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.
First Pub. Date
New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons
Pub. Date
Appendix by Edward Atkinson, Introduction by Hodgson Pratt, Prefatory letter by Frédéric Passy.

Part I, Chapter IV

Decline of Destructive Competition


Since profit is the motive of war no less than of all other human actions, an alliance between the arts of production and destruction soon lessened the inducement which prompted tribes to live by pillage and violence alone. Raiding a civilised community became less and less profitable as the art and matériel of war came to require a moral force, an amount of knowledge and capital, which only civilisation can command. Expeditions, undertaken for the sake of pure pillage, therefore ceased to return those enormous profits which had made them the favourite occupation of barbarian hordes. Tribal incursions tend to bring no profit, or to secure such hazardous and unsatisfactory returns that what was hitherto a rule becomes increasingly rare, occurs only on the most distant and least guarded frontiers, and is finally abandoned. Then the old order is reversed, for the civilised State becomes the aggressor, subdues the barbarian, and occupies his place. This expansion of civilisation at the expense of the uncivilised began many centuries ago, and when its motive is naturally exhausted—probably within the present century—the cause of many wars will have passed away.


Indeed wars, undertaken on this account, are already of secondary importance, since they seldom call for the exercise of more than a most insignificant portion of the resources of a State. It is when State meets State that the full power of modern military equipments is seen, and these occasions are the grand motive of their establishment. So immense and so costly is this apparatus that there is scarcely a State which does not expend upon its upkeep more treasure, more labour, and even more intelligence, than is allotted to any productive industry, agriculture alone excepted.


It has always been difficult to define the actual profits derived from a war, but, until the integrity of civilisation was finally ensured from barbarian aggression, these profits were of two kinds. Every conqueror in war is rewarded with material gains and moral satisfaction, but victory in those times likewise secured a higher degree of security. This better security of civilisation was the measure of its advance in the arts of war, for war was its sole possible criterion.


Whether moral or material, the gains of war have always been practically monopolised by the proprietary and governing element within the victorious State. These profits were never so high as when conquest was followed by a partition of the newly conquered territory and its inhabitants, for the victors thus gained an extra glory and prestige—over and above the common glory of victory—in that they had escaped the fate which they now meted out to the vanquished. Meanwhile, their victory had also screened their own slaves, serfs, or subjects, from the ills of a possible invasion, with its inevitable change of masters, of whom the new were often the more brutal and rapacious. Finally, every war which resulted in an advance, however feeble, in the art of destruction, marked the achievement of one more step upon the long road of that progress whose goal was the establishment of civilisation.


But, as victory ceased to be synonymous with the act of massacring the vanquished, even of enslaving them, these several profits diminished. The defeat of a State now entails little more than a nominal alteration in the quarter to which allegiance is owed. Also, since the safety of civilisation is established, the profits derived from a war no longer include this count. But such profits as do remain are the perquisite of the governing power in the State, and they are shared between the military and the civil arms. A war benefits the military hierarchy by accelerating advancement in grade and pay; by those extraordinary "votes," or honorariums, which a grateful nation accords to successful leaders; and by the glory acquired, although this has diminished in value with the constant diminution in the damages and dangers from which victory saves a nation, and the benefits which it bestows. A successful war benefits the politician by increasing his power and influence, but it cannot be said to appreciably affect the precarious tenure of his office.


A war—such wars at least as enlarge the national boundaries—brings profit to a third class in the State, the officials, for it enlarges the scope of their activities. But it must be confessed that profit of this kind tends to be somewhat temporary, for it is certain that the new territory must ultimately produce its own aspirants to administrative positions, who will dispute the field with the subjects of the conquering State. Finally, profit is sometimes taken in the form of a monetary indemnity in place of actual territorial aggrandizement. Such an indemnity is usually devoted to repairing the inevitable waste and damage of war, or to enlarging the victor's armaments.


But, besides winning profits for the victor, every war occasions loss and injury to the masses who are engaged in the productive industries, and these evils are felt by the subjects of neutral States no less than the subjects of actual belligerents. The very transformation which has been effected in the machinery of destruction has likewise increased the sphere of its effects, and the gravity of the ills which it entails.


The direct losses of war are those of life and capital, and these losses have grown side by side with that increase of power which has followed the growth of population, of wealth, and of credit, particularly among the States of the Old World and in the course of the last century. Nor is loss of life felt less directly than losses of capital, for it is the physical flower of a population which enters the army, and their destruction entails the perpetuation of a less effective type. Direct loss of this kind primarily affects the combatants, the area of indirect damage follows the extension of international interests. Markets are curtailed, the bulk of exchanges is diminished, the demand for capital and labour is arrested. In fact, while expenditure is suddenly increased, a check is put upon the action of those agencies which supply the means, nor are these losses and damages counterbalanced by any corresponding augmentation of the general security.


But, worst burden of all, the persistency of war obliges every nation to maintain a vast permanent machinery of destruction, and every progress in the art or science of war now augments the cost of this establishment.


Every State must keep pace with the armaments of its neighbours. It must, in the very midst of peace, devote a continually increasing proportion of revenue to maintaining the race of the present and redeeming the debts of the past. Nor is this all. More and more men are taken from the ranks of industry and consigned to a life of idleness and demoralisation, until, or in case, it may be necessary to employ them in the work of destruction.


Having accomplished its natural task of assuring security, war has now become harmful. We shall see that it is doomed to give place to a higher form of competition—productive or industrial competition.

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