Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER IX.: EXCESSIVE PRODUCTION. - The Tyranny of Socialism
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
CHAPTER IX.: EXCESSIVE PRODUCTION. - Yves Guyot, The Tyranny of Socialism 
The Tyranny of Socialism, ed. J.H. Levy (London: Swan Sonnenschein and Co., 1894).
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.
The text is in the public domain.
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.
Productive Agencies too great—Over-production—No one notices this—On the contrary—It is not the Desire to consume which is wanting, it is the Power to consume—From what does Momentary and Restricted Plethora in certain Products arise?
However, in spite of the facts which we have cited, the Manifesto issued by the Erfurt Congress says: “Tools change into machines. The army of the unemployed grows even larger. The productive agencies of society have grown too large.”
It is not the Socialists, however, who formulated these charges. We owe them to the Protectionists who, for the last three quarters of a century, have raised the cry of over-production! If they could have had their way they would have stopped production at the point which it had reached towards 1820, or even reduced it below that. Should we have been the better for it?
Delegate.—There is over-production.
Economist.—Do you think so? Do you consider that shoes are useful?
Economist.—Your wife, your children, you yourself, have you never had to economise in the matter of shoe leather?
Economist.—Then, you see that there is no surplus of boots, because you have not as many as you could wish.
Delegate.—That is because my wages are not high enough.
Economist.—In a word: You would like to be better off?
Economist.—So as to buy more shoes?
Economist.—And it is not only a question of shoe leather. You economise, too, in the matter of clothes. You have not as much linen as you might find useful. Moreover, you are obliged to calculate the amount of meat that is eaten; the wine is eked out; your house is not as comfortable as you could wish. And of what do you complain so bitterly, if it is not that your means are not sufficient for your needs?
Delegate.—That is so.
Economist.—There are plenty of people, who have larger incomes than you have, who sing just the same refrain—How I should like to be rich! That lady would so like an extra silk dress, these young girls new costumes. Now, production is not excessive either for that lady, nor for those young girls; as their requirements exceed their powers to satisfy them. Production could not become excessive until everyone was so satiated as to have nothing left to wish for—an impossible chimera, because the capacity of desire is unlimited.
Delegate.—You are talking of luxuries.
Economist.—You call mere meat and wine luxuries? But do you look upon socks as luxuries for man?
Delegate.—They are considered so for military men.
Economist.—That shows that the army, which is such a good example of Collectivist organisation, does not, perhaps, represent an ideal of comfort. But do you think stockings are a luxury for women? Do you consider pocket-handkerchiefs are superfluous? Do you think that shirts should be set aside as useless articles?
Delegate.—Why, certainly not.
Economist.—Well! of the 350 millions of people who inhabit Europe, do you think that all have an abundance of pocket-handkerchiefs, socks, stockings, and shirts? There are those to whom these things are still luxuries. And what numbers of the 110 or 120 millions, who inhabit the two Americas, are still without them! If we pass on to the 200 millions of Africans, 800 millions of Asiatics, and 40 millions of Oceanians, we shall prove that of the 1,500 millions, in round numbers, of human beings, who move on the face of the earth, there are not 300 millions, that is, less than one in five, who have regular food, clothing, and a house representing that which represents to you the minimum of indispensable comfort! And still you say that production is excessive, when the great majority of human beings is still in the direst need, and has neither shirts, stockings, socks, nor pocket-handkerchiefs!
Delegate.—But the Manchester manufacturers are embarrassed. Those of the Seine-Inférieure, and of the Vosges cannot get rid of their goods.
Economist.—And why? because the people who require these goods have nothing to offer in exchange. The desire to consume is not wanting, but the power to consume. And what is this power to consume, if it is not the power to give one product in exchange for another. That which occasions the repletion of some particular kind of merchandise, is not the excessive out-put of that merchandise—provided that it supplies a want—it is the impossibility of those who need it to obtain it. It is not of over-production that we ought to complain, but of the insufficient production, which hinders the exchange of equivalents.
In one word: The plethora of certain circulating capitals, centred upon one point, does not proceed from their over-supply, but from the scarcity of their equivalents; caused either by the cost of production of these equivalents, by natural obstacles, such as space, or by artificial obstacles, such as Protection or fiscal regulations.