All the Sophisms which I have so far combated, relate to the restrictive

policy; and some even on this subject, and those of the most remarkable,

I have, in pity to the reader, passed over: acquired rights;

unsuitableness; exhaustion of money, etc., etc.

But Social economy is not confined within this narrow circle.

Fourierism, Saint Simonism, Commonism, agrarianism, anti-rentism,

mysticism, sentimentalism
false philanthropy, affected aspirations for

a chimerical equality and fraternity; questions relative to luxury,

wages, machinery; to the pretended tyranny of capital; to colonies,

outlets, population; to emigration, association, imposts, and loans,

have encumbered the field of Science with a crowd of parasitical

arguments,--Sophisms, whose rank growth calls for the spade and the


I am perfectly sensible of the defect of my plan, or rather absence of

plan. By attacking as I do, one by one, so many incoherent Sophisms,

which clash, and then again often mingle with each other, I am conscious

that I condemn myself to a disorderly and capricious struggle, and am

exposed to perpetual repetitions.

I should certainly much prefer to state simply how things are, without

troubling myself to contemplate the thousand aspects under which

ignorance supposes them to be.... To lay down at once the laws under

which society prospers or perishes, would be virtually to destroy at

once all Sophisms. When Laplace described what, up to his time, was

known of the movements of celestial bodies, he dissipated, without even

naming them, all the astrological reveries of the Egyptians, Greeks, and

Hindoos, much more certainly than he could have done by attempting to

refute them directly, through innumerable volumes. Truth is one, and the

work which expounds it is an imposing and durable edifice. Error is

multiple, and of ephemereal nature. The work which combats it, cannot

bear in itself a principle of greatness or of durability.

But if power, and perhaps opportunity, have been wanting to me, to

enable me to proceed in the manner of Laplace and of Say, I still cannot

but believe that the mode adopted by me has also its modest usefulness.

It appears to me likewise to be well suited to the wants of the age, and

to the broken moments which it is now the habit to snatch for study.

A treatise has without doubt an incontestable superiority. But it

requires to be read, meditated, and understood. It addresses itself to

the select few. Its mission is first to fix attention, and then to

enlarge the circle of acquired knowledge.

A work which undertakes the refutation of vulgar prejudices, cannot have

so high an aim. It aspires only to clear the way for the steps of Truth;

to prepare the minds of men to receive her; to rectify public opinion,

and to snatch from unworthy hands dangerous weapons which they misuse.

It is above all, in social economy, that this hand-to-hand struggle,

this ever-reviving combat with popular errors, has a true practical


Sciences might be arranged in two categories. Those of the first class

whose application belongs only to particular professions, can be

understood only by the learned; but the most ignorant may profit by

their fruits. We may enjoy the comforts of a watch; we may be

transported by locomotives or steamboats, although knowing nothing of

mechanism and astronomy. We walk according to the laws of equilibrium,

while entirely ignorant of them.

But there are sciences whose influence upon the public is proportioned

only to the information of that public itself, and whose efficacy

consists not in the accumulated knowledge of some few learned heads, but

in that which has diffused itself into the reason of man in the

aggregate. Such are morals, hygiene, social economy, and (in countries

where men belong to themselves) political economy. Of these sciences

Bentham might above all have said: It is better to circulate, than to

advance them. What does it profit us that a great man, even a God,

should promulgate moral laws, if the minds of men, steeped in error,

will constantly mistake vice for virtue, and virtue for vice? What does

it benefit us that Smith, Say, and, according to Mr. de St. Chamans,

political economists of every school, should have proclaimed the

superiority in all commercial transactions, of liberty above

restraint, if those who make laws, and for whom laws are made, are

convinced of the contrary?

These sciences, which have very properly been named social, are again

peculiar in this, that they, being of common application, no one will

confess himself ignorant of them. If the object be to determine a

question in chemistry or geometry, nobody pretends to have an innate

knowledge of the science, or is ashamed to consult Mr. Thenard, or to

seek information from the pages of Legendre or Bezout. But in the social

sciences authorities are rarely acknowledged. As each individual daily

acts upon his own notions whether right or wrong, of morals, hygiene,

and economy; of politics, whether reasonable or absurd, each one thinks

he has a right to prose, comment, decide, and dictate in these matters.

Are you sick? There is not a good old woman in the country who is not

ready to tell you the cause and the remedy of your sufferings. It is

from humors in the blood, says she, you must be purged. But what are

these humors, or are there any humors at all? On this subject she

troubles herself but little. This good old woman comes into my mind,

whenever I hear an attempt made to account for all the maladies of the

social body, by some trivial form of words. It is superabundance of

produce, tyranny of capital, industrial plethora, or other such

nonsense, of which, it would be fortunate if we could say: Verba et

voces praetereaque nihil, for these are errors from which fatal

consequences follow.

From what precedes, the two following results may be deduced: 1st. That

the social sciences, more than others, necessarily abound in Sophisms,

because in their application, each individual consults only his own

judgment and his own instincts. 2d. That in these sciences Sophisms

are especially injurious, because they mislead opinion on a subject in

which opinion is power--is law.

Two kinds of books then are necessary in these sciences, those which

teach, and those which circulate; those which expound the truth, and

those which combat error.

I believe that the inherent defect of this little work, repetition, is

what is likely to be the cause of its principal utility. Among the

Sophisms which it has discussed, each has undoubtedly its own formula

and tendency, but all have a common root; and this is, the

forgetfulness of the interests of men, considered as consumers. By

showing that a thousand mistaken roads all lead to this great

generative Sophism, I may perhaps teach the public to recognize, to

know, and to mistrust it, under all circumstances.

After all, I am less at forcing convictions, than at waking doubts.

I have no hope that the reader as he lays down my book will exclaim, I

know. My aspirations will be fully satisfied, if he can but sincerely

say, I doubt.

I doubt, for I begin to fear that there may be something illusory in

the supposed blessings of scarcity. (Sophism I.)

I am not so certain of the beneficial effect of obstacles. (Sophism


Effort without result, no longer appears to me so desirable as

result without effort. (Sophism III.)

I understand that the more an article has been labored upon, the more

is its value. But in trade, do two equal values cease to be equal,

because one comes from the plough, and the other from the workshop?

(Sophism XXI.)

I confess that I begin to think it singular that mankind should be the

better of hindrances and obstacles, or should grow rich upon taxes; and

truly I would be relieved from some anxiety, would be really happy to

see the proof of the fact, as stated by the author of the Sophisms,

that there is no incompatibility between prosperity and justice, between

peace and liberty, between the extension of labor and the advance of

intelligence. (Sophisms XIV and XX.)

Without, then, giving up entirely to arguments, which I am yet in doubt

whether to look upon as fairly reasoned, or as paradoxical, I will at

least seek enlightenment from the masters of the science.

* * * * *

I will now terminate this sketch by a last and important recapitulation.

The world is not sufficiently conscious of the influence exercised over

it by Sophistry.

When might ceases to be right, and the government of mere strength

is dethroned, Sophistry transfers the empire to cunning and

subtilty. It would be difficult to determine which of the two tyrannies

is most injurious to mankind.

Men have an immoderate love for pleasure, influence, consideration,

power--in a word, for riches; and they are, by an almost unconquerable

inclination, pushed to procure these, at the expense of others.

But these others, who form the public, have a no less strong

inclination to keep what they have acquired; and this they will do, if

they have the strength and the knowledge to effect it.

Spoliation, which plays so important a part in the affairs of this

world, has then two agents; Force and Cunning. She has also two

checks; Courage and Knowledge.

Force applied to spoliation, furnishes the great material for the annals

of men. To retrace its history would be to present almost the entire

history of every nation: Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes, Persians,

Greeks, Romans, Goths, Franks, Huns, Turks, Arabs, Tartars, without

counting the more recent expeditions of the English in India, the French

in Africa, the Russians in Asia, etc., etc.

But among civilized nations surely the producers of riches are now

become sufficiently numerous and strong to defend themselves.

Does this mean that they are no longer robbed? They are as much so as

ever, and moreover they rob one another.

The only difference is that Spoliation has changed her agent. She acts

no longer by Force, but by Cunning.

To rob the public, it is necessary to deceive them. To deceive them, it

is necessary to persuade them that they are robbed for their own

advantage, and to induce them to accept in exchange for their property,

imaginary services, and often worse. Hence spring Sophisms in all

their varieties. Then, since Force is held in check, Sophistry is no

longer only an evil; it is the genius of evil, and requires a check in

its turn. This check must be the enlightenment of the public, which

must be rendered more subtle than the subtle, as it is already

stronger than the strong.

* * * * *

GOOD PUBLIC! I now dedicate to you this first essay; though it must be

confessed that the Preface is strangely transposed, and the Dedication a

little tardy.