Page:Cournot Theory of Wealth (1838).djvu/28

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14
THE MATHEMATICAL PRINCIPLES

4. When any event, accounted favourable to a country, as improving the condition of the majority of its inhabitants (for what other basis can be taken to estimate utility?), has nevertheless for its first effect the diminution of the mass of values in circulation, we are tempted to suppose that this event conceals the germ of an increase in the general wealth by means of its remote consequences, and that it will in this way turn out to the advantage of the country. Experience unquestionably shows that this is true in most cases, since, in general, an incontestable improvement in the condition of the people has kept pace with an equally incontestable increase in the sum total of wealth in circulation. But in consequence of the impossibility of following up analytically all the consequences of such complex relations, theory is unable to explain why this usually happens and is still less able to demonstrate that it must always continue to occur. Let us avoid confounding what is in the domain of accurate reasoning with what is the object of a more or less happy guess; what is rational with what is empirical. It is enough to have to guard against errors in logic on the first score; let us avoid encountering passionate declamations and insoluble questions on the other.

5. From a standpoint of mere etymology, whatever appertains to the organization of society belongs to the field of Political Economy; but it has become customary to use this last term in a sense much more restricted and by so much less precise. The Political Economist, being occupied principally with the material wants of mankind, only considers social institutions as far as they favour or interfere with labour, thrift, commerce, and population; and as far as they