Economic Sophisms/94

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XVIII.

 

THERE ARE NO ABSOLUTE PRINCIPLES.

WE cannot wonder enough at the facility with which men resign themselves to continue ignorant of what it is most important that they should know; and we may be certain that such ignorance is incorrigible in those who venture to proclaim this axiom: There are no absolute principles.

You enter the legislative precincts. The subject of debate is whether the law should prohibit international exchanges, or proclaim freedom.

A deputy rises, and says:

If you tolerate these exchanges, the foreigner will inundate you with his products: England with her textile fabrics, Belgium with coals, Spain with wools, Italy with silks, Switzerland with cattle, Sweden with iron, Prussia with corn; so that home industry will no longer be possible.

Another replies:

If you prohibit international exchanges, the various bounties which nature has lavished on different climates will be for you as if they did not exist. You cannot participate in the mechanical skill of the English, in the wealth of the Belgian mines, in the fertility of the Polish soil, in the luxuriance of the Swiss pastures, in the cheapness of Spanish labour, in the warmth of the Italian climate; and you must obtain from a refractory and misdirected production those commodities which, through exchange, would have been furnished to you by an easy production. Assuredly, one of these deputies must be wrong. But which? We must take care to make no mistake on the subject; for this is not a matter of abstract opinion merely. You have to choose between two roads, and one of them leads necessarily to poverty. To get rid of the dilemma, we are told that there are no absolute principles.

This axiom, which is so much in fashion nowadays, not only countenances indolence, but ministers to ambition.

If the theory of prohibition comes to prevail, or if the doctrineTemplate:Smallrefs