Economic Sophisms/191

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XI.
 
THE UTOPIAN FREE-TRADER.

"If I were but one of His Majesty's ministers! …

"Well, what would you do?

"I should begin by—by—faith, by being very much at a loss. For it is clear I could only be a minister in consequence of having the majority in my favour; I could only have the majority in my favour by securing the popular suffrage; and I could attain that end, honestly at least, only by governing in accordance with public opinion. If I should attempt to carry out my own opinions, I should no longer have the majority; and if I lost the favour of the majority, I should be no longer one of His Majesty's ministers."

"But suppose yourself already a minister, and that you experience no opposition from the majority, what would you do?"

"I should inquire on what side justice lay."

"And then?"

"I should inquire on what side utility lay."

"And then?"

"I should inquire whether justice and utility were in harmony, or ran counter to one another."

"And if you found they were not in harmony?

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Template:Gap"Je dirais au roi Philippe;
Template:Gap Reprenez votre portefeuille.
La rime n'est pas riche et le style en est vieux;
Mais ne voyez-vous pas que cela vaut bien mieux
Que ces transactions dont le bon sens murmure,
Et que l'honnitêté parle là toute pure."

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"But if you found that the just and the useful were one and the same thing?"

"Then I should go straight forward."

"True; but to realize utility by means of justice, a third thing is needed."

"What?"

"Possibility."

"You granted me that"

"When?"

"Just now."

"How?"

"In assuming that I had the majority on my side."

"A most dangerous concession, I fear; for it implies that the majority see clearly what is just, see clearly what is useful, and see clearly that both are in perfect harmony."

"And if they see clearly all this, good results will work themselves out, so to speak, of their own accord."

"You always bring me back to this, that no reform is possible apart from the progress of general intelligence."

"Assuming this progress, every needed reform will infallibly follow."

"True; but this presupposed progress is a work of time. Suppose it accomplished, what would you do? I am anxious to see you actually and practically at work."

"I should begin by reducing the rate of postage to a penny."

"I have heard you speak of a halfpenny."[1]

"Yes, but as I have other reforms in view, I should proceed prudently, in the first instance, to avoid any risk of a deficit."

"Fine prudence, to be sure! You have already landed yourself in a deficit of 30 millions of francs."

"Then I should reduce the salt-tax to 10 francs."

  1. See chap. xii. of Sophismes, second series, post’.