Page:Economic Sophisms.djvu/39

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27
TO EQUALIZE THE CONDITIONS OF PRODUCTION.

fertile that it is dearer; so that it is not accidentally, but necessarily, that the equilibrium is established, or tends to be established; and it cannot be denied that liberty is the régime which is most favourable to this tendency.

I have referred to a branch of agricultural industry; I might as well have referred to industry in a different department. There are tailors at Quimper, and that does not hinder there being tailors also in Paris, though the latter pay a higher rent, and live at much greater expense. But then they have a different set of customers, and that serves not only to redress the balance, but to make it incline to their side.

When we speak, then, of equalizing the conditions of labour, we must not omit to examine whether liberty does not give us what we seek from an arbitrary system.

This natural levelling power of the economic phenomena is so important to the question we are considering, and at the same time so fitted to inspire us with admiration of the providential wisdom which presides over the equitable government of society, that I must ask permission to dwell upon it for a little.

The protectionist gentlemen tell us: Such or such a people have over us an advantage in the cheapness of coal, of iron, of machinery, of capital—we cannot compete with them.

We shall examine the proposition afterwards under all its aspects. At present, I confine myself to the inquiry whether, when a superiority and an inferiority are both present, they do not possess in themselves, the one an ascending, the other a descending force, which must ultimately bring them back to a just equilibrium.

Suppose two countries, A and B. A possesses over B all kinds of advantages. You infer from this, that every sort of industry will concentrate itself in A, and that B is powerless. A, you say, sells much more than it buys; B buys much more than it sells. I might dispute this, but I respect your hypothesis.

On this hypothesis, labour is much in demand in A, and will soon rise in price there.

Iron, coal, land, food, capital, are much in demand in A, and they will soon rise in price there.

Contemporaneously with this, labour, iron, coal, land, food,