute monarchy…
The press would kill an absolute monarchy just as it killed the constitutional
monarchy, and failing the press, books, pamphlets and conversation would do
Today, to speak only of the press, that powerful catapult is no longer directed
solely against the government, but against society too.
Yes, for some years the press has been on the march, thank God!
Once it stirred up revolutions in order to change [p. 17] the type of government;
it stirs them up today to change society itself. Why should it not succeed
with this plan as it did with the other? If nations were fully guaranteed against
foreign conflicts, perhaps we could succeed in bringing to heel for good the
violent and anarchic factions which operate domestically. You yourself agree,
however, that foreign war is inevitable, since principles and interests are
changeable and diverse and no one can claim in response that war, harmful today
to certain countries, will not be useful to them tomorrow. Well, if you have
no faith in anything save sheer Force to put socialism down, how are you going
to succeed in containing it, when you are obliged to concentrate that Force,
your final resort, on the foreign enemy? If war is inevitable, is not the coming
of revolutionary socialism inevitable too?
That, alas, is what I am truly afraid of. This is why I have always thought
of society as marching briskly towards its ruin. We are the Byzantine Greeks
and the barbarians are at the gates.
Is that the position you have reached? You despair of the fate of civilization
and you watch the rise of barbarism, waiting for that final moment when it
comes pouring over your battlements. You really are so many Byzantine Greeks...
Well if that is how it is, let the barbarians in. Better still, go out to meet
them and hand the keys to the sacred city over to them, humbly. Perhaps you
will succeed in assuaging their fury. [p. 18] Beware, however, of redoubling
and pointlessly prolonging your resistance. Does not history record that Constantinople
was sacked and that the Bosphorus was full of blood and corpses for four days? You Greeks of the
new Byzantium, be fearful of the fate of your ancestors and please spare us
the agony of a hopeless resistance and the horrors of being taken by storm.
If Byzantium cannot be saved, make speed to hand it over.
So are you acknowledging that the future belongs to us?
God forbid! I do think, however, that your enemies are wrong to resist you
if they have despaired of defeating you, and I imagine that in not attaching
themselves to any fixed and immutable principle, they have ceased to expect
to be victorious. They are conservatives but they are powerless to conserve
society. So there you have everything I wanted to demonstrate. Now, however,
I will tell you other organizers, that you too would be powerless to organize
it. You could take Byzantium and sack it; but you would not be able to govern
What do you know about it? Have we not ten organizations for your one?
You have just put your finger on it. Which socialist sect do you belong to?
Please tell me. Are you a Saint-Simonian?
No? Saint-Simonianism is old hat. To begin with, it was an aspiration rather
than a program… And the disciples have ruined the aspiration without finding
Are you a Phalansterian? 
It’s an attractive idea but the morality of Fourierism is quite shocking.
Are you a Cabetist?
Cabet is a brilliant mind but uncultured. He
understands nothing, for example, about art. Imagine if you will, the people
in Icaria painting statues. The faces of Curtius - that is the ideal of Icarian
art. What a barbarian!
Are you a follower of Proudhon?
Proudhon, is he not a fine destroyer for you? How well he demolishes things!
Up to now however all he has managed to set up is his exchange bank and that
is not enough.
So, not Saint-Simon, not Fouriér, nor Cabét, nor Proudhon. So what are you
I am a socialist.
Tell us more though. To what type of socialism do you subscribe?
To my own. I am convinced that the great problem of the organization of labour
has not yet been resolved. We have cleared the ground, we have laid the foundations,
but we have not built the structure. Why should I not seek like [p. 20] anyone
else to build it? Am I not driven by the pure love of humanity? Have I not
studied science and meditated for a long time on the problem? And I think I
can say that…well not yet actually…there are certain points which are not completely
clear ( pointing to his forehead) but the idea is there…and you will see it
This is to say that you too are looking for your version of the organization
of labor. You are an independent socialist. You have your own particular bible.
In fact, why not? Why should you not receive like anyone else the spirit of
the Lord? Then again, why should it not come to others as much as to you? So
we have lots of different approaches to the organization of labor.
So much the better. The people will be able to choose.
Right by a majority vote. But what will the minority do?
It will give into the majority.
And if it resists? I admit of course that it will submit willingly or by force.
I admit that the organization favored by the majority of voters will be installed.
What will happen if someone –
you, me or someone else- discovers a superior arrangement?
That is not probable.
On the contrary, it is very probable. Do you not believe in the dogma of indefinite
Most certainly. I believe that humanity will cease to progress only if it
ceases to exist.
Well, whence comes the progress of humanity in the main? If one is to believe
your learned men, it is society which makes man. When social organization is
bad, man either stagnates or retrogresses. When it is good, man grows and progresses…
What could be more true?
Could there be anything more desirable in the world, then, than securing the
progress of our organization of society? If this is to happen, what will the
constant preoccupation of the friends of humanity have to be? Will it not be
to invent and plan more and more perfect organizations?
Yes, probably. What do you see as wrong about that?
In my view this means permanent anarchy. A way of organizing society has just
been set up and it functions, more or less well or badly, because it is not
Does not the doctrine of indefinite perfectibility exclude perfection? What
is more I have just cited you half a dozen versions of socialism and you were
not satisfied with any of them.
That proves nothing against the ones which will appear later. And so I have
the strong conviction that the one I favor…
Fourier worked out his perfect arrangements and yet you do not want them.
Likewise you will run up against people who do not like yours. Some sort of
system is in operation, whether good or bad. Most people like it, but a minority
do not. From this springs conflict and struggle. Take note, moreover, that
future arrangements possess an enormous advantage over present ones. People
have not yet noticed their shortcomings. In all probability the new system
will carry the day… until such time as it too is replaced by a third system.
But do you really believe that a society can change its arrangements on a daily
basis, without danger? Look what an appalling crisis a simple change of government
has entailed for us. What
would it be like with a with a change in the whole of society?
The mere thought of it makes me shiver. What a frightful mess! Well, is that
not the spirit of innovation for you?
Try as you might, you will not stop it. The spirit of innovation is a fact.
To the world’s misfortune.
Not so. Without the spirit of innovation, men would still be eating acorns
or [p. 23] or nibbling grass. Without the spirit of innovation, you would be
an uncouth savage, dwelling under the trees, rather than a worthy man of property
with a dwelling place in town and another in the country, well fed, well-clad
Why has not the spirit of innovation stayed within its proper limits?
The spirit of innovation in man has no limits and will perish only when man
himself perishes. It will modify perpetually everything men have set up, and
if, as you assert, the laws which regulate human societies are of human origin,
the spirit of innovation will not be checked in the face of these laws. It
will modify them, change them and overthrow them for as long as the human sojourn
on earth continues. The world is given to incessant revolutions, to endless
Unless, in fact, there are absolute principles, unless the laws which govern
the moral and economic world, are pre-established laws like those which govern
the physical world. If it were thus, if societies had been set up by the hand
of Providence, would one not have to take pity on the pygmy, swollen with pride,
who tried to substitute his work for that of the Creator? Would it not be just
as puerile [p. 24] to want to change the foundations on which society rests
as to change the orbit of the earth?
Without any doubt. Do they exist, though, these laws of Providence, and even
supposing they do, are Justice and Utility among their key features?
That is grossly impious. If God has organized the various societies Himself,
if He made the laws which regulate them, it is obvious that these laws are
in their essence just and useful and that the sufferings of mankind flow from
our not observing them.
Well said, but are you not in your turn obliged to admit that these laws are
irreversible and unchangeable?
Well, why do you not reply then? Are you unaware, therefore, that nature proceeds
only by universal and unchangeable laws? I also ask whether nature could proceed
otherwise. If natural laws were partial, would they not come into conflict
with each other constantly? If they were variable, would they not leave the
world exposed to endless disruption? I can no more conceive that a natural
law might not be universal and unchanging than you can conceive that a law
emanating from God might not have Justice and Utility at its core. The only
thing is, I doubt whether God was involved in the organization of human societies.
Do you know why I am skeptical about this? Because your societies have detestable
arrangements, because the history of humanity until now has been no more [p.
25] than a deplorable, hideous tale of crime and poverty. To attribute to God
Himself the arrangements of these societies, vile and poverty-stricken as they
are – would this not be to hold Him responsible for evil? Would this
not be to justify the reproaches of those who accuse Him of injustice and cruelty?
May I be permitted to suggest that from the fact that these providential laws
exist, it does not necessarily follow that mankind must prosper? Men are not
mere bodies, lacking life and will, like the spheres one sees moving in an
eternal order under the governance of physical laws. Men are active and free
beings; they can obey or not obey the laws that God has given them. The only
thing is, when they do not follow them they are rendered criminal and wretched.
If it were indeed thus, they would always obey them.
Yes, if they were familiar with them, and being thus familiar, knew that non-compliance
with these laws must inevitably do them harm. That, however, is precisely what
they do not know.
So are you asserting that all the ills of humanity have their origin in the
non-observation of the moral and economic laws which govern society?
I am saying that if humanity had always obeyed these laws, the sum total of
our ills would likewise always have been the smallest conceivable. Does that
answer you sufficiently?
Absolutely. I would very much like to know, however, precisely what these
miraculous laws are.
The fundamental law on which rests all social organization, and from which
flow all the other laws, is PROPERTY.
Property? Come off it! Surely it is precisely property from which flow all
the evils of humankind.
I assert the contrary. I assert that the wretchedness and the iniquities from
which men have never ceased to suffer, do not come from property. I maintain
that they come from transgressions, by individuals or society itself, temporary
or permanent ones, legal or illegal, committed against the principle of property.
I am saying that had property been faithfully respected from the beginning
of the world, humanity would continually have enjoyed, in every era, the maximum
welfare consistent with the degree of advancement of the arts and sciences,
along with complete justice.
What a lot of assertions! And it would seem that you are in a position to
substantiate your claims.
I would think so.
All right, so substantiate them then!
I ask nothing better.
First of all, please be so good as to define “property”.
I will do better than that; I will start by defining man himself, at least
from the economic point of view.
Man is a combination of physical, moral and intellectual powers. These various
powers need to be constantly exercised, constantly restored by the acquisition
of other similar powers. When they are not so restored, they perish. This is
as true of intellectual and moral powers as it is of physical ones.
Man is thus perpetually obliged to assimilate new powers. How is he made aware
of this need? By pain and sorrow. Any loss of powers is painful. Any acquisition
of powers, any achievement is accompanied, on the other hand, by enjoyment.
Driven by this double spur, man takes care endlessly to exercise or augment
the set of physical, intellectual and moral powers which constitute his being.
This is the reason for his activity.
When this activity occurs, when man acts with
a view to repairing or increasing his powers, we say that he is working. If
the elements from which man extracts the potential advantages he assimilates,
were always within his reach, and nature had prepared them for his use, his
work would be reduced to a negligible level. That, however, [p. 28] is not
how things are. Nature has not done everything for man; she has left him much
to do. She supplies him liberally with the raw material for all the things
he needs to perfect himself, but she obliges him to give a host of diverse
forms to this raw material in order to make it usable for him.
The preparation of things necessary to consumption is called production.
How is production effected? By the action of the powers or faculties of man
on the elements with which nature supplies him.
Before he can consume, man is therefore obliged to produce. All production
implying some expenditure of powers, also implies pain and effort. One undergoes
this effort and suffers this pain with a view to gaining some enjoyment, or,
and this comes to the same thing, sparing oneself some worse suffering. One
gains this pleasure or avoids this suffering by means of consumption. To produce
and consume, to endure and enjoy, that is human life in a nutshell.
Are you so bold as to say that in your view Pleasure ought to be the sole
purpose man should aim at on this earth?
Do not forget that this involves moral and intellectual enjoyment as well
as the physical kind. Do not forget that man is a physical, moral and intellectual
being. The whole question is: will he develop in these three respects or will
he degenerate? If he neglects his moral and intellectual needs entirely, in
favor of his physical appetites, he will degenerate morally and [p. 29] intellectually.
If he neglects his physical needs so as to increase his intellectual and moral
ones, he will degenerate physically. In both eventualities he will suffer in
the one direction, while enjoying himself to excess in the other. Wisdom consists
in maintaining the balance between the faculties with which one has been endowed,
or in producing such a balance when it does not exist. Political economy, however,
does not have to concern itself, or not directly anyway, with this inner ordering
of our human faculties. Political economy is concerned only with the general
laws governing the production and consumption of wealth. The way in which each
individual should deploy the restorative powers of his being, concerns morality.
To suffer as little as possible, physically, morally and intellectually, and
to enjoy as much as possible, from this triple point of view – this is
what constitutes, in the final analysis, the great motivating principle in
human life, the pivot around which all our lives move. This motive or pivot
is known as self-interest.
You regard self-interest as the sole motive of human action and you say that
it consists in sparing oneself pain and obtaining gratification. But is there
not any more noble motive to which one might appeal? Might one not find the
more elevated stimulus of the love of humanity more exciting than the ignoble
lure of personal pleasure? Instead of yielding to self-interest, might one
not obey the imperative of self-sacrifice?
Self-sacrifice is no more than one of the constituent parts of self-interest.
What does that mean? Are you forgetting that devotion implies sacrifice and
that sacrifice involves suffering?
Yes, sacrifice and suffering on one side, but satisfaction and enjoyment on
another. When one sacrifices oneself for one’s neighbor, one condemns oneself,
usually at least, to some material privation, but one experiences in exchange,
moral satisfaction. If the effort involved outweighed the satisfaction derived
from it, one would not sacrifice oneself for someone else.
What about the martyrs?
The martyrs themselves could supply me with witnesses in support of my case.
In them, the moral sentiments of religion outweighed the physical instinct
of self-preservation. In exchange for their bodily suffering they experienced
moral pleasure of a more intense kind. When one is not armed to a high degree
with religious feeling, one does not expose oneself, at least not willingly,
to martyrdom. Why is this? It is because moral satisfaction derived is weak
and one finds it too dearly purchased in terms of physical suffering.
But if that is the way of it, the men in whom physical appetite predominates,
will always sacrifice the satisfaction of their more lofty aspirations, to
that of their [p. 31] lower ones. Their interest will always be to wallow in
This would be so if human existence were limited to this earth. The individuals
in whom physical appetites predominate would, in such a case, have no interest
in repressing them. Man is not, however, or does not believe himself to be,
a creature of a mere day. He has faith in a future life and strives to perfect
himself, in order to ascend to a better world rather than descend to a worse
one. If he foregoes certain pleasures in this life, it is in order to acquire
superior ones in another life.
If he has no faith in these future satisfactions, or reckons them inferior
to those present satisfactions which religion and morality command him to give
up in order to obtain them, he will not agree to this sacrifice.
Whether the satisfaction is present or future, however, whether it is located
in this world or another, it is always the end which man selects for himself,
the constant and unchanging motive behind his actions.
When it is elaborated like this, one can, I think, accept self-interest as
the sole motive of man’s actions.
Driven by his own self-interest, as he sees it, man acts and works. It is
the role of religion and morality to teach him how best to invest his effort…
Man therefore strives incessantly to reduce the sum of his sorrows and increase
that of his joys. How can he achieve this double outcome? By [p. 32] obtaining,
in exchange for less work, more things suitable for consumption, or, which
comes to the same thing, by perfecting his labor.
How can man perfect his labor? How can he obtain a maximum of satisfaction
in exchange for a minimum of effort?
He can do it by managing efficiently the powers he possesses, by carrying
out the work which best suits his abilities and by accomplishing the task in
the best possible way.
Now experience proves that this result can be secured only through the most
perfect division of labor.
Men’s best interests naturally lie therefore in the division of labor. The
division of labor, however, implies a bringing-together of individuals, societies
If men remain isolated, if they satisfy all their needs individually, they
will expend the maximum effort to obtain a minimum of satisfaction.
Even so, this interest which men have in uniting, with a view to reducing
their labor and increasing their economic satisfaction, would perhaps not have
been sufficient to bring them together, had they not been first of all drawn
to each other by the natural stimulus of certain needs which cannot be met
in isolation, plus the need to defend –
what shall we call it? – their property.
What? Are you saying property exists in isolation? According to those learned
in law, it is society which institutes it.
If society institutes it, then society can abolish it too, a consideration
which would make the Socialists who demand its abolition less egregiously guilty.
Society did not, however, institute property, it being rather the case that
property instituted society.
What is property?
Property derives from a natural instinct with which the whole human species
is endowed. This instinct reveals to man, prior to any reflection, that he
is master of his own person and may use as he chooses all the potential attributes
constituting his person, whether they remain part of him, or he has in fact
Alienated? What does this mean?
Man has to produce if he wants to consume. In producing he expends, separates
from himself, a certain part of his physical, moral and intellectual powers.
Products contain the effort expended by those who made them. Man does not cease
to own, however, these efforts he has alienated from himself under the pressure
of necessity. Human understanding is not deceived and will condemn, without
distinction, attacks made on internal and external property.
When man is denied the right to own the [p. 34] part of his powers which he
alienates from himself when he is working, when the right to dispose of it
is allocated to others, what happens? That alienation, that using up of his
powers, implies some degree of pain, and the man thus ceases working unless
someone forces him to.
To abolish the rights of man to the ownership of the fruits of his labor,
is to prevent the creation of the products concerned.
To seize control of a part of these products is likewise to discourage their
creation; it is to slow down man’s activity by weakening the motive impelling
him to act.
In the same way, to threaten internal property; to oblige an active and free
being to undertake work he would not personally undertake, or to bar him from
[p. 35] certain branches of work, that is to deflect his faculties away from
the use he would naturally select, is to diminish that man’s productive power.
Any assault on property, internal or external, alienated or not, is contrary
to Utility as well as to Justice.
How comes it, then, that assaults have been made against property, in every
period of history?
Given that any work entails an expenditure of effort, and any expenditure
of effort a degree of pain, some men have wished to spare themselves the latter,
whilst arrogating to themselves the satisfaction it procures. They have consequently
made a speciality of stealing the fruits of other men’s labor, either by [p.
36] depriving them of their external property, or reducing them to slavery.
They have gone on to construct societies organized to protect them and the
fruits of their pillaging against their slaves or against other predators.
This lies at the origin of most societies.
This quite unwarranted usurpation by the strong of the property of the weak,
however, has been successively repeated. From the very beginnings of society
an endless struggle has obtained between the oppressors and the oppressed,
the plunderers and the plundered; from the very beginning of societies, the
human race has constantly sought the emancipation of property. History abounds
with this struggle. On the one hand you see the oppressors defending the privileges
[p. 37] they have allotted themselves on the basis of the property of others;
on the other we see the oppressed, demanding the abolition of these iniquitous
and odious privileges.
The struggle goes on and will not cease until property is fully emancipated.
But there are no more privileges!
But property has all too many freedoms!
Property is scarcely freer today than it was before 1789. It may even be less
free. Only, there is a difference: before 1789, the restrictions placed on
property rights were advantageous to some people: today, for the most part,
no one benefits, without these restrictions being any the less harmful, however,
to all of us.
Where, though, do you see these pernicious restrictions?
I am going to enumerate the main ones…
One further observation. I readily accept property as supremely equitable
and useful in the state of isolation. A man lives and works alone. It is entirely
fair that this man should have sole enjoyment of the fruits of his labor. It
is equally useful that he be assured of holding on to his property. Can this
regime of individual property be maintained fairly and usefully, however, in
the social state? ?
I am also happy to admit that Justice and Utility prescribe, in this (social)
state as much as in the other, that the entire property of each individual
and that portion of his powers that he has alienated from his person by working,
be recognized as his. Would individuals really, however, be able to enjoy these
two forms of property, if society were not organized in such a way as to guarantee
them this satisfaction? If this indispensable organization did not exist; if
by some mechanism or other, society did not distribute to each person the equivalent
of his labor, would not the weak man find himself at the mercy of the strong,
would not some people’s property be perpetually intruded on by the property
of others? And if we were so imprudent as to emancipate property fully, before
society was fully empowered with this distributive mechanism, would we not
be witness to increasing encroachments of the strong on the property of the
weak? Would not the complete freeing up of property aggravate the ill rather
than correcting it?
If the objection were sound, if it were necessary to construct a mechanism
for the distribution to each person of the equivalent of his labor, then clearly
socialism would clearly have its raison d’être and I like you would be a socialist.
In fact, this mechanism you wish to establish artificially, exists naturally
and it works. Society has been organized: the evil which you attribute to its
lack of organization, derives from obstacles preventing the free play of that
Are you so bold as to claim that, by allowing all men to manage their property
as they see fit, in the social circumstances [p. .39] we live in, we would
find things working out by themselves in such a way as to render each man’s
labor as productive as possible, and the distribution of the fruits of the
labor of all, fully equitable? …
I am bold enough to claim this.
So you think it would become unnecessary, leaving aside production, to plan
at least distribution and exchange, to free up circulation...
I am sure of it. Let property owners freely go about their business. Let property
circulate and everything will work out for the best.
In fact, property owners have never been left to go about their and property
has never been allowed to circulate freely.
Judge for yourself.
Is it a matter of the property rights of the individual man; of the right
he has to use his abilities freely, insofar as he causes no damage to the property
of others? In the present society, the highest posts and the most lucrative
professions are not open; one cannot practice freely as a solicitor, a priest,
a judge, bailiff, money-changer, broker, doctor, lawyer or professor. Nor can
one straightforwardly be a printer, a butcher, baker or undertaker. We
are not free to set up a commercial organization, a bank, an insurance company, or
a large transport company, nor free to build a road or establish a charity,
nor to sell tobacco or gunpowder, or saltpeter, nor to carry [p. .40] mail,
or print money, nor
to meet freely with other workers to establish the price of labor. The property
a man holds in himself, his internal property, is in every detail shackled.
Man’s ownership of the fruits of his labor, his external property, is equally
impeded. Literary and artistic property and the ownership of inventions are
recognized and guaranteed only for a short period. Material property is generally
recognized in perpetuity, but it is subject to a multitude of restrictions
and charges. Gifts, inheritance and loans are restricted too. Trade is heavily
encumbered as much by capital transfer taxes, registration charges and stamp
duty, by licensing and by customs duties, as by the privileges granted to agents
working as intermediaries in certain markets. Sometimes, in addition, trade
is completely prohibited outside certain limits. Finally, the law of expropriation
on grounds of public utility, endlessly threatens such sickly remnants of Property
as the other restrictions have spared.
All the restrictions you have just listed were established in the interests
That may be true. Those who brought them in, however, brought about a pernicious
result, for all these restrictions act, in different degrees, and some with
considerable impact, as causes of injustice and harm to society.
So that by destroying them we would come to enjoy a veritable paradise on
I do not say that. What I do say is that society would find itself in the
best possible situation, in terms of the present state of development in the
arts and science.
And you are setting out to prove it?
THE CONSERVATIVE. AND THE SOCIALIST.
Now there is a utopian for you!
Molinari’s Long Footnote about External property
One of our most distinguished economists, M. L. Leclerc, has recently put forward a theory
on the origin of external property, very like the one above. The differences
are in form rather than in substance. Instead of an alienation of internal
powers, M. Leclerc sees in external property a consumption of life and bodily
organs. I quote:
The phenomenon of the gradual consumption and of the extinction, not of the individual
self, which is immortal, but of life; this unthinkable breakdown of the faculties
and organs, when it takes place as a result of the useful effort called work,
seems to me very worthy of attention; for although this outcome [this breakdown]
is unavoidable, either to maintain the productive effort itself, or to supplement
what may still be in working order or perhaps replace what can no longer work,
it is quite clear that such an outcome is painfully achieved. Its real costs
include the amount of time it took, and if we may put it thus, the call it made
on the faculties and bodily organs irrevocably used up to obtain it. This part
of my life and my strength is gone forever. I can never recover it. Here it is,
invested as it were, in the result of my efforts. It alone represents what I
used legitimately to possess and no longer have. I did not use only my natural
right in practising this substitution. I followed my conservative instinct; I
submitted myself to the most imperious of necessities. My property rights are
there! Work is therefore the certain foundation, the pure source, the holy origin
of the rights of property. Otherwise the self is not primordial and original
property, and the faculties, an expansion of the self and the organs put to its
service, do not belong to it, which would be intolerable.
“To make use of one’s time”, “to waste it”, “to use it well or badly”; “to work
oneself to death in order to live”; “to devote an hour or a day”: these are familiar
phrases used for centuries, integral parts of any human language, which itself
is thought made manifest. The self is therefore perfectly aware of foolish or
wise, useful or unproductive deployment of its powers, and as it also knows that
these powers belong to it, it readily infers from this a potential and exclusive
claim on the useful outcomes of this inevitable extinction, when it has been
laboriously and fruitfully achieved. Public awareness upholds, directly and spontaneously,
these serious principles, these strikingly obvious truths, apparently without
engaging in the long disquisitions which we intellectuals regard as obligatory.
Yes, my life belongs to me, as does the right to make of it, freely, a generous
sacrifice to humankind, to my country, to my fellow-man, to my friend, my wife,
my child. My life is mine, I devote a part of it to what may serve to prolong
it. What I have obtained is therefore mine and I can also devote it entirely
to those who are dear to my affections. If the effort is successful, religion
explains this in terms of divine favor; if it is skilful, the Economist can attribute
it to the improved operation of my faculties; if by chance the output exceeds
my needs, it is quite obvious that the surplus [p. 36] again belongs to me. I
therefore have a right to use it to add other satisfactions to that of living.
I have a right to keep it aside for the child whom I might father, or against
that terrible time of powerlessness, old age. Whether or not I convert the surplus,
or trade it, utility for utility, value for value, it is still mine, since, as
cannot be emphasised too much, it remains always the clear representation of
a part of my life, of my faculties and my bodily parts, expended in work, which
produces this surplus. Have I not committed part of the time given to me to live
on Earth, so as to possess, honorably and legitimately, something which, when
I close my eyes for the last time, I bequeath to those I love – clothes,
furniture, goods, a house, land, contracts, money, and so on. Am I not, in reality,
leaving my life and my faculties to those whom I love? I might have spared myself
some effort or rendered that effort less painful, or increased my personal consumption.
How much sweeter it is, however, to me, to transfer to my loved ones what was
mine by right! This is a warm and consoling thought, which bolsters up courage,
charms the heart, inspires and safeguards virtue, inclines us to noble commitments,
holds different generations together and results in an improvement of our human
lot, by the gradual growth of wealth.
Leclerc. – “Some Simple Observations on the Rights of Property”– Journal
des Économistes, issue of 15 October, 1848.
 “Soirées”might be translated as “evenings,”“conversations,”or “dialogues”.
It suggests a meeting of people with different viewpoints who gather for
conversation and discussion on various topics. The reviewer of the book
in the Journal
des Économistes (a journal very sympathetic to
Molinari’s free market views) was puzzled by the title and suggested that
“entretiens” (or “discussions”) would have been a better description of
the book’s contents. [See the glossary entry on “Soirées.”]
 Saint Lazarus Street in Paris got its name from the religious order of
Saint Lazarus which ran a leprosy hospital before the Revolution. It later
became the site for one of the major railway stations in Paris and it was
probably in one of the many hotels or restaurants which lined this street
that Molinari held his fictional “evenings”. [See the glossary entry on
 Molinari uses the word “interlocuteurs”which might be translated as “interlocutors”
(which has an archaic sense to it), “discussants”, “speakers”, or “debaters”.
We have chosen “speakers”.
 Molinari was criticized by the reviewer of his book in the JDE for misrepresenting the views of the mainstream Economists by using
the name “The Economist”to express views which were those of Molinari alone,
especially his ideas on the private “production of security” in the 11th
Soirée, although this may well have been the young and radical Molinari’s
sly implication (he was 30 when the book was published). Yet, it can be
seen here that Molinari lists the speakers as “a” conservative, “a” socialist,
and “an” economist” and thus it might be argued that he did not necessarily
mean “all” socialists or “all”economists.
 By “Utopian”Molinari hand in mind socialist utopian thinkers such as
Fourier or Cabet. Ironically, Molinari was also accused by his economist
colleagues of “utopianism” especially over his ideas of the private “production
of security” which he advocated in an article in the JDE and in the “11th Soirée”of this book. He seems to anticipate this
in his remarks in the preface. [See glossary entry on “Utopia”.]
 Louis Blanc was a journalist and historian who was active in the socialist
movement. During the 1848 Revolution he became a member of the government,
promoted the National Workshops, and supported “right to work” legislation.
[See glossary entry on “Blanc”.]
the Conservative, Molinari was probably not a practicing Catholic. He uses
the word "Dieu” (God) 28 times in the book but most of these are exclamations
like "God forbid!” or similar; the word "Providence” 10 times,
and the word "Créateur” (Creator) 8 times. Since he does not mention
the sacraments or any doctrinal matter it is most likely that he was a
deist of some kind who believed that an "ordonnateur des choses” (the
organizer of things) created the world and the laws which governed its
operation (see note 305, p. 269 in Soirée 10). Molinari also believed in
the afterlife and thought it was an essential incentive to forgo immediate
pleasures in this life in order to achieve “superior” pleasures in the
next. This was especially important when it came to the issue of controlling
the size of one’s family. Molinari thought the solution to the Malthusian
population growth problem was the voluntary exercise of “moral restraint”
(he uses the English phrase) in a society where complete “liberty of reproduction”
existed. What made moral restraint possible was a moral code where religious
values played a key role. In the Introduction to the Cours
d'économie politique (2nd ed. 1864), vol. 1 Molinari states that "Therefore, political
economy is an essentially religious science in that it shows more than
any other the intelligence and the goodness of Providence at work in the
superior government of human affairs. Political economy is an essentially
moral science in that it shows that what is useful is always in accord
in fact with what is just. Political economy is an essentially conservative
science in that it exposes the inanity and folly of those theories which
tend to overturn social organization in order to create an imaginary one.
But the beneficial influence of political economy doesn't stop there. Political
economy does not only come to the aid of the religion, the morality, or
the political conservation of societies, but it acts even more directly
to improve the situation of the human race.” [Gustave de Molinari, Cours d’Economie Politique (Paris:
Guillaumin, 1863). 2 vols. 2nd revised edition. Vol. 1. Chapter: INTRODUCTION. </title/818/104201/2217867>.]
Nevertheless, Molinari was very critical of organized religion, especially
the monopoly of religion which had emerged in Europe, the political privileges
of religious corporations, and any form of compulsory religion. He shared
the views of his friend and colleague Frédéric Bastiat who argued that
"theocratic plunder” was one of the main forms of political and economic
injustice before the Revolution. [See, Frédéric Bastiat, Economic
Sophisms, trans. Arthur Goddard, introduction by
Henry Hazlitt (Irvington-on-Hudson: Foundation for Economic Education, 1996).
Second Series, Chapter 1: The Physiology of Plunder. </title/276/23376/1573922>.]
Molinari returned to the issue of religion 40 years later in a book length
historical and sociological analysis of the overall benefits of religion
to human progress. [See, Molinari, Religion (Paris: Guillaumin, 1892) which was translated into English by Walter
K. Firminger (London: Swan Sonnenschein, 1894). Two years later he wrote
another on Science
et religion (Paris: Guillaumin, 1894).]
 Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821) was a conservative political thinker who
supported the Old Regime notion of “throne and altar”. [See the glossary
entry on “Maistre.”]
 "The Constitution of 1795, like all the previous ones, was made
for man. Now, there no man in
the world. In my lifetime I have seen Frenchmen, Italians, Russians, and
so on; I even know, thanks to Montesquieu, that
one can be Persian. But as for man, I declare not to have met one in my life. If he exists, it is certainly
unknown to me.” In Oeuvres
du comte J. de Maistre. Tome Premier: Considérations sue la France, Essais
sue le Principe générateur des Constitutions politiques (Lyon:
J.-B. Pelagaud, 1851). Nouvelles Édition, p. 88.
 See Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, The Complete Works
of M. de Montesquieu (London: T. Evans, 1777),
4 vols. Vol. 1. BOOK XIV.: OF LAWS AS RELATIVE TO THE NATURE OF THE CLIMATE. </title/837/71526>.
 That is droll justice which is bounded by a stream! Truth on this side
of the Pyrenees, error on that.” “Of Justice, Customs and Prejudices”in The Thoughts
of Blaise Pascal, translated from the text of M.
Auguste Molinier by C. Kegan Paul (London: George Bell and Sons, 1901). < /title/2407/227498/3882180 >.
 Charles Fourier (1772-1837) was a utopian socialist thinker who founded
a school of thought which advocated the idea that people should live together
as one family and hold property in common. [See glossary entries on “Fourier”and
 A biblical word used for weeds. See “the parable of the tares of the
field”in Matthew 13: 36.
 Charles Irénée Castel, Abbé de Saint-Pierre (1658-1743) was a French
cleric and reformer who advocated a plan to create a pan-European tribunal
to adjudicate international disputes instead of waging war: Projet
pour render la paid perpétuelle en Europe (1713-17).
His writings influenced Rousseau and predated Kant’s thinking on perpetual
peace. Molinari wrote a book on Saint-Pierre’s ideas in 1857. [See glossary
entry on “Saint-Pierre.”]
 The issue of slavery and serfdom was one to which Molinari gave considerable
attention in the 1840s. He published on the abolition of slavery in the
French colonies in 1846, he wrote the long bibliographic article on slavery
in the DEP, “Esclavage,”vol. 1, pp. 712-31 as well as a shorter article on serfdom,
vol. 2, pp. 610-13. In the latter he concluded that serfdom was “a vestige
of a barbarous epoch” and that it would inevitably disappear. [See Études
économiques. L'Organisation de la liberté industrielle et l'abolition de
l'esclavage (1846).] Given his deep interest in
slavery and serfdom Molinari leapt at the chance to visit Russia at the
invitation of Alexander II to give some lectures on political economy.
Molinari spent 4 months traveling in Russia from February to July 1860,
on the eve of the emancipation of the serfs in February 1861. [See, Molinari, Lettres
sur la Russie (Bruxelles: A. Lacroix, Verboeckhoven
et Cie, 1861. Second edition Paris: E. Dentu, 1877).]
 [See the glossary entries for “Press (Conservative),” “Press (Liberal),”
and “Press (Socialist)”.]
 The capital of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople, was besieged for
4 days as part of the 4th Crusade in 1204. After the city fell it was looted
by the Christian Crusaders. Among many other things, the great Imperial
Library was destroyed.
 The Socialist is making fun of the fact that the Economists had only
the Political Economy Society, the Journal
des Économistes, and the Guillaumin publishing firm which were all organized by the
same small number of individuals. [See the glossary entries on these organizations.]
 Henri Saint-Simon developed a theory of social and economic organization
in the late 1810s and 1820s which advocated rule by a technocratic elite
of “industrialists”and managers. This differed from similar liberal ideas
about “industry”which emerged at the same time by Thierry and Dunoyer in
that the liberals advocated no government regulation, whereas the Saint-Simonian
view verged on being a form of state directed socialism. [See the glossary
entry on “Saint-Simon,” “Industry”, and “Thierry”.]
 The socialist Charles Fourier (1772-1837) believed that a more just and
productive society would be one which was based on the common ownership
of property and the communal organization of all productive activity. The
organization base of his new society was the “Phalanstery” which was the
name of the specially designed building which would house 1,600 people.
Some utopian communities based on his idea were established in North America.
[See the glossary entries on “Fourier”and “Phalanstery.”]
 Étienne Cabet was a lawyer and utopian socialist who coined the word
"communism.”He advocated a society in which the elected representatives
controlled all property that was owned in common by the community. In 1848
Cabet left France in order to create such a community (called “Icarie”) in
Texas and then at Nauvoo, Illinois, but these efforts ended in failure. [See
the glossary entry on “Cabet.”]
 Philippe Mathé-Curtz ("Curtius") (1737-1794) was a Swiss doctor
and sculptor who created wax figures for anatomical study. He later began
creating portraits of famous people after he moved to Paris in 1765, when
his figure of Madame du Barry (the mistress of King Louis XV) caused a
sensation. Curtius opened a museum to the public in 1770 which was moved
to the Palais-Royal in 1776. In the late 1770s he made figures of people
like Voltaire, Rousseau, and Benjamin Franklin. In 1794 he bequeathed his
collection of wax figures to the daughter of his housekeeper, Marie, who
in 1795 married M. Tussaud.
 Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was a political theorist considered to be the
father of anarchism. He is best known for writing Qu’est-ce que la propriété? (1841)
(his answer was that “property is theft”). He engaged in a spirited debate
with Bastiat on the justice of credit and charging interest. [See the glossary
entry on “Proudhon.”] The liberal publishing firm Guillaumin published
two books by Proudhon which seems a little odd given the fact that he was
a left-anarchist. A two volume work appeared in 1846 called Système
des contradictions économiques, ou, Philosophie de la misère,
2 vols. (System of economic contradictions, or the philosophy of misery)
and another in 1850 (which is more understandable as Bastiat was one of
the authors) Gratuité
du crédit, discussion entre M. Fr. Bastiat et M. Proudhon (Free Credit: A discussion between Bastiat and Proudhon).
 See the long and very detailed entry by Louis Reybaud, "Socialistes,
Socialisme,” in DEP,
vol. 2, pp. 629-41. He provides a comprehensive examination of the different
schools of French socialist thought and an excellent bibliography of their
writings. Reybaud also wrote a 2 volume work on modern socialism which
first appeared in 1840 and was in its 6th edition by 1849. [See, Louis
sur les réformateurs ou socialistes modernes. 6e
édition, précédée du rapport de M. Jay et de celui de M. Villemain, (Paris:
Guillaumin, 1849). Glossary entry “Press (Socialist)”.]
 Molinari is referring to the February Revolution of 1848 which overthrew
the July Monarchy of Louis Philippe and introduced the Second Republic.
[See the glossary entry on the “Revolution of 1848.”]
 On Molinari’s view of the natural laws which govern economics, see note
2 of the preface.
 The issue of whether or not men are “free and active beings” or more
like reactive “plants and animals” was debated vigorously when it came
to the question of population growth and Malthusian limits to such growth.
[See, Soirée 10, footnote 311, p. 274.]
 One of the key beliefs which distinguishes the French school of political
economy from the English school is the grounds they had for believing in
property. The English were strongly utilitarian in that they thought the
institution of property was generally beneficial to human progress and
prosperity but that the government might be justified in sometimes limiting
property "rights” of individuals for the benefit of the broader society.
The French Economists believed in property rights on the grounds of natural
law and were more doctrinaire in defending individual property rights against
encroachments by the state. [See, Léon Faucher, "Propriété,” DEP, vol. 2, pp. 460-73 for an overview of the thinking of the Economists
on property; and Charles Comte’s Traité de la propriété (1834)
which was very influential on their thinking.] Molinari wrote a much longer
treatment of his ideas on property in Lesson 4 "Value and Property”
in the second and revised edition of the Cours
d'économie politique (1863), pp. 107-31. Here he categorizes property into 6 major types,
each of which has its own corresponding kind of liberty. [See, the glossary
entry on “Molinari’s 6 Major Categories of Property and their Corresponding
Type of Liberty”.]
 Several times in this section Molinari describes man as an “active and
free being”, a person who “acts” in order to achieve the goals he sets
himself. It seems Molinari is trying to generalize about economic behaviour
and is toying with what in the 20th century would become known as the Austrian
theory of “human action” which was developed by the Austrian economist
Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) in Human
Action (1949). [See, Ludwig von Mises, Human
Action: A Treatise on Economics, in 4 vols., ed.
Bettina Bien Greaves (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2007). </title/1892>.
 In early 1847 Frédéric Bastiat used the character of Robinson Crusoe
marooned on his island as part of a thought experiment to explore in a
very abstract way how individuals went about making their economic plans
and choices in the face of scarcity. In a couple of essays in Economic
Sophisms (1846, 1848) and in his unfinished magnum opus Economic
Harmonies (1850) Bastiat became the first economist
to do this kind of quite modern economic analysis. Molinari was no doubt
aware of this new approach to thinking about economics and hints about
it here and uses it explicitly a bit later in a chapter on “L’Échange et
la valeur” (Exchange and Value) in the 1st edition of Cours
d'économie politique (1855), vol. 1, pp. 89-92.
He also repeats the example in the expanded chapter "La Valeur et
le prix” in the 2nd edition of Cours
d'économie politique (1863). [See, Frédéric Bastiat, Economic Sophisms,
trans. Arthur Goddard, introduction by Henry Hazlitt (Irvington-on-Hudson:
Foundation for Economic Education, 1996). Second Series, Chapter 14: Something
and Gustave de Molinari, Cours
d’Economie Politique (Paris: Guillaumin, 1863). 2 vols. 2nd revised edition. Vol. 1. TROISIÈME
LEÇON: la valeur et le prix. </title/818/104207>,
pp. 86-88 in the printed edition.]
 In the original French Molinari uses exactly the same phrasing as the
title to Proudhon’s book, Qu’est-ce
que la propriété? (What is Property?) (1841), but of course comes to the opposite position
in his answer.
 See Molinari’s long extract by Leclerc on external property at the end
of the chapter [from Journal
des Économistes, 15 October, 1848]. Molinari makes a distinction between two different
kinds of property here - "la propriété intérieure” (internal or personal
property) and "la propriété extérieure” (external property, i.e. property
which lies outside or is external to one's body): “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.” [Les
Soirées, p. ???, Economist’s opening remark at
the beginning of Soirée 2].
 Molinari gives here a good summary of the French classical liberal theory
of class and exploitation which had been developed by J.B Say, Charles
Comte, Charles Dunoyer, and Augustin Thierry in the 1810s and 1820s. It
is also known as the "industrialist theory of history” as the productive
"industriels") who produce and exchange with others on a voluntary
basis are exploited (or "plundered") by a parasitic, non-productive
class who use violence to take the property of others. The nature of the
exploitation changes over time as the main method of production changes from
hunter gatherer societies, to agriculture, to slavery, to serfdom, to mercantilism,
and then to a final stage of untrammeled free market
"industrialism". These early formulations were taken up by Bastiat
in the mid-1840s who was planning "A History of Plunder” before he died
in 1850. [See, the entry on "Industry” in the glossary.]
 Molinari might have in mind the definition of the State his colleague
Frédéric Bastiat developed during the June Days of the 1848 Revolution
when they co-edited a small magazine called Jacques Bonhomme.
Early drafts were gradually turned into the pamphlet The
State which was published in late 1848. Here Bastiat
defined the state as “THE STATE is the
great fiction by which EVERYONE endeavors
to live at the expense of EVERYONE ELSE.” [See
the glossary entry on “Jacques Bonhomme.”]
 Translator’s italics.
 The Socialist exposes a major weakness in the Economist's argument here.
Since the classical economists largely accepted the Ricardian idea that
a tradeable commodity embodies a certain amount of labour which gives it
"value” (the labour theory of value), then it seems hard to deny the
worker who undertook the labour the full product of his labour. This went
to the heart of the socialist critique of profit, interest, and rent as unjust
takings and their argument that the state should step in to ensure that workers
got the "full value of their labour". Several Economists tried
to find a way out of this dilemma. J.B. Say developed the idea that even
non-material goods (or services) were valuable and Bastiat argued that individuals
valued things differently according to their circumstances and that all exchanges
were an exchange of "service for service.” Nevertheless, he still believed
that labour was the ultimate source of value. [See, H. Passy, “Valeur” (Value), DEP,
vol. 2, pp. 806-15; Frédéric Bastiat, Economic
Harmonies, trans by W. Hayden Boyers, ed. George B. de Huszar, introduction
by Dean Russell (Irvington-on-Hudson: Foundation for Economic Education,
1996). Chapter: 5: On Value. </title/79/35510>;
d’économie politique (1st ed. 1855), vol.1, 4th Lesson “L’Échange et la valeur,” pp. 73-92.]
 Molinari uses here the phrases "laissez faire” and "laissez
passer” which have special significance for the Economistes: "Laissez
faire les propriétaires, laissez passer les propriétés". The phrase
"laissez-faire” was coined by the Physiocrats to describe the economic
policy they recommended the state adopt, namely "do not govern us too
much” or as Garnier prefers “laissez-faire” could mean “laissez travailler”
(leave us free to work as we wish) and “laissez passer” could mean “laissez
échanger” (leave us free to trade as we wish). Molinari uses the phrase 4
times in Les Soirées and
we will indicate it when he does. [See, Joseph Garnier, "Laissez faire,
laissez passer,” DEP, vol. 2, p. 19; and "Laissez-faire” in the glossary.]
 These were all highly regulated professions and trades which required
a government license in order to practice them.
 Napoleon’s Commercial Code of 1807 strictly limited the kinds of business
organizations which could be set up. This is discussed in more detail below.
 The manufacture and sale of tobacco, gunpowder, saltpeter, mail delivery,
and the coining of money were all government monopolies.
the footnote about Molinari’s utopianism in the preface, p. ???]
 Louis Leclerc (1799-?) was a founding member of the Free Trade Association,
a member of the Société d'Économie Politique, an editor of the Journal
des Économistes and the Journal d’agriculture,
the director of a independent private school called "l'école néopédique”
between 1836 and 1848, secretary of the Chamber of Commerce of Paris, and
a member of the jury at the London Trade Exhibition in 1851. Leclerc had
a special interest in agricultural economics (wine and silk production)
on which he wrote many articles for the Journal
des Économistes. [See the glossary entry on “Leclerc”.]
 Louis Leclerc, “Simple observation sur le droit de propriété,”Journal
des Économistes, vol. 21, no. 90, 15 October 1848,
pp. 304-305. Leclerc is commenting upon a quotation by Victor Cousin: “Le
moi, voilà la propriété primordiale et originelle”[Me, there is the primordial
and original property] from Justice
et Charité. Petits traités publiés par l’Académie des sciences morales
et politiques (Paris: Pagnerre, 1848).