Page:Economic Sophisms.djvu/49

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37
TO EQUALIZE THE CONDITIONS OF PRODUCTION.

consumer, who would reap advantage from that phenomenon for it would resolve itself into abundance and cheapness. There would be less labour incorporated in each quarter of corn, and the cultivator could exchange it only for a smaller amount of labour worked up in some other product. If, on the other hand, the fertility of the soil came all at once to be diminished, nature's part in the process of production would be less, that of human labour would be greater, and the product dearer. I am, then, warranted in saying that it is in consumption, in the human element, that all the economic phenomena come ultimately to resolve themselves. The man who has failed to regard them in this light, to follow them out to their ultimate effects, without stopping short at immediate results, and viewing them from the producer's standpoint, can no more be regarded as an economist than the man who should prescribe a draught, and, instead of watching its effect on the entire system of the patient, should inquire only how it affected the mouth and throat, could be regarded as a physician.

Tropical regions are very favourably situated for the production of sugar and of coffee. This means that nature does a great part of the work, and leaves little for human labour to do. But who reaps the advantage of this liberality of nature? Not the producing countries, for competition causes the price barely to remunerate the labour. It is the human race that reaps the benefit, for the result of nature's liberality is cheapness, and cheapness benefits everybody.

Suppose a temperate region where coal and iron-ore are found on the surface of the ground, where one has only to stoop down to get them. That, in the first instance, the inhabitants would profit by this happy circumstance, I allow. But competition would soon intervene, and the price of coal and iron-ore would go on falling, till the gift of nature became free to all, and then the human labour employed would be alone remunerated according to the general rate of earnings.

Thus the liberality of nature, like improvements in the processes of production, is, or continually tends to become, under the law of competition, the common and gratuitous patrimony of consumers, of the masses, of mankind in general. Then, the countries which do not possess these advantages have everything