Conflicting Principles

There is one thing which embarrasses me not a little; and it is this:

Sincere men, taking upon the subject of political economy the point of

view of producers, have arrived at this double formula:

A government should dispose of consumers subject to its laws in favor

of home industry.

It should subject to its laws foreign consumers, in order to dispose of

them in favor of home industry.

The first of the formulas is that of Protection; the second that of


Both rest upon this proposition, called the Balance of Trade, that

A people is impoverished by importations and enriched by exportations.

For if every foreign purchase is a tribute paid, a loss, nothing can

be more natural than to restrain, even to prohibit importations.

And if every foreign sale is a tribute received, a gain, nothing more

natural than to create outlets, even by force.

Protective System; Colonial System.--These are only two aspects of the

same theory. To prevent our citizens from buying from foreigners, and

to force foreigners to buy from our citizens. Two consequences of one

identical principle.

It is impossible not to perceive that according to this doctrine, if it

be true, the welfare of a country depends upon monopoly or domestic

spoliation, and upon conquest or foreign spoliation.

Let us take a glance into one of these huts, perched upon the side of

our Pyrenean range.

The father of a family has received the little wages of his labor; but

his half-naked children are shivering before a biting northern blast,

beside a fireless hearth, and an empty table. There is wool, and wood,

and corn, on the other side of the mountain, but these are forbidden to

them; for the other side of the mountain is not France. Foreign wood

must not warm the hearth of the poor shepherd; his children must not

taste the bread of Biscay, nor cover their numbed limbs with the wool of

Navarre. It is thus that the general good requires!

The disposing by law of consumers, forcing them to the support of home

industry, is an encroachment upon their liberty, the forbidding of an

action (mutual exchange) which is in no way opposed to morality! In a

word, it is an act of injustice.

But this, it is said, is necessary, or else home labor will be arrested,

and a severe blow will be given to public prosperity.

Thus then we must come to the melancholy conclusion, that there is a

radical incompatibility between the Just and the Useful.

Again, if each people is interested in selling, and not in buying, a

violent action and reaction must form the natural state of their mutual

relations; for each will seek to force its productions upon all, and all

will seek to repulse the productions of each.

A sale in fact implies a purchase, and since, according to this

doctrine, to sell is beneficial, and to buy injurious, every

international transaction must imply the benefiting of one people by the

injuring of another.

But men are invincibly inclined to what they feel to be advantageous to

themselves, while they also, instinctively resist that which is

injurious. From hence then we must infer that each nation bears within

itself a natural force of expansion, and a not less natural force of

resistance, which are equally injurious to all others. In other words,

antagonism and war are the natural state of human society.

Thus then the theory in discussion resolves itself into the two

following axioms. In the affairs of a nation,

Utility is incompatible with the internal administration of justice.

Utility is incompatible with the maintenance of external peace.

Well, what embarrasses and confounds me is, to explain how any writer

upon public rights, any statesman who has sincerely adopted a doctrine

of which the leading principle is so antagonistic to other incontestable

principles, can enjoy one moment's repose or peace of mind.

For myself, if such were my entrance upon the threshold of science, if I

did not clearly perceive that Liberty, Utility, Justice, and Peace, are

not only compatible, but closely connected, even identical, I would

endeavor to forget all I have learned; I would say:

Can it be possible that God can allow men to attain prosperity only

through injustice and war? Can he so direct the affairs of mortals, that

they can only renounce war and injustice by, at the same time,

renouncing their own welfare?

Am I not deceived by the false lights of a science which can lead me to

the horrible blasphemy implied in this alternative, and shall I dare to

take it upon myself to propose this as a basis for the legislation of a

great people? When I find a long succession of illustrious and learned

men, whose researches in the same science have led to more consoling

results; who, after having devoted their lives to its study, affirm that

through it they see Liberty and Utility indissolubly linked with Justice

and Peace, and find these great principles destined to continue on

through eternity in infinite parallels, have they not in their favor the

presumption which results from all that we know of the goodness and

wisdom of God as manifested in the sublime harmony of material creation?

Can I lightly believe, in opposition to such a presumption and such

imposing authorities, that this same God has been pleased to put

disagreement and antagonism in the laws of the moral world? No; before I

can believe that all social principles oppose, shock and neutralize each

other; before I can think them in constant, anarchical and eternal

conflict; above all, before I can seek to impose upon my fellow-citizens

the impious system to which my reasonings have led me, I must retrace my

steps, hoping, perchance, to find some point where I have wandered from

my road.

And if, after a sincere investigation twenty times repeated, I should

still arrive at the frightful conclusion that I am driven to choose

between the Desirable and the Good, I would reject the science, plunge

into a voluntary ignorance, above all, avoid participation in the

affairs of my country, and leave to others the weight and responsibility

of so fearful a choice.

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