to this Library with permission from the Foundation
for Economic Education
The Error of the Socialist Writers
Actually, it is not strange that during the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries the human race was regarded as inert
matter, ready to receive everythingform, face, energy, movement,
lifefrom a great prince or a great legislator or a great
genius. These centuries were nourished on the study of antiquity.
And antiquity presents everywherein Egypt, Persia, Greece,
Romethe spectacle of a few men molding mankind according
to their whims, thanks to the prestige of force and of fraud.
But this does not prove that this situation is desirable. It proves
only that since men and society are capable of improvement, it
is naturally to be expected that error, ignorance, despotism,
slavery, and superstition should be greatest towards the origins
of history. The writers quoted above were not in error when they
found ancient institutions to be such, but they were in error
when they offered them for the admiration and imitation of future
generations. Uncritical and childish conformists, they took for
granted the grandeur, dignity, morality, and happiness of the
artificial societies of the ancient world. They did not understand
that knowledge appears and grows with the passage of time; and
that in proportion to this growth of knowledge, might takes
the side of right, and society regains possession of itself.
What Is Liberty?
Actually, what is the political struggle that we witness? It
is the instinctive struggle of all people toward liberty. And
what is this liberty, whose very name makes the heart beat faster
and shakes the world? Is it not the union of all libertiesliberty
of conscience, of education, of association, of the press, of
travel, of labor, of trade? In short, is not liberty the freedom
of every person to make full use of his faculties, so long as
he does not harm other persons while doing so? Is not liberty
the destruction of all despotismincluding, of course, legal
despotism? Finally, is not liberty the restricting of the law
only to its rational sphere of organizing the right of the individual
to lawful self-defense; of punishing injustice?
It must be admitted that the tendency of the human race toward
liberty is largely thwarted, especially in France. This is greatly
due to a fatal desirelearned from the teachings of antiquitythat
our writers on public affairs have in common: They desire to set
themselves above mankind in order to arrange, organize, and regulate
it according to their fancy.
While society is struggling toward liberty, these famous men
who put themselves at its head are filled with the spirit of the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. They think only of subjecting
mankind to the philanthropic tyranny of their own social inventions.
Like Rousseau, they desire to force mankind docilely to bear this
yoke of the public welfare that they have dreamed up in their
This was especially true in 1789. No sooner was the old regime
destroyed than society was subjected to still other artificial
arrangements, always starting from the same point: the omnipotence
of the law.
Listen to the ideas of a few of the writers and politicians during
SAINT-JUST: The legislator commands the future.
It is for him to will the good of mankind. It is for him
to make men what he wills them to be.
ROBESPIERRE: The function of government is
to direct the physical and moral powers of the nation toward the
end for which the commonwealth has come into being.
BILLAUD-VARENNES: A people who are to be
returned to liberty must be formed anew. A strong force and vigorous
action are necessary to destroy old prejudices, to change old
customs, to correct depraved affections, to restrict superfluous
wants, and to destroy ingrained vices.... Citizens, the inflexible
austerity of Lycurgus created the firm foundation of the Spartan
republic. The weak and trusting character of Solon plunged Athens
into slavery. This parallel embraces the whole science of government.
LE PELLETIER: Considering the extent of human
degradation, I am convinced that it is necessary to effect a total
regeneration and, if I may so express myself, of creating a new
The Socialists Want Dictatorship
Again, it is claimed that persons are nothing but raw material.
It is not for them to will their own improvement; they
are incapable of it. According to Saint-Just, only the legislator
is capable of doing this. Persons are merely to be what the legislator
wills them to be. According to Robespierre, who copies
Rousseau literally, the legislator begins by decreeing the end
for which the commonwealth has come into being. Once this
is determined, the government has only to direct the physical
and moral forces of the nation toward that end. Meanwhile,
the inhabitants of the nation are to remain completely passive.
And according to the teachings of Billaud-Varennes, the people
should have no prejudices, no affections, and no desires except
those authorized by the legislator. He even goes so far as to
say that the inflexible austerity of one man is the foundation
of a republic.
In cases where the alleged evil is so great that ordinary governmental
procedures cannot cure it, Mably recommends a dictatorship to
promote virtue: "Resort," he says, "to an extraordinary tribunal
with considerable powers for a short time. The imagination of
the citizens needs to be struck a hard blow." This doctrine has
not been forgotten. Listen to Robespierre:
The principle of the republican government
is virtue, and the means required to establish virtue is terror.
In our country we desire to substitute morality for selfishness,
honesty for honor, principles for customs, duties for manners,
the empire of reason for the tyranny of fashion, contempt of vice
for contempt of poverty, pride for insolence, greatness of soul
for vanity, love of glory for love of money, good people for good
companions, merit for intrigue, genius for wit, truth for glitter,
the charm of happiness for the boredom of pleasure, the greatness
of man for the littleness of the great, a generous, strong, happy
people for a good-natured, frivolous, degraded people; in short,
we desire to substitute all the virtues and miracles of a republic
for all the vices and absurdities of a monarchy.
At what a tremendous height above the rest of mankind does Robespierre
here place himself! And note the arrogance with which he speaks.
He is not content to pray for a great reawakening of the human
spirit. Nor does he expect such a result from a well-ordered government.
No, he himself will remake mankind, and by means of terror.
This mass of rotten and contradictory statements is extracted
from a discourse by Robespierre in which he aims to explain the
principles of morality which ought to guide a revolutionary
government. Note that Robespierre's request for dictatorship
is not made merely for the purpose of repelling a foreign invasion
or putting down the opposing groups. Rather he wants a dictatorship
in order that he may use terror to force upon the country his
own principles of morality. He says that this act is only to be
a temporary measure preceding a new constitution. But in reality,
he desires nothing short of using terror to extinguish from France
selfishness, honor, customs, manners, fashion, vanity, love
of money, good companionship, intrigue, wit, sensuousness, and
poverty. Not until he, Robespierre, shall have accomplished
these miracles, as he so rightly calls them, will he permit
the law to reign again.*7
The Indirect Approach to Despotism
Usually, however, these gentlementhe reformers, the legislators,
and the writers on public affairsdo not desire to impose
direct despotism upon mankind. Oh no, they are too moderate and
philanthropic for such direct action. Instead, they turn to the
law for this despotism, this absolutism, this omnipotence. They
desire only to make the laws.
To show the prevalence of this queer idea in France, I would
need to copy not only the entire works of Mably, Raynal, Rousseau,
and Fenelonplus long extracts from Bossuet and Montesquieubut
also the entire proceedings of the Convention. I shall do no such
thing; I merely refer the reader to them.
Napoleon Wanted Passive Mankind
It is, of course, not at all surprising that this same idea should
have greatly appealed to Napoleon. He embraced it ardently and
used it with vigor. Like a chemist, Napoleon considered all Europe
to be material for his experiments. But, in due course, this material
reacted against him.
At St. Helena, Napoleongreatly disillusionedseemed
to recognize some initiative in mankind. Recognizing this, he
became less hostile to liberty. Nevertheless, this did not prevent
him from leaving this lesson to his son in his will: "To govern
is to increase and spread morality, education, and happiness."
After all this, it is hardly necessary to quote the same opinions
from Morelly, Babeuf, Owen, Saint-Simon, and Fourier. Here are,
however, a few extracts from Louis Blanc's book on the organization
of labor: "In our plan, society receives its momentum from power."
Now consider this: The impulse behind this momentum is to be
supplied by the plan of Louis Blanc; his plan is to be
forced upon society; the society referred to is the human race.
Thus the human race is to receive its momentum from Louis Blanc.
Now it will be said that the people are free to accept or to
reject this plan. Admittedly, people are free to accept or to
reject advice from whomever they wish. But this is not
the way in which Mr. Louis Blanc understands the matter. He expects
that his plan will be legalized, and thus forcibly imposed upon
the people by the power of the law:
In our plan, the state has only to pass labor
laws (nothing else?) by means of which industrial progress can
and must proceed in complete liberty. The state merely
places society on an incline (that is all?). Then society will
slide down this incline by the mere force of things, and by the
natural workings of the established mechanism.
But what is this incline that is indicated by Mr. Louis Blanc?
Does it not lead to an abyss? (No, it leads to happiness.) If
this is true, then why does not society go there of its own choice?
(Because society does not know what it wants; it must be propelled.)
What is to propel it? (Power.) And who is to supply the impulse
for this power? (Why, the inventor of the machinein this
instance, Mr. Louis Blanc.)
The Vicious Circle of Socialism
We shall never escape from this circle: the idea of passive mankind,
and the power of the law being used by a great man to propel the
Once on this incline, will society enjoy some liberty? (Certainly.)
And what is liberty, Mr. Louis Blanc?
Once and for all, liberty is not only a mere
granted right; it is also the power granted to a person to use
and to develop his faculties under a reign of justice and under
the protection of the law.
And this is no pointless distinction; its
meaning is deep and its consequences are difficult to estimate.
For once it is agreed that a person, to be truly free, must have
the power to use and develop his faculties, then it follows that
every person has a claim on society for such education as will
permit him to develop himself. It also follows that every
person has a claim on society for tools of production, without
which human activity cannot be fully effective. Now by what action
can society give to every person the necessary education and the
necessary tools of production, if not by the action of the state?
Thus, again, liberty is power. Of what does
this power consist? (Of being educated and of being given the
tools of production.) Who is to give the education and the tools
of production? (Society, which owes them to everyone.)
By what action is society to give tools of production to those
who do not own them? (Why, by the action of the state.)
And from whom will the state take them?
Let the reader answer that question. Let him also notice the
direction in which this is taking us.
The Doctrine of the Democrats
The strange phenomenon of our timesone which will probably
astound our descendantsis the doctrine based on this triple
hypothesis: the total inertness of mankind, the omnipotence of
the law, and the infallibility of the legislator. These three
ideas form the sacred symbol of those who proclaim themselves
The advocates of this doctrine also profess to be social.
So far as they are democratic, they place unlimited faith
in mankind. But so far as they are social, they regard mankind
as little better than mud. Let us examine this contrast in greater
What is the attitude of the democrat when political rights are
under discussion? How does he regard the people when a legislator
is to be chosen? Ah, then it is claimed that the people have an
instinctive wisdom; they are gifted with the finest perception;
their will is always right; the general will cannot
err; voting cannot be too universal.
When it is time to vote, apparently the voter is not to be asked
for any guarantee of his wisdom. His will and capacity to choose
wisely are taken for granted. Can the people be mistaken? Are
we not living in an age of enlightenment? What! are the people
always to be kept on leashes? Have they not won their rights by
great effort and sacrifice? Have they not given ample proof of
their intelligence and wisdom? Are they not adults? Are they not
capable of judging for themselves? Do they not know what is best
for themselves? Is there a class or a man who would be so bold
as to set himself above the people, and judge and act for them?
No, no, the people are and should be free. They desire
to manage their own affairs, and they shall do so.
But when the legislator is finally electedah! then indeed
does the tone of his speech undergo a radical change. The people
are returned to passiveness, inertness, and unconsciousness; the
legislator enters into omnipotence. Now it is for him to initiate,
to direct, to propel, and to organize. Mankind has only to submit;
the hour of despotism has struck. We now observe this fatal idea:
The people who, during the election, were so wise, so moral, and
so perfect, now have no tendencies whatever; or if they have any,
they are tendencies that lead downward into degradation.
The Socialist Concept of Liberty
But ought not the people be given a little liberty?
But Mr. Considerant has assured us that liberty leads inevitably
We understand that liberty means competition. But according to
Mr. Louis Blanc, competition is a system that ruins the businessmen
and exterminates the people. It is for this reason that free people
are ruined and exterminated in proportion to their degree of freedom.
(Possibly Mr. Louis Blanc should observe the results of competition
in, for example, Switzerland, Holland, England, and the United
Mr. Louis Blanc also tells us that competition leads to monopoly.
And by the same reasoning, he thus informs us that low prices
lead to high prices; that competition drives production
to destructive activity; that competition drains away the
sources of purchasing power; that competition forces an
increase in production while, at the same time, it forces a decrease
in consumption. From this, it follows that free people produce
for the sake of not consuming; that liberty means oppression
and madness among the people; and that Mr. Louis Blanc absolutely
must attend to it.
Socialists Fear All Liberties
Well, what liberty should the legislators permit people to have?
Liberty of conscience? (But if this were permitted, we would see
the people taking this opportunity to become atheists.)
Then liberty of education? (But parents would pay professors
to teach their children immorality and falsehoods; besides, according
to Mr. Thiers, if education were left to national liberty, it
would cease to be national, and we would be teaching our children
the ideas of the Turks or Hindus; whereas, thanks to this legal
despotism over education, our children now have the good fortune
to be taught the noble ideas of the Romans.)
Then liberty of labor? (But that would mean competition which,
in turn, leaves production unconsumed, ruins businessmen, and
exterminates the people.)
Perhaps liberty of trade? (But everyone knowsand the advocates
of protective tariffs have proved over and over againthat
freedom of trade ruins every person who engages in it, and that
it is necessary to suppress freedom of trade in order to prosper.)
Possibly then, liberty of association? (But, according to socialist
doctrine, true liberty and voluntary association are in contradiction
to each other, and the purpose of the socialists is to suppress
liberty of association precisely in order to force people to associate
together in true liberty.)
Clearly then, the conscience of the social democrats cannot permit
persons to have any liberty because they believe that the nature
of mankind tends always toward every kind of degradation and disaster.
Thus, of course, the legislators must make plans for the people
in order to save them from themselves.
This line of reasoning brings us to a challenging question: If
people are as incapable, as immoral, and as ignorant as the politicians
indicate, then why is the right of these same people to vote defended
with such passionate insistence?
The Superman Idea
The claims of these organizers of humanity raise another question
which I have often asked them and which, so far as I know, they
have never answered: If the natural tendencies of mankind are
so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is
it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do
not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to
the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made
of a finer clay than the rest of mankind? The organizers maintain
that society, when left undirected, rushes headlong to its inevitable
destruction because the instincts of the people are so perverse.
The legislators claim to stop this suicidal course and to give
it a saner direction. Apparently, then, the legislators and the
organizers have received from Heaven an intelligence and virtue
that place them beyond and above mankind; if so, let them show
their titles to this superiority.
They would be the shepherds over us, their sheep. Certainly such
an arrangement presupposes that they are naturally superior to
the rest of us. And certainly we are fully justified in demanding
from the legislators and organizers proof of this natural superiority.
The Socialists Reject Free Choice
Please understand that I do not dispute their right to invent
social combinations, to advertise them, to advocate them, and
to try them upon themselves, at their own expense and risk. But
I do dispute their right to impose these plans upon us by lawby
forceand to compel us to pay for them with our taxes.
I do not insist that the supporters of these various social schools
of thoughtthe Proudhonists, the Cabetists, the Fourierists,
the Universitarists, and the Protectionistsrenounce their
various ideas. I insist only that they renounce this one idea
that they have in common: They need only to give up the idea of
forcing us to acquiesce to their groups and series, their
socialized projects, their free-credit banks, their Graeco-Roman
concept of morality, and their commercial regulations. I ask only
that we be permitted to decide upon these plans for ourselves;
that we not be forced to accept them, directly or indirectly,
if we find them to be contrary to our best interests or repugnant
to our consciences.
The Cause of French Revolutions
This contradiction in ideas is, unfortunately but logically,
reflected in events in France. For example, Frenchmen have led
all other Europeans in obtaining their rightsor, more accurately,
their political demands. Yet this fact has in no respect prevented
us from becoming the most governed, the most regulated, the most
imposed upon, the most harnessed, and the most exploited people
in Europe. France also leads all other nations as the one where
revolutions are constantly to be anticipated. And under the circumstances,
it is quite natural that this should be the case.
And this will remain the case so long as our politicians continue
to accept this idea that has been so well expressed by Mr. Louis
Blanc: "Society receives its momentum from power." This will remain
the case so long as human beings with feelings continue to remain
passive; so long as they consider themselves incapable of bettering
their prosperity and happiness by their own intelligence and their
own energy; so long as they expect everything from the law; in
short, so long as they imagine that their relationship to the
state is the same as that of the sheep to the shepherd.
The Enormous Power of Government
As long as these ideas prevail, it is clear that the responsibility
of government is enormous. Good fortune and bad fortune, wealth
and destitution, equality and inequality, virtue and viceall
then depend upon political administration. It is burdened with
everything, it undertakes everything, it does everything; therefore
it is responsible for everything.
If we are fortunate, then government has a claim to our gratitude;
but if we are unfortunate, then government must bear the blame.
For are not our persons and property now at the disposal of government?
Is not the law omnipotent?
In creating a monopoly of education, the government must answer
to the hopes of the fathers of families who have thus been deprived
of their liberty; and if these hopes are shattered, whose fault
In regulating industry, the government has contracted to make
it prosper; otherwise it is absurd to deprive industry of its
liberty. And if industry now suffers, whose fault is it?
In meddling with the balance of trade by playing with tariffs,
the government thereby contracts to make trade prosper; and if
this results in destruction instead of prosperity, whose fault
In giving the maritime industries protection in exchange for
their liberty, the government undertakes to make them profitable;
and if they become a burden to the taxpayers, whose fault is it?
Thus there is not a grievance in the nation for which the government
does not voluntarily make itself responsible. Is it surprising,
then, that every failure increases the threat of another revolution
And what remedy is proposed for this? To extend indefinitely
the domain of the law; that is, the responsibility of government.
But if the government undertakes to control and to raise wages,
and cannot do it; if the government undertakes to care for all
who may be in want, and cannot do it; if the government undertakes
to support all unemployed workers, and cannot do it; if the government
undertakes to lend interest-free money to all borrowers, and cannot
do it; if, in these words that we regret to say escaped from the
pen of Mr. de Lamartine, "The state considers that its purpose
is to enlighten, to develop, to enlarge, to strengthen, to spiritualize,
and to sanctify the soul of the people"and if the government
cannot do all of these things, what then? Is it not certain that
after every government failurewhich, alas! is more than
probablethere will be an equally inevitable revolution?
Politics and Economics
[Now let us return to a subject that was briefly discussed in
the opening pages of this thesis: the relationship of economics
and of politicspolitical economy.]*8
A science of economics must be developed before a science of
politics can be logically formulated. Essentially, economics is
the science of determining whether the interests of human beings
are harmonious or antagonistic. This must be known before a science
of politics can be formulated to determine the proper functions
Immediately following the development of a science of economics,
and at the very beginning of the formulation of a science of politics,
this all-important question must be answered: What is law? What
ought it to be? What is its scope; its limits? Logically, at what
point do the just powers of the legislator stop?
I do not hesitate to answer: Law is the common force organized
to act as an obstacle of injustice. In short, law is justice.
Proper Legislative Functions
It is not true that the legislator has absolute power over our
persons and property. The existence of persons and property preceded
the existence of the legislator, and his function is only to guarantee
It is not true that the function of law is to regulate our consciences,
our ideas, our wills, our education, our opinions, our work, our
trade, our talents, or our pleasures. The function of law is to
protect the free exercise of these rights, and to prevent any
person from interfering with the free exercise of these same rights
by any other person.
Since law necessarily requires the support of force, its lawful
domain is only in the areas where the use of force is necessary.
This is justice.
Every individual has the right to use force for lawful self-defense.
It is for this reason that the collective forcewhich is
only the organized combination of the individual forcesmay
lawfully be used for the same purpose; and it cannot be used legitimately
for any other purpose.
Law is solely the organization of the individual right of self-defense
which existed before law was formalized. Law is justice.
Law and Charity Are Not the Same
The mission of the law is not to oppress persons and plunder
them of their property, even though the law may be acting in a
philanthropic spirit. Its mission is to protect persons and property.
Furthermore, it must not be said that the law may be philanthropic
if, in the process, it refrains from oppressing persons and plundering
them of their property; this would be a contradiction. The law
cannot avoid having an effect upon persons and property; and if
the law acts in any manner except to protect them, its actions
then necessarily violate the liberty of persons and their right
to own property.
The law is justicesimple and clear, precise and bounded.
Every eye can see it, and every mind can grasp it; for justice
is measurable, immutable, and unchangeable. Justice is neither
more than this nor less than this.
If you exceed this proper limitif you attempt to make the
law religious, fraternal, equalizing, philanthropic, industrial,
literary, or artisticyou will then be lost in an uncharted
territory, in vagueness and uncertainty, in a forced utopia or,
even worse, in a multitude of utopias, each striving to seize
the law and impose it upon you. This is true because fraternity
and philanthropy, unlike justice, do not have precise limits.
Once started, where will you stop? And where will the law stop
The High Road to Communism
Mr. de Saint-Cricq would extend his philanthropy only to some
of the industrial groups; he would demand that the law control
the consumers to benefit the producers.
Mr. Considerant would sponsor the cause of the labor groups;
he would use the law to secure for them a guaranteed minimum
of clothing, housing, food, and all other necessities of life.
Mr. Louis Blanc would sayand with reasonthat these
minimum guarantees are merely the beginning of complete fraternity;
he would say that the law should give tools of production and
free education to all working people.
Another person would observe that this arrangement would still
leave room for inequality; he would claim that the law should
give to everyone even in the most inaccessible hamletluxury,
literature, and art.
All of these proposals are the high road to communism; legislation
will then bein fact, it already isthe battlefield
for the fantasies and greed of everyone.
The Basis for Stable Government
Law is justice. In this proposition a simple and enduring government
can be conceived. And I defy anyone to say how even the thought
of revolution, of insurrection, of the slightest uprising could
arise against a government whose organized force was confined
only to suppressing injustice.
Under such a regime, there would be the most prosperityand
it would be the most equally distributed. As for the sufferings
that are inseparable from humanity, no one would even think of
accusing the government for them. This is true because, if the
force of government were limited to suppressing injustice, then
government would be as innocent of these sufferings as it is now
innocent of changes in the temperature.
As proof of this statement, consider this question: Have the
people ever been known to rise against the Court of Appeals, or
mob a Justice of the Peace, in order to get higher wages, free
credit, tools of production, favorable tariffs, or government-created
jobs? Everyone knows perfectly well that such matters are not
within the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals or a Justice of
the Peace. And if government were limited to its proper functions,
everyone would soon learn that these matters are not within the
jurisdiction of the law itself.
But make the laws upon the principle of fraternityproclaim
that all good, and all bad, stem from the law; that the law is
responsible for all individual misfortunes and all social inequalitiesthen
the door is open to an endless succession of complaints, irritations,
troubles, and revolutions.
Justice Means Equal Rights
Law is justice. And it would indeed be strange if law could properly
be anything else! Is not justice right? Are not rights equal?
By what right does the law force me to conform to the social plans
of Mr. Mimerel, Mr. de Melun, Mr. Thiers, or Mr. Louis Blanc?
If the law has a moral right to do this, why does it not, then,
force these gentlemen to submit to my plans? Is it logical
to suppose that nature has not given me sufficient imagination
to dream up a utopia also? Should the law choose one fantasy among
many, and put the organized force of government at its service
Law is justice. And let it not be saidas it continually
is saidthat under this concept, the law would be atheistic,
individualistic, and heartless; that it would make mankind in
its own image. This is an absurd conclusion, worthy only of those
worshippers of government who believe that the law is mankind.
Nonsense! Do those worshippers of government believe that free
persons will cease to act? Does it follow that if we receive no
energy from the law, we shall receive no energy at all? Does it
follow that if the law is restricted to the function of protecting
the free use of our faculties, we will be unable to use our faculties?
Suppose that the law does not force us to follow certain forms
of religion, or systems of association, or methods of education,
or regulations of labor, or regulations of trade, or plans for
charity; does it then follow that we shall eagerly plunge into
atheism, hermitary, ignorance, misery, and greed? If we are free,
does it follow that we shall no longer recognize the power and
goodness of God? Does it follow that we shall then cease to associate
with each other, to help each other, to love and succor our unfortunate
brothers, to study the secrets of nature, and to strive to improve
ourselves to the best of our abilities?
The Path to Dignity and Progress
Law is justice. And it is under the law of justiceunder
the reign of right; under the influence of liberty, safety, stability,
and responsibilitythat every person will attain his real
worth and the true dignity of his being. It is only under this
law of justice that mankind will achieveslowly, no doubt,
but certainlyGod's design for the orderly and peaceful progress
It seems to me that this is theoretically right, for whatever
the question under discussionwhether religious, philosophical,
political, or economic; whether it concerns prosperity, morality,
equality, right, justice, progress, responsibility, cooperation,
property, labor, trade, capital, wages, taxes, population, finance,
or governmentat whatever point on the scientific horizon
I begin my researches, I invariably reach this one conclusion:
The solution to the problems of human relationships is to be found
Proof of an Idea
And does not experience prove this? Look at the entire world.
Which countries contain the most peaceful, the most moral, and
the happiest people? Those people are found in the countries where
the law least interferes with private affairs; where government
is least felt; where the individual has the greatest scope, and
free opinion the greatest influence; where administrative powers
are fewest and simplest; where taxes are lightest and most nearly
equal, and popular discontent the least excited and the least
justifiable; where individuals and groups most actively assume
their responsibilities, and, consequently, where the morals of
admittedly imperfect human beings are constantly improving; where
trade, assemblies, and associations are the least restricted;
where labor, capital, and populations suffer the fewest forced
displacements; where mankind most nearly follows its own natural
inclinations; where the inventions of men are most nearly in harmony
with the laws of God; in short, the happiest, most moral, and
most peaceful people are those who most nearly follow this principle:
Although mankind is not perfect, still, all hope rests upon the
free and voluntary actions of persons within the limits of right;
law or force is to be used for nothing except the administration
of universal justice.
The Desire to Rule Over Others
This must be said: There are too many "great" men in the worldlegislators,
organizers, do-gooders, leaders of the people, fathers of nations,
and so on, and so on. Too many persons place themselves above
mankind; they make a career of organizing it, patronizing it,
and ruling it.
Now someone will say: "You yourself are doing this very thing."
True. But it must be admitted that I act in an entirely different
sense; if I have joined the ranks of the reformers, it is solely
for the purpose of persuading them to leave people alone. I do
not look upon people as Vancauson looked upon his automaton. Rather,
just as the physiologist accepts the human body as it is, so do
I accept people as they are. I desire only to study and admire.
My attitude toward all other persons is well illustrated by this
story from a celebrated traveler: He arrived one day in the midst
of a tribe of savages, where a child had just been born. A crowd
of soothsayers, magicians, and quacksarmed with rings, hooks,
and cordssurrounded it. One said: "This child will never
smell the perfume of a peace-pipe unless I stretch his nostrils."
Another said: "He will never be able to hear unless I draw his
ear-lobes down to his shoulders." A third said: "He will never
see the sunshine unless I slant his eyes." Another said: "He will
never stand upright unless I bend his legs." A fifth said: "He
will never learn to think unless I flatten his skull."
"Stop," cried the traveler. "What God does is well done. Do not
claim to know more than He. God has given organs to this frail
creature; let them develop and grow strong by exercise, use, experience,
Us Now Try Liberty
God has given to men all that is necessary for them to accomplish
their destinies. He has provided a social form as well as a human
form. And these social organs of persons are so constituted that
they will develop themselves harmoniously in the clean air of
liberty. Away, then, with quacks and organizers! A way with their
rings, chains, hooks, and pincers! Away with their artificial
systems! Away with the whims of governmental administrators, their
socialized projects, their centralization, their tariffs, their
government schools, their state religions, their free credit,
their bank monopolies, their regulations, their restrictions,
their equalization by taxation, and their pious moralizations!
And now that the legislators and do-gooders have so futilely
inflicted so many systems upon society, may they finally end where
they should have begun: May they reject all systems, and try liberty;
for liberty is an acknowledgment of faith in God and His works.
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