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it is therefore the interest and duty of governments not to suffer the public expenditure to exceed that portion of general produce which is over and above individual and private consumption. On their moderation depends the wealth of modern nations. Governments alone can paralyse it, or give it an unlimited impulse. Let them beware of checking the private and general efforts of labour, the universal tendency of all individuals to produce, to preserve, and to amass ; and wealth will be unbounded, and their power will increase abroad and at home in the proportion of national wealth. A nation cannot be styled rich and flourishing, unless its private and public expences be inferior to the produce of general labour, or unless it have every year a surplus left ; and its wealth is so much the larger, as this surplus is more considerable. Whenever the private and public consumption of a nation is inferior to the annual produce of general labour, the surplus is employed by every class of labourers in extending their labour, and in increasing and improving its produce. The farmer devotes his surplus to augment his stock of cattle, to bestow more manure and more iabour upon his lands, to inclose and to fence his fields, to keep in good repairs the buildings destined to store his produce, and to improve the engines, tools, and implements of husbandry. The manufacturer gives a greater perfection to his machines, bestows more care upon the selection of raw materials, and, by giving higher wages to his
labourers, he makes them work more, and obtains a larger and a better produce. The merchant enlarges his speculations, extends
All these ameliorations can only be effected by additional labour. But this surplus of simultaneous labour must be acquired in the first instance through the existing labourers, and it cannot be obtained but by offering them higher wages. The first effect of the annual surplus of income above consumption, or of the growing wealth of a country, is therefore a rise in the wages of labour.
This rise in the wages of labour would go higher every year with the annual surplus, and would be unbounded, if the number of labourers was not increased. But it is in the mature of things, that as soon as a labourer finds his situation rendered comfortable by high wages, he seeks to share his comforts with a wife, and their union is blessed with children in proportion to their comforts. Thus the disproportion of the number of labourers to the demand occasions high wages, and these high wages, in their turn, restore the proportion between the labourers and labour; and at the end of a certain time, increasing wealth has no other effect than to increase population.
If such be the inevitable effect of an annual surplus left to itself, if it have the double property of raising the wages of labour and increasing the population, two inexhaustible sources of wealth and power; it is much to be deplored, that such salutary effects are so frequently disturbed, obstructed, or impeded, by numberless political, economical, and administrative regulations. There are then fixed and positive laws which determine the true proportion of consumption to income. Whenever private and public consumption exceeds the national income or the total produce of general labour, capitals are exhausted, industry pines, produce is diminished, the wages of labour sink, the population decays ; nations are impoverished, and frequently leave mo vestige of their existence but in the pages of history and in the monuments of their ruin. When private and public consumption is equal to the produce of general labour, individuals possibly may not be sufferers, they may enjoy a happy and tranquil existence, and population and wealth may even attain some splendour.” But this prosperity is precarious, dependent on every passing event; the least shock is sufficient to precipitate such a colossus from its slender foundation, to destroy the golden
* The author even says : “ Et il ne seroit pas €tonnant ques I
population et la richesses'élevassent à une très-grande splendeur.” But if a nation consume exactly as much as it receives, it grows neither richer nor poorer: and it is difficult to conceive how population and wealth can attain any splendour, when they are running the most imminent risk of retrograding. Wealth cannot be increased without receiving an addition, and it cannot rise to splendour without being increased.—See Boileau’s Introduction to the Study of Political Economy, page 350,—T.
statue resting on feet of clay, to hurl a flourishing people from the pinnacle of grandeur, and to bend their necks under the yoke of a conqueror. Individuals and nations enjoy a solid and permanent prosperity only when private and public consumption does not absorb the general income ; when the surplus produce, that is annually accumulated, is not diverted from its destination by the political constitution of the country, or the economical and administrative measures of government, nor concentrated in some favoured classes, or among a few privileged men; when, being left to the individual by whom it has been saved, it augments the sum of labour, raises the wages of labourers, increases population, developes industry, multiplies wealth, and places public power on the immoveable basis of population and wealth. Adam Smith has inquired whether there be one kind of consumption more proper, more profitable, and more favourable to the wealth and power of nations; and he demonstratively shews, that property, expended in durable commodities, or in accumulating goods that have a lasting value, is more beneficial to private economy, and of course to the increase of public capital, than that which is expended in commodities as frivolous as trimkets and all the trifling ornaments of our garments and furniture. It ought, however, to be remembered, that though it may be advantageous to wealth that the expences of individuals and nations should preferably be directed to solid and lasting commodities, it may yet not be indifferent to the individual character and manners of
nations, and perhaps to the general prosperity of the world, that the tastes of nations be various, that their enjoyments be multiplied, and that they be anxious to partake of the treasures of all soils, and of the produce of all labour, industry, and commerce. Though riches are means of prosperity and power, they yet are not the sole object and end of man in his individual and social capacity; and I think it is enough for political economy to point out the road to wealth ; the care of applying wealth to the uses most conducive to the happiness of individuals and nations must be left to morals and politics.