Page:Economic Sophisms.djvu/34

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ECONOMIC SOPHISMS.

vation one hectare of its soil. The doctrine consists in regarding this circumstance as adverse, and in seeing in the very power and fertility of the new industry, a limit to its utility.

I do not mean to constitute myself here the defender of beet-root culture, or a judge of the strange facts advanced by M. d'Argout;[1] but it is worth while to scrutinize the doctrine of a statesman, to whom France for a long time entrusted the care of her agriculture and of her commerce.

I remarked in the outset that a variable relation exists between an industrial effort and its result; that absolute imperfection consists in an infinite effort without any result; absolute perfection in an unlimited result without any effort; and perfectibility in the progressive diminution of effort compared with the result.

But M. d'Argout tells us there is death where we think we perceive life, and that the importance of any branch of industry is in direct proportion to its powerlessness. What are we to expect, for instance, from the cultivation of beet-root? Do you not see that 48,000 hectares of land, with capital and manual labour in proportion, are sufficient to supply all France with sugar? Then, this is a branch of industry of limited utility; limited, of course, with reference to the amount of labour which it demands, the only way in which, according to the ex-Minister, any branch of industry can be useful. This utility would be still more limited, if, owing to the fertility of the soil, and the richness of the beet-root, we could reap from 24,000 hectares, what at present we only obtain from 48,000. Oh! were only twenty times, a hundred times, more land, capital, and labour necessary to yield us the same result, so much the better. We might build some hopes on this new branch of industry, and it would be worthy of state protection, for it would offer a vast field to our national industry. But to produce much with little! that is a bad example, and it is time for the law to interfere.

  1. Supposing that 48,000 or 50,000 hectares were sufficient to supply the present consumption, it would require 150,000 for triple that consumption, which M. d'Argout admits as possible. Moreover, if beet-root entered into a six years' rotation of crops, it would occupy successively 900,000 hectares, or l-38th of the arable land.