Economic Sophisms/73

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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"prices. Distrust nominal prices;[1] and they will only land you in an inextricable labyrinth.

M. Matthieu de Dombasle, after having shown that protection raises prices, adds—

"The enhancement of price increases the expense of living, and consequently the price of labour, and each man receives, in the enhanced price of his products, compensation for the higher prices he has been obliged to pay for the things he has occasion to buy. Thus, if every one pays more as a consumer, every one receives more as a producer."

It is evident that we could reverse this argument, and say—

"If every one receives more as a producer, every one pays more as a consumer."

Now, what does this prove? Nothing but this, that protection displaces wealth uselessly and imjustly. In so far, it simply perpetrates spoliation.

Again, to conclude that this vast apparatus leads to simple compensations, we must stick to the "consequently" of M. de Dombasle, and make sure that the price of labour will not fail to rise with the price of the protected products. This is a question of fact which I remit to M. Moreau de Jonnés, that he may take the trouble to find out whether the rate of wages advances along with the price of shares in the coal-mines of Anzin. For my own part, I do not believe that it does; because, in my opinion, the price of labour, like the price of everything else, is governed by the relation of supply to demand. Now, I am convinced that restriction diminishes the supply of coal, and consequently enhances its price; but I do not see so clearly that it increases the demand for labour, so as to enhance the rate of wages; and that this effect should be produced is all the less likely, because the quantity of labour demanded depends on the disposable capital. Now, protection may indeed displace capital, and cause its transference from one employment to another, but it can never increase it by a single farthing.


  1. I have translated the expression des prix absolus, nominal prices, or actual money prices, because the English economists do not, so far as I remember, make use of the term absolute price.—See post, chap. v. of second series where the author employs the expression in this sense.—TRANSLATOR.