Gustave de Molinari

On the Production of Security





Gustave de Molinari (1819-1912) was a classic liberal economist, editor of the Journal des Économistes from 1881 until 1909. In this text he presents his ideas, very advanced even nowadays, on the production of security. Those ideas have been swept under the carpet for a very long period because they undermine the very bases of the monopolistic power of the territorial state. And yet, the conception that security is a service like many others and, like them, it could be provided by companies in competition between them, has nothing extraordinary or inconceivable about it. As a matter of fact, “in the United States, already by 1972 the private security industry had almost twice as many employee, and 1.5 times the budget, of all local, state, and federal police forces combined.” (cited in, Martin van Creveld, The Rise and Decline of the State, 1999). Clearly, what is still missing in reality is the end of the monopolistic stronghold of the state upon individuals even in the presence of security provided by other agents. So, the real implementation of Molinari’s idea consists in allowing competition amongst non-territorial governments, a proposal that will be more explicitly put forward in 1860 by Paul-Emile de Puydt in his seminal article Panarchie (Panarchy) that appeared in the Revue Trimestrielle, Bruxelles.

This essay was originally published as "De la production de la sécurité" in Journal des Économistes (15 February 1849).

See also the Preface to Gustave de Molinari's "The Production of Security" written by Murray Rothbard in 1977.



There are two ways of looking at society. According to one view, no immutable providential law has governed the formation of the various human associations; they were organised in a purely factitious manner by primitive legislators, and can therefore be modified or remade by other legislators as social science progresses. In this system the government plays a considerable role, for it is the government, as the repository of the principle of authority, that has the task of modifying and remaking society on a daily basis.

According to others, on the contrary, society is a purely natural fact; like the earth on which it stands, society moves in accordance with general, pre-existing laws. In this system there is no such thing, strictly speaking, social science; there is only an economic science which studies the natural organism of society and shows how this organism functions.

We propose to examine, within this latter system, what is the function of government and its natural organisation.




To define and delimit the function of government, we must first investigate what society is and what is its purpose.

What natural impulse do men obey in coming together in society? They obey the impulse or, to speak more accurately, the instinct of sociability. The human race is essentially sociable. Human beings are instinctively inclined to live in society.

What is the reason for this instinct?

The human being experiences a multitude of needs, to the satisfaction of which are attached pleasures, and whose non-satisfaction causes him suffering. Now, alone, isolated, he could only provide in an incomplete, insufficient manner for these needs which constantly solicit him. The instinct of sociability brings him closer to his fellows, pushes him to put himself in communication with them. Then, under the impulse of the self-interest of the individuals thus brought together, a certain division of labour is established, necessarily followed by exchanges. In short, we see the foundation of an organisation, by means of which the human being can satisfy his needs much more completely than he could by remaining isolated.

This natural organisation is called society.

The object of society is therefore the fuller satisfaction of human beings’ needs; the means is the division of labour and exchange.

Among the needs of human beings, there is one of a special kind which plays an immense role in the history of humanity, namely the need for security.

What is this need?

Whether they live alone or in society, human beings are, above all, interested in preserving their existence and the fruits of their labour. If the sense of justice were universally spread over the earth; if, therefore, every human being confined himself to working and exchanging the fruits of his labour, without thinking of attacking the lives of other human beings, or of seizing, by violence or deceit, the products of their industry; if everyone had, in one word, an instinctive horror for any act harmful to others, it is certain that security would naturally exist on earth, and that no artificial institution would be necessary to establish it. Unfortunately this is not so. The sense of justice seems to be the prerogative only of certain elevated, exceptional natures. Among the lower races it exists only in a rudimentary state. Hence the innumerable attacks on the life and property of individuals since the beginning of the world, since the time of Cain and Abel.

Hence also the foundation of agencies whose purpose was to guarantee to each person the peaceful possession of his person and property.

These agencies were given the name of governments.

Everywhere, amid the least enlightened peoples, a government is found, so general and urgent is the need for security which a government provides.

Everywhere, human beings resign themselves to the hardest sacrifices rather than do without government, and hence without security, and it cannot be said that in doing so they calculate badly.

Suppose, indeed, that somebody finds himself incessantly threatened in his person and in his means of existence. Would not his first and most constant preoccupation be to preserve himself from the dangers which surround him? This preoccupation, this effort, this labour will necessarily absorb the greater part of his time, as well as the most energetic and active faculties of his intelligence. Consequently, he would only be able to apply insufficient and precarious work and poor attention to the satisfaction of his other needs.

Even though this individual might be asked to surrender a very considerable part of his time and work to someone who would undertake to guarantee him the peaceful possession of his person and his property, would he not still gain by making the deal?

However, his obvious interest would be to obtain security at the lowest possible price.



If there is one well-established truth in political economy, it is this:

    That in all cases, for all commodities serving to provide for his material or immaterial needs, the consumer is interested in keeping labour and exchange free, for the necessary and permanent result of free labour and exchange is to lower to the maximum the price of things.

And this one:

    That the interest of the consumer of any commodity must always prevail over the interest of the producer.

Now, following these principles, we arrive at this rigorous conclusion:

    That the production of security must, in the interest of the consumers of this intangible commodity, remain subject to the law of free competition.

From this it follows:

    That no government should have the right to prevent another government from establishing itself concurrently with it, or compel consumers of security to turn exclusively to it for this commodity.

Nevertheless, I must say that this strict consequence of the principle of free competition has been shunned up to now.

One of the economists who have extended the application of the principle of freedom the furthest, Mr. Charles Dunoyer, thinks "that the functions of governments can never fall into the domain of private activity." [1]

This is a clear and obvious exception to the principle of free competition.

This exception is all the more remarkable because it is unique.

No doubt there are economists who make more exceptions to this principle; but we may boldly assert that they are not pure economists. True economists generally agree that, on the one hand, the government must confine itself to guaranteeing the security of the citizens; on the other hand, that the freedom of labour and exchange must be, for all the rest, complete and absolute.

But why should there be an exception relative to security?  What is the special reason why the production of security cannot be left to free competition? Why must it be subject to a different principle and organised under a different system?

On this point, the masters of science are silent, and Mr. Dunoyer, who has clearly pointed out the exception, does not investigate on what ground it is based.



We are therefore led to ask whether this exception is well founded, and whether it can be justified in the eyes of an economist.

It offends reason to believe that a well-established natural law can admit of exceptions. A natural law is everywhere and always, or it is not. I do not believe, for example, that the law of universal gravitation, which governs the physical world, is ever suspended in any instance or at any point of the universe. Now, I consider economic laws as natural laws, and I have as much faith in the principle of freedom of labour and exchange as I have in the law of universal gravitation. I therefore believe that if this principle can be distorted, on the other hand, it admits of no exceptions.

But, if this is the case, the production of security must not be exempted from the law of free competition; and, if it is, society as a whole suffers damage.

Either this is logical and true, or the principles on which economic science is based are not true principles.



It is therefore demonstrated a priori to us, who have faith in the principles of economic science, that the exception mentioned above has no reason to exist, and that the production of security must, like any other, be subject to the law of free competition.

Once we are convinced, what remains to be done? It remains for us to investigate how it is that the production of security is not subject to the law of free competition, how it is that it is subject to different principles.

What are these principles?

Those of monopoly and communism.

There is not a single security industry agency in the world, not a single government that is not based on monopoly or communism.

In this connection we shall make, in passing, a simple remark.

Since political economy disapproves equally of monopoly and communism in the various branches of human activity in which it has so far found them, would it not be strange and inconvenient if it were to accept them in the industry of security?



Let us now examine how it is that all known governments are subject to the law of monopoly, or organised according to the communist principle.

Let us first investigate what is meant by monopoly and by communism.

It is a truth of observation that the more urgent and necessary are human being's needs, the greater are the sacrifices he is willing to make to satisfy them. Now, there are things which are abundantly available in nature, and the production of which requires very little labour; but which, serving to satisfy these urgent and necessary needs, can consequently acquire an exchange value out of all proportion to their natural value. We shall cite salt as an example. Suppose that a man or a group of people succeeded in attributing to themselves the exclusive production and sale of salt, it is evident that this man or this group would be able to raise the price of this commodity far above its value, far above the price it would reach under free competition.

It will then be said that this man or this group has a monopoly, and that the price of salt is a monopoly price.

But it is obvious that the consumers will not freely consent to pay the abusive surcharge of the monopoly; they will have to be compelled to do so, and in order to do so, force will have to be used.

Any monopoly necessarily relies on force.

When monopolists stop being stronger than the consumers they exploit, what happens?

Always, the monopoly eventually disappears, either violently or as a result of an amicable settlement. What do we put in its place?

If the roused, insurgent consumers seize the means of production of the salt industry, there is every probability that they will confiscate this industry for their own benefit, and that their first thought will be not to leave it to free competition, but to exploit it, in common, for their own account. They will, therefore, appoint a director or a managing committee to operate the saltworks, to whom they will allocate the necessary funds to meet the costs of salt production; then, as the experience of the past will have made them suspicious, distrustful; as they fear that the director named by them will take over the production for his own account, and simply reconstitute, for his own benefit, in an open or hidden way, the old monopoly, they will elect delegates, representatives in charge of voting the funds necessary for the costs of production, of supervising their use, and of examining whether the salt produced is equally distributed to those entitled to it. In this way, salt production will be organised.

This form of organisation of production has been named communism.

When this organisation applies to only one commodity, the communism is said to be partial.

When it applies to all commodities, the communism is said to be complete.

But whether communism is partial or complete, political economy does not admit it any more than it does monopoly, of which it is merely a different type.



Is what has just been said about salt not obviously applicable to security? Is this not the history of all monarchies and all republics?

Everywhere, the production of security began by being organised as a monopoly, and everywhere, nowadays, it tends to be organised as communism.

This is why.

Among the material or immaterial commodities necessary to a human being, none, except perhaps wheat, is more indispensable, and therefore can bear a higher monopoly tax.

Nor can any be so easily monopolised.

What, indeed, is the situation of individuals who need security? It is weakness. What is the position of those who undertake to provide them with this necessary security? It is strength. If it were otherwise, if the consumers of security were stronger than the producers, they would obviously dispense with their assistance.

Now, if the producers of security are originally stronger than the consumers, can they not easily impose on the latter the regime of monopoly?

Everywhere, therefore, at the origin of societies, we see the strongest and most warlike races taking exclusive government of societies; everywhere we see these races seizing the monopoly of security within certain more or less extensive territories, according to their number and strength.

And this monopoly being extraordinary profitable by its very nature, everywhere we see the races invested with the monopoly of security engaging also in fierce struggles, in order to increase the extent of their market, the number of their forced consumers, and consequently, the amount of their gains.

War was the necessary, inevitable consequence of the establishment of the monopoly of security.

As another inevitable consequence, this monopoly was to beget all other monopolies.

Looking at the situation of the monopolists of the security, the producers of other commodities could not fail to recognise that nothing in the world was more advantageous than a monopoly. They were, therefore, tempted, in their turn, to increase the profits of their industry by the same process. But to monopolise the commodity they produced at the expense of consumers, what did they need? They needed the use of force. But they did not have this force, which was necessary to compress the resistance of the consumers concerned. What did they do? They borrowed it, for a fee, from those who did possess it. They solicited and obtained, at the price of certain royalties, the exclusive privilege of exercising their industry in certain determined territories.

As the granting of these privileges brought in good money to the producers of security, the world was soon covered with monopolies. Work and exchange were everywhere hindered, chained, and the condition of the masses remained as miserable as possible.

However, after long centuries of suffering, as enlightenment gradually spread throughout the world, the masses, who were being stifled by this network of privileges, began to react against the privileged, and to demand freedom, that is, the abolition of monopolies.

This process took many steps. What happened, for example, in England? The race which governed the country, and which was organised as a feudal corporation, with a hereditary chef (the King) and an equally hereditary administrative council (the House of Lords), originally fixed the price of the security it monopolised at whatever rate it pleased. There was no debate between the producers of security and the consumers. It was the regime of arbitrary rule. But, as time went by, the consumers, having become aware of their numbers and strength, revolted against the regime of pure arbitrariness, and they obtained the right to negotiate with the producers the price of the commodity. To this end, they appointed delegates who met in the House of Commons to discuss the level of taxation, i.e. the price of security. In this way, they were able to reduce the pressure on them. However, as the members of the House of Commons were appointed under the immediate influence of the producers of security, the debate was not entirely transparent, and the price of the commodity continued to exceed its natural value.

One day, the consumers thus exploited rose up against the producers and dispossessed them of their industry. They then undertook to run this industry themselves and for this purpose they chose a manager assisted by a council. This was communism replacing monopoly. But this scheme did not work well, and twenty years later the original monopoly was re-established. Only this time the monopolists had the wisdom not to restore the regime of arbitrary rule; they accepted the free debate over taxation, taking care, however, to incessantly corrupt the delegates of the opposing party. They placed at the disposal of these delegates some of the jobs in the administration of security, and they even went so far as to admit the most influential ones to their higher council. Nothing could have been cleverer than this. Nevertheless, the consumers of security eventually became aware of these abuses and demanded the reform of Parliament. Long refused, the reform was finally won, and since that time the consumers have obtained a significant lightening of their burdens.

In France, the monopoly of security, after having likewise undergone frequent vicissitudes and various modifications, has just been overturned for the second time. [Note: by the riots of 1848]. As in England in the past, this monopoly, exercised first for the benefit of a caste, then in the name of a certain class of society, has been replaced by production in common. All the consumers, considered as shareholders, appointed a manager in charge, for a certain period, of the operation, and an assembly responsible for controlling the acts of the manager and of his administration.

We shall confine ourselves to making a simple observation about this new regime.

Just as the monopoly of security should logically beget all other monopolies, so should the communism of security logically beget all other communisms.

In actual fact, we have a choice between two things:

Either communist production is superior to free production, or it is not.

If it is, it is superior not only in terms of security, but in all respects.

If not, progress will inevitably consist in replacing it by free production.

Complete communism or complete freedom, that is the alternative!



But is it conceivable that the production of security could be organised in any other way than as a monopoly or communistically? Is it conceivable that it could be left to free competition?

To this question the answer by the so-called political writers is unanimous: No.

Why not? We will tell you why.

Because these writers, who are especially concerned with governments, know nothing about society; they think society to be something built artificially and believe that the mission of government is to modify and remake it constantly.

Now, in order to modify or remake society, it is necessary to be endowed with an authority superior to that of the various individualities of which it is composed.

Monopolistic governments claim to have obtained from God himself this authority which gives them the right to modify or remake society according to their fancy, and to dispose of persons and property however they please. Communistic governments appeal to human reason, as manifested in the majority of the sovereign people.

But do monopolistic governments and communistic governments truly possess this superior, irresistible authority? Do they, in reality, have a higher authority than that which a free government could have? This is what we must investigate.



If it were true that society was not naturally organised; if it were true that the laws which governs it motion had to be incessantly modified or remade, the legislators would necessarily need an immutable, sacred authority. As continuators of Providence on earth, they should be respected almost as much as God. If it were otherwise, would it not be impossible for them to fulfil their mission? Indeed, one does not intervene in human affairs, one does not undertake to direct them, to regulate them, without daily offending a multitude of interests. Unless those in power are considered to belong to a higher essence or to be entrusted with a providential mission, the injured interests resist.

Hence the fiction of divine right.

This fiction was certainly the best that could be imagined. If you can persuade the crowd that God Himself has elected certain men or races to give laws to society and to govern it, no one, of course, will dream of rebelling against these chosen ones of Providence, and whatever the government does will be done well. A government of divine right is imperishable.

On one condition only, that one believes in divine right.

If it be thought that the rulers of peoples do not receive their inspirations directly from Providence, that they obey purely human impulses, the prestige which surrounds them will disappear, and their sovereign decisions will be resisted irreverently, as one resists everything that comes from other human beings, unless its usefulness is clearly demonstrated.

It is therefore curious to see how carefully the theorists of divine right endeavour to establish the superhumanity of the races in possession of human government.

Let us listen, for example, to M. Joseph de Maistre:

"Man cannot make sovereigns. At most, he can serve as an instrument to dispossess a sovereign and hand over his States to another sovereign who is already a prince. Moreover, there has never been a sovereign family traceable to plebeian origins. If this phenomenon were to appear, it would mark a new epoch on earth.

" ... It is written: I make the rulers. This is not a church phrase, a preacher's metaphor; it is the literal, simple and palpable truth. It is a law of the political world. God makes kings, literally. He prepares the royal races, he nurtures them in the midst of a cloud that conceals their origin. They then appear crowned with glory and honour; they take their place." [2]

According to this system, which embodies the will of Providence in certain men and which endows these chosen ones, these anointed ones, with a quasi-divine authority, the subjects obviously have no rights; they must submit, without question, to the decrees of the sovereign authority, as if they were the decrees of Providence itself.

The body is the tool of the soul, said Plutarch, and the soul is the instrument of God. According to the school of divine right, God would choose certain souls and use them as instruments to govern the world.

If human beings had faith in this theory, surely nothing could shake a government of divine right. Unfortunately, they have completely ceased to believe in it. Why?

Because one fine day they decided to examine and reason, and by examining and reasoning they discovered that their rulers were not directing them any better than they themselves, mere mortals without communication with Providence, could have done.

Free inquiry has demonetised the fiction of divine right, so much so that the subjects of monarchs or aristocrats of divine right no longer obey them unless they believe it is in their interest to do so.

Has the communist fiction fared better?

According to the communist theory, of which Rousseau is the high priest, authority no longer comes from above, it comes from below.

The government no longer asks for it from Providence, it asks for it from the individuals gathered together, from the one, indivisible and sovereign nation.

This is what the communists, the advocates of the sovereignty of the people, assume. They assume that human reason has the power to discover the best laws, the most perfect organisation suitable for society; and that, in practice, these laws are discovered as a result of free debate between opposing opinions; that if there is no unanimity, if there is still dissension after the debate, it is the majority that is right, as containing a greater number of reasonable individualities (these individualities are, of course, assumed to be equal, otherwise the whole structure collapses). Consequently, they assert that the decisions of the majority must be the law, and that the minority is bound to submit to it, even if it would hurt its most deeply rooted convictions and its most cherished interests.

This is the theory; but, in practice, does the authority of the decisions of the majority have really the irresistible, absolute character that is assumed? Does the minority always, in every instance, respect it? Can it be?

Let us take an example.

Let us suppose that Socialism succeeds in spreading among the working classes of the countryside, as it has already spread among the working classes of the cities; that it is, consequently, in the majority in the country, and that, taking advantage of this situation, it sends to the Legislative Assembly a Socialist majority and appoints a Socialist President. Let us suppose that this majority and this president, invested with sovereign authority, decree, as a famous Socialist demanded, the levying of a tax of three billion on the rich, in order to organise the work of the poor. Is it probable that the minority will peacefully submit to this iniquitous and absurd, yet legal, yet constitutional, spoliation?

No, without doubt, it will not hesitate to disregard the authority of the majority and to defend its property.

Under this regime, as under the previous one, one obeys those in authority only insofar as one believes it is in one's interest to obey them.

This leads us to affirm that the moral basis of the principle of authority is neither more solid nor more extensive under the regime of monopoly or communism than it could be under a regime of freedom.



But suppose that the advocates of an artificial organisation, whether monopolists or communists, are right; that society is not naturally organised, and that it falls to men incessantly to make and unmake the laws which govern it, see in what lamentable situation the world will find itself. The moral authority of the rulers being, in reality, based only on the interest of the governed, and the latter having a natural tendency to resist everything that injures their interest, it will be necessary for material force to lend incessant assistance to the disregarded authority.

Monopolists and communists have, by the way, perfectly understood this necessity.

If anyone, says M. de Maistre, tries to evade the authority of God's chosen ones, let him be delivered to the secular arm, let the executioner do his work.

If anyone disregards the authority of the people's elected representatives, say the theoreticians of Rousseau's school, if he resists any decision of the majority, let him be punished as a criminal against the sovereign people, let the guillotine do justice to him.

These two schools, which take artificial organisation as their point of departure, therefore necessarily lead to the same end, to TERROR.



Let us now formulate a simple hypothesis.

Let us imagine a society in its infancy: the individuals who compose it begin to work and to exchange the fruits of their labour. A natural instinct reveals to these individuals that their persons, the land they occupy and cultivate, the fruits of their labour, are their property, and that no one, except themselves, has the right to dispose or touch this property. This instinct is not hypothetical, it exists. But, being humans imperfect creatures, it happens that this feeling of the right of each one to his person and his goods, is not found to the same degree in every soul, and that certain individuals attack the persons or property of others by violence or by fraud.

Hence the need for an industry to prevent or repress these abusive assaults of force or cunning.

Let a man or an association of men then come and say:

I will, for a fee, prevent or repress attacks on persons and property.

Let those, therefore, who wish to protect their persons and property from all aggression turn to me.

What will consumers do before striking a bargain with this producer of security?

First, they will seek to know whether it is powerful enough to protect them.

Secondly, whether his character is such that they will not have to worry about his instigating the very aggressions he is supposed to suppress.

Thirdly, if no other producer of security, offering equal guarantees, is willing to provide this commodity to them, on better terms.

These terms will be of various kinds.

To be able to guarantee consumers full security for their persons and their property, and, in the event of damage, to give them a compensation proportioned to the loss suffered, it will be necessary:

1° That the producer establishes certain penalties against offenders of persons and violators of property, and that the consumers agree to submit to these penalties, in case they themselves commit abuses against persons and property.

2° That he imposes on the consumers certain inconveniences, the object of which is to facilitate the discovery of the authors of offences.

3° That he regularly collects, in order to cover his production costs as well as the natural profit of his industry, a certain premium, variable according to the situation of the consumers, the particular occupations in which they are engaged, the extent, the value and the nature of their properties.

If these terms, which are necessary for the industry to operate, are suitable for the consumers, the deal will be done; if not, the consumers will either do without security, or go to another producer.

Now, if we consider the particular nature of the security industry, we will find that producers will be obliged to restrict their clientele to certain territorial districts. They would obviously not be doing themselves any favours if they were to maintain a police force in localities where they would have only a few customers. Their clientele will naturally cluster around the headquarters of their industry. They will not, however, be able to take advantage of this situation by dictating to the consumers. In the event of an abusive increase in the price of security, consumers will have the option of selecting a new local contractor or a contractor close to where they live.

From this faculty left to the consumer to buy security wherever he pleases, there arises a constant emulation between all producers, each striving, by the attraction of cheapness or of a more prompt, more complete, better justice, to augment his clientele or to maintain it [3].

On the contrary, if the consumer is not free to buy security wherever he likes, you will immediately see a wide-open field for arbitrariness and bad management. Justice becomes costly and slow, the police vexatious, individual liberty ceases to be respected, the price of security is abusively exaggerated, unequally levied, according to the strength and influence of this or that class of consumers, insurers engage in fierce struggles to wrest consumers from each other. In a word, all the abuses inherent in monopoly or communism are seen to emerge in the wake.

Under free competition, the war between the producers of security ceases to have any reason to exist. Why would they go to war? To win over consumers? But consumers would not let themselves be conquered. They would certainly be wary of having their persons and property insured by men who had unscrupulously attacked the persons and property of their competitors. If a bold victor wanted to impose the law on them, they would immediately call to their aid all the free consumers who were threatened, like themselves, by this aggression, and they would treat him as he deserved. Just as war is the natural consequence of monopoly, so peace is the natural consequence of freedom.

Under a regime of freedom, the natural organisation of the industry of security would not differ from that of other industries. In the small districts a simple entrepreneur could suffice. This entrepreneur would bequeath his industry to his son, or hand it over to another entrepreneur. In large districts, a company alone would have enough resources to properly carry out this important and difficult industry. Properly managed, this company could easily perpetuate itself, and security would perpetuate itself with it. In the industry of security, as well as in most other branches of production, the latter form of organisation would probably replace the former, in the end.

On the one side there would be a monarchy, on the other side a republic; but monarchy without monopoly, and republic without communism.

On both sides it would be authority accepted and respected in the name of utility, and not authority imposed by terror.

It will undoubtedly be disputed whether such a hypothetical situation could be realised. But, at the risk of being called utopian, we shall say that this is not disputable, and that a careful examination of the facts will increasingly solve the problem of government more and more in favour of liberty, just as it does all other economic problems. We are quite convinced, as far as we are concerned, that associations will one day be established to demand freedom of government, as associations have been established to demand freedom of trade.

And we do not hesitate to add that after this last progress has been made, all artificial obstacles to the free action of the natural laws which govern the economic world having disappeared, the situation of the various members of society will become the best possible.



Notes by the Author

[1] In his remarkable book De la liberté du travail (On the Freedom of Labor), Vol. III, p. 253. (Published by Guillaumin.)

[2] Du principe générateur des constitutions politiques. (On the Generating Principle of Political Constitutions) Preface.

[3] Adam Smith, whose remarkable spirit of observation extends to all subjects, remarks that the administration of justice gained much, in England, from the competition between the different courts of law:

“The fees of court seem originally to have been the principal support of the different courts of justice in England. Each court endeavoured to draw to itself as much business as it could, and was, upon that account, willing to take cognisance of many suits which were not originally intended to fall under its jurisdiction. The Court of King's Bench, instituted for the trial of criminal causes only, took cognisance of civil suits; the plaintiff pretending that the defendant, in not doing him justice, had been guilty of some trespass or misdemeanour. The Court of Exchequer, instituted for the levying of the king's revenue, and for enforcing the payment of such debts only as were due to the king, took cognisance of all other contract debts; the plaintiff alleging that he could not pay the king, because the defendant would not pay him. In consequence of such fictions it came, in many cases, to depend altogether upon the parties before what court they would choose to have their cause tried; and each court endeavoured, by superior dispatch and impartiality, to draw to itself as many causes as it could. The present admirable constitution of the courts of justice in England was, perhaps, originally in a great measure, formed by this emulation, which anciently took place between their respective judges; each judge endeavouring to give, in his own court, the speediest and most effectual remedy, which the law would admit, for every sort of injustice.” (The Wealth of Nations, Book 5, Chapter I, Part II : Of the Expence of Justice) 


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