Front Page Titles (by Subject) Part I, Chapter XVI: The more Labour there is in a State the more naturally rich the State is esteemed - Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en Général
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
Part I, Chapter XVI: The more Labour there is in a State the more naturally rich the State is esteemed - Richard Cantillon, Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en Général 
Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en General, edited with an English translation and other material by Henry Higgs, C.B. Reissued for The Royal Economic Society by Frank Cass and Co., LTD., London. 1959.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
This title is put online with the kind permission of the original copyright holders, the Royal Economic Society.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Part I, Chapter XVI
The more Labour there is in a State the more naturally rich the State is esteemed
In a long calculation worked out in the Supplement it is shewn that the Labour of 25 grown persons suffices to provide 100 others, also grown up, with all the necessaries of life according to the European standard. In these estimates it is true the Food, Clothing, Housing, etc. are coarse and rather elementary, but there is ease and plenty. It may be assumed that a good third of the People of a State are too young or too old for daily work and that another sixth are Proprietors of Land, Sick, or Undertakers of different sorts who do not by the Labour of their hands, contribute to the different needs of Men. That makes half the People without work, or at least without the work in question. So if 25 persons do all the work needed for the maintenance of a hundred others, there remain 25 persons out of the hundred who are capable of working but would have nothing to do.
The Soldiers, and the Domestic Servants in well-to-do families, will form part of these 25; and if all the others are busied in working up by additional labour the things necessary for life, like making fine linen, fine cloth, etc. the State will be deemed rich in proportion to this increase in work, though it add nothing to the quantity of things needed for the subsistence and maintenance of Man.
Labour gives an additional relish to food and drink. A fork, a knife, etc. nicely wrought, are more esteemed than those roughly and hastily made. The same may be said of a House, a Bed, a Table and everything needed for the comfort of life.
It is true that it is of little difference in a State whether People are accustomed to wear coarse or fine clothes if both are equally lasting, and whether People eat nicely or coarsely if they have enough and are in good health, since Drink, Food, Clothing, etc. are equally consumed whether fine or coarse, and that nothing is left in the State of this sort of wealth.
But it is always true to say that the States where fine Cloths, fine Linen, etc. are worn, and where the Feeding is dainty and delicate, are richer and more esteemed than those where these things are ruder, and even that the States where one sees more People living in the Manner of the first named are more highly esteemed than those where one sees fewer in Proportion.
But if the 25 persons in a hundred of whom we have spoken were employed to produce permanent commodities, to draw from the Mines Iron, Lead, Tin, Copper, etc. and work them up into Tools and Instruments for the use of Man, bowls, plates and other useful objects much more durable than earthenware, the State will not only appear to be richer for it but will be so in reality. It will be so especially if these people are employed in drawing from the Earth Gold and Silver which Metals are not only durable but so to speak permanent, which fire itself cannot destroy, which are generally accepted as the Measure of Value, and which can always be exchanged for any of the necessaries of Life: and if these Inhabitants work to draw Gold and Silver into a State in exchange for the Manufactures and Work which they produce and send abroad, their Labour will be equally useful and will in reality improve the State.
The Point which seems to determine the comparative greatness of States is their reserve Stock above the yearly consumption, like Magazines of Cloth, Linen, Corn, etc. to answer in bad years, or war. And as Gold and Silver can always buy these things, even from the Enemies of the State, Gold and Silver are the true reserve Stock of a State, and the larger or smaller actual quantity of this Stock necessarily determines the comparative greatness of Kingdoms and States.
If it is the custom to draw Gold and Silver from abroad by exporting merchandises and produce of the State, such as Corn, Wine, Wool, etc. this will not fail to enrich the State at the cost of a decrease of the Population; but if Gold and Silver be attracted from abroad in exchange for the Labour of the People, such as Manufactures and articles which contain little of the produce of the soil, this will enrich the State in a useful and essential manner. In a great State, indeed, the 25 persons in a Hundred of whom we have spoken, cannot be employed to make articles for foreign consumption. A million Men will make more Cloth, for example, than will be consumed annually in all the mercantile World, because the greater number of People in every country is always clothed from the raw material of the Country, and there will seldom be found in any State 100,000 persons employed upon Clothing for Foreigners. This is shown in the Supplement with regard to England, which of all the Nations of Europe supplies most cloth to Foreigners.
In order that the consumption of the Manufactures of a State should become considerable in foreign parts, these Manufactures must be made good and valuable by a large consumption in the interior of the State. It is needful to discourage all foreign Manufactures and to give plenty of employment to the Inhabitants.
If enough employment cannot be found to occupy the 25 persons in a hundred upon work useful and profitable to the State, I see no objection to encouraging employment which serves only for ornament or amusement. The State is not considered less rich for a thousand toys which serve to trick out the ladies or even men, or are used in games and diversions, than it is for useful and serviceable objects. Diogenes, at the Siege of Corinth, is said to have fell a rolling his tub that he might not seem idle while all others were at work; and we have today Societies of Men and Women occupied in work and exercise as useless to the State as that of Diogenes. How little soever the labour of a Man supplies ornament or even amusement in a State it is worth while to encourage it unless the Man can find a way to employ himself usefully.
It is always the inspiration of the Proprietors of Land which encourages or discourages the different occupations of the People and the different kinds of Labour which they invent.
The example of the Prince, followed by his Court, is generally capable of determining the inspiration and tastes of the other Proprietors of Land, and the example of these last naturally influences all the lower ranks. A Prince, then, without doubt is able by his own example and without any constraint to give such a turn as he likes to the labour of his subjects.
If each Proprietor in a State had only a little piece of Land, like that which is usually leased to a single Farmer, there would be hardly any Cities. The People would be more numerous and the State very rich if every Proprietor employed on some useful work the inhabitants supported on his Land.
But when the Nobles have great landed Possessions, they of necessity bring about Luxury and Idleness. Whether an Abbot at the head of a Hundred Monks live on the Produce of several fine Estates, or a Nobleman with 50 Domestic Servants, and Horses kept only for his service, live on these Estates, would be indifferent to the State if it could remain in constant peace.
But a Nobleman with his Retinue and his Horses is useful to the State in time of War; he can always be useful in the Magistracy and the keeping of order in the State in peace time; and in every case he is a great ornament to the Country, while the Monks are, as People say, neither useful nor ornamental in peace or war on this side of heaven.
The Convents of Mendicant Friars are much more pernicious to a State than those of the closed Orders. These last usually do no more harm than to occupy Estates which might serve to supply the State with Officers and Magistrates, while the Mendicants who are themselves without useful employment, often interrupt and hinder the Labour of other People. They take from poor people in charities the subsistence which ought to fortify them for their Labour. They cause them to lose much time in useless conversation, not to speak of those who intrigue themselves into Families and those who are vicious. Experience shews that the Countries which have embraced Protestantism and have neither Monks nor Mendicants have become visibly more powerful. They have also the advantage of having suppressed a great number of Holy Days when no work is done in Roman Catholic countries, and which diminish the labour of the People by about an eighth part of the year.
If it were desired to make use of everything in a State it might be possible, it seems, to diminish the number of Mendicants by incorporating them into the Monasteries as vacancies or deaths occur there, without forbidding these retreats to those who can give no evidence of their skill in speculative Sciences, who are capable of advancing the practical Arts, i.e. in some section of Mathematics. The celibacy of Churchmen is not so disadvantageous as is popularly supposed, as is shewn in the preceding Chapter, but their Idleness is very injurious.