Thursday, July 21, 2005

An open letter to socialists

In his seminal libertarian essay “Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty” (see this blog’s Essential Agitprop sidebar), Murray Rothbard defined socialists as those who use conservative (i.e., statist) means to achieve liberal ends. Belgian liberal Gustave de Molinari recognized that truth in an 1848 open letter to socialists, “Utopia of Liberty,” where he encouraged them to shrug off autocratic programs in their efforts to improve the working class’s condition.

Roderick T. Long has provided a tremendous service by translating that essay into English for the very first time. You can find Molinari’s entire essay at the link above, and I urge you to read it, but here’s a sample for the time being:

“Why do you refuse to follow the path of liberty alongside us? Because, you say, this liberty which we so extol is fatal to the labourers; because it has thus far produced only the oppression of the weak by the strong; because it has given birth to disastrous crises in which millions of men have lost in some cases their fortunes and in other cases their lives; because liberty unbridled, unregulated, unlimited — is anarchy!

“Is this not the reason that you reject liberty? Is this not the reason that you demand the organisation of labour?

“Well then, if we prove to you with sufficient clarity that all the evils which you attribute to liberty — or, to make use of an absolutely equivalent expression, to free competition — have their origin not in liberty but in the absence of liberty, in monopoly, in servitude; if we further prove to you that a society of perfect freedom, a society disencumbered of every restriction, of every fetter, such as has never been seen in history, would be exempted from the greatest part of the miseries of the present régime; if we prove to you that the organisation of such a society would be the best, the most just, the most favourable to advancement in the production and equality in the distribution of wealth; if we should prove all this, I ask, what would be your response? Would you continue to proscribe the freedom of labour and to inveigh against political economy, or would you, rather, rally openly to our banner, and employ all the precious fund of intellectual and moral forces with which nature has endowed you, to speed the triumph of our henceforth common cause, the cause of liberty?”

What follows are Molinari’s proofs for his argument. Then this:

“You will doubtless object that humanity still suffers! Most assuredly. But, and I insist on keeping this fact before your gaze, it suffered before the arrival of liberty upon the earth, and its sufferings then were harsher and more intense than they are today.”

Wonderful. Thanks again, Roderick!

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