A Treatise on Political Economy, Or, the Production, Distribution, and Consumption of Wealth

By Jean-Baptiste Say; Clement C. Biddle et al. | Go to book overview

produce, which they judge more advantageous than others, or to prescribe methods of production, which they imagine preferable to other methods. The effects of this two-fold attempt upon national wealth will be investigated in the two first sections of this chapter: in the remaining two, I shall apply the same principles to the particular cases of privileged companies, and of the corntrade, both on account of their vast importance, and for the purpose of further explaining and illustrating the principles. We shall see by the way, what reasons and circumstances will require or justify a deviation from general principles. The grand mischiefs of authoritative interference proceed not from occasional exceptions to established maxims, but from false ideas of the nature of things, and the false maxims built upon them. It is then that mischief is done by wholesale, and evil pursued upon system: for it is well to beware, that no set of men are more bigoted to system, than those who boast that they go upon none.*


SECTION I.
Effect of Regulations prescribing the Nature of Products.

The natural wants of society, and its circumstances for the time being, occasion a more or less lively demand for particular kinds of produce. Consequently, in these branches of production, productive services are somewhat better paid than in the rest; that is to say, the profits upon land, capital, and labour, devoted to those branches of production, are somewhat larger. This additional profit naturally attracts producers, and thus the nature of the products is always regulated by the wants of society. We have seen, in a preceding chapter (xv.,) that these wants are more ample in proportion to the sum of gross production, and that society in the aggregate is a larger purchaser, in proportion to its means of purchasing.

When authority throws itself in the way of this natural course of things, and says, the product you are about to create, that which yields the greatest profit, and is consequently the most in request, is by no means the most suitable to your circumstances;

____________________
*
The greatest sticklers for adhering to practical notions, set out with the assertion of general principles: they begin, for instance, with saying, that no one can dispute the position, that one individual can gain only what another loses, and one nation profit only by the sacrifices of another. What is this but system? and one so unsound, that its abettors, instead of possessing more practical knowledge than other people, show their utter ignorance of many facts, the acquaintance with which is indispensable to the formation of a correct judgment. No man, who understands the real nature of production, and sees how new wealth may be, and is daily created, would attempt to advance so gross an absurdity.

-88-

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