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strated to exist in the very constitution of man, and of the earth which he inhabits; and which, according to this school of writers, are necessarily called into a state of increasing action as the world becomes peopled and nations advance. The process by which these conclusions were arrived at, involves, in truth, almost every possible fault to which inattention to facts, and a perverse abuse of the mere reasoning faculty can give birth. First, there is assumed a constantly decreasing power in agricultural industry, as nations multiply and become more civilized : then, that those who procure subsistence by manual toil, the laboring classes of the earth, are maintained exclusively on funds saved from income;—a supposition which, true as to one corner of the world, when stated and reasoned upon as an universal fact, is essentially false and delusive :and then, to these primary and fatal blunders, is added a notion, that the diminishing rate of profit observable as nations become numerous and rich, indicates a decreasing power of accumulating fresh resources; a belief which could not be embraced for an instant, without an almost wilful disregard of experience, and of the testimony which the history and statistical position of every country in the world bear to the laws really determining the varying powers of communities to accumulate capital. But the theoretical unsoundness of these doctrines,
glaring as it must be to all who are in the habit of subjecting theoretical views to the test of facts, was thrown into the shade by the fearful daring exhibited in the practical inferences to which they have been pushed. The supposed continuous diminution in the returns to agriculture, its assumed effects on the progress of accumulation—and then, by an erroneous inference from a fact itself false, a corresponding incapacity in mankind to provide resources for increasing numbers—these points having been first. insisted on with a dogmatical air of scientific superiority, an apparent inconsistency between the permanence of human happiness, and the natural action of the laws established by Providence was enforced. It was darkly, but confidently and sedulously hinted at, that the most cherished moral feelings which guide the human heart, were, after all, only a mass of superstition which it might be hoped would decay with the progress of philosophy; that means were in reserve, and ready to be circulcated, of eluding the passions implanted by the Creator in the original constitution of the human race; and that thus at last human wisdom might be made to triumph over defects in the physical arrangements of Providence. Over the daring details with which this miserable philosophy was invested—its enduring robe of shame—and over the circumstances by which it was brought into actual
contact with a part of the population, we must here draw a veil. But that the theoretical advocacy of these visions has, to a certain extent, tainted the moral feeling of a portion, we may hope a small portion, of the educated classes, that their industrious dissemination by ready agents, worthy of the task, has begun the vile work of effecting self-degradation, and extinguishing all sentiment of moral dignity or worth, among a part of the lower orders are facts, which all familiar with the subject, know to be unhappily beyond the reach of doubt. And it is important that we should not underrate the mischievous moral effects and consequences of a superficial system of philosophy, when we are about to recommend those laborious and united efforts necessary to lay the wide foundations of that body of wholesome truth on these points, which we hope to shew may be safely and solidly constructed.
But although they have had their appropriate sphere of mischief and delusion, it would be a mistake to suppose, that any of the doctrines we have been alluding to have met with a general reception. Philosophers rushing forwards to uncoil a theory, may sometimes be observed shutting their eyes on the corrections offered by the world they live in; but mankind at large have different habits, founded on sounder views of the mode by which great general principles are to be detected amidst govern the
the confused action of many causes.
It wants no great deal of logical acuteness to perceive, that in political economy, maxims which profess to be universal, can only be founded on the most comprehensive views of society. The principles which determine the position and progress, and conduct, of large bodies of the human race, placed under different circumstances, can be learnt only by an appeal to experience. He must, indeed, be a shallow reasoner, who by mere efforts of consciousness, by consulting his own views, feelings and motives, and the narrow sphere of his personal observation, and reasoning a priori, from them expects that he shall be able to anticipate the conduct, progress and fortunes of large bodies of men, differing from himself in moral or physical temperament, and influenced by differences, varying in extent and variously combined, in climate, soil, religion, education and government. But with the first appeal from the speculation of individuals to the results of experience, as presented by bodies of men really existing, all belief in such maxims on the distribution of wealth, as those of which we have been speaking, must vanish at once. as we withdraw our eyes from books to consult the statistical map of the world, it shews us that the countries in which the rent of land is highest, instead of exhibiting always indications of a decline
in the efficiency of agriculture, are ordinarily those in which the largest populations are maintained in the greatest plenty by the exertions of the smallest proportion of their laboring hands. The decline in the rate of profit, which it is admitted may be observed in the advance of population and wealth, is so far from being seen to be accompanied by a decreasing productive power of industry in any of its branches, that in countries in which profits are low, as England and Holland, there industry is found in the most efficient state, and the rate at which capital is accumulating is the most rapid. On the other hand, in those countries in which the rate of profit has been long and permanently high, as in Poland, and many of the ruder parts of Europe and Asia, there the productive power of industry is almost proverbially feeble, and the rate at which capital is accumulating notoriously slow. These are facts which lead directly to the conclusion (of which a careful analysis of the various
. sources of accumulation will sufficiently shew the soundness,) that high profits, with a great productive power, and a rapid rate of accumulation,
, are, in the history of mankind, an exception and not the rule.
Again, looking at the rate of increase of the different orders of the population of any one country, it is seen at once, that the higher and middle