By Say J.-B.
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Extra resources for A Treatise on Political Economy or the Production, Distribution and consumption of Wealth
What can we expect from nations still less advanced in civilization than the Greeks ? We may recollect that a law of Egypt obliged the son to adopt the profession of his father. # The Romans, in treating every branch of industry, except agriculture (and we know not why,) with contempt, tfetray the same ignorance. Their pecuniary transactions must be numbered amongst their most unskilful operations. The moderns, even after having freed themselves from the barbarism of the middle a^es, have not for a very long time been more advanced.
Certain individuals, whose minds have never caught a glimpse of a more improved state of society, boldly affirm that it could not exist; they acquiesce in established evils, and console themselves for their existence by remarking, that they could not possibly be otherwise; in this respect reminding us of that emperor of Japan who thought he would have suffocated himself with laughter, upon being told that the Dutch had no king. The Iroquois were at a loss to conceive how wars could be carried on with success, if prisoners were not to be burnt.
It is yet but a very little time, since the rudest as well as the most refined nations, and all mankind, from the unlettered peasant to the enlightened philosopher, believed in the existence of but four material elements. No human being had even dreamt of disputing the doctrine, which is nevertheless false ; in- INTRODUCTION. * How many other opinions, as universally prevailing and as much respected, will in like manner pass away. There is something epidemical in the opinions of mankind ; they are subject to be attacked by moral maladies which infect the whole species; Periods at length arrive when, like the plague, the disease wears itself out and loses all its malignity ; but it still has required time.