THE THEORY OF PROPERTY
NOTICE THE READER
In the preface placed at the beginning of the book on Art [Du principe de l'art et de sa destination social], we have undertaken to tell the public the manuscripts of each of Proudhon's posthumous works has been found.
The one that we publish today contained two well-designed notes:
I. "To inform the reader to distinguish well the form of possessing (possession), that everyone, learned and ignorant, even some jurists, confuse with property, giving the name of the one to the other."
II. "PROPERTY. To give an exact and forceful analysis of all my critiques:
"1st Memoir (1840)
"2nd Memoir (1841)
"3rd Memoir (1842)
"Creation of Order (1843);
"Economic Contradictions (1846);
"The People, etc. (1848-1852);
"Of Justice (1858);
"Of Taxation (1860);
"Of Intellectual Property (1862)."
Proudhon did not want to publish his Theory of Property, although it was ready in 1862, as he announced in his Majorats Littéraires, before the program sketched in the two preceding notes, and especially in the second, was fulfilled. The author having not had time to do this work himself, we have thought, in the interest of his memory, that it fell to us to supply it. It was for him principally a question of showing that his ideas on property developed according to a rational series in which the last term always had its point of departure in the preceding term, and that his present conclusion is not at all contradictory with his premises.
This summary forms the first sixty-two pages of the Introduction. We have used the form I, as if Proudhon himself had written: 1) because the idea of that analysis belongs to him; 2) because the work sketched in advance does not constitute on our part an individual, original production; 3) because it is composed in large part of textual citations from the author; 4° because we have inserted some of his unpublished notes; 5) finally, because, in the last pages of the chapter, Proudhon takes over, as if he had made the summary himself.
The reading thus informed, we do not hesitate to cite, in support of the author's idea, a judicial act which has occurred since his death, and which has inspired Mr. Eugène Paignon to one of his best articles (see the Introduction, page 10).
In the rest of the work we have only done, as in the book on Art, some arrangement and ordering; choosing, between several expressions of the same idea, the most lucid, and most complete; transporting to the chapters that they concern the scatter supplementary and explanatory notes scatter, whose place was naturally indicated by their content.
Let us add finally that the chapter divisions had not been made, but that the titles were all found in summary form on the first page of the manuscript.
J. A. Langlois. F. G. Bergmann.
G. Duchêne. F. Delhasse.
THEORY OF PROPERTY
§ I. — Of the various meanings of the word property.
In 1840, I promised to give a solution of the problem of property, and I renewed my promise in 1846. Today I keep my word. It is my turn to defend property, not against the phalansterians, the communists and the agrarians, who are no more, but against those who saved it in June 1848, in June 1849, in May 1830, in December 1851, and who have since brought it low.
Property, a question rendered formidable by the interests that it puts in play, the desires that it awakens, the terrors to which it gives rise. Property, a word made terrible by the numerous meanings that our language attributes to it, the equivocations that it allows, the nonsense [the amphigories] that it tolerates. Who have never, through ignorance or through bad faith, followed it onto this very terrain? What can I do or hope, when I see jurists, law professors, and laureates of the Institute confuse property with all the forms of possession, rent, farm rent, emphyteusis, usufruct, and the enjoyment of things which are consumed by use? — What, someone says, I would not be the proprietor of my furnishings, of my coat, or my hat, for which I have well or duly paid! — one will dispute with me, says the other, the property of my wage, which I have gained by the sweat of my brow! — I invent a machine, cries this one; I have made twenty years of studies, research and attempts, and someone will take it from me, they will steal my discovery! — I have, responds that one, produced a book, fruit of long and patient meditations; I have put my style, my ideas, my soul, all that is most individual in a person into it, and I would not have the right to a remuneration!
It is to the logicians in this vigor that, pushing to the absurd that confusion of the various senses of the word property, I responded, in 1863, in my Majorats littéraires: “This word is subject to very different meanings, and it would be to argue in a buffoonish manner to pass, with no other transition, from one sense to another, as if it were always the same thing. What would you say to a physicist who, having written a treatise on light, and thus being the owner of this treatise, claimed to have acquired all the properties of light, arguing that his opaque body has become luminous, radiant, and transparent, that he travels seventy thousand miles per second and thus enjoys a kind of ubiquity?... In spring, the poor peasants go to the woods to harvest strawberries that they bring to the city. These strawberries are their product, therefore, to speak as does Father Pluquet, their property. Does this prove that these women are to be called proprietors? If you said so, everyone would think they own the wood from which the strawberries. Alas! just the opposite is true. If these marketers of strawberries were their owners, they would not go to the woods to seek what belongs to the owners, they would eat them themselves.”
Let us seek, then, to better understand my thought and to banish all ambiguity, other meanings of the word property.
Article 534 of the Civil Code says: “The proprietor of the land who has made constructions, plantations, and works thereon with materials which do not belong to him must pay the value thereof; he can also be ordered to pay damages, if proper; but the owner of the materials cannot remove them.”
Conversely article 555 dispose: “When the plantations, constructions, or works have been made by a third party and with his materials, the owner of the property has the right to keep them or to compel such third party to remove them. — If the owner of the land asks to have the plantations or constructions removed it shall be done at the expense of the person who has made them, without giving him any indemnity, and he can even be ordered to pay damages, if proper, for the injury which the owner of the land may have suffered. — If the owner prefers to keep the plantations and constructions he must repay the value of the materials and the price of the labor, without regard to the increase or loss in value which may have been occasioned to the land.”
Although the legislator uses the word proprietor, whether it is a question of funds or materials, we see however that the two persons are not on an equal footing. The possessor, simple user, tenant, farmer, who has planted, reforested, drained, or irrigated, perhaps condemned to destroy with his own hand his labors of development, amendment, and improvement of the soil, if the owner of the capital does not prefer to pay him back for his materials and labor, taking freely and completely the surplus value given to the land by the work of the settler. Thus regulated by the first and second chapters of the title II, book II, of the civil code on the right of accession: “all that which is united and incorporated with the thing belongs to the proprietor.”
Things do not happen otherwise in practice.
From time immemorial, Sologne, for example, was cited as a cursed land, barren, sandy, swampy, as unhealthy as infertile; some warrens, some poisonous pools, some heaths, some gorse, some poor grazing for the sheep, whose teeth gnaw the grass to the roots, some rare fields of buckwheat and other inferior crops, fifteen or twenty hectares de surface to provide for a family: such was the condition of this sad country. For about twenty years, the attention of the capitalist cultivators has been attracted from this side; they have said that with the railroads, it would be possible on the one hand to bring to the solognais soil the elements that it lacks: plaster, lime, manure, fertilizing refuse from the large towns, waste from the barracks, etc.; on the other hand, that the agricultural products that they will obtain will have their placement all found by the same means of circulation. What to do? Buy lands and form immense estates? Bad speculation from the point of view of the goal that it is a question of achieving. The one who, having 100,000 francs, ties up 50,000 in the acquisition of lands, has only 50,000 francs to dedicate to enrichment and labor; he diminishes by half his means of action. Also, instead of buying the land, the new settlers will contract leases of thirty, forty, or fifty years. The example was followed, and Sologne is today on the road to transformation, or let of say, of creation: draining, sanitation, plastering, liming, marling, manuring, plantations of pines and other species proper to poor lands, establishment of artificial meadows, large-scale livestock raising, as much for fertilizer as for other products, substitution of industrial grains and plants for the buckwheat, clearing of heaths, replacement of gorse with clover, sainfoin, and alfalfa: such are the marvels begotten by intelligence, science and labor on the cultivated estates of the idle and contemplative proprietor, whose only merit is to be willing to leave things be, in return for income and tribute.
It is easy to understand that at the expiration of the leases of thirty or forty years, the original value of the lands will carry little weight in the inventory of the enterprise, and that if the property was truly the fruit of the labor, the landlord’s portion would not be heavy to repay. But the right of accession has arranged things in another manner: the proprietor keeps everything by right, without regard for the increase in value his capital has received. So that the tenant, if he renews the lease, must pay the proprietor interest on sums that he has himself spent to improve the land; in short, that he remains he withdraws, his credit being lost to him.
We are far from the eclogues of Troplong, Thiers, Cousin, Sudre, and Laboulaye on property and its legitimation through labor, first occupancy, the affirmation of the self, and other transcendental or sentimental considerations. Does the public already understand that between a hat or coat, and a plot of land or a house, there is an abyss, as to the manner of possessing, and if grammar allows us to say, as a figure of speech, “the property of a bed, of a table,” as we say “the property of a field,” jurisprudence does not tolerate that confusion?
Let us take another example: “Ownership of the soil,” says article 552, “involves ownership of what is above and below it.” Great was the astonishment and loud the clamor of the gas-lighting companies, when the city of Paris informed them that in virtue of the aforementioned article, the property in the pipes established beneath the roads belonged to it. The law here is strict and does not include any shadow of ambiguity; the companies objected in vain: We have bought our pipe, and have installed it at our own cost; we have still paid the city for all the rights of way demanded in such circumstances; you rob us of our property: it is confiscation. The city responded, Code in hand: There is property and property; mine is national [domaniale] and yours serves, that is all. If you do not want to come to terms with me for the use of your materials, which has become mine, I will sell it or lease it to others.
Let us note here that the city does not claim, as the representative of a collectivity, a higher right than that of the individuals. What is does, the first proprietor of land that comes along can do, and does not miss the opportunity. A vast speculation has been established around Paris on this provision of the law, unknown to the masses. You see many signs: land for sale, with easy payments. Numerous bourgeoisillons, well-to-do workers, bitten by the proprietary tarantula, are allotted lands at 6 francs, 10 francs and up to 20 francs per meter, without first thinking that the price of 10 francs per meter carries the soil at 100,000 francs per hectare; thus they have bought junk at ten times the price of the best natural grasslands of Normandy or Angoumois. Then, the first terms and the costs of transfer paid, they begin to build. For the few who have been able to guide the enterprise to its goal, the greatest number are worn out. Unable to make their payments, they must abandon to the seller, with the land, their beginnings of construction. Thus, the proprietor end up having a for free a house of which one has paid for the excavation and foundations, another the bare walls, this one the roofing, that one the interior fittings. Thus ease in payment is granted in direct proportion to the presumed insolvency of the buyer: it is in the interest of the speculator that his buyer does not pay. the Parisians, thanks to the ceaselessly growing number of the victims of eviction, begin to understand that justice and property are not synonyms.
Let us end this popular account with an example still more striking than those preceding:
A manufacturer takes a lease for twenty years, at a fabulous price, some corner is one of the nicest quarters de Paris, in order to establish a café; he pays religiously, in conformity with the customs, his six months in advance; then he calls the painters, decorators, upholsterers, fitters for gas, manufacturers of bronzes and chandelier; he furnishes with a similar splendor his lounges and his cellar, all on credit. Let us first observe this difference: while the suppliers agree to be paid on time, the proprietor is paid in advance. After some time, a year or eighteen months, the entrepreneur of the café goes bankrupt. None of his suppliers is paid; each comes to reclaim their candelabras and plumbing, their divans, armchairs, tables, and chairs, their wines, liquors and cordials, their mirrors, etc., too happy to mitigate the loss that much. But they count without the privilege of the landlord, articles 2100 and following. The proprietor, who has lost nothing, thanks to his six months of advance, steps in and says: I have the advantage of an attractive lease, on which there still remains nineteen years to run; I doubt that I will find such rent from my building; that is why, to guarantee me the full product of my contract, I seize all the furniture, mirrors, clocks, wines, liquors and whatever other objects fill the place; it does not trouble me that they have not been paid for. I am the privileged proprietor, while you are simply merchants and manufacturers; real property is regulated by the Civil Code, and that of products and commodities by the Commercial Code. You are free to call your merchandise and supplies properties: the title is simply honorific, not to say usurping. The law know how to reduce this impertinent qualification to its true value.
Have we strained, in our hypothesis, the sense of the articles of the Code concerning the privilege of the proprietor-landlord? Here is what we read in the judiciary review of la Presse (September 11, 1865), under the signature of Mr. Eugène Paignon:
“A question which has agitated the judiciary world, and also the world of business, for half a century has been produced in recent times with a great intensity, and we believe that it will be expedient to bring an end to the regrettable controversies which it has brought about, by resolving them in a definitive manner by a law. It is this: In the case of the bankruptcy of his tenant, does the proprietor have a debt currently due which allows him to obtain the immediate payment of all the outstanding rents and even those yet to fall due?
“The question having been presented, by reference to the Court of Cassation, the imperial court of Orleans, this court has recognized the right of the owner, in its broadest scope.
“There is not only a right of privilege founded on article 2102 of the Napoleonic Code that the judgment has established to the profit of the proprietor, for all the rents, even not yet fallen due; the court of Orleans also recognize the proprietor’s right to exercise against the bankrupt or their trustee a direct action tending to the payment of all the rents due or to come due, if not to the immediate termination of the lease.
“The case brought before the imperial court presented some circumstances of fact on which the tenant leaned strongly to postpone the demanded termination, in default of payment, a termination disastrous for the liquidation of his bankruptcy.
“The proprietor demanded the immediate payment of around 58,000 francs for the rents to come due until the end of the lease. This payment would have absorbed, if it had been realized, even more than the assets of his bankruptcy. Paid into the hands of the proprietor, that sum makes for him, by its annual interest, a considerable profit.
“On the other hand, if the tenant alleged that, by the fact of his bankruptcy, he had diminished the securities of the proprietor, the securities that remained to him were however of a nature to shelter him from any serious fear:
“1° The property, leased already for six years, and for a period of twenty years, had been considerably increased in its market or rental value, by improvements worth more than 20,000 francs;
“2° The total value of the rentals agreed by the trustee totaling 5,000 francs instead of 2,800 francs, arising from the original rent;
“3° Finally, furnishing superior to the furnishings of the bankrupt, merchandise of a value at least equal to those which adorned the building during the bankrupt’s occupancy, were sufficient guaranties for the proprietor.
“All these considerations have not appear to the referring court of a nature to modify the solution of the question. The court has only granted an extension of three months to the bankrupt and the trustee to satisfy the demand for payment; and in default of such payment within that period, it declared the termination of the lease.
“Following that judgment, which deprived the lessee of all hope of commercial future, he committed suicide.
“We cannot be mistaken about how harsh this solution is for the lessees and for their creditors.
“Some excellent have bowed before this jurisprudence and have proclaimed that only the legislature can remedy the perhaps excessive exercise of the right of the proprietor by modifying the legislation on this point.
“That is for the legislature to deal with, exclaimed the Advocate General Moreau—a vigorous mind, that one—before the court of Paris, in 1862, in his remarkable verdict; as for us, as organ of the existing law, it is enough for us to say: Dura lex, sed lex. »
“Our laws, says Mr. Mourlon, one of the most eminent jurists of our time, cited on this topic by the author of the article; do our laws give owner-lessors the right, when their tenant goes bankrupt, to enrich themselves at his expense or complete his ruin, although they have no legitimate and substantial interest? If we pose the question in these terms, we will doubtless be reproached for the strangeness and irreverence of such a paradox.
“However, we do not invent anything. Anyone who will consent to see things in their reality will be forced to recognize that, ingenious disguises, the question that we just posed is pleaded every day before the courts.
“For the rest, let us speak of the facts. Some huge stores, for example, have been leased for fifty years, at an annual price of 50,000 francs; the tenant has brought furnishings and goods in a great enough quantity to assure, to a reasonable degree, the tranquility of the proprietor. He has done more: he has, by considerable outlays, and by the very success of his commercial operations, greatly increased the rental value of the premises where he operated. If it pleases him to assign his lease, as his title allows him or gives him the right to do, it would be easy for him to find a taker at 60,000 francs per year. After ten years of prosperity, during which the rents have been paid as things go along at their due dates, some unfortunate events, some reckless actions, if you wish, intervene, which lead to the bankruptcy of the tenant. From this arise a dispute, between the proprietor on the one hand and the bankrupt tenant or his creditor on the other, which must be settled.
“I leave you the choice, says the proprietor: either pay me now all my future rents, that is to say forty times 30,000 francs, or terminate the lease.
“Your alternative, respond the other creditors, leaves us no liberty: how, indeed, to pay you two million right away? Two million, it is more than the assets of the bankrupt. Thus, it is the ruin of the bankrupt and our ruin at the same time, if the law obliges us to submit to your claim. If you had a legitimate interest to show yourself so implacable, the law could doubtless be understood in the sense of the alternative that you oppose to us; but to only consider equity, what could you claim? Some reasonable securities for the payment of your possible rent? These securities, we are ready to give it to you. The leasehold rights which the bankrupt has, according to the arrangements you made with him, the full and complete disposition, we will assign to a third who will provide and even bring, to the premises leased, as much furnishings and merchandise as are necessary to shelter you interests from the dangers that you rightly fear.
“Let us take, if you like, another combination. An advantageous arrangement is proposed to us, and we are ready to accept it. The bankrupt, whom we will reestablish at the helm of his business, will leave in the leased premises all the furnishings and all the merchandise that were there during his bankruptcy; he will even, if you insist, bring new objects which will give your security an extent they never previously had, and which you could not even count.
“Do our propositions lack justice? What honest motive could make you refuse them? Is your security compromised? Instead of diminishing it, we strengthen it. Now, if no serious danger threatens you, if the bankruptcy of our tenant does you no harm, or if the damage that it cause you is completely erased, what aim could you pursue, if not to do evil for its own sake, or to enrich yourself at the expense of others? To pay you right now, without discount, the total of your rents that have come due: that would truly be to pay you twice at least what could be due to you. To terminate the lease would be to transfer from the hands of the bankrupt into your hand a portion of his capital, since that termination would award to you, to his detriment, the increase in rental value that he has created, either by the relations that they have established between the public and the leased premises, or by the work that they have performed there. Know it well: what you demand is outside all justice.
“What does it matter? replies the proprietor; the law grants me what I claim; submit yourself to it.
“It is painful to say, responds the jurisprudence in its turn, but what he claims and seeks is truly his by right.”
The reader should now understand the difference which exists between possession and property. It is only the latter that I have called theft. Property is the greatest question facing the present society; it is everything. I have occupied myself with it for twenty-five years; but before I say my last word on the institution, I think it will be useful to summarize here my previous studies.
§ 2. — Summary of my previous works on property.
In 1840, when I published my first Memoir on Property, I took care to distinguish property from possession or the simple right of use. When the right of abuse does not exist, when society does not recognize it for anyone, there is not, I said, a right of property; there is simply a right of possession. What I said in my first memoir, I still say today: the proprietor of a thing, — land, house, instrument of labor, raw material or product, it matters little, — perhaps a person or a group, the head of a family or a nation: in one case as in the others, he is truly a proprietor only on one condition: it is to have an absolute sovereignty over the thing; it is to be its exclusive master, dominus; it is that the thing be his domain, dominium.
Now, in 1840, I frankly denied the right of property. All those who have read my first memoir know that I denied it to the group as well as to the individual, to the nation as to the citizen: this excluded on my part every communist or governmentalist affirmation. — I have denied the right of property, that is the right of abuse, over all things, even those that we call our faculties. Man has no more right to abuse his faculties than society has to abuse its force. “Mr. Blanqui,” I said in response to the letter that estimable economist had just addressed to me, “acknowledges that property is abused in many harmful ways; I call property the sum of these abuses exclusively. To each of us property seems a polygon whose angles need knocking off; but, the operation performed, Mr. Blanqui maintains that the figure will still be a polygon (an hypothesis admitted in mathematics, although not proven), while I consider that this figure will be a circle.” (Preface to the second edition, 1841.)
As laborer, I said at that time, the man has an incontestable, individual right to his product. But of what does the product consist? Of the shape or form of fashioning that he has given to the material. As to that material itself, he has in no way created it. If then, prior to his working, he had a right to appropriate that material, it is not a title as laborer, but another title. Victor Cousin understood this very well. For that philosopher, the right of property is not only based on the right of labor; it is founded at the some time on this right and on the prior right of occupation.—No doubt! But this latter right, which is not yet that of property, belongs to all; and when Mr. Cousin recognizes a right of preference to the occupant, he supposes that the materials are bestowed on everyone, that they are lacking to no one, and that each can appropriate them. In this supposition, I do not hesitate to recognize that, subsequent to labor, the individual right of possession of the form entails an individual right of possession of the materials fashioned. But is the supposition in agreement with the facts?
Where the land is lacking to no one, where each can find it freely at his convenience, I admit the exclusive right of the first occupant; but I acknowledge it only on a provisory title. As soon as the conditions are changed, I only acknowledge the equality of division. If not, I say that there will be abuse. I certainly agree that the one who has cleared land has a right to compensation for their labor. But what I do not agree to, is that, with regard to the soil, the form given implies the appropriation of the matter formed. And, it is important to remark, the proprietors do not agree any more than I do. Do they recognize that their tenants have a right of property on the land that they have cleared or improved?...
In good justice, I said in my first memoir, the equal division of the land should not exist only at the point of departure; it must, in order that there be no abuse, be maintained from generation to generation. That is for the workers in the extractive industries. As for the other industrial workers, whose wages, for equal labor, should be equal to those of the first category, it is necessary that, without occupying the land, they have the free enjoyment of the materials of which they have need in their industries; they must pay with their own labor, or, if you prefer, with their products, for the products of the holders of the materials, they only pay for the form given by them to the materials; it is necessary that labor alone be paid for with labor, and the materials must be free. If it is otherwise, if the landowners collect a profit in rent, it is an abuse.
The excess of the value of the gross product over that of the costs of production, among which must be included, with the wage of the cultivator, the repayment or amortization of the expenses of the business, the land-rent, — what I called fermage in 1840, — exists every bit as much for the proprietor when he farms himself as when a tenant farms in his place. By it, the manufacturers are, like the cultivators who are not proprietors, excluded from the division of the land, from the free enjoyment of materials, of natural forces not created by men. They can enjoy it only at great expense, with the permission of the landowners, to whom they yield, in order to have that permission, a part of their products or their wages. Let them yield it to them directly or indirectly, no matter; the land-rent is a tax collected by the landowners on all wages, including their own. And as that tax is not the remuneration of a labor, as it is something other than the amortization of expenses applied to the land, I call it aubaine [windfall or unearned increase].
“According to Ricardo, MacCulloch, and Mill, farm-rent, properly speaking, is simply the excess of the product of the most fertile land over that of lands of an inferior quality; so that farm-rent is not demanded for the former until the increase of population renders necessary the cultivation of the latter.... How can a right to the land be based upon a difference in the quality of the land?... If they had gone no farther than to say that the difference in land has occasioned farm-rent, instead of caused it, this observation would have taught us a valuable lesson; namely, that farm-rent grew out of a desire for equality. Indeed, if all men have an equal right to the possession of good land, no one can be forced to cultivate bad land without indemnification. Farm-rent — according to Ricardo, MacCulloch, and Mill — would then have been a compensation for loss and hardship. This system of practical equality is a bad one, no doubt; but it sprang from good intentions. What argument can Ricardo, Maculloch, and Mill develop therefrom in favor of property?...”
What did I attack in particular in 1840? The right of aubaine, this right so inherent, so intimate to property, that where it does not exist, property is nothing.
“Increase receives different names according to the thing by which it is yielded: if by land, farm-rent; if by houses and furniture, rent; if by life-investments, revenue; if by money, interest; if by exchange, advantage, gain, profit (three things which must not be confounded with the wages or legitimate price of labor).... The republican constitution of 1793, which defined property as ‘the right to enjoy the fruit of one's labor,’ was grossly mistaken. It should have said, ‘Property is the right to enjoy and dispose at will of another's goods, — the fruit of another's industry and labor.’
“In France, twenty millions of laborers, engaged in all the branches of science, art, and industry, produce every thing which is useful to man. Their annual wages amount, it is estimated, to twenty thousand millions; but, in consequence of the right of property, and the multifarious forms of increase, premiums, tithes, interests, fines, profits, farm-rents, house-rents, revenues, emoluments of every nature and description, their products are estimated by the proprietors, and employers at twenty-five thousand millions. What does that signify? That the laborers, who are obliged to repurchase these products in order to live, must either pay five for that which they produced for four, or fast one day in five.”
The first consequence of that benefice is, by making universal competition impossible, the destruction of the equality of wages between the various professions or social functions, and, by destroying it, the creation of an irrational division of these functions. The division of the laborers into two classes, unskilled workers and engineers, the directed and the directors, is at once irrational and unjust. The inequality of wages between the various social function is unjust, since these functions are equally useful, and since by their division we are all associated in production. No one can say that he produces alone. The blacksmith, the tailor, the shoemaker, etc., etc., cooperate with the cultivator in the plowing of the earth, just as the cultivator cooperates in the manufacture of their products. The manual worker is a cooperator in the work of the engineer, as the engineer is a cooperator in his own.
In affirming in my first memoir that with equal labor, wages must be equal among all the professions, I had forgotten to say two things: first, that labor is measured according to both its duration and its intensity; second, that we must include in the wages of the laborer neither the amortization of the costs of his education and of the labor he has done on himself as an unpaid apprentice, nor insurance premiums against the risks that he courts, which are far from being the same in every profession: risks of unemployment and loss of social position, infirmity and death; this last risk, because the head of a family must provide, even after his death, for the existence of his wife and minor children.
I put right these two omissions in my second Memoir (1841), in the Notice to the Proprietors (1842) and in the Creation of Order (1843). “To establish equality among men,” I said to Mr. Blanqui in my second Memoir, “it is only necessary to generalize the principle upon which insurance, agricultural, and commercial associations are based.” In the farming and commercial societies, — all the accounts are there to affirm it, — the right of increase is only applied against foreigners; it is no more applied to the real associate than against the fictive associates: capital, funds, portfolio, raw materials, various merchandise. When an associate, fictive or real, suffers a loss, that loss is borne, like the profits, by all.
A contradictory thing, which I have had occasion to stress several times: if we treat everyone as strangers, as enemies as proprietors, we will never fail to treat one another as associates as trading laborers. By exchanging our products against theirs, don’t we compensate the tenant farmer for the rent that he has paid to the owner of his land; the borrower, for the interest that he has paid to his creditor; the merchant and the manufacturer, for the rents they have paid to the owners of their stores and workshops? — Let us suppress all the aubaines by which we act as proprietors; and ipso facto we are all associated; to insure the perpetuity of the association, we only have to organize it by creating collectively a number of institutions of mutuality: mutual insurance, mutual credit, etc.
When the worker includes in his apparent wage an insurance premium against the special risks that his faces, it is the consumer of the project of his labor that pays it. By exchanging products for products, and more generally services for services, everyone is mutually insured against their respective risks; and, as it is those who court the greatest risks receive the highest premiums, we can say that the society or universal association of the laborers aims to achieve the equality of wages. Let the aubaines be suppressed; let all the premiums be deposited in the corporative societies of mutual insurance; and, without charity, which is always insufficient because it is inorganic, needing to intervene, wages will be equal between all the professions. If they are not, it is because the premiums have been badly calculated. But the statistics being thus organized, the rectifications will not be long in coming. Doubtless, one will never have absolute equality; but, by a series oscillations whose amplitude will diminish more and more, we will progressively approach it; and the approximate equality will soon be a fact.
Let us now suppose, to established the ideas, a profession which counts 115 laborers—namely 100 journeymen, all capable of creating products of the same quality, and 15 apprentices. Should these last, for equal labor, receive the same wage as the first? I have never maintained it. Should the 100 journeymen earn, for the same labor, the same wage as those of other professions if, according to the population figures, the state of needs and that of industry, 98 of them would suffice? Not at all. I have always said, notably in The Creation of Order, that it was up to the consumers to themselves inform the laborers of each profession when their numbers surpass the normal proportion. I have only said that, in a well-organized society, the notice should be given otherwise than by a decrease in wages; and that decrease, which is an act of war, should only be made in a case of stubbornness of the laborers advised.
I have said that, in any case, it was the laborers who should make themselves the internal police of their profession and reduce it to the normal number; — that that reduction necessarily implied the negation of the closed guilds; — that the internal policing of the professions should be made by war, or what we today call competition, only in cases where it could not be done amicably; — that in that capacity the laborers of a single profession should organize in a society for mutual insurance in order to indemnify those among them whose displacement will be exaggerated by the social interest.
I have said that once there is a normal number of laborers in each profession, the journeymen capable of creating products of the same quality no longer have to compete for the orders: they necessarily divide them among themselves in an equal manner, if, for example, there are 1,000 of them, they are each equally capable of satisfying a thousandth of the orders. I have said that if some among them, 100 for example, had then the strength and will to each perform a thousandth beyond the thousandth, that would be a proof that the guild contained 10 journeymen too many, and that the number of these journeymen should be reduced from 1,000 to 990; that demonstrates the hypothesis.
Thus I have had the right to affirm that the inequality of wages between laborers of the same profession is possible, when they are in normal numbers, only if some among them do not want to fill, or cannot fill, their share of the total orders. If they do not wish to, and are content with a lower wage, justice is satisfied. If they cannot, if they are incapables of earning, in the profession that they have embraced, a wage roughly equal to that of the others, they are either disabled, or they are displaced laborers.
The disabled, those who are born, or become incapable of earning, not only in one or more professions, — in which case they will only be displaced workers,— but in all of them, a wage approximately equal to that of the others, should be indemnified by mutual insurance against the risk of infirmity, by means of premiums paid by fathers for their children, born or to be born, and by the laborers for themselves. With the principle of mutuality, which has always been my principle, and which defies all attacks, because it is a corollary of justice, charity is useless, or, if one prefers, it becomes justice once again by being organized in an intelligent and intelligible manner.
The misclassified laborers only demonstrate one thing: the poor organization of society and of professional education. When they are very numerous, the attest above all to the extreme inequality of fortunes, a consequence of the right of aubaine, which rarely permits the son of the poor man to embrace the profession that suits him best, and which makes the son of the rich man seek professions which do not suit him at all.
Let the citizens cease to recognize the right of aubaine; let them organize the city according to the concepts of justice and science, and there will no longer be a single misclassified laborer; all will earn, for equal labor, roughly equal wages.
You forget, one objects, that all the laborers in a single profession are not equally capable of creating products of the same quality. To the Saint-Simonians and phalansterians, who made that objection to me, I responded in the Avertissement aux propriétaires: “All strongly pronounced talent gives rise to a division in labor, in short, to a function. That talent falls under the law of equality in exchange, formulated by Adam Smith.” Will the shoemaker who has learned in a few months to make shoes of cheap stuff want to try to make boots of superior quality: he will earn less than the worker whose apprenticeship has been complete, encyclopedic; and that is only justice, since he is only an apprentice, ignorant of his trade. But let him decide to only make cheap shoes, and his real wage, that is his apparent wage, decreased by the depreciation his costs of apprenticeship, will be the same as the real wage of the shoemakers of the other profession. Deduct the aubaines and their consequences; you will see that it is thus in the present society.
There are, one says, good and bad artists, who each, however, spend as much time and money in the exercise of their art as the others: laborers well or badly fitted to their tasks. I refer, however, the question of the wages of artists to the analysis that I will make further along in my works of literary and artistic property.
In attacking property, I took care, from 1840, to protest, in the name of liberty, against governmentalism as well as communism. The horror for regulation has always been very strong in me; I have considered central, monarchic omnipotence an abomination, from the beginning, when I called myself an anarchist. In 1848, I declared myself opposed to the governmental idea of the Luxembourg. I have praised the provisional government for its discretion in matter of social reform, and I have since declared many time that that reserve, so often reproached, was a title of honor in my eyes. My antipathy for the principle of authority has not weakened. For ten years, the study of history, made in my moments of leisure, has proved to me that there was scourge of society. The people have not been communist in France in 1848, nor in 89, nor in 93 or 96; there have only been a handful of sectarians. Communism, which was the despair of the first utopists, the shout of destruction of the Gospel, is among us only an error of equality.
Liberty is the right belonging to human beings to use their faculties and to use them as they please. Doubtless this right does not go so far as the right to abuse. But it is necessary to distinguish between two sorts of abuse: the first including those in which the abuser alone suffers the consequences; the second includes all the abuses which hinder the rights of others (right to liberty and right to the free use of land and materials). As long as individuals only abuse themselves, society has no right to intervene; if it intervenes, that is abuse. The citizens should not have any other legislator here than their reason; they would lack respect for themselves, they would be unworthy, if they accepted another policy than that of their liberty. I say more: society should be organized so, that the abuses of the second sort being more and more impossible, it has less and less need to intervene pour repress them. If not, if it progressively approaches communism, instead of approaching anarchy or the government of human beings by themselves (in English: self-government), the social organization is abusive.
Thus, I do not limit myself to protesting against the abuse that the citizens, taken individually, can make of the land or the materials that they share; I protested no less energetically against the abuse that, under the name of the State or of society, these same citizens can make when taken collectively.
Thus, I said to myself in 1844, no regulated possession. Provide that he has paid the wages of those who have, before him, given a form, a shape, or a new utility to the materials of which he is the holder, the manufacturer should be free to consume these materials as he pleases. And there is more! He must be free to refuse the sale of his products below the price that suits him. It is not by establishing a maximum that society will destroy the profits of commerce; it is not by forbidding usurious loans that it will destroy interest: it is by organizing within itself institutions of mutuality.
Once these institutions are created, what difference would there be, with regard to chattel goods, between property and unregulated possession? None.
If, like the interest on capital and the profits of commerce, land rent was a pure product of the selfishness of persons, if it did not also and especially result from the nature of things, from the difference in the fertility of the lands and of population numbers, it would not be impossible to annul it by institutions of mutuality. In this case, I would say of property in land what I have already said of movable property: that it can become irreproachable without ceasing to satisfy the definition given to it by the jurists. But what I understand perfectly, and what I must not forget in seeking to resolve the problem of property in land, is that the liberty of the laborers must be as great in the extractive industries as in the manufacturing industries.
Does the manufacturer need, in order to be industrially and commercially free, to be proprietor of the house or the apartment that he inhabits with his family, of the workshop in which he labors, of the storehouse where he keeps his raw materials, of the shop where he displays his products, of the land on which his residence, workshop, storehouse and shop have been constructed? Not at all. Provided that he obtains a lease long enough to give him time to recover the complete amortization of the capital that he has used in his location, and that because of the nature of the things he cannot take with him to the end of his lease, the manufacturer enjoys, as tenant, a sufficient liberty.
Does the cultivator who farms a piece of land as a tenant farmer enjoy the same liberty? Obviously not, since he cannot, without the explicit authorization of the proprietor, transform a vineyard into a forest, a pasture, a wheat field, an orchard, a garden, or vice versa. If the difference in land was such that such transformations were always absurd, the industrial liberty of the tenant farmer would be sufficient: the individual appropriation of arable land, grasslands, forests, vineyards, orchards and gardens would have no more reason to be than that of rivers and canals, bridges and roads, mines and railroads.