Economic Sophisms/99

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XX.

 

HUMAN LABOUR, NATIONAL LABOUR.

MACHINE-BREAKING—prohibition of foreign commodities—are two acts founded on the same doctrine.

We see men who clap their hands when a great invention is introduced, and who nevertheless adhere to the protectionist régime. Such men are grossly inconsistent!

With what do they reproach free trade? With encouraging the production by foreigners, more skilled or more favourably situated than we are, of commodities which, but for free trade, would be produced at home. In a word, they accuse free trade of being injurious to national labour?

For the same reason, should they not reproach machinery with accomplishing by natural agents what otherwise would have been done by manual labour, and so of being injurious to human labour?

The foreign workman, better and more favourably situated than the home workman for the production of certain commodities, is, with reference to the latter, a veritable economic madbine, crushing him by competition. In like manner, machinery, which executes a piece of work at a lower price than a certain number of men could do by manual labour, is, in relation to these manual labourers, a veritable foreign competitor, who paralyzes them by his rivalry.

If, then, it is politic to protect national labour against the competition oi foreign labour, it is not less so to protect human labour against the rivalry of mechanical labour.

Thus, every adherent of the régime of protection, if he is logical, should not content himself with prohibiting foreign products; he should proscribe also the products of the shuttle and the plough.

And this is the reason why I like better the logic of those men who, declaiming against the invasion of foreign merchandise, declaim likewise against the exccess of production which is due to the inventive power of the human mind.

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