Economic Sophisms/176

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This is the greatest and most common fallacy in reasoning. Real sufferings, for example, have manifested themselves in England.<ref>This was written in January 1848.—Translator. These sufferings come in the train of two other phenomena:

1st, The reformed tariff;

2d, Two bad harvests in succession.

To which of these two last circumstances are we to attribute the first?

The protectionists exclaim:

It is this accursed free-trade which does all the harm. It promised us wonderful things; we accepted it; and here are our manufactures at a standstill, and the people suffering: Cum hoc, ergo propter hoc.

Free-trade distributes in the most uniform and equitable manner the fruits which Providence accords to human labour. If we are deprived of part of these fruits by natural causes, such as a succession of bad seasons, free-trade does not fail to distribute in the same manner what remains. Men are, no doubt, not so well provided with what they want; but are we to impute this to free-trade, or to the bad harvests?

Liberty acts on the same principle as insurances. When an accident, like a fire, happens, insurance spreads over a great number of men, and a great number of years, losses which, in the absence of insurance, would have fallen all at once upon one individual. But will any one undertake to affirm that fire has become a greater evil since the introduction of insurance?

In 1842, 1843, and 1844, the reduction of taxes began in England. At the same time the harvests were very abundant; and we are led to conclude that these two circumstances concurred in producing the unparalleled prosperity which England enjoyed during that period.

In 1845, the harvest was bad; and in 1846, worse still. Provisions rose in price; and the people were forced to expend their resources on first necessaries, and to limit their consumption of other commodities. Clothing was less in demand, manufactories had less work, and wages tended to fall.

Fortunately, in that same year, the barriers of restriction were still more effectually removed, and an enormous quantity of provisions reached the English market. Had this not been so, it is nearly certain that a formidable revolution would have taken place.