Economic Sophisms/127

<pagequality level="3" user="Zoeannl" />style="background: #ececec; text-align: left; padding-left: 0.5em; font-weight: bold;" class="table-rh"Spoliation by force consists in waiting till a man has produced a commodity, and then depriving him of it by the strong hand.

This kind of spoliation is formally forbidden by the decalogue—Thou shalt not steal.

When this takes place between individuals, it is called theft, and leads to the hulks; when it takes place between nations, it is called conquest, and leads to glory.

Whence this difference? It is proper to search out its cause, for it will reveal to us the existence of an irresistible power, public opinion, which, like the atmosphere, surrounds and envelops us so thoroughly that we cease to perceive it. Rousseau never said anything truer than this: Il faut beaucoup de philosophie pour observer les faits qui sont trop près de nous—"You need much philosophy to observe accurately things which are under your nose."

A thief, for the very reason that he does his work secretly, has always public opinion against him. He frightens all who are within his reach. Yet if he has associates, he takes pride in displaying before them his skill and prowess. Here we begin to perceive the force of opinion; for the applause of his accomplices takes away the sense of guilt, and even prompts him to glory in his shame.

The warrior lives in a different medium. The public opinion which brands him is elsewhere, among the nations he has conquered, and he does not feel its pressure. The public opinion at home applauds and sustains him. He and his companions in arms feel sensibly the bond which unites them. The country which has created enemies, and brought danger upon herself, feels it necessary to extol the bravery of her sons. She decrees to the boldest, who have enlarged her frontiers, or brought her in the greatest amount of booty, honours, renown, and glory. Poets sing their exploits, and ladies twine wreaths and garlands for them. And such is the power of public opinion that it takes from spoliation all idea of injustice, and from the spoliator all sense of wrongdoing.

The public opinion which reacts against military spoliation makes itself felt, not in the conquering, but in the conquered,

country, and exercises little influence. And yet it is not