Economic Sophisms/97

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Among the arguments which we hear adduced in favour of the restrictive régime, we must not forget that which is founded on national independence.

"What should we do in case of war," it is said, "if we are placed at the mercy of England for iron and coal?"

English monopolists do not fail to cry out in their turn:

"What would become of Great Britain, in case of war, if she is dependent on France for provisions?"

One thing is overlooked, which is this—that the kind of dependence which results from exchange, from commercial transactions, is a reciprocal dependence. We cannot be dependent on the foreigner without the foreigner being dependent on us. Now, this is the very essence of society. To break up natural relations is not to place ourselves in a state of independence, but in a state of isolation.

Remark this: A nation isolates itself looking forward to the possibility of war; but is not this very act of isolating itself the beginning of war? It renders war more easy, less burdensome, and, it may be, less unpopular. Let countries be permanent markets for each other's produce; let their reciprocal relations be such that they cannot be broken without inflicting on each other the double suffering of privation and a glut of commodities; and they will no longer stand in need of naval armaments, which ruin them, and overgrown armies, which crush them; the peace of the world will not then be compromised by the caprice of a Thiers or of a Palmerston; and war will disappear for want of what supports it, for want of resources, inducements, pretexts, and popular sympathy.

I am quite aware that I shall be reproached (it is the fashion of the day) with basing the fraternity of nations on men's personal interest—vile, prosaic self-interest. Better far, it may be thought, that it should have had its basis in charity, in love, even in a little self-abnegation, and that, interfering somewhat with men's material comforts, it should have had the merit of a generous sacrifice.

When shall we be done with these puerile declamations? When will tartuferie be finally banished from science? When shall we cease to exhibit this nauseous contradiction between our professions and practice? We hoot at and execrate personal interest; in other words, we denounce what is useful and good (for to say that all men are interested in anything is to

say that the thing is good in itself), as if personal interest were