To the States of Jersey
THE LAW OF MALTHUS AND THE LAW OF NATURE.
At the end of the last century and at the commencement of this one, a Swedish economist, Herrenschwand, and an Englishman, Malthus, wrote on population. The result of their researches was what one calls, in political economy, the law of Malthus, according to which, “subsistence increases only in arithmetic proportion, while population tends to increase in geometric proportion,” and sound politics will consist in providing obstacles or, as the English say, checks to the increase of population.
I will not remark on that theory, which is most certainly depressing, but which has become the hopeless faith of the greatest number of the economists.
You know, gentlemen, that the governments, and particularly the French government, have gone down that road, by weakening or destroying, as much as they can, all the institutions that Christian Charity had created for the relief of poverty. The economists pretended that these institutions, by vainly opposing themselves to an inevitable long, only served to increase pauperism. The governments thought themselves wise, in submitting to that fatal law that the economists had discovered.<ref> The exploits of that sort by M. Tannegny Duchâtel are indicated as they merit it in my world entitled Malthus et les Économistes. After having been the importer in France of the writ rendered by Malthus (and not by Nature), M. Duchâtel, become a minister, has executed that judgment; and he has not had, as they say, a light touch. What is bizarre, is that the Academy awarded a Monthyon Prize [for virtuous actions or the promotion of morals] to his work De la Charité [On Charity], which should have been called Contre la Charité [Against Charity.]</ref>
The law of the economists, gentlemen, was not false, in fact, so much as we had not discovered the true law of Nature, and we had not applied that true law of Nature to society. That is why the governments are, to a certain point, excusable for having denied, along with the economists, the very principle of Christian morals, Charity.
But the law of Malthus had not only misled the governments. Some prodigious errors, comparable only to what has been announced by the Christian prophecies under the name of Antichrist, have resulted from it.
It is as a consequence of that law of Malthus that a celebrated thinker, Charles Fourier, believed himself entitled to present to the Human Race what he called the phanerogamous morals, as a remedy capable of leading to the equilibrium of population, by procuring the sterility of two-thirds of the women.<ref>On this assertion, I can only refer to my Lettres sur le Fouriérisme, where I have abundantly cited Fourier, who was never obscure on that point, and who never concealed what was the root of his system. The School of Fourier has never been able to respond to me. That School has fallen, never to rise again, and it is the same for the School of Malthus.</ref>
Finally, you can know that, always as a consequence of the same reputedly certain law, some self-proclaimed “Christian” economists think to preach in Scotland, in Ireland, in England, and from there on the European continent and in America, the use of shameful practices in direct opposition with the precept of the holy books.<ref> The precept: Increase, and multiply, and fill the earth. That was not, in addition, the only folly or the sole repugnant and criminal idea that the fear of the law of Malthus gave rise to in England and Germany. See, on that subject, my Refutation of Malthus, in the chapter intitled: The Malthusiens propose an annual massacre of innocents in all the families whose generation surpasses the number fixed by law.</ref>
For these economists, for these Christians, it was a question of preventing these children from being born, since it appeared demonstrated by science that the augmentation of population was the inevitable cause of poverty and all the scourges that it gives birth to.
I could add, as a pendant to these preachers come out of Protestantism, some others (these speaking in the name of the Roman Church), who, for several years, have dared, from the height of their pulpit, to put that law of Malthus under the protection of the Gospel, with the aim of demanding of modern society the reestablishment of the monastic orders.
It is thus that, for half a century, what there is of relative truth in that sad and abominable law of Malthus, by giving that law the prestige of an absolute truth, has mislead so many minds, and has hastened the people more and more into incredulity relative to Providence and into materialism. That is why I am proud to have first raised the veil that covered that question and sheltered that error.
Gentlemen, it has been given to me to oppose to that law of Malthus the true law of Nature.
That true law of Nature is what I have called, in an allusion to the circulation of the economists, NATURAL CIRCLE OR CIRCULUS (G).
I have proven, against Malthus and the economists, that human subsistence is not potentially rare, as they claim, but that it is potentially infinite, by virtue of the infinite fecundity of all the species, and by the gift made to man to be able to profit from all of Nature;
That human subsistence, being, in essence, infinite, it is rare only by the fault of the Human Race;
That if the production known to the economists is so limited, it is because the production that Nature knows is shackled, because of human ignorance and the institutions that that ignorance has established.
But, to prove that, I had to formulate the very law of alimentation of beings by one another.
Thus I have proven:
That Nature has established a circle of which one half is called production and the other half consumption, the one half not existing without the other, and the one being the equal of the other;
That this circle constitutes the physiological life of each being, and even of each organ in each being: Nutrition and Secretion ;
That the circle constitutes equally the external life of beings, linking them together, and making them the rings of one single chain, each giving and receiving in its turn;
That this law is more general than everyone admits (that is to say that death maintains life, in the sense that beings feed on one another); more general, I say, since the corpses and detritus of the different beings can be absorbed by products prepared for the subsistence of other beings, and that, in an infinite number of cases, life supports life by the products that, in order to be utilized, do not lead to the cessation of existence of those that give them;
That the feeding of beings by the death of other beings, far from being the whole of the law, is thus only one aspect of a more general law, namely the feeding of beings by the life of other beings; and that Nature, which, without the knowledge of that law, appeared a dark labyrinth where life and death battle, is in reality only the multiple and complete web of the infinitely varied intertwinings of that unique law: Nutrition and Secretion in order to serve the Nutrition of other beings.
Applying then that law to the problem of man, which occupies the economists, I have proven:
That in accordance with that circle established by Nature, from which man cannot remove himself, he takes hold of plants and animals, of all the products of life that the earth gives him, and that his life is maintained by them; but that he cannot assimilate them without restoring to the earth by secretions an equivalent capable of making that earth fertile, and productive;
That these secretions are really, from the point of view of Nature, the price of his subsistence, being destined to other beings, by the same title that the secretions of other beings are destined to him;
That the physiologists, misunderstanding that law, have misunderstood one of the organic functions that they study, when they have formally distinguished excretions or excrements from secretions, as if what they call excrements were not in many regards a true secretion; (H)
That the phytologists [botanists], in their turn, have equally misunderstood that law (I), to the point of only ever having advocated in agriculture the necessity of livestock to provide manure, without thinking of man.
For last conclusions, I have proven:
That it is intensely absurd to lose, relative to the reproduction of human subsistence, that which Nature, as I just said, has made the very price of that subsistence; but that it is no less absurd to draw from the facts that society presents, after the violation of a natural law of that importance, in order to establish, like Malthus, an absolute law of poverty and misery for the Human Race;
That it is thus thoroughly sinful to cast back on Nature the present evils of society, and to say like Malthus, that “Nature itself condemns to death the man who has not a place set at the banquet of life (K)", that is to say those whose services are useless economically speaking;
That the most miserable proletarian who dies of hunger in our cities, when one refuses him the crumbs from that banquet, does not die of hunger through the fault of God, since that body, which dies without nourishment, is an admirable laboratory, and a work of God so perfect, that all the powers in the united with all the scientists could not produce artificially the useful wealth that it produces;
But that that man, who had himself the right to live and who had the power to do it, dies, because the circle known by the economists, by excluding him from his necessary connection to the earth, has destroyed the natural circle;
That, by Nature, in short, every man is at once producer and consumer, and that, if he consumes, he produces;
That if there is, in fact, a sentence of death for so many millions of our fellows, it is society that condemns them, and not Nature;
But that it is up to society not to thus condemn members as legitimate as those it does not condemn, by renouncing its ignorance and practicing according to the law of Nature.