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offers a problem which it is important and useful to examine with attention. “ Machines to shorten labour,” says Montesquieu, are not always useful. If a piece of workmanship be at a low price, which price suits alike the purchaser and the labourer who performed the work, machines that should simplify its manufacture, that is to say, that should diminish the number of labourers, would be prejudicial ; and were not water-mills established every where, I should not think theni as useful as they are supposed to be ; because they have set a great number of hands at rest, deprived many people of the use of the waters, and diminished the productiveness of many lands.” This opinion has been refuted in several equally convincing and triumphant ways.
We ought first to distinguish between machines that perform labours beyond the strength of man, which of course do not deprive him of any labour, and those that perform labours which man is capable of performing. *
With regard to the former, it has justly been observed, that they are but profitable, and never can be prejudicial, since they afford productions which exceed the strength and dexterity of man, and would not exist without their aid.
With regard to those machines which barely supplant the labour of man, it has also been very justly remarked, that they are not prejudicial to nations whose prosperity is upon the increase, because they
* Montesquieu, Esprit des Loix, book xxiii. chap. 15.
only supply the want of hands; but nations whose wealth is stationary or retrograding, as they have a sufficient or too great a number of hands, have no occasion for this latter kind of machines. * This restriction to the utility of machines does not appear to rest on any solid foundation; it even excites surprise when we come to consider, that all authors agree that machines cost less and produce more than man ; which circumstance of coorse affords a larger quantity of disposable produce. This increase of productions, which has not and cannot find any consumers but in the labourers whom the machines have thrown out of employ, nor any equivalent but in the produce of their new occupation, can neither lessen their wages nor reduce their number. A larger produce must not only maintain the same population and the same labour, but also increase both. It is true, that if machines, and large farms, which may be assimilated to machines, were suddenly introduced, and both at once in the same country, they would occasion a supplanting of labour which might be extremely prejudicial to the labouring classes. But such innovations are introduced slowly and partially. The husbandman, left unemployed by large farms, is employed in other occupations by the landowner, whose netproduce is increased; and the labourer, who through the erection of machines is deprived of his usual employment, likewise obtains his wages from new manufacturers, the establishment of which
* Discours Fondamental sur la Population ; par Herrenschwan (l.
every where follows the increase of productions and general wealth. Thus the husbandman and the labourer are ultimately no sufferers by the introduction of machines, whatever may be the state of the country, whether her prosperity be progressive, stationary, or retrograding. Nay, more, if any thing were capable of arresting the decline of a country, and restoring her to prosperity, the use of machines and the introduction of large farms would accomplish this object in the most efficacious and infallible way. Why is the prosperity of a country stationary or retrograding P Because her consumption is equal or superior to the produce of her labour. Machines and large farms, which would augment the produce of her labour and diminish its cost, might therefore re-establish the equilibrium, occasion a surplus of produce above consumption, and rapidly restore her former prosperity. In short, wherever an increase of produce is obtained at a smaller expence, there is an increase of wealth ; and an increase of wealth is always followed by an increase of population. This maxim appears absolute in political economy, if there be any absolute principle possible in that science. It has however been asserted, that wealth acquired by industry may be useless to the increase of the industrious population, and even augment to their prejudice the agricultural population, by which they are supplied with the raw produce of agriculture. “ When a country, which from the narrowness of “ her territory is obliged to economize the hands she
“ employs,” says the French translator of Adam Smith's work, “ has turned her efforts to the means “ which render labour more productive, and has so “ far succeeded that one day's labour proves the equi* valent of two or three days of another labour, this “ is accomplished merely by exchanging a manufac“ tured against a raw produce ; and as the latter can “ be increased only with the aid of a numerous popu“ lation, this exchange ultimately tends to multiply “men and food among those nations that give their “ raw produce in exchange for manufactured produc“tions, and must have a totally opposite effect in the “ manufacturing country which simply aims at ob“ taining the largest possible quantity of raw produce “ with the smallest possible number of hands.” This reasoning appears to rest upon a manifest failacy, the fatal consequences of which it is important to prevent, and against which it is proper to guard nations that might be tempted to suppose that agriculture is able to enrich them at the expence of manufacturing mations. An agricultural country increases her raw produce only as far as trading countries insure its sale. The increase of the wealth and population of agricultural nations depends therefore on the industry and population of the manufacturing ones. But in what proportions does the increase of wealth and population take place in both countries 2 There is no doubt remaining in this respect; and the translator of Adam Smith, whose opinion I am investigating, has himself fixed the proportions, when he said, that one day's labour in the manufacturing country is equivalent to two or three days labour in the agricultural country. If, in the exchange of the produce of their mutual labour, the productions of the agricultural country. are to those of the manufacturing country as one to three; it is obvious that, while the wealth and population of the agricultural country are increased in the proportion of one to three, the wealth and population of the manufacturing country augment in the proportion of three to one. But might it not be said at least, that the raw produce of the agricultural country is better calculated to increase population, than a manufactured produce By no means: for the raw produce does not remain with agricultural nations, but passes over to the manufacturing nations. This raw produce is food for the population ; whilst the manufactured produce serves at the utmost as rainment and household furniniture to the agricultural nations. In this exchange of food and garments, the population which gets food in a proportion triple of that which gets clothing, must necessarily increase in a triple proportion, because it is food and not clothing which augments population. This result ought to teach agricultural nations the necessity of turning their attention to manufactures and commerce, if they do not wish their labours to augment the wealth and power of manufacturing and trading nations; it ought to convince them of the superiority of commerce and manufactures over agriculture.
* Recherches sur la Nature et les Causes de la Richesse des Nations; par Adam Smith. Traduction nouvelle par Germain Garnier. Paris, 1802. Vol. i. Preface, pages 77, 78.