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ENGLISH EXPERIENCE IN STATE CANALS.

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ourselves with the one sample of a State-made channel for commerce, which we have at home--the Caledonian Canal. Up to the present time, this public work has cost upwards of 1,100,0001.; it has now been open for many years, and salaried emissaries have been constantly employed to get traffic for it; the results, as given in its forty-seventh annual report, issued in 1852, are-receipts during the year, 7,9091. ; expenditure ditto, 9,2611.—loss, 1,3521. Has any such large investment been made with such a pitiful result by a private canal company?

And if a government is so bad a judge of the relative importance of social requirements, when these requirements are of the same kind, how worthless a judge must it be when they are of different kinds. If, where a fair share of intelligence might be expected to lead them right, legislators and their officers go so wrong, how terribly will they err where no amount of intelligence would suffice them--where they must daily decide among hosts of needs, bodily, intellectual, and moral, that admit of no direct comparison; and how disastrous must be the results if they act out their erroneous decisions. Should any one need this bringing home to him by an illustration, let him read the following extract from the last of the series of letters some time since published in the Morning Chronicle, on the state of agriculture in France. After expressing the opinion that French farming is some century behind English farming, the writer goes on to say:

“There are two causes principally chargeable with this. In the first place, strange as it may seem in a country in which two-thirds of the population are agriculturists, agriculture is a very unhonoured occupation. Develop in the slightest degree a Frenchman's mental faculties, and he flies to a town as surely as steel filings fly to a loadstone. He has no rural tastes, no delight in rural babits. A French amateur farmer would indeed be a sight

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to see. Again, this national tendency is directly encouraged by the centralizing system of government—by the multitude of officials, and by the payment of all functionaries. From all parts of France, men of great energy and resource struggle up, and fling themselves on the world of Paris. There they try to become great functionaries. Through every department of the eighty-four, men of less energy and resource struggle up to the chef-lieu-the provincial capital. There they try to become little functionaries. Go still lower-deal with a still smaller scale—and the result will be the same. As is the department to France, so is the arrondissement to the department, and the commune to the arrondissement. All who have, or think they have, heads on their shoulders, struggle into towns to fight for office. All who are, or are deemed by themselves or others, too stupid for any thing else, are left at home to till the fields, and breed the cattle, and prune the vines, as their ancestors did for generations before them. Thus there is actually no intelligence left in the country. The whole energy, and knowledge, and resource of the land are barreled

up in the towns. You leave one city, and in many cases you will not meet an educated or cultivated individual until you arrive at another—all between is utter intellectual barrenness.”—Morning Chronicle, August, 1851.

To what end now is this constant abstraction of able men from rural districts ? To the end that there may be enough functionaries to achieve those many desiderata which French governments have thought ought to be achieved--to provide amusements, to manage mines, to construct roads and bridges and erect numerous buildings —to print books, encourage the fine arts, control this trade, and inspect that manufacture—to do all the thousandand-one things which the State does in France. That the army of officers needed for this may be maintained, agri

HOW IT WORKS IN FRANCE.

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culture must go unofficered. That certain social conveniences may be better secured, the chief social necessity is neglected. The very basis of the national life is sapped, to gain a few non-essential advantages. Said we not truly, then, that until a requirement is spontaneously fulfilled, it should not be fulfilled at all ?

And here indeed we may recognize the close kinship between the fundamental fallacy involved in these Statemeddlings and the fallacy lately exploded by the freetrade agitation. These various law-made instrumentalities for effecting ends that might otherwise not yet be effected, all embody a subtler form of the protectionist hypothesis. The same short-sightedness which, looking at commerce, prescribed bounties and restrictions, looking at social affairs in general, prescribes these multiplied administrations; and the same criticism applies alike to all its proceedings.

For was not the error that vitiated every law aiming at the artificial maintenance of a trade, substantially that which we have just been dwelling upon : namely, the overlooking the fact, that in setting people to do one thing, some other thing is necessarily left undone? The statesmen who thought it wise to protect home-made silks against French silks, did so under the impression that the manufacture thus secured constituted a pure gain to the nation. They did not reflect that the men employed in this manufacture would otherwise have been producing something else—a something else which, as they could produce it without legal help, they could more profitably produce. Landlords who have been so anxious to prevent foreign wheat from displacing their own wheat, have never duly realized the fact, that if their fields would not yield wheat so economically as to prevent the feared displacement, it simply proved that they were growing unfit

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crops in place of fit crops; and so working their land at a

; relative loss. In all cases where, by restrictive duties, a trade has been upheld that would otherwise not have existed, capital has been turned into a channel less productive than some other into which it would naturally have flowed. In the absence of these restrictions, the article made would have been fetched from some place where it was more cheaply made; and in exchange for it we should have given some article in which aptitude and local circumstances enabled us to excel those with whom we thus exchanged. And so, to pursue certain Statepatronized occupations, men have been drawn from more advantageous occupations.

Is it not, then, as above alleged, that the same oversight runs through all these interferences; be they with commerce, or be they with other things ? Is it not that in employing people to achieve this or that desideratum, legislators have not perceived that they were thereby preventing the achievement of some other desideratum ? Has it not been constantly assumed that each proposed good would, if secured, be a pure good ; instead of being a good purchasable only by submission to some evil that would else have been remedied? And may wę not rationally believe that, as in trade, so in other things, labour will spontaneously find out, better than any government can find out for it, the things on which it may best expend itself? Undoubtedly we may. Rightly regarded, the two propositions are identical. This division into commercial and non-commercial affairs is quite a superficial

All the actions going on in society come under the generalization-human effort administering to human desire. Whether the administration be effected through a process of buying and selling, or whether in any other way, matters not so far as the general law of it is concerned. In all cases it will be true that the stronger

one.

ITS NEGATIVE EVILS.

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desires will get themselves satisfied before the weaker ones; and in all cases it will be true that to get satisfaction for the weaker ones before they would naturally have it, is to deny satisfaction to the stronger ones.

To the immense positive evils entailed by over-legislation have to be added the equally great negative evilsevils which, notwithstanding their greatness, are scarcely at all recognized, even by the far-seeing. It is not simply that the State does those things which it ought not to do, but that, as an inevitable consequence, it leaves undone those things which it ought to do. Time and human activity being limited, it necessarily follows that legislators' sins of commission entail corresponding sins of omission. The injury is unavoidably doubled. Mischievous meddling involves disastrous neglect; and until statesmen are ubiquitous and omnipotent, must ever do so. It is in the very nature of things that an agency employed for two purposes must fulfil both imperfectly; partly because while fulfilling the one it cannot be fulfilling the other, and partly because its adaptation to both ends implies incomplete fitness for either. As has been well said apropos of this point—"A blade which is designed both to shave and to carve, will certainly not shave so well as a razor or carve so well as a carving-knife. An academy of painting, which should also be a bank, would in all probability exhibit very bad pictures and discount very bad bills. A gas company, which should also be an infant-school society, would, we apprehend, light the streets ill, and teach the children ill."*

And if an institution undertakes, not two functions, but a score—if a government, whose office it is to defend citizens against aggressors, foreign and domestic, engages

* Edinburgh Review, April, 1839.

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