Economic Sophisms/Chapter 24
|←Physiology of Spoliation||Economic Sophisms by Frédéric Bastiat
Two Principles of Morality
|The Two Hatchets→|
They proceed, if not intentionally, at least logically, on this datum: a nation is rich when it is in want of everything.
For they say, it is the producer that we must favour by securing him a good market for his product. For this purpose it is necessary to raise the price, and in order to raise the price we must restrict the supply; and to restrict the supply is to create scarcity.
Just let us suppose that at the present moment, when all these laws are in full force, we make a complete inventory, not in value, but in weight, measure, volume, quantity, of all the commodities existing in the country, which are fitted to satisfy the wants and tastes of its inhabitants—corn, meat, cloth, fuel, colonial products, etc.
Suppose, again, that next day all the barriers which oppose the introduction of foreign products are removed.
Lastly, suppose that in order to test the result of this reform, they proceed three months afterwards to make a new inventory.
Is it not true that there will be found in France more corn, cattle, cloth, linen, iron, coal, sugar, etc., at the date of the second, than at the date of the first inventory?
So true is this, that our protective tariffs have no other purpose than to hinder all these things from reaching us, to restrict the supply, and prevent depreciation and abundance.
Now I would ask, Are the people who live under our laws better fed because there is less bread, meat, and sugar in the country? Are they better clothed, because there is less cloth and linen? Better warmed, because there is less coal? Better assisted in their labour, because there are fewer tools and less iron, copper, and machinery?
But it may be said, If the foreigner inundates us with his products, he will carry away our money.
And what does it matter? Men are not fed on money. They do not clothe themselves with gold, or warm themselves with silver. What matters it whether there is more or less money in the country, if there is more bread on our sideboards,
more meat in our larders, more linen in our wardrobes, more firewood in our cellars.
Restrictive laws always land us in this dilenmia:—
Either you admit that they produce scarcity, or you do not.
If you admit it, you avow by the admission that you inflict on the people all the injury in your power. If you do not admit it, you deny having restricted the supply and raised prices, and consequenfly you deny having favoured the producer.
What you do is either hurtful or profitless, injurious or ineffectual. It never can be attended with any useful result.
that of dearness (cheapness). It is somewhat remarkable that the popular instinct expresses the idea by this periphrase, marché avantageux, bon marché. The protectionists would do well to reform this locution, for it implies an economic system opposed to theirs.