Home Words on Protectionism


Cold-water Supply Test
Durham Or Screw Pipe Work Pipe And Fittings
Gas Fitting Pipe And Fittings Threading Measuring And Testing
Hot-water Heaters Instantaneous Coil And Storage Tanks.
House Traps Fresh-air Connections Drum Traps And Non-syphoning Traps
Installing Of French Or Sub-soil Drains
Insulation Of Piping To Eliminate Conduction Radiation Freezing And Noise
Laying Terra-cotta And Making Connections To Public Sewers. Water Connections
Making And Care Of Wiping Cloths
Mixtures Of Solders For Soldering Iron And Wiping Care Of Solders Melting Points Of Metals And Alloys
More Preparing And Wiping Joints
Pipe Threading
Plumbing Codes
Plumbing Fixtures And Trade
Preparing And Wiping Joints
Soil And Waste Pipes And Vents Tests
Storm And Sanitary Drainage With Sewage Disposal
The Use And Care Of The Soldering Iron Fluxes Making Different Soldering Joints

Sophisms Of The Protectionists

Capital And Interest
Capital And Interest
Spoliation And Law
Supremacy By Labor
The House
The Plane
The Sack Of Corn

Theory Practice

Partisans of free trade, we are accused of being theorists, and not
relying sufficiently upon practice.

What a powerful argument against Mr. Say (says Mr. Ferrier,) is the long
succession of distinguished ministers, the imposing league of writers
who have all differed from him; and Mr. Say is himself conscious of
this, for he says: It has been said, in support of old errors, that
there must necessarily be some foundation for ideas so generally adopted
by all nations. Ought we not, it is asked, to distrust observations and
reasoning which run counter to every thing which has been looked upon as
certain up to this day, and which has been regarded as undoubted by so
many who were to be confided in, alike on account of their learning and
of their philanthropic intentions? This argument is, I confess,
calculated to make a profound impression, and might cast a doubt upon
the most incontestable facts, if the world had not seen so many
opinions, now universally recognized as false, as universally maintain,
during a long series of ages, their dominion over the human mind. The
day is not long passed since all nations, from the most ignorant to the
most enlightened, and all men, the wisest as well as the most
uninformed, admitted only four elements. Nobody dreamed of disputing
this doctrine, which is, nevertheless, false, and to-day universally

Upon this passage Mr. Ferrier makes the following remarks:

Mr. Say is strangely mistaken, if he believes that he has thus answered
the very strong objections which he has himself advanced. It is natural
enough that, for ages, men otherwise well informed, might mistake upon a
question of natural history; this proves nothing. Water, air, earth, and
fire, elements or not, were not the less useful to man.... Such errors
as this are of no importance. They do not lead to revolutions, nor do
they cause mental uneasiness; above all, they clash with no interests,
and might, therefore, without inconvenience, last for millions of years.
The physical world progresses as though they did not exist. But can it
be thus with errors which affect the moral world? Can it be conceived
that a system of government absolutely false, consequently injurious,
could be followed for many centuries, and among many nations, with the
general consent of well-informed men? Can it be explained how such a
system could be connected with the constantly increasing prosperity of
these nations? Mr. Say confesses that the argument which he combats is
calculated to make a profound impression. Most certainly it is; and
this impression remains; for Mr. Say has rather increased than
diminished it.

Let us hear Mr. de Saint Chamans.

It has been only towards the middle of the last, the eighteenth
century, when every subject and every principle have without exception
been given up to the discussion of book-makers, that these furnishers of
speculative ideas, applied to every thing and applicable to nothing,
have begun to write upon the subject of political economy. There existed
previously a system of political economy, not written, but practiced
by governments. Colbert was, it is said, the inventor of it; and Colbert
gave the law to every state of Europe. Strange to say, he does so still,
in spite of contempt and anathemas, in spite too of the discoveries of
the modern school. This system, which has been called by our writers the
mercantile system, consisted in ... checking by prohibition or import
duties such foreign productions as were calculated to ruin our
manufactures by competition.... This system has been declared, by all
writers on political economy, of every school,[12] to be weak, absurd,
and calculated to impoverish the countries where it prevails. Banished
from books, it has taken refuge in the practice of all nations,
greatly to the surprise of those who cannot conceive that in what
concerns the wealth of nations, governments should, rather than be
guided by the wisdom of authors, prefer the long experience of a
system, etc.... It is above all inconceivable to them that the French
government ... should obstinately resist the new lights of political
economy, and maintain in its practice the old errors, pointed out by
all our writers.... But I am devoting too much time to this mercantile
system, which, unsustained by writers, has only facts in its favor!

[Footnote 12: Might we not say: It is a powerful argument against
Messrs. Ferrier and de Saint Chamans, that all writers on political
economy, of every school, that is to say, all men who have studied the
question, come to this conclusion: After all, freedom is better than
restriction, and the laws of God wiser than those of Mr. Colbert.]

Would it not be supposed from this language that political economists,
in claiming for each individual the free disposition of his own
property, have, like the Fourierists, stumbled upon some new, strange,
and chimerical system of social government, some wild theory, without
precedent in the annals of human nature? It does appear to me, that, if
in all this there is any thing doubtful, and of fanciful or theoretic
origin, it is not free trade, but protection; not the operating of
exchanges, but the custom-house, the duties, imposed to overturn
artificially the natural order of things.

The question, however, is not here to compare and judge of the merits of
the two systems, but simply to know which of the two is sanctioned by

You, Messrs. monopolists, maintain that facts are for you, and that we
on our side have only theory.

You even flatter yourselves that this long series of public acts, this
old experience of Europe which you invoke, appeared imposing to Mr. Say;
and I confess that he has not refuted you, with his habitual sagacity.

I, for my part, cannot consent to give up to you the domain of facts;
for while on your side you can advance only limited and special facts,
we can oppose to them universal facts, the free and voluntary acts of
all men.

What do we maintain? and what do you maintain?

We maintain that it is best to buy from others what we ourselves can
produce only at a higher price.

You maintain that it is best to make for ourselves, even though it
should cost us more than to buy from others.

Now gentlemen, putting aside theory, demonstration, reasoning, (things
which seem to nauseate you,) which of these assertions is sanctioned by
universal practice?

Visit our fields, workshops, forges, stores; look above, below, and
around you; examine what is passing in your own household; observe your
own actions at every moment, and say which principle it is, that directs
these laborers, workmen, contractors, and merchants; say what is your
own personal practice.

Does the agriculturist make his own clothes? Does the tailor produce the
grain which he consumes? Does not your housekeeper cease to make her
bread at home, as soon as she finds it more economical to buy it from
the baker? Do you lay down your pen to take up the blacking-brush in
order to avoid paying tribute to the shoe-black? Does not the whole
economy of society depend upon a separation of occupations, a division
of labor, in a word, upon mutual exchange of production, by which we,
one and all, make a calculation which causes us to discontinue direct
production, when indirect acquisition offers us a saving of time and

You are not then sustained by practice, since it would be impossible,
were you to search the world, to show us a single man who acts according
to your principle.

You may answer that you never intended to make your principle the rule
of individual relations. You confess that it would thus destroy all
social ties, and force men to the isolated life of snails. You only
contend that it governs in fact, the relations which are established
between the agglomerations of the human family.

We say that this assertion too is erroneous. A family, a town, county,
department, province, all are so many agglomerations, which, without any
exception, all practically reject your principle; never, indeed, even
think of it. Each of these procures by barter, what would be more
expensively procured by production. Nations would do the same, did you
not by force prevent them.

We, then, are the men who are guided by practice and experience. For to
combat the interdict which you have specially put upon some
international exchanges, we bring forward the practice and experience of
all individuals, and of all agglomerations of individuals, whose acts
being voluntary, render them proper to be given as proof in the
question. But you, on your part, begin by forcing, by hindering, and
then, adducing forced or forbidden acts, you exclaim: Look; we can
prove ourselves justified by example!

You exclaim against our theory, and even against all theory. But are
you certain, in laying down your principles, so antagonistic to ours,
that you too are not building up theories? Truly, you too have your
theory; but between yours and ours there is this difference:

Our theory is formed upon the observation of universal facts,
universal sentiments, universal calculations and acts. We do nothing
more than classify and arrange these, in order to better understand
them. It is so little opposed to practice, that it is in fact only
practice explained. We look upon the actions of men as prompted by the
instinct of self-preservation and of progress. What they do freely,
willingly,--this is what we call Political Economy, or economy of
society. We must repeat constantly that each man is practically an
excellent political economist, producing or exchanging, as his advantage
dictates. Each by experience raises himself to the science; or rather
the science is nothing more than experience, scrupulously observed and
methodically expounded.

But your theory is theory in the worst sense of the word. You
imagine procedures which are sanctioned by the experience of no living
man, and then call to your aid constraint and prohibition. You cannot
avoid having recourse to force; because, wishing to make men produce
what they can more advantageously buy, you require them to give up an
advantage, and to be led by a doctrine which implies contradiction even
in its terms.

I defy you too, to take this doctrine, which by your own avowal would be
absurd in individual relations, and apply it, even in speculation, to
transactions between families, towns, departments, or provinces. You
yourselves confess that it is only applicable to internal relations.

Thus it is that you are daily forced to repeat:

Principles can never be universal. What is well in an individual, a
family, commune, or province, is ill in a nation. What is good in
detail--for instance: purchase rather than production, where purchase is
more advantageous--is bad in a society. The political economy of
individuals is not that of nations; and other such stuff, ejusdem

And all this for what? To prove to us, that we consumers, we are your
property! that we belong to you, soul and body! that you have an
exclusive right on our stomachs and our limbs! that it is your right to
feed and dress us at your own price, however great your ignorance, your
rapacity, or the inferiority of your work.

Truly, then, your system is one not founded upon practice; it is one of
abstraction--of extortion.

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