Page:Cournot Theory of Wealth (1838).djvu/30

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
16
THE MATHEMATICAL PRINCIPLES

According to the actual quantity of this product reckoned in the appropriate unit for each kind of goods? But the kinds of goods produced and the relative proportions are different for each country. How can comparisons be made in this respect? According to the rate of movement up or down whether of population or of annual product? Provided that the reckoning covers a sufficient time this is, to be sure, the least equivocal symptom of the welfare or misery of society; but how can this symptom help us except to recognize accomplished facts, and facts which have been produced, not only by economic causes in the ordinary meaning of the words, but also by the simultaneous cooperation of a multitude of moral causes.

We are far from wishing to depreciate the philanthropic efforts of those who seek to throw some light on social economy. It is characteristic only of narrow minds to decry medical science because physiological phenomena cannot be calculated as accurately as the planetary movements. Political Economy is the hygiene and pathology of the social system. It recognizes as its guide experience or rather observation; but sometimes the sagacity of a superior mind can even anticipate the results of experience. We only seek to make clear, that Political Economy fails to make progress by theory, towards its noble object of the improvement of the lot of mankind, either because the relations which it has to deal with are not reducible to fixed terms, or because these relations are much too complicated for our powers of combination and analysis.

6. On the other hand, as the abstract idea of wealth according to our conception constitutes a perfectly deter-