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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/696

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

a rich uncle of his, who, after dining, broke his wineglasses, saying that the world must live. Say wondered why it would not be as well to break the rest of the furniture, to help more of the world's workmen to live. According to this view, Nero was inspired by true economical principles when he sung over the burning of Rome. M. de Saint-Chamant once remarked that, if Paris should be destroyed by fire, he would deplore the event as a citizen, but rejoice over it as an economist, for it would give an extraordinary bound to labor. If the doctrine be true, political economy should be the science, not of the production, but of the destruction, of wealth. The error arises from regarding labor rather than its results as the chief object.

To clear up this error, it is necessary, as Bastiat says, to distinguish between what we see and what we do not see. We see the workman who is engaged in replacing what has been destroyed, but we do not see the other workman who might have been employed to make something else with the money which we now have to apply to the payment of the former workman. Say's uncle certainly furnished work to the glass-factory, but if he had saved his glasses he might have spent the same amount of money in buying other things, and himself had more objects, while the wealth of the state would have been increased. Many hands were employed in rebuilding the monuments that were destroyed in Paris in 1871; but with the money that was thus spent other monuments, schoolhouses, or railways, for example, might have been built, and at the closing up of the account Paris would still have had its palaces, and the state would have gained new halls of instruction and new means of transportation.

It may be urged that, if our theories are carried out, hosts of tradesmen and artisans will be condemned to starvation. The value of this objection may be illustrated by an hypothetical example in life. A wealthy banker spends immense sums in feasts, and induces his friends to spend three or four times as much as he does. The dealers to whom patronage is given accumulate great sums. The public is charmed, trade flourishes. Now comes a preacher thundering against luxury, and instigating a revival of frugality. Balls and feasts are given up. What will be the result of the change? The banker and his friends are not going to throw their money away or let it be idle, but will do something with it to make it return a profit. One will improve a long neglected piece of land, will plant and drain it, and repair the buildings; another will enlarge his factory, and a third will undertake railway contracts. All will make work, and that of a useful and productive character, so that they may receive interest for their outlays. The same amount of money is spent, and it supports the same amount of work and gives a living to the same number of workmen, only they are employed in the fields, where they are not seen, instead of being engaged in the fashionable shops, where they are always before the eye of the public. Now look at the difference in the effect on the