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INQUIRY INTO THE VARIOUS SYSTEMS
PLAN OF THE WORK.
Ever since modern countries have reached a degree of opulence unknown to the nations of antiquity and the middle age, and particularly since Wealth has been discovered to be altogether the basis and measure of the relative and absolute power of states; the sources whence Wealth is produced, the measures which accelerate its growth, the laws by which it is distributed and circulated, and the means of regulating its employment, increasing its abundance, and insuring its constant progress, have frequently been investigated..
This subject, known at present by the name of Political Economy, (no doubt, because it embraces individual efforts and national regulations, and blends them in one point of view,) has been amply discussed in all its bearings and applications. Several works published in England, Italy, and France,
mostly of great merit, and all of them more or less useful, have thrown considerable light upon this department of human knowledge ; and, by disclosing its importance, haveat length placed Political Economy in the first rank of political sciences.
But, as if the inability of ascending to general causes were the inevitable lot of man, the sources of Wealth have hitherto escaped the most laborious research. The solitary and combined efforts of the most distinguished writers among the most celebrated nations of Europe, have alike been unable to dispel the clouds in which these sources are enveloped. Opinions, arguments, and controversies, have been heaped together, which by their variety and multitude embarrass and fatigue the mind. The difficulty of choosing among them disheartens the student, and leaves him in doubt and uncertainty.
If he should wish to know wherein national wealth consists ; how great will be his surprise at meeting with so many different and even contrary opinions in the most esteemed authors !
Some state the wealth of a nation to consist in the totality of the private property of its individuals *; others, in the abundance of its commodities of
Some distinguishing public from private wealth, assign to the former a value in use, but no value in exchange ; and to the latter, an exchangeable value,
* Sir William Petty's Treatise on Taxes and Contributions ; 1667. Gregory King's Calculation, published by Davenant. Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, B. iv. c. 1. Dr. Beeke's Observations on the Produce of the Income Tax.
+ Dixme royale du Maréchal de Vauban.
but no value in use; and make public wealth to consist in the exchangeable value of the net produce. *
Others state wealth to consist of all the material commodities which man may use to supply a want, or to procure an enjoyment either to his sensuality, his fancy, or his vanity.f
One writer considers wealth as being the possession of a thing more desired by those who have it not, than by those who possess it. Another defines wealth, whatever is superfluous. . A modern French writer calls wealth the accumu. lation of superfluous labour|| : and a noble English author, who, like the French economists, distinguishes individual riches from public wealth, submits that “ the latter may be accurately defined to consist of all “ that man desires as useful or delightful to him; " and the former to consist of all that man desires « as useful or delightful to him, which exists in a • degree of scarcity."
* Physiocratie, p. 118. Philosophie rurale, ou Economie générale et politique de l'Agriculture, p. 60.
+ Essai sur la nature du Commerce, par Cantillon.--Abrégé des Principes d'Economie Politique, par Mr. le Sénateur Germain Garnier ; Paris, 1796.
Richezza è il possesso d'alcuna cosa che sia piu desiderata dal altri, che dal possessore. Galiani della Moneta.
§ Il superfluo costituisce la richezza. Palmieri publica Felicità, rol. i. p. 155.
|| Principes d'Economie Politique, par B.V.F. Canard. Paris, 1801.
An Inquiry into the Nature and Origin of public Wealth, by the Earl of Lauderdale. Edinb. 1804, ch. ii. p. 56, 57. But the Freoch author, by saying, “ qui distingue la richesse particu. The same uncertainty, the existence of which we deplore concerning the nature of wealth", prevails with regard to the means of contributing to its progress and increase.
Those who first wrote upon this important subject, being misled by appearances, assigned the precious metals obtained in return for the raw and manufactured produce exported, as the cause of the wealth of nations.#
“lière de la richesse générale, définit la première tout ce que “ l'homme désire comme utile ou agréable, et la seconde tout ce “ que l’homme désire comme utile ou agréable, mais qui n'existe “que dans un certain degré de rareté;” states the very reverse of what His Lordship has asserted.—T. * According to one German writer, National Wealth is the sum total of productive powers actually exerted in a nation. C.D. Voss, Staatswirthschaftslehre. Erste abtheilung. oweyter Abschnitt. Leipz. 1798. According to another, it is the aggregate of all the property belonging to a nation, and to every one of its, individual members. L. II. Jakob. Grundsatze der National Oekonomie; Halle, 1805. See also page 6, of Boileau's Introduction to the Study of Political Economy. The definition of public wealth, as “the surplus of the national income above the “ actual expenditure of a nation,” given in the second page of that work, appears equally correct, since it is out of this surplus that whatever constitutes public or private property, is obtained.—T. + In England, Raleigh in his Essay on Commerce; 1595. Edward Misselden on Commerce; 1623. Lewis Roberts, the Treasure of Traffic; 1641. Thomas Mun's England's Treasure by Foreign Trade; 1664. Fortrey's Interests and Improvements of England; 1664. Davenant's Works relating to the Trade and Revenue of England; 1696. M. Martin, Inspector-General of the Customs. King's British Merchant, or Commerce Preserved; 1713. In Holland, Jean de Witt Mémoires; 1669.
Others ascribed the origin of wealth to the lowering of the legal rate of interest.* Deluded by a fascinating and captious theory, the French economists greatly extolled the Agricultural system.4. Adam Smith gave the preference to “Labour im“ proved by subdivision, which fixes and realizes “ itself in some particular object or vendible com“ modity, which lasts for some time, at least, after “ that labour is past.”f Lord Lauderdale, in the work which we have quoted before, and which is remarkable for the sagacity of its views, states that, “ man owes his wealth “ to the power of directing his labour to the increasing “ of the quantity or the meliorating of the quality of
In Italy, Serra Breve Trattato delle Cose che possono far abondare li Regni d'Oro; 1613. Genovesi, Lezioni di Econom. Civile; 1764. Muratori, Felicit. publ. cap. 16. sui principio. Corniani, Reflez. sulle Monete.
In France, the Cardinal de Richelieu, and Colbert, Ordonnances et Réglemens pendant leur Administration.
* Thomas Culpeper's useful Remarks on the Mischief of an high National Interest; 1641. Sir Josiah Child's Brief Observations concerning Trade and Interest of Money; 1651. Samuel Lamb on Banks; 1657. William Paterson, author of the Project of the London Bank; 1694. Barnard's Discourses on the lowering of the Interest of Money; 1714.
f Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, Eleventh Edition, 1805, vol. ii. b. ii. c. 3. p. 2. David Hume has probably suggested the idea of this theory to Adam Smith. He expressly says: “Every thing in the world is purchased by labour.” Hume's Essays, Edinb. 1804, 8vo. vol. i. Essay on Commerce, p. 277.