Something Else

--What is restriction?

--A partial prohibition.

--What is prohibition?

--An absolute restriction.

--So that what is said of one is true of the other?

--Yes, comparatively. They bear the same relation to each other that the

arc of the circle does to the circle.

--Then if prohibition is bad, restriction cannot be good.
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--No more than the arc can be straight if the circle is curved.

--What is the common name for restriction and prohibition?


--What is the definite effect of protection?

--To require from men harder labor for the same result.

--Why are men so attached to the protective system?

--Because, since liberty would accomplish the same result with less

labor, this apparent diminution of labor frightens them.

--Why do you say apparent?

--Because all labor economized can be devoted to something else.


--That cannot and need not be determined.


--Because, if the total of the comforts of France could be gained with a

diminution of one-tenth on the total of its labor, no one could

determine what comforts it would procure with the labor remaining at its

disposal. One person would prefer to be better clothed, another better

fed, another better taught, and another more amused.

--Explain the workings and effect of protection.

--It is not an easy matter. Before taking hold of a complicated

instance, it must be studied in the simplest one.

--Take the simplest you choose.

--Do you recollect how Robinson Crusoe, having no saw, set to work to

make a plank?

--Yes. He cut down a tree, and then with his ax hewed the trunk on both

sides until he got it down to the thickness of a board.

--And that gave him an abundance of work?

--Fifteen full days.

--What did he live on during this time?

--His provisions.

--What happened to the ax?

--It was all blunted.

--Very good; but there is one thing which, perhaps, you do not know. At

the moment that Robinson gave the first blow with his ax, he saw a plank

which the waves had cast up on the shore.

--Oh, the lucky accident! He ran to pick it up?

--It was his first impulse; but he checked himself, reasoning thus:

If I go after this plank, it will cost me but the labor of carrying it

and the time spent in going to and returning from the shore.

But if I make a plank with my ax, I shall in the first place obtain

work for fifteen days, then I shall wear out my ax, which will give me

an opportunity of repairing it, and I shall consume my provisions, which

will be a third source of labor, since they must be replaced. Now,

labor is wealth. It is plain that I will ruin myself if I pick up this

stranded board. It is important to protect my personal labor, and now

that I think of it, I can create myself additional labor by kicking this

board back into the sea.

--But this reasoning was absurd!

--Certainly. Nevertheless it is that adopted by every nation which

protects itself by prohibition. It rejects the plank which is offered

it in exchange for a little labor, in order to give itself more labor.

It sees a gain even in the labor of the custom house officer. This

answers to the trouble which Robinson took to give back to the waves

the present they wished to make him. Consider the nation a collective

being, and you will not find an atom of difference between its reasoning

and that of Robinson.

--Did not Robinson see that he could use the time saved in doing

something else?

--What 'something else'?

--So long as one has wants and time, one has always something to do. I

am not bound to specify the labor that he could undertake.

--I can specify very easily that which he would have avoided.

--I assert, that Robinson, with incredible blindness, confounded labor

with its result, the end with the means, and I will prove it to you.

--It is not necessary. But this is the restrictive or prohibitory system

in its simplest form. If it appears absurd to you, thus stated, it is

because the two qualities of producer and consumer are here united in

the same person.

--Let us pass, then, to a more complicated instance.

--Willingly. Some time after all this, Robinson having met Friday, they

united, and began to work in common. They hunted for six hours each

morning and brought home four hampers of game. They worked in the garden

for six hours each afternoon, and obtained four baskets of vegetables.

One day a canoe touched at the Island of Despair. A good-looking

stranger landed, and was allowed to dine with our two hermits. He

tasted, and praised the products of the garden, and before taking leave

of his hosts, said to them:

Generous Islanders, I dwell in a country much richer in game than this,

but where horticulture is unknown. It would be easy for me to bring you

every evening four hampers of game if you would give me only two baskets

of vegetables.

At these words Robinson and Friday stepped on one side, to have a

consultation, and the debate which followed is too interesting not to be

given in extenso:

Friday. Friend, what do you think of it?

Robinson. If we accept we are ruined.

Friday. Is that certain? Calculate!

Robinson. It is all calculated. Hunting, crushed out by competition,

will be a lost branch of industry for us.

Friday. What difference does that make, if we have the game?

Robinson. Theory! It will not be the product of our labor.

Friday. Yes, it will, since we will have to give vegetables to get it.

Robinson. Then what shall we make?

Friday. The four hampers of game cost us six hours' labor. The

stranger gives them to us for two baskets of vegetables, which take us

but three hours. Thus three hours remain at our disposal.

Robinson. Say rather that they are taken from our activity. There is

our loss. Labor is wealth, and if we lose a fourth of our time we are

one-fourth poorer.

Friday. Friend, you make an enormous mistake. The same amount of game

and vegetables and three free hours to boot make progress, or there is

none in the world.

Robinson. Mere generalities. What will we do with these three hours?

Friday. We will do something else.

Robinson. Ah, now I have you. You can specify nothing. It is very easy

to say something else--something else.

Friday. We will fish. We will adorn our houses. We will read the


Robinson. Utopia! Is it certain that we will do this rather than that?

Friday. Well, if we have no wants, we will rest. Is rest nothing?

Robinson. When one rests one dies of hunger.

Friday. Friend, you are in a vicious circle. I speak of a rest which

diminishes neither our gains nor our vegetables. You always forget that

by means of our commerce with this stranger, nine hours of labor will

give us as much food as twelve now do.

Robinson. It is easy to see that you were not reared in Europe.

Perhaps you have never read the Moniteur Industriel? It would have

taught you this: All time saved is a dear loss. Eating is not the

important matter, but working. Nothing which we consume counts, if it is

not the product of our labor. Do you wish to know whether you are rich?

Do not look at your comforts, but at your trouble. This is what the

Moniteur Industriel would have taught you. I, who am not a theorist,

see but the loss of our hunting.

Friday. What a strange perversion of ideas. But--

Robinson. No buts. Besides, there are political reasons for

rejecting the interested offers of this perfidious stranger.

Friday. Political reasons!

Robinson. Yes. In the first place he makes these offers only because

they are for his advantage.

Friday. So much the better, since they are for ours also.

Robinson. Then by these exchanges we shall become dependent on him.

Friday. And he on us. We need his game, he our vegetables, and we will

live in good friendship.

Robinson. Fancy! Do you want I should leave you without an answer?

Friday. Let us see; I am still waiting a good reason.

Robinson. Supposing that the stranger learns to cultivate a garden,

and that his island is more fertile than ours. Do you see the


Friday. Yes. Our relations with the stranger will stop. He will take

no more vegetables from us, since he can get them at home with less

trouble. He will bring us no more game, since we will have nothing to

give in exchange, and we will be then just where you want us to be now.

Robinson. Short-sighted savage! You do not see that after having

destroyed our hunting, by inundating us with game, he will kill our

gardening by overwhelming us with vegetables.

Friday. But he will do that only so long as we give him something

else; that is to say, so long as we find something else to produce,

which will economize our labor.

Robinson. Something else--something else! You always come back to

that. You are very vague, friend Friday; there is nothing practical in

your views.

The contest lasted a long time, and, as often happens, left each one

convinced that he was right. However, Robinson having great influence

over Friday, his views prevailed, and when the stranger came for an

answer, Robinson said to him:

Stranger, in order that your proposition may be accepted, we must be

quite sure of two things:

The first is, that your island is not richer in game than ours, for we

will struggle but with equal arms.

The second is, that you will lose by the bargain. For, as in every

exchange there is necessarily a gainer and a loser, we would be cheated,

if you were not. What have you to say?.

Nothing, nothing, replied the stranger, who burst out laughing, and

returned to his canoe.

--The story would not be bad if Robinson was not so foolish.

--He is no more so than the committee in Hauteville street.

--Oh, there is a great difference. You suppose one solitary man, or,

what comes to the same thing, two men living together. This is not our

world; the diversity of occupations, and the intervention of merchants

and money, change the question materially.

--All this complicates transactions, but does not change their nature.

--What! Do you propose to compare modern commerce to mere exchanges?

--Commerce is but a multitude of exchanges; the real nature of the

exchange is identical with the real nature of commerce, as small labor

is of the same nature with great, and as the gravitation which impels an

atom is of the same nature as that which attracts a world.

--Thus, according to you, these arguments, which in Robinson's mouth are

so false, are no less so in the mouths of our protectionists?

--Yes; only error is hidden better under the complication of


--Well, now, select some instance from what has actually occurred.

--Very well; in France, in view of custom and the exigencies of the

climate, cloth is an useful article. Is it the essential thing to make

it, or to have it?

--A pretty question! To have it, we must make it.

--That is not necessary. It is certain that to have it some one must

make it; but it is not necessary that the person or country using it

should make it. You did not produce that which clothes you so well, nor

France the coffee it uses for breakfast.

--But I purchased my cloth, and France its coffee.

--Exactly, and with what?

--With specie.

--But you did not make the specie, nor did France.

--We bought it.

--With what?

--With our products which went to Peru.

--Then it is in reality your labor that you exchange for cloth, and

French labor that is exchanged for coffee?


--Then it is not absolutely necessary to make what one consumes?

--No, if one makes something else, and gives it in exchange.

--In other words, France has two ways of procuring a given quantity of

cloth. The first is to make it, and the second is to make something

else, and exchange that something else abroad for cloth. Of these two

ways, which is the best?

--I do not know.

--Is it not that which, for a fixed amount of labor, gives the greatest

quantity of cloth?

--It seems so.

--Which is best for a nation, to have the choice of these two ways, or

to have the law forbid its using one of them at the risk of rejecting

the best?

--It seems to me that it would be best for the nation to have the

choice, since in these matters it always makes a good selection.

--The law which prohibits the introduction of foreign cloth, decides,

then, that if France wants cloth, it must make it at home, and that it

is forbidden to make that something else with which it could purchase

foreign cloth?

--That is true.

--And as it is obliged to make cloth, and forbidden to make something

else, just because the other thing would require less labor (without

which France would have no occasion to do anything with it), the law

virtually decrees, that for a certain amount of labor, France shall

have but one yard of cloth, making it itself, when, for the same amount

of labor, it could have had two yards, by making something else.

--But what other thing?

--No matter what. Being free to choose, it will make something else

only so long as there is something else to make.

--That is possible; but I cannot rid myself of the idea that the

foreigners may send us cloth and not take something else, in which case

we shall be prettily caught. Under all circumstances, this is the

objection, even from your own point of view. You admit that France will

make this something else, which is to be exchanged for cloth, with

less labor than if it had made the cloth itself?


--Then a certain quantity of its labor will become inert?

--Yes; but people will be no worse clothed--a little circumstance which

causes the whole misunderstanding. Robinson lost sight of it, and our

protectionists do not see it, or pretend not to. The stranded plank thus

paralyzed for fifteen days Robinson's labor, so far as it was applied to

the making of a plank, but it did not deprive him of it. Distinguish,

then, between these two kinds of diminution of labor, one resulting in

privation, and the other in comfort. These two things are very

different, and if you assimilate them, you reason like Robinson. In the

most complicated, as in the most simple instances, the sophism consists

in this: Judging of the utility of labor by its duration and intensity,

and not by its results, which leads to this economic policy, a

reduction of the results of labor, in order to increase its duration and