Governments of the Future (excerpt)

by Gustave de Molinari (1819-1912)

(Excerpted from Political Evolution and the Revolution (1888), ch. 10.)

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At the present moment, the regime of freedom of industry, entailing domestic competition, has generally prevailed in civilised States, as much for the products of agriculture, industry, and the arts as for religious services, and to this, more and more, the advance of commercial freedom is adding foreign competition. The former regime of owned markets no longer exists except for a small number of industries – on the one had, those deemed to be in possession of a natural monopoly and subjected to regulation intended to limit it, and on the other, those encompassed for various reasons in the administration of the State.

§ 2. Political servitude. – This former regime of owned markets, however, is one that all States have endeavoured to conserve in the case of their own services. Those States arising from the Revolution have shown themselves even more jealous than the rest – apparently in the interest of liberty – to maintain and perpetuate political servitude. In France, the revolutionary government began by proclaiming the indivisibility of the Republic; and to this necessity, real or imagined, the American Union has sacrificed a million human lives and fifteen or twenty billion francs, swallowed up in the war of secession. Any attempt at separation is considered a crime of high treason that democratic republics, no less than monarchies whether absolute or constitutional, condemn with horror and punish with severity1. Matters are carried still further: with the aim of preventing attempts to split up the political market, populations suspected of secessionist tendencies are obliged to renounce their institutions and their language, and so-called “national” institutions and a “national” language are imposed on them.

The question to be settled is whether these repressive and preventive measures, to say nothing of moral disapprobation, are justified or not; whether, despite the fact that progress has been a matter of suppressing the industrial, commercial, and religious servitude that secured to the corporations of the former regime the ownership of their markets to the exclusion of all competition domestic or foreign, this servitude must be maintained for the political market; whether it is and will forever be necessary for political consumers to be subjected to the house, corporation, or nation that serves as owner-operator of the State, and to be constrained to consume its services be they good or bad; whether they will never be allowed the freedom to establish political enterprises in competition with this one, to award their patronage competing enterprises or even not to award it to any if they find it more to their advantage to remain the securers of their own lives and property; whether it is, in short, in the nature of things that political servitude should perpetuate itself and that men should never be allowed to have freedom of government.

It is clear that this servitude – the most onerous of all, since it applies to the most necessary services – cannot be maintained under a regime where freedom is established by common right, except on one condition, namely being motivated by the public interest. If this interest requires that the owner-operators of political establishments remain vested with complete ownership of their market – at least so long as they are not obliged to give up part of this market following an unsuccessful war, or do not judge it advantageous to relinquish it by sale or barter – then “freedom of government” cannot be usefully established as freedom of worship, industry, and commerce have been. On this hypothesis, the right of secession should be forever prohibited; or rather, there would be no right of secession. Itís worth noting, however, that important breaches have already open up in this section of the old public right, under the influence of changes that advances in security, industry, and means of communication have introduced into the relations of civilised peoples. Although governments permit no competition within the boundaries of their market, they have generally refrained from preventing their subjects from making individual acts of secession by way of emigration and naturalisation abroad. On the other hand, they do not permit any act of collective secession that cuts into their territorial domain. Yet all the same, if the secessionists are strong enough to achieve this separation, as were the English and Spanish colonists of North and South America, the former owner-operators of these separated markets resign themselves to accepting the “fait accompli,” and they even end up recognising the legitimacy of the secessionist governments. But in this case they are yielding only to force; and there are virtually no instances in which a secession has been accomplished on an amicable basis.

Let us examine what grounds may be invoked in favour of maintaining political servitude – taking this word in its economic sense – despite the fact that the other forms of servitude have generally ceased to be regarded as necessary.

1. Penalties against separatist maneuvers were renewed in France by the law of 1871 against the Workers’ International Association and separatism.

“The very idea of the homeland,” we read in the bill’s explanatory preamble, ď“would disappear if it were legally permissible to propose the rupture of the national bond, without the law being able to punish such provocations.

“Laws suppressing crimes and offenses against public order are silent, however, on this point and contain no penalties for this new type of crime in our country. Article 77 of the Penal Code prescribes capital punishment for collaboration via correspondence or maneuver with enemies of the State for the purpose of delivering up to them a portion of its territory. Incitement to crimes of this nature by means of the press is punished by the laws on the press, and particularly by Articles 1 and 2 of the Law of 17 May 1819, which punish public incitement to crimes and offenses. But these measures would not be easy to apply to the maneuvers or public demonstrations of separatists, or to the appeal made to universal suffrage to incite it to pronounce itself against the continuation of the nation.

“It is this lacuna that the bill before the Assembly would seek to fill. We propose only moderate penalties, and those implied by the very nature of the offense: the condemned will be deprived of the status of French citizen, after having failed to recognise the most essential dignity and duties connected with that status. Reduced in France to the status of aliens, deprived of that nationality which he would have, in a sense, renounced in advance, he could regain his French status only by fulfilling the conditions prescribed by the alien who aspires to become a citizen.

“Thus would the law preserve the principle of national sovereignty against attacks which, while doubtless not posing much danger among populations French at heart, yet must not go unpunished.”

§ 3. Rational basis of political servitude. – Under the former regime, this servitude was, like all the others, motivated by the needs of the state of war. Assuming that one part of the nation had possessed the right to separate itself from the State – whether in order to annex itself to a competitor State, in order to establish an independent state, or finally in order to live without government – the exercise of this right would have produced a general nuisance, a nuisance as great as that to which the nation would have been exposed by being invaded, destroyed, or subjected by less advanced peoples, such as the barbarians who threatened the borders of the States of antiquity and the Middle Ages. The secession of one part of the population, by diminishing or simply by dividing the forces of the State, would have aggravated the risk of the destruction, the enslavement, and in any case the decline of civilisation, a risk weighing upon the nation whose State served as its bulwark. The situation of civilised nations during this period of history may be compared to that of the populations of countries incessantly threatened, like Holland, by floods from the ocean. It is necessary for all the inhabitants, without exception, to contribute to the maintenance of levees: those who refuse would profit unduly from a defense system whose costs they play no part in defraying; they bring about a proportional increase in the burden on the others, and if the resources of the latter should prove inadequate for raising levees of sufficient solidity and height, they risk becoming the victims of the formerís dishonest selfishness; while those who persist in establishing private levees without attaching them to the common system would likewise compromise the work necessary for defense against the destructive element. During those eras when civilisation was threatened by barbarism, therefore, political servitude posed an absolute necessity. By contrast, it has in large part lost its rational basis since the superiority of forces has passed to the side of the civilised peoples. However, it can still be justified, albeit to a lesser extent, by the inequality in degrees of civilisation that persist from country to country.

In the present state of the world, although the superiority of physical and moral forces, of resources and of technical expertise which form the material of military power, clearly belong to the most civilised nations, it could hardly be said they are entirely safe from invasions by less advanced peoples. No doubt the populations of the Russian Empire, for example, have no interest in invading Central and Western Europe in the manner of the barbarian hordes and looters who once destroyed the Roman Empire; but in the backward state in which the political constitution of Europe remains, it is not the general interest of populations that decide peace and war. In some cases it is the interest, well or badly understood, of a sovereign house and of the army of military and civilian functionaries on which it depends; in other cases, it is the interest of a party whose administrative staff is recruited from a class that makes its living from the budget and its dependencies, and to which war offers increased prospects and thus increased profits – or simply an opportunity, in the circumstances, to consolidate its domination. In this situation, and so long as it persists, the most civilised peoples will remain at risk of invasion and conquest, and “political servitude” will retain to some extent its rational basis. But should this state of affairs come to an end, should the general interest of “political consumers” acquire enough power to subdue the appetite for exploitation and plunder on the part of the producers, should the risk of invasion and conquest diminish along with the inequality in degrees of civilisation under the influence of the proliferation of trade and the spread of enlightenment, then “political servitude” will lose all rational basis, and the “freedom of government” will become possible.

§ 4. System of government appropriate to political servitude. The constitutional or contractual regime. – In the meantime, the “political consumers” will have to resign themselves to put up with the natural defects of the old regime of ownership of markets, apart from resorting to certain means, regrettably still imperfect and adequate, for limiting the power of the monopoly to which they find themselves subjected. The system presently adapted to this state of affairs is that of constitutional or rather contractual government, whether monarchical or republican, consisting in a contract freely discussed and concluded between the “house” or “company” producing political services and the nation consuming them.

This system must however be established in such a manner as to respect the natural laws that govern all enterprises, be they political, industrial or commercial, whether they possess a monopoly or find themselves subject to competition. It is necessary that the house or the political company possess a capital proportionate to the importance and requirements of its business, movable and fixed capital, invested in the form of fortresses, military equipment and supplies, bureaus of administration and police, prisons, money for the payment of its employees and civilian and military workers, etc., etc.; that it be in charge of organising its operations and recruiting its personnel without any condition or limit being imposed on it. On the other hand, it is necessary for it to be subject to pecuniary responsibility for its actions and enterprises; to bear any losses therefrom without being able to pass them on to the consumers, except in cases of emergency (an invasion of barbarians, for example) specified in the contract; to reap any benefits therefrom without having to share them with the consumers beyond a certain rate likewise fixed in the contract; finally, it is necessary for its powers and functions to be strictly limited to those required for the proper performance of its services, which consist in preserving the life and property of the political consumers against all attacks foreign and domestic, without being permitted to encroach on the domain of other industries. Such must be, in essence, the terms of the contract terms if houses or companies producing political services are once more to be able to function in a useful and lasting manner. It is through having failed to recognise these, under the influence of revolutionary doctrines and facts – it is through having ceased to take into account, in the constitution and functioning of political enterprises, the natural laws that govern all enterprises – that attempts to establish stable and economical governments have been in vain, and that those companies bequeathed to us by the former regime have not been more successfully adapted to the present conditions of companies.

But can nations themselves discuss these terms of the political contract and monitor their performance? Is it not indispensable for them to choose agents, first to draw up the contract after discussing each of its clauses with the delegates of the house or political company, then to modify and improve it if this should be called for, and finally to monitor and control the provision of political services in respect both of quality and price, to settle the accounts of he nationís participation in the losses and profits of the enterprise? This necessity has been regarded, until the present, as indisputable. All the same, in the face of the virtually inevitable corruption of the representative regime, it may be wondered whether the guarantees that one hopes to find there are not for the most part illusory – whether it might not be preferable to leave to the consumers themselves the responsibility for discussing the terms of the contract, for modifying it and monitoring its execution, without imposing on them any form of representation. No doubt the consumers are individually incapable of taking on this task, but might not associations, freely formed among them, accomplish it with the assistance of the press? In countries where the mass of the population possesses neither the capacity nor the leisure necessary to occupy itself with political matters, wouldn’t this free representation of consumers, recruited from among those who do possess that capacity and that leisure, constitute a more efficient instrument of control and improvement in the management of the State – one less likely to turn rusty or tainted – than the official representation of an ignorant multitude or of a privileged class?

§ 5. Freedom of government. A day will nevertheless come, and that day is perhaps not as far away as one might be tempted to suppose when considering the retrograde march which the Revolution has imposed on civilised societies – a day will come, we say, when political servitude will lose all rational basis, and when freedom of government, or in other words political freedom, will be added to the panoply of other freedoms. When that day comes, governments will be no more than free insurance companies for life and property, constituted and organised like any insurance company. Just as communality was the form of government best adapted to the bands and tribes of primitive times – just as the family business or corporation, whether enjoying an absolute monopoly or one limited by customs, charters, constitutions or contracts, was so for nations of the era of small-scale industry – so the joint-stock company stock in a free market will, to all appearance, be the form of government best adapted to societies in the era of large-scale industry and competition1.

1. See Soirées in the Rue Saint-Lazare, 11th Soirée, p. 303. – Questions of Political Economy and Public Right, Freedom of Government, vol. II, p. 245. – Course on Political Economy, Public Consumption, 12th Lesson, p. 480.

IV. The municipality and its future. – In primitive times, companies in embryo – living by hunting, fishing, and harvesting the natural fruits of the soil – formed political communities, to whose government and defense all their members were obliged to contribute. In the period that followed, when the regular cultivation of food crops and the creation of small-scale industry had permitted men to multiply themselves in proportion to the enormous increase in their means of subsistence, political functions, now become productive, became separated and specialised in the hands of a corporation or a house, the founder and operator of the state. Whether it was shared among the members of the corporation and formed a collection of noble houses connected by feudal bonds, or was instead concentrate in the hands of a single master and hereditary proprietor, this political domain had to be undergo subdivision in order to meet the requirements of managing it. This subdivision occurred in two ways: in some cases it was the work of owner-operators of the State, while in others it was the work of the populations subject to them.

In all those countries where the conquered population has been reduced to slavery, the municipality, for example, does not come into being, or rather does not come back into being, until the era when the slaves pass into the status of serfs; in those where the conquerors confine themselves to subjecting the inhabitants to serfdom, the municipality is formed by the tribe or primitive band, bound to the soil, first through what is needful for the exploitation of agriculture and business, then through the interest of the proprietor of the political domain who lives by exploiting the human chattel of this domain, obliging them to cultivate a portion for his benefit and leaving them the enjoyment of the rest. But whether the population has passed from slavery to serfdom, or has instead been reduced at once to this more advanced form of servitude, the political proprietor, be he king or lord, does not impose upon himself the trouble and expense necessary for governing it unless it suits his interests, and then only to the extent that it does so. He leaves the groups or communities to form at their convenience as determined by the configuration of the soil, ease of local communication, language, and affinities of race or character, apart from forbidding each municipality to encroach on the boundaries of others or to overstep those of its own domain1. Again, he leaves them free to follow their customs; to speak their language or dialect; to use their weights and measures; to provide, at their own discretion, for their various individual or collective needs, excepting only those services that could earn him a recompense or profit. He forces them, for example, to buy salt from him; to use his currency, his oven, and his press; and finally, he subjects to his justice, at least when it comes to crimes or offenses that disturb the peace of the domain, and above all with challenges to his rights and revolts against his domination. The municipalities form other groupings: cantons, bailiwicks for the establishment and maintenance of means of communications, the collection of fees, and later on, when the noble estates are absorbed into the royal domain, they form provinces administered by a steward. Certain municipalities favorably situated for industry and commerce undergo a significant development; they become cities; industries and trades organise themselves into corporations, whose leaders or notables administer the city under the authority of the lord. It then happens, especially when the lord demands excessively heavy duties – when his yoke is tyrannical, or equally when the magistrates and leaders of the people are hungry for domination – that the municipalities will seek to emancipate themselves from the seigniorial authority and to govern themselves. Sometimes the lord consents to sell them the franchise, capitalising the sum of the duties; in other instances, they undertake to seize it by force. In France, the king favours the insurrection of the municipalities, in order to reduce the power of the lords. But it rarely happens that the emancipated municipalities succeed in governing themselves well. In some cases the population is exploited by the oligarchy of business; in others the municipality is the scene of the struggle of parties, some recruited from the bourgeoisie, others from the populace, who dispute over the exploitation of the small communal State. It is a struggle analogous to that which we stand witness today, in those countries where the State has become the property of the nation. However, when the large noble estates had absorbed the small ones, and later on when the kingdom had absorbed the large, what indepndence the municipalities and provinces had acquired or retained is seen to disappear. Such was the disproportion between the forces available to the master of a great State and those of a municipality or even a province that any struggle between them was henceforth impossible. The consequence was that municipalities and provinces retained only that portion of government over themselves that the master of the State found no benefit in removing, or which would have been a burden for him without sufficient compensation. Such was the situation when the Revolution broke out.

While passing into the hands of their stewards and their other civilian and military officials the functions and powers previously exercised by the lords and their officers, and while even increasing these functions and powers at the expense of those belonging to the agents of municipal or provincial self-government, the kings had nevertheless respected local customs to a certain extent, and prudently refrained from interfering from those groupings that had formed naturally over the course of centuries, under the influence of needs and affinities of populations. But this state of affairs could not find favour with the ignorant and raging innovators who presumed to redesign and rebuild French society from scratch. They carved up the provincial districts according to their own fancies, replacing the thirty-two provinces of the realm by eighty-three departments, thus approximately tripling the salaried upper-level administrative staff. At the same time, they brought to its maximum development the centralisation that had, under the former regime, been the natural consequence of the successive absorption of the small seignorial sovereignties in the kingís political domain, and to which a purely economic cause had also contributed: namely, in proportion as the productivity of industry increased under the influence of inventions mechanical and otherwise, the profitability of governmental functions of every kind was seen to increase as well; it consequently became advantageous to transfer the functions of local self-government, as soon as they became profitable, into the domain of the central administration. There were so many situations that expanded administrative prospects and increased the importance and influence of the upper-level staff, the distributor of places. Thus did the central administration grow swollen at the expense of local self-government, which retained no more than subordinate functions, paid poorly or not at all.

This centralisation of services has advantages and disadvantages: advantages, in that the functionaries or skilled employees skilled, sufficiently compensated for the general administration of a country, can possess to a greater degree the knowledge required for the exercise of their functions, and can perform them better than can functionaries or employees of a local administration, assigned multiple tasks, and receiving insufficient salaries or none; to which we must add that they are less susceptible to ecclesiastical influences and passions; disadvantages, in that the smallest matters, passing through a long administrative channel, cannot be resolved until after numerous delays, regardless of the urgency of a solution. These advantages and disadvantages have become, as we know, an inexhaustible source of debate between the proponents of centralisation and those of decentralisation: the former seeking to increase the powers of the central government at the expense of the departmental and municipal sub-governments; the latter purporting, on the contrary, to reserve to the department and the municipality the examination and definitive resolution of all local affairs. But neither side has taken the trouble to consider whether it might not be appropriate to reduce and simplify these functions by turning over to private industry part of the services monopolised by the State, the department, or the municipality. Whatever might be the outcome of these debates, then, it could not have the result of decreasing the burden on the consumers of public services.

The decline of the former regime and the retrogression toward political communism that has characterised the new system, by bringing about the emergence of parties and their competition for the exploitation of the state, came by contrast to have the result of increasing the number and weight of the functions of every kind constituting the necessary spoils of these political years. No doubt, the portion of the spoils that could supply local governments was less valuable than that which formed the quota of the central administration. A good number of these functions – those of municipal and departmental councilors, of mayors and deputies – had even remained unpaid or only barely paid, and those who aspired to them did not neglect to proclaim from the rooftops their disinterestedness and patriotic devotion; yet these functions were vested with an influence that paid out in material advantages on way or another, and they were moreover the road which led to further offices. This is why we have seen an increase in local budgets and functions, particularly in cities, under the influence of the same causes which have acted to increase the functions and swell the budget of the State. The tendency of urban administrations has been to transform the municipality into a mini-State, independent as far as possible of the larger State, having in its hands not only the services of the municipal administration and road maintenance, but the police, public education, theaters, and fine arts, taxing the people as much as it likes, and surrounding itself, on the model of the central State, with a tariff wall for purposes of revenue and even for the protection of the municipal industry. Expenditures – whether municipal, departmental, or provincial – have consequently increased at a rate that even surpasses, in some municipalities, that of the State’s own expenditures, with the result that life has become more and more expensive. It will be seen at once that the central government has been required to oppose the overflowing of local expenditure, in order to safeguard its own revenues. Hence it has forbidden municipalities to encroach on its functions, and has ensured that they do not impose taxes that might pose harmful competition to its own; but it has done nothing to prevent them from expanding their powers at the expense of private industry, and this is easily understood: for donít the political parties in possession of the government, or aspiring to possess it, have just as much incentive to increase the spoils of influential places and situations in the municipality, the department, or the province as in the State, since these spoils form the remuneration fund for their staff?

However, a time will come when this burden, today so rapidly increasing, will be unable to continue growing – when an evolution analogous to that whose inevitable necessity we have demonstrated in the case of the State, will come into effect in the municipality, the department, or the province. This evolution will be determined: 1st, by local governments’ finding themselves unable to defray their expenses, for much longer, by means of taxation or borrowing; 2nd, by inter-municipal and regional competition, brought on by improvements in the means of communication, and increased ease of movement for industry and population. Localities where industry’s costs of production and the cost of living will be driven up excessively by local taxes will run the risk of being abandoned for those where this cause of rising prices will bear down with less intensity; they will then be obliged, on pain of ruin, to rein in their functions and expenses. Apart from municipal administration and road maintenance – including sewer services, means of communication, paving, lighting, and sanitation – there is not a single municipal service that cannot be turned over to private industry. Finally, if we consider even these services, we will recognise that the gradual tendency, already manifest, is to assign these to real estate industries that cater to building operations and the exploitation of the soil, and consequently to incorporate their costs directly into the cost price of these industries.

Let us try, by resorting to a simple hypothesis, to give an idea of the modus operandi of this gradual transformation. Let us suppose a real estate company to be formed in order to build and operate a new city (and do we not already see companies of this kind building streets and even neighbourhoods?) under terms leaving it entirely free to build, maintain, and operate this city at its own discretion, with no central or local administration presuming to meddle in its affairs; how will it proceed? It will commence, to begin with, by purchasing the necessary space in the locality that it judges to be the best situated, most easily accessible, and most salubrious; next it will bring together architects and engineers to draw up plans and make estimates for the future city, and from these plans and estimates it will choose those that appear to them to be the most advantageous. Entrepreneurs and workers in the construction industry and in roadbuilding will soon be at work. Streets are laid down, houses appropriate to different categories of tenants are constructed, and schools, churches, theaters, and meeting halls are not neglected. However, in order to attract tenants it is not enough to provide them with housing, schools, theatres, and even churches; the houses must have access to well-paved, well-lit roads; the residents must be able to get water, gas, and electricity in their homes; they must have at their disposal inexpensive vehicles of different varieties; and finally their persons and property must be protected against any harm within the confines of the city. The better these services are supplied, they less they will cost and the more quickly the new city will be populated. What, then, will the proprietary company do? It will pave the streets, build sidewalks, dig sewers, construct and decorate plazas; it will contract with other enterprises, houses or companies, to supply water, gas, electricity, security, tramlines, and railways whether elevated or underground – that is to say, for those services that cannot, by virtue of their special nature, be individualised or rendered subject to unlimited competition within the limited confines of the city. For buses and limousines, by contrast, it will simply rely on competition, except in those cases where this cannot develop owing to insufficiency of demand; in such a case it will stipulate the establishment of a maximum rate, while asking transportation entrepreneurs, as well as the owners of private vehicles, to pay a subscription for paving and lighting. It will establish for roads and for health; and either ban or sequester any dangerous, unsafe, troublesome, or immoral enterprises. In addition, as it is possible that the plan of the city might need to be modified later on, so that it may become necessary to extend some streets and block off others, the company will reserve to itself the right to reclaim the disposition of its buildings, in exchange for a payment proportional to the amount of time left on the lease; but it is clear that it will only make use of this right in order to increase the products of its operation. This operation it will administer either directly or through an urban agency, responsible on the one hand for the city’s proper maintenance and for supervising the various services which this involves, and on the other for collecting rents, including those services that cannot be separated from the enjoyment of the dwelling, such as local police, sewage, and the paving and lighting of streets.

A company formed in this way to operate a large-scale housing industry will have an incentive to reduce as far as possible the costs of constructing, maintaining, and managing its buildings, and its natural tendency will be to raise its tenantsí rent as far as possible also. If it enjoyed a monopoly, this tendency could not be combated and neutralised except by customs or regulations analogous to those that formerly limited the power of all of monopolistic industries; but thanks to the multiplication of means of communications and the ease of travel, this monopoly no longer exists for the housing industry. There is no need for any artificial device to protect consumers; competition is sufficient to oblige the producers of housing, however vast their enterprises may be, to improve their services and to lower their prices to the rate necessary to compensate their industry.

Let us now pursue our hypothesis further. Let us suppose that the favorable situation of the new city, the proper management of its urban services, and the modesty of its rents, act to attract population, and it becomes advantageous to build additional housing. Let us not forget that enterprises of all types have necessary limits, determined by the nature and degree of advancement of their industry, and that moving either below or above these limits leads to an increase in production costs and a decrease in profits. If the company that has built the city and now operates it should judge that these limits have been reached, it will leave to others the task of the city’s enlargement. Other real estate companies will then be seen to form, and these will build and operate new neighbourhoods that will provide competition for the old ones, while nevertheless raising the value of old and new together by increasing the attractive power of the enlarged city. Between those companies operating the original core of the city and those operating the new streets and neighbourhoods, there will arise necessary connections of mutual interest for joining up the roads, sewers, gas pipes, tramlines, etc.; they will consequently be obliged to form a permanent union or syndicate to settle these issues and other matters arising from the juxtaposition of their properties, and the same union will need to extend itself, under the influence of the same necessity, to rural municipalities in the vicinity. Finally, if disputes arise among them, they will need to have recourse to arbitrators or courts to resolve them.

In this manner municipalities will to all appearance be transformed into free enterprises for the operation of the housing industry and naturally related services. Assuming that individual real estate ownership and operation will continue to exist alongside joint-stock ownership and operation – despite the economic superiority of the latter – the various operator-owners of the city, whether individuals or companies, will form a union to settle all questions of common interest, a union in which they will have shares proportionate to the values of their properties. This union, composed of the owners, whether individuals or companies, or of their agents, will settle all matters of road maintenance, paving, lighting, safety, and security, by subscription or otherwise, and will form connections with neighouring unions for the joint regulation of these same matters, to whatever extent the necessity of this agreement should be felt. These unions would still remain free to dissolve themselves or to annex themselves to others, and they would naturally be interested in forming those groupings that would be most economical in providing for the necessities inherent in their industry.

While the tendency of revolutionary and socialist doctrines has been to expand without end the functions of the municipality – or of the State, transformed into a vast municipality – by bringing within its sphere of activity all industries and all services, thus assembled and mixed up together in a monstrous monopoly, evolution on the contrary, prompted by the advance of industry and competition, acts to specialise all the branches of production, including those exercised by the municipality and the State, and to assign them to freely constituted enterprises subjected to the simultaneously impelling and constraining action of competition. These free enterprises will nevertheless have such connections as the necessities of their industry may determine – whence an organisation, natural but free, will be developing and modifying itself as these same needs do so.

Thus it is that, instead of absorbing the organism of society according to the revolutionary and communist conception, the municipality and the State are dissolved into this organism. Their functions are divided, and society stands composed of a multitude of enterprises made up, under the imperative of those common necessities deriving from their particular nature, of unions or free States, each exercising a special function. The future thus belongs neither to the absorption of society by the State, as the communists and collectivists suppose, nor to the suppression of the State, as the anarchists and nihilists dream, but to the diffusion of the State within society. This means, to recall a celebrated formula, the Free State in the Free Society.

1. The necessity of these groupings was felt also in the administration of religious services. Thus it is that, during the era of the establishment and spread of Christianity, religious municipalities or parishes are seen to form, extending over a greater or lesser territory according to the configuration of the soil, density of population, and greater or lesser ease of communication. When hierarchy arises, these parishes group themselves, or get grouped, according to their topographical situation and their affinities of race and language, and they form a bishopric; the bishoprics in their turn are grouped into archbishoprics, always taking into account natural circumstances, among which one must not forget political allegiance; and finally the archbishoprics depend directly on the Pope, subject to the reservation of their obligations to the political proprietor of the State.

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