Principles of the Civil Code

Jeremy Bentham

Part 1

Objects of the Civil Law.

Chapter 13

Sacrifices of Security to Security.

This title at first appears enigmatical, but the enigma is soon solved.

An important distinction is to be made between the ideal perfection of security, and that perfection which is practicable, The first requires that nothing should be taken from any one; the second is attained if no more is taken than is necessary for the preservation of the rest.

This sacrifice is not an attack upon security; it is only a defalcation from it. An attack is an unforeseen shock; an evil which could not be calculated upon; an irregularity which has no fixed principle: it seems to put all the rest in danger; it produces a general alarm. But this defalcation is a fixed deduction---regular, necessary, expected---which produces an evil of the first order, but no danger, no alarm, no discouragement to industry: the same sum of money, according to the manner in which it is levied upon the people, will possess the one or the other of these characters, and will produce, in consequence, either the deadening effects of insecurity, or the vivifying effects of security;

The necessity of these defalcations is evident. To work, and to guard the workmen, are two different, and, for a time, incompatible operations. It is therefore necessary, that those who create wealth by their labour should give up a portion of it to supply the wants of the guardians of the state: wealth can only be defended at its own expense.

Society, attacked by internal or external enemies, can only maintain itself at the expense of the security, not only of these enemies themselves, but even of those in whose protection it is engaged.

If there are any individuals who perceive not this necessary connexion, it is because, in this respect, as in so many others, the wants of to-day eclipse those of to-morrow. All government is only a tissue of sacrifices. The best government is that in which the value of these sacrifices is reduced to the smallest amount. The practical perfection of security is a quantity which unceasingly tends to approach to the ideal perfection, without ever being able to reach it.

I shall proceed to give a catalogue of those cases in which the sacrifice of some portion of security, in respect of property, is necessary for the preservation of the greater mass:---

  1. General wants of the state for its defence against external enemies.
  2. General wants of the state for defence against delinquents or internal enemies.
  3. General wants of the state for the prevention of physical calamities.
  4. Fines at the expense of offenders, on account of punishment, on account of indemnities in favour of the parties injured.
  5. Incroachment upon the property of individuals, for the development of the powers to be exercised against the above evils, by justice, by the police, by the army.
  6. Limitations of the rights of property, or of the use which each proprietor may make of his own goods, in order to prevent his injuring himself or others.

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