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Having reached, if he has reached, the end of the last chapter, I fancy I hear the reader exclaim:
"Well, are we wrong in reproaching economists with being dry and cold? What a picture of human nature! What! Is spoliation, then, to be regarded as an inevitable, almost normal, force, assuming all forms, at work under all pretexts, by law and without law, jobbing and abusing things the most sacred, working on feebleness and credulity by turns, and making progress just in proportion as these are prevalent! Is there in the world a more melancholy picture than this?"
The question is not whether the picture be melancholy, but whether it is true. History will tell us.
It is singular enough that those who decry political economy (or economisme, as they are pleased to call it), because that science studies man and the world as they are, Are themselves much further advanced in pessimism, at least as regards the past and the present, than the economists whom they disparage. Open their books and their journals; and what do you find? Bitterness, hatred of society, carried to such a pitch that the very word civilization is in their eyes the synonym of injustice, disorder, and anarchy. They go the length even of denouncing liberty, so little confidence have they in the development of the human race as the natural result of its organization. Liberty! it is liberty, as they think, which is impelling us nearer and nearer to ruin.
True, these writers are optimists in reference to the future. For if the human race, left to itself, has pursued a wrong road for six thousand years, a discoverer has appeared, who has pointed out the true way of safety ; and however little the flock may regard the pastor's crook, they will be infallibly led towards the promised land, where happiness, without any effort on their part, awaits them, and where order, security, and harmony are the cheap reward of improvidence.
The human race have only to consent to these reformers changing (to use Rousseau's expression) its physical and moral constitution.
It is not the business of political economy to inquire what society might have become had God made man otherwise than He has been pleased to make him. It may perhaps be a subject of regret that in the beginning, Providence should have forgotten to call to its counsels some of our modern organisateurs. And as the celestial mechanism would have been very differently
constructed had the Creator consulted Alphonsus the Wise, in