I am, I confess, one of those who think that choice and impulse ought to come from below and not from above, from the citizen and not from the legislator; and the opposite doctrine appears to me to tend to the destruction of liberty and of human dignity.
But by a deduction as false as it is unjust, do you know what economists* are accused of? It is, that when we disapprove of government support, we are supposed to disapprove of the thing itself whose support is discussed;
…and to be the enemies of every kind of activity, because we desire to see those activities, on the one hand free, and on the other seeking their own reward in themselves. Thus, if we think that the State should not interfere in subsidies in religious affairs, we are atheists. If we think that the State should not interfere in subsidies in education, we are hostile to knowledge. If we say the State ought not by subsidies to give a fictitious value to land, or any particular branch of industry, we are enemies to property and labor. If we think the State ought not to support artists we are barbarians, who look upon art as useless.
Against such conclusions as these I protest with all my strength. Far from entertaining the absurd idea of doing away with religion, education, property, labor, and the arts, when we say the state ought to protect free development of all these kinds of human activity, without helping some of them at the expense of others–we think, on the contrary, that all these living powers of society would develop themselves more harmoniously under such influence of liberty; and that, under such an influence no one of them would, as is now the case, be a source of trouble, of abuses, of tyranny, and disorder.
Our adversaries consider that an activity which is neither aided by supplies, nor regulated by government, is an activity destroyed. We think just the contrary. Their faith is in the legislator, not in mankind; ours is in mankind, not in the legislator.
*”economists” could apply to anyone who objects to the imposition of government in this context.