Economic Sophisms/154

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V.
 
DEARNESS-CHEAPNESS.

I THINK it necessary to submit to the reader some theoretical remarks on the illusions to which the words dearness and cheapness give rise. At first sight, these remarks may, I feel, be regarded as subtle, but the question is not whether they are subtle or the reverse, but whether they are true. Now, I not only believe them to be perfectly true, but to be well fitted to suggest matter of reflection to men (of whom there are not a few) who have sincere faith in the efficacy of a protectionist policy.

The advocates of Liberty and the defenders of Restriction are both obliged to employ the expressions, dearness, cheapness. The former declare themselves in favour of cheapness with a view to the interest of the consumer; the latter pronounce in favour of dearness, having regard especially to the interest of the producer. Others content themselves with saying, The producer and consumer are one and the same person; which leaves undecided the question whether the law should promote cheapness or dearness.

In the midst of this conflict, it would seem that the law has only one course to follow, and that is to allow prices to settle and adjust themselves naturally. But then we are attacked by