wiser today

A man should never be ashamed to own that he is wrong, which is but saying in other words that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.

Edmund Silberner

The Problem of War in Nineteenth Century Economic Thought

Like many other economists, MacCulloch points out the necessity of possessing an armed force to vouchsafe security and protection to the nation. This necessity, he observes, is too evident to require proof. The best laws become ineffective if they may be violated with impunity. Each State must therefore have at its disposal a force sufficient to execute its orders in the interior of the country and to defend the national territory against foreign aggression.

It goes without saying that the army has in the first place a military function. But this does not exhaust its role. Indirectly it also plays an important economic part: in guaranteeing order and security, it ensures the normal course of the national economy. Its members have thus a useful function and must be considered as eminently productive, to use MacCulloch's expression.

How should an army be recruited to the greater advantage of the country? The investigation of this problem belongs rather to politics proper than to political economy.

'It may, however, be remarked,' observes MacCulloch, 'that in nothing, perhaps, has the beneficial influence of the division of labour been more perceptible than in the employment of a distinct class of individuals to maintain national tranquillity and security. To be a good soldier, or a good police-officer, a man sliould be nothing else. It is hardly possible for an individual taken, to serve as a militia-man, from one of the ordinary employments of industry, to which after a short time he is to be restored, to acquire those habits of discipline, and of prompt and willing obedience, so indispensable in a soldier.'

MacCulloch consequently advocates the maintenance of professional armies who to him are superior, from every point of view, to the national militias.

It a nation desires to be powerful, an army alone is not sufficient. The country must have, in addition, a strong economic armature. In this sense, free trade, since it increases national wealth to the highest degree, is the system most calculated to augment the power of a country.

Formerly, erroneous ideas on trade were the cause of a large number of wars and of much bloodshed. 'But the folly of the monopoly system, and the ruinous nature of the contents to which it has given rise, have been made obvious. It has been shown, over and over again, that nothing can be more irrational and absurd, than that dread of the progress of others in wealth and civilization that was once so prevalent; and that the true glory and real interest of every people will be more certainly advanced by endeavouring to outstrip their neighbours in the career of science and civilization, than by engaging in schemes of conquest and aggression.'

Mercantilist ideas on precious metals have often given rise to trade restrictions. Likewise the desire to favor the interests of national producers has frequently been at the root of trade barriers. Yet a considerable number of these obstacles owe their existence to ideas which, however patriotic, are hardly less erroneous—to the desire to be independent of foreign supplies, to avenge the prohibitions of foreign States by retaliatory measures, and to provide for public security.