Economic Sophisms/134

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<pagequality level="3" user="Zoeannl" />style="background: #ececec; text-align: left; padding-left: 0.5em; font-weight: bold;" class="table-rh"independent portion of the population to rebellion. And it is a much more serious thing to shake public belief in a true than in a false religion.

Spoliation by such means, and the intelligence of a people, are always in an inverse ratio to each other; for it is of the nature of abuses to be carried as far only as safety permits. Not that in the midst of the most ignorant people pure and devoted priests are never to be found; but the question is, how can we prevent a knave from assuming the cassock, and ambition from encircling his brow with a mitre? Spoliators obey the Malthusian law: they multiply as the means of existence increase; and a knave's means of existence is the credulity of his dupes. Public opinion must be enlightened. There is no other remedy.

 

Another variety of spoliation by craft and artifice is to be found in what are called commercial frauds, an expression, as it appears to me, not sufficiently broad; for not only is the merchant who adulterates his commodities, or uses a false measure, guilty of fraud, but the physician who gets paid for bad advice, and the advocate who fans and encourages lawsuits. In an exchange between two services, one of them may be of bad quality; but here, the services received being stipulated for beforehand, spoliation must evidently recede before the advance of public enlightenment.

 

Next in order come abuses of public services—a vast field of spoliation, so vast that we can only glance at it.

Had man been created a solitary animal, each man would work for himself. Individual wealth would, in that case, be in proportion to the services rendered by each man to himself.

But, man being a sociable animal, services are exchanged for other services; a proposition which you may, if you choose, construe backwards [à rebours].

There exist in society wants so general, so universal, that its members provide for them by organizing public services. Such, for example, is the need of security. We arrange, we club together, to remunerate by services of various kinds those who render us the service of watching over the general security.

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