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Vilfredo Pareto

Let us suppose that in a country of thirty million inhabitants it is proposed, under some pretext or other, to get each citizen to pay out one franc a year, and to distribute the total amount amongst thirty persons. Every one of the donors will give up one franc a year; every one of the beneficiaries will receive one million francs a year. The two groups will differ very greatly in their response to this situation. . . . In these circumstances the outcome is not in doubt: the spoliators will win hands down.

Vilfredo Pareto was a major economist of the Lausanne School, and an admirer of Gustave de Molinari. A more complete passage is as below:

Let us suppose that in a country of thirty million inhabitants it is proposed, under some pretext or other, to get each citizen to pay out one franc a year, and to distribute the total amount amongst thirty persons. Every one of the donors will give up one franc a year; every one of the beneficiaries will receive one million francs a year.
The two groups will differ very greatly in their response to this situation. Those who hope to gain a million a year will know no rest by day or night. They will win newspapers over to their interest by financial inducements and drum up support from all quarters. A discreet hand will warm the palms of needy legislators, even of ministers. . . .
On the other hand, the despoiled are much less active. A great deal of money is needed to launch an electoral campaign. Now there are insuperable material difficulties militating against asking each citizen to contribute a few centimes. One has to ask a few people to make substantial contributions. But then, for such people, there is the likelihood that their individual contribution to the campaign against the spoliation will exceed the total amount they stand to lose by the measure in question. . . . When election day comes, similar difficulties are encountered. Those who hope to gain a million apiece have agents everywhere, who descend in swarms on the electorate, urging the voters that sound and enlightened patriotism calls for the success of their modest proposal. They will go further if need be, and are quite prepared to lay out cash to get the necessary votes for returning candidates in their interest. In contrast, the individual who is threatened with losing one franc a year — even if he is fully aware of what is afoot — will not for so small a thing forego a picnic in the country, or fall out with useful or congenial friends, or get on the wrong side of the mayor or the prefet! In these circumstances the outcome is not in doubt: the spoliators will win hands down.

By: Redactor

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