Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/658

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
634
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

is the science of selecting suitable facts to prove certain predetermined propositions with regard to the laws of trade; it can always be made to favor protection, but it will also favor free trade if you choose to have it do so and select your facts with proper discretion; political economy is the favorite science of practical men. John, then, has studied political economy, and he comes to the conclusion that the various members of the family are squandering their forces by working for outsiders. He calls the family together and says:

"I think I see a way in which we could be more prosperous. We must give up working for the rest of the world. Father must make shoes only for us; Jane must not cook for anybody except ourselves; James must not make clothes for any one except his father and his three brothers; Henry must not undertake to sell groceries to people who do not belong to the family; and I shall not supply any one but you with meat. Moreover, no one must buy of other people. We must have our shoes made by father, our clothes by James, and we must buy our groceries of Henry. If any member of the family buys anything of an outsider, he is to be fined twenty-five per cent of the cost of the article; and if any one of us sells anything to an outsider, and takes that outsider's goods in exchange, those goods shall be taxed one fourth of their value. The money so collected shall be put into a common fund, and used for defraying the joint family expenses."

What, think you, would be the reply of the philosophic father to a proposition like that? He would not be likely to waste many words over the matter. He would tell John flatly that he was a fool, and advise him to let political economy alone, and he would send the whole family about their business.

But now let us suppose that, instead of a family, we have a town made up of a hundred families, and the people get together and are asked to adopt a proposition similar to that made by John, the political economist. Some prominent citizen arises and declares that the town would be vastly more prosperous and independent if all its trading were done within its own limits; that the poor and struggling traders would have enough to do if people would patronize them instead of sending to other towns for goods; and that to discourage trade with outsiders it was expedient to tax all such commercial transactions, and place the money so obtained in the town treasury. Would not this proposition be as absurd as the other? Would not some citizen with a philosophical turn of mind, who reasoned from general principles, reply in words like these:

"The gentleman who has made this proposition is talking nonsense. The prosperity of this town and the comfort of its