Yves Guyot, “The Socialist Tyranny” (1893)
Note: This extract is part of The OLL Reader: An Anthology of the Best of the OLL, the table of contents of which can be found here. It is from "Part X: The Critique of Socialism and Interventionism".
For more information on socialism see:
- Socialism: A Study Guide and Reader
- Topic: Socialism and the Classical Liberal Critique
- People: School of Thought: Socialism
- Debate: Fabian Socialism vs. Radical Liberalism
|Yves Guyot (1843–1928)|
Yves Guyot, The Tyranny of Socialism, ed. J.H. Levy (London: Swan Sonnenschein and Co., 1894).
- Chap. VI. "Militarism, Protectionism, and Socialism" </titles/91#lf0166_head_099> and
- "Conclusion" </titles/91#lf0166_head_101>
The text is in the public domain.
MILITARISM, PROTECTION, AND SOCIALISM.
Two Types of Civilisation—The Military Type—Conquest of Idleness—The Right to Apathy—Protectionist and Socialist—One Produces the Other.
The development of Socialism comes from two causes—Militarism and Protection.
Herbert Spencer has shown, with great force, the antagonism of the two types of civilisation—Military Civilisation and Industrial Civilisation.
Military Civilisation is based upon the passive obedience of the masses to the orders of the Chief, upon the established hierarchy of authority, upon the privileges annexed to each social rank, and upon the denial of personal rights.
Productive Civilisation is based upon the initiative of the citizens. It acquires its development through their industry and economy. It has competition for its motive force.
The two civilisations are incompatible, yet we endeavour to perform the miracle of making them co-exist.
Every German, every Frenchman,in passing through the army, receives the imprint of the type of military  organisation, which is far easier to understand than the conditions of liberty.
Into his conceptions of economic life, he transfers the need of order, obedience, and search for least effort. At the bottom these unquiet revolutionaries have a conventual ideal; and that which they point out as a goal to the crowds which follow them is the attainment of idleness. They ask them to do themselves a lot of harm, and even to give and receive blows, so as to have a right to inertia. But is not this exactly the life of the savage warrior who scorns work? And have we not in this one more proof of the retrograde side of the Socialist programme?
According to the verifications which we have made, the word Socialism may be defined as "the intervention of the State in the economic life of the country."1
But, then, are these men who, in the interests of landed proprietors, ask for taxes on corn, on oats, on horses, cattle, wood, and wines, Socialists? those who, in the name of "national industries" and "national work," ask for duties on cottons, silks, linens, and all kinds of textile fabrics, all kinds of steel, from rails down to pens, medicines, chemical products, and all objects whatsoever, due to human industry?
To this interrogation I answer by the clearest and most positive affirmation.
Yes, large and small proprietors alike, those of you are Socialists, who beg for customs duties. For what is it you ask, if not for the intervention of the State to guarantee the revenue of your property? What is it you ask for, tradesmen and manufacturers of every kind, who seek the imposition of import duties, if not for the intervention of the State to guarantee your profits? And what is it the Socialists ask, if not for the intervention of the State to guarantee to the workman a maximum of work, a minimum of wage? In a word, what is it you all ask, if not for the intervention of the State to protect you all against competition? The Protectionist asks for protection from the competition of progress from without—the Socialist asks for protection from the competition of activity within—and in aid of what? To throw political interference into the scale so as to violate the Law of Supply and Demand for the arbitrary benefit of such and such a class of producers or workmen, and to the detriment of all consumers and ratepayers, which means—everybody.
This conception of the economic duties of the State is the same for the large landowner who calls himself "conservative," for the large manufacturer who scorns the Socialists, and for the miserable Socialist who flings his scornful invectives against property and manufactures. They all make the same mistake. They are all victims of the same illusion. Those who look upon one another as enemies are brothers in doctrine. Hence it is that every recrudescence of  Protection engenders a revival of Socialism. The Socialists of 1848 were the true sons of the Protectionist copyholders of the Restoration and of Louis-Philippe's Government. If Protectionists deny this intimate relationship, I will introduce them to a Socialist who will say to them:
"You ask for customs duties so that your revenues and profits may be guaranteed. You appeal to the superior interests of agriculture and national labour. So be it. You have even asked me to join you for this purpose.1 But what share will you give to me—to me, the working man? You demand the aid of "society." I, too, claim a share in it, and with so much the more right that in society I hold, at least in point of numbers, a larger place than yours."
Before such language as this the Protectionist is obliged to remain dumb, especially as the Socialist might add:
"You protect yourself; you strike at corn, meat, wines, at the things which are necessary for my food. In the custom house, textile fabrics, things of everyday use, and, therefore, the cheapest, those things intended for me, carry the heaviest weight. It is, therefore, upon my needs, and consequently upon my privations, that you ask the Government to guarantee your revenues and your profits. In my turn, I shall retort and tell you to return to me that which you take from me. I claim my share. Guarantee me my wages. Limit my hours of labour. Suppress my competitors, such as women. Suppress piece-work, which may prove an incentive to over-production at  too cheap a rate. This for to-day; but to-morrow it will be necessary that property and manufactures shall rest in my hands alone. The State shall be the sole producer, the sole merchant, and all the profits shall be for me."
(I.) Despotism and Anarchy—The Courtiers of Socialism—The Action Révolutionnaire League—The Attainment of Political Power—Social Anarchy and Revolution—Utility of Concessions—Prince Bismarck—The Socialist Congress of 1889 and the Emperor of Germany—His Mistake—Insatiable Socialism—(II.) The Distribution of the Population in France, and Socialism—The Interests opposed to Socialism—Socialist Demagogues and Electoral Statistics — Messieurs Clémenceau and de Mun's Confidence in Socialists—Christian Socialism—Anti-Semeticism—Lay Partisans—Something must be done—Above all, good Government—Respect for Law and Order—Reforms and Retrogression—The Fiscal Question—Fiscal Regulations—Non-intervention of the State in Exchange Contracts and Labour Contracts—(III.) Republican Programme, a Programme of Equality and Liberty—The Press and Common Law—Liberty to Incite to Crime—Weakness of the Chamber of Deputies—English Law relating to Explosives—(IV.) Socialists wish to Suppress Competition—Depressing Political Economy—Expansive Political Economy—Competition the Great Factor in Evolution—The Strong and the Weak—Public Assistance—Lamarck's Law—Adaptation to the Environment—Predominance of Heredity amongst Socialists—(V.) Utilitarian Philosophy—Its Criterion—Laws of Social Evolution.
I. This study, which we might have greatly extended and enlarged, is, nevertheless, sufficient to show the retrograde and tyrannical character of Socialist con  ceptions and practices. Saint-Simon said that society could not tolerate either despotism or anarchy. The Socialist offers us both at once.
Men who have begun by being of the Left-centre, who, as ministers, had to restrain the acts of individuals like Messieurs Fournière and Albert Goullé, connect themselves with revolutionary Collectivists, with the Action Révolutionnaire League, promising the expropriation or confiscation of railways and mines, and allowing a faint vision of a like something approaching for the "Haute Banque" and large proprietors. And why do M. Goblet, formerly Minister of the Interior and Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Messieurs Millerand and Jaurés always encourage the destructive passions, and promise to submit the law to their will? Why? So as to seize on political power. They began, in imitation of Boulangism, by stirring up anarchy, with the notion that, if it triumphed, they would evolve an order therefrom, of which they would be the masters; and in their blind ambition, they madly forgot that, in the language of their friends, and of their accomplices, this order is known as Social Revolution!
They wish, however, to make a choice between doctrines and practices; but what choice? Where is their criterion? Why do they stop here? Why do they not go further? The revolutionary Collectivist would always have the advantage over them of logic and precision, and could only cede then to the Anarchist.
In his alliance with the Action Révolutionnaire, M.Goblet accepts all the Socialist programmes in mass; he makes no reservations except as regards ways of carrying them out; he rejects violence. But outrages may be committed in legal form; and a statesman's duty is to anticipate and prevent the law ever becoming an instrument of oppression and spoliation.
The Marseilles Congress has clearly decided for the Socialist, as to the utility of the concessions which may be granted them: "They strengthen us against our adversaries, who grow more feeble."
The example of Prince Bismarck, who persecuted the Socialists, whilst at one and the same time he created a Socialistic legislature, only served in its absence of logic to develop Socialism in Germany. The Emperor William II. has continued this policy and arrived at the same result.
The International Socialist Congress, held at Paris on 14th to 21st July, 1889, demanded international legislation, establishing the eight hours day, the abolition of night work, the abolition of female labour, a thirty-six hours rest per week, and the inspection of workshops by inspectors, at least half of whom should be elected by workmen. This protective legislation for labour was to become the subject of laws and of international treaties. A deputy who pretends to be the working-man's representative, M. Ferroul, re-introduced these resolutions of the congress in a proposed law; and it was not without surprise that on February 4th, 1890, we saw the rescripts of the German Emperor, who seemed to have appropriated M. Ferroul's propositions, and the resolution of the Paris Congress, for the "regulation of the duration and nature of labour."
If the Emperor William wished to make the ideas of the Socialist his own, he should have called Messieurs Bebel and Liebknecht to power. His Socialistic experiment only tended to deceive, and to give greater authority to their party, which is always bound to be in, at least, apparent opposition, because, from its very nature it is insatiable.
In France, the Socialistic Republicans, who wish to retain their authority over their train-bearers, are always obliged to vote against every ministry, even when composed of their friends, each time that they pass a law: an attitude which proves the political capacity of the party and its powerlessness to direct the affairs of the country!
II. If those politicians who consider themselves to be prudent men, were to consult the distribution of the French population, they would see that the land-owners cultivating their own land number 9 millions; small proprietors, 3,500,000; farmers, metayers, and planters, 5 millions; foresters and woodcutters, 500,000; and that they, representing 50 per cent. of the productive population of France, consider the demands of the workmen, who are only a minority, very obstructive and very outrageous.
With regard to manufactures and trade, 9 millions of people are engaged in them, of which 3,250,000 are engaged in large scale industries, and more than 6 millions in small industries. This makes up more than 65 per cent. Now, for whom are all these laws, these arrangements, these regulations, and this chaos, intended? For a minority of 35 per cent., which represents the large scale trades.
To hear Messieurs Clémenceau, Basly, or Dumay, one would think that we had nothing but miners in France, and that all parliamentary work, and all parliamentary politics ought to be subordinated to them, and they number 90,000 workmen all told! Do the Deputies who, in their demagogic zeal, blunder about in an environment of labour laws realise that laws apply to all those small retail trades where there is one master to every two workmen? If we set aside those who employ seven or eight, we see the number of those who only employ one. Do not these small employers represent the democracy, the proletariat of yesterday in process of transformation, those people who, being possessed of the spirit of enterprise, prefer its risks and practice to the security and tranquillity of wages. It is these small employers whom you attack with police laws, whom you disturb with inspectors; all these new functionaries whom you have created and set on foot.
And you think that in acting thus, you are making a clever political move! It has not even this quality as an excuse.
Commerce and transport represent close upon 4 millions of people, and this legislation can only have two results: to depress commerce in depressing manufactures, and in closing their outlets by the high price of the goods and the checking of the spirit of enterprise.
With regard to the railway staffs representing 550,000 persons, and that of the mercantile marine, representing 250,000 persons, there may well be a certain number who, after having made many applica  tions to be admitted into the companies, allow themselves to be dragged in by Socialist agitators; but, at bottom, the majority understand quite well that if economic life is relaxed in this country, by Socialistic claims, the reaction will make itself felt by limiting the staff and by diminishing the resources which might otherwise be devoted to its remuneration.
Can people belonging to the liberal professions, and numbering 1,600,000 persons, if they reflect, accept this legislation, liable to so many dangers, and so adverse to the general interests of the nation? Is it the public forces, representing 550,000 persons, of whom 120,000 belong to the constabulary and the police? Is it the landowners and stockholders, who represent more than 2 millions of people, close upon 6 per cent. of the total population?
Some people wish to subordinate the whole of French legislation, all its policy, to the pretensions of a minority which will never be satisfied. Public men who place themselves at the head, or rather get in tow with this movement, the courtiers of Socialistic demagogy, have the deepest contempt for political economy and statistics. This is self-evident: for they prove that they do not even know the statistics of the electorate, the only ones which concern them. M. Clémenceau has devoted himself a great deal to mines, at any rate in the tribune; and yet it was neither at Valenciennes, at Bethune, nor at Saint-Etienne that he sought a constituency; but in a district which contains no manufactures at all, a district of small landowners and small husbandmen, Draguignan.
We observe the same lack of confidence on the part  of M. de Mun, from the electoral point of view, in the miners and factory hands, for whom he speaks so often. In their service he plays the demagogue, promises them terrestrial paradises over and above the celestial, interprets certain verses of the Gospels after the manner of the ascetics, who never pretended to be economists, and sees nothing in the Popes' encyclical letter Rerum novarum but the side which fits in with his own arguments, by leaving all the restrictions which are opposed to it in the shade; but it is to the credulity of the peasants of Morbihan that he appeals, to send him to the Chamber of Deputies. I have expressed myself elsewhere upon Christian Socialism. I shall not return to it.1
In France, the Catholic aristocracy, and, from a competitive spirit, the Protestant aristocracy, have engaged in the anti-Semetic campaign much more from envy of luxuries possessed by Jews, their drawingrooms and their theatres, than from hatred of their religion or race—from a spirit of revenge on the part of territorial wealth as opposed to wealth acquired in trade and in banking. But it only became popular because, in addition to the libels which constituted its unwholesome seasoning, has been added a hatred of the wealthy, the envy of those who have failed against those who have succeeded, and the spirit of spoliation. M. Drumont's sectaries are lay Communists.
III. But there are very disinterested and very wellintentioned people who say:—Something must be done." To these I answer that, to begin with, we must not do foolish things.
This is the first point; and in this we fail, with this officious, meddling legislation, which seeks "to give satisfaction," and to whom? To the selfish, who, more often than not, do not wish for it, whose conditions of existence it disturbs, and whom it runs the risk of depriving of work and wages, by seriously damaging the economic life of our country. Such legislation may be serious in a very different sense to that of a passing riot or insurrection. We are commencing our experience with the revival of Protection.
But there is much to be done outside of "labour laws." First of all we have to govern well, and administrate well. We have to enforce respect for law and order, to protect the future against the prejudices and passions of the moment, to protect general interests against the aggression of individual interests. A Government which had succeeded in doing this might not be considered anything very wonderful, and yet under its modest exterior it would have accomplished the most useful, the most efficacious, and perhaps the most difficult of labours.
With regard to reforms, the point is to make a selection, and not to mistake retrogression for progress. In good sooth, many present themselves; for in our legislation we must prune vigorously, following in this matter, Buckle's formula, that great reforms have consisted less in making new laws than in demolishing old ones. The years that are to come will give us plenty of work, because we shall have to lop off not only ancient laws, but recent ones as well.
It is upon a budget which asks over three thousand million francs from the taxpayers, that the entire activity of the Legislature may be brought to bear, from the point of view of the economic intervention of the State. The work is heavy and laborious for those who endeavour to restore to our fiscal system a certain number of first principles, such as these: Taxes should be paid to the State only. They should serve no other purpose than to supply funds for the general services of the State. They should never be an instrument of spoliation or confiscation. They should be proportional. They should be objective, assessed on property, and not on the person. They must not injure traffic. They should be assessed on acquired property, and not on labour, trade, manufactures, or wealth in process of formation.
Indirect taxation fulfils none of these conditions, and a large proportion of it is taxation progressive in the wrong direction. Those who have acquired fortunes should themselves take the initiative in re-establishing proportional taxation. The personal sacrifices which they would thus make would give them an authority to resist the greed of the spoilers. They could talk of justice with so much the more authority for having shown that they knew how to apply it.
Among the tasks which will encumber the immediate future, it will not be an easy one to establish the principle of the non-intervention of the State, in contracts of exchange, and labour contracts: because, wonderful to relate, it is supported by the coalition of fierce adversaries.
What does it matter? To every politician who is not short-sighted, and who does not change his policy from day to day, who puts the interests of the country above his personal conveniences and his ambition, it is a matter of vital concern to steadfastly maintain the principle of individual liberty, against State Socialism, and against the pretensions of trade syndicates.
IV. We Republicans should recollect, that our programme was a programme of liberty and equality. The Republican party was false to it when, instead of placing the press under the government of the common law, it granted to it the privileges of the law of 1881, privileges through which the Republican party was the first to be attacked by calumnies and libels, incitements to murder, pillage, and other crimes.
Articles 23 and 24 of the law of 1881, punish provocations to murder, pillage, and incendiarism; but the person who is engaged in them cannot be arrested in anticipation. Furthermore, he cannot be arrested, unless the judgment is peremptory. By tricks of procedure he can suspend judgment for something like nine months; and during this time, he can continue his offences, multiply them, and accumulate judgments upon his head, with impunity. It is sufficient for him to cross the frontier upon the eve of the day when the first judgment will become peremptory, for him to escape all responsibility for his words and his actions. In the month of October, M. Loubet brought forward a scheme for putting an end to this state of things; but he was weak enough to allow an amendment of M. Jullien's to pass, which destroyed it. The Senate suppressed this. The discussion came up again on May 4th, before the Chamber, when M. Jullien managed to pass an amendment by 272 votes, against 234, which permits the court to pronounce only provisional sentence. The Senate is awaiting the coming session in order to resume the discussion; and, in the meantime, the Anarchists and their emulators can continue to celebrate the high achievements of dynamite.
- "Dame dynamite,
- Que l'on danse vite;
- Dansons et chantous,
- "Dame Dynamite,
- May you them smite;
- We dance and sing,
- While dynamiting!"
England did not stand on so much ceremony after the dynamite explosions which took place in her midst. In 1883, she adopted a carefully thought out law, which condemns every person causing an explosion of a nature to cause serious danger to life or property to penal servitude for life; every person doing anything to provoke an explosion of this kind, or making or storing explosives for this purpose, to twenty years of penal servitude; and every person making or storing an explosive substance under circumstances which he cannot innocently account for, to fourteen years penal servitude.
Finally, to complete these provisions, which arm the Government with all the power desirable against  the partisans of the employment of explosive substances as revolutionary agents, the last clauses of the Act of 1883 give the widest powers to the Bench of Magistrates from the point of view of criminal information.
V. But what is it Socialists demand? The suppression of competition.
Their ideal—not only in the State of the future, which they prudently abstain from describing, as Liebknecht himself acknowledged at the Erfurt Congress, but of the legislation which they have agreed upon—is depressive political economy: based upon envy, jealousy, coercion, the violent destruction of privileges, the breaking up of the nation into classes, intent on snatching some rags of fortune by the aid of power (politics being regarded only as an instrument of plunder), upon contempt for the individual and his subjection to combinations of despotic and irresponsible cliques.
We, on the contrary, represent expansive political economy, which considers that in social relations as in all organic life, competition is the great factor in evolution.
This ideal of mere competence, in place of the ideal of development, is pursued by Socialists when they wish to impose a uniform rate of wages; and they arrive at this result: the strongest and cleverest workmen do not earn what they ought to earn. They carry the feeble workmen on their backs. And at the same time even the weak man does not receive any advantages from this position: because he does not find any work.
It is all very well to talk, in a charming way, of the protection which the strong owe to the weak. But for this protection to be efficacious, the strong must begin by being strong. Every combination which has as a result the sacrifice of the strong to the weak is a check to the development of humanity.
Moreover, who are the feeble? By what signs do we know them? Are you going to grant a privilege to idleness and apathy, so as to get as much as you can out of those who valiantly undertake to bear the burdens of life themselves, instead of passing them on to their neighbour? But if we maintain these feeble creatures of whom these good souls take so much care, we condemn them to remain in their state of debility.
Let us remember the law thus expressed by Lamarck: "The development of organs and their active powers is always in proportion to their employment." There will be crises and difficulties in social life; we must not let them frighten us. Our needs change, and they always precede the definite formation of the organ. As Darwin taught us to see, each organ is the transformation of other, anterior, organs, pre-existing amongst ancestral forms in a different state and serving different functions. The problem is the same from the sociological point of view as from the biological: the adaptation to new functions is always difficult, and remains incomplete. Our endeavour should be to make it as easy, as little painful, and as perfect as possible. We should, above all, endeavour to prevent retrogressions, which are only the predominance of heredity over the adaptation to the  environment; and as the Socialistic movement is only the expression of old forms of society, of old ideas, of old sophistries, survivals of fetishism, an attempt to subordinate industrial and economic progress to the modes of existence of primitive civilisations, we ought, in the name of progress, to oppose it: for the so-called "advanced" who direct the movement would carry back the social organism, with all its complex elements, more and more adapted to the division of labour, to primitive Collectivism. Man transforming himself into a jelly-fish! that is their ideal.
Every one in France now is free from all the old questions of dynastic policy. We should henceforth have only one policy, the utilitarian, saying with Bentham that individual interests are the only true interests. What test have we wherewith to judge as to whether a measure is useful or noxious? Is it "the happiness of the greatest number—a formula borrowed by Priestly from Helvétius?
But certain Protectionists will, in perfect good faith, declare to you that they apply this test. Does not the agricultural population of France represent 19 millions of people? They protect it; therefore they protect the greatest number. What does the workman want? Work! Therefore national labour must be protected, so as to insure his happiness. And the Socialist would add, that the end of all the legislation which he asks for is to protect him against surplus work, to watch over his health, his safety, and his well-being; and he will repeat with Plato: "What signifies restraint provided that man is made happier?"
The following are the four rules which, for us, must determine the utility of this or that measure.
If we turn back to primitive civilisations, we find that the weaker are brutally made use of by the stronger, woman by man, the vanquished becomes the food or the slave of the victor: and the man who thus abuses his strength as regards his fellow creatures is reduced to the most miserable state of helplessness with regard to the environment in which he lives, if it were only with respect to the inclemencies of the weather. Let us go further. By what signs do you recognise that modern civilisation is superior to the Roman civilisation? The conquerors of the world had not even windmills, and they pushed the employment of the vanquished to the point of the sanguinary saturnalia of the circus. Chief of the clan, tribal chief, Greek despot, Roman Cæsar, all represent the most crushing dominion over the members of the family, of the city, or of the nation.
By these facts we can prove this first sociological law:—
(1.)Progress is in inverse ratio to the coercive interference of man with man, and in direct ratio to the control by man of external nature.
And how do we see that this progress is accomplished? Sir Henry Sumner Maine says it is done by the substitution of contract for authoritative arrangements, in such fashion that the action of the State shall, in a word, be replaced in social life by individual action, and personal conventions; and then the chief function of the State is to guarantee against  fraud, deceit, accidents independent of the contracting parties, and the execution of contracts.
But, wherefore these contracts? What is their origin? The intellectual and productive energy of man, his enterprise, and the necessity he is under of exchanging the things in his possession for things possessed by others. And then, if the substitution for sacerdotal or social regulations of contracts is an undeniable proof of progress, have we not the right to say:—
(2.) Every institution (or legislative, governmental, fiscal, or administrative measure) is injurious which has for its object the restraint of the intellectual or productive activity of man.
At the present time, we may place in this category restrictive laws on commercial societies, on labour contracts, or on contracts of exchange. And here we put our finger upon the mistake made by the Protectionists and Socialists, who are all advocates for the intervention of the State in economic relations, the former to promise monopolies, to guarantee profits to the workmen or to the manufacturers, and incomes to the proprietors, by shielding them all from outside progress, the latter to defend the indolent, the idle, and the unskilled against the competition of the more industrious or more skilful.
The proprietor, manufacturer, or tradesman who has obtained Protection, thinks he has achieved a great victory. Instead of occupying himself with the perfecting of his means of production, his thoughts are intent on arousing the intervention of the public powers in defence and augmentation of the Protection  "which he enjoys." But he falls asleep under the shadow of this Protection. It is his manzanilla tree; and it will cause his death, if he be not torn away from it.
That workman, instead of his ideal being to become a capitalist himself one day, or to make his son a capitalist, by means of work and increased effort, asks for Protection, eight hours' work, a minimum wage, a monopoly of certain trades, and the restriction of the number of apprentices.
He sets himself and his children in a mould. He aims at resignation as little work as possible, the earning of a competent salary, but under hard and fast restrictions. He himself shatters the mainsprings of all his activity. We have an example of this in the mines of the Pas-de-Calais and of the Nord, where, from the new dread of personal initiative and taking responsibilities upon himself, the workman now prefers to remain in the ranks.
The Socialists voluntarily repeat a stereotyped formula of M. Victor Modeste: "The poor are becoming poorer." But how has M. Victor Modeste established this? By proving, through the registers of Public Aid Societies that it is always the same families whose names are to be found there. Surely this is a decisive argument against Socialism; for it proves that the assistance given to these people, instead of helping them to develop and rise in life, has converted them into a society of paupers; and it will be the same with every measure which, by having for its object the reduction or suppression of the struggle for existence, diminishes man's efforts.
By analogy, biology shows us that every species of vegetable or animal which is protected against competition—against the difficulties of existence, is condemned to atrophy, and to perish. Darwin proved how poor and limited were the flora and the fauna of the Islands of Oceania; and why? Because they are isolated, that is to say, protected. It is only through effort that organisms, whether plants, animals, or men, can develop themselves; and the universal experience of things and of centuries warrants us in saying:—
(3.) Every institution is pernicious which has for its object the protection of an individual, or a group of individuals, against competition; because it has as a result the apathy and atrophy of those whom it is sought to protect.
On the contrary, every social or collective action which aims at the development of the courage and strength of the individual, and attains thereto, is of a progressive character, and should be approved. Of this nature, for example, are the educational laws due to the Republic.1 They give worth to understandings which would otherwise remain uncultivated. They prepare man for more effective activity in the surroundings in which he is called upon to live. They should give him dignity, develop his powers of initiative, his readiness to make personal decisions. We add this last conclusion:—
(4.) Every institution is useful which has for its object the development of the aptitudes of the individual for the struggle for existence and his ability to act in the environment in which he must live.
In reality, there is a complete contradiction, starting from their very title, between the pretensions of Socialists, and their real character; because, as we have shown, they are anti-social. They pretend to be the advocates of equality, and they employ all their efforts in constituting inequalities. They demand liberty for themselves, but with the object of oppressing others and, reciprocally, themselves. They pretend to be "advanced," and the measures which they propose come very near to arresting the development of those to whom they apply; and the ideal which they offer us is retrogression towards the civilisations of the past.
This definition is both too narrow and too wide for me. Too narrow, because it would exclude those interferences with personal rights which do not come within the economic domain, such as those of the Police des Mœurs. Too wide, because it would include all taxation, all legislation on contracts of an economic kind, all prevention by the State of frauds and nuisances arising out of economic conditions.—Ed.
Letter from the strikers of Lillebonne (Siècle, 7th June, 1893).
Etudes sur les Doctrines Sociales du Christianisme. New edition, 1893.
On this point I can only say that M. Guyot will have English Individualists against him. Is not the supply of education an economic function? If the education of one's children is to be provided for on Collectivist priuciples, why not every other part of one's household expenses?—Ed.
Readings from the OLL Reader
- Alexis de Tocqueville, “On Socialism” (1848)
- Auberon Herbert, “Against Force and Socialist Compulsion” (1898)
- Bruce Smith, “True Liberalism vs. Socialism” (1888)
- David A. Wells, “Free Trade” (1882)
- Eugen Richter, “Economic Chaos after the Socialist Revolution” (1893)
- Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, “The Error in the Marxist System” (1896)
- Frédéric Bastiat, “Individualism and Fraternity” (June 1848)
- Gustave de Molinari, “Protection and Restrictions on Free Trade” (1853)
- Gustave de Molinari, “On Socialism and Property Rights” (1849)
- H.B. Acton, “Marxist Ethics” (1955)
- Herbert Spencer, “From Freedom to Bondage” (1891)
- John Stuart Mill, “The Difficulties of Socialism” (1879)
- Ludwig von Mises, “Socialism, Interventionism, and the Free Market” (1949)
- Ludwig von Mises, “The Impossibility of Economic Calculation under Socialism” (1922)
- No. 11: William Graham Sumner, “The Conquest of the United States by Spain” (1898)
- No. 25: Étienne de la Boétie, “The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude” (1576)
- No. 70: David Hume, “Idea of a Perfect Commonwealth” (1777)
- No. 71: Lysander Spooner, “Natural Law; or the Science of Justice” (1882)
- No. 72: “Three Agreements of the People” (1647-49)
- No. 73: Benjamin Constant, “On Freedom of Thought” (1815)
- No. 74: John Millar, “Circumstances which tend to increase the power of the Sovereign” (1771)
- No. 75: William Graham Sumner, “The Forgotten Man and Woman” (1883)
- Thomas Mackay “The Interest of the Working Class in Free Exchange” (1894)
- Wordsworth Donisthorpe, “An Analysis of Socialism” (1889)
- Yves Guyot, “The Socialist Tyranny” (1893)