In order to see how and under what conditions private property can appear and develop legitimately, we must understand thefundamental Principle of Property rights: Every man OWNS LEGITIMATELY THE THING which his labor, his intelligence, or, more generally, his activity has created.
This principle is incontestable, and it is well to note that implicitly it recognizes the right of all men to the land. In fact, since the land was not created by men, it ensues from the fundamental Principle of Property that the land, the common fund presented to the species, can in no wise be legitimately the absolute and exclusive property of any particular individuals who have not created this value. Let us then formulate the true Theory of Property, establishing it exclusively on the unassailable principle which bases theLegitimacy of Property on the fact of the CREATION of a thing or of the value possessed by it. In order to do this, let us consider the creation of Industry, that is, the origin and development of agriculture, manufacture, the arts, etc., in human society.
Let us imagine that on the land of a remote island, on the soil of a nation, or over the whole earth (the area of the theater of operations changes in no way the significance of the facts), one generation of mankind devotes itself for the first time to industry, that is, for the first time it farms, manufactures, etc. Each generation, by its labor, by its intelligence, by its own industry, creates commodities, develops values, that did not previously exist on the unimproved land. Is it not perfectly evident that in this first industrial generation the possession of Property will be in conformity with Justice, IF the value and wealth produced by the industry of all is distributed among their producers IN PROPORTION TO THE CONTRIBUTION of each one to the creation of the general wealth? This is incontestable.
Now, the results of this labor fall into two categories that must be carefully distinguished.
The first category includes those things coming from the soil that belonged to the first generation by right of use: products increased, refined, or manufactured by the labor and industry of this generation. These products, finished or unfinished, consist either of consumers' goods or of tools of production. It is clear that the products are fully and legitimately the property of those who by their industry have created them. Each one of these persons has, therefore, the right either to consume them immediately or to put them away to be disposed of according to his subsequent convenience, whether it be to use them, exchange them, or give them away or transfer them to whomsoever desired, without need of authorization from anyone. According to this hypothesis, this property is obviously legitimate, respectable, sacred. It cannot be attacked without attacking Justice, Right, and individual Liberty—in a word, without committing an act of plunder.
Second category. But not all the things created by the industrial activity of this first generation fall into the above category. Not only has this generation created the products that we have just designated (consumers' goods and tools of production), but it has also added an additional value to the original value of the soil by cultivating it, building upon it, and adding permanent improvements.
This additional value obviously constitutes a product, a value, due to the first generation's industry. Now, if, by some means or other (we are not concerned here with the question of means), the ownership of this extra value is distributed equitably, that is, in proportion to each one's labor in creating it, each one of these persons will possess legitimately the portion that falls to him. He will therefore be able to dispose of this legitimate private property as he sees fit, exchanging it, giving it away, transferring it, without any of the other individuals, in other words, society, ever having any right or authority whatsoever over these values.
We can understand perfectly well, therefore, that, when the second generation comes along, it will find upon the land capital of two different types:
A. Original or Natural Capital, which has not been created by men of the first generation—that is, the value of the unimproved land.
B. Capital Created by the first generation, including: first, the products, goods, and implements that have not been consumed or worn out by the first generation; second, the extra value that the labor of the first generation may have added to the value of the unimproved land.
It is therefore evident, and the clear and necessary consequence of the basic Principle of Property Rights, which has just been established, that every individual of the second generation has equal rights to the Original or Natural Capital, whereas he has no right to the other capital, the Capital Created by the labor of the first generation. Every individual member of this first generation can therefore dispose of his share of the Created Capital in favor of any person or persons of the second generation he chooses—children, friends, etc.—without any individual or even the State itself, as we have just said, having any claim (in the name of Property Rights) over such disposal made by the donor or testator.
Let us note that, following our hypothesis, a member of the second generation is already favored over a member of the first generation because, in addition to rights to the Original Capital, which have been preserved for him, he may be fortunate enough to receive a share of the Created Capital, that is, value that has been produced not by him, but by previous labor.
Let us assume that Society is so constituted:
- 1. That the Rights to Original Capital, that is, to the resources of the land in its unimproved form, are preserved or that EQUIVALENT RIGHTS are recognized for every person born into this world in any age whatsoever.
- 2. That Created Capital is continually distributed among men as rapidly as it is created, in proportion to each person's participation in its creation.
We note that our socialist author makes a distinction here between two kinds of value: created value, which can legitimately be converted into property, and noncreated value, also called the value of unimproved land, original capital, natural capital, which can become private property only by an act of usurpation. Now, according to the theory that I advance, the ideas expressed by the words “noncreated,” “original,” “natural,” completely exclude the ideas of value and capital. This is the error in the premise that leads M. Considérant to the following melancholy conclusion:
Under the System by which Property is established in all civilized nations, the common fund, to whose complete enjoyment all humanity has full rights, has been raided: it is now taken over by a small minority, to the exclusion of the great majority. And truly, if only one man were in fact deprived of his rights to the enjoyment of the common fund, this one exclusion would in itself be a sufficient violation of Justice to brand the system of Property that sanctioned it as unjust and illegitimate.
Yet M. Considérant acknowledges that the land cannot be cultivated except under the system of private property. This is necessary monopoly. How can all these things be reconciled, and the rights of the proletariat to original, natural, noncreated capital, or the value of the unimproved land, be protected?
Very well, let an industrial Society, which has taken over the possession of the Land and has deprived man of the faculty of exercising freely and at will his four natural Rights; let such a Society, I say, grant the individual as reparation for the Rights that it has taken away, the right to employment.
If anything in the world is clear, it is that this theory, except for the conclusion, is exactly the one held by the economists. The person buying a farm product pays for three things: (1) current labor (nothing more legitimate); (2) the additional value imparted to the soil by previous labor (still completely legitimate); (3) finally, original capital or natural or noncreated capital, the gratuitous gift of God, called by Considérant the value of the unimproved land; by Smith, the indestructible powers of the soil; by Ricardo, the productive and indestructible powers of the land; by Say, natural agents. This is what has been usurped, according to M. Considérant; this is what has been usurped, asserts Jean-Baptiste Say. This is what constitutes injustice and plunder in the eyes of the socialists; this is what constitutes monopoly and privilege in the eyes of the economists. They are further agreed as to the necessity, the usefulness, of this arrangement. Without it, the land would not produce, say the disciples of Smith; without it, we should return to the savage state, say the disciples of Fourier.
We see that in theory, at least as regards the great question of equity, there is much more of an entente cordiale between the two schools than might be imagined. They are divided only in regard to the conclusions to be drawn from the fact on which they agree and in regard to the legislative action to be taken. “Since property is tainted with injustice, inasmuch as it assigns to the landowners remuneration that is not their just due, and since, on the other hand, it is necessary, let us respect it but exact reparations from it.”
“No,” say the economists, “although it is a monopoly, let us respect it, since it is necessary, and leave it alone.” Yet they offer even this feeble defense very half-heartedly, for one of their most recent spokesmen, M. Garnier, adds: “You are correct from the point of view of human rights, but you are wrong from the practical standpoint, until you can show what could be done by a better system.”
To which the socialists do not fail to reply: “We have found it. It is the right to employment. Let us try it.”
At this juncture M. Proudhon arrives on the scene. Do you imagine, perhaps, that this celebrated contradictor is going to contradict the fundamental premise of the socialists and the economists? Not at all. He has no need to do so in order to demolish the principle of property. On the contrary: he seizes hold of this premise; he embraces it; he presses it to his bosom, and squeezes from it its most logical conclusion. “Aha,” he says, “you admit that the gifts of God have not only utility but value; you admit that the landowners usurp them and sell them. Therefore, property is theft. Therefore, it is not necessary to maintain it or to exact reparations from it, but to abolish it.”
M. Proudhon has mustered many arguments against landed property. The one that carries the most weight, the only one that carries any weight, is the one furnished him by those authors who have confused utility with value.
“Who has the right,” he asks,
to charge for the use of the soil, for wealth that was not made by man? To whom is due the rent on the land? To the producer of the land, of course. Who made it? God. In that case, landlord, you may withdraw.
.... But the Creator of the earth does not sell it. He gives it away without charge; and He gives to all alike. How, then, is it that among His children some are treated as eldest sons and others as bastards? How does it happen, if originally man's right was equality of inheritance, that it has posthumously become inequality of status?
Replying to Jean-Baptiste Say, who has compared the land to a tool of production, he says:
I agree that the land is a tool of production; but who wields it? Is it the landowner? Is he the one who by the magic of property rights imparts to it strength and fertility? His monopoly consists of just this, that, though he has not made the implement, he charges for the service it performs. Let its Maker appear and demand His rent, and we will settle with Him; or else let the landowner, who claims to have full title, produce his power of attorney from the Maker.
Evidently these three systems are in fact only one. Economists, socialists, egalitarians, all direct the same reproach against landed property, that of charging for something that it has no right to charge for. Some call this abuse monopoly; others, injustice; and still others, theft. These are merely different degrees of guilt in the same bill of complaint.
Now, I appeal to the attentive reader: Is this complaint well-grounded? Have I not demonstrated that only one thing stands between God's gifts and human hunger, viz., human service?
Economists, you declare: “Rent is what is paid to the landowner for the use of the productive and indestructible powers of the soil.”
I answer: No. Rent is what is paid the water carrier for the pains he took to make his cart and his wheels, and the water would cost more if he carried it on his back. In the same manner, wheat, flax, wool, wood, meat, fruit would cost us more if the landowner had not improved the instrument that produces them.
Socialists, you say: “Originally the masses enjoyed their right to the land subject to their labor. Now they are excluded and robbed of their natural heritage.”
I reply: No, they are not excluded or robbed; they do enjoy gratis the utility that the land has produced, subject to their labor, that is, on condition that they pay by their own labor those who spare them labor.
Egalitarians, you say: “The monopoly of the landowner consists in the fact that, while he did not make the means of production, he charges for its service.”
I answer: No, the land as a means of production, in so far as it is the work of God, produces utility, and this utility is gratuitous; it is not within the owner's power to charge for it. The land, as a means of production, in so far as the landowner has prepared it, worked on it, enclosed it, drained it, improved it, added other necessary implements to it, produces value, which represents human servicesmade available, and this is the only thing he charges for. Either you must recognize the justice of this demand, or you must reject your own principle of reciprocal services.
In order to learn what the real elements are that constitute the value of the land, let us observe how landed property is created, not through violence or conquest, but according to the laws of labor and exchange. Let us observe what conditions are like in this respect in the United States.
Brother Jonathan, an industrious water carrier in New York, left for the Far West, carrying in his wallet a thousand dollars, the fruit of his labor and thrift.
He passed through many fertile areas in which the soil, the sun, and the rain perform their miracles, yet, in the economic andpractical sense, impart no value to them.
As he was something of a philosopher, he kept saying as he went along: “In spite of all that Smith and Ricardo say, value must be something else than the productive, natural, and indestructible power of the soil.”
Finally, he reached the State of Arkansas and saw before him a beautiful farm of about a hundred acres, which the government had put up for sale at a dollar an acre.
“A dollar an acre!” he said to himself. “That's very little, so little, in fact, that it's almost nothing. I'll buy this land, clear it, sell my crops, and, instead of being a water carrier as I once was, I too shall be a landowner!”
Brother Jonathan, who was a ruthlessly logical man, liked to have a reason for everything. He said to himself: “But why is this land worth even a dollar an acre? No one has ever laid a hand on it. It is virgin territory. Could Smith, Ricardo, and all the rest of the theorists down to Proudhon, possibly be right? Could it be that the land does have value independently of any labor, service, or other human intervention? Must it be admitted that the productive and indestructible powers of the soil are worth something? Why, then, are they not valuable in the areas I have just been through? And, besides, since these marvelous powers are so far superior to man's capacity, which will never be able to duplicate the phenomenon of growth, as M. Blanqui has so profoundly observed, why, then, are they worth only a dollar?”
But he was not long in realizing that this value, like all values, is an entirely human and social creation. The American Government did indeed ask the price of a dollar an acre, but, on the other hand, it guaranteed, at least to a certain degree, the safety of the purchaser; it had constructed a road of sorts in the vicinity; it had arranged for the delivery of letters and papers; etc.
“Service for service,” said Jonathan. “The government charges me a dollar, but it fully renders me the equivalent. Henceforth, begging Ricardo's pardon, I shall explain the value of this land in human terms, and its value would be even greater if the highway were nearer, the mail service more convenient, my safety more assured.”
While discoursing thus, Jonathan kept on working; for, in all fairness to him, it must be said that he was a doer as well as a thinker.
After he had invested the rest of his dollars in buildings, fences, clearings, trenchings, drainage, preparations, etc., after he had dug, plowed, harrowed, sowed, and harvested, came the moment for selling the crop. “Now at last I'll know,” cried Jonathan, still obsessed with the problem of value, “whether in becoming a landowner I have turned into a monopolist, a privileged aristocrat, a despoiler of my fellow men, or a usurper of the divine bounty.”
So he took his grain to market and held converse with a Yankee: “My friend,” he said, “how much will you give me for this corn?”
“The current price,” said the other.
“The current price? But will that give me something beyond the interest on my investment and the compensation for my labor?”
“I'm a merchant,” said the Yankee, “and I have to be satisfied with payment for my past and present labor.”
“And I was satisfied with that when I was a water carrier,” replied Jonathan; “but now I'm an owner of landed property. The English and French economists have assured me that in that capacity, I should receive, in addition to payment for my past and present labor, a profit from the productive and indestructible powers of the soil. I should levy a special tribute on the gifts of God.”
“The gifts of God belong to everyone,” said the merchant. “I certainly use the productive power of the wind to sail my ships, but I don't charge for it.”
“And I propose that you pay me something for these powers, so that Messrs. Senior, Considérant, and Proudhon will not for naught have called me a monopolist and a usurper. If I am to bear the shame, I should at least have the profit.”
“In that case, my friend, I bid you farewell; I'll appeal to other landowners for my corn, and if I find that they feel as you do, I'll grow some for myself.”
Thus, Jonathan learned that, under a system of liberty, not everyone who will may become a monopolist. “As long as there is land to be cleared in the Union,” he said to himself, “I shall be only the one who puts these famous natural and indestructible forces to work. I shall be paid for the pains I take and nothing more, exactly as in the old days, when, as a water carrier, I was paid for the pains I took and not for those that Nature took. I see clearly that the one who enjoys the gifts of God is not the man who raises the grain, but the one who consumes it.”
After several years Jonathan became interested in another venture and looked around for a tenant for his farm. The conversation between the two parties was very interesting and would shed much light on the question if I were to quote it in its entirety.
But we must be content with the following excerpt:
Jonathan: What! You don't want to pay me as rent anything more than the interest, at the current rate, on my capital outlay?
The tenant: Not a penny more.
Jonathan: And why, if you please?
The tenant: Because for that amount of capital I can put another farm in exactly the same condition as yours.
Jonathan: That seems to be a conclusive argument. But consider that, when you begin to farm my land, you will have not only my capital but also the natural and indestructible powers of the soil working for you. You will have at your disposal the marvelous effects of the sun and the moon, of natural affinity and electricity. Must I let you have all these for nothing?
The tenant: Why not, since you paid nothing for them, and derive nothing from them, any more than I shall?
Jonathan: Derive nothing from them? Goodness gracious, what do you mean? I derive everything from them. Without these wonderful phenomena all my industry wouldn't raise a single blade of grass.
The tenant: Of course. But remember the Yankee. He refused to give you a penny for all this help of Nature, just as the New York housewives refused to give you anything for the admirable process by which Nature feeds the spring.
Jonathan: But Ricardo and Proudhon .....
The tenant: What do I care about Ricardo? Let us deal on the terms I have laid down, or else I shall go and clear some land beside yours. The sun and the moon will work for me there for nothing.
It was the same old argument, and Jonathan began to understand that God has taken rather wise precautions so that His gifts should not be easily intercepted.
Having somewhat lost his taste for being a landowner, Jonathan decided to direct his energies elsewhere. He determined to put his farm up for sale.
Needless to say, no one was willing to give him more than he had himself paid. Despite his citation of Ricardo and his allusions to the so-called value inherent in the indestructible powers of the soil, everyone gave him the same answer: “There are other farms besides yours.” And these few words silenced his demands even as they destroyed his illusions.
In this transaction there was, indeed, a fact of great economic importance that has not been sufficiently noted.
Everyone realizes that if a manufacturer wished, after ten or fifteen years, to sell his equipment, even if it were as good as new, the probability is that he would be compelled to suffer a loss. The reason is simple: Ten or fifteen years rarely go by without bringing some mechanical progress. For that reason the person who puts a fifteen-year-old piece of machinery up for sale can hardly expect to be paid for all the work that went into it; because now, thanks to progress, better machines can be obtained for the same amount of labor—and this, let me say in passing, is further proof that value is proportional, not to labor, but to service.
Hence, we can conclude that it is in the nature of tools of production to lose some of their value through the mere action of time, independently of any wear and tear, and we may express this fact in the following proposition: One of the effects of progress is to decrease the value of existing tools of production.
It is clear, of course, that the more rapid the progress, the greater the difficulty of existing implements in keeping pace with new ones.
I shall not stop here to point out the harmonies suggested by this law. All that I wish to call attention to is the fact that landed property is no exception to it.
Brother Jonathan made this discovery to his personal sorrow and loss. He had this conversation with his prospective buyer:
“The permanent improvements I have put into this land represent a thousand days of labor. I propose, first, that you pay me the equivalent of these thousand days, and then something additional for the inherent value of the soil, which is independent of any human labor.”
The buyer answered:
“In the first place, I shall give you nothing for the value of the soil itself, since this is merely utility, which is as abundant in the surrounding farms as in yours. So, as far as this inherent, extrahuman utility goes, I can get it gratis, which proves that it has no value.
“In the second place, for the thousand days' labor that your accounts show you put into bringing your land to its present condition, I will give you eight hundred, and my reason is that today for eight hundred days' labor I can do on adjoining land what you in the past did on yours in a thousand days. Please bear in mind that in the past fifteen years progress has been made in draining, clearing, building, digging wells, constructing stables, and providing transportation. For every job less labor is needed, and I have no desire to pay you ten for what I can get for eight, especially since the price of grain has gone down proportionately, which is not to your profit or mine, but to that of all mankind.”
Thus, Jonathan had no choice but to keep his land or sell at a loss.
Of course, the value of land is not subject to any one single circumstance. Other factors, like the construction of a canal or the founding of a town, can cause a rise in its value. But the factor that I have mentioned, progress, always works in the direction of a fall in its value.
The conclusion to be drawn from the foregoing observations is this: As long as there is in a country an abundance of land still to be cleared, the landowner, whether he farms it himself, rents it, or sells it, enjoys no privilege, no monopoly, no exceptional advantage, and, most notably, reaps no special windfall from the bounty of Nature. How could he, assuming that men are free? Does not everyone having any capital and the strength of his hands possess the right to follow the calling of his choice—agriculture, manufacturing, commerce, fishing, navigation, the arts, or the professions? And would not men with capital and capacity turn more eagerly toward the careers that offered exceptional returns? And would they not desert those likely to entail losses? Is not this inevitable distribution of human energies sufficient, granted our hypothesis, to maintain in equilibrium the returns yielded in all branches of enterprise? In the United States do we see farmers making their fortunes any more rapidly than businessmen, shipowners, bankers, or doctors, as would inevitably happen if they received both payment for their own labor and also, over and beyond what others receive, a payment, as has been alleged, for the incalculable labor of Nature?
Very well, then, do you really want to know how, even in the United States, a landowner could set up a monopoly for himself? I shall try to explain.
Let us imagine that Jonathan assembles all the landowners in the Union and speaks to them thus:
“I have tried to sell my crops, and I haven't been able to find anyone willing to give me a high enough price for them. I have tried to rent my land, and no one will meet my terms. I have tried to sell it and have met with the same disappointment. My demands have uniformly been cut short with the same answer: There is other land nearby. The result is, unfortunately, that my services in the community are rated, like those of everyone else, at what they are worth, despite all the sweet-sounding promises of the theorists. I am allotted nothing, absolutely nothing, for this productive and indestructible power of the soil, for those forces of Nature, solar and lunar radiations, rain, wind, dew, frost, which I believed were my property, but which, in reality, I own in name only. Is it not an iniquitous thing that I am paid only for my services, and even then only at the rate to which it has pleased my competitors to lower them? You all suffer from this same oppression; you are all victims of anarchistic competition. Things would not be in this state, as you can readily understand, if we were to organize landed property, if we were to act concertedly to prevent anyone from hereafter clearing a square inch of American soil. Then, when the population, because of its growth, would be clamoring for the limited supply of food to be had, we would be in a position to set our own prices and make great fortunes, which, in turn, would be a great boon to the other classes, for, being rich, we would provide them with employment.”
If, on hearing this discourse, the united landlords seized control of the legislature and enacted a statute forbidding all further clearing of the land, they undoubtedly would, for a time, increase their profits. I say, for a time, because the natural laws of society would be lacking in harmony if the punishment did not spring from the crime itself. Out of respect for scientific accuracy, I shall not say that the new statute would impart value to the power of the soil or to the forces of Nature (if that were the case, the statute would work to the harm of no one); but I shall say: The balance of services would be violently upset; one class would exploit the other classes; a system of slavery would be introduced into the country.
Let us move on to another hypothesis, which, in fact, represents actual conditions in the civilized nations of Europe, where the land has already become private property.
We must now consider whether, in this case too, the great mass of consumers, or the community, continues to enjoy gratis the productive power of the soil and the forces of Nature; whether the holders of the land are owners of anything beyond its value, that is, of their honest services evaluated according to the laws of competition; and whether, when they charge for their services, they are not forced, like everybody else, to include gratis the gifts of God.
Suppose, then, the whole territory of Arkansas has been sold by the government, divided into private estates, and put under cultivation. When Jonathan offers his grain or even his land for sale, does he vaunt the productive power of the soil and try to include it as part of the land's value? He can no longer be stopped short, as in the previous case, by the crushing retort: “There are uncleared lands adjoining yours.”
The new situation implies that the population has grown. It is divided into two classes: (1) the class that supplies the community with agricultural services; (2) the class that supplies industrial, intellectual, or other services.
What follows seems to me quite evident. Provided the workers (other than the landowners) who wish to get grain are perfectly free to appeal to Jonathan or to his neighbors or to landowners in neighboring States or even to clear uncultivated land outside of Arkansas, it is absolutely impossible for Jonathan to force an unjust law upon them. The mere existence somewhere of land without value is an insuperable barrier to privilege, and therefore this hypothetical case is the same as our preceding one: Agricultural services are subject to the law of general competition, and it is utterly impossible to charge more for them than they are worth. Let me add that they are worth no more (ceteris paribus) than services of any other kind. Just as the manufacturer, after charging for his time, his pains, his trouble, his risks, his outlay, his skill (all of which constitute human service and are represented by value), can charge nothing for the law of gravitation or the expansibility of steam, of whose aid he has availed himself; so Jonathan can reckon as the aggregate value of his grain only the sum total of his services, past and present, and can include nothing at all for the help he has received from the laws of vegetation. The balance of services is not impaired as long as they are freely exchanged on the market at a mutually agreeable price, and the gifts of God that transmit these services are exchanged gratis along with the services and stay in the communal domain.
It will undoubtedly be pointed out that, as a matter of fact, the value of the soil increases steadily. This is true. As the population increases and becomes richer, as the means of transportation improve, the landowner receives a better price for his services. Is this a special law applicable only to him, or does it not rather apply to all producers? For an equal amount of labor does not a doctor, a lawyer, a singer, a painter, or a day laborer obtain more satisfactions in the nineteenth century than in the fourth, in Paris than in Brittany, in France than in Morocco? But this increase in satisfaction is not obtained at anyone's expense. This much needs to be understood at least. Further discussion must wait until we analyze this law of the value (used here metonymically) of the soil in another part of this work when we reach Ricardo's theory.5
For the present, it is enough to note that Jonathan, under the conditions of this hypothesis, cannot oppress the industrial classes, provided the exchange of services is free, and that labor may, without any legal restraint, be distributed in Arkansas or elsewhere among all types of production. This freedom stands in the way of landowners who would divert to their profit the gratuitous benefits of Nature.
This would no longer be the case, however, if Jonathan and his colleagues took over the legislature and prohibited or hampered the freedom of exchange—if, for example, they decreed that not a kernel of foreign wheat could enter the territory of Arkansas. In that case the value of the services exchanged between landowners and nonlandowners would no longer be determined by justice. The nonlandowners would have no protection against the demands of the landowners. Such legislation would be as iniquitous as the other measure we just referred to. The effect would be precisely the same as if Jonathan, having offered for sale a sack of wheat that would otherwise sell for fifteen francs, drew a pistol from his pocket, pointed it at the buyer, and said, “Give me three francs more, or I will blow your brains out.”
This procedure (which we must call by its right name) is extortion. Whether it be by the exercise of private force or by law, it does not change in character. If by the exercise of private force, as in the case of the pistol, it is an act against property. If by law, as in the case of the ban, it is still an act against property, and beyond that, a denial of the right to property. As we have seen, one has property rights only over values, and value is the estimation of two services that are freely exchanged. Hence, it is not possible to conceive of anything more antagonistic to the fundamental right to property than an alteration, effected in the name of the law, in the equivalence of exchanged services.
It is perhaps not idle to point out that laws of this nature are iniquitous and disastrous, whatever may be the opinion of either oppressed or oppressor toward them. In some countries we see the working classes clamoring for such restraints because they bring wealth to the landowners. They do not perceive that it is at their expense, and, as I know by experience, it is not always prudent to tell them so.
It is indeed strange. The common people listen eagerly to the zealots who preach communism, which is slavery, since not to be master of one's own services is slavery; and yet they disdain those who on all occasions defend liberty, which is the common sharing of God's bounty to man.