Economic Sophisms/172

<pagequality level="3" user="Zoeannl" />style="background: #ececec; text-align: left; padding-left: 0.5em; font-weight: bold;" class="table-rh"an institution for promoting the march of civiKzation, fraternity, and equality. What would you be at? It is the fashion to introduce, or affect to introduce, sentiment and sentimentalism everywhere, even into the toll-gatherer's booth.

The Customhouse, we must allow, has a very singular machinery for realizing philanthropical aspirations.

It includes an army of directors, sub-directors, inspectors, sub-inspectors, comptrollers, examiners, heads of departments, clerks, supernumeraries, aspirant-supernumeraries, not to speak of the officers of the active service; and the object of all this complicated machinery is to exercise over the industry of the people a negative action, which is summed up in the word obstruct.

Observe, I do not say that the object is to tax, but to obstruct. To prevent, not acts which are repugnant to good morals or public order, but transactions which are in themselves not only harmless, but fitted to maintain peace and union among nations.

And yet the human race is so flexible and elastic that it always surmounts these obstructions. And then we hear of the labour market being glutted.

If you hinder a people from obtaining its subsistence from abroad, it will produce it at home. The labour is greater and more painful, but subsistence must be had. If you hinder a man from traversing the valley, he must cross the hills. The road is longer and more difficult, but he must get to his journey's end.

This is lamentable, but we come now to what is ludicrous. When the law has thus created obstacles, and when, in order to overcome them, society has diverted a corresponding amount of labour from other employments, you are no longer permitted to demand a reform. If you point to the obstacle, you are told of the amount of labour to which it has given employment And if you rejoin that this labour is not created, but displaced, you are answered, in the words of the Esprit Public, "The impoverishment alone is certain and immediate; as to our enrichment, it is more than problematical."

This reminds me of a Chinese story, which I shall relate to you.

There were in China two large towns, called Tchin and Tchan.