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Molinari appeals to socialists to join him in marching down “the broad, well-trodden highway of liberty” (1848)

At the height of the Revolution in 1848 the French political economist Gustave de Molinari (1819-1912) appealed to his socialist adversaries to join with the liberals in the pursuit of the common goal of “Justice and Plenty” and to abandon their strategy of using violence to achieve this:

Economist and socialist, we may be adversaries, but our ideal and purpose is one. We seek a society in which there will be no stint in the production of all that is needful, whether to support or to embellish human existence. We seek a society where the distribution of these products between their creators will accord with the dictates of pure justice. We seek—in one word—an ideal that may be stated in two words, Justice and Plenty!

None among you will deny this truth, and, if we say that we seek by different paths, that is the sum of our difference. Your way lies along the obscure and hitherto unexplored defile of the organisation of labour, ours down the broad, well-trodden highway of liberty. Both, we seek to lead a hesitating and halting society, nations looking—but in vain—towards the horizon in hopes of a new column of light to lead them by the way whereon it guided the slaves of Pharaoh to a Land of Promise.

Economist and socialist, we may be adversaries, but our ideal and purpose is one. We seek a society in which there will be no stint in the production of all that is needful, whether to support or to embellish human existence. We seek a society where the distribution of these products between their creators will accord with the dictates of pure justice. We seek—in one word—an ideal that may be stated in two words, Justice and Plenty!

None among you will deny this truth, and, if we say that we seek by different paths, that is the sum of our difference. Your way lies along the obscure and hitherto unexplored defile of the organisation of labour, ours down the broad, well-trodden highway of liberty. Both, we seek to lead a hesitating and halting society, nations looking—but in vain—towards the horizon in hopes of a new column of light to lead them by the way whereon it guided the slaves of Pharaoh to a Land of Promise.

Now, you proscribe the freedom of labour and curse political economy. Will you continue to do this, or will you rally frankly to our flag, and employ all the precious endowment of your nature—your physical and intellectual powers, to achieve the triumph of our common hope, the cause of liberty? For we can prove that our cause is common. We can prove that all the ills which you ascribe to liberty—or, to use an absolutely equivalent expression, to free competition—do not originate in liberty, but in monopoly and restriction. We can prove that a society truly free—a society relieved from all restriction, all barriers, unique as will be such a society in all the course of history—will be exempt from most of the ills, as we suffer them to-day. We can prove that the organisation of such a society will be the most just, the best, and the most favourable to the production and distribution of wealth, that is attainable by mortal man.

When we prove all this—and we can do so—I cannot think that you will hesitate as to your choice. Certified that you mistake the true origin of the ills which afflict society, and the remedies for those ills—certified that the truth is on our side and far from yours—no petty vanity, partisanship of propaganda or system, will retain you on the shores of error. Your hearts will no doubt be sad. You will bid a regretful adieu to the dreams which have enchanted your minds, dreams on which you were nurtured and in which you went astray. But in the end you will overpass their vain though lovely imaginations, and, surmounting your natural repugnance, you will come to us. And we—by God, we will do likewise, can you lighten our feeble intelligences with but one gleam of that true light which shone on Saint Paul: can you show us that the truth is with socialism, and not with political economy. We uphold our system, but only as we believe it the true and the just. Prove us, then, that our gods are feeble idols of wood and stone, and we burn them; leave, with no reservation, the altars of our adoration, rejecting the accepted return to the rejected, and worship whence we beforetime went forth.

About this Quotation:

January 28, 2012 is the centennial anniversary of the death of the Belgian/French free market economist Gustave de Molinari (1819-1912). In an active career which spanned over 50 years he fought doggedly against protectionism, statism, militarism, colonialism, and socialism. In one of his last books published in 1899 he quotes from an essay he wrote at the height of the 1848 Revolution in which he appeals to the socialist movement of the day to abandon their use of violence to impose an unworkable system of socialism on the economy, and to join with him and the other liberals in pursuing what he calls “the utopia of liberty” which could be achieved with the opposite means – namely peaceful trade and cooperation.

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