Economic Sophisms/95

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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"of free trade comes to triumph, one brief enactment will constitute our whole economic code. In the first case, the law will proclaim that all exchanges with foreign countries are prohibited; in the second, that all exchanges with foreign countries are free; and many grand and distinguished personages will thereby lose their importance.

But if exchange does not possess a character which is peculiar to it,—if it is not governed by any natural law,—if, capriciously, it be sometimes useful and sometimes detrimental,—if it does not find its motive force in the good which it accomplishes, its limit in the good which it ceases to accomplish,—if its consequences cannot be estimated by those who effect exchanges;—in a word, if there be no absolute principles, then we must proceed to weigh, balance, and regulate transactions, we must equalize the conditions of labour, and try to find out the average rate of profits— colossal task, well deserving the large emoluments and powerful influence awarded to those who undertake it.

On entering Paris, which I had come to visit, I said to myself. Here are a million of human beings, who would all die in a short time if provisions of every kind ceased to flow towards this great metropolis. Imagination is baffled when it tries to appreciate the vast multiplicity of commodities which must enter to-morrow through the barriers in order to preserve the inhabitants from falling a prey to the convulsions of famine, rebellion, and pillage. And yet all sleep at this moment, and their peaceful slumbers are not disturbed for a single instant by the prospect of such a frightful catastrophe. On the other hand, eighty departments have been labouring to-day, without concert, without any mutual understanding, for the provisioning of Paris. How does each succeeding day bring what is wanted, nothing more, nothing less, to so gigantic a market? What, then, is the ingenious and secret power which governs the astonishing regularity of movements so complicated, a regularity in which everybody has implicit faith, although happiness and life itself are at stake? That power is an absolute principle, the principle of freedom in transactions. We have faith in that inward light which Providence has placed in the heart of all men, and to which He has confided the preservation and indefinite amelioration of our species, namely, a regard toTemplate:Smallrefs