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Conservative Denunciation of Occupational Freedom as the Result of an Interfering State Bureaucracy (1851)

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If only for socially conservative reasons, municipal governments and guilds should ensure that the capital necessary to operate a business is present before granting the right to become a master craftsman and to establish municipal residency. Newfangled sentimentality and conceit sees in the class of journeymen nothing more than an oppressive relationship of dependency, and it calls this demand inhumane in its severity. But the “journeyman” means as much as the “associate” of the master; in an absurd manner, however, the journeymen now want instead to sport the much more respectable and important title of “assistant”! Once there was “journeyman’s pride,” now all that’s left is “master craftsman’s pride.” To be the journeyman of an honest master all the days of one's life is not nearly so great a misfortune as being the master of a wretched business. People in public service and elsewhere are often happy so long as they do not have to be journeymen. If, by the way, a young craftsman is able to show that he has savings from wages instead of inherited wealth, then he should be credited with up to double the [standard] contribution when he applies for the right to establish a place of business, because hard work and thrift are also a handsome kind of capital in business. At the same time, this would be acting in a genuinely “bourgeois” fashion, according to the fundamental rule of our class and social rank, which says that the power to acquire wealth is a greater possession than wealth itself.

Source: Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl, Die bürgerliche Gesellschaft [Civil Society]. Stuttgart: J.G. Cotta, 1851, pp. 252-54.

Translation: Jeremiah Riemer

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