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Monday, November 25, 2013

The House

Again, Thomas had a house. In building it, he had extorted nothing from any one whatever. He obtained it by his own personal labor, or, which is the same thing, by the labor of others justly rewarded. His first care was to make a bargain with a handyman, in virtue of which, on condition of the payment of a hundred dollars a year, the latter engaged to keep the house in constant good repair. Thomas was already congratulating himself on the happy days he hoped to spend in this pleasant home, which our laws declared to be his own exclusive property. But Richard wished to use it also as his residence.
“How can you think of such a thing?” said Thomas to Richard. “It is I who have built it; it has cost me ten years of painful labor, and now you would come in and take it for your enjoyment?” They agreed to refer the matter to judges. They chose no profound economists—there were none such in the country. But they found some just and sensible men; it all comes to the same thing; political economy, justice, good sense, are all the same thing. And here is the decision made by the judges: If Richard wishes to occupy Thomas’s house for a year, he is bound to submit to three conditions. The first is to quit at the end of the year, and to restore the house in good repair, saving the inevitable decay resulting from mere duration. The second, to refund to Thomas the one hundred dollars Thomas pays annually to the handyman to repair the injuries of time; for these injuries taking place while the house is in the service of Richard, it is perfectly just that he should bear the expense. The third, that he should render to Thomas a service equivalent to that which he receives. And as to what shall constitute this equivalence of services, this must be left for Thomas and Richard to mutually agree upon.

Bastiat Collection Pocket Edition

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