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hon grants to them, too, a “certain compensation.” Surely, says he, they will find it, in the reduced price of produce, &c.! What says political economy? “Certainly,” remarks Mr. de Molinari, (p. 66,) “certainly, it is all-important to production, that interest, rents, and the accessories of labor enerally, should be procurable at the lowest possible rate. t is certain that high interest, rents and prices, seem to be obstacles to the development of labor and increase of production. But why are these obstacles 2 Is it because they oblige the laborer to divide more or less equally with the capitalist and the landed proprietor the fruits of his labor 7 By no means. Nowhere do men labor with more spirit than in the United States—and yet nowhere is interest higher. The obstacle, then, does not exist in that portion of the proceeds of his labor which the high rate of interest takes from the laborer, but in the scarcity of capital which such a rate indicates. Suppose, for instance, twenty laborers, who, needing each his spade, go to hire them from the manufacturer of tools. If the latter should own only ten spades, and others not be procurable, it is very evident that he will ask a larger compensation for each than if owning twenty. The rate of interest or hire would here be high. But a Proudhon of the band persuades the proprietor to let his spades go for nothing. What follows: Will production be thus either facilitated or increased ? By no means. Ten spades can only do the work of ten spades, and can turn no more earth when loaned gratis than if hired at 20 per cent. Moreover, the spade proprietor will hardly find sufficient inducement to manufacture ten more, in the promise that they, too, shall be borrowed from him gratis' Here, then, lies the error. You have said, production is easy, in proportion as interest is low--ergo, by suppressing interest entirely, production will have acquired its maximum of facility. You have not reflected that the rate of interest is not so much an obstacle in itself as the indication of an obstacle—which obstacle is scarcity of capital. Suppress interest entirely, you would not in the slightest degree facilitate production, unless you could at the same time scatter over the land such a mass of capital as would, by its existence, naturally produce that suppression of interest which you propose to force upon the country.”
“You have,” continues Mr. de Molinari, “been the dupe of a similar illusion to that by which the promoters of an unlimited paper currency have imagined that capital could be indefinitely multiplied by the emission of paper, its representative. By an analogous turn of thought, you have imagined that capital can be indefinitely increased by the suppression of interest—the representative, not the cause of its scarcity. Dupe of this illusion, you have conscientiously labored to destroy interest and rents; and, to succeed in this, you have adopted the surest means. You have denied their right; you have endeavored to prove them robbery. This you have, we believe, done in good faith, aad honestly, perhaps, have uttered the monstrous falsehood, ‘Property is robbery.’ Whence thus deceived? Only for want of having sufficiently studied the nature of loans and interest, and the causes and existence of capital.” (p. 67.)
Mr. de Molinari then goes on to show that interest is merely the compensating representative of the risks run in the loaning of property. These risks are two: First, that of entire loss of capital loaned; and, second, the risks of loss or inconvenience resulting from the temporary absence of that capital from its owner. These, in the natural and free circulation of interest, balance themselves with the benefit accruing to the borrower, in their exact representative, the current rate of interest. Perhaps, in an individual loan, there may be nothing lost, but the risks are not, therefore, the less real. I may lose a part, or even my entire capital, by thus putting it out of my hands. I may lose some opportunity for employing it conveniently or advantageously, by thus holding it subjected to the commands of another. These risks undoubtedly exist, and I have no certainty that they shall not fall upon me. There may be individual gain by the loan at interest, but there is no genral gain. “In society, as God has created it, the risks which interest serves to cover have never ceased to exist— only acting with more or less intensity in different countries and under different contingencies. The greatness of the risk being proportioned to the scarcity of capital and the insecurity of men and possession, invariably we find interest lowered with abundance of capital and security of person and property.”
“But is it not possible that a society should exist where abundance of capital and complete security should cause all risk to disappear ! We can only answer, such we have never seen, such certainly is not ours, and such could only be possible under the supposition that the annihilation of interest should never interfere with the accumulation of capital, the great spur to progress. Men do not accumulate to lend, but to dispose of at their need and convenience, or to give, for the benefit of those dependant upon them, the fruit of their labor. Capital is nothing more than the accumulation of labor, reserved for an indefinite period, for eventual use, whether foreseen or unforeseen, and interest is intended, not for the increase of capital, but to preserve it from the risks of this voyage into time. Suppress interest without suppressing the risks of capital, and capital will never embark. All motive for accumulation dissppears, and society retrogrades into barbarism.” p. 70. “By such suppression, unless at the same time you suppress all risks, of which it is simply the compensation, you rob the receivers of it. Your bank of exchange, not diminishing in any degree the risks, but only destroying the compensation which served to cover them, would, as its only result, hinder the accumulation and circulation of capital thus transported forward into time, and, as a necessary consequence, suddenly suspend all vital movement in the arteries of society.” p. 71. Mr. de Molinari thus continues his argument to prove that, the risks of capital being neither ameliorated nor yet guarded against, the consequence would inevitably be that the six hundred millions of capital of Mr. Proudhon's bank must, in the end, be swallowed up by its losses. Terrible perturbations in the industrial world would inevitably follow, and the gulf of social inequality yawn deeper than eVer. But enough for out limits. Volumes would be requisite did we undertake to combat the results of all the Alnaschar visions which have ambitiously foisted themselves up in a vain attempt to regulate society. Alas! their regulation is but destruction. Mr. Fonteyraud (p. 242) borrows a Grecian fable in illustration of the unfortunate rage for regulating and improving the ways of God and nature, against which we have been directing our arguments. “A certain Athenian, to save his bees the trouble of a long journey to Mount Hymetus, cut off their wings and put within their reach the most beautiful flowers he could gather. The poor bees made no honey.” The allegory needs no interpretation. Gentlemen, socialists, be-rule us not into imbecility. You have your
dreams, visions, theories,—who of us has not? Who has not built his wondrous systems, where his hope and fancy paint all as beautiful and feasible 2 All is easy, all is simple, in these ecstacies. A breath scatters the cloud of our horizon. A wave of the hand, a stamp of the foot, summon around us the good and the rich, as fairy castles spring into existence with the raising of a wand. But the world is not governed by these dreams.
“Face to face with obdurate reality, we see what has been man's labors. We see how he has sweated, struggled, labored and saved.” “We keep our hope, we believe in to-morrow, because we see the result of yesterday; but our illusions disappear, and manfully and patiently we set about our daily task.” p. 242.
We are happy to remark, in the volume which we have been endeavoring to introduce to the attention of our readers, the first number, from the pen of Mr. Bastiat, of what he apparently intends as a series of papers, under the title of “Harmonies Economiques,” (Concordances of Political Economy). Not only from this gentleman's well known power as a writer, but also from the striking views here presented, in his usual terse and concise diction, we anticipate a treat of instruction in what is to follow. Our readers will forgive us for detaining them a little longer in this discussion. In the article in question we see political economy in its full strength, nerving itself to the great struggle against its pernicious enemy, “the right to labor.”
“If,” says Mr. Bastiat, “nature has been mistaken in making “personal interest’ the great spring of human society, (and if, as socialism supposes, interests are fatally antagonistic, the conclusion is self-evident,) how is the evil remediable ! Men, as we are, where can we find the cure for this evil tendency of man's nature! Shall we invoke the police, the magistracy, the State, the legislature ? But these are all men, and laboring under the common infirmity. We appeal to the universal snffrage. What then? Do we not thus only open wider the gate to the exercise of this universal tendency!” “Only one resource remains to these (our new light) reformers, and that is to pass themselves off for prophets, formed of a different clay, and drawing their inspirations from different sources from the rost of mankind. Thence follows the mystic phraseology in which they frequently envelop their counsels to the world. But if they are the emissaries of heaven, let them at least prove their mission. They ask nothing less than absolute power, the most complete despotism imaginable, governing not only our actions, but aiming even at the subversion of the very essence of our being. Can they hope to be believed upon their bare affirmation, and that, moreover, when they differ very essentially among themselves | + “But before examining their systems of artificial society, let us satisfy ourselves whether they are not mistaken from the very starting point. Is it certain that interests are naturally antagonistic that an irremediable cause of inequality is thus fatally developed in the natural order of human society and that God has manifestly made a mistake in ordaining that the tendency of man should ever be towards well-being This is what I propose examining into, taking man as it has pleased God to make him, capable of foresight and experiences perfectible, loving himself certainly, but with an affection tempered by a sympathetic tendency in his nature, and every where held under restraint by the contact with an analogous sentiment, universally pervading his theatre of action. My inquiry is, what social order naturally results from the combination and untrammelled tendencies of such elements. “If we find the result to be, a constant and progressive advance towards well-being, perfection, and equality; a continual approximation of all classes towards a physical, intellectual, and moral level; then will the work of God be justified, and we convinced that social order does not stand alone in creation, blotting its perfection, and devoid of that harmony and regulation of forces, before which Newton bowed in admiration, and which drew from the psalmist the cry: Caeli enarrant gloriam Dei?” p. 106 and 107. “It has been a fashion of late to reproach political economy that it occupies itself solely with the consideration of wealth, instead of considering every object, which, in any way, contributes to the happiness, or suffering of mankind; accusing it even of denying every feeling, and impulse to action, which, not falling under its particular province, it has failed to notice. As well accuse the mineralogist of denying the existence of the animal kingdom. If the conclusions of the economist should ever be found clashing with those of the moralist, the accusation would be conceivable. It might be said to him, ‘in limiting your research you have deceived yourself, for it is impossible that two truths should oppose each other.’ My present aim is to prove that the science of riches is no exception, but harmonizes with the general system of all great truths.” p. 110.