Economic Sophisms/178

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This little book of Sophisms is found to be too theoretical, scientific, and metaphysical. Be it so. Let us try the effect of a more trivial and hackneyed, or, if you will, a ruder style. Convinced that the public is duped in this matter of protection, I have endeavoured to prove it. But if outcry is preferred to argument, let us vociferate,

" King Midas has a snout, and asses' ears."[1]

A burst of plain speaking has more effect frequently than the most polished circumlocution. You remember Oronte, and the difficulty which the Misanthrope had in convincing him of his folly.[2]

ALCESTE. On s'expose à jouer un mauvais personnage.
ORONTE. Est-ce que vous voulez me declarer par là
Que j'ai tort de vouloir.…
ALCESTE. Je ne dis pas cela.
Mais …
ORONTE. Est-ce que j'écris mal?
ALCESTE. Je ne dis pas cela.
Mais enfin …
ORONTE. Mais ne puis-je savoir ce que dans mon sonnet? …
ALCESTE. Franchement, il est bon à mettre au Cabinet.

To speak plainly, 'Good Public! you are robbed. This is speaking bluntly, but the thing is very evident. C'est cru, mais c'est clair.

The words theft, to steal, robbery, may appear ugly words to many people. I ask such people, as Harpagon asks Elise,[3] "Is it the word or the thing which frightens you?"

"Whoever has possessed himself fraudulently of a thing which does not belong to him is guilty of theft." (C. Pen., art 379.)

To steal: To take by stealth or by force. (Dictionnaire de l'Academie.)

Thief: He who exacts more than is due to him. (Ib.)

Now, does the monopolist, who, by a law of his own making, obliges me to pay him 20 francs for what I could get elsewhere for 15, not take from me fraudulently 6 francs which belonged to me?

Does he not take them by stealth or by force?

Does he not exact more than is due to him?

He takes, purloins, exacts, it may be said; but not by stealth or by force, which are the characteristics of theft.

When our bulletins de contributions have included in them 5 francs for the premium which the monopolist takes, exacts, or abstracts, what can be more stealthy for the unsuspecting?

And for those who are not dupes, and who do suspect, what

  1. "Auriculas asini Mida rex habet"—Persius, sat. i. The line as given in the text is from Dryden's translation.—TRANSLATOR.
  2. See Molière's play of The Misanthrope.—Translator.
  3. See Molière's play of L'Avare.—TRANSLATOR.