« Private or State services » – what to choose?
For the sixth consecutive year, the ‘Cercle Frédéric Bastiat’ is organising its Freedom Weekend. This year the theme is « Private or State services ».
The ‘Cercle Frédéric Bastiat’ is a cultural association, whose aim is to make known the ideas of Frédéric Bastiat. The Cercle does not take part in politics, although Frédéric Bastiat always fought against « socialism ». The definition he gave of it deserves to be known:
« Today’s fancy is to enrich all social classes at the expense of one another; it is to generalise Spoliation under the pretence of organising it. Now, legal spoliation can be implemented in an infinite number of ways; hence an infinite number of organisational plans: tariffs, protection measures, subsidies, grants, incentives, progressive taxation, free schooling, the Right to employment, the Right to profit, the Right to a salary, the Right to assistance, the Right to professional tools, free credit, etc. And it is all these plans as a whole, in what they have in common, i.e. legal spoliation, that go under the name of Socialism » The Law
According to the above definition, in France today all parties are « socialist ». The logical deduction is that it matters but little whether a present-day politician be termed « right-wing » or « left-wing ». What is important is that he should adopt Bastiat’s ideas. After all, in Germany, Gerhard Schröder was labelled left-wing according to our reference system; yet that did not prevent him from conducting reforms in his country which Bastiat would probably not have disapproved of, since they reduced the State’s sphere of action. In New Zealand, Maurice McTigue, labelled ‘centre right’, reformed his country in the same direction. As for Mart Laar, Doctor of History, the reformer of Estonia, the only book on economics that he had read was the very libertarian « Free to choose » by Milton Friedman.
During our Freedom Weekend, top quality speakers will demonstrate the importance of that freedom to choose in each and everyone’s life.
After a short introduction to the Weekend by Patrick de Casanove, Damien Theillier will open the congress during a dinner-debate, when he will speak of Freedom and Constraint. That will enable us to approach the rest of the congress having made clear from the start what is at stake when one has to choose between one and the other. On the Saturday evening, there will be another dinner-debate: « State tradition and current growth in Africa: the lessons of economic freedom » by Mamadou Koulibaly. Saturday daytime and Sunday morning will be devoted to the following talks: « The professionalization of political life and the weight of state services » by Jean-Baptiste Léon; « Transport as exemplified by the SNCF (state railway system) » by Sandrine Gorreri; « Private services, public service: the example of water » by Max Falque; « School as seen through the example of ‘Hope for the suburbs' » by Eric Mestrallet; « Health services in France and elsewhere » by Patrick de Casanove; « Private services, state services: culture » by Vincent Ginocchio; « The administrative ‘millefeuille’ or subsidiarity » by Jacques de Guenin; « Reform is possible: the German example » by Alain Mathieu; « Essential governmental powers: should everything be delegated? » by Jacques Garello.
In France today, most people are convinced of the necessity of reducing public expenditure. In the coming weeks, politicians will have to take steps in order to achieve that aim. There is little chance that they will take the right ones. To help them, I can only encourage them to assimilate this quotation from Bastiat:
« There are things that can only be done by collective forces or central government, and others that should be left to private action.
The fundamental problem in political science is to decide what should be allotted to each of those two modes of action.
Public service and private services both have in mind our advantage. But their services differ in that we submit to one perforce and willingly agree to the other; whence it follows that it is reasonable to entrust to the former only that which the latter cannot possibly carry out.
For my part, I consider that once the government has guaranteed to each and everyone the free exercise and product of his or her faculties, repressed any ill-use that may be made of them; when it has maintained order, ensured national independence and carried out certain works in the public interest that are beyond individual capacity, then it has more or less fulfilled its entire task.
Beyond that sphere, religion, education, association, work, exchange, everything belongs to the field of private activity, under the eye of public authority, whose only mission should be one of supervision and repression.
If that great and fundamental demarcation line were thus established, the government would be strong, it would be loved, since it would only exercise a guardian’s role. It would be inexpensive, since it would be confined within the narrowest limits. It would be liberal, for, on the sole condition of not encroaching on someone else’s liberty, each citizen would enjoy to the full the free exercise of his or her manual, intellectual and moral faculties. I would add that its power of perfectibility being freed from any regulatory constraint, society would be in the best of conditions for the development of its wealth, of its education and of its morals. » Profession of faith, 1846
In order to reduce public expenditure, the free disposal of their belongings and the free choice of their lives should be restored to individuals. This reform is possible if it concerns everyone, if every individual, whatever his or her situation, benefits from the new deal. The resulting prosperity will remove from destitution those whom our Malthusian system cast into it. No one will be left high and dry.
To convince the French and the decision-makers is what is at stake in our Freedom Weekend, which could not be more up-to-date.