Economic Sophisms/101

<pagequality level="3" user="Zoeannl" />style="background: #ececec; text-align: left; padding-left: 0.5em; font-weight: bold;" class="table-rh"to say that the Creator of man might have endowed him with reason, or with physical strength, with moral force, or with brute force; but that He mocked him by conferring on him, at the same time, faculties which are destructive of each other.

The difficulty is pressing and puzzling; but you contrive to find your way out of it by adopting the strange apophthegm:

In political economy, there are no absolute principles.

In plain language, this means:

"I know not whether it be true or false; I am ignorant of what constitutes general good or evil. I give myself no trouble about that. The immediate effect of each measure upon my own personal interest is the only law which I can consent to recognise."

There are no principles! You might as well say there are no facts; for principles are merely formulas which classify such facts as are well established.

Machinery, and the importation of foreign commodities, certainly produce effects. These effects may be good or bad; on that there may be difference of opinion. But whatever view we take of them, it is reduced to a formula, by one of these two principles: Machinery is a good; or, machinery is an evil: Importations of foreign produce are beneficial; or, such importations are hurtful. But to assert that there are no principles, certainly exhibits the lowest degree of abasement to which the human mind can descend; and I confess that I blush for my country when I hear such a monstrous heresy proclaimed in the French Chambers, and with their assent; that is to say, in the face and with the assent of the élite of our fellow-citizens; and this in order to justify their imposing laws upon us in total ignorance of the real state of the case.

But then I am told to destroy the sophism, by proving that machinery is not hurtful to human labour, nor the importation of foreign products to national labour.

A work like the present cannot well include very full or complete demonstrations. My design is rather to state difficulties than to resolve them; to excite reflection rather than to satisfy doubts. No conviction makes so lasting an impression on the mind as that which it works out for itself. But I shall endeavour nevertheless to put the reader on the right road.