The Society of To-morrow: A Forecast of Its Political and Economic Organisation
By Gustave de Molinari
It is fortunate for the modern world that there is a considerable number of persons who have time, inclination, and ability to inquire how human communities may best secure a prosperous existence and ultimate salvation from disasters or even annihilation. It is fortunate that the necessity is so widely felt of making such inquiries, and that there is so great an accumulation of facts, and of arguments based thereon, as to enable thinkers to arrive at a complete knowledge of the dangers which menace society, and of the best way of dealing with them. We greatly need light from men who are capable of giving answers to such questions as the following: “What should be the definite aim of all human societies? Whither tend the communities and nations now in existence? What are their special dangers, and how can they best be averted? What should be the true ideals of every people, so that they may be kept clearly in view and realised?”Such wise and thoughtful books as that of M. de Molinari, the well-known and most distinguished economist, should be carefully studied by all who care for the welfare of their fellow-men. He stimulates thought and consideration regarding these great problems, and produces masses of fact and argument, which enable his readers to think solidly and effectively. [From the Introduction]
P. H. Lee Warner, trans.
First Pub. Date
New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons
First published in French. Appendix by Edward Atkinson, Introduction by Hodgson Pratt, Prefatory letter by Frédéric Passy.
The text of this edition is in the public domain.Picture of Gustave de Molinari is a detail from a photograph provided by David Hart..
- Part I, Chap. 2, Competition Between Primitive Communities and Its Results
- Part I, Chap. 3, Competition Between States in Process of Civilisation
- Part I, Chap. 4, Decline of Destructive Competition
- Part I, Chap. 5, Why the State of War Continues When It No Longer Fulfils a Purpose
- Part I, Chap. 6, Consequences of the Perpetuation of the State of War
- Part II, Chap. 1, The Collective Guarantee of the Security of Nations
- Part II, Chap. 2, The Free Constitution of Nationality
- Part II, Chap. 3, Free Constitution of Governments and Their Natural Functions
- Part II, Chap. 4, Free Constitution of Governments and Their Natural Functions (continued)
- Part II, Chap. 5, Free Constitution of Governments and Their Natural Functions (continued)
- Part II, Chap. 6, Subjection and Sovereignty of the Individual
- Part II, Chap. 7, Impost and Contribution
- Part II, Chap. 8, Production of Articles of Naturally Individual Consumption
- Part II, Chap. 9, Equilibrium of Production and Consumption
- Part II, Chap. 10, Distribution of Products and the Share of Capital in the Proceeds of Production
- Part II, Chap. 11, Distribution of Products and the Share of Labour in the Proceeds of Production
- Part II, Chap. 12, The Problem of Population
- Part II, Chap. 13, Consumption
- Part II, Chap. 14, The Expansion of Civilisation
- Part II, Chap. 15, Summary and Conclusion
- Part III, Note A, The Czar and Disarmament
- Part III, Note B, Syndicates Restricting Competition, or Trusts
- Part III, Note C, Effects of Industrial Progress on the Sphere of Production
- Part III, Note D, Costs and Profits of State Colonisation
- Part III, Note E, The Economic and Socialist Conceptions of the Society of the Future
- Appendix, The Cost to the United States of War and of Preparation for War from 1898 to 1904, by Edward Atkinson
The Czar and Disarmament
The Czar’s manifesto in favour of international disarmament affords clear proof that kings themselves are feeling the disastrous consequences of the continued State of War. On August 12—new style, August 24—1898, Count Mouravieff, by order of the Emperor, handed a copy of the following Note to the representative of every Power accredited to the Court of St. Petersburg:—
“A universal peace, and a reduction of the present intolerable burdens imposed on all nations by the excessive armaments of to-day, is the ideal towards which every government should strive.
“The magnanimous and humanitarian views of His Majesty the Emperor, my august master, are entirely devoted to this cause, convinced that such a measure involves the most essential interests and the legitimate aspirations of every Power. The Imperial Government believes the present moment to be very favourable for an international inquiry into the most effective means of assuring the real and durable peace of all nations, and, in particular, for placing limits upon the progressive enlargement of present armaments.
“The past twenty years have seen a particular and general movement towards the ideal of a universal peace. Maintenance of peace has been the first object of international policy. The Great Powers have concluded alliances for this purpose, and the better assurance of permanent peace has initiated hitherto undreamed-of developments in the armed power of nations, which shrink from no sacrifice in order to enlarge their forces.
“None of these efforts have, hitherto, brought the desired solution. The unceasing increase in financial burdens is threatening the very roots of public prosperity. The intellectual and physical potentialities of the peoples, of labour and capital, are for the most part diverted from their natural channels and unproductively consumed. Millions of pounds are spent on engines of warfare which to-day regards as irresistible, but which a single new discovery will to-morrow render valueless. National culture, economic progress, and the production of wealth, are paralysed or miscarry; every advance in the armaments of the Powers ministers less and less to the purpose for which they were created.
“Economic crises, largely due to a system which arms the nations
cap-à-pié, and to the continual dangers inseparable from such accumulation of warlike material, transform the armed peace of to-day into a burden so overwhelming that the nations support it with daily increasing difficulty. An indefinite prolongation of this system must, therefore, inevitably bring about that cataclysm for whose prevention it was designed, and the mere thought of whose horrors makes every mind shudder. To set a final term on these armaments, and to discover a means of preventing calamities that threaten the entire world, is the supreme duty of every modern State.
“Filled with these feelings, His Majesty deigns to command me to propose a Conference, on the subject of this grave problem, between all governments having representatives accredited to the Imperial Court.
“This Conference should, by God’s help, be of fortunate omen for the opening century. It would weld into one powerful unity the efforts of all those States which sincerely seek the triumph of the grand ideal of universal peace, despite every trouble and discard.
“At the same time it should also cement their efforts by a common consecration to those principles of equity and of right on which the security of States and the well-being of nations repose.”
Count Mouravieff likewise addressed the following circular, under date December 30, 1898—January 13, 1899, new style—to the representatives of the Powers at St. Petersburg, summarising the points suggested for consideration at the Conference:—
“When, last August, my august master commanded me to propose to the governments, represented at the Court of St. Petersburg, a Conference to inquire into the most efficacious means of assuring the benefits of a real and durable peace to all nations, and, more especially, of placing a term on the present progressive augmentation of armaments, nothing seemed to be opposed to a more or less early realisation of this project.
“The eager response of almost every Power to the suggestion of the Imperial Government could not fail to justify this belief. Very conscious of the sympathetic terms, in which most governments couched their reply, the Imperial Cabinet, at the same time, experienced lively satisfaction from the warn testimonies of sympathy addressed to it from every side, and still continuing to arrive, by every social rank and from every quarter of the world.
“Despite the great current of opinion favouring the idea of a general pacification, the aspect of the political horizon has sensibly changed. Several Powers have lately increased their armaments, vying with one another in the development of their military power, a situation the uncertainty of which might well cause inquiry as to whether the Powers find the present moment opportune for an international discussion of the ideas set forth in the circular of August 12th.
“Continuing to hope that the elements of trouble clouding the political horizon will soon give place to dispositions of a calmer kind, and such as will be favourable to the success of the projected conference, the Imperial Government is of opinion that an immediate exchange of preliminary ideas in this sense can be undertaken between the Powers, and an inquiry initiated without delay into the means of limiting the present augmentation of military and naval armaments—a question evidently becoming more and more urgent in view of recent developments in the line of these armaments—and to prepare a way for the discussion of questions touching the possibility of substituting the pacific action of international diplomacy for the arbitrament of force.
“In the event of the Powers considering the present moment favourable for calling a Conference on this basis, it will certainly be useful to have some understanding between the Cabinets as to the programme to be submitted for discussion. The subjects to be submitted for international discussion at the Conference may be outlined as follows:—
“1. Agreement establishing a fixed term during which any augmentation of armaments, by sea or on land, shall be forbidden, and likewise any increase of the appropriations devoted thereto: a general discussion as to possible future measures whereby these armaments and budgets may hereafter be reduced.
“2. Agreement forbidding the introduction, for army or navy, of new firearms of whatever kind, or of powders of higher power than those already in use, whether for guns or small arms.
“3. Restrictions on the use, in wars by land, of such high explosives as are already employed, and prohibition on the discharge of projectiles or explosives of any kind from balloons or similar machines.
“4. Prohibition on the use, in naval wars, of submarine torpedo boats, divers, or any destructive engines of such nature, and an undertaking to construct no new rams.
“5. Application to naval wars of the stipulations of the Geneva Convention of 1864, on the basis of the additional articles of 1868.
“6. Neutralisation, under the same head, of vessels or boats rescuing the shipwrecked, whether during or after a naval engagement.
“7. Revision of the declaration of the uses and customs of war drawn up by the Conference of Brussels in 1874, but unratified to the present date.
“8. Acceptance in principle of the custom of good offices, mediation, and optional arbitration, in suitable cases, with the intention of avoiding armed conflict between nations; agreement as to the methods of applying these principles and establishing a uniform system for all such cases.
“Always understanding that all question of the political relations of States, the present status as established by treaty, and also, in general, all questions not directly included in the programme adopted by the Cabinets, will be entirely excluded from the deliberations of the Conference.
“In addressing to you, Sir, this request that you will take the sense of your government on the subject of this communication, I beg to add that in the interests of the great cause so near to his heart, my august master, His Imperial Majesty, considers that the Conference should not sit in the capital of one of the Great Powers—centres of so many political interests which might prejudice deliberations upon a theme commanding the equal interest of every country.”
Following this Note, the
Official Messenger published a highly statistical article enumerating the military forces of all the Powers.
“The forces of Russia are more considerable than those of any other European country. Her peace establishment, with an annual conscription of 280,000 men, exceeds 1,000,000 men. On a mobilisation, Russia can take the field with 2,500,000 men, excluding a reserve and militia which totals to 6,947,000. Russia, therefore, disposes of nearly 9,000,000 trained soldiers. France stands second with a permanency of 589,000, and a war footing of 2,500,000. Her total, reserves included, is 4,370,000. The German army, whose organisation is especially perfect, has a peace effective of 585,000, and can mobilise 2,230,000 within ten days. Including reserves, Germany can take the field with 4,300,000 trained men of all arms.
“The permanent forces of Austria-Hungary stand at 365,000, rising 2,500,000 on mobilisation, or, including reserves, 4,000,000 combatants. Italy’s establishment of 174,000 is transformable into a force of 1,473,000, plus 727,000 reservists—2,200,000 in all. Great Britain stands last on the list with the comparatively small figure of 220,000, or, with the volunteers and militia, a maximum total of 720,000.
“Figures give but a partial idea of the power of the European armies, for it is hard to grasp the real meaning of a million soldiers. It is easy to say that Russia can put 7,000,000 men in the field in time of war, but an enumeration would be difficult, the work of several months. As giving some idea of the accidents of these immense numbers, the French army, extended in line formation, would cover a distance of 520 kilometres (some 325 miles), that of Germany 510 kilometres 318¾ miles), Austria-Hungary 460 kilometres (287½ miles), and Italy 230 kilometres (143¾ miles).
“Europe is, in short, a vast camp, and every European spends a part of his life in barracks. The relative proportion of military to civil population are: in France 11 per cent.; Germany 8½ per cent., or 11 per cent. of the males; Austria-Hungary a trifle over 9 per cent; Italy one-seventh of the male population. The proportion in Russia is 2½ per cent. of the total population.
“The open spaces of Paris cover 7,802 hectares (19,278¾ acres)—exactly one-quarter of the free area of London. The combined forces of the five chief Powers would occupy twice the acreage of London’s open spaces, and eight times those of Paris. The combined reservists of these Powers would require room equal to the entire open ground of London, and four times the open spaces of Paris. To review the armies of the five chief Continental Powers it would be necessary to provide a space equal to twenty times the entire superficial area of the City of Paris.
“The permanent forces of Europe number 4,250,000 men, on mobilisation 16,410,000, or, with all reserves, 34,000,000. In column of line this colossal army would stretch from Paris to St. Petersburg, and would represent 10 per cent. of the aggregate, or 20 per cent. of the combined male, population of the Continent.
“The armies of Asia—ignoring petty States—total 500,000 on a peace footing. The Chinese army is not capable of any accurate estimate, but is supposed to stand at nearly 1,200,000, many of whom are merely armed with bows and arrows. Japan, on the contrary, is admirably organised and armed. The indigenous forces of Africa do not number more than 250,000.
“Compared with European figures, those of the New World are inconsiderable. Mexico disposes of 120,000; Brazil of 28,000 troops and 20,000 gendarmes. The peace establishment of the United States is 25,000, but can be very largely increased in case of need. The Argentine Republic maintains 120,000, Canada 2,000 English troops, 1,000 Canadians, and 35,000 militiamen.
“The permanent establishment of the world is 5,250,000 always under arms.
“The cost of these enormous forces is as follows:—
|Or a total of||3,147,250,000||“||=||£125,890,000|
“The price per head stands, in order of cost:—
|Russia||772.50||francs||=||£30 18s. 9d.|
|Germany||1,162.50||“||=||£46 10s. 0d.|
|Austria-Hungary||1,175.00||“||=||£47 0s. 0d.|
|Italy||1,535.00||“||=||£61 8s. 4d.|
|France||1,633.00||“||=||£65 6s. 8d.|
|Great Britain||2,045.00||“||=||£81 16s. 8d.|
“Every citizen of Russia pays 6 francs = 5s.; of Italy about 9 francs = 7s. 6d.; of Austria-Hungary 10 francs = 8s. 4d.; of Great Britain 12 francs = 10s.; of Germany 13 francs = 10s. 10d.; of France 18.25 francs = 15s. 3d.
“The actual military budget of Denmark is not more than 5,750,000 francs = £230,000, but, even so, is an enormous burden for so small a country. If the nations of Europe are constantly face to face with increased debts, the prime cause of their situation is a continually growing military establishment.
“It is possible to base some idea of the actual potential costs of the next war on the above figures. The last Chino-Japanese war involved an expenditure of 1,250,000,000 francs = £50,000,000. A European war must cost at least Frs. 6,000,000,000 = £240,000,000, with no allowance for incalculable loss in men and material. Germany maintains a permanent war-chest at Spandau of Frs. 450,000,000 = £18,000,000—a sum which would be no more than a drop in the ocean.”
Official Messenger closed its article thus:—
“By no possibility could expenditure on this colossal scale be productive. It exhausts the sources of national revenues, increases taxation, paralyses the action of the national finances and commerce, and arrests the general well-being. The best minds of all countries and all ages have sought a means of assuring peace without recourse to constantly increasing armaments—by, that is, principles of right and equity, operating through the channel of arbitration, to finally end this barbarous theory which identifies the course of civilisation with every chance improvement—and they are incessant—in the means and methods of destruction.”
The issues of
la Revue Statistique for September 11 and 18, 1898, give the following tables of the world’s war budget—naval and military.
|Countries of Europe.
||Cost per Head of Population.
|Sweden & Norway||1897||49,211,678||1,968,467||7.05||5||10½|
|States outside Europe.
||Cost per Head of Population.
|Countries of Europe.
||Cost per Head of Population.
|Norway & Sweden||1897||15,745,141||629,805||2.25||1||10½|
|States outside Europe.
||Cost per Head of Population.
|China||1897||42,000,000||1,680,000||.12||Under 1/8 of a penny|
|British India||1897||1,761,175||70,447||.06||Under 1/16 of a penny|
|NOTE.—The figures for China, as given in these tables, are taken from an estimate prepared by the English consul at Shanghai.|
The Czar’s Note—(
vide the author’s paper in
Le Journal des Economistes, September 15, 1898)—a Note that might have been written by a disciple of Cobden, came as a surprise, partaking of the disagreeable, to Europe. The noble ruler who inspired it was certainly landed, his intentions praised for their undoubted generosity, but he was clearly given to understand that the project was quite Utopian. Yet it would, without doubt, be fair argument to stigmatise as Utopian the idea that Europe can continue to support the overwhelming burden of her incessantly growing armaments, and the no less ruinous imposts which they necessitate. It is credible that the working classes, bearing what is practically the entire onus of this blood tax, while the ruling class does not bear a third at most, will one day rise against the monstrous injustice, and that militaryism is the direct road to socialism. But the eyesight of professional politicians is short, and all things beyond their horizon are naturally chimerical.
Still, and even though the Czar’s ideal proved barren of results, his action brought this problem into a publicity so great that it can never again pass into oblivion until, and unless, it cease to exist, being accomplished. And we may, in this respect, recall that the “League of Neutrals” owed its inception to another Russian sovereign, Catherine II.—a league which signally advanced the Law of Nations by establishing the maxim that “the flag covers the cargo.” Another predecessor of Nicholas II., Alexander I., laid Europe under an obligation by promoting the “Holy Alliance” which initiated thirty years of peace. Nor is there any reason why this example should not bear further fruit, a similar league being constituted on the broader basis of an alliance between all the Continental States, small and large alike.