Economic Sophisms/Chapter 28

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Economic Sophisms by Frédéric Bastiat
To Artisans and Workmen

the wine-casks that are wanted. By this means the obstacle is lessened, and so are the gains of the cooper. Let us maintain both at their former elevation by a law, and put down the machinery.

To get at the root of this sophism, it is necessary only to reflect that human labour is not the end, but the means. It never remains unemployed. If one obstacle is removed, it does battle with another; and society is freed from two obstacles by the same amount of labour which was formerly required for the removal of one. If the labour of the cooper is rendered unnecessary in one department, it will soon take another direction. But how and from what source will it be remunerated? From the same source exactly from which it is remunerated at present; for when a certain amount of labour becomes disposable by the removal of an obstacle, a corresponding amount of remuneration becomes disposable also. To maintain that human labour will ever come to want employment, would be to maintain that the human race will cease to encounter obstacles. In that case labour would not only be impossible; it would be superfluous. We should no longer have anything to do, because we should be omnipotent; and we should only have to pronounce our fiat in order to ensure the satisfaction of all our desires and the supply of all our wants.[1]

  1. See post, ch. xiv. of second series of Sophismes Économiques, and ch. iii. and xi. of the Harmonies Économiques.