On the present state of the distribution of wealth


The piece is the crucial fifth chapter of the Inquiry. This is the turning point of the book where Thompson accepts that his original project of creating a liberatory economics on the basis of classical liberalism, albeit taken far further than any previous exponent had dared, had been overtaken by an acceptance of the limits of even the most perfected system of "free" exchange. This chapter starts with an admission that he has dumped the previous written version for this new departure. In passing he gives the section headings for the original text, covering the demands necessary for the achievement of his original goal of "free exchange". The crucial section of this chapter is his dissection of the faults of even the most perfected system of exchange. His seminal framework of 5 points is still capable of enriching contemporary critique of exchange, despite the datedness of some of the problems which have to some extent been mitigated in the intervening 180 or so years by the gains of workers' and women's struggles and the subsequent development of consumer capitalism and the welfare state.

From "Inquiry into the Principles of the Distribution of Wealth", 1824, William Thompson



Under the above head a chapter is written, consisting of about one hundred pages. This chapter is for the present withheld for two reasons; first lest the development of the effect of particular institutions, in addition to the few of a more prominent nature already noticed, might lead to unnecessary and avoidable irritation of those now mechanically working under and moulded by such institutions to modes of action pernicious to the general welfare, the universal interest; second, that the inquiry might be comprised within one volume, and might be as speedily and economically as possible be submitted to public consideration.

The concurrent operation of all these expedients of insecurity, in opposition to the natural laws of distribution, is in this chapter pointed out, and from a balance of the evil and fancied good they produce, they are shown to be inimical to equality limited by security, and consequently to the greatest happiness. An attempt is made to arrange them, not with any view to logical accuracy, but merely to facilitate their examination. The subject is divided into five heads, as follows.

SECTION 1. Of the GENERAL EVILS of the abstraction by political power of the products of labor without the consent of the producers or owners of them; termed here PUBLIC plunder, and shown to be more extensive, more difficult of cure, and consequently more pernicious, than PRIVATE plunder.

SECTION 2. Of those particular institutions of expedients whose most obvious effect is to GENERATE forced inequality - or that inequality not called for by equal security.

Such are,

  1. All laws or contrivances interfering with what ought to be the equal right of all to unappropriated articles. Such are,
    • Game laws.
    • Many of the navigation and fishing laws and customs.
    • All laws, customs, &c., controling what ought to be the equal right of all to appropriate by labor, air, water, minerals, &c., not previously appropriated.
  2. All laws or contrivances which limit the free direction of labor to articles' previously appropriated by the laborer or with consent of the appropriators. Such are,
    • Those which require apprenticeships to particular trades.
    • Those which require freedom of guilds to practice trades in particular places.
    • Those which control the locomotion of laborers through or out of the community.
    • Those which establish monopolies; which distribute bounties.
    • Those which impede the free direction of labor, with a view to, or under pretence of external or internal defence, revenue, &c.
  3. All laws or contrivances which control the rate of the wages of labor, diverting them from that standard to which the natural laws of distribution would lead. Such are,
    • Those which violate security by wholesale, called slave laws.
    • Those which compel labor without any reward.
    • Those which compel labor for less than the laborer chooses to take.
    • Those which regulate, by raising or lowering, the wages of labor.
    • Those which prevent peaceable combinations of laborers to keep up or advance their wages.
    • Those which aid combinations of capitalists or others to keep down the wages of labor.
    • Those which, under the name of by-laws or local laws, regulate and oppress labor in particular districts.
    • Those which prohibit labor on particular days.

SECTION 3. Of those particular institutions or expedients, whose most obvious effect is to PERPETUATE forced inequality of wealth.

Such are,

  1. Those which establish hereditary power
  2. Those which aim to establish perpetuity of property, without labor, in the descendants of particular individuals.

SECTION 4. Of those particular institutions or expedients, whose obvious effect is both to GENERATE AND PERPETUATE forced inequality of wealth.

Such are,

  1. All laws or contrivances for abstracting the products of labor, without the consent of the producers by political power, for its own immediate use. Such are,
    • Those which levy taxes in kind - tithes, &c.
    • Those which levy taxes in money.
    • Those which levy taxes concealed, or included in the price of commodities.
    • Those which control the mercantile value of the currency.
  2. All laws or contrivances which seize the annual products of labor to indemnify capitalists or their representatives, for wealth, by them given to political power, and by political power squandered. Such are,
    • Those which levy taxes under the name of interest for what are called public debts.
  3. All laws or contrivances whose effect is to monopolize knowledge to a few, keeping the mass of society in ignorance and delusion.
    • Those which supply places and means of education exclusively to the rich; neglecting at the same time the education of the poor.
    • Those which monopolize to the rich the knowledge and consequent means of wealth and influence derived from law.
    • Those which, monopolize to the rich the knowledge and consequent wealth and influence from medicine and all other pursuits requiring knowledge.

SECTION 5. Of the means of reducing these existing expedients of FORCED unequal distribution to the VOLUNTARY mode of the natural laws of distribution, inducing equality limited only by equal security.

  1. The universal establishment of representative institutions on the best plan the actual knowledge of the community permits; giving a just foundation to public morals, the parent (by means of institutions) of private morals.
  2. The gradual removal under these, by simply withdrawing the force that protects them, of all the above institutions violating equal security and sacrificing universal happiness.
  3. The diffusing of every species of knowledge of physical and moral truth (not the notions of the propagators) amongst the whole community; particular attention being directed to those of the community most devoid of knowledge and most in want of it.

The object or the effect, sometimes one, sometimes both, of almost all the past and existing institutions of society, however variously modified, has been to increase the unavoidable evils of inequality, justifiable to any extent only by the superior claims of equal security. By equal security as to matters of wealth, is meant the faculty of "free labor, entire use of its products, and voluntary exchanges." On these principles, called the natural laws of distribution, should be founded all regulations of positive law and of human conduct unconstrained by law, respecting wealth.

Hitherto the object of this inquiry has been, to contrast the system of equal security of all adult sentient beings - never yet more than partially established in any community - with all past and present systems respecting wealth, more or less violating equal security. The object has been to contrast security with insecurity, freedom of labor with the empire of force and fraud, the exercise of the instruments of persuasion and knowledge, with those of ignorance and delusion.

The only modes or systems of labor hitherto practised amongst men, have been those of labor by constraint, or those of labor by individual competition. The immense advantages of the entire freedom of individual competition over any regulations not founded on the persuasion and voluntary acquiescence of those whose actions they regulated, have, it is hoped, been proved.

But, equal security established, the right of every adult rational being, male or female, to free labor, entire use of its products, and voluntary exchanges, being established; a new question presents itself. Is there no mode of human labor consistent with security - whose paramount importance even to production has been demonstrated [in the previous 360-odd pages of the full Inquiry]- but that of individual competition? May not a mode of labor be found, consistent with security, and still more productive of happiness, than labor by individual competition? Will equal security permit no further approach to equality, and consequently to virtue and happiness, than that which individual competition can effect? Manifold, as has been seen, are the benefits of individual competition when compared with systems of restraint, of involuntariness, are there no means of obtaining the blessings of unrestricted individual competition - abundant production, and development of all the active faculties - without the evils which, even in its best form, must accompany such individual competition? Nay more, may there not be found a mode of labor consistent with security, which will not only obviate the evils of individual competition, but which will afford its peculiar benefits - abundant production and development of all the faculties - to a greater, an incalculably greater extent, than the best arrangements of individual competition could afford?

No mode of labor can produce preponderant good, which does not respect the natural laws of distribution, "free labor, entire use of its products and voluntary exchanges", or the principle of equal security regarding wealth.

But, if respecting these laws, and producing otherwise greater benefits than labor by individual competition, there can be found any mode of labor that will satisfy the questions above put, that mode of labor should be preferred.

Such a mode of labor has been proposed. It has been called the system of labor by mutual co-operation; and its object and effect are to produce perfect voluntary equality of enjoyment of all the fruits of united labor. This system has been partially used in several places to such an extent as to prove its practicability. Its utility, and superiority to the system of individual competition, remain to be inquired into.

There are then three systems of human labor, that of constraint by mingled force and fraud, that of free individual competition (the mode hitherto advanced in this inquiry), and that of mutual co-operation.

Before entering on the consideration of the system of labor by mutual co-operation, the subject of the next chapter, it may be useful to point out some of the good and bad effects of the principle of individual competition as compared with that of mutual co-operation.

After the ample exposition, attempted in this inquiry, of the direct and collateral benefits flowing from equal security, or an observance of the natural laws of the natural laws of distribution, compared with all previous and existing systems of restraint; it cannot be necessary here even to recapitulate these benefits. Let us simply observe that whatever good now exists in society, arising from

1. Activity, of mind and body, in pursuit of wealth;

2. Knowledge and benevolence, to the degree existing;

are to be attributed to the efforts of free individual competition, in opposition to the constant efforts of ignorance to restrain by force or fraud the equal security, or free individual competition of individuals. To these may be reduced, and in these may be comprised, all the blessings of individual competition. Activity, knowledge, and benevolence, to the extent in which they now exist, admirable when compared to the desolation of the rudeness and ignorance of savage life, of despotism, or superstition, have been produced by individual competition.

But what is the amount of the activity, the knowledge, and benevolence now existing compared to what it is desirable for the happiness of communities of the humans race, that they should be? First, as to activity: of absolute activity, there is not one half that there might be; of well-directed activity, not the tenth part. As to knowledge, it has been, in many communities, assiduously cultivated of late years, but confined to a very few, and used as a mere tool to acquire wealth and power: the diffusion of knowledge amidst the great mass of men, is still little more than a mere speculation. As to benevolence, it is unfortunately confined to fewer individuals than even knowledge: so powerfully in all past ages, as well as at present, have the institutions of society, generating the circumstances surrounding men, and these circumstances generating their habitual motives to action, forced men into selfishness to the exclusion of benevolence.

It is true that the undeviating adherence to free competition under equal security, would wonderfully increase useful activity, would extend and diffuse real knowledge, and with real knowledge benevolence would expand. But to this increase of useful activity, of knowledge, and benevolence, there are limits in the very nature of individual competition itself. These limits necessitate certain evils, which is useful to have fully in view, that the mind may always be alive to the means of removing or modifying them; or until they can be removed or modified, that they may be submitted to as unavoidable evils and not rendered the sources of irritation and unavailing regret.

The most prominent of these evils, arising from free competition in its most unrestricted and best form, may perhaps be comprised under the following heads.

1. It retains the principle of selfishness, necessarily warring with the principle of benevolence, as the leading motive to action, in all the ordinary affairs of life.

2. It paralyses the productive powers as to wealth, of one half the human race, women, by the waste and other mischiefs of individual family arrangements; and renders difficult, if not impossible, that equalization of rights and duties between the sexes, which is necessary for the equal enjoyment and greatest happiness of all.

3. It occasionally leads to unprofitable or injudicious modes of individual exertion, from the limited field of judgement open to individual minds.

4. It affords no adequate, no unobjectional resource for sickness, old age, mal-formation, and other accidents incident to human life.

5. It obstructs the progress of useful physical and moral education, by the prejudices and despotism of continued domestic controul, rendered overwhelming by command of individual property: and it also obstructs the progress of general knowledge, from the necessity of concealment, in order to render improvements in science and art tributary to individual gain.

In the very principle of individual competition do all these evils seem to be inherent; preponderating in good as that principle appears to be, when compared with the principle of restraint by force and fraud. As we have shown however what labor by free individual competition can do for human happiness, it is right to show what it cannot do. To remove these evils, we must seek out another principle: or if that cannot be found, we must endeavour to reduce these unavoidable evils to their lowest term, and to bear them so reduced as patiently as we would unavoidable physical calamities.

The first and the greatest objection to the principle of labor by individual competition in its most perfect form, is, that "it retains the principle of selfishness as the leading motive to action in all the ordinary affairs of life."

The object of all the exertions of individual competition as to wealth, is to acquire for immediate enjoyment or accumulation, individual property. Every individual, striving for self at the ultimate peril of want, destitution, and death, there is a constant motive operating to regard the interests of others as opposed to his own. There is therefore a constant temptation to sacrifice the interests of others to his own as often as can be done, by whatever means may seem necessary to accomplish the end. Hence the necessity of the interference of law with its brutal punishments, in order to counteract this tendency of selfishness. Hence the number of actions taken under the sanction of law, erected into crimes and marked out for punishment, til men are reduced to be the automata of arbitrary regulations. Equal security would doubtless reduce these evils to their least extent, but would not eradicate them. The interest of the individual, instead of being amalgamated with that of others, must still remain to a certain degree opposed to it. The very gathering together by every one of an individual heap of wealth, necessitates individual as opposed to general feelings, selfishness as opposed to benevolence. It will be in vain to object that all virtue, even benevolence, must be founded on self-interest, under all possible social arrangements. True. But comprehensive wisdom, resting on the most enlarged experience, demonstrates that self-interest is never so effectually promoted as when it is sought for as the general result of the happiness of all those liable to be influenced by the conduct of any individual agent. In those cases in which the happiness of others is not diminished by the pursuit of individual good, their benevolence smiles on the individual exertion. Selfishness seeks its self-interest, primarily, and to the exclusion of others. Benevolence seeks its self-interest in conjunction with the happiness of all whom its actions may influence, and as a result of that general happiness; the aggregate mass of happiness being primary, self secondary and mingling with it. Now it would appear that the possession of individual property, the consequence of individual competition, however nearly it may be brought to an equalization under the shield of equal security, renders this perfect union of interests as to wealth impossible, and consequently admits but of an approach to the influence of benevolence. Suppose the principle of benevolence once established in the mind of any individual acting under the system of competition, its gratification must be soon checked by the want of individual means to gratify it, and by the penalty of personal distress warded off only by constant attention to individual gain.

In all the pursuits of life under individual competition, this unhappy tendency to war with benevolence might be pointed out. Every laborer, artizan, trader, sees a competitor a rival, in every other laborer, artizan and trader near him; and not only so, but they all see a second competition, a second rivalship, between the whole of their calling and the public. In medicine, it is the interest of the physician to cure diseases, but to cure them as slowly and with as much profit as the competition with other medical men will permit. It is the interest of all medical men that diseases should exist and prevail, or their trade would be decreased ten or one hundred fold. Hence the almost universal inattention, nursed by the interest of physicians, to regimen, to the preservation of health, by attention to food, air, moisture, cleanliness, and all other circumstances influencing it. It is the interest of mankind that the state of health should never be deranged: it is the interest of healers of wounds and diseases that these incidents calling for their exertions and remunerations should be as frequent as may be. Individual remuneration is thus opposed at every step to the principle of benevolence; and the only remedy to the public evil which the system admits, is private competition between individuals of the same calling, mitigating the evils of selfishness on a large scale, by developing them on a smaller. The delusions and pernicious animosities engendered and perpetuated amongst mankind by the competition of priests for their share of individual wealth by individual competition, blacken almost all the pages of history and the existing aspect of human affairs. Let there be no individual interest in dreaming dreams and nursing hatreds, and the love of truth and beneficience will soon supersede rancour in theological as well as in other discussions. The interests of lawyers, from the desire of individual gain, nay, the necessity of individual gain to their existence, as well as to that of all other classes, are proverbially opposed to the interest of the community, rendering justice a marketable commodity and confounding the understanding and dispositions of mankind as to its attributes. In like manner the principle of individual interest, founded on individual remuneration, must pervade, more or less, all the offices of public affairs; in which it is most particularly desirable that no interest but that of the public, of universal beneficience, should prevail. In every occupation and pursuit of social life, self must be, under the system of individual competition, the primary object of pursuit, and constantly opposed to the principle of benevolence. It is certainly desirable for human happiness that there should be no opposition between these two principles, but that they should, if possible, proceed harmoniously to the same object, the promotion of the greatest sum of universal happiness. From the pursuit of self-interest in the acquisition of individual wealth, proceed almost all vices and crimes. These vices and crimes must, to a certain extent, continue until the interest of self ceases to be opposed to the interest of others.

The next evil that seems to be inherent in the principle of individual competition in the pursuit of wealth is, that "it paralyzes the productive powers, as to wealth, of one half of the human race, women, by the waste and other mischiefs of individual family arrangements, and renders difficult, if not impossible, that equalization of rights and duties between the sexes, which is necessary for the equal enjoyment and greatest happiness of all."

Individual family arrangements, rendered necessary by the pursuit of individual wealth, confine the exertions of one woman to the domestic affairs of herself and family, though there may be no really useful employment for three hours in the day. The fires, the meals, must be prepared, and all the little items of domestic drudgery done at stated hours. To remedy this enormous waste of time and unproductive thrift, it has been proposed that numbers of families adjoining each other, should form a common fund for preparing their food and educating their children, thus relieving the women from a considerable portion of unproductive domestic drudgery, and of course, rendering much of their time disposable for useful pursuits. There is nothing more desirable than such a scheme. But it can never rest at this point: either the principle of mutual benevolence will be engendered by it and will prevail, in which case it will lead to entire mutual co-operation and equality of enjoyment of the products of mutual labor; or the principle of selfishness will prevail, and the habit of individual acquisition will bring back in every thing the love of individual expenditure and enjoyment, were it but for the sake of the distinction, however dearly purchased, of those, whose individual efforts procure them the most wealth. The loss therefore of the greater portion of the time of women may be reckoned inherent in the system of individual competition. The magnitude of this loss is appalling: suppose it to be but one half the time of women, it is one fourth of human effort, for machinery now so completely supersedes the necessity for mere animal strength in all the more delicate and valuable exertions of human industry, that women, if equally trained, might be as productively employed in them as men.

While women continue to be condemned to the seclusion and drudgery of half-idle slaves, all their actions liable to the arbitrary controul of other human beings, their exertions and duties limited to looking after the domestic comforts, as they are called, of their masters and children, they will never rise in the scale of social existence. To be more respected, they must be more useful. In the race of individual competition for wealth, men have such fearful advantages over women, from superiority of strength and exertion uninterrupted by gestation, that they must probably maintain the lead in acquisition by individual effort. Inferiority of wealth, other circumstances being equal, necessitates inequality of enjoyment. Let knowledge be equally and impartially conveyed to both sexes, let civil and political rights be equal to both, let acquired property at the death of parents be equally distributed to male and female; still the inequality of powers in the race of individual competition for wealth, must have a continual tendency to keep the average acquisitions of women under those of men, and of course to decrease their average enjoyments. But while individual competition exists, is it probable that man will not continue to make use of his greater facility in the production and acquisition of wealth, to withhold an equality of knowledge and of civil and political rights from those over whom nature has given him animal, physical advantages? That the advancement of knowledge and benevolence, leading to the perception of man's true interest, will ultimately lead, in spite of the opposing tendency of the system of individual competition, to the equalization of knowledge, rights, wealth, and happiness, between the two great branches of the human race, men and women, equally necessary to each other's happiness and to the perpetuating of the race, may perhaps be presumed: but that individual competition for wealth, has such a tendency to continue the degradation of women and the wanton waste consequent thereon of the happiness of both sexes, will scarcely be contradicted. Indeed, the lovers of individual competition will almost universally be found to advocate the inequality of the condition of women; esteeming it most unjust that those who could earn the most, should not enjoy the most. Marriage, the pretended, but most futile and hypocritical, remedy for this inequality of physical powers, will never be entered into by men under individual competition, on equal terms. In the sacrifice of all knowledge and liberty of action, or in a great portion of these blessings, women will be made to pay for the modified equality which they are permitted by individual sufferance, not by general right, to enjoy, in some particular departments. The tendency to inequality between the strongest and weakest half of the human race, is almost inseparable from individual competition.

The third evil here imputed to the very principle of individual competition is, that "it must occasionally lead to unprofitable of injudicious modes of individual exertion, from the limited field of judgement open to individual minds."

The system of labor under the present wretched practice of individual competition, controuled and disheartened every where by the expedients of insecurity, depends for its very existence on the extraction of profit out of it, to the holders of the food, tools and materials, necessary to make labor productive. Till this condition, of profit to capitalists, can be complied with, labor though teeming with the capabilities of making millions happy, must lie eternally dormant. Hence, and from the depressing competition of laborers amongst themselves, the unskilfulness, the unprofitableness, the almost absolute idleness as to useful production, of more than one half the human race, even in those countries where most fully, or least uneconomically employed. Under equal security, every man becoming possessed of the physical and mental means necessary to make his labor productive, every laborer being also capitalist, the great mass of these evils would doubtless disappear. But, still, while individual competition exists, every man must judge for himself as to the probability of success in the occupation which he adopts. And what are his means of judging? Every one, doing well in his calling, is interested in concealing his success, lest competition should reduce his gains. What individual can judge whether the market, frequently at a great distance, sometimes in another hemisphere of the globe, is overstocked or likely to be so with the article which inclination may lead him to fabricate? He is evidently reduced to act on the most general and vague probability. And should any error of judgement, whether induced by useful originality of view, by too great caution or too great confidence, lead him into an uncalled for and therefore unprofitable line of exertion, what is the consequence? A mere error of judgement, though attended with the utmost energy of activity and benevolence, may end in severe distress, if not in ruin. Cases of this sort seem to be unavoidable under the scheme of individual competition in its best form. If by any other scheme of human labor they could be avoided, it would surely be desirable that that mode of labor - no preponderating evils following in its train - should be preferred. As long as the practice of useful modes of action, called virtues, do not uniformly conduce to the happiness of the individual them, as long as institutions obscure the judgement, or prevent the possibility of judging respecting the consequences of actions, so long will morality remain a game of chance, and fail of acquiring the respect, attachment, and pursuit, which human welfare requires. Here is therefore, in the very principle of individual competition, a source of occasional misery, and of falsification to the calculations of the most useful virtues, activity and industry, guided by benevolence.

The principle of individual competition is moreover charged with "affording no adequate, no unobjectionable resource for mal-formation, sickness, old age, with numerous accidents incident to human life."

It is evident, that no system of individual competition however freed from force or delusion, that no system of labor by mutual co-operation or by any conceivable mode, that no advancement of the neglected art of preserving health, can ever wholly obviate the above evils. Under all possible combinations they must occasionally afflict humanity. All that can be done, is to afford the utmost compensation that the nature of things will admit, in the way of mitigating the evils when they arrive. The remedy proposed for them, under the system of free individual competition, by the celebrated Condorcet, is the extension of the principle of "Insurances", to be adapted to every possible contingency of distress. The evils attending these expedients - supposing the schemes and management to be unobjectionable - are, the unavoidable expense of the management, the risk, however small, of failure of the fund, and the risk of accidents befalling non-subscribers. It is conceding to the principle of individual competition under equal security what many perhaps will refuse to concede to it, to assume that every individual may be possessed under it, of the knowledge and the pecuniary means to join such insurance associations as would relieve him from the apprehensions of suffering from possible natural contingencies. An adherence to the natural laws of distribution, to the rules of equal security, would however, if the preceding principles and inferences be correct, produce to all the members of a community - accidental circumstances excepted - such as result as to knowledge and wealth. How utterly futile, under all past and present systems of insecurity, where the productive laborers are every day becoming more productive and more depressed, and where the number of mere idle consumers is every day increasing and these increasing numbers more greedy after the vanities of mere unenjoying means of distinction, would be the hope of any general good from any such insurance schemes, need not be mentioned. Under all existing systems of insecurity, the advancement of knowledge is made use of by the few to devise new and more ingenious expedients for new exactions, or for rendering the old more productive. The interest of the productive is now beginning to be sought by the idle consumers possessing power, just as they seek the interest of their horses, that the productive may do more perfect work and more of it in a given time, for the benefit of the unproductive. In as far as it is necessary to make the horses fat, in order to enable them to increase their speed or strength, they are fed; but no further: all beyond this is waste and so much abstracted from the established rights of the rich, so much purloined from their property. The interest of useful producers of the means of existence, health and comfort, that interest before which all others ought to shrink into insignificance, is every where a subordinate interest, almost always overlooked, and when attended to, never for its own sake, but from its accidental coincidence with the interest, real or supposed, of some superior class. But through representative institutions prevail, though the happiness of all the sentient rational beings of a community be impartially sought under the natural laws of distribution; still will the class of evils now before us prevail, occasionally and from accidental circumstances, in however mitigated a form. There is no doubt that human happiness would be increased if such evils could be compensated or mitigated when they occur without any of the risks of schemes of insurance. How far this may be practicable will be seen in the next chapter on the new scheme of labor by mutual co-operation.

We come now to the last evil imputed to the principle of individual competition, that "it obstructs the progress of useful physical and moral education by the prejudices and despotism of continued domestic controul, rendered overwhelming by command of individual property: and it also obstructs the progress of general knowledge from the necessity of concealment, in order to render improvements in science and art tributary to individual gain."

In order to do justice to the principle of free individual competition in every thing, we must suppose that all the existing restrictions on the diffusion of real knowledge, to the young as well as to adults, have ceased, and that a scheme of universal education, as comprehensive, and at least as useful, as that proposed in the last chapter*, has been adopted; such improvements being evidently compatible with individual competition. What obstacles will still remain in the very principle itself to the acquisition of truth by the young? All parents are more or less incrusted with the prejudices, on all subjects moral and physical, of their infancy, which they have never been able to inquire into: and amongst all those prejudices, there is not one more pernicious to human improvement than the common notion, that, in consequence of the sublime merit of begetting or bearing children, the formation of the minds of such children belongs of right to the caprice of such bearers or begetters. That the power of forming such infant minds to virtue or to vice, to wisdom or to folly, must, while the system of individual competition for wealth lasts, remain in the hands of the parents; and that more evil would be produced by transferring such power to any other hands than by letting it remain in the hands of the parents, cannot be disputed. But the power is one thing, and the propriety of using, or the most useful mode of using, such power is another. White men have the power of making black men and white women slaves; it does not follow that they act justly, that it adds to the mass of general happiness, of the happiness of the black or white slaves or slave-owners, that such a power should be so used. Just so as to the power of forcibly constraining the limbs or the minds of children. In China now, and lately in these countries, the feet or the head or the trunk of infants were twisted and forced out of their natural development. All the rational in these countries, have now relinquished the barbarism of constraining the palpable visible development of the physical frame, from attending to the ill effects of such restraints in producing deformity, impotence and disease. But the development of the mind being unseen, and the ill effects of constraint consequently more difficult of demonstration, the far more mischievous effects of force as applied to mental operations, have been overlooked. The only wholesome food for the mind - lead where it may - is truth, or a perception of things as they really exist or have existed in nature. If parents have the right, because they have the power, of applying poisonous food to the body, so have they the right to apply the poison of falsehood to the minds of children. The laws of all but the most savage countries punish the one: the other as atrocious act, popular morality scarcely yet condemns. No human being can justly, or without preponderant evil, assume that all or any of his notions are true, and force them, without inquiry, into the mind of any other human being. If the possessor of truth and benevolence arrogate to himself this privilege of non-convincing, why should not every other human being use the same power; for who is there that in his own opinion is not possessed of truth and benevolence? If not into the mind of any other adult, why into the mind of a child, why of the particular child, begotten or borne by the instructor or rather compeller of pretended instruction? Why should a particular child, because produced by the co-operation of particular individuals, be compelled to admire or to hate Oliver Cromwell, Martin Luther, David Hume, or any notions entertained by these or any other individuals? Are the reason and the happiness of the child to be the object of education or the mere chance caprices of ignorance? Ought the whole happiness of the future life of the child to be sacrificed to humour the ill-regulated propensities of a very few years of the life of the parent? If the things taught be true, surely the objects can be shown and the reasons exhibited, to the mind of the adult, or of the child as it advances in comprehension; and the only real knowledge the adult or child can acquire, must arise from the unconstrained, unbribed, exercise of its own faculty of comparing and judging on these data. If it be necessary that the child should adopt all the intellectual peculiarities of one of its parents - in case of difference of opinion, it cannot adopt those of both - why not maim of disfigure it to impart a physical resemblance to the diseases or deformities of its parents? Are the diseases of the mind, are false judgments misguiding conduct, and bitter hatreds withering all glow of benevolence and provoking universal retaliation, less productive of misery than diseases and deformities of the body? Freedom to the mind and body, are necessary to their perfect development: the ultimate and greatest happiness of the individual through the whole of its existence, is the only rightful object of education, as it is of human life.

Now as long as the production and acquisition of wealth by individual competition lasts, as long as all parents are possessed of the separate individual hoards on which the comforts, the existence of their children depend, so long must all parents possess a tremendously despotic power over the minds as well as bodies of their offspring, not only during childhood and youth, but, though in a modified degree, as long as the parents live - a power altogether independent of reason and justice, checked only by public opinion, and that public opinion again chiefly formed by those possessing the power. So vast a power in the hands of every parent, at least of every male parent, wise or foolish, must be liable to enormous abuses: its existence, and of course its liability to abuse, seem to be inseparable from the system of individual competition: and from the natural inclination to save trouble and mental exertion, power must generally be used, when to be had, in lieu of influence by persuasion and benevolence. If any system of human labor could be devised, by which the whole of this parental power that could be used to evil purposes, could be lopped off, while all that could be well employed, that is to say, for the purposes of persuasion and beneficence, should be retained, would it not be desirable that such change should be effected? And that the use of mere brute force and terror should be superseded in parental education as well as in all the other concerns of life?

Again - the principle of individual competition "obstructs the progress of general knowledge, from the necessity of concealment in order to render improvements in science and art tributary to individual gain." In all cases justice must be done to the principle of individual competition, by giving it credit for the removal of all the evils which equal security, or the natural laws of distribution, would banish. Still while individual competition lasts, every one must endeavour to make available for the increase of his individual hoard, though all were capitalist laborers, whatever powers of mind or body he might possess. To endeavour to render these powers common to all, would be to divest himself with his own hand of his advantages for the acquisition of happiness. Concealment, therefore, of what is new or excellent from competitors, must accompany individual competition, though shielded by equal security, because the strongest personal interest is by it opposed to the principle of benevolence. Is it possible to devise a state of things, in which these principles should run exactly in the same direction? In which it should not be the interest of self to confine knowledge or anything useful, but to diffuse them and make them the possessions of all? In which every motive for useful activity would not only be left in full operation, but would be increased, while all motives to pernicious activity, exercised at the expense of others, would cease? As long as individual competition lasts, the interest of self must be the primary object of pursuit, the general good being necessarily subordinate thereto, and to be pursued only when conducive to the primary interest. Knowledge and all other advantages must be more or less exclusively or jealously guarded: the evil to a certain extent seems inseparable from the very principle of individual competition. The separation of self interest from the general interest, not to say the opposition of the one to the other, must tend to the exclusive guarding of knowledge, like any other possession, as one of the efficient means of private benefit.

Such appears to be the amount of the evils, or of the most material of the evils, inherent in the system, however modified or improved, of labor by individual competition, and of course of individual property. No community of property can possibly co-exist with production by individual competition. The two principles are irreconcilable. Individual competition necessitates individual possession and individual enjoyment. To demonstrate the benefits of this same principle of individual competition, when freely operating under the protection of the natural laws of distribution, as opposed to all past and present systems of insecurity supported by mere force and delusion, has been one of the leading objects of this inquiry.

On the basis of equal security, or what have been called the natural laws of distribution, must all just systems of human labour find their support. Should any system of human labor be proposed, violating these natural laws of distribution, no benefits of equality or any other alleged advantages, can be accepted of in lieu of them. But such are the benefits of equality, if to be had without violating security, that any other system of labor founded on the reconcilement of these two principles, on their equal and concurrent activity, would be amongst the most desirable objects of human attainment. Such a system, embracing all the advantages of individual competition and individual property, without any of their disadvantages, has been proposed. It must be examined.

* Inquiry, Chapter 4, "On the Acquisition and Distribution of Knowledge, As One of the Means of Increasing Production and Enjoyment, and Securing the Permanence of the Natural Laws of Distribution"

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