Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

Others ascribed the origin of wealth to the lowering of the legal rate of interest.*

Deluded by a fascinating and captious theory, the French economists greatly extolled the Agricultural system.-^

Adam Smith gave the preference to u Labour kn"proved by subdivision, which fixes and realizes

itself in some particular object or vendible com"modity, which lasts for some time, at least, after "that labour is past"*

Lord Lauderdale, in the work which we have quoted before, and which is remarkable for the sa<*acity of its views, states that, " man owes his wealth

to the power of directing his labour to the increasing

of the quantity or the meliorating of the quality of "the productions of nature, and to the power of supC( planting and performing labour by capital."*

Tq Italy, Serra Breve Trattato delle -Cose che possono far abondareliRegnid'Oro; 1613. Gcnovesi, Lezioni di Econom. Civile; 1764. Muratori, Felicit. publ. cap. 16. sul principio. Corniani, Reflez. sul le Monete.

In France, the Cardinal de Richelieu, and Colbert, Ordinances et Reglemens pendant Jeur Administration.

* Thomas Culpeper's useful Remarks on the Mischief of an high National Interest; 1641. Sir Josiah Child's Brief Observations concerning Trade and Interest of Money; 1651. Samuel Lamb on Banks; 1657. William Paterson, author of the Project of the London Bank; 1694. Barnard's Discourses on the lowering of the Interest of Money; 1714,

+ Physiocratie.

% Adam Smiths Wealth of Nations, Eleventh Edition, 1805, vol. ii. b. ii. c. 3. p. 2. David Hume has probably suggested the idea of this theory to Adam Smith. He expressly says: >< Every thing in the world is purchased by labour." Hume's Essays, Edinb. 1S04, Svo. vol. i. Essay on Commerce, p. 277.

The same variety of opinions prevails respecting the action or influence of the causes of wealth, their immediate or distant effects, their apparent or actual results. Some systems agree on a few points, and are at variance upon others; and generally they disagree in so many respects^ that they cannot possibly be reconciled, reduced to common tenets, or condensed into a general theory.

Hence that variety of systems among authors, of methods among governments, of opinions among the learned; hence the discouragement of those who are desirous of studying the science, and the indifference of those whom a sense of duty should prompt to acquire the knowledge of it; hence also the little consideration which Political Economy enjoys in the world, and its total exclusion from the official routine of practical statesmen.

Some, in other respects well-informed men, doubt the existence of the science; others are even tempted to consider it as an occult one, the mysteries of which are revealed only to a few initiated individuals: thus ignorance, in this as in many other instances, begets alike incredulity and superstition.

When, in the course of private life, certain individuals get rich while others grow poor, the generality of mankind, ignorant whence this wealth or poverty arises, boldly ascribe it to good or bad fortune. By a singular conformity, when governments, notwithstanding the efforts and promises of ignorant and visionary projectors, find themselves reduced to distress, they are often inclined to attribute it to occult causes, the influence of which is to be remedied by specifics and secrets unknown to the learned. They eagerly search after, and even flatter themselves they have hit upon financial plans capable of relieving the distress of the state, without either impairing the fortune of individuals, or accelerating the decay of public wealth. As well might they seek for means to enable men to exist without food, to have their wants supplied without labour, and to grow rich by prodigality.

* An Inquiry into the Nature and Origin of Public Wealth, and into the Means and Causes of its Increase; by the Earl of Lauderdale. Edinb. 1804. p. 363.

And can this credulity be wondered at? Does not the sect of the Economists, who cannot be accused of being deficient in knowledge or candour, seriously assert that governments ought to leave industry to its natural course; and that they have done every thing, when in fact they have done nothing ?* A paradox, this, extremely convenient for ignorance, intrigue, and ambition, and particularly agreeable to those who are entrusted with the management of national affairs.

In a certain point of view, this paradox undoubtedly contains a very profound meaning, and conveys a lesson highly useful in many respects. Individuals generally display more sagacity in the management of their own concerns, than governments in the regulations^ statutes, privileges, prohibitions, premiums, and bounties, with which they think to provide for the greater prosperity of individuals and nations. Did governments suffer private individuals to act as they think proper, without attempting to regulate their affairs; their conduct certainly would be more conducive to wealth: in such instances, the maxim of the Economists is indeed an enlightened censure, and cannot be regarded as paradoxical.

* Physiocratic*

But it ought not to be supposed that a government intimately acquainted with the interests of a country, and attentive to follow the progress and direction of private industry, should be utterly unable to invigorate the impulse of this industry when it happens to be beneficial, to prevent its aberrations when they might prove hurtful, or to lead it into more enlarged, more extensive, and more profitable channels. Elizabeth in England, Richelieu, and above all (.olhertiw France, are for ever entitled to the gratitude of their country and the veneration of all enlightened agvs.^

It is admitted by the Economists themselves. " that cc a great empire ought not to quit.the plough for the "carrying trade; and that, at the example of a celeu brated minister of state, wealth ought not to be Cf derived from manual dexterity to the prejudice of "the primary source of wealth."* Would they then be sorry if governments should apply all the means in their power to favour agriculture in preference to industry and commerce, and to derive public wealth from an increased net produce?

* u The more simple ideas of order and equity am sufficient to u guide a legislator in every thing that regards the internal admi"nistration of justice: but the principles of commerce are much u more complicated, and require long experience and deep reilecu tion to be well understood in any state. The real consequence ^ of a law or practice is there often contrary to first appearances." Hume's History of England. London^ 1802. vol. iii. Henry VII. p. 397.

Adam Smith is not more consistent than the Economists. He laughs at a statesman who should attempt to direct the employment of'the capital of the nation -f~; and yet he points out the conduct government ought to pursue, to encourage manufactures necessary for the defence of a country, to facilitate the exportation of the manufatured produce, and to favour the importation of the raw produce to which the manufacturer superadds his labour.

Let us therefore conclude, that, though it be the duty of governments to give the utmost latitude to private industry, it is yet of serious importance to nations, that their statesmen be intimately acquainted

* Physiocrat ie.

■f " What is the species of domestic industry which his capital 6i can employ, and of which the produce is likely to be of the u greatest value, every individual, it is evident, can, in his local a situation, judge much better than any statesman or lawgiver "can do for him. The statesman who should attempt to direct a private people in what manner they ought to employ their capla tals, would not only load himself with a most unnecessary conu corn, but assume an authority which could neither be safely a trusted to any single person, nor to any council or senate what. u ever, and which would no-wherebe so dangerous as in the hands 4i of a man who had the folly and presumption to fancy himself "fit to exercise it" Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations. Eleventh Edit. London, 1805. vol. ii. B. iv. c. 2. p. 190,

« ForrigeFortsett »