T.176 (1848.01.15) "Natural and Artificial Organisation" (Organisation naturelle Organisation artificielle), JDE , T. XIX, No. 74, Jan 1848, pp. 113-26; also EH1. [OC6] [CW5] [CW4]
EH 1st ed. Jan. 1850, pp. 25-51. EH2 2nd. edition July 1851, pp. 15-33.
This article was published only a few weeks before the February Revolution changed Bastiat's life completely. Even though his health was not good throughout 1847 he had been very active in the Free Trade Association editing its weekly magazine, Le Libre-Échange , writing most of its articles, and giving speeches at several large public meetings. In the fall he also had begun giving a course of lectures on economic theory to students at the School of Law thus fulfilling one of his long-held dreams of writing a treatise on the Social Harmonies . All this came to a sudden end when revolution broke out on 22 February, the July Monarchy collapsed, a Provisional Government under Lamartine was formed, and the Second Republic was proclaimed. The sudden rise of socialist groups and the creation of the National Workshops under Louis Blanc frightened the political economists and their supporters in the free trade movement. In March they decided to dissolve the French Free Trade Association (thus putting Bastiat out of a job) and focus their attention on attempting to gain some influence within the Provisional Government and to oppose the growing socialist movement both within and without the government. Bastiat gave up editing Le Libre-Échange and giving his lectures and devoted himself to publishing a new daily magazine, La République française , which he and some friends handed out on the streets of Paris, organising and participating in one of the new political clubs which sprang up once the censorship laws were no longer being enforced by the police (theirs was called "Le Club de la Liberté du Travail" (the Club for the Freedom of Working)), and then standing (successfully) for the April elections to represent his home district of Les Landes.
When Bastiat wrote and published this article on "Natural and Artificial Organisations" he had very different hopes and thoughts in his mind. Here we see the first fruits of Bastiat's course of lectures on economics, the notes for which would eventually become his treatise Economic Harmonies the first volume of which would appear in January 1850. Two articles he had written in 1846 ("On Population" and "On Competition") 895 would also be turned into chapters in the book, however here and in the two other articles he wrote for the JDE in 1848 (Sept. and December) he is laying the theoretical foundation for his other ideas. 896 This consisted of a discussion of the idea of a "social mechanism," the distinction between artificial and natural orders, the existence of harmonies within a free economic order, the importance of the three interlocking ideas of "needs," "efforts," and "satisfactions" which he used to explain why economic activity takes place, and a deeper exploration of the nature of human needs in general. Together, the three articles he wrote in 1848 would make up a good proportion of the first volume, some 86 pages or nearly 20%. The rest would be written over the summer of 1849 in the seclusion of the Butard hunting lodge on the outskirts of Paris after the tumultuous first year of the revolution was over.
Bastiat discussed the structure and plan for the book in a number of letters to Richard Cobden and Félix Coudroy written between June 1846 and August 1848, and in a couple of unpublished sketches which included an undated "Note on the "Economic and Social Harmonies" (c. June 1845) and "A Draft Preface to the Economic Harmonies" (Fall 1847). These plans are discussed elsewhere in this volume. 897
There are several things to note in this article. The first is his understanding of society as a "mechanism" (le mécanisme social) or what we might today call a "process." He used several terms to describe this: "le mécanisme social" (the social mechanism), "la mécanique sociale" (the social machine, engine), "le mécanisme de la société" (the mechanism of society), and "la machine sociale" (the social machine), with "le mécanisme social" (the social mechanism) being the one he used most often. The social mechanism had moving parts, like a watch or a clock, which consisted of "les rouages" (cogs and wheels), "les ressorts" (springs), and "les mobiles" (the movement, or driving or motive force). 898 Bastiat described the social mechanism as "a prodigiously ingenious mechanism (which) is the subject of study of political economy."
Secondly, there is his distinction between "artificial" forms of organisation and "natural" forms. By "natural organisation" he meant "une organisation sociale fondée sur les lois générales de l'humanité" (a social organisation based upon the general laws (which govern) humanity). Natural organisations were the voluntary creation of free people who associated with each other for mutual benefit through economic activities such as free trade and production. Bastiat argued that the driving forces ("le moteur" or "le mobile") of the social mechanism of a free and "naturally" organised society were competition and self-interest.
In stark contrast to this were "artificial organisations" which Bastiat defined as an organisation which was "imaginée, inventée, qui ne tient aucun compte de ces lois, les nie ou les dédaigne" (dreamt up, invented, and which took no account of these laws, denied their existence, or disdained them.) This type of organisation was based on coercion, control, and direction from a "Legislator" or "Prince" who arranged men in society according their whim. Bastiat traced this line of thinking back to Rousseau and his followers such as Robespierre during the Convention in the 1790s, 899 and Louis Blanc and Victor Considerant in the 1840s. In this article Bastiat provides a lengthy critique of Rousseau's idea of the "Legislator" which exemplified what Bastiat disliked about "artificial organisations". He summarised it as follows:
(M)en are the parts of a machine that the prince operates, and the design of which the legislator has suggested. The philosopher positions himself at an unmeasurably great distance above the common people, the prince, and the legislator, (where) he floats above the human race, moves it, transforms it, kneads it, or rather teaches the Fathers of Nations how to go about doing this. … 900
Bastiat uses several derogatory terms to describe the people who attempt to run this "artificial social mechanism", such as "un mécanicien" (a mechanic, engineer), "le grand Mécanicien" (the Great Mechanic), "l'inventeur" (the inventor), "le législateur" (the legislator), "le jardinier " (the gardener), and "le Prince" (the Prince). In an unpublished story, "Barataria", written probably sometime in 1848 901 Bastiat tells an amusing alternative version of the story about Don Quixote's and Sancho Panza's visit to the island of Barataria where Sancho is appointed by some local aristocrats to run the island but Sancho refuses to be the "mechanic" who runs the lives of the people of Barataria and resigns in protest.
The third thing to note is the story Bastiat tells here to describe the benefits provided by the harmonious operation of a complex natural social mechanism based upon property rights and free markets, namely story of the "Village Carpenter and the Student in Paris" (our title not his). In this section of the article he reverts to the style he used so successfully in the Economic Sophisms to popularise economic ideas. The similarity to Leonard Read's 1958 story of "I, Pencil" 902 is striking and it is quite likely that Read knew of Bastiat's story as he was instrumental in having some of Bastiat's works translated into English by the Foundation for Economic Education during the 1950s and 1960s.
Overall, the article below is very similar to the chapter which appeared in EH1 with the following exceptions:
The most significant change in the EH1 version is the rewriting of an entire paragraph with an important new sentence about how "the principle of action" lies within individuals themselves. It is quite clear that Bastiat rejected the idea that men were inert cogs in a machine being operated by an aloof Legislator. (The added sentence is in bold.):
Its wheels are men, that is to say, beings capable of learning, reflecting, reasoning, making mistakes, rectifying them, and consequently acting to improve or worsen the (operation) of the mechanism itself. They are capable of feeling satisfaction and pain, and this makes them not only cogs and wheels but also the springs of the mechanism. They are also its driving force because the principle of action ("le principe d'activité") resides in them. They are still more than that, they are the object of the mechanism itself, and its purpose, since it is in individual satisfactions and pain that everything is finally resolved.
All these changes and variations are indicated in the footnotes.
Are we really certain that the social mechanism, like the celestial mechanism, and like the mechanism of the human body, obeys universal laws? Are we really certain that it is a harmoniously organized whole? Above all, is it not the absence of any organization that leaps to the eye? Is it not precisely organization that all good-hearted men with an eye to the future, all progressive writers, and all the pioneers of thought are seeking? Are we not a mere juxtaposition of individuals who have no ties to each other, who live without (any) harmony, and are given to an anarchical freedom? Now that they have painfully recovered all their liberties one by one, do not our numberless masses wait for some great genius to coordinate them into a harmonious whole? After engaging in destruction, do we not have to lay (some new) foundations? 903
If these questions had no other bearing than to ask whether society can do without written laws, rules, and repressive measures, whether each man can make unlimited use of his faculties even though he might infringe the liberties of others or cause damage to the community as a whole, whether, in a word, we should not see in the maxim " Laissez faire, laissez passer " 904 the absolute principle of political economy?
If, I say, that were the question, nobody would be in any doubt as to the answer. Economists do not state that a man may kill, pillage, or commit arson and that society has no choice save to let it happen; 905 they say that social resistance to such acts would occur as a matter of course, even in the absence of any legal code, and that, in consequence, this resistance constitutes a general law of humankind. They say that civil or penal laws should regularize and not counter the action of these general laws that they presuppose . There is a gulf between a social organization based on the general laws of humanity and an artificial, abstract, and contrived organization which several modern schools of thought appear to wish to impose (on us). 906
For, if there are general laws that act independently of the written laws whose action such written laws have only to confirm, these general laws must be examined; they may be the worthy subject-matter of a science, and political economy (already) exists to do this. If, on the contrary, society is a human invention, if men are no more than inert matter into which a great genius, in the words of Rousseau, has to infuse sentiment and willpower, movement and life, 907 then there is no such thing as political economy, only an indefinite number of possible and contingent arrangements, and the fate of nations depends on the founder to whom chance has entrusted their destinies.
To prove that society is subject to general laws, I will not indulge in a long dissertation. I will limit myself to pointing out a few facts, which although somewhat commonplace, are nonetheless important.
Rousseau has said: "A great deal of philosophy is needed for us to take account of those facts that are too close to us." 908
Such are the social phenomena in the midst of which we live and move. Habit has familiarized us with these phenomena to such an extent that we no longer pay attention to them, so to speak, unless something sudden and abnormal brings them to our notice.
Let us take a man who belongs to a modest class in society, a village carpenter, for example, 909 and let us observe all the services he provides to society and all those he receives from it; it will not take us long to be struck by the enormous apparent disproportion.
This man spends his day sanding planks and making tables and wardrobes; he complains about his situation and yet what does he receive from this same society in return for his work?
First of all, each day when he gets up he dresses, and he has not personally made any of the many items of his outfit. However, for these garments, however simple, to be at his disposal, an enormous amount of work, industry, transport, and ingenious invention needs to have been accomplished. Americans need to have produced cotton, Indians indigo, Frenchmen wool and linen, and Brazilians leather. All these materials need to have been transported to a variety of towns, worked, spun, woven, dyed, etc.
He then has breakfast. In order for the bread he eats to arrive each morning, land had to be cleared, fenced, ploughed, fertilized, and sown. Harvests had to be stored and protected from pillage. A degree of security had to reign over an immense multitude of people. Wheat had to be harvested, ground, kneaded, and prepared. Iron, steel, wood, and stone had to be changed by human labor into tools. Some men had to make use of the strength of animals, others the weight of a waterfall, etc.; all things each of which, taken singly, implies an incalculable mass of labor put to work , not only in space but also in time.
This man will not spend his day without using a little sugar, a little oil, or a few utensils.
He will send his son to school to receive instruction, which although limited, nonetheless implies research, previous studies, and knowledge which would startle the imagination.
He goes out and finds a road that is paved and lit.
His ownership of a piece of property is contested; he will find lawyers to defend his rights, judges to maintain them, officers of the court to carry out the judgment, all of which once again imply acquired knowledge, and consequently understanding and a certain standard of living. 910
He goes to church; it is a prodigious monument and the book he carries is a monument to human intelligence perhaps more prodigious still. He is taught morality, his mind is enlightened, his soul elevated, and in order for all this to happen, another man had to be able to go to libraries and seminaries and draw on all the sources of the human tradition; he had to have been able to live without taking direct care of his bodily needs.
If our craftsman sets out on a journey, he finds that, to save him time and increase his comfort, other men have flattened and leveled the ground, filled in the valleys, lowered the mountains, spanned the rivers, increased the smooth passage on the route, set wheeled vehicles on paving stones or iron rails, and mastered the use of horses, steam, etc.
It is impossible not to be struck by the truly immeasurable disproportion that exists between the satisfactions drawn by this man from society and those he would be able to provide for himself if he were to be limited to his own resources. I am bold enough to say that in a single day, he consumes things he would not be able to produce by himself in ten centuries.
What makes the phenomenon stranger still is that all other men are in the same situation as he. Each one of those who make up society has absorbed a million times more than he would have been able to produce; nevertheless they have not robbed each other of anything. And if we examine things more closely, we see that this carpenter has paid in services for all the services he has been rendered. If he kept his accounts with rigorous accuracy we would be convinced that he has received nothing that he has not paid for by means of his modest industry, and that whoever has been employed in his service, either at any time or in a given period, has received or will receive his remuneration.
For this reason, the social mechanism needs to be either very ingenious or very powerful since it leads to this strange result, that each man, even he whom fate has placed in the humblest of conditions, receives more satisfaction in a single day than he could produce in several centuries.
That is not all, and this social mechanism will appear still more ingenious, if the reader would just consider his own case.
Let me assume that he is a simple student. What is he doing in Paris? How is he living there? It cannot be denied that society places at his disposal food, clothes, a lodging, entertainment, books, the means of instruction, in short a multitude of things, the production of which would take a considerable amount of time just to explain and even more to be carried out. And in return for all these things, which have required so much work, sweat, fatigue, physical or intellectual effort, such feats of transportation, so many inventions and (economic) transactions, what services does this student render to society? None. He is only preparing himself to render services to it. For what reason, therefore, have these millions of men, who have devoted themselves to positive, actual, and productive work, handed over to him the fruit of their labor? Here is the explanation; the father of this student, who was a lawyer or doctor, 911 had previously rendered services to a society (perhaps in the Antipodes), 912 and had received from it, not immediate services but rights to (future) services, which he might reclaim at the time, in the place, and in the form of his choosing. It is for these far-off and past services that society is settling its debts today and, what is astonishing, if we think through the progress of the infinite number of transactions which have had to take place to achieve the result, we would see that each person has been paid for his trouble, that these rights have passed from hand to hand, sometimes being split (up) and at other times being combined together until, through the consumption of this student, the balance has been struck. Is this not a very strange phenomenon?
We would be shutting our eyes to the light if we refused to acknowledge that society cannot present such complicated combinations, in which civil and penal laws play so little a part, without obeying a prodigiously ingenious mechanism. This mechanism is the subject of study of political economy .
One more thing worthy of comment is that, in this truly incalculable number of transactions which have contributed to keeping alive one student for one day, there is perhaps not a millionth part which has been made directly. The countless things he has enjoyed today are the work of men a great number of whom have long since disappeared from the face of the earth. Nevertheless they were paid as they wished, although he who is benefiting today from the product of their work has done nothing for them. He did not know them and will never know them. He who reads this page, at the very moment at which he reads it, has the power, although he perhaps does not realize this, to set in motion men in all countries, of all races, and I might almost say, of all periods of time; white men, black men, red men, and yellow men. He causes generations that have died away and generations not yet born to contribute to his current satisfactions, and he owes this extraordinary power to the services his father rendered in the past to other men who on the face of it have nothing in common with those whose labor is being set in motion today. However, the balance is such that in time and space, each one is reimbursed and has received what he calculated he should receive.
In truth, can all this have been possible, can such extraordinary phenomena have been achieved without there having been in society a natural and wise organization 913 which acts, so to speak, without our knowledge?
There is much talk these days of of inventing a new way of organizing society. Is it really certain that any thinker, however much genius he is supposed to have or however much authority he is given, is capable of imagining and imposing (on society) an organization that is superior to the one a few of whose achievements I have just outlined?
What would happen if I also described its cogs and wheels, its springs, and its movements? 914
Its wheels are men, that is to say, beings capable of learning, reflecting, reasoning, making mistakes, rectifying them, and consequently acting 915 to improve or worsen the (operation) of the mechanism itself. I ought also to add, that these springs are capable of feeling satisfaction and pain, and this makes them not only cogs and wheels but also the springs of the mechanism. They are still more than that, they are the object of the mechanism itself, and its (very) purpose, since it is in (their) individual satisfactions and pain that everything is finally resolved. 916
However, we have noted, and unfortunately it is not difficult to notice, that in the action, the development, and even the progress (by those who admit it) of this powerful mechanism, many of the wheels are inevitably and fatally broken and that, for a large number of human beings, the sum of pain, even unmerited pain, 917 exceeds by far the sum of enjoyment.
Observing this, many sincere souls, many generous hearts have doubted the mechanism itself. They have denied it, they have refused to study it, they have attacked, often violently, those who have researched and set out its laws. They have pitted themselves against the nature of things and finally they have suggested that society be organized according to a new design, in which injustice, suffering, and error would find no place.
God forbid that I should stand against intentions that are so manifestly philanthropic and pure! But I would be abandoning my convictions, I would be giving ground in the face of the injunctions of my own conscience if I did not say that, in my view, these men are on the wrong road.
In the first place, they are reduced, by the very nature of their arguments, to the sad necessity of failing to recognize the good developed by society, of denying its progress, and attributing all harm and suffering to it, seeking these out almost avidly and exaggerating them excessively.
When people think they have discovered a social organization different from that which is the result of natural human tendencies, in order for their invention to be accepted they clearly need to describe in the blackest possible colors the results of the organization they wish to abolish. For this reason, after having enthusiastically proclaimed 918 human perfectibility, the political writers to whom I refer fall into the strange contradiction of saying that society is increasingly deteriorating. According to them, men are a thousand times more unhappy than they were in ancient times, under the feudal régime, and under the régime of slavery, 919 and the world has become a (living) hell. If it were possible to conjure up Paris as it was in the tenth century, I dare say that such a thesis would be untenable.
Next, they are led to condemn the very principle governing men's action, I mean self-interest , since it has led to such a state of affairs. We should note that man is organized in such a way that he seeks satisfaction and avoids pain; I agree that this is the cause of all social harms – war, slavery, plunder, monopoly, and privilege - but it is also from this that all good arises, since the satisfaction of needs and aversion to pain are the driving forces for men. The question is therefore to ascertain whether this driving force, which in origin is individual but becomes social, is not itself a principle of progress.
In any case, do not the inventors of new organizations realize that this principle, which is inherent in the very nature of man, will accompany them in their organizations causing many more forms of devastation there than in our natural organization, in which the unjust claims and interests of one person will at least be contained by the resistance of all? 920 These political writers always assume two inadmissible things, firstly, that society as they perceive it will be governed by infallible men totally lacking in this driving force (of self-interest), secondly that the masses will allow themselves to be governed by such men.
Lastly, the Organizers 921 do not appear to take the slightest interest in the means of implementation. How are they going to ensure that their systems gain acceptance? How will they convince everyone at the same time to abandon the force that drives them, namely the attraction of pleasure and the aversion to pain. Will we as Rousseau said, have to change the moral and physical constitution of man ?
It seems to me that there are only two ways to persuade everyone at the same time to cast aside, like an unwanted garment, the existing social order, under which humanity has lived and developed from its origin to the present day, and then (proceed to) adopt an organization of human invention and become the obedient parts of another mechanism: force or universal consent.
It is necessary, either for the organizer to have at his disposal a force capable of overcoming all forms of resistance so that humanity becomes malleable wax in his hands, to be kneaded and molded to suit his fantasy, or to obtain through persuasion agreement so total, so exclusive, and even so blind that it renders the use of force superfluous.
I challenge anyone to quote me a third means of achieving the triumph of a phalanstery 922 or any other form of artificial social organization and having it become common human practice.
However, if there are just these two means and if we prove that the one is as impracticable as the other, this would be an intrinsic proof that the organizers are wasting both their time and their trouble.
As for having at their disposal a physical force sufficient to ensure the submission of all the kings and nations on earth, this is something that dreamers, even though they are dreamers, have never contemplated. King Alphonse was proud enough to say: "If I had been privy to the counsels of God, the world on this planet would have been better organized". 923 But if he ranked his own wisdom above that of the Creator, at least he was not fool enough to wish to enter a power struggle with God and history does not relate that he attempted to adjust the movement of the stars to suit laws of his own invention. Descartes also contented himself with creating a small world (made up) of dice and strings in the full knowledge that he was not powerful enough to move the universe. 924 The only one we know of who claimed this was Xerxes who, intoxicated by his power, dared to say to the waves: "You will go no further". 925 However, the waves did not retreat before Xerxes, Xerxes retreated before the waves and, had it not been for this humiliating but wise precaution, he would have been swallowed up.
The Organizers thus lack the force to submit humanity to their experiments. Should they win over to their cause the Russian Autocrat, the Shah of Persia, the Khan of the Tartars, and all the heads of nations who exercise an absolute empire over their subjects, they would still not have at their disposal a force sufficient to divide men into groups and series 926 and abolish the general laws of property, exchange, inheritance, and family, since, even in Russia, Persia or Tartary, account still has to be taken to a greater or lesser degree of the men concerned. If the Emperor of Russia took it into his head to wish to modify the moral and physical constitution of his subjects, he would probably be promptly ousted and his successor would not be tempted to continue the experiment.
Since force is a means quite out of reach of our many Organizers, they have no other recourse than to obtain universal consent .
There are two ways of obtaining this: persuasion and deception.
Persuasion! But we have never seen two minds in perfect agreement on every point of a single discipline. How then will all men, with different languages, of different races and customs, and spread all around the world, of whom the majority are unable to read and who are destined to die without ever even hearing the name of the reformer (or their society) spoken, unanimously accept (this new) universal science? What does it involve? Changing the way people work and trade, changing their domestic, civil, and religious relationships, in other words, altering the physical and moral constitution of human beings: and they (the organisers) hope to unite the entire human race by (changing their) beliefs!
Truly, the task appears an arduous one.
If a man comes to tell his fellow-men:
"For the last five thousand years there has been a misunderstanding between God and the human race.
From Adam to the present day, the human race has been on the wrong path and, if only it will believe me, I am going to set it on the right road.
God wanted the human race to proceed differently; it did not want to do this, and this is why evil came into the world. Let all men/mankind listen to me and retrace its steps and proceed in a different direction, and universal happiness will shine on it."
If, as I say, he starts in this way, then if he is believed by five or six followers that is a great deal. From this to being believed by a billion men is an incalculable step, one that is so far off that the distance is immeasurable.
And then, consider that the number of social inventions is as unlimited as the field of imagination; that there is not one political writer who, after closeting himself in his study for a few hours, cannot come out with a plan for an artificial form of organization in his hand; that the inventions of Fourier, Saint-Simon, Owen, Cabet, Blanc, etc. 927 bear not the slightest resemblance to one another; that there is never a day that does not see yet others hatched; that truly the human race has good reason to reflect and hesitate before rejecting the social organization that God has given it in order to make a final and irrevocable choice from so many different social inventions. For what would happen if, once it had chosen one of these plans, a better one came along? Can the human race establish property, family, work, and trade on a different basis every day? Ought it to lay itself open to changing its organization every morning?
"Therefore", as Rousseau said, "as the legislator cannot use either force or reason, he has to resort to an authority of a different order, one that can lead people along without violence and persuade them without convincing them." 928
What is this authority? (It is) deception. Rousseau does not dare to utter the word, but, according to his invariable custom in such cases, he shrouds it in the transparent veil of an eloquent tirade:
"Here", he says, "is what forced the Fathers of nations down through time to have recourse to the intervention of heaven and to honor the gods with their own wisdom so that nations, subjected to the laws of the State as well as to those of nature and acknowledging the same power in the forming of man as in the forming of cities, obeyed freely and bore obediently the yoke of public happiness. This sublime reason, which raises them above the reach of common man, is the one by which legislators put decisions into the mouths of the immortals in order to lead by divine authority those whom human prudence could not move. But it is not in the power of every man to make the gods speak, etc." 929
And so that nobody might misunderstand him, he leaves to Machiavelli, by quoting him, the job of concluding his idea. "Mai non fu alcuno ordinatore de leggi STRAORDINARE in un populo che non ricorresse a Dio." 930
Why does Machiavelli advise us to have recourse to God and Rousseau to the gods or the immortals ? I leave the reader to provide the answer.
I certainly do not accuse the modern fathers of nations of resorting to these unworthy tricks. Nevertheless, the fact should not be hidden that, when you put yourself in their place, it is easy to be carried away by the desire to succeed. When someone who is sincere and philanthropic is firmly convinced that he holds a social secret which will enable his fellow-men to enjoy boundless happiness in this world, when he sees clearly that his idea cannot prevail either by force or reason and that trickery is his sole resource, he must be sorely tempted. It is well known that even ministers of a religion which professes the greatest horror of lies, have not hesitated to indulge in pious fraud , 931 and the example of Rousseau, an austere writer who inscribed at the head of all his writings the motto: Vitam impendere vero, 932 shows us that even proud philosophy itself can be seduced by the charm of this other, quite different maxim: The end justifies the means . Why should it be surprising that modern Organizers also think of honoring the gods with their own wisdom, putting their decisions into the mouths of the immortals, lead people without (using) violence, and persuade them without convincing them ?
We know that following the example of Moses, Fourier put a Genesis before his Deuteronomy. 933 Saint-Simon and his disciples have gone much further down this path. 934 Other, more prudent writers invoke religion in its widest terms, modifying it to suit their views under the banner of neo-Christianity , 935 and nobody will fail to be struck by the tone of mystic affectation that cloaks the preaching of almost all the modern Reformers. 936
But the efforts made in this direction serve only to prove one thing, of some importance it is true, which is that these days, not everyone who wants to can succeed in being a prophet. People can proclaim themselves to be God as much as they like; nobody believes them, whether it be the public, their colleagues, or themselves.
Since I have mentioned Rousseau, I will allow myself a few comments on this organizer , especially since they will aid an understanding as to how artificial organizations differ from a natural organization. This digression, incidentally, is not totally inopportune, since for some time the Social Contract has been hailed as the oracle of the future. 937
Rousseau was convinced that in the state of nature man lived in isolation and that consequently society was a human invention. " Social order ", he said at the beginning, " does not come from nature ; it is therefore based on convention." 938
What is more, although he had a passionate love for freedom, this philosopher had a very low opinion of men. He believed them to be wholly incapable of creating good institutions for themselves. The intervention of a founder, a legislator, a father of the nation was therefore essential.
"A nation subject to laws", he said, "must be their author. It is up to those who band together and them alone, to regulate the conditions governing society, but how will they do this? Will it be by common accord, by sudden inspiration? How can a blind multitude that often does not know what it wants, since it rarely knows what is good for it, set up on its own such a great and difficult enterprise as a legislative system? … Individuals see the good that they are rejecting, the general public wants the good that it does not see, and all have an equal need of guides. … This is what gives rise to the need for a legislator." 939
As we have already seen, as this legislator "cannot use either force or reason, he has of necessity to resort to authority of another order," that is to say in plain language, deception. 940
Nothing can give an idea of the immense distance above other men at which Rousseau places his legislator:
"Gods are needed to give laws to men. … He who dares to undertake to provide institutions for a nation has to feel himself capable of changing human nature itself, so to speak …, of altering man's constitution in order to strengthen him. He needs to remove man's own forces in order to give him others that are not natural to him …The legislator is, in all respects, an outstanding man in the State, … his task is a special and superior function which has nothing in common with human dominion …. While it is true that a prince is a rare being, how much truer is this of a great legislator? The first merely has to follow the model that the other has to offer him. The legislator is the engineer, who invents the machine while the prince is merely the laborer who assembles it and makes it work." 941
And where is the place of the human race in all this? It is the raw material out of which the machine is constructed.
Truly, is this not pride raised to the level of madness? So, men are the parts of a machine that the prince operates, and the design of which the legislator has suggested. The philosopher positions himself at an unmeasurably great distance above the common people, the prince, and the legislator, 942 (where) he floats above the human race, moves it, transforms it, kneads it, or rather teaches the Fathers of Nations how to go about doing this.
Nevertheless the founder of a nation has to set himself a goal. He has human material to set to work, and he has to organize it with an aim in mind. Since men have no initiative and everything depends on the legislator, he will decide whether a nation ought to engage in trading or farming, or live primitively and eat fish etc., but it has to be hoped that the legislator will not make a mistake and not do too much violence to the nature of things.
When men agree to associate together, or rather when they associate together through the will of the legislator , they therefore have a very specific goal. "Thus it was," says Rousseau, "that the Hebrews and recently the Arabs have had religion as their main aim, the Athenians, letters, Carthage and Tyre, trade, Rhodes, the navy, Sparta, war and Rome, virtue." 943
What will the goal be that persuades us, the French people, to break out of isolation or the state of nature in order to form a society? Or rather, (for we are not just inert matter, the material that makes up the machine), toward what objective will we be directed by our great Teacher ?
Given Rousseau's ideas, this can scarcely be literature, trade, or the navy. War is a nobler goal and virtue a nobler one still. However, there is one that is far greater than these. What ought to be the aim of any legislative system, "is freedom and equality ." 944
But you have to know what Rousseau meant by freedom. Enjoying freedom, in his view, is not to be free, it is to vote for something , even when you are being led without violence and persuaded without being convinced, because then you obey with liberty and (can) easily carry the yoke of public happiness. 945
"In Greece", he says, "all that the people had to do they did themselves. They were constantly being assembled in the public square, they lived in a temperate climate, they were not greedy, the slaves did all the work, and the main preoccupation of the people was their freedom. " 946
Elsewhere he says, "The English think that they are free, but they are greatly mistaken. It is only during the election of members of parliament that they are free; as soon as the members are elected, the people are slaves, they are nothing." 947
Therefore the people have to provide everything that is a public service themselves if they wish to be free, for this is what constitutes freedom. They have to always be having elections and be forever on the public square. Woe betide those who think of working for a living! As soon as a single citizen takes it into his head to look after his own affairs, instantly (this is an expression that Rousseau loves) all will be lost.
Certainly the problem is not a small one. What ought we to do? For in the end, even in order to practice virtue and exercise freedom we have to live.
We have just seen in what oratorical guise Rousseau hid the word deception . We will now see the type of eloquence to which he resorts to put across the conclusion of the entire book, namely, slavery .
"Your harsh climates impose needs on you. For six months of the year, the public square is not usable, your dull tongues cannot make themselves heard in the open air, and you fear slavery less than poverty."
You see clearly that you cannot be free.
"What! Is freedom kept in place only with the support of servitude? Perhaps." 948
If Rousseau had stopped at this dreadful word, the reader would have been outraged. He had to resort to impressive declamations. Rousseau does not fail to do so.
"All that is not in nature (he is speaking about society) has disadvantages, and a civil society has more than all the others. There are unfortunate positions in which personal freedom can only be preserved at the expense of that of others and in which citizens can be perfectly free only where slaves are very much enslaved. You modern peoples have no slaves but you are yourselves slaves; you are paying for their freedom with yours… It is useless for you to boast of this preference; I find in it more cowardice than humanity." 949
I ask you, does this not mean: "Modern peoples you would do better not to be slaves but to have slaves"?
I hope the reader will pardon this long digression, but I felt it to be germane. For some time, Rousseau and his disciples in the Convention 950 have been held up to us as apostles of human fraternity. Men as (raw) materials, a prince as (a) engineer, a father of the nation as an inventor, and a philosopher crowning all of this; with deception as the means, and slavery as the result. Is this then the fraternity we are being promised?
I also consider that this study of the Social Contract was useful in helping to point out the things that characterize artificial social organizations. Start with the idea that society is an unnatural condition; look for the schemes to which the human race might be subjected; ignore the fact that it (society) has with(in) itself its own driving force, think of men as raw material; aim to infuse them with movement and willpower, emotions and life; position yourself thus at an incommensurable distance above the human race, these are the characteristics common to all the inventors of social organizations. The inventions differ, but the inventors are (all) alike.
Among the new schemes urged upon weak mortals, there is one presented in terms that warrant attention. Its formula is: A progressive and voluntary association.
However, political economy is founded precisely on this assumption, that society is nothing other than an association (as these words state), 951 an association initially full of faults because man is imperfect, but which improves as he does, that is to say progressively . Do we want to talk about a closer association between labor, capital, and talent, which ought to provide the members of the human family with more goods and greater well-being that is better distributed? If these associations are voluntary , if force and coercion are absent, and if those in the association do not demand that the cost of setting up these associations be borne by those who refuse to join, how do these (associations) go against the principles of political economy? Isn't political economy required, as a science, to study the various ways in which men see fit to join (their) forces and divide (up) their occupations among themselves in order to increase (their) well-being and share it better? Doesn't commerce frequently give us the example of two, three, or four people forming associations among themselves? Isn't sharecropping a type of association, 952 informal if you like, of capital and labour? Have we not lately seen shareholding/stock companies arising that give the smallest amount of capital the opportunity of taking part in much greater enterprises? Are there not, somewhere in this country, a few factories where the attempt is made to establish profit-sharing associations for all their workers. 953 Does political economy condemn these attempts and the efforts made by men to gain greater advantage from their strengths? Has it (political economy) stated somewhere that the human race has said its last word? Quite the contrary, and I consider that no science demonstrates more clearly that society is (still) in its infancy.
But whatever hopes one conceives for the future, whatever ideas one has of the forms that man might find to improve human relationships and disseminate well-being, knowledge, and moral order, one must nevertheless recognize that society is an organization whose components are intelligent and moral actors 954 endowed with free will, and are capable of being perfectible. 955 If you take freedom away from this actor, he becomes merely a sad and sorry mechanism.
Freedom! People appear not to want it right now. In the land of France, that privileged empire of fashion, it seems that freedom is no longer fashionable. For my part, I state that whoever rejects Freedom has no faith in Humanity. Some claim that they have made the discouraging discovery that freedom inevitably leads to monopoly. 956 No, this monstrous linking, this unnatural coupling does not hold; it is the imaginary fruit of an error soon dissipated by the light of political economy. Freedom giving rise to monopoly? Oppression arising naturally from freedom? We must be on our guard. To claim this is to claim that the tendencies of the human race are radically bad, bad in themselves, bad by nature, and bad in their essence. It is to claim that the natural inclination of man is toward his degeneration and the irresistible attraction of his mind toward error. However, in this case, what is the use of our schools, our studies, our research, our discussions save to give greater force to that fatal inclination, since for the human race to learn to choose would be to learn to commit suicide? And if the tendencies of the human race are essentially perverse, where will the Organizers look for their fulcrum in order to change them? According to the premises of the thesis, this fulcrum has to be situated outside the human race. Will they look for it within themselves, in their hearts and minds? But for a start they are not gods; they are men too and consequently impelled like the rest of the human race toward the fatal abyss. Will they call for intervention by the State? But the State is made up of men, and it would have to be proved that these men form a class apart, for whom the general laws governing society are not not applicable, since they are the ones who have been made responsible for making these laws. 957 Without this proof, the problem has not been solved.
Let us not condemn the human race in this way before having examined its laws, forces, energies, and tendencies. From the time he recognized gravity, Newton no longer pronounced the name of God without taking his hat off. Just as much as "the mind is above matter," the social world is above the (physical) one admired by Newton, for celestial mechanics obey laws of which it is not aware. How much more reason (then) would we have to bow down before eternal wisdom (and also universal thought) as we contemplate the social mechanism (and see there how) "the mind moves matter" ( mens agitat molem). 958 Here is displayed the extraordinary phenomenon that each atom (in this social mechanism) is a living, thinking being, endowed with that marvelous energy, with that source of all morality, of all dignity, of all progress, an attribute which is exclusive to man, namely FREEDOM !