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A much more serious difficulty, and the solution of which is much more important to the progress of political economy, is to know which kind of labour is the most productive. All labours are undoubtedly productive, but they are not all productive in the same degree. It is therefore useful to determine which is the most productive.
There is no doubt that the most productive labour is always that labour, the produce of which is most abundant, cheapest, and most easily and most generally sold. Is there any produce eminently possessed of that quality, and can it be had any where at pleasure? I think not. Every country has its peculiar advantages, which other countries may envy, but of which it cannot be dispossessed. Were nations reasonable and alive to their true interests, they would all direct their labour exclusively to the produce which they can obtain in greatest plenty, at the lowest price, and which is sure to find a ready sale every where, because all other countries are deprived of it, or cannot raise it but at a greater expence and of an inferior quality. Were the general labour to follow this direction, wealth would rapidly attain the greatest possible expansion; all nations would share in it in proportion to their natural or acquired advantages, and none would have any reason to complain of its share when conformable to the nature of things and founded upon the eternal laws of necessity. .
But nations are very far from giving to their labours a direction which would be useful and profitable to all. Strongly attached to the system of monopolies, of reciprocal exclusions, high duties, and privileges, they impede the circulation of the produce of foreign labour, even when it is most advantageous, they condemn themselves to consume none but the produce of national labour, though the most expensive, the least favoured by nature, or least improved by industry; and they deny themselves the incalculable advantages which each would find in the ex. change of its produce for the universality of the produce of othernations. But even when nations persist in this wrong path into which they have been betrayed by error, they ought to prefer the labours of manufactures and commerce to those of agriculture; because manufactures and commerce are less exposed to chance and more susceptible of improvement; by varying and multiplying enjoyments, they offer a gradual encouragement to agriculture, and have a salutary influence upon general labour. In investigating the causes of the wealth of nations, men have been more anxious to determine the proper and particular effect of each labour taken separately, than to discover its co-operation with general labour. Calculations extremely ingenious have beeu resorted to for the purpose of ascertaining the quantity of the produce of each separate labour, as if it did determine the sum of wealth ; and the circumstance has been overlooked, that it influences wealth only up to its value, which is determined by the competition of all other productions, by the want which the commodity supplies, and demand there is for it. No attention has been paid to the true promoter of all labours, 'to the enjoyments which all men desire, and to the influence which these enjoyments have upou labour in general : on the contrary, amuse
ments, to which we are indebted for those enjoyments, have been stigmatized as unproductive. Men have flattered themselves with arriving at wealth by privations sooner than by enjoyments; and the necessaries of life have been supposed a safer guide than superfluities. To commit a greater mistake is impossible, and how the genius that has carried the torch of light into the dark recesses of political economy could be betrayed into this mistake, is inconceivable: but there are truths which are not perceived before all errors are dissipated, and which derive the brilliancy of their evidence from the truths by which they are preceded and surrounded. Had it not been for the discoveries derived from particular inquiries into the labours of agriculture, manufactures, and commerce, and into useful labours and those that are not so, we should feel little disposed to believe in their reciprocal influence upon general labour, and we should reject the conséquence were not its premises demonstrated, Let us, therefore, beware of arraigning the founders of the science for not having reached the goal; let us not forget, that it was they who pointed it out to us, and that it is only through their assistance that we attain it; and whilst we reap the fruits of their efforts, let
them that tribute of admiration and gratitude to which they are intitled.
Though all private labours are contributing to production and wealth, they are yet subject to the influence of several causes which accelerate or retard their progress, and favour or endanger their success.
In agricultural labours, concentration of labour, or large farms, increase the power of the farmer, econo
mize the expences of cultivation, and multiply its produce; in manufactures, on the contrary, the division of labour abridges, facilitates, and improves labour. But in all kinds of labour, the slavery or bondage of the labourers, apprenticeships, and corporations, which restrain the choice of labour, and the keeping of wages below the natural rate, discourage the labourer, cause labour to languish, and oppose an insurmountable obstacle to the developement of its faculties, to its prosperity and power; in short, it is on the liberty of the labourer, on the freedom of selecting his labour, and on the wages of labour being fixed by competition alone, that the progress and suscess of general labour are depending.
When labour has produced the elements of wealth, economy superintends their consumption, saves the surplus of the non-consumed produce, accumulates it, forms it into capital stock, and seeks the most advantageous employment for this capital. It devotes one part to procure the raw materials of all labours and the advances necessary to the labourer, before the produce of their labour is put up to sale. The funds applied for these purposes form the circulating capital. Another part is employed in the amelioration and enlargement of the existing labours, and in new undertakings, and the funds thus directed to the increase of labour form the fixed capital. A third and last part is reserved for extraordinary consumptions, occasioned by the unforeseen necessities of private individuals and governments, and these funds form the reserved capital stock which is absorbed by private or public loans; so that all the produce which
economy saves from ordinary consumption, returns into circulation by extraordinary consumption, which restores the equilibrium between consumption and production.
Some philosophical inquirers are afraid of the share which economy necessarily has in the formation of wealth. The term economy, which the vulgar confound with avarice, and constantly connect with notions of privation, makes them suppose that wealth is obtained only by privations; and hence they disdain riches as too painful and difficult to acquire: but their error arises from the wrong idea they attach to the word economy.
In its proper signification, it merely means order, moderation, and the proper direction of necessary, useful, and even agreeable expences; a vigilant severity against profusion and prodigality, and a just proportion between the ordinary expenditure and the ordinary income. The difference between avarice and economy is striking: the miser, like the economist, saves the surplus of his produce above his consumption : but the miser converts that produce into precious metals, which he buries under ground, and which from that instant, become useless to him and to all others; the economist, on the contrary, employs that surplus in more extended labour, the produce of which he shares with the labourers.
The economist is, therefore, as useful to his fellowcreatures as the miser is useless and detrimental to them; and wealth is as much indebted to the wise moderation of the former, as it suffers by the mise