Economic Sophisms/Chapter 35
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Protection; or, the Three City Magistrates
But what is true with regard to sugar, cannot be otherwise with regard to bread. If, then, the utility of any branch of industry is to be estimated not by the amount of satisfactions it is fitted to procure us with a determinate amount of labour, but, on the contrary, by the amount of labour which it exacts in order to yield us a determinate amount of satisfactions, what we ought evidently to desire is, that each acre of land should yield less corn, and each grain of corn less nourishment; in other words, that our land should be comparatively barren; for then the quantity of land, capital, and manual labour that would be required for the maintenance of our population would be much more considerable; we could then say that the demand for human labour would be in direct proportion to this barrenness. The aspirations of MM. Bugeaud, Saint-Cricq, Dupin, and d'Argout, would then be satisfied; bread would be dear, labour abundant, and France rich—rich at least in the sense in which these gentlemen understand the word.
What we should desire also is, that human intelligence should be enfeebled or extinguished; for, as long as it survives, it will be continually endeavouring to augment the proportion which the end bears to the means, and which the product bears to the labour. It is in that precisely that intelligence consists.
Thus, it appears that sisyphism has been the doctrine of all the men who have been intrusted with our industrial destinies. It would be unfair to reproach them with it. This principle guides Ministers only because it is predominant in the Chambers; and it predominates in the Chambers only because it is sent there by the electoral body, and the electoral body is imbued with it only because public opinion is saturated with it.
I think it right to repeat here that I do not accuse men such as MM. Bugeaud, Dupin, Saint-Cricq, and d'Argout of being absolutely and under all circumstances sisyphists. They are certainly not so in their private transactions; for in these they always desire to obtain by way of exchange what would cost them dearer to procure by direct production; but I affirm they are sisyphists when they hinder the country from doing the same thing.
- See on the same subject, Sophismes Économiques, second series, ch. xvi., post, and Harmonies Économiques, ch. vi.