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Friedrich Bülau's Call for a Market-Oriented Solution to the Problem of Poverty in Germany (1834)

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It was mentioned above that agriculture in almost no European state has reached the level to which it is determined to rise by nature. But the same circumstances that are largely to blame for this evil are simultaneously responsible for the fact that most of the advantages ensuing from agriculture fail to accrue to the numerous and respectable class of actual farmers and are not applied to productive undertakings. All the circumstances that bring about the indivisibility of the [landed] estates, that remove the land, and the servile burdens that rest on it, from open commerce, everything that brings considerations into the relationship of man to landed property other than those of its optimal use, everything that holds this back also contributes to a situation in which agriculture fails to brings forth as many advantages as it could and [in which] fewer claim as many of its advantages as they are entitled to. The shackled state of agriculture has pushed a major portion of the population into the trades; [a portion of the population that] would have found a secure lifelong occupation in agriculture if this were free of burdens and restrictions. It is not in the agricultural villages, but in the factory sites, cities, and their environs that the tragic symptoms of an inability to meet basic needs [Nahrungslosigkeit] have emerged most visibly.

But how [it is that] so many causes reside in the trades themselves, or even more in the institutions relevant to their operation, with the result that the advantages arising from them are neither so great nor so broadly distributed as might be possible under a better arrangement – much of this remains to addressed in the following pages of this publication. When there are complaints that so many workers are not finding remuneration, one should not begin instigating the removal of these workers – not to mention shackling them – rather one should first explore whether a more remunerative sphere of activity might not open up. And one should adopt the latter for as long as there are still institutions that prevent many members of the people from applying their energies in the place and manner in which it is easiest for them to do so. At the same time, the conclusion to these pages will show how our poor relief, whose connection to the preceding material will be proven, is still a long way from the right path to its main goal: namely, making itself superfluous. It will be recognized that the noblest, though not most harmless, error of the time consists in misguided charity.

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