Economic Sophisms/100

<pagequality level="3" user="Zoeannl" />style="background: #ececec; text-align: left; padding-left: 0.5em; font-weight: bold;" class="table-rh"Such a man is M. de Saint-Chamans. "One of the strongest arguments against free trade," he says, "is the too extensive employment of machinery, for many workmen are deprived of employment, either by foreign competition, which lowers the price of our manufactured goods, or by instruments which take the place of men in our workshops."[1]

M. de Saint-Chamans has seen clearly the analogy, or, we should rather say, the identity, which obtains between imports and machinery. For this reason, he proscribes both; and it is really agreeable to have to do with such intrepid reasoners, who, even when wrong, carry out their argument to its logical conclusion.

But here is the mess in which they land themselves.

If it be true, a priori, that the domain of invention and that of labour cannot be simultaneously extended but at each other's expense, it must be in those countries where machinery most abounds—in Lancashire, for example—that we should expect to find the fewest workmen. And if, on the other hand, we establish the fact that mechanical power and manual labour coexist, and to a greater extent, among rich nations than among savages, the conclusion is inevitable, that these two powers do not exclude each other.

I cannot convince myself how any thinking being can enjoy a moment's repose in presence of the following dilemma:

Either the inventions of man are not injurious to manual labour, as general facts attest, since there are more of both in England and France than among the Hurons and Cherokees, and that being so, I am on a wrong road, though I know neither where nor when I missed my way; at all events, I see I am wrong, and I should commit the crime of lese-humanity were I to introduce my error into the legislation of my country.

Or else, the discoveries of the human mind limit the amount of manual labour, as special facts appear to indicate; for I see every day some machine or other superseding twenty or a hundred workmen; and then I am forced to acknowledge a flagrant, eternal, and incurable antithesis between the intellectual and physical powers of man—between his progress and

his present wellbeing; and in these circumstances I am forced

  1. Du Système d'Impôts, p. 438.