The Greatness and Decline of War (1898)

by Gustave de Molinari (1819-1912)

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GDW-Pref.1 The general absence of security appears to be the predominant characteristic of the first ages of Humanity. The life of man is continually threatened not only by the large wild beasts with whom he finds himself in competition for survival, but by man himself. The stronger slaughter the weaker in order to despoil them of what little they possess and, if other nutriment is lacking, to feed upon their flesh. Later on, as soon as the most industrious varieties of the species have learned to multiply their means of survival and have begun the work of civilisation, they vanish, overwhelmed by the invasions of barbarians who destroy this rough-hewn civilisation and leave in their wake only desolation and ruin. How, by what processus, this state of affairs came to an end, and how security, initially the rarest of commodities, has become more and more abundant and has spread, albeit in unequal degree, throughout most of our globe – that is what the study of the phenomenon of war teaches us. It is war that has produced security, today definitively assured to the civilised world, and it is in the accomplishment of this work that its utility and greatness have consisted. But, its task achieved, it has ceased to answer to a need: after having been useful, it has become harmful. To its period of greatness there has succeeded a period of decline. Under the influence of what advances it must finally disappear – that is what we have undertaken to investigate in writing this book.

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