Available Now! (click cover)

America's Counter-Revolution
The Constitution Revisited

From the back cover:

This book challenges the assumption that the Constitution was a landmark in the struggle for liberty. Instead, Sheldon Richman argues, it was the product of a counter-revolution, a setback for the radicalism represented by America’s break with the British empire. Drawing on careful, credible historical scholarship and contemporary political analysis, Richman suggests that this counter-revolution was the work of conservatives who sought a nation of “power, consequence, and grandeur.” America’s Counter-Revolution makes a persuasive case that the Constitution was a victory not for liberty but for the agendas and interests of a militaristic, aristocratic, privilege-seeking ruling class.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Proudhon


I've always loved this quotation from Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. I found it at Wikipedia. Has anyone ever summed things up better?
To be GOVERNED is to be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so. To be GOVERNED is to be at every operation, at every transaction noted, registered, counted, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, prevented, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be place[d] under contribution, drilled, fleeced, exploited, monopolized, extorted from, squeezed, hoaxed, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, vilified, harassed, hunted down, abused, clubbed, disarmed, bound, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, derided, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality.
(P.-J. Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century, translated by John Beverly Robinson [London: Freedom Press, 1923], pp. 293-294.)

Proudhon is best known among libertarians for his statement "Property is theft" (What Is Property?). But this is usually misconstrued, for he also wrote, "Where shall we find a power capable of counterbalancing this formidable might of the State? There is no other except property.... The absolute right of the State is in conflict with the absolute right of the property owner. Property is the greatest revolutionary force which exists" (Theory of Property). So how can property be theft? As stated in Wikipedia, "The apparent contradiction is resolved when it is realized that, in What is Property?, he was using 'property' to mean idle natural resources that, through coercion and conquest, individuals were being prevented from using by the force of the state."

Okay, I can't resist adding this dialog from What Is Property? (also at Wikipedia):
"Why, how can you ask such a question? You are a republican."
"A republican! Yes; but that word specifies nothing. Res publica; that is, the public thing. Now, whoever is interested in public affairs -- no matter under what form of government -- may call himself a republican. Even kings are republicans."
"Well! You are a democrat?"
"No."
"What! "you would have a monarchy?"
"No."
" A Constitutionalist?"
"God forbid."
"Then you are an aristocrat?"
"Not at all!"
"You want a mixed form of government?"
"Even less."
"Then what are you?"
"I am an anarchist."
"Oh! I understand you; you speak satirically. This is a hit at the government."
"By no means. I have just given you my serious and well-considered profession of faith. Although a firm friend of order, I am (in the full force of the term) an anarchist. Listen to me."

2 comments:

Just Ken said...

Funny you bring these quotes up, Sheldon.

I was working on a "Happy Birthday" note for Proudhon (birthday was yesterday and not done in time--O well) and used the English and French versions in my prep. "The General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century" from a libertarian standpoint was his best work and should be make available online (it's not at this time).

He makes many good points which I think people should take interest in. Will probably do something on it in the near future.

He often commented on (and debated with) Bastiat in periodicals, and if you read "What is Property?," it begins with a comment on Charles Dunyer.

Proudhon also wrote a book on intellectual property which I tried to track down some years ago. I believe it has a number of interesting thoughts on the idea.

Just a thought.
Just Ken
kgregglv@cox.net

Brad Spangler said...

Ken, yes, GIoTR is available online here:

http://fair-use.org/p-j-proudhon/general-idea-of-the-revolution/

You might also find some commentary of mine on a part of it interesting:

http://www.bradspangler.com/blog/archives/511