Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. XI.: Of Monopolies and Offices. - The Economic Writings of Sir William Petty, vol. 1
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CHAP. XI.: Of Monopolies and Offices. - Sir William Petty, The Economic Writings of Sir William Petty, vol. 1 
The Economic Writings of Sir William Petty, together with The Observations upon Bills of Mortality, more probably by Captain John Graunt, ed. Charles Henry Hull (Cambridge University Press, 1899), 2 vols.
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Of Monopolies and Offices.
MOnopoly (as the word signifies) is the sole selling power, which whosoever hath can vend the commodity whereupon he hath this power, either qualified as himself pleases, or at what price he pleaseth, or both, within the limits of his Commission.
2. The great example of a Monopoly is the King of France his Gabel upon Salt, whereby he sells that for sixty which costs him but one; now Salt being a thing of universal use to all degrees of men, and scarce more to the poor then the rich, it seems to be of the same effect with the simplest1 Poll-money abovementioned, in case all men spent equally of it, or if men be forced to take it whether they spend it or not, as in some places they are. But if men spend or eat Salt unequally, as they commonly do, nor are bound to take or pay for more then they spend, then† is no other than an accumulative Excize, especially if the salt be all of one uniform goodness, ‖ otherwise it is a distinct species of Leavy, viz. a monopoly.
3. The use or pretence of instituting a Monopoly is,
First, Right of Invention; forasmuch as the Laws do reward Inventions, by granting them a Monopoly of them for a certain time; (as here in England for fourteen years) for thereby the Inventor is rewarded more or less according to the acceptance which his Invention findes amongst men.
Where note by the way, that few new Inventions were ever rewarded by a Monopoly; for although the Inventor oftentimes drunk with the opinion of his own merit, thinks all the world will invade and incroach upon him, yet I have observed2 , that the generality of men will scarce be hired to make use of new practices, which themselves have not throughly tried, and which length of time hath not vindicated from latent inconveniences; so as when a new Invention is first propounded, in the beginning every man objects, and the poor Inventor runs the Gantloop of all petulent wits; every man finding his several flaw, no man approving it, unless mended according to his own advice: Now not one of an hundred out-lives this torture, and those that do, are at length so changed by the various contrivances of others, that not any one man can pretend to the Invention of the whole, nor well agree about their respective shares in the parts. And moreover, this commonly is so long a doing, that the poor Inventor is either dead, or disabled by the debts contracted to pursue his design; and withall railed upon as a Projector, or worse, by those who joyned their money in partnership with his wit; so as the said Inventor and his pretences are wholly lost and vanisht.
Secondly, a Monopoly may be of real use for a time, viz. at the first introducing of a new Manufacture, wherein is much nicety to make it well, and which the generality of men cannot judge of as to the performance. As for example; suppose there were some most approved Medicament which one certain man could make most exactly well, although several others could also make the same less perfectly: in this case this same chief Artist may be allowed a Monopoly for a time, viz. ‖ until others have had experience enough under him, how to make the Medicament as well as himself. First, because the world may not have the Medicament variously made, when as they can neither discern the difference by their senses, nor judge of the effects thereof a posteriori, by their reasons. Secondly, because others may be fully instructed by him that can best do it; and thirdly, because he may have a reward for such his communications: But forasmuch as by Monopolies of this kinde, great Leavies are seldom made, they are scarce pertinent to our design.
Offices instituted by the State of Fees of their own appointment, are of parallel nature to Monopolies; the one relating to actions and employments as the other to things, and have the same to be said for and against them as Monopolies have.
As a Kingdom encreaseth and flourisheth, so doth variety of things, of actions, and even of words encrease also; for we see that the language of the most flourishing Empires was ever the most copious and elegant, and that of mountainous Cantons the contrary: Now as the actions of this Kingdom encreased, so did the Offices (that is, the power and faculty of solely executing and performing the said actions) encrease likewise; and on the contrary, as the business of Offices encreased, so did the difficulty and danger of discharging them amiss decrease proportionably: from whence ‘tis come to pass, that the Offices which at their first erecting were not performed but by the ablest, most inventive, and versatile Instruments, (such as could wrestle with all emergent difficulties, and collect Rules and Axioms out of the Series of their own Observations, (with reference to the various casualties of their employments) whereby to direct Posterity) are now performed by the most ordinary, formal, pack-horse Deputies and Sub-Deputies.
And whereas at first such large Fees were allowed as (considering even the paucity of them which might then be received) should compensate the Art, Trust, and Industry of the Administratour; yet the† large said Fees are still continued, ‖ although the skill and trust be lessened, and the number of the said Fees so extreamly multiplyed: so as now the profits of such Officers‡ (being become cleer, and the work so easie as any man is capable of it, even those that never saw it,) are bought and sold for Years or Lives, as any other Annuity may be; and withal, the splendor arising from the easie gaines of those places in Courts of Justice, is called the Flourishing of the Law, which certainly flourisheth best, when the Professors and Ministers of it have least to do. And moreover, when the burthen and uselesness of such an Office is taken notice of, ‘tis nevertheless spared as a Subjects Freehold in favour of him that bought it.
Of these Offices are many in this Nation, and such as might be a Revenue to the King, either by their Annual profits, or the Sale of them for many years together. And these are the Offices that are properly saleable, viz. where the Fees are large, as appointed when the number of them was few, and also numerous, as multiplying upon the increase of business, and where the business is onely the labour of the meanest men: length of time having made all the work so easie, and found out security against all the frauds, breaches of trust, and male-administrations, whereunto the infancies of those places were obnoxious.
These Offices are therefore Taxes upon such as can or will not avoid the passing through them, and are born as men endure and run themselves into the mischiefs of Duelling1 , the which are very great, which side soever prevails; for certainly men do not alwayes go to Law to obtain right, or prevent wrong, which judicious neighbours might perform as well as a Jury of no abler men; and men might tell the Judge himself the merits of their Cause, as well as now they instruct their Councel. This therefore of Offices is a voluntary Tax upon contentious men, as Excize upon Drink is, to good Fellows to love it. ‖
[†]between [them and is] interline [it]
Petty had invented a machine for double writing, upon which he received from the House of Lords a patent dated 7 March, 164 ⅞, and valid for seventeen years. He issued a prospectus (Bibliography), and endeavoured to “syndicate” the invention, apparently without success. Fitzmaurice, 10–13.
[†]after [yet the] interline [said]
[‡]read [offices] for [officers]
Petty had recently avoided a duel. Evelyn, Diary, 22 March, 1675, II. 403; Aubrey in Walker's Bodleian Letters, II. 485; Fitzmaurice, 151–152.