duce. For an opposite reason, the foreign produce is always bought at a low price, since it is its cheapness that induces it to be imported. From this continual vibration of the balance of foreign trade, private individuals must of course derive great opportunities of making their fortune, and it becomes an inexhaustible source of wealth for the state.

But perhaps I shall be asked, how it happens that the foreign trade sells dear and purchases cheap without any loss accruing to either country. This phenomenon is explained by the nature of things, by the greater or smaller fertility of different climates, by a more or less advanced state of industry, arts, and knowledge, and by the predominant or inferior wisdom of laws and governments, in short, by the concurrence of all the causes which accelerate or retard the progress of civilization in any country. The produce exported from a country, because it is cheap in that country, owes that advantage merely to the circumnstance that the climate is more favourable to its production, that industry has made a greater progress, that capitals are cheaper, that the laws are better adapted to the faculties of labour, or that government has adopted better measures for the circulation of its produce abroad and at home. It is to all or to some of these advantages that any country is indebted for the superiority of its produce over that of other countries, and it is to the attention of commerce to purchase only the favoured produce of a country, that all countries are indebted for the advantage of selling dear and purchasing cheap, without any loss accruing to any country. All, on the contrary, are gainers of the

difference between high and low prices, or rather all share in the favours which nature has showered upon various climates, and in the advantages which industry has procured to certain countries; and it is from the very inequality of this share, that all countries derive the most powerful means of wealth and opulence. The calculations of Adam Smith to give the preference to the home before the foreign trade, though ever so ingenious, cannot overturn a theory founded on the nature of things, on the experience of ages, and on the general opinion of all nations and all governments.

But how and by what method ought the foreign trade of consumption to be conducted ? by privileged companies, by a colonial monopoly, or by commercial treaties stipulating exclusion, or more or less favour? All these methods, which time and custom have recommended, are not more commendable for it; and it will constantly be true, that the trade which is not carried on upon principles of liberty and equality is the least profitable, and that a nation loses, in the branches which it is forced to abandon, whatever is gained in those that are preferably or exclusively cultivated. The balance of profits is always tending to an equilibrium, or at least it vibrates only in favour of the best and cheapest produce. What pains mankind might have spared themselves, had they known that the freest trade is always the most useful, and that its profits are certain and permanent only as far as they are not a loss to any one! Such is ultimately the true object of the commercial system. After the produce of the annual labour of

every country has been reduced to its true value by its interchange with the produce of all countries, it has rio longer any influence upon wealth but with regard to its distribution and consumption.

The national produce is distributed to the landowners in the shape of rents, to the capitalists as profits of stock, and to all those who participate directly or indirectly in labour in the shape of wages.

This distribution is more or less favourable to the progress of public and private wealth, according as stipulations in all private contracts are more or less free, and more or less faithfully performed. All mea. sures that alter the direction of this distribution, that infringe upon its natural proportions, that, either directly or indirectly, raise or lower the rent of land, the profits of stock, and the wages of labour, oppose more or less obstacles to wealth, and may even prove absolutely fatal to its existence.

Independently of the distribution of the produce of labour to the land owners, the capitalists, and the labourers, a certain portion must be taken from this produce for government and the servants of the state ; which portion also has a great influence upon wealth. I have developed its principles, its effects, and its results, in my work on the Public Revenue *.

The consumption of the produce allotted to each individual by the rents of land, the profits of stock, and the wages of labour, is subject to two laws, which

* Should the present work on the various systems of political economy be favourably received in its English dress, no exertion shall be spared to prosure the Essay on the Public Revenue which is here alluded to, and to give a faithful translation of it.T.


are still controverted, but the wisdom and utility of which are obvious.

. 1. The consumption of the annual produce must be inferior to the total quantity of that produce. Economy ought to save part of it for the support and increase of capital stock, for unforeseen wants, for a progressive population. This saving acts as a safeguard against the blasts of fortune, and is a certain pledge of grandeur and prosperity. .

To suppose, with some authors, that consumption is the measure of production, is a fallacy. Undoubtedly, whatever is not consumed, is not re-produced: but all that is consumed, is not always re-produced. If to produce, it were enough to consume, wealth would be the lot of all men and of all nations for all have the power, and, most assuredly, the will to consume: but as no one can consume any commodity without giving an equivalent for it to the producer, it follows evidently that consumption is re-produced only up to the equivalent which it leaves behind; it therefore is not the necessary and absolute law of production, it is only its uncertain and indeterminate cause, against which there is no possibility of guarding but by limiting and restricting it below production.

This restriction is not so difficult as is commonly supposed; it takes place of itself, and by the sole force of things. Hence luxury, that subject of so many moral, political, and economical contentions, has so little importance in the economical system of modern nations.

In this system, the laborious classes cannot main

[ocr errors]

tain themselves without re producing the equivalent of their consumption; they consequently cannot addict themselves to luxury without endangering their existence; and the magnitude of the danger prevents their exposing themselves to it.

The classes that live upon the rents of land and profits of stock cannot easily be ruined by luxury ; its greatest excesses attack only a few private fortunes, and gives little concern to national wealth ; luxury may even, in some degree, be favourable to national wealth, because it enco!ırages the labouring classes, by increasing their means of labour, economy, and fortune; by admitting them to share in the profits of stock and rents of land, and by affording them an opportunity to rise into the rich and idle classes. This mixture of classes is perhaps not advantageous to certain political systems.

Aristocratical states and even some monarchical governments may feel its dangerous effects, and be shaken by it: of this, modern history affords more than one instance; but wealth is no sufferer by it, on the contrary, it may even derive great advantages from such a mixture. It would be interesting to investigate, whether aristocratical and certain monarchical states can do without wealth, resist its influence, or turn it to their safety : but it would require a volume to do justice to the inquiry ; and I have but a few lines to add to my observations on the theory of wealth,

But although the consumption of the produce allotted to private individuals is of little consequence to wealth, the case is not the same with regard to that portion of produce which constitutes the public revenue.



« ForrigeFortsett »