Page:Economic Sophisms.djvu/46

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34
ECONOMIC SOPHISMS.

such, brought back to the point from which it started. And yet the invention is not the less an acquisition; the saving of time, of labour, of effort to produce a given result, that is, to produce a determinate number of copies, is not the less realized. But how does it show itself? In the cheapness of books. And to whose profit? To the profit of the consumer, of society, of the human race. The printers, who have thenceforth no exceptional merit, no longer receive exceptional remuneration. As men, as consumers, they undoubtedly participate in the advantages which the invention has conferred upon the community. But that is all. As printers, as producers, they have returned to the ordinary condition of the other producers of the country. Society pays them for their labour, and not for the utility of the invention. The latter has become the common and gratuitous heritage of mankind at large.

I confess that the wisdom and the beauty of these laws call forth my admiration and respect. I see in them Saint-Simonianism: To each according to his capacity; to each capacity according to its works. I see in them communism; that is, the tendency of products to become the common heritage of men; but a Saint-Simonianism, a communism, regulated by infinite prescience, and not abandoned to the frailties, the passions, and tbe arbitrary will of men.

What I have said of the art of printing, may be affirmed of all the instruments of labour, from the nail and the hammer to the locomotive and the electric telegraph. Society becomes possessed of all through its more abundant consumption, and it enjoys all gratuitously, for the effect of inventions and discoveries is to reduce the price of commodities; and all that part of the price which has been annihilated, and which represents the share invention has in production, evidently renders the product gratuitous to that extent. All that remains to be paid for is the human labour, the immediate labour, and it is paid for without reference to the result of the invention, at least when that invention has passed through the cycle I have just described—the cycle which it is designed to pass through. I send for a tradesman to my house; he comes and brings his saw with him; I pay him two shillings for his day's work, and he saws me twenty-five boards. Had the saw not been invented, he