Economic Sophisms/59

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<pagequality level="4" user="Zoeannl" />style="background: #ececec; text-align: left; padding-left: 0.5em; font-weight: bold;" class="table-rh"The economist school will blame me, no doubt, for arguing with M. Lestiboudois. To attack the balance of trade, it will be said, is to fight with a windmill.

But take care. The doctrine of the balance of trade is neither so antiquated, nor so sick, nor so dead as M. Gauthier would represent it, for the entire Chamber—M. Gauthier himself included—has recognised by its votes the theory of M. Lestiboudois.

I shall not fatigue the reader by proceeding to probe that theory, but content myself with subjecting it to the test of facts.

We are constantly told that our principles do not hold good, except in theory. But tell me, gentlemen, if you regard the books of merchants as holding good in practice? It appears to me that if there is anything in the world which should have practical authority, when the question regards profit and loss, it is commercial accounts. Have all the merchants in the world come to an understanding for centuries to keep their books in such a way as to represent profits as losses, and losses as profits? It may be so, but I would much rather come to the conclusion that M. Lestiboudois is a bad economist.

Now, a merchant of my acquaintance having had two transactions, the results of which were very different, I felt curious to compare the books of the counting-house with the books of the Customhouse, as interpreted by M. Lestiboudois to the satisfaction of our six hundred legislators.

M. T. despatched a ship from Havre to the United States, with a cargo of French goods, chiefly those known as articles de Paris, amounting to 200,000 francs. This was the figure declared at the Customhouse. When the cargo arrived at New Orleans it was charged with 10 per cent. freight and 30 per cent. duty, making a total of 280,000 francs. It was sold with 20 per cent. profit, or 40,000 francs, and produced a total of 320,000 francs, which the consignee invested in cottons. These cottons had still for freight, insurance, commission, etc., to bear a cost of 10 per cent.; so that when the new cargo arrived at Havre it had cost 352,000 francs, which was the figure entered in the Customhouse books. Finally M. T. realized upon this return cargo 20 per cent. profit, or 70,400 francs; in other words, the cottons were sold for 422,400 francs.