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POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES DEDUCIBLE FROM THE PRINCIPLES MAINTAINED IN THIS TREATISE,
Consequences to be deduced from the first Principle: viz. “That Population has a natural Tendency to keep within the Powers of the Soil to afford it Subsistence, in every Gradation through which Society passes.”
THE first obvious application of this principle, as established in the preceding book, to the practical purposes of political economy, may be thus stated. An enlightened government, and an industrious people, who will discharge their duties with an ordinary degree of practical wisdom and virtue, so far from endeavouring to add force to the spontaneous abatement in the progress of population, accompanying the civil and moral phenomena displayed in the foregoing view of society, may safely venture upon the removal of every check to population, which really comes under that title by being of a nature to be removed by human power: they will, under ordinary circumstances, leave the people to the natural rate of increase inherent in the state of society which may then be subsisting. In pursuing this course of conduct, they will not interfere with that necessity for industry and exertion, which Omniscience seems to have contemplated in calculating the force of the principle of population, and on which the happiness and virtue of all societies depend. But they will certainly feel it incumbent upon them to use every exertion for giving free scope to human industry, and indeed will consider that circumstance as a most important object of all rational politics. A full population, increasing as fast as the state of society in which it happens to be will permit, necessarily renders the people industrious; because in such a condition universal industry is absolutely essential to the sustentation and happiness of the people, and to the security of the government. In ancient China, which was eminently populous, idleness was a penal offence, and we are told by Strabo, lib. xv. that it was capital to lame an artificer in the hand, or to blind him of an eye, though not so with respect to other persons. . These laws must have originated in the necessity of an universal industry in that country. As in such a situation it necessarily becomes expedient to the safety of the government, that every man should have it in his power to work without being deprived of the fruits of his labours, a free form and practice of government maturally ensue. The regular administration of justice, and the absolute necessity there is for encouraging industry by rendering property secure, are all so many bars to despotism. In truth, the attention which a full population, increasing as I have just stated, renders it necessary that a government should pay to the removal of all impediments to the people's industry, (particularly when employed upon the land,) and consequently to the welfare of the lower orders, is above all price. It was formerly the custom in India, at the beginning of a new year, for the kings and philosophers of the country to meet together and consult about the people's welfare; and those who had made any pertinent remarks, either relative to the fruits of the earth, or to animals, were exempted from tribute. What a magnificent board of agriculture and internal improvement To bring one more instance of the effect of a full population on the people's industry and happiness, let us refer to the account given by a Syracusan classical writer of Egypt, the most industrious of the old states, and the mother of the arts and industry of Europe. He calls it “* Civitas opulenta, dives, foecunda, in quá memo vivat otiosus. Alii vitrum conflant, ab aliis charta conficitur, alii lyniphiones sunt; omnes certè cujuscunque artis et videntur et habentur. Podagrosi quod agant habent; habent caeci f quod faciant; ne chiragrici quidem apud eosotiosi vivunt.” But besides these obvious political duties, there are other considerations arising out of the principle we are now discussing, when coupled with the progress of society towards its higher stages, which demand the best attention of statesmen. Their duty consists not only in a careful removal of all impediments to the free progress of industry, and to the spontaneous distribution of the people, but also in adopting such measures, not inconsistent with these objects, as the interests of their country, involved in its geographical position, or its political relations, or its relativecondition
* Vopisci Saturninus.
+ See an account of the school for the indigent blind in St. George's Fields, instituted 1799, printed by the Philanthropic Society. The ingenious methods there detailed, of giving profitable employment to the blind, exhibit a delightful combination of ingenuity and benevolence.
as to other countries, may seem to require. A nation may find itself, for example, under such circumstances with respect to the community of nations of which it forms a part, that the very prolongation of its existence may depend upon a career of prosperity more rapid than its bare natural resources would enable it to pursue. In such a case, without doubt, some hazard of ultimate failure may be incurred for the preservation of immediate welfare, and measures even attended with risk may be justifiably resorted to. But it is superfluous to state, that the least possible . risk should be incurred, that all forcing measures should be used with the utmost caution, and that the plant should be restored to its natural climate, as soon as it can bear exposure to the surrounding atmosphere. If, for example, upon a deliberate view of the wants, resources, and political relations of a country, a full supply of disposeable hands be thought necessary for the security of the state, or for its advancement in the progress of prosperity; it should seem, if there be any truth in the principle treated in this chapter, that, relying on the natural tendency of population to keep within the powers of the soil to afford it subsistence, artificial encouragement may occasionally be afforded to its increase without any material danger. To descend a little further into particulars; let us suppose a country of a cool climate, with a free constitution, and in an advanced state of society, seated in the middle of the ocean, and small in respect to territory compared with the rival nations who are contesting with it the palm of superiority, and whose interests it has been found impossible, from all past experience, permanently to reconcile with its own :
now such a country would maturally wish to augment its resources' as much as possible, in order to place itself more upon a level with its rivals. Again, should the supposed country not be actually surrounded by more powerful rivals, but should perceive, from its relative geographical position, that by increasing its internal resources it might raise itself from a bare independence to a superiority over its neighbours, and place itself out of the reach of any eventual combination against it; it would clearly be justified in seeking this object, provided it can be rendered consistent with the virtue and happiness of its people. This is more particularly evident, when we consider that the progressive state is the most healthy in which a country can be placed; and experience is far from informing us that any extraordinary redundancy of this species of healthiness will ever expose the patient to the danger of dying of a plethora, provided every part of the system receives its due portion of nourishment. Once more—should the statesmen of the supposed country think with Sir James Steuart, that “it is not in the most fruitful countries of the world, nor in those which are best calculated for nourishing great multitudes, that we find most inhabitants: it is in climates less favoured by nature, and where the soil produces to those only who labour, and in proportion to the industry of every one, where we may expect to find great multitudes; and even these multitudes will be found greater or less in proportion as the turn of the inhabitants is directed to ingenuity and industry—” Should they further agree with the same writer, in thinking that “the principal object of political economy is to provide every thing necessary for