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"Freedom of Occupation": Excerpt from the Staats-Lexikon: "Trade and Manufacturing" (1845-1848)

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state institutions exist, under which human activites can proceed unhindered and associations can go about promoting common interests. But where police power is accustomed to dominating and regulating everything, [there] it will be dangerous to give up authorized corporate bodies even if, in other respects, they are no longer achieving their good purpose, for otherwise the individual, bereft of his last protection, is abandoned to the mercy of the all-powerful police. In the transition from compulsory guild membership to occupational freedom, hard-earned rights should be respected, e.g., reimbursing the owners of salable master craftsman’s rights, according to the just price in the closed occupation at the time of its abolition. Reimbursements like this should initially be taken from the guild’s assets and, where this proves insufficient, from local governments, which will have to raise the funds either through a levy on all members or through contributions from the new people practicing the trade. Thus, e.g., in 1810 the city of Breslau redeemed the real [masters’] rights with a sum of 1,165,320 thalers. The debts of the guilds should also be cancelled and assumed by the state that is in charge of the [guilds’] abolition, as in 1822 in Nassau, where the sum amounted to 8836 fl. Additional transitional measures for assuaging intense anxieties might include initially not freeing all, but just a few guild trades, those about which there are the fewest concerns; and the other trades, those in which a great rush would have to be managed in the initial period, should be open at first to only a limited number of new applicants per year. In Paris, e.g., the number of butcher shops was limited, and the Chamber hearings of 1822 showed that it cost 100,000 francs or more to pay for a butcher’s license. This monopoly demonstrably inflated meat prices almost twofold and, together with the octopi,* had the effect of reducing meat consumption by a third. In 1825 it was decided that from 1828 onward the number of butcher shops should be increased by up to 100 annually with new concessions. The conditions for granting these [concessions] were the ability to demonstrate proper knowledge of the trade and a security deposit of 3000 francs; whoever shuts down the business for three days in a row should be deprived of the concession for half a year. Occupational freedom is best suited to reestablishing the natural relationship of supply to demand destroyed by compulsory guilds. Competition expands where the opportunity for sales increases, or because products are perfected and prices become cheaper, and it can be extended even further through increased work and skill; it is more easily reduced where the tradesman is not confined to his craft but can easily shift to other kinds of business the moment his own no longer supports him. Anxiety about movement between occupations as a result of abolishing compulsory guilds is not justified to an extent greater than among the guilds themselves, where the existing number of master craftsmen, as experience shows, can likewise become too large as soon as individuals with a great deal of capital and lots of journeyman assistants exploit the trust they have won from consumers through their skill, or as soon as manufacturing has taken over trade goods previously produced as crafts and had them

* State-imposed tax on foodstuffs – trans.

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