Economic Sophisms/81

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XIII.

 

THEORY, PRACTICE.

AS advocates of free trade, we are accused of being theorists, and of not taking practice sufficiently into account.

"What fearful prejudices were entertained against M. Say," says M. Ferrier,[1] "by that long train of distinguished administrators, and that imposing phalanx of authors who dissented from his opinions; and M. Say was not unaware of it. Hear what he says:—'It has been alleged in support of errors of long standing, that there must have been some foundation for ideas which have been adopted by all nations. Ought we not to distrust observations and reasonings which run counter to opinions which have been constantly entertained down to our own time, and which have been regarded as sound by so many men remarkable for their enlightenment and their good intentions? This argument, I allow, is calculated to make a profound impression, and it might have cast doubt upon points which we deem the most incontestable, if we had not seen, by turns, opinions the most false, and now generally acknowledged to be false, received and professed by everybody during a long series of ages. Not very long ago all nations, from the rudest to the most enlightened, and all men, from the street-porter to the savant, admitted the existence of four elements. No one thought of contesting that doctrine, which, however, is false; so much so, that even the greenest assistant in a naturalist's class-room would be ashamed to say that he regarded earth, water, and fire as elements.'"

On this M. Ferrier remarks:—

"If M. Say thinks to answer thus the very strong objection which he brings forward, he is singularly mistaken. That men, otherwise well informed, should have been mistaken for centuries on certain points of natural history is easily understood, and proves nothing. Water, air, earth, and fire, whether elements or not, are not the less useful to man.… Such errors

are unimportant: they lead to no popular commotions, no Template:HwsTemplate:Smallrefs

  1. De l'Administration Commerciale opposée à l'Economie Politique, p. 5.