Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc
After this, therefore on account of this. The most common and the most
false of arguments.
Real suffering exists in England.
This occurrence follows two others:
First. The reduction of the tariff.
Second. The loss of two consecutive harvests.
To which of these last two circumstances is the first to be attributed?
ionists do not fail to exclaim: It is this cursed freedom
which does all the mischief. It promised us wonders and marvels; we
welcomed it, and now the manufactories stop and the people suffer.
Commercial freedom distributes, in the most uniform and equitable
manner, the fruits which Providence grants to the labor of man. If these
fruits are partially destroyed by any misfortune, it none the less looks
after the fair distribution of what remains. Men are not as well
provided for, of course, but shall we blame freedom or the bad harvest?
Freedom rests on the same principle as insurance. When a loss happens,
it divides, among a great many people, and a great number of years,
evils which without it would accumulate on one nation and one season.
But have they ever thought of saying that fire was no longer a scourge,
since there were insurance companies?
In 1842, '43 and '44, the reduction of taxes began in England. At the
same time the harvests were very abundant, and we can justly believe
that these two circumstances had much to do with the wonderful
prosperity shown by that country during that period.
In 1845 the harvest was bad, and in 1846 it was still worse. Breadstuffs
grew dear, the people spent their money for food, and used less of other
articles. There was a diminished demand for clothing; the manufactories
were not so busy, and wages showed a declining tendency. Happily, in the
same year, the restrictive barriers were again lowered, and an enormous
quantity of food was enabled to reach the English market. If it had not
been for this, it is almost certain that a terrible revolution would now
fill Great Britain with blood.
Yet they make freedom chargeable with disasters, which it prevents and
remedies, at least in part.
A poor leper lived in solitude. No one would touch what he had
contaminated. Compelled to do everything for himself, he dragged out a
miserable existence. A great physician cured him. Here was our hermit in
full possession of the freedom of exchange. What a beautiful prospect
opened before him! He took pleasure in calculating the advantages,
which, thanks to his connection with other men, he could draw from his
vigorous arms. Unluckily, he broke both of them. Alas! his fate was most
miserable. The journalists of that country, witnessing his misfortune,
said: See to what misery this ability to exchange has reduced him!
Really, he was less to be pitied when he lived alone.
What! said the physician; do not you consider his two broken arms? Do
not they form a part of his sad destiny? His misfortune is to have lost
his arms, and not to have been cured of leprosy. He would be much more
to be pitied if he was both maimed and a leper.
Post hoc, ergo propter hoc; do not trust this sophism.