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with a science that teaches the means of deriving the greatest benefits from industry and capital, and of directing both into the most profitable channels. It is only when a government is deficient in knowledge that its absolute inactivity is desirable. The salutary influence of political economy is not confined to governments; it is still more sensibly felt in legislation. Its principles, tenets, and theory, are closely allied and identified with the principles, tenets, and theory of legislation; they act upon each other with an incalculable and assuredly unexpected force. In every system of political economy, wealth is the work of men. It owes its existence to their passions, and its preservation to their moral dispositions. Hence wealth is necessarily modified by their political existence, just as their political existence is necessarily modified by the system that regulates wealth. A political system which reduces the largest portion of the people to servitude, must have upon wealth an effect very different from one that insures the liberty of all the individual members of a nation, and admits them all to share in the benefits of the social compact, in proportion to their knowledge, talents, industry, and activity. But even though the political system does not infringe upon the liberty of the subject; if the law does not cause all kinds of property to be respected; if it restrains the disposal and circulation of any property whatever; if wealth is suffered to flow exclusively into the lap of certain classes or individuals, to the prejudice of all the other classes or individuals of the community, it is again evident that the law in this
case must have upon wealth an influence different from that which it exercises when it watches alike over the safety of persons and the security of property ; when it protects every kind of labour and industry; and when it leaves individuals at liberty to contract for and dispose of whatever is their own. How greatly do they err, who suppose political economy a stranger to politics, legislation, and government, and judge it possible to have good laws with a bad system of political economy, or a good system of political economy together with bad laws Wealth depends as much on politics, legislation, and government, as on political economy: these sciences are connected by indissoluble chains; they support or oppose, and ultimately uphold or destroy each other. Inattention to combine the elements of those different sciences in the constitution, laws and government of a country, gives birth to that clashing of public and private interests, that absence of character and phisiognomy in modern nations, those false measures and oscillations of governments, and that want of public spirit; the necessary results of the conformity of individual passions with public ambition. This opposition of views and interests, of theory and practice, of principles and conduct, is sure to disappear in proportion as political economy is improved ; as its study is rendered less difficult and more general ; as the ways of acquiring wealth are better known; and as the necessity of combining the political, civil and administrative systems with the system of political economy, is more sensibly felt.
Durst I even venture freely to deliver my sentiments, I would assert that the progress of national prosperity, the consolidation of public order, and a higher degree of civilization, are closely connected with the study of political economy. Methods to acquire riches are necessarily methods of wisdom and good conduct. If dissolute individuals rarely grow rich, the mal-administration of governments must necessarily impoverish the people. Were the consequences of their faults as evident as those of individual errors; could the effects of public mal-administration be as accurately ascertained as those of private misconduct ; there is every reason to suppose that public calamities would be more unfrequent and less disastrous. The depositaries of the fortune of nations would no longer sacrifice it to the delusions of vanity, to the deceitful promises of ambition, to the captivating splendour of a frivolous and transitory grandeur : or if they should happen to be misled by the violence of passion, their errors would be of short duration. Like Louis XII. and Francis I. of France, who, by the parsimony of the latter part of their reign, atoned for the prodigality and profusion of their younger years ; princes, ever so little ambitious of true glory and desirous of the love of their people, would stop at a considerable distance from the precipice which threatens to engulph them together with public wealth. Under the impression that I may perhaps accelerate that fortunate period by exhibiting, comparing, and contrasting the various systems of which the science of political economy is at present composed; I shall discuss their respective advantages and inconveniencies, and adopt that theory which, in a moral, political, civil, and economical respect, appears entitled to the preference. The task, I know, is not easy, and little flattering to self-love. The merit of originality will rarely be mine. It would indeed be difficult to say any thing on this subject which has not been said already : but my satisfaction will be great, if I should remove the innumerable difficulties which I encountered when inclination led me to a science to which my previous studies and ordinary occupations had kept me a stranger. Above all, I shall deem myself happy if I have avoided the inconvenience into which all the writers on this subject appear to have fallen. Their plans are generally defective. None has chosen one in which he could treat of every branch of the science in its natural order. None has used the analytical method which connects the different parts of a science, and combines them into a whole. I hope I shall at least approximate that desired perfection, by investigating successively, in as many separate books, the various systems coneerming, I. The sources of wealth, and II. Their divers ramifications, such as labour, capitals, the circulation of commodities or commerce, and the revenue or consumption ; and particularly by stating in distinct chapters the various theories or opinions, and the controversies to which they have given birth, in every branch of the science. This division appears to embrace the science in its general bearings, in its principal parts, and in its most minute details. It commands attention without fatiguing the mind ; allows every separate portion to be examined without losing sight of the whole; and forms a picture which a person of the least discernment may readily contemplate in its full extent without being bewildered by the multitude of the details. But is wealth of sufficient importance, utility, or benefit, to individuals, or nations, to become the object of a science, to engage the attention of enlightened minds, and to require particular rules of conduct for public and private management 2 Is not that rather true, which Plato said, that “ gold and virtue are two “ opposite weights in a balance, one of which cannot rise unless the other sinks #2 * Does not wealth deserve the stigma which so many moralists, politicians, and religious sectaries, have affixed to it? And would
it not be better to teach men the precious advantage of an honourable mediocrity, than to entice them to the fatal and deplorable road to riches 2 Though sufficiently resolved by both the eagerness with which all nations press forward on the road to wealth, and the important part which wealth performs in all public and private transactions, this superannuated problem appears yet entitled to a serious inquiry. I have discussed it in the Introduction to my work. A science ought indeed to be proved to be useful, before it is taught; and it is only because the utility of political economy seemed evident to me, both in a moral and political point of view, that I have investigated whatever I thought worthy to be considered as pertaining to the science, and calculated to simplify its study, to accelerate its improvement, and to insure its success.
* Travels of Anacharsis. I2ngl. transl. ol. iv, c. 55. p. 363.