The Society of To-morrow: A Forecast of Its Political and Economic Organisation

Gustave de Molinari
Molinari, Gustave de
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P. H. Lee Warner, trans.
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New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons
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Appendix by Edward Atkinson, Introduction by Hodgson Pratt, Prefatory letter by Frédéric Passy.
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Part II, Chapter IV

Free Constitution of Governments and Their Natural Functions (continued)


We have now to examine the methods and conditions by, and under, which governments maintain international peace and establish internal security. As soon as nations emerge from their subservience to the State of War, and their constituent parts are free to form new groups or to erect autonomous States, the dangers of revolution and civil war, which are the fruit of compulsory union between heterogeneous and incompatible elements, will disappear together with the motives and pretexts previously used to justify appeals for external intervention. The "States Association" will only have to consider disputes and dissensions occurring between members, and it will refer these to tribunals maintained for the purpose. These tribunals will apply the same legal rules which govern the trial of actions and causes between individual litigants, and their verdicts will be enforced by the collective sanction of the association. Associated States will thus obtain external security by the best possible means, and at the least possible cost, while each will secure internal security under analogous conditions, and by a collateral system.


In order to be able to guarantee full security of person and property to the consumer, or—in case of damage suffered—a compensation in proportion to his loss, it is necessary that:—


(1) the producer impose certain penalties on those who commit offences against the person, or appropriate the property of others, and the consumer must agree to submit to these penalties, whenever he does a wrong to person or property;


(2) the producer impose upon the consumer certain restrictions, designed to facilitate discovery of the authors of delicts;


(3) the producer levy a regular contribution covering his costs of production plus the natural profit of his industry, each assessment to be graduated according to the consumer's position, the particular occupation in which he is engaged, and the extent, nature, and value, of his property.*10


It should be added that the consumer renounces his right of judging his own causes, and of executing his own judgments.


The production of internal security, therefore, necessitates a body of law—a code—specifying and defining wrongs against the person and property, with the penalties proper to each, and, further, other laws specifying the obligations and charges, which are no less necessary to enable their effective repression.


The execution of the laws, and the conditions accompanying the production of those services which are indispensable to the preservation of all society, further necessitate:—


(1) the institution of a judicial system, primarily adapted to a systematic discovery of the presumptive authors of delicts or crimes against the person or property, of determining guilt and innocence, and, in the case of those proved guilty, of executing the penalties set out in the code; secondly, it must adjudicate upon actions and causes;


(2) the institution of a police service entrusted with the discovery and pursuit of the authors of delicts and crimes, and, in the second place, with executing the repressive penalties.


These are the constituent parts of an organisation producing internal security, and the conditions necessary to its effective action. A form of this essential organisation is found among the lowest races, but it remains notoriously imperfect even among the most civilised and most highly advanced States. Nor is a cause far to seek while the State of War continues to impose its conditions upon governments, the producers of security.


Invested with the exercise of the sovereign power attaching to the association which owned a conquered territory and its inhabitants, government owed this appropriated population no service—whether of affording security or otherwise—any more than a stock-owner owes a service to his sheep or cattle. Yet there was one difference between sheep or cattle and such a population. Whether appropriated by right of conquest, by hereditary devolution of territorial property, exchange, or purchase, such a population might rise against its masters. Plots might also grow up within the State, aimed at the deposition of the government of the proprietary association. Personal security, which it never distinguished from that of the State, commanded this government to make a first duty of precautions against this double peril. The initial step in this direction placed the judiciary and police system in dependence upon government, their first assigned duties being to repress attempts upon its supremacy, to discover the intrigues of rivals, and to supervise the actions, even the words, of malcontent subjects. The second measure of self-protection was to forbid the formation, without governmental sanction, of any association capable of serving as a dissentient or revolutionary centre, to retain control over authorised associations by setting a term to their duration, and to reserve a right of dissolution in every case. But, however constantly and largely preoccupied with personal security, government was compelled to afford some guarantees to individual life and property, since they are the foundation of all industrial progress, and revenue depends upon industry. That these duties were never more than a secondary care, more especially where a government's tenure of power was unstable, can be proved—if proof be needed—by the far greater severity of penalties guaranteeing the persons of those in power and of their agents, when compared with sanctions of the life and property of a citizen.


Fundamental changes might have been expected where the nations ceased to be owned by an association or a sovereign house. Governments, instituted or accepted by a nation—now self-owned—owed their nation those services for which it undertook the necessary charges and obligations. The government was, further, under obligation to increase the efficiency, and to reduce the cost, of those services. But a persistent State of War still compelled governments to value the security of the nation above that of the individual. The States continued to make advances in the industries of production and destruction, and, as each was a possible future combatant, the cost of national security rose continually. Under the new system, also, competition for the sovereign power was increased, and, while possession became more and more precarious, eager competitors were less scrupulous in the choice of means to attain it. Government, increasingly occupied with the problems of self-protection, relegated the protection of the subject to a still more secondary position. Finally, men who obtained power, or maintained it, by strictly legal means, were incessantly compelled to enlarge what may be termed the "political salaries fund," that is to say, the number of officials, and consequently the functions of the State. Ever occupied with the problem of national security, still more with the maintenance of their own power, further charged with a multiplicity of incongruous functions, modern governments can with difficulty fulfil their task. This is the real explanation of the grossly inadequate performance of their first duty—protection of the life and property of the individual.


But if a State of Peace were to succeed the State of War, if a collective guarantee secured the external security of nations; if, in consequence, nationality were the subject of free choice, and the sphere of governments limited to their natural attributions, competition would influence the production of this most essential service with results which must, to-day, appear chimerical. The first question to be solved on that day will be: "Is it more profitable for nations to produce their own security, or to contract for its production with a 'firm,' or company, possessing the necessary resources for, and the technical skill essential to, production of this kind?" Experience has long since demonstrated the economical inferiority of production by a monopolist governmental department. It is therefore probable that nations will prefer to contract, whether through agents or otherwise, with the "firm," or company, offering the most advantageous conditions for, and the most certain guarantees of, the supply of this article, which is one of naturally collective consumption.


Theoretically, at least, these conditions will only differ in one point from those of the present system, but this point is essential. The assurer must indemnify the assured—if attacked in life or property—in proportion to the damages suffered, without regard to the issue of any attempted recovery against the actual authors of the wrong.


Nor will such a system of indemnification be altogether new, since existing laws recognise a right to indemnity where a man has suffered in a riot. Civilised States assert the same principle in their claims for an indemnity to one of their subjects who has been inured, or to his family if he has been murdered, in the territory of an inferior power, or a power reputed inferior, although they are careful to refuse similar claims against themselves. The importance of this principle will be apparent when we consider how supremely effective it must be in inducing governments to perfect their machinery for discovering and repressing attacks on individual life and property.


The conditions regulating the cost of security must differ in every country according to the prevalent standards of morality and civilisation, and similar differences in the obstacles to repressing crime. The assurer and the body of the assured will be jointly interested in maintaining an impartial and enlightened judiciary for adjudicating on crimes and delicts. Adam Smith has long since shown how competition solves this problem, and there can be little doubt that competition between fully independent judicial "companies" will hereafter repeat the same solution.*11

Notes for this chapter

Extract from "La Production de la Sécurite," Journal des Economistes, February 15, 1849; also printed in "Les Questions d'Economie Politique et de Droit Public," vol. ii. p. 245.
"The fees of court," says Adam Smith ("Wealth of Nations," Book V., chap, i., part 2), "seem originally to have been the principal support of the different courts of justice in England. Each court endeavoured to draw to itself as much business as it could, and was, on that account, willing to take cognisance of many suits which were not originally intended to fall under it jurisdiction. The Court of King's Bench, instituted for the trial of criminal causes only, took cognisance of civil suits; the plaintiff pretending that the defendant, in not doing him justice, had been guilty of some trespass or misdemeanour. The Court of Exchequer, instituted for the levying of the King's revenue, and for the enforcing payment of such debts only as were due to the King, took cognisance of all other contract debts; the plaintiff alleging that he could not pay the King, because the defendant would nor pay him. In consequence of such fictions, it came, in many cases, to depend altogether upon the parties, before what court they would choose to have their case tried; and each court endeavoured, by superior dispatch and impartiality, to draw to itself as many causes as it could. The present admirable constitution of the courts of justice in England was perhaps originally, in great measure, formed by this emulation, which anciently took place between their respective judges; each judge endeavouring to give, in his own court, the speediest and most effectual remedy which the law would admit, for every sort of injustice."

End of Notes

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