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Bismarck’s Reichstag Speech on the Law for Workers’ Compensation (March 15, 1884)

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[ . . . ]

When Deputy Bamberger indicates that for the sake of a socialist whim the long since established system of insurance in the empire is to be abolished, I reply: if the state occupies itself at all with accident insurance, then the present system is just too expensive. If it were strengthened, who would pay the cost? It would be at the cost of the suffering poor and at the cost of industry, whose export capability is reduced by the burdens laid upon it by [private] insurance. We, for our part, want to lighten these burdens by means of a general and, therefore, beneficent arrangement.

I believe that I have arrived at the end of the train of thought provided by the preceding speakers, and I have only to add [ . . . ] the request that you gentlemen meet the confederated governments halfway and serve as leaders, according to your experience and opinion, as pathfinders in an unknown land that we are entering. The entry into this realm we believe to be a responsibility of the state. Do not doubt that we are acting honorably to strengthen the domestic peace, and particularly the peace between worker and employer, and to arrive at the result that we will be in the position to renounce, on the part of the state, continuing this emergency law, which we refer to as the Socialist Law, without exposing the commonwealth to new dangers.

[(Bravo! On the right)]

Source of English translation: Jan Goldstein and John W. Boyer, eds, University of Chicago, Readings in Western Civilization, vol. 8, Nineteenth-Century Europe: Liberalism and Its Critics. Chicago, London: University of Chicago Press, 1988, pp. 419-25; translated by John W. Boyer.

© 1988 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.

Original German text printed in Stenographische Berichte über die Verhandlungen des Reichstags [Stenographic Reports on the Proceedings of the Reichstag], 5th Legislative Period, 4th Session, 1884, 6th meeting, March 15, 1884. Berlin: Printing office of the Norddeutschen Allgemeinen Zeitung (Pindter), 1884, vol. 1, pp. 72-78.

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