Dans le département de l'économie, un acte, une habitude, une institution, une loi, donne naissance non seulement à un effet, mais à une série d'effets. De ces effets, le premier seulement est immédiat; il se manifeste simultanément avec sa cause – C'est vu. Les autres se déroulent successivement – ils ne sont pas vus: c'est bien pour nous s'ils sont prévu. Entre un bon et un mauvais économiste, cela fait toute la différence – celui qui tient compte de la visible effet; l'autre tient compte à la fois des effets qui sont vu et aussi de ceux qu'il faut prévoir. Or cette différence est énorme, car il arrive presque toujours que lorsque la conséquence immédiate est favorable, les conséquences ultimes sont fatales, et l'inverse. Il s'ensuit donc que le mauvais économiste poursuit un petit bien présent, qui sera suivi d'un grand mal à venir, tandis que le véritable économiste poursuit un grand bien à venir, au risque d'un petit mal présent.
En fait, c'est la même chose dans la science de la santé, des arts et dans celle de la morale. Si cela arrive souvent, que plus le premier fruit d'une habitude est sucré, plus les conséquences sont amères. Prenons, par exemple, la débauche, l'oisiveté, la prodigalité. Quand donc un homme, absorbé par l'effet qui est vu, n'a pas encore appris à discerner ceux qu'on ne voit pas, il cède la place à des habitudes fatales, non seulement par inclinaison, mais par calcul.
Cela explique la condition mortellement grave de l'humanité. L'ignorance entoure son berceau: alors ses actions sont déterminées par leurs premières conséquences, les seules qu'elle puisse voir dans sa première étape. Ce n'est qu'à long terme qu'il apprend à prendre en compte les autres. Il doit apprendre cette leçon de deux maîtres très différents – l'expérience et la prévoyance. L'expérience enseigne de manière efficace, mais brutale. Elle nous fait connaître tous les effets d'une action, en nous faisant les ressentir; et nous ne pouvons manquer de finir en sachant que le feu brûle, si nous nous sommes brûlés. Pour ce professeur rude, je voudrais, si possible, lui substituer un professeur plus doux. Je veux dire la prévoyance. A cet effet, j'examinerai les conséquences de certains phénomènes économiques, en opposant les uns aux autres ceux qui sont vus, et ceux qui ne sont pas vus.
I. La fenêtre cassée
Avez-vous déjà été témoin de la colère du bon commerçant, James B., lorsque son fils insouciant a brisé une vitre? Si vous avez assisté à une telle scène, vous serez assurément témoin du fait que chacun des spectateurs, y avait-il même trente d'entre eux, d'un commun accord apparemment, ont offert au malheureux propriétaire cette consolation invariable: "C'est un vent mauvais qui ne souffle personne bon. Tout le monde doit vivre, et que deviendraient les vitriers si les vitres n'étaient jamais brisées? "
Or, cette forme de condoléances contient toute une théorie, qu'il sera bon de montrer dans ce cas simple, vu qu'elle est précisément la même que celle qui, malheureusement, règle la plus grande partie de nos institutions économiques. Supposons qu'il en coûte six francs pour réparer les dégâts, et vous dites que l'accident amène six francs au métier de vitrier – qu'il encourage ce métier à hauteur de six francs – je vous l'accorde; Je n'ai pas un mot à dire contre cela; vous raisonnez à juste titre. Le vitrier vient, accomplit sa tâche, reçoit ses six francs, se frotte les mains et, dans son cœur, bénit l'enfant insouciant. Tout cela, c'est ce qui se voit.
Mais si, d'un autre côté, vous arrivez à la conclusion, comme c'est trop souvent le cas, que c'est une bonne chose de briser les fenêtres, que cela fait circuler de l'argent et que l'encouragement de l'industrie en général en résultera de cela, vous m'obligerez à crier: "Arrêtez-vous! votre théorie se limite à cela qui est vu; il n'en tient pas compte ce qui n'est pas vu. "
On ne le voit pas que notre commerçant ayant dépensé six francs pour une chose, il ne peut pas les dépenser pour une autre. On ne le voit pas que s'il n'avait pas eu de fenêtre à remplacer, il aurait peut-être remplacé ses vieilles chaussures ou ajouté un autre livre à sa bibliothèque. Bref, il aurait employé ses six francs d'une manière que cet accident a empêchée.
Prenons un point de vue de l'industrie en général, affectée par cette circonstance. La fenêtre étant brisée, le métier de vitrier est encouragé à hauteur de six francs: c'est ce qui se voit.
Si la fenêtre n'avait pas été cassée, le métier de cordonnier (ou autre) aurait été encouragé à hauteur de six francs: cette est ce qui ne se voit pas.
Et si ce qui n'est pas vu est pris en considération, parce que c'est un fait négatif, ainsi que ce qui est vu, parce que c'est un fait positif, on comprendra que ni l'industrie en général, ni la somme totale de la main-d'œuvre nationale, est affectée, que les fenêtres soient brisées ou non.
Considérons maintenant James B. lui-même. Dans la première supposition, celle de la fenêtre brisée, il dépense six francs, et n'a ni plus ni moins qu'auparavant, la jouissance d'une fenêtre. Dans le second, où l'on suppose que la fenêtre n'a pas été brisée, il aurait dépensé six francs de chaussures, et aurait eu en même temps la jouissance d'une paire de chaussures et d'une fenêtre. Maintenant, comme James B. fait partie de la société, il faut en conclure que, en le prenant tout à fait, et en évaluant ses joies et ses travaux, il a perdu la valeur de la fenêtre brisée.
D'où nous arrivons à cette conclusion inattendue: "La société perd la valeur des choses qui sont inutilement détruites;" et nous devons consentir à une maxime qui mettra les cheveux des protectionnistes à bout – casser, gâcher, gaspiller, ce n'est pas encourager le travail national; ou, plus brièvement, "la destruction n'est pas un profit".
Que direz-vous, Moniteur Industriel? que direz-vous, disciples du bon M. F. Chamans, qui a calculé avec tant de précision combien le commerce gagnerait à brûler Paris, du nombre de maisons qu'il faudrait reconstruire?
Je suis désolé de perturber ces calculs ingénieux, dans la mesure où leur esprit a été introduit dans notre législation; mais je le prie de les recommencer, en tenant compte ce qui n'est pas vu, et en le plaçant à côté de ce qui est vu.
Le lecteur doit se rappeler qu'il n'y a pas seulement deux personnes, mais trois concernées dans la petite scène que j'ai soumise à son attention. L'un d'eux, James B., représente le consommateur, réduit, par un acte de destruction, à une jouissance au lieu de deux. Un autre, sous le titre de vitrier, nous montre le producteur, dont le commerce est favorisé par l'accident. Le troisième est le cordonnier (ou un autre commerçant), dont le travail souffre proportionnellement de la même cause. C'est cette troisième personne qui est toujours maintenue à l'ombre et qui, personnifiant ce qui n'est pas vu, est un élément nécessaire du problème. C'est lui qui nous montre combien il est absurde de penser que nous voyons un profit dans un acte de destruction. C'est lui qui va bientôt nous apprendre qu'il n'est pas moins absurde de voir un profit dans une restriction, qui n'est, après tout, rien d'autre qu'une destruction partielle. Par conséquent, si vous n'allez à la racine de tous les arguments qui sont avancés en sa faveur, tout ce que vous trouverez sera la paraphrase de ce vulgaire dicton – Que deviendraient les vitriers, si jamais personne ne cassait des fenêtres?
II. La dissolution des troupes
C'est la même chose avec un peuple qu'avec un homme. S'il souhaite se donner une certaine satisfaction, il se demande naturellement s'il vaut ce qu'il en coûte. Pour une nation, la sécurité est le plus grand des avantages. Si, pour l'obtenir, il faut avoir une armée de cent mille hommes, je n'ai rien à dire contre. C'est une jouissance achetée par un sacrifice. Permettez-moi de ne pas être mal compris sur l'étendue de ma position. Un membre de l'assemblée propose de licencier cent mille hommes, pour soulager les contribuables de cent millions.
Si nous nous bornons à cette réponse: «Les cent millions d'hommes et ces cent millions d'argent sont indispensables à la sécurité nationale: c'est un sacrifice; mais sans ce sacrifice, la France serait déchirée par des factions ou envahie par des étrangers pouvoir "- Je n'ai rien à objecter à cet argument, qui peut être vrai ou faux en fait, mais qui ne contient théoriquement rien qui milite contre l'économie. L'erreur commence lorsque le sacrifice lui-même est considéré comme un avantage car il profite à quelqu'un.
Maintenant, je me trompe beaucoup si, au moment où l'auteur de la proposition a pris place, un orateur ne se lèvera pas et ne dira pas: "Dissolvez cent mille hommes! Savez-vous ce que vous dites? Que vont-ils devenir? Où vont-ils gagner leur vie? Ne savez-vous pas que le travail est rare partout? Que tous les champs sont surpeuplés? Les tourneriez-vous à l'extérieur pour accroître la concurrence et peser sur le taux de salaire? Juste maintenant, quand il est difficile à vivre, ce serait bien si l'État devait trouver du pain pour cent mille personnes? Considérez d'ailleurs que l'armée consomme du vin, des armes, des vêtements – qu'elle favorise l'activité des manufactures dans les villes de garnison – que c'est, en somme, la bénédiction d'innombrables pourvoyeurs. Pourquoi, quiconque doit trembler à l'idée de supprimer cet immense mouvement industriel. "
Ce discours, on le voit, se termine par le vote du maintien de cent mille soldats, pour des raisons tirées de la nécessité du service et de considérations économiques. Ce sont ces considérations seulement que je dois réfuter.
Cent mille hommes, qui coûtent aux contribuables cent millions d'argent, vivent et rapportent aux pourvoyeurs autant que cent millions peuvent fournir. C'est ce qui est vu.
Mais, cent millions prélevés dans les poches des contribuables, cessent d'entretenir ces contribuables et les pourvoyeurs, pour autant que cent millions atteignent. C'est ce qui n'est pas vu. Faites maintenant vos calculs. Lancez-vous et dites-moi quel est le profit pour les masses?
Je vais vous dire où perte mensonges; et pour le simplifier, au lieu de parler de cent mille hommes et d'un million d'argent, ce sera d'un homme et mille francs.
Nous supposerons que nous sommes dans le village d'A. Les sergents recruteurs font leur tour et enlèvent un homme. Les collecteurs d'impôts font leur tournée et enlèvent mille francs. L'homme et la somme d'argent sont emmenés à Metz, et ce dernier est destiné à soutenir le premier pendant un an sans rien faire. Si vous ne considérez que Metz, vous avez tout à fait raison; la mesure est très avantageuse: mais si vous regardez vers le village de A., vous jugerez très différemment; car, à moins que vous ne soyez vraiment très aveugle, vous verrez que ce village a perdu un ouvrier, et les mille francs qui rémunéreraient son travail, ainsi que l'activité qui, par la dépense de ces mille francs, se répandrait autour de lui .
À première vue, il semblerait qu'il y ait une compensation. Ce qui s'est passé au village, se passe maintenant à Metz, c'est tout. Mais la perte est à estimer de cette manière: Au village, un homme a creusé et travaillé; il était ouvrier. A Metz, il tourne à droite et à gauche; c'est un soldat. L'argent et la circulation sont les mêmes dans les deux cas; mais dans l'un il y avait trois cents jours de travail productif, dans l'autre il y a trois cents jours de travail improductif, en supposant, bien sûr, qu'une partie de l'armée ne soit pas indispensable à la sécurité publique.
Supposons maintenant que la dissolution ait lieu. Vous me dites qu'il y aura un surplus de cent mille travailleurs, que la concurrence sera stimulée et que cela réduira le taux des salaires. Voilà ce que vous voyez.
Mais ce que vous ne voyez pas, c'est ceci. Vous ne voyez pas que licencier cent mille soldats, ce n'est pas supprimer un million d'argent, mais le restituer aux contribuables. Vous ne voyez pas que jeter cent mille ouvriers sur le marché, c'est y jeter en même temps les cent millions de dollars nécessaires pour payer leur travail: que, par conséquent, le même acte qui augmente l'offre de mains, augmente également la demande; d'où il résulte que votre crainte d'une baisse des salaires n'est pas fondée. Vous ne voyez pas qu'avant la dissolution comme après, il y a dans le pays cent millions d'argent correspondant aux cent mille hommes. Que toute la différence consiste en ceci: avant la dissolution, le pays a donné les cent millions aux cent mille hommes pour ne rien faire; et qu'après cela, il leur verse la même somme pour travailler. Vous ne voyez pas, en somme, que lorsqu'un contribuable donne son argent soit à un soldat en échange de rien, soit à un travailleur en échange de quelque chose, toutes les conséquences ultimes de la circulation de cet argent sont les mêmes dans le deux cas; seulement, dans le second cas, le contribuable reçoit quelque chose, dans le premier il ne reçoit rien. Le résultat est – une perte morte pour la nation.
Le sophisme que je lutte ici ne résistera pas à l'épreuve de la progression, qui est la pierre de touche des principes. Si, lorsque chaque compensation est versée et que tous les intérêts sont satisfaits, profit national en augmentant l'armée, pourquoi ne pas inscrire sous ses bannières toute la population masculine du pays?
III. Les taxes
N'avez-vous jamais eu l'occasion de l'entendre dire: "Il n'y a pas de meilleur investissement que les impôts. Ne voyez que ce qu'un certain nombre de familles entretiennent et considérez comment il réagit sur l'industrie: c'est un flux inépuisable, c'est la vie elle-même."
Pour combattre cette doctrine, je dois me référer à ma précédente réfutation. L'économie politique savait assez bien que ses arguments n'étaient pas si amusants qu'on pouvait en dire autant, répétitions s'il vous plaît.
Il a donc tourné le proverbe à son propre usage, bien convaincu que, dans sa bouche, les répétitions enseignent.
Les avantages que préconisent les fonctionnaires sont ceux qui sont vus. L'avantage qui revient aux prestataires c'est toujours ce qu'on voit. Cela aveugle tous les yeux.
Mais les inconvénients dont les contribuables doivent se débarrasser sont ceux qui ne sont pas vus. Et le préjudice qui en résulte pour les prestataires est toujours ce qui n'est pas vu, bien que cela doive être évident.
Lorsqu'un fonctionnaire dépense pour son propre bénéfice cent sous supplémentaires, cela implique qu'un contribuable dépense pour son bénéfice cent sous de moins. Mais les frais du fonctionnaire est vu, parce que l'acte est accompli, tandis que celui du contribuable n'est pas vu, car, hélas! il est empêché de l'exécuter.
Vous comparez la nation, peut-être à une parcelle de terre desséchée, et la taxe à une pluie fertilisante. Qu'il en soit ainsi. Mais vous devez aussi vous demander où sont les sources de cette pluie, et si ce n'est pas la taxe elle-même qui retire l'humidité du sol et la dessèche?
Encore une fois, vous devez vous demander s'il est possible que le sol puisse recevoir autant d'eau précieuse par la pluie qu'il en perd par évaporation?
Il y a une chose très certaine, c'est que lorsque James B. compte cent sous pour le percepteur, il ne reçoit rien en retour. Ensuite, quand un fonctionnaire dépense ces cent sous et les rend à James B., c'est pour une valeur égale en blé ou en travail. Le résultat final est une perte de cinq francs pour James B.
Il est très vrai que souvent, peut-être très souvent, le fonctionnaire exécute pour James B. un service équivalent. Dans ce cas, il n'y a aucune perte de part et d'autre; il n'y a qu'un échange. Par conséquent, mes arguments ne s'appliquent pas du tout aux fonctionnaires utiles. Tout ce que je dis, c'est que si vous souhaitez créer un bureau, prouvez son utilité. Montrer que sa valeur pour James B., par les services qu'elle rend pour lui, est égale à ce qu'elle lui coûte. Mais, en dehors de cette utilité intrinsèque, ne mettez pas en avant l'argument qu'il confère au fonctionnaire, à sa famille et à ses pourvoyeurs; n'affirme pas qu'elle encourage le travail.
Lorsque James B. donne cent sous à un officier du gouvernement pour un service vraiment utile, c'est exactement la même chose que lorsqu'il donne cent sous à un cordonnier pour une paire de chaussures.
Mais quand James B. donne cent sous à un officier du gouvernement, et ne reçoit rien pour eux à moins que ce ne soit des ennuis, il pourrait aussi bien les donner à un voleur. Il est absurde de dire que l’officier du gouvernement dépensera ces cent fils au grand profit de travail national; le voleur ferait de même; et James B. aussi, s'il n'avait pas été arrêté sur la route par le parasite extra-légal, ni par l'éponge légale.
Accoutumons-nous donc à ne pas juger les choses par ce qui est vu seulement, mais à en juger par ce qui n'est pas vu. L'année dernière, j'étais membre du Comité des finances, car sous la circonscription, les membres de l'opposition n'étaient pas systématiquement exclus de toutes les commissions: en ce sens, la circonscription a agi avec sagesse. Nous avons entendu M. Thiers dire: «J'ai passé ma vie à m'opposer au parti légitimiste et au parti sacerdotal. Puisque le danger commun nous a réunis, maintenant que je m'associe à eux et les connais, et maintenant que nous parlons face à face face, j'ai découvert qu'ils ne sont pas les monstres que j'avais l'habitude de les imaginer. "
Oui, la méfiance est exagérée, la haine est encouragée parmi les partis qui ne se mélangent jamais; et si la majorité permettait à la minorité d'être présente aux commissions, on découvrirait peut-être que les idées des différentes parties ne sont pas si éloignées les unes des autres; et surtout que leurs intentions ne sont pas aussi perverses qu'on le suppose. Cependant, l'année dernière, j'étais membre du Comité des finances. Chaque fois que l'un de nos confrères parlait de fixer à un chiffre modéré le maintien du président de la République, celui des ministres et des ambassadeurs, il était répondu:
"Pour le bien du service, il faut entourer certaines fonctions de splendeur et de dignité, comme moyen d'attirer vers eux des hommes de mérite. Un grand nombre de malheureux s'adressent au Président de la République, et ce serait placer lui dans une position très douloureuse pour l'obliger à les refuser constamment. Un certain style dans les salons ministériels fait partie de l'appareil des gouvernements constitutionnels. "
Bien que de tels arguments puissent être controversés, ils méritent certainement un examen sérieux. Ils sont fondés sur l'intérêt public, à juste titre estimé ou non; et en ce qui me concerne, je les respecte beaucoup plus que beaucoup de nos Catos, qui sont animés par un esprit étroit de parcimonie ou de jalousie. Mais ce qui révolte la partie économique de ma conscience et me fait rougir pour les ressources intellectuelles de mon pays, c'est lorsque cette absurde relique de féodalité est mise en avant, ce qu'elle est constamment, et elle est favorablement accueillie aussi:
"D'ailleurs, le luxe des grands officiers du gouvernement encourage les arts, l'industrie et le travail. Le chef de l'Etat et ses ministres ne peuvent pas donner des banquets et des soirées sans faire circuler la vie dans toutes les veines du corps social. Pour réduire leurs moyens, affamerait l'industrie parisienne, et par conséquent celle de toute la nation. "
Je dois vous prier, messieurs, de faire au moins peu attention à l'arithmétique; et pour ne pas dire devant l'Assemblée nationale en France, de peur qu'il ne convienne avec vous, qu'un ajout donne une somme différente, selon qu'il est additionné de bas en haut, ou de haut en bas de la colonne.
Par exemple, je veux convenir avec un égouttoir de faire une tranchée dans mon champ pour une centaine de sous. De même que nous avons conclu notre arrangement, le percepteur arrive, prend mes cent sous et les envoie au ministre de l'Intérieur; mon affaire est terminée, mais le ministre aura un autre plat ajouté à sa table. Sur quelle base oserez-vous affirmer que cette dépense officielle aide l'industrie nationale? Ne voyez-vous pas qu'en cela il n'y a qu'un renversement de satisfaction et de travail? Un ministre a mieux couvert sa table, c'est vrai; mais il est tout aussi vrai qu'un agriculteur a son champ pire drainé. Un tavernier parisien a gagné cent sous, je vous l'accorde; mais alors vous devez m'accorder qu'un égouttoir a été empêché de gagner cinq francs. Tout cela revient à cela – que le fonctionnaire et le tavernier étant satisfait, est ce qui est vu; le champ non drainé, et l'égouttoir privé de son travail, est ce qui n'est pas vu. Cher moi! combien il est difficile de prouver que deux et deux font quatre; et si vous réussissez à le prouver, on dit "la chose est si simple qu'elle est assez ennuyeuse", et ils votent comme si vous n'aviez rien prouvé du tout.
IV. Théâtres, Beaux-Arts
Faut-il que l'Etat soutienne les arts?
Il y a certainement beaucoup à dire des deux côtés de cette question. On peut dire, en faveur du système de vote à cette fin, que les arts élargissent, élèvent et harmonisent l'âme d'une nation; qu'ils le détournent d'une trop grande absorption dans les occupations matérielles; encouragez-y l'amour du beau; et ainsi agir favorablement sur ses mœurs, ses coutumes, sa morale et même sur son industrie. On peut se demander ce qu'il adviendrait de la musique en France sans son théâtre italien et son Conservatoire; de l'art dramatique, sans son Théâtre-Français; de la peinture et de la sculpture, sans nos collections, galeries et musées? On pourrait même se demander si, sans centralisation, et par conséquent sans le soutien des beaux-arts, se développerait un goût exquis qui est le noble appendice du travail français, et qui introduit ses productions dans le monde entier? Face à de tels résultats, ne serait-ce pas le comble de l'imprudence de renoncer à cette contribution modérée de tous ses citoyens qui, en fait, aux yeux de l'Europe, se rendent compte de leur supériorité et de leur gloire?
A ces raisons et à bien d'autres, dont je ne conteste pas la force, des arguments non moins énergiques peuvent être opposés. On pourrait tout d'abord dire qu'il y a là une question de justice distributive. Est-ce que le droit du législateur s'étend à la réduction des salaires de l'artisan, pour le plaisir de. augmenter les bénéfices de l'artiste? M. Lamartine a dit: "Si vous cessez de soutenir le théâtre, où vous arrêterez-vous? Ne serez-vous pas nécessairement amené à retirer votre soutien de vos collèges, de vos musées, de vos instituts et de vos bibliothèques? On pourrait répondre, si vous désir de soutenir tout ce qui est bon et utile, où vous arrêterez-vous? Ne serez-vous pas forcément amené à constituer une liste civile pour l'agriculture, l'industrie, le commerce, la bienveillance, l'éducation? Alors, est-il certain que l'aide gouvernementale favorise le progrès de l'art "Cette question est loin d'être réglée, et nous voyons très bien que les théâtres qui prospèrent sont ceux qui dépendent de leurs propres ressources. De plus, si nous venons à des considérations plus élevées, nous pouvons observer que les désirs et les désirs naissent l'un de l'autre , et proviennent de régions de plus en plus raffinées à mesure que la richesse publique permet de les satisfaire; que le gouvernement ne doit pas participer à cette correspondance, car dans une certaine condition de la fortune actuelle, il ne peut La fiscalité stimule les arts de la nécessité sans enrayer ceux du luxe, interrompant ainsi le cours naturel de la civilisation. Je peux observer que ces transpositions artificielles de désirs, de goûts, de travail et de population placent le peuple dans une position précaire et dangereuse, sans fondement solide.
Telles sont quelques-unes des raisons invoquées par les adversaires de l'intervention de l'État en ce qui concerne l'ordre dans lequel les citoyens pensent que leurs désirs et leurs désirs devraient être satisfaits et vers lesquels, par conséquent, leur activité devrait être dirigée. Je suis, je l'avoue, de ceux qui pensent que le choix et l'impulsion doivent venir d'en bas et non d'en haut, du citoyen et non du législateur; et la doctrine opposée me semble tendre à la destruction de la liberté et de la dignité humaine.
Mais, par une déduction aussi fausse qu'injuste, savez-vous de quoi les économistes sont accusés? C'est que lorsque nous désapprouvons le soutien du gouvernement, nous sommes censés désapprouver la chose elle-même dont le soutien est discuté; et d'être les ennemis de toutes sortes d'activités, parce que nous désirons voir ces activités, d'une part gratuites, et d'autre part chercher leur propre récompense en elles-mêmes. Ainsi, si nous pensons que l'État ne doit pas s'immiscer par la fiscalité dans les affaires religieuses, nous sommes athées. Si nous pensons que l'État ne doit pas s'immiscer dans la fiscalité de l'éducation, nous sommes hostiles à la connaissance. Si nous disons que l'État ne devrait pas imposer par voie fiscale une valeur fictive à la terre ou à une branche particulière de l'industrie, nous sommes ennemis de la propriété et du travail. Si nous pensons que l'État ne doit pas soutenir les artistes, nous sommes des barbares, qui considèrent les arts comme inutiles.
Contre de telles conclusions, je proteste de toutes mes forces. Loin de nourrir l'idée absurde de supprimer la religion, l'éducation, la propriété, le travail et les arts, quand on dit que l'État doit protéger le libre développement de tous ces types d'activité humaine, sans en aider certains au détriment d'autres – nous pensons au contraire que tous ces pouvoirs vivants de la société se développeraient plus harmonieusement sous l'influence de la liberté; et que, sous une telle influence, aucun d'eux ne serait, comme c'est le cas actuellement, source de troubles, d'abus, de tyrannie et de désordre.
Nos adversaires considèrent qu'une activité qui n'est ni aidée par l'approvisionnement, ni réglementée par le gouvernement, est une activité détruite. Nous pensons au contraire. Leur foi est dans le législateur, pas dans l'humanité; la nôtre appartient à l'humanité et non au législateur.
Ainsi, M. Lamartine a déclaré: "Sur ce principe, nous devons abolir les expositions publiques, qui sont l'honneur et la richesse de ce pays". Mais je dirais à M. Lamartine – Selon votre façon de penser, ne pas soutenir, c'est abolir; car, partant de la maxime selon laquelle rien n'existe indépendamment de la volonté de l'État, vous concluez que rien ne vit que ce que l'État fait vivre. Mais je m'oppose à cette affirmation de l'exemple même que vous avez choisi, et je vous prie de remarquer que la plus grande et la plus noble des expositions, celle qui a été conçue dans l'esprit le plus libéral et universel – et je pourrais même utiliser le terme humanitaire, car ce n'est pas exagéré – c'est l'exposition qui se prépare actuellement à Londres; le seul auquel aucun gouvernement ne participe et qui n'est payé par aucun impôt.
Pour revenir aux beaux-arts. Il y a, je le répète, de nombreuses raisons sérieuses à apporter, à la fois pour et contre le système d'aide gouvernementale: le lecteur doit voir que l'objet particulier de ce travail ne m'amène ni à expliquer ces raisons, ni à trancher en leur faveur, ni contre eux.
Mais M. Lamartine a avancé un argument que je ne peux pas passer sous silence, car il est étroitement lié à cette étude économique. "La question économique, en ce qui concerne les théâtres, est composée d'un seul mot – le travail. Peu importe la nature de ce travail; il est aussi fertile, aussi productif qu'un travail de toute autre sorte de travail dans la nation. Les théâtres de La France, vous le savez, nourrit et rémunère pas moins de 80000 ouvriers de toutes sortes; peintres, maçons, décorateurs, costumiers, architectes, etc., qui constituent la vie et le mouvement même de plusieurs parties de cette capitale, et pour cette raison, ils devrait avoir vos sympathies. " Vos sympathies! dites plutôt votre argent.
Et plus loin, il dit: "Les plaisirs de Paris sont le travail et la consommation des provinces, et le luxe des riches est le salaire et le pain de 200 000 ouvriers de toutes sortes, qui vivent de la multitude d'industries des théâtres sur la surface de la république, et qui reçoivent de ces nobles plaisirs, qui rendent la France illustre, la subsistance de leur vie et les nécessités de leurs familles et de leurs enfants. C'est à eux que vous donnerez 60 000 francs. " (Très bien; très bien. Vifs applaudissements.) Pour ma part, je suis contraint de dire: "Très mauvais! Très mauvais!" confiner cette opinion, bien entendu, dans les limites de la question économique dont nous discutons.
Oui, c'est aux ouvriers des théâtres qu'une partie, au moins, de ces 60 000 francs ira; quelques pots-de-vin, peut-être, peuvent être résumés en cours de route. Peut-être que si nous examinions la question de plus près, nous pourrions trouver que le gâteau était allé dans une autre direction et que ces ouvriers avaient de la chance et étaient venus chercher quelques miettes. Mais je permettrai, pour les besoins de l'argumentation, que la totalité de la somme revienne aux peintres, décorateurs, etc.
C'est ce qui se voit. Mais d'où vient-il? C'est l'autre côté de la question, et tout aussi important que le premier. D'où viennent ces 60 000 francs? et où iraient-ils, si un vote de la législature ne les dirigeait d'abord vers la rue Rivoli et de là vers la rue Grenelle? C'est ce qu'on ne voit pas. Certes, personne ne songera à soutenir que le vote législatif a fait éclore cette somme dans une urne; qu'il s'agit d'un pur ajout à la richesse nationale; que, sans ce vote miraculeux, ces 60 000 francs auraient été à jamais invisibles et impalpables. Il faut admettre que tout ce que la majorité peut faire est de décider qu’elles seront prises d’un endroit pour être envoyées dans un autre; et s'ils prennent une direction, c'est seulement parce qu'ils ont été détournés d'une autre.
Cela étant, il est clair que le contribuable, qui a versé un franc, n'aura plus ce franc à sa disposition. Il est clair qu'il sera privé d'une gratification d'un montant d'un franc; et que l'ouvrier, quel qu'il soit, qui l'aurait reçu de lui, sera privé d'un avantage de ce montant. Ne nous laissons donc pas conduire par une illusion enfantine à croire que le vote des 60 000 francs peut ajouter quoi que ce soit au bien-être du pays et au travail national. Il déplace les plaisirs, il transpose les salaires – c'est tout.
Dira-t-on que, pour un type de gratification et un type de travail, il remplace des gratifications et du travail plus urgents, plus moraux et plus raisonnables? Je pourrais contester cela; Je pourrais dire qu'en prenant 60 000 francs aux contribuables, vous diminuez les salaires des ouvriers, égoutteurs, charpentiers, forgerons, et augmentez proportionnellement ceux des chanteurs.
Rien ne prouve que cette dernière classe appelle plus de sympathie que la première. M. Lamartine ne dit pas qu'il en est ainsi. Il dit lui-même que le travail des théâtres est comme fertile, comme productif comme tout autre (pas plus); et cela peut être mis en doute; pour la meilleure preuve que celle-ci n'est pas aussi féconde que la première en cela, que l'autre doit être appelée à l'assister.
Mais cette comparaison entre la valeur et le mérite intrinsèque de différents types de travail ne fait pas partie de mon sujet actuel. Tout ce que j'ai à faire ici, c'est de montrer que si M. Lamartine et les personnes qui louent son argumentation ont vu d'un côté les salaires gagnés par le fournisseurs des comédiens, ils auraient dû d'autre part voir les salaires perdus par les fournisseurs of the taxpayers: for want of this, they have exposed themselves to ridicule by mistaking a displacement pour un Gain. If they were true to their doctrine, there would be no limits to their demands for government aid; for that which is true of one franc and of 60,000 is true, under parallel circumstances, of a hundred millions of francs.
When taxes are the subject of discussion, you ought to prove their utility by reasons from the root of the matter, but not by this unlucky assertion — "The public expenses support the working classes." This assertion disguises the important fact, that public expenses always supersede private expenses, and that therefore we bring a livelihood to one workman instead of another, but add nothing to the share of the working class as a whole. Your arguments are fashionable enough, but they are too absurd to be justified by anything like reason.
V. Public Works
Nothing is more natural than that a nation, after having assured itself that an enterprise will benefit the community, should have it executed by means of a general assessment. But I lose patience, I confess, when I hear this economic blunder advanced in support of such a project — " Besides, it will be a means of creating labor for the workmen."
The State opens a road, builds a palace, straightens a street, cuts a canal, and so gives work to certain workmen — this is what is seen: but it deprives certain other workmen of work — and this is what is not seen.
The road is begun. A thousand workmen come every morning, leave every evening, and take their wages-this is certain. If the road had not been decreed, if the supplies had not been voted, these good people would have had neither work nor salary there; this also is certain.
But is this all? Does not the operation, as a whole, contain something else? At the moment when M. Dupin pronounces the emphatic words, "The Assembly has adopted," do the millions descend miraculously on a moonbeam into the coffers of MM. Fould and Bineau? In order that the evolution may be complete, as it is said, must not the State organize the receipts as well as the expenditure? must it not set its tax-gatherers and tax-payers to work, the former to gather and the latter to pay?
Study the question, now, in both its elements. While you state the destination given by the State to the millions voted, do not neglect to state also the destination which the tax-payer would have given, but cannot now give, to the same. Then you will understand that a public enterprise is a coin with two sides. Upon one is engraved a laborer at work, with this device, that which is seen; on the other is a laborer out of work, with the device, that which is not seen.
The sophism which this work is intended to refute is the more dangerous when applied to public works, inasmuch as it serves to justify the most wanton enterprises and extravagance. When a railroad or a bridge are of real utility, it is sufficient to mention this utility. But if it does not exist, what do they do? Recourse is had to this mystification: "We must find work for the workmen."
Accordingly, orders are given that the drains in the Champ-de-Mars be made and unmade. The great Napoleon, it is said, thought he was doing a very philanthropic work by causing ditches to be made and then filled up. He said, therefore, " What signifies the result? All we want is to see wealth spread among the laboring classes."
But let us go to the root of the matter. We are deceived by money. To demand the cooperation of all the citizens in a common work, in the form of money, is in reality to demand a concurrence in kind; for every one procures, by his own labor, the sum to which he is taxed. Now, if all the citizens were to be called together, and made to execute, in conjunction, a work useful to all, this would be easily understood; their reward would be found in the results of the work itself.
But after having called them together, if you force them to make roads which no one will pass through, palaces which no one will inhabit, and this under the pretext of finding them work, it would be absurd, and they would have a right to argue, "With this labor we have nothing to do; we prefer working on our own account."
A proceeding which consists in making the citizens cooperate in giving money but not labor, does not, in any way, alter the general results. The only thing is, that the loss would react upon all parties. By the former, those whom the State employs, escape their part of the loss, by adding it to that which their fellow-citizens have already suffered.
There is an article in our constitution which says: "Society favors and encourages the development of labor — by the establishment of public works, by the State, the departments, and the parishes, as a means of employing persons who are in want of work."
As a temporary measure, on any emergency, during a hard winter, this interference with the tax-payers may have its use. It acts in the same way as securities. It adds nothing either to labor or to wages, but it takes labor and wages from ordinary times to give them, at a loss it is true, to times of difficulty.
As a permanent, general, systematic measure, it is nothing else than a ruinous mystification, an impossibility, which shows a little excited labor which is seen, and hides a great deal of prevented labor which is not seen.
VI. The Intermediates
Society is the total of the forced or voluntary services which men perform for each other; that is to say, of public services et private services.
The former, imposed and regulated by the law, which it is not always easy to change, even when it is desirable, may survive with it their own usefulness, and still preserve the name of public services, even when they are no longer services at all, but rather public annoyances. The latter belong to the sphere of the will, of individual responsibility. Every one gives and receives what he wishes, and what he can, after a debate. They have always the presumption of real utility, in exact proportion to their comparative value.
This is the reason why the former description of services so often become stationary, while the latter obey the law of progress.
While the exaggerated development of public services, by the waste of strength which it involves, fastens upon society a fatal sycophancy, it is a singular thing that several modern sects, attributing this character to free and private services, are endeavoring to transform professions into functions.
These sects violently oppose what they call intermediates. They would gladly suppress the capitalist, the banker, the speculator, the projector, the merchant, and the trader, accusing them of interposing between production and consumption, to extort from both, without giving either anything in return. Or rather, they would transfer to the State the work which they accomplish, for this work cannot be suppressed.
The sophism of the Socialists on this point is, showing to the public what it pays to the intermediates in exchange for their services, and concealing from it what is necessary to be paid to the State. Here is the usual conflict between what is before our eyes and what is perceptible to the mind only; between what is seen et what is not seen.
It was at the time of the scarcity, in 1847, that the Socialist schools attempted and succeeded in popularizing their fatal theory. They knew very well that the most absurd notions have always a chance with people who are suffering; malisundafames.
Therefore, by the help of the fine words, " trafficking in men by men, speculation on hunger, monopoly," they began to blacken commerce, and to cast a veil over its benefits.
"What can be the use," they say, "of leaving to the merchants the care of importing food from the United States and the Crimea? Why do not the State, the departments, and the towns, organize a service for provisions and a magazine for stores? They would sell, at a return price, and the people, poor things, would be exempted from the tribute which they pay to free, that is, to egotistical, individual, and anarchical commerce."
The tribute paid by the people to commerce is that which is seen. The tribute which the people would pay to the State, or to its agents, in the Socialist system, is what is not seen.
In what does this pretended tribute, which the people pay to commerce, consist? In this: that two men render each other a mutual service, in all freedom, and under the pressure of competition and reduced prices.
When the hungry stomach is at Paris, and corn which can satisfy it is at Odessa, the suffering cannot cease till the corn is brought into contact with the stomach. There are three means by which this contact may be effected. 1st. The famished men may go themselves and fetch the corn. 2nd. They may leave this task to those to whose trade it belongs. 3rd. They may club together, and give the office in charge to public functionaries. Which of these three methods possesses the greatest advantages? In every time, in all countries, and the more free, enlightened, and experienced they are, men have voluntarily chosen the second. I confess that this is sufficient, in my opinion, to justify this choice. I cannot believe that mankind, as a whole, is deceiving itself upon a point which touches it so nearly. But let us now consider the subject.
For thirty-six millions of citizens to go and fetch the corn they want from Odessa, is a manifest impossibility. The first means, then, goes for nothing. The consumers cannot act for themselves. They must, of necessity, have recourse to intermediates, officials or agents.
But observe, that the first of these three means would be the most natural. In reality, the hungry man has to fetch his corn. It is a task which concerns himself, a service due to himself. If another person, on whatever ground, performs this service for him, takes the task upon himself, this latter has a claim upon him for a compensation. I mean by this to say that intermediates contain in themselves the principle of remuneration.
However that may be, since we must refer to what the Socialists call a parasite, I would ask, which of the two is the most exacting parasite, the merchant or the official?
Commerce (free, of course, otherwise I could not reason upon it), commerce, I say, is led by its own interests to study the seasons, to give daily statements of the state of the crops, to receive information from every part of the globe, to foresee wants, to take precautions beforehand. It has vessels always ready, correspondents everywhere; and it is its immediate interest to buy at the lowest possible price, to economize in all the details of its operations, and to attain the greatest results by the smallest efforts. It is not the French merchants only who are occupied in procuring provisions for France in time of need, and if their interest leads them irresistibly to accomplish their task at the smallest possible cost, the competition which they create amongst each other leads them no less irresistibly to cause the consumers to partake of the profits of those realized savings. The corn arrives: it is to the interest of commerce to sell it as soon as possible, so as to avoid risks, to realize its funds, and begin again the first opportunity.
Directed by the comparison of prices, it distributes food over the whole surface of the country, beginning always at the highest. price, that is, where the demand is the greatest. It is impossible to imagine an organization more completely calculated to meet the interest of those who are in want; and the beauty of this organization, unperceived as it is by the Socialists, results from the very fact that it is free. It is true, the consumer is obliged to reimburse commerce for the expenses of conveyance, freight, store-room, commission, & c.; but can any system be devised in which he who eats corn is not obliged to defray the expenses, whatever they may be, of bringing it within his reach? The remuneration for the service performed has to be paid also; but as regards its amount, this is reduced to the smallest possible sum by competition; and as regards its justice, it would be very strange if the artisans of Paris would not work for the artisans of Marseilles, when the merchants of Marseilles work for the artisans of Paris.
If, according to the Socialist invention, the State were to stand in the stead of commerce, what would happen? I should like to be informed where the saving would be to the public? Would it be in the price of purchase? Imagine the delegates of 40,000 parishes arriving at Odessa on a given day, and on the day of need: imagine the effect upon prices. Would the saving be in the expenses? Would fewer vessels be required; fewer sailors, fewer transports, fewer sloops? or would you be exempt from the payment of all these things? Would it be in the profits of the merchants? Would your officials go to Odessa for nothing? Would they travel and work on the principle of fraternity? Must they not live? Must not they be paid for their time? And do you believe that these expenses would not exceed a thousand times the two or three per cent. which the merchant gains, at the rate at which he is ready to treat?
And then consider the difficulty of levying so many taxes, and of dividing so much food. Think of the injustice, of the abuses inseparable from such an enterprise. Think of the responsibility which would weigh upon the Government.
The Socialists who have invented these follies, and who, in the days of distress, have introduced them into the minds of the masses, take to themselves literally the title of advanced men; and it is not without some danger that custom, that tyrant of tongues, authorizes the term, and the sentiment which it involves. Advanced! This supposes that these gentlemen can see further than the common people; that their only fault is that they are too much in advance of their age; and if the time is not yet come for suppressing certain free services, pretended parasites, the fault is to be attributed to the public which is in the rear of Socialism. I say, from my soul and my conscience, the reverse is the truth; and I know not to what barbarous age we should have to go back, if we would find the level of Socialist knowledge on this subject. These modern sectarians incessantly oppose association to actual society. They overlook the fact that society, under a free regulation, is a true association, far superior to any of those which proceed from their fertile imaginations.
Let me illustrate this by an example. Before a man, when he gets up in the morning, can put on a coat, ground must have been enclosed, broken up, drained, tilled, and sown with a particular kind of plant; flocks must have been fed, and have given their wool; this wool must have been spun, woven, dyed, and converted into cloth; this cloth must have been cut, sewed, and made into a garment. And this series of operations implies a number of others; it supposes the employment of instruments for plowing, & c., sheepfolds, sheds, coal, machines, carriages, & c.
If society were not a perfectly real association, a person who wanted a coat would be reduced to the necessity of working in solitude; that is, of performing for himself the innumerable parts of this series, from the first stroke of the pickaxe to the last stitch which concludes the work. But, thanks to the sociability which is the distinguishing character of our race, these operations are distributed amongst a multitude of workers; and they are further subdivided, for the common good, to an extent that, as the consumption becomes more active, one single operation is able to support a new trade.
Then comes the division of the profits, which operates according to the contingent value which each has brought to the entire work. If this is not association, I should like to know what is.
Observe, that as no one of these workers has obtained the smallest particle of matter from nothingness, they are confined to performing for each other mutual services, and to helping each other in a common object, and that all may be considered, with respect to others, intermediates. If, for instance, in the course of the operation, the conveyance becomes important enough to occupy one person, the spinning another, the weaving another, why should the first be considered a parasite more than the other two? The conveyance must be made, must it not? Does not he who performs it devote to it his time and trouble? and by so doing does he not spare that of his colleagues? Do these do more or other than this for him? Are they not equally dependent for remuneration, that is, for the division of the produce, upon the law of reduced price? Is it not in all liberty, for the common good, that this separation of work takes place, and that these arrangements are entered into? What do we want with a Socialist then, who, under pretence of organizing for us, comes despotically to break up our voluntary arrangements, to check the division of labor, to substitute isolated efforts for combined ones, and to send civilization back? Is association, as I describe it here, in itself less association, because every one enters and leaves it freely, chooses his place in it, judges and bargains for himself on his own responsibility, and brings with him the spring and warrant of personal interest? That it may deserve this name, is it necessary that a pretended reformer should come and impose upon us his plan and his will, and, as it were, to concentrate mankind in himself?
The more we examine these advanced schools, the more do we become convinced that there is but one thing at the root of them: ignorance proclaiming itself infallible, and claiming despotism in the name of this infallibility.
I hope the reader will excuse this digression. It may not be altogether useless, at a time when declamations, springing from St. Simonian, Phalansterian, and Icarian books, are invoking the press and the tribune, and which seriously threaten the liberty of labor and commercial transactions.
M. Prohibant (it was not I who gave him this name, but M. Charles Dupin) devoted his time and capital to converting the ore found on his land into iron. As nature had been more lavish towards the Belgians, they furnished the French with iron cheaper than M. Prohibant; which means, that all the French, or France, could obtain a given quantity of iron with less labor by buying it of the honest Flemings. Therefore, guided by their own interest, they did not fail to do so; and every day there might be seen a multitude of nail-smiths, blacksmiths, cartwrights, machinists, farriers, and laborers, going themselves, or sending intermediates, to supply themselves in Belgium. This displeased M. Prohibant exceedingly.
At first, it occurred to him to put an end to this abuse by his own efforts: it was the least he could do, for he was the only sufferer. "I will take my carbine," said he; " I will put four pistols into my belt; I will fill my cartridge box; I will gird on my sword, and go thus equipped to the frontier. There, the first blacksmith, nail-smith, farrier, machinist, or locksmith, who presents himself to do his own business and not mine, I will kill, to teach him how to live." At the moment of starting, M. Prohibant made a few reflections which calmed down his warlike ardor a little. He said to himself, "In the first place, it is not absolutely impossible that the purchasers of iron, my countrymen and enemies, should take the thing ill, and, instead of letting me kill them, should kill me instead; and then, even were I to call out all my servants, we should not be able to defend the passages. In short, this proceeding would cost me very dear, much more so than the result would be worth."
M. Prohibant was on the point of resigning himself to his sad fate, that of being only as free as the rest of the world, when a ray of light darted across his brain. He recollected that at Paris there is a great manufactory of laws." What is a law?" said he to himself. "It is a measure to which, when once it is decreed, be it good or bad, everybody is bound to conform. For the execution of the same a public force is organized, and to constitute the said public force, men and money are drawn from the whole nation. If, then, I could only get the great Parisian manufactory to pass a little law, 'Belgian iron is prohibited,' I should obtain the following results: The Government would replace the few valets that I was going to send to the frontier by 20,000 of the sons of those refractory blacksmiths, farriers, artisans, machinists, locksmiths, nail-smiths, and laborers. Then to keep these 20,000 custom-house officers in health and good humor, it would distribute among them 25,000,000 of francs taken from these blacksmiths, nail-smiths, artisans, and laborers. They would guard the frontier much better; would cost me nothing; I should not be exposed to the brutality of the brokers; should sell the iron at my own price, and have the sweet satisfaction of se eing our great people shamefully mystified. That would teach them to proclaim themselves perpetually the harbingers and promoters of progress in Europe. Oh! it would be a capital joke, and deserves to be tried."
So M. Prohibant went to the law manufactory. Another time, perhaps, I shall relate the story of his underhand dealings, but now I shall merely mention his visible proceedings. He brought the following consideration before the view of the legislating gentlemen.
"Belgian iron is sold in France at ten francs, which obliges me to sell mine at the same price. I should like to sell at fifteen, but cannot do so on account of this Belgian iron, which I wish was at the bottom of the Red Sea. I beg you will make a law that no more Belgian iron shall enter France. Immediately I raise my price five francs, and these are the consequences:
"For every hundred-weight of iron that I shall deliver to the public, I shall receive fifteen francs instead of ten; I shall grow rich more rapidly, extend my traffic, and employ more workmen. My workmen and I shall spend much more freely, to the great advantage of our tradesmen for miles around. These latter, having more custom, will furnish more employment to trade, and activity on both sides will increase in the country. This fortunate piece of money, which you will drop into my strong-box, will, like a stone thrown into a lake, give birth to an infinite number of concentric circles."
Charmed with his discourse, delighted to learn that it is so easy to promote, by legislating, the prosperity of a people, the law-makers voted the restriction. "Talk of labor and economy," they said, "what is the use of these painful means of increasing the national wealth, when all that is wanted for this object is a decree?"
And, in fact, the law produced all the consequences announced by M. Prohibant: the only thing was, it produced others which he had not foreseen. To do him justice, his reasoning was not false, but only incomplete. In endeavoring to obtain a privilege, he had taken cognizance of the effects which are seen, leaving in the background those which are not seen. He had pointed out two personages, whereas there are three concerned in the affair. It is for us to supply this involuntary or premeditated omission.
It is true, the crown-piece, thus directed by law into M. Prohibant's strong-box, is advantageous to him and to those whose labor it would encourage; and if the Act had caused the crown-piece to descend from the moon, these good effects would not have been counterbalanced by any corresponding evils. Unfortunately, the mysterious piece of money does not come from the moon, but from the pocket of a blacksmith, or a nail-smith, or a cartwright, or a farrier, or a laborer, or a shipwright; in a word, from James B., who gives it now without receiving a grain more of iron than when he was paying ten francs. Thus, we can see at a glance that this very much alters the state of the case; for it is very evident that M. Prohibant's profit is compensated by James B.'s perte, and all that M. Prohibant can do with the crown-piece, for the encouragement of national labor, James B. might have done himself. The stone has only been thrown upon one part of the lake, because the law has prevented it from being thrown upon another.
Par conséquent, that which is not seen supersedes that which is seen, and at this point there remains, as the residue of the operation, a piece of injustice, and, sad to say, a piece of injustice perpetrated by the law!
This is not all. I have said that there is always a third person left in the background. I must now bring him forward, that he may reveal to us a second loss of five francs. Then we shall have the entire results of the transaction.
James B. is the possessor of fifteen francs, the fruit of his labor. He is now free. What does he do with his fifteen francs? He purchases some article of fashion for ten francs, and with it he pays (or the intermediate pay for him) for the hundredweight of Belgian iron. After this he has five francs left. He does not throw them into the river, but (and this is what is not seen) he gives them to some tradesman in exchange for some enjoyment; to a bookseller, for instance, for Bossuet's "Discourse on Universal History."
Thus, as far as national labor is concerned, it is encouraged to the amount of fifteen francs, viz.: ten francs for the Paris article, five francs to the bookselling trade.
As to James B., he obtains for his fifteen francs two gratifications, viz.:
1st. A hundred-weight of iron.
2nd. A book.
The decree is put in force. How does it affect the condition of James B.? How does it affect the national labor?
James B. pays every centime of his five francs to M. Prohibant, and therefore is deprived of the pleasure of a book, or of some other thing of equal value. He loses five francs. This must be admitted; it cannot fail to be admitted, that when restriction raises the price of things, the consumer loses the difference.
But, then, it is said, national labor is the gainer.
No, it is not the gainer; for since the Act, it is no more encouraged than it was before, to the amount of fifteen francs.
The only thing is that, since the Act, the fifteen francs of James B. go to the metal trade, while before it was put in force, they were divided between the milliner and the bookseller.
The violence used by M. Prohibant on the frontier, or that which he causes to be used by the law, may be judged very differently in a moral point of view. Some persons consider that plunder is perfectly justifiable, if only sanctioned by law. But, for myself, I cannot imagine anything more aggravating. However it may be, the economical results are the same in both cases.
Look at the thing as you will; but if you are impartial, you will see that no good can come of legal or illegal plunder. We do not deny that it affords M. Prohibant, or his trade, or, if you will, national industry, a profit of five francs. But we affirm that it causes two losses, one to James B., who pays fifteen francs where he otherwise would have paid ten; the other to national industry, which does not receive the difference. Take your choice of these two losses, and compensate with it the profit which we allow. The other will prove not the less a dead loss. Here is the moral: To take by violence is not to produce, but to destroy. Truly, if taking by violence was producing, this country of ours would be a little richer than she is.
"A curse on machines! Every year, their increasing power devotes millions of workmen to pauperism, by depriving them of work, and therefore of wages and bread. A curse on machines!"
This is the cry which is raised by vulgar prejudice, and echoed in the journals.
But to curse machines is to curse the spirit of humanity!
It puzzles me to conceive how any man can feel any satisfaction in such a doctrine.
For, if true, what is its inevitable consequence? That there is no activity, prosperity, wealth, or happiness possible for any people, except for those who are stupid and inert, and to whom God has not granted the fatal gift of knowing how to think, to observe, to combine, to invent, and to obtain the greatest results with the smallest means. On the contrary, rags, mean huts, poverty, and inanition, are the inevitable lot of every nation which seeks and finds in iron, fire, wind, electricity, magnetism, the laws of chemistry and mechanics, in a word, in the powers of nature, an assistance to its natural powers. We might as well say with Rousseau — "Every man that thinks is a depraved animal."
This is not all. If this doctrine is true, all men think and invent, since all, from first to last, and at every moment of their existence, seek the cooperation of the powers of nature, and try to make the most of a little, by reducing either the work of their hands or their expenses, so as to obtain the greatest possible amount of gratification with the smallest possible amount of labor, it must follow, as a matter of course, that the whole of mankind is rushing towards its decline, by the same mental aspiration towards progress, which torments each of its members.
Hence, it ought to be made known, by statistics, that the inhabitants of Lancashire, abandoning that land of machines, seek for work in Ireland, where they are unknown; and, by history, that barbarism darkens the epochs of civilization, and that civilization shines in times of ignorance and barbarism.
There is evidently in this mass of contradictions something which revolts us, and which leads us to suspect that the problem contains within it an element of solution which has not been sufficiently disengaged.
Here is the whole mystery: behind that which is seen lies something which is not seen. I will endeavor to bring it to light. The demonstration I shall give will only be a repetition of the preceding one, for the problems are one and the same.
Men have a natural propensity to make the best bargain they can, when not prevented by an opposing force; that is, they like to obtain as much as they possibly can for their labor, whether advantage is obtained from a foreign producer or a skillful mechanical producer.
The theoretical objection which is made to this propensity is the same in both cases. In each case it is reproached with the apparent inactivity which it causes to labor. Now, labor rendered available, not inactive, is the very thing which determines it. And, therefore, in both cases, the same practical obstacle — force, is opposed to it also.
The legislator prohibits foreign competition, and forbids mechanical competition. For what other means can exist for arresting a propensity which is natural to all men, but that of depriving them of their liberty?
In many countries, it is true, the legislator strikes at only one of these competitions, and confines himself to grumbling at the other. This only proves one thing, that is, that the legislator is inconsistent.
We need not be surprised at this. On a wrong road, inconsistency is inevitable; if it were not so, mankind would be sacrificed. A false principle never has been, and never will be, carried out to the end.
Now for our demonstration, which shall not be a long one.
James B. had two francs which he had gained by two workmen; but it occurs to him that an arrangement of ropes and weights might be made which would diminish the labor by half. Therefore he obtains the same advantage, saves a franc, and discharges a workman.
He discharges a workman: this is that which is seen.
And seeing this only, it is said, "See how misery attends civilization; this is the way that liberty is fatal to equality. The human mind has made a conquest, and immediately a workman is cast into the gulf of pauperism. James B. may possibly employ the two workmen, but then he will give them only half their wages, for they will compete with each other, and offer themselves at the lowest price. Thus the rich are always growing richer, and the poor, poorer. Society wants remodeling." A very fine conclusion, and worthy of the preamble.
Happily, preamble and conclusion are both false, because, behind the half of the phenomenon which is seen, lies the other half which is not seen.
The franc saved by James B. is not seen, no more are the necessary effects of this saving.
Since, in consequence of his invention, James B. spends only one franc on hand labor in the pursuit, of a determined advantage, another franc remains to him.
If, then, there is in the world a workman with unemployed arms, there is also in the world a capitalist with an unemployed franc. These two elements meet and combine, and it is as clear as daylight, that between the supply and demand of labor, and between the supply and demand of wages, the relation is in no way changed.
The invention and the workman paid with the first franc, now perform the work which was formerly accomplished by two workmen. The second workman, paid with the second franc, realizes a new kind of work.
What is the change, then, which has taken place? An additional national advantage has been gained; in other words, the invention is a gratuitous triumph — a gratuitous profit for mankind.
From the form which I have given to my demonstration, the following inference might be drawn: "It is the capitalist who reaps all the advantage from machinery. The working class, if it suffers only temporarily, never profits by it, since, by your own showing, they displace a portion of the national labor, without diminishing it, it is true, but also without increasing it."
I do not pretend, in this slight treatise, to answer every objection; the only end I have in view, is to combat a vulgar, widely spread, and dangerous prejudice. I want to prove that a new machine only causes the discharge of a certain number of hands, when the remuneration which pays them is abstracted by force. These hands and this remuneration would combine to produce what it was impossible to produce before the invention; whence it follows, that the final result is an increase of advantages for equal labor.
Who is the gainer by these additional advantages?
First, it is true, the capitalist, the inventor; the first who succeeds in using the machine; and this is the reward of his genius and courage. In this case, as we have just seen, he effects a saving upon the expense of production, which, in whatever way it may be spent (and it always is spent), employs exactly as many hands as the machine caused to be dismissed.
But soon competition obliges him to lower his prices in proportion to the saving itself; and then it is no longer the inventor who reaps the benefit of the invention-it is the purchaser of what is produced, the consumer, the public, including the workman; in a word, mankind.
Et that which is not seen is, that the saving thus procured for all consumers creates a fund whence wages may be supplied, and which replaces that which the machine has exhausted.
Thus, to recur, to the forementioned example, James B. obtains a profit by spending two francs in wages. Thanks to his invention, the hand labor costs him only one franc. So long as he sells the thing produced at the same price, he employs one workman less in producing this particular thing, and that is what is seen; but there is an additional workman employed by the franc which James B. has saved. This is that which is not seen.
When, by the natural progress of things, James B. is obliged to lower the price of the thing produced by one franc, then he no longer realizes a saving; then he has no longer a franc to dispose of to, procure for the national labor a new production. But then another gainer takes his place, and this gainer is mankind. Whoever buys the thing he has produced, pays a franc less, and necessarily adds this saving to the fund of wages; and this, again, is what is not seen.
Another solution, founded upon facts, has been given of this problem of machinery.
It was said, machinery reduces the expense of production, and lowers the price of the thing produced. The reduction of the profit causes an increase of consumption, which necessitates an increase of production; and, finally, the introduction of as many workmen, or more, after the invention as were necessary before it. As a proof of this, printing, weaving, & c., are instanced.
This demonstration is not a scientific one. It would lead us to conclude, that if the consumption of the particular production of which we are speaking remains stationary, or nearly so, machinery must injure labor. Ce n'est pas le cas.
Suppose that in a certain country all the people wore hats. If, by machinery, the price could be reduced half, it would not necessarily follow that the consumption would be doubled.
Would you say that in this case a portion of the national labor had been paralyzed? Yes, according to the vulgar demonstration; but, according to mine, No; for even if not a single hat more should be bought in the country, the entire fund of wages would not be the less secure. That which failed to go to the hat-making trade would be found to gone to the economy realized by all the consumers, and would thence serve to pay for all the labor which the machine had rendered useless, and to excite a new development of all the trades. And thus it is that things go on. I have known newspapers to cost eighty francs, now we pay forty-eight: here is a saving of thirty-two francs to the subscribers. It is not certain, or at least necessary, that the thirty-two francs should take the direction of the journalist trade; but it is certain, and necessary too, that if they do not take this direction they will take another. One makes use of them for taking in more newspapers; another, to get better' living; another, better clothes; another, better furniture. It is thus that the trades are bound together. They form a vast whole, whose different parts communicate by secret canals: what is saved by one, profits all. It is very important for us to understand that savings never take place at the expense of labor and wages.
In all times, but more especially of late years, attempts have been made to extend wealth by the extension of credit.
I believe it is no exaggeration to say, that since the revolution of February, the Parisian presses have issued more than 10,000 pamphlets, crying up this solution of the social problem.
The only basis, alas! of this solution, is an optical delusion — if, indeed, an optical delusion can be called a basis at all.
The first thing done is to confuse cash with produce, then paper money with cash; and from these two confusions it is pretended that a reality can be drawn.
It is absolutely necessary in this question to forget money, coin, bills, and the other instruments by means of which productions pass from hand to hand. Our business is with the productions themselves, which are the real objects of the loan; for when a farmer borrows fifty francs to buy a plow, it is not, in reality, the fifty francs which are lent to him, but the plow; and when a merchant borrows 20,000 francs to purchase a house, it is not the 20,000 francs which he owes, but the house. Money only appears for the sake of facilitating the arrangements between the parties.
Peter may not be disposed to lend his plow, but James may be willing to lend his money. What does William do in this case? He borrows money of James, and with this money he buys the plow of Peter.
But, in point of fact, no one borrows money for the sake of the money itself; money is only the medium by which to obtain possession of productions. Now, it is impossible in any country to transmit from one person to another more productions than that country contains.
Whatever may be the amount of cash and of paper which is in circulation, the whole of the borrowers cannot receive more plows, houses, tools, and supplies of raw material, than the lenders altogether can furnish; for we must take care not to forget that every borrower supposes a lender, and that what is once borrowed implies a loan.
This granted, what advantage is there in institutions of credit? It is, that they facilitate, between borrowers and lenders, the means of finding and treating with each other; but it is not in their power to cause an instantaneous increase of the things to be borrowed and lent. And yet they ought to be able to do so, if the aim of the reformers is to be attained, since they aspire to nothing less than to place plows, houses, tools, and provisions in the hands of all those who desire them.
And how do they intend to effect this?
By making the State security for the loan.
Let us try and fathom the subject, for it contains something which is seen, and also something which is not seen. We must endeavor to look at both.
We will suppose that there is but one plow in the world, and that two farmers apply for it.
Peter is the possessor of the only plow which is to be had in France; John and James wish to borrow it. John, by his honesty, his property, and good reputation, offers security. He inspires confidence; he has credit. James inspires little or no confidence. It naturally happens that Peter lends his plow to John.
But now, according to the Socialist plan, the State interferes, and says to Peter, "Lend your plow to James, I will be security for its return, and this security will be better than that of John, for he has no one to be responsible for him but himself; and I, although it is true that I have nothing, dispose of the fortune of the tax-payers, and it is with their money that, in case of need, I shall pay you the principal and interest." Consequently, Peter lends his plow to James: this is what is seen.
And the Socialists rub their hands, and say, "See how well our plan has answered. Thanks to the intervention of the State, poor James has a plow. He will no longer be obliged to dig the ground; he is on the road to make a fortune. It is a good thing for him, and an advantage to the nation as a whole."
Indeed, it is no such thing; it is no advantage to the nation, for there is something behind which is not seen.
It is not seen, that the plow is in the hands of James, only because it is not in those of John.
It is not seen, that if James farms instead of digging, John will be reduced to the necessity of digging instead of farming.
That, consequently, what was considered an increase of loan, is nothing but a displacement of loan. Besides, it is not seen that this displacement implies two acts of deep injustice.
It is an injustice to John, who, after having deserved and obtained credit by his honesty and activity, sees himself robbed of it.
It is an injustice to the tax-payers, who are made to pay a debt which is no concern of theirs.
Will any one say, that Government offers the same facilities to John as it does to James? But as there is only one plow to be had, two cannot be lent. The argument always maintains that, thanks to the intervention of the State, more will be borrowed than there are things to be lent; for the plow represents here the bulk of available capitals.
It is true, I have reduced the operation to the most simple expression of it, but if you submit the most complicated Government institutions of credit to the same test, you will be convinced that they can have but one result; viz., to displace credit, not to augment it. In one country, and in a given time, there is only a certain amount of capital available, and all are employed. In guaranteeing the non-payers, the State may, indeed, increase the number of borrowers, and thus raise the rate of interest (always to the prejudice of the tax-payer), but it has no power to increase the number of lenders, and the importance of the total of the loans.
There is one conclusion, however, which I would not for the world be suspected of drawing. I say, that the law ought not to favor, artificially, the power of borrowing, but I do not say that it ought not to restrain them artificially. If, in our system of mortgage, or in any other, there be obstacles to the diffusion of the application of credit, let them be got rid of; nothing can be better or more just than this. But this is all which is consistent with liberty, and it is all that any who are worthy of the name of reformers will ask.
Here are four orators disputing for the platform. First, all the four speak at once; then they speak one after the other. What have they said? Some very fine things, certainly, about the power and the grandeur of France; about the necessity of sowing, if we would reap; about the brilliant future of our gigantic colony; about the advantage of diverting to a distance the surplus of our population, & c. & c. Magnificent pieces of eloquence, and always adorned with this conclusion: "Vote fifty millions, more or less, for making ports and roads in Algeria; for sending emigrants thither; for building houses and breaking up land. By so doing, you will relieve the French workman, encourage African labor, and give a stimulus to the commerce of Marseilles. It would be profitable every way."
Yes, it is all very true, if you take no account of the fifty millions until the moment when the State begins to spend them; if you only see where they go, and not whence they come; if you look only at the good they are to do when they come out of the tax-gatherer's bag, and not at the harm which has been done, and the good which has been prevented, by putting them into it. Yes, at this limited point of view, all is profit. The house which is built in Barbary is that which is seen; the harbor made in Barbary is that which is seen; the work caused in Barbary is what is seen; a few less hands in France is what is seen; a great stir with goods at Marseilles is still that which is seen.
But, besides all this, there is something which is not seen. The fifty millions expended by the State cannot be spent, as they otherwise would have been, by the tax-payers. It is necessary to deduct, from all the good attributed to the public expenditure which has been effected, all the harm caused by the prevention of private expense, unless we say that James B. would have done nothing with the crown that he had gained, and of which the tax had deprived him; an absurd assertion, for if he took the trouble to earn it, it was because he expected the satisfaction of using it. He would have repaired the palings in his garden, which he cannot now do, and this is that which is not seen. He would have manured his field, which now he cannot do, and this is what is not seen. He would have added another story to his cottage, which he cannot do now, and this is what is not seen. He might have increased the number of his tools, which he cannot do now, and this is what is not seen. He would have been better fed, better clothed, have given a better education to his children, and increased his daughter's marriage portion; this is what is not seen. He would have become a member of the Mutual Assistance Society, but now he cannot; this is what is not seen. On one hand, are the enjoyments of which he has been deprived, and the means of action which have been destroyed in his hands; on the other, are the labor of the drainer, the carpenter, the smith, the tailor, the village schoolmaster, which he would have encouraged, and which are now prevented — all this is what is not seen.
Much is hoped from the future prosperity of Algeria; be it so. But the drain to which France is being subjected ought not to be kept entirely out of sight. The commerce of Marseilles is pointed out to me; but if this is to be brought about by means of taxation, I shall always show that an equal commerce is destroyed thereby in other parts of the country. It is said, "There is an emigrant transported into Barbary; this is a relief to the population which remains in the country," I answer, "How can that be, if, in transporting this emigrant to Algiers, you also transport two or three times the capital which would have served to maintain him in France?" The only object I have in view is to make it evident to the reader, that in every public expense, behind the apparent benefit, there is an evil which it is not so easy to discern. As far as in me lies, I would make him form a habit of seeing both, and taking account of both.
When a public expense is proposed, it ought to be examined in itself, separately from the pretended encouragement of labor which results from it, for this encouragement is a delusion. Whatever is done in this way at the public expense, private expense would have done all the same; therefore, the interest of labor is always out of the question.
It is not the object of this treatise to criticize the intrinsic merit of the public expenditure as applied to Algeria, but I cannot withhold a general observation. It is, that the presumption is always unfavorable to collective expenses by way of tax. Pourquoi? For this reason: First, justice always suffers from it in some degree. Since James B. had labored to gain his crown, in the hope of receiving a gratification from it, it is to be regretted that the exchequer should interpose, and take from James B. this gratification, to bestow it upon another. Certainly, it behooves the exchequer, or those who regulate it, to give good reasons for this. It has been shown that the State gives a very provoking one, when it says, "With this crown I shall employ workmen;" for James B. (as soon as he sees it) will be sure to answer, "It is all very fine, but with this crown I might employ them myself."
Apart from this reason, others present themselves without disguise, by which the debate between the exchequer and poor James becomes much simplified. If the State says to him, "I take your crown to pay the gendarme, who saves you the trouble of providing for your own personal safety; for paving the street which you are passing through every day; for paying the magistrate who causes your property and your liberty to be respected; to maintain the soldier who maintains our frontiers" — James B., unless I am much mistaken, will pay for all this without hesitation. But if the State were to say to him, "I take this crown that I may give you a little prize in case you cultivate your field well; or that I may teach your son something that you have no wish that he should learn; or that the Minister may add another to his score of dishes at dinner; I take it to build a cottage in Algeria, in which case I must take another crown every year to keep an emigrant in it, and another hundred to maintain a soldier to guard this emigrant, and another crown to maintain a general to guard this soldier," & c., & c. — I think I hear poor James exclaim, "This system of law is very much like a system of cheat!" The State foresees the objection, and what does it do? It jumbles all things together, and brings forward just that provoking reason which ought to have nothing whatever to do with the question. It talks of the effect of this crown upon labor; it points to the cook and purveyor of the Minister; it shows an emigrant, a soldier, and a general, living upon the crown; it shows, in fact, what is seen, and if James B. has not learned to take into the account what is not seen, James B. will be duped. And this is why I want to do all I can to impress it upon his mind, by repeating it over and over again.
As the public expenses displace labor without increasing it, a second serious presumption presents itself against them. To displace labor is to displace laborers, and to disturb the natural laws which regulate the distribution of the population over the country. If 50,000,000 francs are allowed to remain in the possession of the tax-payers since the tax-payers are everywhere, they encourage labor in the 40,000 parishes in France. They act like a natural tie, which keeps every one upon his native soil; they distribute themselves amongst all imaginable laborers and trades. If the State, by drawing off these 50,000,000 francs from the citizens, accumulates them, and expends them on some given point, it attracts to this point a proportional quantity of displaced labor, a corresponding number of laborers, belonging to other parts; a fluctuating population, which is out of its place, and I venture to say dangerous when the fund is exhausted. Now here is the consequence (and this confirms all I have said): this feverish activity is, as it were, forced into a narrow space; it attracts the attention of all; it is what is seen. The people applaud; they are astonished at the beauty and facility of the plan, and expect to have it continued and extended. That which they do not see is, that an equal quantity of labor, which would probably be more valuable, has been paralyzed over the rest of France.
XI. Frugality and Luxury
It is not only in the public expenditure that what is seen eclipses what is not seen. Setting aside what relates to political economy, this phenomenon leads to false reasoning. It causes nations to consider their moral and their material interests as contradictory to each other. What can be more discouraging or more dismal?
For instance, there is not a father of a family who does not think it his duty to teach his children order, system, the habits of carefulness, of economy, and of moderation in spending money.
There is no religion which does not thunder against pomp and luxury. This is as it should be; but, on the other hand, how frequently do we hear the following remarks:
"To hoard, is to drain the veins of the people."
"The luxury of the great is the comfort of the little."
"Prodigals ruin themselves, but they enrich the State."
"It is the superfluity of the rich which makes bread for the poor."
Here, certainly, is a striking contradiction between the moral and the social idea. How many eminent spirits, after having made the assertion, repose in peace. It is a thing I never could understand, for it seems to me that nothing can be more distressing than to discover two opposite tendencies in mankind. Why, it comes to degradation at each of the extremes: economy brings it to misery; prodigality plunges it into moral degradation. Happily, these vulgar maxims exhibit economy and luxury in a false light, taking account, as they do, of those immediate consequences which are seen, and not of the remote ones, which are not seen. Let us see if we can rectify this incomplete view of the case.
Mondor and his brother Aristus, after dividing the parental inheritance, have each an income of 50,000 francs. Mondor practices the fashionable philanthropy. He is what is called a squanderer of money. He renews his furniture several times a year; changes his equipages every month. People talk of his ingenious contrivances to bring them sooner to an end: in short, he surpasses the fast livers of Balzac and Alexander Dumas.
Thus everybody is singing his praises. It is, "Tell us about Mondor! Mondor for ever! He is the benefactor of the workman; a blessing to the people. It is true, he revels in dissipation; he splashes the passers-by; his own dignity and that of human nature are lowered a little; but what of that? He does good with his fortune, if not with himself. He causes money to circulate; he always sends the trades-people away satisfied. Is not money made round that it may roll?"
Aristus has adopted a very different plan of life. If he is not an egotist, he is, at any rate, an individualist, for he considers expense, seeks only moderate and reasonable enjoyments, thinks of his children's prospects, and, in fact, he economizes.
And what do people say of him? "What is the good of a rich fellow like him? He is a skinflint. There is something imposing, perhaps, in the simplicity of his life; and he is humane, too, and benevolent, and generous, but he calculates. He does not spend his income; his house is neither brilliant nor bustling. What good does he do to the paperhangers, the carriage makers, the horse dealers, and the confectioners?"
These opinions, which are fatal to morality, are founded upon what strikes the eye: the expenditure of the prodigal; and another, which is out of sight, the equal and even superior expenditure of the economist.
But things have been so admirably arranged by the Divine inventor of social order, that in this, as in everything else, political economy and morality, far from clashing, agree; and the wisdom of Aristus is not only more dignified, but still more rentable, than the folly of Mondor. And when I say profitable, I do not mean only profitable to Aristus, or even to society in general, but more profitable to the workmen themselves-to the trade of the time.
To prove it, it is only necessary to turn the mind's eye to those hidden consequences of human actions, which the bodily eye does not see.
Yes, the prodigality of Mondor has visible effects in every point of view. Everybody can see his landaus, his phaetons, his berlins, the delicate paintings on his ceilings, his rich carpets, the brilliant effects of his house. Every one knows that his horses run upon the turf. The dinners which he gives at the Hotel de Paris attract the attention of the crowds on the Boulevards; and it is said, "That is a generous man; far from saving his income, he is very likely breaking into his capital." C'est what is seen.
It is not so easy to see, with regard to the interest of workers, what becomes of the income of Aristus. If we were to trace it carefully, however, we should see that the whole of it, down to the last farthing, affords work to the laborers, as certainly as the fortune of Mondor. Only there is this difference: the wanton extravagance of Mondor is doomed to be constantly decreasing, and to come to an end without fail; whilst the wise expenditure of Aristus will go on increasing from year to year. And if this is the case, then, most assuredly, the public interest will be in unison with morality.
Aristus spends upon himself and his household 20,000 francs a year. If that is not sufficient to content him, he does not deserve to be called a wise man. He is touched by the miseries which oppress the poorer classes; he thinks he is bound in conscience to afford them some relief, and therefore he devotes 10,000 francs to acts of benevolence. Amongst the merchants, the manufacturers, and the agriculturists, he has friends who are suffering under temporary difficulties; he makes himself acquainted with their situation, that he may assist them with prudence and efficiency, and to this work he devotes 10,000 francs more. Then he does not forget that he has daughters to portion, and sons for whose prospects it is his duty to provide, and therefore he considers it a duty to lay by and put out to interest 10,000 francs every year.
The following is a list of his expenses:
1st, Personal expenses………… 20,000 fr.
2nd, Benevolent objects……… 10,000
3rd, Offices of friendship……… 10,000
4th, Saving…………………… 10,000
Let us examine each of these items, and we shall see that not a single farthing escapes the national labor.
1st. Personal expenses — These, as far as workpeople and tradesmen are concerned, have precisely the same effect as an equal sum spent by Mondor. This is self-evident, therefore we shall say no more about it.
2nd. Benevolent objects — The 10,000 francs devoted to this purpose benefit trade in an equal degree; they reach the butcher, the baker, the tailor, and the carpenter. The only thing is, that the bread, the meat, and the clothing are not used by Aristus, but by those whom he has made his substitutes. Now, this simple substitution of one consumer for another in no way affects trade in general. It is all one, whether Aristus spends a crown or desires some unfortunate person to spend it instead.
3rd. Offices of friendship — The friend to whom Aristus lends or gives 10,000 francs does not receive them to bury them; that would be against the hypothesis. He uses them to pay for goods, or to discharge debts. In the first case, trade is encouraged. Will any one pretend to say that it gains more by Mondor's purchase of a thoroughbred horse for 10,000 francs than by the purchase of 10,000 francs' worth of stuffs by Aristus or his friend? For if this sum serves to pay a debt, a third person appears, viz., the creditor, who will certainly employ them upon something in his trade, his household, or his farm. He forms another medium between Aristus and the workmen. The names only are changed, the expense remains, and also the encouragement to trade.
4th. Saving — There remains now the 10,000 francs saved; and it is here, as regards the encouragement to the arts, to trade, labor, and the workmen, that Mondor appears far superior to Aristus, although, in a moral point of view, Aristus shows himself, in some degree, superior to Mondor.
I can never look at these apparent contradictions between the great laws of nature without a feeling of physical uneasiness which amounts to suffering. Were mankind reduced to the necessity of choosing between two parties, one of whom injures his interest, and the other his conscience, we should have nothing to hope from the future. Happily, this is not the case; and to see Aristus regain his economical superiority, as well as his moral superiority, it is sufficient to understand this consoling maxim, which is no less true from having a paradoxical appearance, "To save is to spend."
What is Aristus's object in saving 10,000 francs? Is it to bury them in his garden? No, certainly; he intends to increase his capital and his income; consequently, this money, instead of being employed upon his own personal gratification, is used for buying land, a house, & c., or it is placed in the hands of a merchant or a banker. Follow the progress of this money in any one of these cases, and you will be convinced, that through the medium of vendors or lenders, it is encouraging labor quite as certainly as if Aristus, following the example of his brother, had exchanged it for furniture, jewels, and horses.
For when Aristus buys lands or rents for 10,000 francs, he is determined by the consideration that he does not want to spend this money. This is why you complain of him.
But, at the same time, the man who sells the land or the rent, is determined by the consideration that he does want to spend the 10,000 francs in some way; so that the money is spent in any case, either by Aristus or by others in his stead.
With respect to the working class, to the encouragement of labor, there is only one difference between the conduct of Aristus and that of Mondor. Mondor spends the money himself, and around him, and therefore the effect is seen. Aristus, spending it partly through intermediate parties, and at a distance, the effect is not seen. But, in fact, those who know how to attribute effects to their proper causes, will perceive, that what is not seen is as certain as what is seen. This is proved by the fact, that in both cases the money circulates, and does not lie in the iron chest of the wise man, any more than it does in that of the spendthrift. It is, therefore, false to say that economy does actual harm to trade; as described above, it is equally beneficial with luxury.
But how far superior is it, if, instead of confining our thoughts to the present moment, we let them embrace a longer period!
Ten years pass away. What is become of Mondor and his fortune and his great popularity? Mondor is ruined. Instead of spending 60,000 francs every year in the social body, he is, perhaps, a burden to it. In any case, he is no longer the delight of shopkeepers; he is no longer the patron of the arts and of trade; he is no longer of any use to the workmen, nor are his successors, whom he has brought to want.
At the end of the same ten years Aristus not only continues to throw his income into circulation, but he adds an increasing sum from year to year to his expenses. He enlarges the national capital, that is, the fund which supplies wages, and as it is upon the extent of this fund that the demand for hands depends, he assists in progressively increasing the remuneration of the working class; and if he dies, he leaves children whom he has taught to succeed him in this work of progress and civilization. In a moral point of view, the superiority of frugality over luxury is indisputable. It is consoling to think that it is so in political economy, to every one who, not confining his views to the immediate effects of phenomena, knows how to extend his investigations to their final effects.
XII. He Who Has a Right to Work Has a Right to Profit.
"Brethren, you must club together to find me work at your own price." This is the right to work; i.e., elementary socialism of the first degree.
"Brethren, you must club together to find me work at my own price." This is the right to profit; i.e., refined socialism, or socialism of the second degree.
Both of these live upon such of their effects as are seen. They will die by means of those effects which are not seen.
Cette which is seen is the labor and the profit excited by social combination. That which is not seen is the labor and the profit to which this same combination would give rise, if it were left to the tax-payers.
In 1848, the right to labor for a moment showed two faces. This was sufficient to ruin it in public opinion.
One of these faces was called national workshops. The other, forty-five centimes. Millions of francs went daily from the Rue Rivoli to the national workshops. This was the fair side of the medal.
And this is the reverse. If millions are taken out of a cash-box, they must first have been put into it. This is why the organizers of the right to public labor apply to the tax-payers.
Now, the peasants said, "I must pay forty-five centimes; then I must deprive myself of clothing. I cannot manure my field; I cannot repair my house."
And the country workmen said, "As our townsman deprives himself of some clothing, there will be less work for the tailor; as he does not improve his field, there will be less work for the drainer; as he does not repair his house, there will be less work for the carpenter and mason."
It was then proved that two kinds of meal cannot come out of one sack, and that the work furnished by the Government was done at the expense of labor, paid for by the tax-payer. This was the death of the right to labor, which showed itself as much a chimera as an injustice. And yet, the right to profit, which is only an exaggeration of the right to labor, is still alive and flourishing.
Ought not the protectionist to blush at the part he would make society play?
He says to it, "You must give me work, and, more than that, lucrative work. I have foolishly fixed upon a trade by which I lose ten per cent. If you impose a tax of twenty francs upon my countrymen, and give it to me, I shall be a gainer instead of a loser. Now, profit is my right; you owe it me." Now, any society which would listen to this sophist, burden itself with taxes to satisfy him, and not perceive that the loss to which any trade is exposed is no less a loss when others are forced to make up for it — such a society, I say, would deserve the burden inflicted upon it.
Thus we learn by the numerous subjects which I have treated, that, to be ignorant of political economy is to allow ourselves to be dazzled by the immediate effect of a phenomenon; to be acquainted with it is to embrace in thought and in forethought the whole compass of effects.
I might subject a host of other questions to the same test; but I shrink from the monotony of a constantly uniform demonstration, and I conclude by applying to political economy what Chateaubriand says of history:
"There are," he says, "two consequences in history; an immediate one, which is instantly recognized, and one in the distance, which is not at first perceived. These consequences often contradict each other; the former are the results of our own limited wisdom, the latter, those of that wisdom which endures. The providential event appears after the human event. God rises up behind men. Deny, if you will, the supreme counsel; disown its action; dispute about words; designate, by the term, force of circumstances, or reason, what the vulgar call Providence; but look to the end of an accomplished fact, and you will see that it has always produced the contrary of what was expected from it, if it was not established at first upon morality and justice." – Chateaubriand's Posthumous Memoirs.