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Principles of Political Economy (Classic Reprint)

Principles of Political Economy (Classic Reprint)

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Excerpt from Principles of Political Economy

In presenting to the American public an edition of Mr. Atkinson's work elucidating the fundamental principles of Political Economy, the Editor is impelled to accompany it by a brief introductory essay, bearing on the progress and present condition of the Science herein illustrated. Hasty and immethodical as the multiplicity and unceasing exaction of his cares and duties as Editor of a Daily Journal must render it, he trusts it will be found not without pertinence to the matter, nor unworthy of the consideration of the public.

Political Economy is among the latest born of the Sciences. Mainly intent on the horrid game of War, with its various reverses and only less ruinous successes, it is but yesterday that the rulers of the world discovered that they had any duty to perform toward Industry, other than to interrupt its processes by their insane contentions, to devastate its fields, and ultimately to consume its fruits. And when the truth did pierce through their scarcely pervious skulls, it came distorted and perverted by the resistance it had met, by selfish and sinister influences, so that it had parted with all its vitality, and was blended with and hardly distinguishable from error. When it began to be dimly discerned that Government had a legitimate duty to perform toward Industry - that the latter might be cherished, improved, extended by the action of the former - legislators at once jumped to the conclusion that all possible legislation upon and interference with Industry must be beneficial. A Frederick the Great finds by experience that the introduction of new arts and industrial processes into his dominions increases the activity, thrift and prosperity of his People; forthwith he rushes (as Macaulay and the Free Trade Economists represent him) into the prohibition of every thing but coin from abroad, and the production of every thing at home, without considering the influences of soil and climate, or the practicability of here prosecuting to advantage the business so summarily established. The consequence is of course a mischievous diversion of Labor from useful and productive to profitless and fruitless avocations. But this is not the worst. Some monarch finds himself unable to minister adequately to the extravagance of some new favorite or mistress; so he creates in her favor a Monopoly of the supply and sale of Salt, Coffee, or whatever else is not already monopolized, and styles it a "regulation of trade," to prevent ruinous fluctuations, competitions and excesses! Thus private ends are subserved under the pretence of public good, and the comforts of the People abridged or withheld to pander to the vices and sustain the lavish prodigality of princes and paramours.

From a contemplation of these abuses, pierced and uncovered by the expanding intelligence of the Eighteenth Century, the Political Economy of the Schools was evolved. In its origin a protest against existing abuses, it shared the common lot of all reactions, in passing impetuously to an extreme the opposite of the error it went forth to combat. From a scrutiny and criticism of the gross abuses of the power of Government over Industry, it was impelled to the conclusion that no such power properly existed or could be beneficially exercised. Thus the Science became, in the hands of the latest professors of the 'enlightened' school, a simple and sweeping negation - a demand for incessant and universal abolishing - a suicidal Science, demonstrating that to do nothing is the acme of governmental wisdom, and King Log the profoundest and greatest of monarchs.

These conclusions would have staggered the founders of the school, and yet it is difficult to resist the evidence offered to show that they are legitimately deduced by their disciples from the premises those founders themselves have laid down. In the cases cited by Mr. Atkinson in this work of the comparative beneficence of Home Tr
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