to this Library with permission from the Foundation
for Economic Education
The law perverted! And the police powers of the state perverted
along with it! The law, I say, not only turned from its proper
purpose but made to follow an entirely contrary purpose! The law
become the weapon of every kind of greed! Instead of checking
crime, the law itself guilty of the evils it is supposed to punish!
If this is true, it is a serious fact, and moral
duty requires me to call the attention of my fellow-citizens to
Life Is a Gift from God
We hold from God the gift which includes all others. This gift
is lifephysical, intellectual, and moral life.
But life cannot maintain itself alone. The Creator of life has
entrusted us with the responsibility of preserving, developing,
and perfecting it. In order that we may accomplish this, He has
provided us with a collection of marvelous faculties. And He has
put us in the midst of a variety of natural resources. By the
application of our faculties to these natural resources we convert
them into products, and use them. This process is necessary in
order that life may run its appointed course.
Life, faculties, productionin other words, individuality,
liberty, propertythis is man. And in spite of the cunning
of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede
all human legislation, and are superior to it.
Life, liberty, and property do not exist because
men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life,
liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make
laws in the first place.
What Is Law ?
What, then, is law? It is the collective organization of the
individual right to lawful defense.
Each of us has a natural rightfrom Godto
defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the
three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any
one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the
other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our
individuality? And what is property but an extension of our faculties?
If every person has the right to defend even by
forcehis person, his liberty, and his property, then it
follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support
a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle
of collective rightits reason for existing, its lawfulnessis
based on individual right. And the common force that protects
this collective right cannot logically have any other purpose
or any other mission than that for which it acts as a substitute.
Thus, since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the
person, liberty, or property of another individual, then the common
forcefor the same reasoncannot lawfully be used to
destroy the person, liberty, or property of individuals or groups.
Such a perversion of force would be, in both cases,
contrary to our premise. Force has been given to us to defend
our own individual rights. Who will dare to say that force has
been given to us to destroy the equal rights of our brothers?
Since no individual acting separately can lawfully use force to
destroy the rights of others, does it not logically follow that
the same principle also applies to the common force that is nothing
more than the organized combination of the individual forces?
If this is true, then nothing can be more evident
than this: The law is the organization of the natural right of
lawful defense. It is the substitution of a common force for individual
forces. And this common force is to do only what the individual
forces have a natural and lawful right to do: to protect persons,
liberties, and properties; to maintain the right of each, and
to cause justice to reign over us all.
A Just and Enduring Government
If a nation were founded on this basis, it seems
to me that order would prevail among the people, in thought as
well as in deed. It seems to me that such a nation would have
the most simple, easy to accept, economical, limited, nonoppressive,
just, and enduring government imaginablewhatever its political
form might be.
Under such an administration, everyone would understand
that he possessed all the privileges as well as all the responsibilities
of his existence. No one would have any argument with government,
provided that his person was respected, his labor was free, and
the fruits of his labor were protected against all unjust attack.
When successful, we would not have to thank the state for our
success. And, conversely, when unsuccessful, we would no more
think of blaming the state for our misfortune than would the farmers
blame the state because of hail or frost. The state would be felt
only by the invaluable blessings of safety provided by this concept
It can be further stated that, thanks to the non-intervention
of the state in private affairs, our wants and their satisfactions
would develop themselves in a logical manner. We would not see
poor families seeking literary instruction before they have bread.
We would not see cities populated at the expense of rural districts,
nor rural districts at the expense of cities. We would not see
the great displacements of capital, labor, and population that
are caused by legislative decisions.
The sources of our existence are made uncertain
and precarious by these state-created displacements. And, furthermore,
these acts burden the government with increased responsibilities.
The Complete Perversion of the Law
But, unfortunately, law by no means confines itself to its proper
functions. And when it has exceeded its proper functions, it has
not done so merely in some inconsequential and debatable matters.
The law has gone further than this; it has acted in direct opposition
to its own purpose. The law has been used to destroy its own objective:
It has been applied to annihilating the justice that it was supposed
to maintain; to limiting and destroying rights which its real
purpose was to respect. The law has placed the collective force
at the disposal of the unscrupulous who wish, without risk, to
exploit the person, liberty, and property of others. It has converted
plunder into a right, in order to protect plunder. And it has
converted lawful defense into a crime, in order to punish lawful
How has this perversion of the law been accomplished?
And what have been the results?
The law has been perverted by the influence of two entirely different
causes: stupid greed and false philanthropy. Let us speak of the
Fatal Tendency of Mankind
Self-preservation and self-development are common aspirations
among all people. And if everyone enjoyed the unrestricted use
of his faculties and the free disposition of the fruits of his
labor, social progress would be ceaseless, uninterrupted, and
But there is also another tendency that is common among people.
When they can, they wish to live and prosper at the expense of
others. This is no rash accusation. Nor does it come from a gloomy
and uncharitable spirit. The annals of history bear witness to
the truth of it: the incessant wars, mass migrations, religious
persecutions, universal slavery, dishonesty in commerce, and monopolies.
This fatal desire has its origin in the very nature of manin
that primitive, universal, and insuppressible instinct that impels
him to satisfy his desires with the least possible pain.
Property and Plunder
Man can live and satisfy his wants only by ceaseless labor; by
the ceaseless application of his faculties to natural resources.
This process is the origin of property.
But it is also true that a man may live and satisfy his wants
by seizing and consuming the products of the labor of others.
This process is the origin of plunder.
Now since man is naturally inclined to avoid painand since
labor is pain in itselfit follows that men will resort to
plunder whenever plunder is easier than work. History shows this
quite clearly. And under these conditions, neither religion nor
morality can stop it.
When, then, does plunder stop? It stops when it becomes more
painful and more dangerous than labor. It is evident, then, that
the proper purpose of law is to use the power of its collective
force to stop this fatal tendency to plunder instead of to work.
All the measures of the law should protect property and punish
But, generally, the law is made by one man or one class of men.
And since law cannot operate without the sanction and support
of a dominating force, this force must be entrusted to those who
make the laws.
This fact, combined with the fatal tendency that exists in the
heart of man to satisfy his wants with the least possible effort,
explains the almost universal perversion of the law. Thus it is
easy to understand how law, instead of checking injustice, becomes
the invincible weapon of injustice. It is easy to understand why
the law is used by the legislator to destroy in varying degrees
among the rest of the people, their personal independence by slavery,
their liberty by oppression, and their property by plunder. This
is done for the benefit of the person who makes the law, and in
proportion to the power that he holds.
Victims of Lawful Plunder
Men naturally rebel against the injustice of which they are victims.
Thus, when plunder is organized by law for the profit of those
who make the law, all the plundered classes try somehow to enterby
peaceful or revolutionary meansinto the making of laws.
According to their degree of enlightenment, these plundered classes
may propose one of two entirely different purposes when they attempt
to attain political power: Either they may wish to stop lawful
plunder, or they may wish to share in it.
Woe to the nation when this latter purpose prevails among the
mass victims of lawful plunder when they, in turn, seize the power
to make laws!
Until that happens, the few practice lawful plunder upon the
many, a common practice where the right to participate in the
making of law is limited to a few persons. But then, participation
in the making of law becomes universal. And then, men seek to
balance their conflicting interests by universal plunder. Instead
of rooting out the injustices found in society, they make these
injustices general. As soon as the plundered classes gain political
power, they establish a system of reprisals against other classes.
They do not abolish legal plunder. (This objective would demand
more enlightenment than they possess. ) Instead, they emulate
their evil predecessors by participating in this legal plunder,
even though it is against their own interests.
It is as if it were necessary, before a reign of justice appears,
for everyone to suffer a cruel retributionsome for their
evilness, and some for their lack of understanding.
The Results of Legal Plunder
It is impossible to introduce into society a greater change and
a greater evil than this: the conversion of the law into an instrument
What are the consequences of such a perversion? It would require
volumes to describe them all. Thus we must content ourselves with
pointing out the most striking.
In the first place, it erases from everyone's conscience the
distinction between justice and injustice.
No society can exist unless the laws are respected to a certain
degree. The safest way to make laws respected is to make them
respectable. When law and morality contradict each other, the
citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense
or losing his respect for the law. These two evils are of equal
consequence, and it would be difficult for a person to choose
The nature of law is to maintain justice. This is so much the
case that, in the minds of the people, law and justice are one
and the same thing. There is in all of us a strong disposition
to believe that anything lawful is also legitimate. This belief
is so widespread that many persons have erroneously held that
things are "just" because law makes them so. Thus, in order to
make plunder appear just and sacred to many consciences, it is
only necessary for the law to decree and sanction it. Slavery,
restrictions, and monopoly find defenders not only among those
who profit from them but also among those who suffer from them.
The Fate of Non-Conformists
If you suggest a doubt as to the morality of these institutions,
it is boldly said that "You are a dangerous innovator, a utopian,
a theorist, a subversive; you would shatter the foundation upon
which society rests."
If you lecture upon morality or upon political science, there
will be found official organizations petitioning the government
in this vein of thought: "That science no longer be taught exclusively
from the point of view of free trade (of liberty, of property,
and of justice) as has been the case until now, but also, in the
future, science is to be especially taught from the viewpoint
of the facts and laws that regulate French industry (facts and
laws which are contrary to liberty, to property, and to justice).
That, in government-endowed teaching positions, the professor
rigorously refrain from endangering in the slightest degree the
respect due to the laws now in force."*1
Thus, if there exists a law which sanctions slavery or monopoly,
oppression or robbery, in any form whatever, it must not even
be mentioned. For how can it be mentioned without damaging the
respect which it inspires? Still further, morality and political
economy must be taught from the point of view of this law; from
the supposition that it must be a just law merely because it is
Another effect of this tragic perversion of the law is that it
gives an exaggerated importance to political passions and conflicts,
and to politics in general.
I could prove this assertion in a thousand ways. But, by way
of illustration, I shall limit myself to a subject that has lately
occupied the minds of everyone: universal suffrage.
Who Shall Judge?
The followers of Rousseau's school of thoughtwho consider
themselves far advanced, but whom I consider twenty centuries
behind the timeswill not agree with me on this. But universal
suffrageusing the word in its strictest senseis not
one of those sacred dogmas which it is a crime to examine or doubt.
In fact, serious objections may be made to universal suffrage.
In the first place the word universal conceals a gross
fallacy. For example, there are 36 million people in France. Thus,
to make the right of suffrage universal, there should be 36 million
voters. But the most extended system permits only 9 million people
to vote. Three persons out of four are excluded. And more than
this, they are excluded by the fourth. This fourth person advances
the principle of incapacity as his reason for excluding
the others. Universal suffrage means, then, universal suffrage
for those who are capable. But there remains this question of
fact: Who is capable? Are minors, females, insane persons, and
persons who have committed certain major crimes the only ones
to be determined incapable?
The Reason Why Voting Is Restricted
A closer examination of the subject shows us the motive which
causes the right of suffrage to be based upon the supposition
of incapacity. The motive is that the elector or voter does not
exercise this right for himself alone, but for everybody.
The most extended elective system and the most restricted elective
system are alike in this respect. They differ only in respect
to what constitutes incapacity. It is not a difference of principle,
but merely a difference of degree.
If, as the republicans of our present-day Greek and Roman schools
of thought pretend, the right of suffrage arrives with one's birth,
it would be an injustice for adults to prevent women and children
from voting. Why are they prevented? Because they are presumed
to be incapable. And why is incapacity a motive for exclusion?
Because it is not the voter alone who suffers the consequences
of his vote; because each vote touches and affects everyone in
the entire community; because the people in the community have
a right to demand some safeguards concerning the acts upon which
their welfare and existence depend.
The Answer Is to Restrict the Law
I know what might be said in answer to this; what the objections
might be. But this is not the place to exhaust a controversy of
this nature. I wish merely to observe here that this controversy
over universal suffrage (as well as most other political questions)
which agitates, excites, and overthrows nations, would lose nearly
all of its importance if the law had always been what it ought
In fact, if law were restricted to protecting all persons, all
liberties, and all properties; if law were nothing more than the
organized combination of the individual's right to self defense;
if law were the obstacle, the check, the punisher of all oppression
and plunderis it likely that we citizens would then argue
much about the extent of the franchise?
Under these circumstances, is it likely that the extent of the
right to vote would endanger that supreme good, the public peace?
Is it likely that the excluded classes would refuse to peaceably
await the coming of their right to vote? Is it likely that those
who had the right to vote would jealously defend their privilege?
If the law were confined to its proper functions, everyone's
interest in the law would be the same. Is it not clear that, under
these circumstances, those who voted could not inconvenience those
who did not vote?
The Fatal Idea of Legal Plunder
But on the other hand, imagine that this fatal principle has
been introduced: Under the pretense of organization, regulation,
protection, or encouragement, the law takes property from one
person and gives it to another; the law takes the wealth of all
and gives it to a fewwhether farmers, manufacturers, ship
owners, artists, or comedians. Under these circumstances, then
certainly every class will aspire to grasp the law, and logically
The excluded classes will furiously demand their right to voteand
will overthrow society rather than not to obtain it. Even beggars
and vagabonds will then prove to you that they also have an incontestable
title to vote. They will say to you:
"We cannot buy wine, tobacco, or salt without paying the tax.
And a part of the tax that we pay is given by lawin privileges
and subsidiesto men who are richer than we are. Others use
the law to raise the prices of bread, meat, iron, or cloth. Thus,
since everyone else uses the law for his own profit, we also would
like to use the law for our own profit. We demand from the law
the right to relief, which is the poor man's plunder. To
obtain this right, we also should be voters and legislators in
order that we may organize Beggary on a grand scale for our own
class, as you have organized Protection on a grand scale for your
class. Now don't tell us beggars that you will act for us, and
then toss us, as Mr. Mimerel proposes, 600,000 francs to keep
us quiet, like throwing us a bone to gnaw. We have other claims.
And anyway, we wish to bargain for ourselves as other classes
have bargained for themselves!"
And what can you say to answer that argument!
Perverted Law Causes Conflict
As long as it is admitted that the law may be diverted from its
true purposethat it may violate property instead of protecting
itthen everyone will want to participate in making the law,
either to protect himself against plunder or to use it for plunder.
Political questions will always be prejudicial, dominant, and
all-absorbing. There will be fighting at the door of the Legislative
Palace, and the struggle within will be no less furious. To know
this, it is hardly necessary to examine what transpires in the
French and English legislatures; merely to understand the issue
is to know the answer.
Is there any need to offer proof that this odious perversion
of the law is a perpetual source of hatred and discord; that it
tends to destroy society itself? If such proof is needed, look
at the United States [in 1850]. There is no country in the world
where the law is kept more within its proper domain: the protection
of every person's liberty and property. As a consequence of this,
there appears to be no country in the world where the social order
rests on a firmer foundation. But even in the United States, there
are two issuesand only twothat have always endangered
the public peace.
Slavery and Tariffs Are Plunder
What are these two issues? They are slavery and tariffs. These
are the only two issues where, contrary to the general spirit
of the republic of the United States, law has assumed the character
of a plunderer.
Slavery is a violation, by law, of liberty. The protective tariff
is a violation, by law, of property.
It is a most remarkable fact that this double legal crimea
sorrowful inheritance from the Old Worldshould be the only
issue which can, and perhaps will, lead to the ruin of the Union.
It is indeed impossible to imagine, at the very heart of a society,
a more astounding fact than this: The law has come to be an
instrument of injustice. And if this fact brings terrible
consequences to the United Stateswhere the proper purpose
of the law has been perverted only in the instances of slavery
and tariffswhat must be the consequences in Europe, where
the perversion of the law is a principle; a system?
Two Kinds of Plunder
Mr. de Montalembert [politician and writer] adopting the thought
contained in a famous proclamation by Mr. Carlier, has said: "We
must make war against socialism." According to the definition
of socialism advanced by Mr. Charles Dupin, he meant: "We must
make war against plunder."
But of what plunder was he speaking? For there are two kinds
of plunder: legal and illegal.
I do not think that illegal plunder, such as theft or swindlingwhich
the penal code defines, anticipates, and punishescan be
called socialism. It is not this kind of plunder that systematically
threatens the foundations of society. Anyway, the war against
this kind of plunder has not waited for the command of these gentlemen.
The war against illegal plunder has been fought since the beginning
of the world. Long before the Revolution of February 1848long
before the appearance even of socialism itselfFrance had
provided police, judges, gendarmes, prisons, dungeons, and scaffolds
for the purpose of fighting illegal plunder. The law itself conducts
this war, and it is my wish and opinion that the law should always
maintain this attitude toward plunder.
The Law Defends Plunder
But it does not always do this. Sometimes the law defends plunder
and participates in it. Thus the beneficiaries are spared the
shame, danger, and scruple which their acts would otherwise involve.
Sometimes the law places the whole apparatus of judges, police,
prisons, and gendarmes at the service of the plunderers, and treats
the victimwhen he defends himselfas a criminal. In
short, there is a legal plunder, and it is of this, no
doubt, that Mr. de Montalembert speaks.
This legal plunder may be only an isolated stain among the legislative
measures of the people. If so, it is best to wipe it out with
a minimum of speeches and denunciationsand in spite of the
uproar of the vested interests.
How to Identify Legal Plunder
But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply.
See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and
gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the
law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what
the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.
Then abolish this law without delay, for it is not only an evil
itself, but also it is a fertile source for further evils because
it invites reprisals. If such a lawwhich may be an isolated
caseis not abolished immediately, it will spread, multiply,
and develop into a system.
The person who profits from this law will complain bitterly,
defending his acquired rights. He will claim that the state
is obligated to protect and encourage his particular industry;
that this procedure enriches the state because the protected industry
is thus able to spend more and to pay higher wages to the poor
Do not listen to this sophistry by vested interests. The acceptance
of these arguments will build legal plunder into a whole system.
In fact, this has already occurred. The present-day delusion is
an attempt to enrich everyone at the expense of everyone else;
to make plunder universal under the pretense of organizing it.
Legal Plunder Has Many Names
Now, legal plunder can be committed in an infinite number of
ways. Thus we have an infinite number of plans for organizing
it: tariffs, protection, benefits, subsidies, encouragements,
progressive taxation, public schools, guaranteed jobs, guaranteed
profits, minimum wages, a right to relief, a right to the tools
of labor, free credit, and so on, and so on. All these plans as
a wholewith their common aim of legal plunderconstitute
Now, since under this definition socialism is a body of doctrine,
what attack can be made against it other than a war of doctrine?
If you find this socialistic doctrine to be false, absurd, and
evil, then refute it. And the more false, the more absurd, and
the more evil it is, the easier it will be to refute. Above all,
if you wish to be strong, begin by rooting out every particle
of socialism that may have crept into your legislation. This will
be no light task.
Socialism Is Legal Plunder
Mr. de Montalembert has been accused of desiring to fight socialism
by the use of brute force. He ought to be exonerated from this
accusation, for he has plainly said: "The war that we must fight
against socialism must be in harmony with law, honor, and justice."
But why does not Mr. de Montalembert see that he has placed himself
in a vicious circle? You would use the law to oppose socialism?
But it is upon the law that socialism itself relies. Socialists
desire to practice legal plunder, not illegal plunder.
Socialists, like all other monopolists, desire to make the law
their own weapon. And when once the law is on the side of socialism,
how can it be used against socialism? For when plunder is abetted
by the law, it does not fear your courts, your gendarmes, and
your prisons. Rather, it may call upon them for help.
To prevent this, you would exclude socialism from entering into
the making of laws? You would prevent socialists from entering
the Legislative Palace? You shall not succeed, I predict, so long
as legal plunder continues to be the main business of the legislature.
It is illogicalin fact, absurdto assume otherwise.
The Choice Before Us
This question of legal plunder must be settled once and for all,
and there are only three ways to settle it:
1. The few plunder the many.
2. Everybody plunders everybody.
3. Nobody plunders anybody.
We must make our choice among limited plunder, universal plunder,
and no plunder. The law can follow only one of these three.
Limited legal plunder: This system prevailed when the
right to vote was restricted. One would turn back to this system
to prevent the invasion of socialism.
Universal legal plunder: We have been threatened with
this system since the franchise was made universal. The newly
enfranchised majority has decided to formulate law on the same
principle of legal plunder that was used by their predecessors
when the vote was limited.
No legal plunder: This is the principle of justice, peace,
order, stability, harmony, and logic. Until the day of my death,
I shall proclaim this principle with all the force of my lungs
(which alas! is all too inadequate).*2
The Proper Function of the Law
And, in all sincerity, can anything more than the absence of
plunder be required of the law? Can the lawwhich necessarily
requires the use of forcerationally be used for anything
except protecting the rights of everyone? I defy anyone to extend
it beyond this purpose without perverting it and, consequently,
turning might against right. This is the most fatal and most illogical
social perversion that can possibly be imagined. It must be admitted
that the true solutionso long searched for in the area of
social relationshipsis contained in these simple words:
Law is organized justice.
Now this must be said: When justice is organized by lawthat
is, by forcethis excludes the idea of using law (force)
to organize any human activity whatever, whether it be labor,
charity, agriculture, commerce, industry, education, art, or religion.
The organizing by law of any one of these would inevitably destroy
the essential organizationjustice. For truly, how can we
imagine force being used against the liberty of citizens without
it also being used against justice, and thus acting against its
The Seductive Lure of Socialism
Here I encounter the most popular fallacy of our times. It is
not considered sufficient that the law should be just; it must
be philanthropic. Nor is it sufficient that the law should guarantee
to every citizen the free and inoffensive use of his faculties
for physical, intellectual, and moral self-improvement. Instead,
it is demanded that the law should directly extend welfare, education,
and morality throughout the nation.
This is the seductive lure of socialism. And I repeat again:
These two uses of the law are in direct contradiction to each
other. We must choose between them. A citizen cannot at the same
time be free and not free.
Enforced Fraternity Destroys Liberty
Mr. de Lamartine once wrote to me thusly: "Your doctrine is only
the half of my program. You have stopped at liberty; I go on to
fraternity." I answered him: "The second half of your program
will destroy the first."
In fact, it is impossible for me to separate the word fraternity
from the word voluntary. I cannot possibly understand how
fraternity can be legally enforced without liberty being
legally destroyed, and thus justice being legally
Legal plunder has two roots: One of them, as I have said before,
is in human greed; the other is in false philanthropy.
At this point, I think that I should explain exactly what I mean
by the word plunder.*3
Plunder Violates Ownership
I do not, as is often done, use the word in any vague, uncertain,
approximate, or metaphorical sense. I use it in its scientific
acceptanceas expressing the idea opposite to that of property
[wages, land, money, or whatever]. When a portion of wealth is
transferred from the person who owns itwithout his consent
and without compensation, and whether by force or by fraudto
anyone who does not own it, then I say that property is violated;
that an act of plunder is committed.
I say that this act is exactly what the law is supposed to suppress,
always and everywhere. When the law itself commits this act that
it is supposed to suppress, I say that plunder is still committed,
and I add that from the point of view of society and welfare,
this aggression against rights is even worse. In this case of
legal plunder, however, the person who receives the benefits is
not responsible for the act of plundering. The responsibility
for this legal plunder rests with the law, the legislator, and
society itself. Therein lies the political danger.
It is to be regretted that the word plunder is offensive.
I have tried in vain to find an inoffensive word, for I would
not at any timeespecially nowwish to add an irritating
word to our dissentions. Thus, whether I am believed or not, I
declare that I do not mean to attack the intentions or the morality
of anyone. Rather, I am attacking an idea which I believe
to be false; a system which appears to me to be unjust;
an injustice so independent of personal intentions that each of
us profits from it without wishing to do so, and suffers from
it without knowing the cause of the suffering.
Three Systems of Plunder
The sincerity of those who advocate protectionism, socialism,
and communism is not here questioned. Any writer who would do
that must be influenced by a political spirit or a political fear.
It is to be pointed out, however, that protectionism, socialism,
and communism are basically the same plant in three different
stages of its growth. All that can be said is that legal plunder
is more visible in communism because it is complete plunder; and
in protectionism because the plunder is limited to specific groups
Thus it follows that, of the three systems, socialism is the vaguest,
the most indecisive, and, consequently, the most sincere stage
But sincere or insincere, the intentions of persons are not here
under question. In fact, I have already said that legal plunder
is based partially on philanthropy, even though it is a false
With this explanation, let us examine the valuethe origin
and the tendencyof this popular aspiration which claims
to accomplish the general welfare by general plunder.
Law Is Force
Since the law organizes justice, the socialists ask why the law
should not also organize labor, education, and religion.
Why should not law be used for these purposes? Because it could
not organize labor, education, and religion without destroying
justice. We must remember that law is force, and that, consequently,
the proper functions of the law cannot lawfully extend beyond
the proper functions of force.
When law and force keep a person within the bounds of justice,
they impose nothing but a mere negation. They oblige him only
to abstain from harming others. They violate neither his personality,
his liberty, nor his property. They safeguard all of these. They
are defensive; they defend equally the rights of all.
Law Is a Negative Concept
The harmlessness of the mission performed by law and lawful defense
is self-evident; the usefulness is obvious; and the legitimacy
cannot be disputed.
As a friend of mine once remarked, this negative concept of law
is so true that the statement, the purpose of the law is to
cause justice to reign, is not a rigorously accurate statement.
It ought to be stated that the purpose of the law is to prevent
injustice from reigning. In fact, it is injustice, instead
of justice, that has an existence of its own. Justice is achieved
only when injustice is absent.
But when the law, by means of its necessary agent, force, imposes
upon men a regulation of labor, a method or a subject of education,
a religious faith or creedthen the law is no longer negative;
it acts positively upon people. It substitutes the will of the
legislator for their own wills; the initiative of the legislator
for their own initiatives. When this happens, the people no longer
need to discuss, to compare, to plan ahead; the law does all this
for them. Intelligence becomes a useless prop for the people;
they cease to be men; they lose their personality, their liberty,
Try to imagine a regulation of labor imposed by force that is
not a violation of liberty; a transfer of wealth imposed by force
that is not a violation of property. If you cannot reconcile these
contradictions, then you must conclude that the law cannot organize
labor and industry without organizing injustice.
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