Economic Sophisms/83

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<pagequality level="3" user="Zoeannl" />style="background: #ececec; text-align: left; padding-left: 0.5em; font-weight: bold;" class="table-rh"books, and forced to take refuge in the practical legislation of all nations. They cannot conceive why, in measures relating to national wealth, governments should not follow the advice and opinions of learned authors, rather than trust to their experience of the tried working of a system which has been long in operation. Above all, they cannot conceive why the French government should in economic questions obstinately set itself to resist the progress of enlightenment, and maintain in its practice those ancient errors, which all our economic writers have exposed. But enough of this mercantile system, which has nothing in its favour but facts, and is not defended by any speculative writer."[1]

Such language as this would lead one to suppose that in demanding for every one the free disposal of his property, economists were propounding some new system, some new, strange, and chimerical social order, a sort of phalanstère, coined in the mint of their own brain, and without precedent in the annals of the human race. To me it would seem that if we have here anything factitious or contingent, it is to be found, not in liberty, but in protection; not in the free power of exchanging, but in customs duties employed to overturn artificially the natural course of remuneration.

But our business at present is not to compare, or pronounce between, the two systems; but to inquire which of the two is founded on experience.

The advocates of monopoly maintain that the facts are on their side, and that we have on our side only theory.

They flatter themselves that this long series of public acts, this old experience of Europe, which they invoke, has presented itself as something very formidable to the mind of M. Say; and I grant that he has not refuted it with his wonted sagacity. For my own part, I am not disposed to concede to the monopolists the domain of facts, for they have only in their favour facts which are forced and exceptional; and we oppose to these, facts which are universal, the free and voluntary acts of mankind at large.

What do we say; and what do they say?

We say,

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  1. Du Système dc l'Impôt, pax M. le Vicomte de Saint-Chamans, p. 11.