페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

we

houses of nature, when viewed in relation either to the gratification or relief of human wants, constitutes their real value. Such is the view of this subject which M. Sismondi takes, and in his general principles we agree most cordially with him. But when he comes to the application of these principles, we must, in many cases, widely differ. He appears frequently to lose sight of the real results, the ultimate consequences of his own doctrines—to adopt imperfect measures, and to resort to temporary expedients like the unskilful physician, who, instead of applying bis remedies to the source and constitutional cause of a disease, should be satisfied with efforts to relieve each unpleasant symptom which may make its appearance.

Neither morals nor politics are legitimately portions of the science of Political Economy, but inasmuch as the moral and political welfare of a nation are objects of the highest value, no principles in Political Economy should be considered as valid or fundamental which are adverse to what ought to be the great ends of all legislation. “Riches,” says M. Sismondi, “ cannot be weary of repeating, are not the final object of society, but only one of the means of obtaining this object." And in another page, “thus, Political Economy is not a mere science of calculation, but a moral science, it leads to its end only when it justly appreciates the sentiments, the wants and the passions of men.' There are, however, some unquestionably great names who maintain different opinions, and regard accumulation as the sole object of this science. Adam Smith, perhaps, has too little considered the moral view of this subject in his Inquiries; and the English politicians and political economists (as our author asserts) looking to accumulation of capital alone, have probably greatly impaired the comforts of the people by sacrificing the end to the means; but there is another extreme into which M. Sismondi, and the school of economists to which he belongs constantly run.

M. Sismondi arranges his discussions under six heads, which appear to him “to comprehend the whole science of government in its relation to the physical well-being of its subjects." These are, lst. On the formation and progress of wealth. 2. On territorial wealth. 3. On commercial wealth. 4. On money. 5. On taxation. 6. On population. Each of these forms the subject of a book. Two of them, territorial wealth and population, have not, our author remarks, been specially considered by Adam Smith.

It is not our intention, in the present article, to give a full analysis of M. Sismondi's work. We shall merely glance at its general features, and availing ourselves of such portions as

seem most worthy of notice, discuss a few questions connected with this science, which appear to us to merit some attention, whether regarded as points of speculative curiosity, or as doctrines of national importance.

M. Sismondi begins his work with the principle laid down by Adam Smith, that labour is the sole origin of wealth, but differs from him in the opinion that society should be abandoned to the free exercise of all its individual interests.

“We profess, (with Adam Smith,) that labour is the sole origin of wealth-that economy is the only means of accumulation—but we add, that enjoyment is the only end of this accumulation, and that there is no increase of national wealth, except when there is also an increase of national enjoyment.

" Adam Smith considering only riches, and perceiving that all those who possess them take an interest in increasing them, concludes that this increase can never be better promoted, than by abandoning society to the free exercise of every individual interest. He has said to the government, the sum of individual wealth forms the riches of the nation. There is no wealthy man who does not endeavour to become more rich. Let him alone, he will enrich the nation by enriching bimself. We have seen that the rich may augment their wealth either by new productions, or by acquiring a greater part of what was formerly the portion of the poor. Now to render this distribution regular and equitable, we invoke almost constantly that interference of the government which Adam Smith rejects.” Vol. i. p. 51.

In the first position contained in the foregoing extract, that labour, or as Say has more correctly termed it, industry, is the principal origin of wealth, we readily concur; yet there are many cases in which, perhaps, “ appropriation to use,” would be a more correct expression. In much the most numerous and important concerns of life, labour or well-directed industry gives to all that man possesses, its real or estimated value; but in many commodities an intrinsic value exists independently of the actual labor employed in their acquisition. It would be an abuse of terms to say that a lump of gold found by accident, or a diamond casually taken from a brook, were the products of labour or industry, yet they may possess a high exchangeable value when once they have been appropriated to individual use. Neither can we consider the deer, or fish, or other game acquired by the sportsman in an hour of idle pastime, as the product of labour or industry. In common parlance, it would be held the very reverse of either, the product of idleness and leisure; objects not sought on account of their value, but for the amusement which attended this pursuit. These, however, are but exceptions to the general rule.

There are other circumstances that enter into many of our calculations of value, which ought to be noticed in forming our estimates, and consequently in framing our theorems. The force of a stream of water or of wind which moves the machinery of a mill, is calculated to produce value, and possesses that inherent power previous to its appropriation to the use of man. True, it requires industry or labour so to employ it, but when thus employed, thus appropriated, the value which results from its use, is unquestionably not the product of that labour or industry alone. The acquired value is the joint production of two agents—the industry of man and the inherent powers of nature. The one his own, and therefore capable of being applied exclusively to his own benefit; the other, regulated by general laws beyond his control, and though enlisted occasionally in his service, capable, according to the same laws, of destroying his work and sweeping away his labours in the strife of elemental warfare. The power of the elements can only be productive of value, when, more by the intelligence than by the labour of man, they are appropriated to his use. “All value," (says M. Say, in the introduction to his Treatise on Political Economy, though he does not appear to hold sufficiently to this principle throughout his work,) "is derived from the operation of labour, or rather from the industry of man combined with the operation of those agents which nature and capital furnish.” If this be true, neither can industry nor labour be in all cases the proper general term for the origin of wealth, for however much capital may be indebted to industry for its creation and increase, still such agents as nature independently furnishes, never could have so arisen, and yet they are here necessarily treated as items of wealth.

With respect to the second position advanced by M. Sismondi, in the passage we have extracted, “ that the government should interpose in regulating the individual production of wealth, because the rich have the power of augmenting their riches not only by a new production, but by reducing the condition of the poor,” it is here that the great principle of M. Sismondi, which he maintains throughout his work, begins to be displayed. It seems to be his idea, while adopting the mercantile system as the basis of his speculations, that the interference of the government is perpetually necessary to prevent or repair those inequalities which the system has a constant tendency to produce. The parental care of the government must superintend every movement of the great machine, its protecting and guiding hand be every where present. Man must constantly be guarded against his own errors. We view

this as one of those vague imaginations, one of those Utopian dreams, which are always floating in the brain of a certain class of politicians, leading them to believe that they can manage every man's concerns better than he can himself, and can remove, if only free scope be given to their sagacity, all the evils with which human society is afflicted. As was the case in some other celebrated speculations of a similar nature, the latter end of their commonwealth frequently forgets the beginning. The great professed object of these systems, is to increase the wealth in order to increase the power and bappiness of a nation, and they commence by placing fetters on the intercourse between individuals and states, by controlling men in those pursuits which practice has rendered familiar and easy, and which experience has proved to be most profitable ;-they acknowledge that national wealth is the result of individual wealth, and yet force capital and labour from productive into unproductive channels, injuring alike those who were engaged in the former occupation, and those who have been attracted into new pursuits-creating inevitably the most pernicious inequalities of wealth, while they affect to reprobate excessive accumulation. Such are the inconsistencies of the doctrines now so strenuously maintained in the United States, and which M. Sismondi himself, against the most enlightened economists of France, continues to advocate.

The truth is (and we are obliged often, however reluctantly, to repeat truisms) that evil is mingled in every cup which man is permitted to taste, and we can acquire no good without some portion of alloy. Wherever the commercial system, the source of the wealth, the power, the active enterprize of modern times is established, riches and poverty, wretchedness and enjoyment must exist in degrees totally unknown to an agricultural age or nation. The accumulation of wealth is the active, we may say, the vital principle of this system. We must take it with its and evil, but we will be unwise to accelerate its progress, or hasten to that extreme point, where some convulsion, whose termination no man can foresee, must break up the diseased and vitiated state of society, and probably impose on its members a long course of degradation and suffering.

Accidental circumstances, such as the entailment of estates, the existence of hereditary rights and privileges, may increase and perpetuate these evils, and prevent those partial distributions of wealth, that occasional dispersion of the accumulations of successful enterprize, which, in all countries under the operation of equal laws, must frequently take place. We have no doubt, that in Great Britain, to which M. Sismondi constantly alludes, the

existence of these feudal principles tends to aggravate the symptoms of the disease which oppresses the lower classes of her population, and has rendered one-half of them paupers; but the vice is inherent in the system, and can never be eradicated.

That the example of Great Britain, which has bewildered the minds of so inany politicians, and to which in all these discussions reference is constantly bad, is splendid and imposing, it is impossible to deny. That nation, in spite of many disadvantages, presents at this time the most magnificent spectacle of productive industry that the world bas ever witnessed. So wonderful, indeed, is her creative power, that authors, among the rest M. Sismondi, seem to dread that the whole world will prove too small a theatre for its display. Her rulers do not trust to the natural progress of other nations, or rely on the commercial liberality or wants of other people, to afford her competent markets, they colonize the remotest corners of the earth, and all the benefit expected from these colonies by the parent state, is that they will furnish raw materials for her workshops, and an increasing demand for her commodities. Her navigators traverse every ocean, and have explored the most desolate islands and inhospitable shores. She has subjugated an immense empire in the Eastern hemisphere, and holds a large portion of the Western subject to her sway. Every continent has witnessed and felt her power. These mighty efforts have been made for the extension of her commerce, to afford markets for her ever increasing production--and the defects of her political system and her national policy have been redeemed by a character of travscendent energy.

But when, from one point of view, we admire the imposing grandeur of the British empire, we must not forget the almost unceasing wars, the waste of blood and treasure, the drafts upon the income and property, perhaps, the welfare of a not remote posterity, by which this empire has been built up and sustained. The foundations were laid by her maritime superiority--they have been extended by her commercial enterprize, and her manufacturing skill and industry have naturally followed the possession of markets almost without limit, of which she had gained the absolute control, and, as far as she wished, the exclusive monopoly. Those who, seduced by the example of Great Britain, wish to follow and imitate her in the career of her commercial and manufacturing prosperity, must adopt also her foreign policy; must acquire or create colonies in the most remote corners of the globe; must give to their productions a market, to their seamen a home on every shore, and in every clime-must conquer the weak, intimidate the strong; and, standing in the attitude

« 이전계속 »