Economic Sophisms/181

<pagequality level="3" user="Zoeannl" />style="background: #ececec; text-align: left; padding-left: 0.5em; font-weight: bold;" class="table-rh"because if society desires to make presents to some of its members, all ought to bear the expense; more economical, because it would save a great deal in the cost of collection, and do away with many of the trammels with which trade is hampered; more fair, because the public would see clearly the nature of the operation, and act accordingly."[1]

Since the occasion presents itself to us so opportunely, let us study this system of plunder by premium; for all we say of it applies equally to the system of plunder by tariff; and as the latter is a little better concealed, the direct may help us to detect and expose the indirect system of cheating. The mind will thus be led from what is simple to what is more complicated.

But it may be asked. Is there not a species of theft which is more simple still? Undoubtedly; there is highway robbery, which wants only to be legalized, and made a monopoly of, or, in the language of the present day, organized.

I have been reading what follows in a book of travels:—

"When we reached the kingdom of A., all branches of industry declared themselves in a state of suffering. Agriculture groaned, manufactures complained, trade murmured, the shipping interest grumbled, and the government were at a loss what to do. First of all, the idea was to lay a pretty smart tax on all the malcontents, and afterwards to divide the proceeds among them after retaining its own quota; this would have been on the principle of the Spanish lottery. There are a thousand of you, and the State takes a piastre from each; then by sleight of hand, it conveys away 250 piastres, and divides the remaining 750 in larger and smaller proportions among the ticket-holders. The gallant Hidalgo who gets three-fourths of a piastre, forgetting that he had contributed a whole piastre, cannot conceal his delight, and rushes off to spend his fifteen reals at the alehouse. This is very much the same thing as we see taking place in France. But the government had overrated the stupidity of the population when it endeavoured to make them accept such a species of protection, and at length it lighted upon the following expedient.

"The country was covered with a network of highroads. The

  1. Sophisunes Économiqties, fiivt series, ch. v. ante.