System of Economical Contradictions: or, the Philosophy of Misery : Chapter 5, Section 5.2 : Subversive effects of competition, and the destruction of liberty thereby

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Chapter 5, Section 5.2

2. -- Subversive effects of competition, and the destruction of liberty thereby.

   The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, says the Gospel, and the violent take it by force. These words are the allegory of society. In society regulated by labor, dignity, wealth, and glory are objects of competition; they are the reward of the strong, and competition may be defined as the regime of force. The old economists did not at first perceive this contradiction: the moderns have been forced to recognize it.

   "To elevate a State from the lowest degree of barbarism to the highest degree of opulence," wrote A. Smith, "but three things are necessary, -- peace, moderate taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice. All the rest is brought about by the natural course of things."

   On which the last translator of Smith, M. Blanqui, lets fall this gloomy comment:

   We have seen the natural course of things produce disastrous effects, and create anarchy in production, war for markets, and piracy in competition. The division of labor and the perfecting of machinery, which should realize for the great working family of the human race the conquest of a certain amount of leisure to the advantage of its dignity, have produced at many points nothing but degradation and misery. . . . . When A. Smith wrote, liberty had not yet come with its embarrassments and its abuses, and the Glasgow professor foresaw only its blessings. . . Smith would have written like M. de Sismondi, if he had been a witness of the sad condition of Ireland and the manufacturing districts of England in the times in which we live.

Now then, litterateurs, statesmen, daily publicists, believers and half-believers, all you who have taken upon yourselves the mission of indoctrinating men, do you hear these words which one would take for a translation from Jeremiah? Will you tell us at last to what end you pretend to be conducting civilization? What advice do you offer to society, to the country, in alarm?

   But to whom do I speak? Ministers, journalists, sextons, and pedants! Do such people trouble themselves about the problems of social economy? Have they ever heard of competition?

   A citizen of Lyons, a soul hardened to mercantile war, traveled in Tuscany. He observes that from five to six hundred thousand straw hats are made annually in that country, the aggregate value of which amounts to four or five millions of francs. This industry is almost the sole support of the people of the little State. "How is it," he says to himself, "that so easily conducted a branch of agriculture and manufactures has not been transported into Provence and Languedoc, where the climate is the same as in Tuscany?" But, thereupon observes an economist, if the industry of the peasants of Tuscany is taken from them, how will they contrive to live?

   The manufacture of black silks had become for Florence a specialty the secret of which she guarded preciously.

   A shrewd Lyons manufacturer, the tourist notices with satisfaction, has come to set up an establishment in Florence, and has finally got possession of the peculiar processes of dyeing and weaving. Probably this discovery will diminish Florentine exportation. -- A Journey in Italy, by M. FULCHIRON.

   Formerly the breeding of the silk-worm was abandoned to the peasants of Tuscany; whom it aided to live.

Agricultural societies have been formed; they have represented that the silk-worm, in the peasant's sleeping-room, did not get sufficient ventilation or sufficient steadiness of temperature, or as good care as it would have if the laborers who breed them made it their sole business. Consequently rich, intelligent, and generous citizens have built, amid the applause of the public, what are called bigattieres (from bigatti, silk-worm). -- M. DE SISMONDI.

   And then, you ask, will these breeders of silk-worms, these manufacturers of silks and hats, lose their work? Precisely: it will even be proved to them that it is for their interest that they should, since they will be able to buy the same products for less than it costs them to manufacture them. Such is competition.

   Competition, with its homicidal instinct, takes away the bread of a whole class of laborers, and sees in it only an improvement, a saving; it steals a secret in a cowardly manner, and glories in it as a discovery; it changes the natural zones of production to the detriment of an entire people, and pretends to have done nothing but utilize the advantages of its climate. Competition overturns all notions of equity and justice; it increases the real cost of production by needlessly multiplying the capital invested, causes by turns the dearness of products and their depreciation, corrupts the public conscience by putting chance in the place of right, and maintains terror and distrust everywhere.

   But what! Without this atrocious characteristic, competition would lose its happiest effects; without the arbitrary element in exchange and the panics of the market, labor would not continually build factory against factory, and, not being maintained in such good working order, production would realize none of its marvels. After having caused evil to arise from the very utility of its principle, competition again finds a way to extract good from evil; destruction engenders utility, equilibrium is realized by agitation, and it may be said of competition, as Samson said of the lion which he had slain: De comedente cibus exiit, et de forti dulcedo. Is there anything, in all the spheres of human knowledge, more surprising than political economy?

   Let us take care, nevertheless, not to yield to an impulse of irony, which would be on our part only unjust invective. It is characteristic of economic science to find its certainty in its contradictions, and the whole error of the economists consists in not having understood this. Nothing poorer than their criticism, nothing more saddening than their mental confusion, as soon as they touch this question of competition: one would say that they were witnesses forced by torture to confess what their conscience would like to conceal. The reader will take it kindly if I put before his eyes the arguments for laissez-passer, introducing him, so to speak, into the presence of a secret meeting of economists.

   M. Dunoyer opens the discussion.

   Of all the economists M. Dunoyer has most energetically embraced the positive side of competition, and consequently, as might have been expected, most ineffectually grasped the negative side. M. Dunoyer, with whom nothing can be done when what he calls principles are under discussion, is very far from believing that in matters of political economy yes and no may be true at the same moment and to the same extent; let it be said even to his credit, such a conception is the more repugnant to him because of the frankness and honesty with which he holds his doctrines. What would I not give to gain an entrance into this pure but so obstinate soul for this truth as certain to me as the existence of the sun, -- that all the categories of political economy are contradictions! Instead of uselessly exhausting himself in reconciling practice and theory; instead of contenting himself with the ridiculous excuse that everything here below has its advantages and its inconveniences, -- M. Dunoyer would seek the synthetic idea which solves all the antinomies, and, instead of the paradoxical conservative which he now is, he would become with us an inexorable and logical revolutionist.

   "If competition is a false principle," says M. Dunoyer, "it follows that for two thousand years humanity has been pursuing the wrong road."

   No, what you say does not follow, and your prejudicial remark is refuted by the very theory of progress. Humanity posits its principles by turns, and sometimes at long intervals: never does it give them up in substance, although it destroys successively their expressions and formulas. This destruction is called negation; because the general reason, ever progressive, continually denies the completeness and sufficiency of its prior ideas. Thus it is that, competition being one of the periods in the constitution of value, one of the elements of the social synthesis, it is true to say at the same time that it is indestructible in its principle, and that nevertheless in its present form it should be abolished, denied. If, then, there is any one here who is in opposition to history, it is you.

   I have several remarks to make upon the accusations of which competition has been the object. The first is that this regime, good or bad, ruinous or fruitful, does not really exist as yet; that it is established nowhere except in a partial and most incomplete manner.

   This first observation has no sense. Competition kills competition, as we said at the outset; this aphorism may be taken for a definition. How, then, could competition ever be complete? Moreover, though it should be admitted that competition does not yet exist in its integrity, that would simply prove that competition does not act with all the power of elimination that there is in it; but that will not change at all its contradictory nature. What need have we to wait thirty centuries longer to find out that, the more competition develops, the more it tends to reduce the number of competitors?

   The second is that the picture drawn of it is unfaithful; and that sufficient heed is not paid to the extension which the general welfare has undergone, including even that of the laboring classes.

   If some socialists fail to recognize the useful side of competition, you on your side make no mention of its pernicious effects. The testimony of your opponents coming to complete your own, competition is shown in the fullest light, and from a double falsehood we get the truth as a result. As for the gravity of the evil, we shall see directly what to think about that.

   The third is that the evil experienced by the laboring classes is not referred to its real causes.

   If there are other causes of poverty than competition, does that prevent it from contributing its share? Though only one manufacturer a year were ruined by competition, if it were admitted that this ruin is the necessary effect of the principle, competition, as a principle, would have to be rejected.

   The fourth is that the principal means proposed for obviating it would be inexpedient in the extreme.

   Possibly: but from this I conclude that the inadequacy of the remedies proposed imposes a new duty upon you, -- precisely that of seeking the most expedient means of preventing the evil of competition.

   The fifth, finally, is that the real remedies, in so far as it is possible to remedy the evil by legislation, would be found precisely in the regime which is accused of having produced it, -- that is, in a more and more real regime of liberty and competition.

   Well! I am willing. The remedy for competition, in your opinion, is to make competition universal. But, in order that competition may be universal, it is necessary to procure for all the means of competing; it is necessary to destroy or modify the predominance of capital over labor, to change the relations between employer and workman, to solve, in a word, the antinomy of division and that of machinery; it is necessary to ORGANIZE LABOR: can you give this solution?

   M. Dunoyer then develops, with a courage worthy of a better cause, his own utopia of universal competition: it is a labyrinth in which the author stumbles and contradicts himself at every step.

   "Competition," says M. Dunoyer, "meets a multitude of obstacles."

   In fact, it meets so many and such powerful ones that it becomes impossible itself. For how is triumph possible over obstacles inherent in the constitution of society and consequently inseparable from competition itself?

   In addition to the public services, there is a certain number of professions the practice of which the government has seen fit to more or less exclusively reserve; there is a larger number of which legislation has given a monopoly to a restricted number of individuals. Those which are abandoned to competition are subjected to formalities and restrictions, to numberless barriers, which keep many from approaching, and in these consequently competition is far from being unlimited. In short, there are few which are not submitted to varied taxes, necessary doubtless, etc.

   What does all this mean? M. Dunoyer doubtless does not intend that society shall dispense with government, administration, police, taxes, universities, in a word, with everything that constitutes a society. Then, inasmuch as society necessarily implies exceptions to competition, the hypothesis of universal competition is chimerical, and we are back again under the regime of caprice, -- a result foretold in the definition of competition. Is there anything serious in this reasoning of M. Dunoyer?

   Formerly the masters of the science began by putting far away from them every preconceived idea, and devoted themselves to tracing facts back to general laws, without ever altering or concealing them. The researches of Adam Smith, considering the time of their appearance, are a marvel of sagacity and lofty reasoning. The economic picture presented by Quesnay, wholly unintelligible as it appears, gives evidence of a profound sentiment of the general synthesis. The introduction to J. B. Say's great treatise dwells exclusively upon the scientific characteristics of political economy, and in every line is to be seen how much the author felt the need of absolute ideas. The economists of the last century certainly did not constitute the science, but they sought this constitution ardently and honestly.

   How far we are today from these noble thoughts! No longer do they seek a science; they defend the interests of dynasty and caste. The more powerless routine becomes, the more stubbornly they adhere to it; they make use of the most venerated names to stamp abnormal phenomena with a quality of authenticity which they lack; they tax accusing facts with heresy; they calumniate the tendencies of the century; and nothing irritates an economist so much as to pretend to reason with him.

   "The peculiar characteristic of the present time," cries M. Dunoyer, in a tone of keen discontent, "is the agitation of all classes; their anxiety, their inability to ever stop at anything and be contented; the infernal labor performed upon the less fortunate that they may become more and more discontented in proportion to the increased efforts of society to make their lot really less pitiful."

Indeed! Because the socialists goad political economy, they are incarnate devils! Can there be anything more impious, in fact, than to teach the proletaire that he is wronged in his labor and his wages, and that, in the surroundings in which he lives, his poverty is irremediable?

   M. Reybaud repeats, with greater emphasis, the wail of his master, M. Dunoyer: one would think them the two seraphim of Isaiah chanting a Sanctus to competition. In June, 1844, at the time when he published the fourth edition of his "Contemporary Reformers," M. Reybaud wrote, in the bitterness of his soul:

   To socialists we owe the organization of labor, the right to labor; they are the promoters of the regime of surveillance. . . . The legislative chambers on either side of the channel are gradually succumbing to their influence. . . . Thus utopia is gaining ground. . . .

   And M. Reybaud more and more deplores the secret influence of socialism on the best minds, and stigmatizes -- see the malice! -- the unperceived contagion with which even those who have broken lances against socialism allow themselves to be inoculated. Then he announces, as a last act of his high justice against the wicked, the approaching publication, under the title of "Laws of Labor," of a work in which he will prove (unless some new evolution takes place in his ideas) that the laws of labor have nothing in common, either with the right to labor or with the organization of labor, and that the best of reforms is laissez-faire.

   "Moreover," adds M. Reybaud, "the tendency of political economy is no longer to theory, but to practice. The abstract portions of the science seem henceforth fixed. The controversy over definitions is exhausted, or nearly so. The works of the great economists on value, capital, supply and demand, wages, taxes, machinery, farm-rent, increase of population, over-accumulation of products, markets, banks, monopolies, etc., seem to have set the limit of dogmatic researches, and form a body of doctrine beyond which there is little to hope."

   Facility of speech, impotence in argument, -- such would have been the conclusion of Montesquieu upon this strange panegyric of the founders of social economy. THE SCIENCE IS COMPLETE! M. Reybaud makes oath to it; and what he proclaims with so much authority is repeated at the Academy, in the professors' chairs, in the councils of State, in the legislative halls; it is published in the journals; the king is made to say it in his New Year's addresses; and before the courts the cases of claimants are decided accordingly.

   THE SCIENCE IS COMPLETE! What fools we are, then, socialists, to hunt for daylight at noonday, and to protest, with our lanterns in our hands, against the brilliancy of these solar rays!

   But, gentlemen, it is with sincere regret and profound distrust of myself that I find myself forced to ask you for further light. If you cannot cure our ills, give us at least kind words, give us evidence, give us resignation.

   "It is obvious," says M. Dunoyer, "that wealth is infinitely better distributed in our day than it ever has been."

   "The equilibrium of pains and pleasures," promptly continues M. Reybaud, "ever tends to restore itself on earth."

   What, then! What do you say? Wealth better distributed, equilibrium restored! Explain yourselves, please, as to this better distribution. Is equality coming, or inequality going? Is solidarity becoming closer, or competition diminishing? I will not quit you until you have answered me, non missura cutem. . . . For, whatever the cause of the restoration of equilibrium and of the better distribution which you point out, I embrace it with ardor, and will follow it to its last consequences. Before 1830 -- I select the date at random -- wealth was not so well distributed: how so? Today, in your opinion, it is better distributed: why? You see what I am coming at: distribution being not yet perfectly equitable and the equilibrium not absolutely perfect, I ask, on the one hand, what obstacle it is that disturbs the equilibrium, and, on the other, by virtue of what principle humanity continually passes from the greater to the less evil and from the good to the better? For, in fact, this secret principle of amelioration can be neither competition, nor machinery, nor division of labor, nor supply and demand: all these principles are but levers which by turns cause value to oscillate, as the Academy of Moral Sciences has very clearly seen. What, then, is the sovereign law of well-being? What is this rule, this measure, this criterion of progress, the violation of which is the perpetual cause of poverty? Speak, and quit your haranguing.

   Wealth is better distributed, you say. Show us your proofs. M. Dunoyer:

   According to official documents, taxes are assessed on scarcely less than eleven million separate parcels of landed property. The number of proprietors by whom these taxes are paid is estimated at six millions; so that, assuming four individuals to a family, there must be no less than twenty-four million inhabitants out of thirty-four who participate in the ownership of the soil.

   Then, according to the most favorable figures, there must be ten million proletaires in France, or nearly one-third of the population. Now, what have you to say to that? Add to these ten millions half of the twenty-four others, whose property, burdened with mortgages, parceled out, impoverished, wretched, gives them no support, and still you will not have the number of individuals whose living is precarious.

   The number of twenty-four million proprietors perceptibly tends to increase.

   I maintain that it perceptibly tends to decrease. Who is the real proprietor, in your opinion, -- the nominal holder, assessed, taxed, pawned, mortgaged, or the creditor who collects the rent? Jewish and Swiss money-lenders are today the real proprietors of Alsace; and proof of their excellent judgment is to be found in the fact that they have no thought of acquiring landed estates: they prefer to invest their capital.

   To the landed proprietors must be added about fifteen hundred thousand holders of patents and licenses, or, assuming four persons to a family, six million individuals interested as leaders in industrial enterprises.

   But, in the first place, a great number of these licensed individuals are landed proprietors, and you count them twice. Further, it may be safely said that, of the whole number of licensed manufacturers and merchants, a fourth at most realize profits, another fourth hold their own, and the rest are constantly running behind in their business. Take, then, half at most of the six million so-called leaders in enterprises, which we will add to the very problematical twelve million landed proprietors, and we shall attain a total of fifteen million Frenchmen in a position, by their education, their industry, their capital, their credit, their property, to engage in competition. For the rest of the nation, or nineteen million souls, competition, like Henri IV.'s pullet in the pot, is a dish which they produce for the class which can pay for it, but which they never touch.

   Another difficulty. These nineteen million men, within whose reach competition never comes, are hirelings of the competitors. In the same way formerly the serfs fought for the lords, but without being able themselves to carry a banner or put an army on foot. Now, if competition cannot by itself become the common condition, why should not those for whom it offers nothing but perils, exact guarantees from the barons whom they serve? And if these guarantees can not be denied them, how could they be other than barriers to competition, just as the truce of God, invented by the bishops, was a barrier to feudal wars? By the constitution of society, I said a little while ago, competition is an exceptional matter, a privilege; now I ask how it is possible for this privilege to coexist with equality of rights?

   And think you, when I demand for consumers and wage-receivers guarantees against competition, that it is a socialist's dream? Listen to two of your most illustrious confreres, whom you will not accuse of performing an infernal work.

   M. Rossi (Volume I., Lecture 16) recognizes in the State the right to regulate labor, when the danger is too great and the guarantees insufficient, which means always. For the legislator must secure public order by principles and laws: he does not wait for unforeseen facts to arise in order that he may drive them back with an arbitrary hand. Elsewhere (Volume II., pp. 73-77) the same professor points out, as consequences of exaggerated competition, the incessant formation of a financial and landed aristocracy and the approaching downfall of small holders, and he raises the cry of alarm. M. Blanqui, on his side, declares that the organization of labor is recognized by economic science as in the order of the day (he has since retracted the statement), urges the participation of workers in the profits and the advent of the collective laborer, and thunders continually against the monopolies, prohibitions, and tyranny of capital. Qui habet aures audiendi audiat! M. Rossi, as a writer on criminal law, decrees against the robberies of competition; M. Blanqui, as examining magistrate, proclaims the guilty parties: it is the counterpart of the duet sung just now by MM. Reybaud and Dunoyer. When the latter cry Hosanna, the former respond, like the Fathers in the Councils, Anathema.

But, it will be said, MM. Blanqui and Rossi mean to strike only the abuses of competition; they have taken care not to proscribe the principle, and in that they are thoroughly in accord with MM. Reybaud and Dunoyer.

   I protest against this distinction, in the interest of the fame of the two professors.

   In fact, abuse has invaded everything, and the exception has become the rule. When M. Troplong, defending, with all the economists, the liberty of commerce, admitted that the coalition of the cab companies was one of those facts against which the legislator finds himself absolutely powerless, and which seem to contradict the sanest notions of social economy, he still had the consolation of saying to himself that such a fact was wholly exceptional, and that there was reason to believe that it would not become general. Now, this fact has become general: the most conservative jurisconsult has only to put his head out of his window to see that today absolutely everything has been monopolized through competition, -- transportation (by land, rail, and water), wheat and flour, wine and brandy, wood, coal, oil, iron, fabrics, salt, chemical products, etc. It is sad for jurisprudence, that twin sister of political economy, to see its grave anticipations contradicted in less than a luster, but it is sadder still for a great nation to be led by such poor geniuses and to glean the few ideas which sustain its life from the brushwood of their writings.

   In theory we have demonstrated that competition, on its useful side, should be universal and carried to its maximum of intensity; but that, viewed on its negative side, it must be everywhere stifled, even to the last vestige. Are the economists in a position to effect this elimination? Have they foreseen the consequences, calculated the difficulties? If the answer should be affirmative, I should have the boldness to propose the following case to them for solution.

   A treaty of coalition, or rather of association, -- for the courts would be greatly embarrassed to define either term, -- has just united in one company all the coal mines in the basin of the Loire. On complaint of the municipalities of Lyons and Saint Etienne, the ministry has appointed a commission charged with examining the character and tendencies of this frightful society. Well, I ask, what can the intervention of power, with the assistance of civil law and political economy, accomplish here?

   They cry out against coalition. But can the proprietors of mines be prevented from associating, from reducing their general expenses and costs of exploitation, and from working their mines to better advantage by a more perfect understanding with each other? Shall they be ordered to begin their old war over again, and ruin themselves by increased expenses, waste, over-production, disorder, and decreased prices? All that is absurd.

   Shall they be prevented from increasing their prices so as to recover the interest on their capital? Then let them be protected themselves against any demands for increased wages on the part of the workmen; let the law concerning joint-stock companies be reenacted; let the sale of shares be prohibited; and when all these measures shall have been taken, as the capitalist-proprietors of the basin cannot justly be forced to lose capital invested under a different condition of things, let them be indemnified.

   Shall a tariff be imposed upon them? That would be a law of maximum. The State would then have to put itself in the place of the exploiters; keep the accounts of their capital, interest, and office expenses; regulate the wages of the miners, the salaries of the engineers and directors, the price of the wood employed in the extraction of the coal, the expenditure for material; and, finally, determine the normal and legitimate rate of profit. All this cannot be done by ministerial decree: a law is necessary. Will the legislator dare, for the sake of a special industry, to change the public law of the French, and put power in the place of property? Then of two things one: either commerce in coals will fall into the hands of the State, or else the State must find some means of reconciling liberty and order in carrying on the mining industry, in which case the socialists will ask that what has been executed at one point be imitated at all points.

   The coalition of the Loire mines has posited the social question in terms which permit no more evasion. Either competition, -- that is, monopoly and what follows; or exploitation by the State, -- that is, dearness of labor and continuous impoverishment; or else, in short, a solution based upon equality, -- in other words, the organization of labor, which involves the negation of political economy and the end of property.

   But the economists do not proceed with this abrupt logic: they love to bargain with necessity. M. Dupin (session of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences, June 10, 1843) expresses the opinion that, "though competition may be useful within the nation, it must be prevented between nations."

   To prevent or to let alone, -- such is the eternal alternative of the economists: beyond it their genius does not go. In vain is it cried out at them that it is not a question of preventing anything or of permitting everything; that what is asked of them, what society expects of them, is a reconciliation: this double idea does not enter their head.

   "It is necessary," M. Dunoyer replies to M. Dupin, "to distinguish theory from practice."

   My God! everybody knows that M. Dunoyer, inflexible as to principles in his works, is very accommodating as to practice in the Council of State. But let him condescend to once ask himself this question: Why am I obliged to continually distinguish practice from theory? Why do they not harmonize?

   M. Blanqui, as a lover of peace and harmony, supports the learned M. Dunoyer, -- that is, theory. Nevertheless he thinks, with M. Dupin, -- that is, with practice, -- that competition is not exempt from reproach. So afraid is M. Blanqui of calumniating and stirring up the fire!

   M. Dupin is obstinate in his opinion. He cites, as evils for which competition is responsible, fraud, sale by false weights, the exploitation of children. All doubtless in order to prove that competition within the nation may be useful!

   M. Passy, with his usual logic, observes that there will always be dishonest people who, etc. Accuse human nature, he cries, but not competition.

   At the very outset M. Passy's logic wanders from the question. Competition is reproached with the inconveniences which result from its nature, not with the frauds of which it is the occasion or pretext. A manufacturer finds a way of replacing a workman who costs him three francs a day by a woman to whom he gives but one franc. This expedient is the only one by which he can meet a falling market and keep his establishment in motion. Soon to the working women he will add children. Then, forced by the necessities of war, he will gradually reduce wages and add to the hours of labor. Where is the guilty party here? This argument may be turned about in a hundred ways and applied to all industries without furnishing any ground for accusing human nature.

   M. Passy himself is obliged to admit it when he adds: "As for the compulsory labor of children, the fault is on the parents." Exactly. And the fault of the parents on whom?

   "In Ireland," continues this orator, "there is no competition, and yet poverty is extreme."

   On this point M. Passy's ordinary logic has been betrayed by an extraordinary lack of memory. In Ireland there is a complete, universal monopoly of the land, and unlimited, desperate competition for farms. Competition-monopoly are the two balls which unhappy Ireland drags, one after each foot.

   When the economists are tired of accusing human nature, the greed of parents, and the turbulence of radicals, they find delectation in picturing the felicity of the proletariat. But there again they cannot agree with each other or with themselves; and nothing better depicts the anarchy of competition than the disorder of their ideas.

   Today the wife of the workingman dresses in elegant robes which in a previous century great ladies would not have disdained. -- M. Chevalier: Lecture 4.

   And this is the same M. Chevalier who, according to his own calculation, estimates that the total national income would give thirteen cents a day to each individual. Some economists even reduce this figure to eleven cents. Now, as all that goes to make up the large fortunes must come out of this sum, we may accept the estimate of M. de Morogues that the daily income of half the French people does not exceed five cents each.

   "But," continues M. Chevalier, with mystical exaltation, "does not happiness consist in the harmony of desires and enjoyments, in the balance of needs and satisfactions? Does it not consist in a certain condition of soul, the conditions of which it is not the function of political economy to prevent, and which it is not its mission to engender? This is the work of religion and philosophy."

   Economist, Horace would say to M: Chevalier, if he were living at the present day, attend simply to my income, and leave me to take care of my soul: Det vitam, det opes; oequum mi animum ipse parabo.

   M. Dunoyer again has the floor:

   It would be easy, in many cities, on holidays, to confound the working class with the bourgeois class [why are there two classes?], so fine is the dress of the former. No less has been the progress in nourishment. Food is at once more abundant, more substantial, and more varied. Bread is better everywhere. Meat, soup, white bread, have become, in many factory towns, infinitely more common than they used to be. In short, the average duration of life has been raised from thirty-five years to forty.

   Farther on M. Dunoyer gives a picture of English fortunes according to Marshall. It appears from this picture that in England two million five hundred thousand families have an income of only two hundred and forty dollars. Now, in England an income of two hundred and forty dollars corresponds to an income of one hundred and forty-six dollars in our country, which, divided between four persons, gives each thirty-six dollars and a half, or ten cents a day. That is not far from the thirteen cents which M. Chevalier allows to each individual in France: the difference in favor of the latter arises from the fact that, the progress of wealth being less advanced in France, poverty is likewise less. What must one think of the economists' luxuriant descriptions or of their figures?

   "Pauperism has increased to such an extent in England," confesses M. Blanqui, "that the English government has had to seek a refuge in those frightful work-houses". . . .

   As a matter of fact, those pretended work-houses, where the work consists in ridiculous and fruitless occupations, are, whatever may be said, simply torture-houses. For to a reasonable being there is no torture like that of turning a mill without grain and without flour, with the sole purpose of avoiding rest, without thereby escaping idleness.

   "This organization [the organization of competition]," continues M. Blanqui, "tends to make all the profits of labor pass into the hands of capital. . . . It is at Reims, at Mulhouse, at Saint-Quentin, as at Manchester, at Leeds, at Spitalfields, that the existence of the workers is most precarious". . . .

   Then follows a frightful picture of the misery of the work-ers. Men, women, children, young girls, pass before you, starved, blanched, ragged, wan, and wild. The description ends with this stroke:

   The workers in the mechanical industries can no longer supply recruits for the army.

   It would seem that these do not derive much benefit from M. Dunoyer's white bread and soup.

   M. Villerme regards the licentiousness of young working girls as inevitable. Concubinage is their customary status; they are entirely subsidized by employers, clerks, and students. Although as a general thing marriage is more attractive to the people than to the bourgeoisie, there are many proletaires, Malthusians without knowing it, who fear the family and go with the current. Thus, as workingmen are flesh for cannon, workingwomen are flesh for prostitution: that explains the elegant dressing on Sunday. After all, why should these young women be expected to be more virtuous than their mistresses?

   M. Buret, crowned by the Academy:

   I affirm that the working class is abandoned body and soul to the good pleasure of industry.

   The same writer says elsewhere:

   The feeblest efforts of speculation may cause the price of bread to vary a cent a pound and more: which represents $124,100 for thirty-four million men.

   I may remark, in passing, that the much-lamented Buret regarded the idea of the existence of monopolists as a popular prejudice. Well, sophist! monopolist or speculator, what matters the name, if you admit the thing?

   Such quotations would fill volumes. But the object of this treatise is not to set forth the contradictions of the economists and to wage fruitless war upon persons. Our object is loftier and worthier: it is to unfold the System of Economical Contradictions, which is quite a different matter. Therefore we will end this sad review here; and, before concluding, we will throw a glance at the various means proposed whereby to remedy the inconveniences of competition.

From : University of Virginia Library


November 30, 1845 :
Chapter 5, Section 5.2 -- Publication.

January 30, 2017 19:17:11 :
Chapter 5, Section 5.2 -- Added to

September 24, 2017 17:47:31 :
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