(Preface to the fourth edition, 1920)
Thanks to active and widespread propaganda by the now numerous friends of the Natural Economic Order, this fourth edition follows, after a brief interval, the large third edition.
Of the contents of the book I can say that the war has shown me nothing new. I have not been obliged to revise even the smallest detail of my theory. The events of the war and of the German revolution are so many proofs of the correctness of what I wrote before the war; and that is true of both the theoretical contents and of the political application of these theories. The war has given capitalists, communists, Marxists, much food for reflection. Many. perhaps most, men admit that their programmes were faulty, or they are frankly perplexed and embarrassed. Most men indeed no longer even know to what party they belong. All this confirms the truth of the principles upon which the Natural Economic Order is based.
The political parties all lack an economic programme; they are held together by catchwords. Capitalism must be modified, that even capitalists admit. Bolshevism or communism may be possible in a primitive state of society, such as is still found in rural parts of Russia, but such prehistoric economic forms cannot be applied to a highly developed economic system founded on the division of labour. The European has outgrown the tutelage inseparable from communism. He must be free not alone from capitalistic exploitation, but also from meddling official intervention, which is an integral part of social life based on communism. For this reason we shall experience failure after failure in the present attempts at nationalising industry.
The communist, the advocate of the system of common property, stands at the extreme right wing, at the entrance-door of social development. Communism is therefore the most extreme form of reaction. The Natural Economic Order, on the contrary, is the programme of action, of progress, of the fugleman on the extreme left. Transitional stages, merely, lie between.
The transition from the half-developed human being of the horde to the independent, fully-developed individual, the "a-crat", who rejects completely the control of others, begins with the division of labour. The transition would long ago have been completed if it had not again and again been interrupted by certain defects in our system of land tenure and in our form of money - defects which produced capitalism; and capitalism produced, for its own protection, the State as we know it - a hybrid between communism and the Natural Economic Order. We cannot at this stage of development; the difficulties created by the hybrid would in time ruin us as they ruined the peoples of antiquity. There is no question today of halting or retreating; the choice lies between progress or ruin; we must push on through the slough of capitalism to the firm ground beyond.
The Natural Economic Order is not a new order artificially put together. To allow the development of the order which starts from the division of labour, it was only necessary to remove the obstacles due to defects in our monetary system and our system of land tenure. More than this has not been attempted. The Natural Economic Order has nothing to do with Utopias and visionary enthusiasm. The Natural Economic Order stands by itself and requires no legal enactments, it makes officials, the State itself and all other tutelage superfluous, and it respects the laws of natural selection to which we owe our being; it gives every man the possibility of fully developing his ego. Its ideal is the ideal of the personality responsible for itself alone and liberated from the control of others-the ideal of Schiller, Stirner, Nietzsche and Landauer.
May 5th, 1920.