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CONTENTS OF No. VIII.
ART. I.-Nouveaux Principes d'Economie Politique ou de la
Richesse dans ses Rapports avec la Population. Par J. C. L. SIMONDE DE SISMONDI. Seconde Edition. 2 Vols. 8vo. Paris, 1827.
Economy, in its general acceptation, may be considered as the art of increasing the amount of human comfort and enjoyment, and diminishing the sum of human suffering and want, by the agency of wealth. Domestic economy is this principle applied to the cares of a family; political economy, the same system directed to national concerns.
The immediate object of Political Economy is the accumulation, the distribution and enjoyment of national wealth or capital. The ultimate use of all wealth is the increase and diffusion of happiness and improvement, and the diminution of the distresses and necessities of man. The ultimate and real object of national wealth, therefore, should be the increase and distribution of national happiness, and the relief of national want and suffering. If this position be true, every rule or principle of the science which does not accord to this standard, must be more or less inaccurate. The political economist can never be right in looking short of the end and consequences of his labours.
As the arrangements of Political Economy must, then, eventually be measured by the benefit the nation derives from them, and the evils which may thereby be relieved, it would follow that the utility of all the productions of human labour, or of the materials which human skill acquires from the vast storeVOL. IV.NO. 8.
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 Jose 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 his 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 morais 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, “we 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
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 conforts 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, Ist. 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 dia-mond 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 wbich attended this pursuit. These, however, are but exceptions to the general rule.