… is from the new David Hart translation – still only on-line, but forthcoming in print – of Frédéric Bastiat ’s 1850 Economic Harmonies ; specifically, it’s from Chapter XXII, titled “The Driving Force of Society” (references removed; parenthetical remarks original to Hart):
This being so, how do these leaders of (different) schools (of thought) band together under the common denomination of “socialists,” and what is the link that unites them against natural or Providential society? It cannot be other than this: They do not want a natural form of society. What they want is an artificial form of society that emerges fully formed from the brain of the inventor. It is true that each of them wants to be the Jupiter of this Minerva, that each nurtures his own form of artifice and dreams of his own form of social order. But there is one thing that they have in common: they do not acknowledge that the human race possesses either a driving force that impels it toward good nor a curative force that delivers it from evil. They quarrel over who will knead the human clay, but agree that it is a clay that requires kneading. In their eyes, the human race is not a living and harmonious being; it is an inert material waiting for them to give it feeling and life. It is not a subject for study but a material on which to experiment.