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tion . . . . . . . . . . . . 539
2. – operating through potential, but not actual, alterations of
supply . . . . . . . . . . . 642
6. Occasional elements in Cost of Production : taxes, and scarcity
value of materials . . . . . . . . . 659
lesson on neveur.
Mag 17. 1880 In every department of human affairs, Practice long precedes Science; systematic inquiry into the modes of action of the powers of nature, is the tardy product of a long course of efforts to use those powers for practical ends. The conception, accordingly, of Political Economy as a branch of science, is extremely modern ; but the subject with which its inquiries are conversant has in all ages necessarily constituted one of the chief practical interests of mankind, and, in some, a most unduly engrossing one.
That subject is Wealth. Writers on Political Economy profess to teach, or to investigate, the nature of Wealth, and the laws of its production and distribution ; including, directly or remotely, the operation of all the causes by which the condition of mankind, or of any society of human beings, in respect to this universal object of human desire, is made prosperous or the reverse. Not that any treatise on Political Economy can discuss or even enumerate all these
causes, but it undertakes to set forth as much as is known of the laws and principles according to which they operate.
Every one has a notion, sufficiently correct for common purposes, of what is meant by wealth. The inquiries which relate to it are in no danger of being confounded with those relating to any other of the great human interests. All know that it is one thing to be rich, another thing to be enlightened, brave or humane; that the questions how a nation is made wealthy, and how it is made free, or virtuous, or eminent in literature, in the fine arts, in arms or in polity, are totally distinct inquiries. These things, indeed, are all indirectly connected, and re-act upon one another. A people has sometimes become free, because it had first grown wealthy; or wealthy, because it had first become free.. The creed and laws of a people act powerfully upon their economical condition; and this again, by its influence on their mental development and social relations, re-acts upon their creed and laws. But though the subjects are in very close contact, they are essentially different, and have never been supposed to be otherwise.
It is no part of the design of this treatise to aim at metaphysical nicety of definition, where the ideas suggested by a term are already as determinate as practical purposes require. But, little as it might be expected that any mischievous confusion of ideas could take place on a subject so simple as the question, what is to be considered as wealth, it is matter of history that such confusion of ideas has existed—that theorists and practical politicians have been equally, and at one period universally, infected by it, and that for many generations it gave a thoroughly false direction to the policy of Europe. I refer to the set of doctrines designated, since the time of Adam Smith, by the appellation of the Mercantile System.
While this system prevailed, it was assumed, either expressly or tacitly, in the whole policy of nations, that wealth