« AnteriorContinuar »
THE GAIN OF INDIVIDUALS NOT ALWAYS THE GAIN OF THE COMMUNITY.
Views of Free Trade Economists on this Point—M'Culloch's View of Capital as formed out of Profits.-M'Culloch's Hobby-The Doctrine of Equivalents in Trade considered. --Equivalents in Kind.-Money, as “ Tools of Trade,” not an Equivalent in Kiud -How this affects the Doctrine of Free Trade.-Difference, economically, between Importations for Consumption of Value. and Importations to be improved in Value or otherwise used for Increase of Wealth-The Values added to the raw Material by manufacturing.— Every Commercial Transaction independent.—Answer to some Points made by M. Say.
THE Free-Trade economists aver, that, as the wealth of a nation is composed of the aggregate wealth of all the individuals in it, whatever an individual gains, the nation gains. We propose to show that this rule is often false.
M'Culloch has well and truly shown, that, as a general rule, the profits of producers of value, are the measure of increasing wealth, as follows:
"That capital is formed out of profit, and that profit is itself the surplus obtained from industrious undertakings, after the produce expended in the carrying them on has been fully replaced, is a proposition, which, though universally true, is at variance with the common notions on the subject. Instead of supposing profits to originate in the manner now stated, they are almost uniformly supposed to depend on the sale of the produce, and to be made at the expense of the purchaser. Thus, to take a familiar instance, the hatmaker who sells a hat for thirty shillings, which costs him twentyfive shillings outlay, believes himself, and is universally believed by others, to have made the five shillings of profit at the expense of the individual who bought the hat. In truth and reality, however, he has done no such thing. He produced, in a given time, a hat equivalent to or worth, in silver, thirty shillings, while the various expenses necessarily incurred in its manufacture, only amounted to twenty-five shillings. But, then, it must be borne in mind, that, speaking generally, the various individuals who deal with the hat-makers, are placed in the same situation: the farmer, the clothier, the boot-maker, &c., are all making the same profits, in their respective businesses; or, in other words, they are all pro
ducing quantities of corn, cloth, boots, &c., equal to thirty shillings, by an outlay of twenty-five shillings. It is clear, therefore, that, in exchanging the precious metals for accommodation, or in exchanging one sort of commodities for another, the one party gains nothing at the expense of the other. Profit is, in all cases, the result of more being produced in a given period, than has been consumed in that period. The introduction of exchanges would not be advantageous, if it merely enabled one set of individuals to prey upon some other set. This, however, is not the effect. By enabling labor to be divided, it gives individuals the means of employing themselves, in preference, in some one pursuit, and consequently causes commodities to be produced and distributed in the best and cheapest manner; but it does nothing more.
"If the popular opinion with respect to the source of profits, were well founded, it would inevitably follow-inasmuch as they take for granted that all producers make their profits at the expense of some one else who buys their commodities—not only that no additions could be made to capital, but that the capital now in the world would be very soon annihilated. If such were really a correct view of the circumstances under which mankind are placed, our lot would be anything but enviable. Happily, however, this is not our situation. The produce of the labor we exert, during any given time, is almost always greater than the produce we are obliged to consume during the same time, and the surplus or profit being accumulated, becomes, in its turn, an instrument of vast power, and adds prodigiously to the productiveness of industry.
"It is clear, therefore, that there is no class of industrious individuals who live at the expense of any other class. The retail dealer, for example, is in no respect more indebted to his customers, than they are to him. It is not his, but their own, interest that they have in view, when they resort to his shop. Society is, in truth, as M. Destutt Tracy has remarked, nothing but a continued series of exchanges."
As a general rule, or, as M'Culloch himself says, in the above citation, “generally speaking," and as the development of a principle, not unimportant, but often useful in application, this reasoning is excellent, and the doctrine sound. It shows how wealth increases, and the only way in which it can increase, in direct opposition to first-sight notions or popular opinion. But Mr. M'Culloch is always so anxious to draw everything into the vortex of his FreeTrade theory, that he is rarely contented to let well alone. In all
his writings, on every topic, in a dictionary of commerce, or whatever he is about, he is sure to be seen on this hobby. It seems to be a mental disease with him. He could not even finish the above excellent argument, without winding up with the absurdity, that "full equivalents are always given for whatever is received in exchanges." It was because he had his eye on trade between nations, and was afraid, either that this principle of equivalents in exchanges would be forgotten in that application; or that some one would presume to think or say, that it does not apply there; or because he thought proper to anticipate the application. We, certainly, shall have no controversy with Mr. M-Culloch, or any one else, for all that this principle is worth to them, in either domestic or foreign exchanges. We will concede to them the principle beforehand, for the sake of argument, and give them all the advantage of it, though we do not believe in it. We grant, then, that "full equivalents" are rendered, from side to side, in exchanges between nations. The question at issue between Free Trade and a Protective System, does not fall within the scope of this proposition; but it lies in the kinds of equivalents passed, and in the relative proportions of the kind called money.
But let us see whether these exact equivalents, asserted by Mr. M'Culloch, with so much concern about another question not involved in this after all, are exactly true. It is not, perhaps, very material for the augmentation of general capital, whether bargains are always equal or not; but unequal bargains are so common, that most persons will very readily believe, that they constitute the great majority. But except as they afford those who get the best bargains an undue advantage over those who have the poorest, and impair the position of the latter most essential to public wealth, it is not easy to see why the principle of Mr. M'Culloch, so well elucidated above, so far as the general augmentation of capital is concerned, does not apply to unequal as well as to equal bargains. The design of trade, doubtless, is the exchange of equivalents, though it rarely happens with perfect exactitude. No matter. Where it is not a cheat, both parties are accommodated, obtain a profit, and general wealth is enhanced.
It makes no difference to the nation, in domestic trade, when one party gives money in exchange. It is supposed that he obtained the money by some other commodity sold at a profit on the cost of production, and the profit is a fraction of the money paid in such a case. In the rounds of domestic trade, therefore, though
exact equivalents are rarely exchanged, Mr. M'Culloch's principle of increase of wealth by exchange, holds good. But his eagerness to anticipate and decide another question, enticed him into the fault of asserting what every one knows is not true, viz., exact equivalents in exchanges.
Nor will we, as before intimated, insist on Mr. M'Culloch's giving up what he has seized upon without right, truth, or logic, even in application to foreign exchanges. Let him have it. We grant him that equivalents are exchanged in foreign trade, as long as it can honestly be carried on. When bankruptcy or suspension comes, of course the equivalents are suspended.
The question between us and the Free-Trade economists, is, about equivalents in kind. If they will be content to let us pay in kind, that is all we want. They reply, that they will allow us this privilege; but they say, at the same time, that money is an article in kind; that it is one of the commodities in trade, and occupies the same position as others; and that it makes no difference with us as a nation, whether we pay money or corn. They say we get an equivalent, which we do not deny; but we say it will be to our inconvenience, if we exchange our "tools of trade," so that we can not trade any more. Here is the point. They say, that money is nothing but a commodity, and that it makes no difference with a nation, whether money or any other commodity be parted with in trade. We say, that money is more than a commodity; that it is the instrument or "tools of trade;" and that, in parting with these "tools," by an imprudent foreign commercial policy as we necessarily must, from the position we occupy, without a protective system-we part with the means of trade, both domestic and foreign, as effectually, as truly, and in the same manner, as a mechanic parts with his means of living, when he sells his tools. They say, there is no need of guarding these tools; that they will take care of themselves; that, if they go away, they will come back again, in the natural course of things. We say, that they will certainly go, unless taken care of (which they do not deny); that when a mechanic's tools are gone, he must stop work; that he loses time, and suffers loss, till he can supply himself again; that, for these reasons, it is unwise to sell his tools, though he gets an equivalent; that it may be a long time, and very hard work, for him to be well set up in his business again; that, in the meantime, he will have lost all the wealth he could have
acquired, if he had kept his tools, and been all the while at work with them.
We have shown, that money is not an article in kind; that it is something more than a commodity;, that it is the instrument of trade, and as such, occupies a very different position from the commodities for which it is given in exchange; that it discharges the same functions in the hands of a nation, in carrying on its trade, as do "the tools of trade" in the hands of a mechanic, in carrying on his work; and that the effect would be the same for a nation to part with money, which it wants in trade, as for a mechanic to part with his tools. The difference between us and our opponents, therefore, in these two opposite positions, is vital and heaven-wide.
From this digression on equivalents in exchanges-as to the principle of which we have no controversy with Mr. M'Culloch and those of his school, but assent to it-let us return to the consideration of their proposition. that, as the wealth of a nation is composed of the aggregate wealth of the individuals in it, whatever an individual gains, the nation gains.
Generally speaking, in domestic exchanges, this is true; but not always. A robber, or a cheat, gains by his depredations. Is the community benefited? A man, in domestic trade, has made a good bargain, entirely at the expense of the second party, as sometimes, not unfrequently, happens. Is the general wealth increased? But nothing is more common, or better known, than that bargains are made, and trade consummated, every day, in which one party gains and the other loses; and frequently when all the gain of one party is the measure of loss to the other. Generally, however, it is admitted, as Adam Smith and others assert, that two values, composed of the profits of each party, are added to the public wealth, in domestic exchanges; whereas, in foreign trade, if profitable to both parties, only one value, and that a mere profit in trade, is added to home capital. Hence, other things being equal, every domestic exchange is equal, in the augmentation of domestic capital, to two foreign exchanges; and it need not be said, how much more frequent and less expensive domestic exchanges are. Hence, the greater importance of the home-trade.
But to proceed. The proposition of the Free-Trade economists, is, that what an individual gains in foreign trade, the nation gains. There are two points on which this proposition fails, and is proved false as a rule, though it may sometimes be true. The first is, that they who have laid it down, make no distinction be