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Victor Böhmert's Critique of the Traditional and Restrictive Nature of Guilds (1858)

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The above was our modest attempt to suggest, at the very least, a moral outlook for people’s working lives, and, in accordance with the essay’s title, to show those who accuse free economic development of a “demoralizing” influence that the ideal of healthy, economically free conditions corresponds fundamentally with the ideal of moral and Christian development.

If, in conclusion, disregarding a still distant future, we briefly consider the needs of the present, then we must designate it as the special job of the legislator and every humanitarian to tear the tradesmen away from the one-sidedness into which they have been driven by the guilds, to bring them into close contact with the various occupational branches, and to guide them generally toward the great social community, with all its institutions for instruction, entertainment, encouragement, and assistance. But naturally this will first require removing the barriers that separate the craftsmen both from each other and from the rest of the public at large. Let us, above all, bury the half-decayed body of the guild system, so that the phoenix of a fresh, free economic activity, sanctified by love, might arise from the ashes.

Source: Victor Böhmert, Freiheit der Arbeit! Beiträge zur Reform der Gewerbegesetze. Bremen: Verlag von Heinrich Strack, 1858, pp. 1-9, 13-21.

Translation: Jeremiah Riemer

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