Validity of Sismondi’s ideas for today’s economy

By Umberto Mazzei

Pisa, Dec. 2015

Sismondi’s analysis on the contradictions, dysfunctions, and evil social and economic consequences of the unbridled capitalism, based on the ideas of David Ricardo and his disciples is still valid. Two centuries of experience in economic policy have confirmed it. Sismondi’s critic commentaries were repeated later, in a passionate and radical manner, by Karl Marx and his followers. Sismondi’s thinking had a big influence on that school, even if there are basic divergences concerning the conclusions and above all, the recommendations.

The fact that Sismondi’s or Marx’s critic analysis is still valid is not due to either of them having a special foresight talent. It happens because the system we have today is the same – only enlarged and worsened – than the one shaped two hundred years ago. It still follows the ideas of Ricardo and the rest of the Anglo-Saxon School. Their version of the capitalist system has not evolved; the basic principles are the same, regardless of the social failures and recurrent devastating economic crisis. Those principles are still taught as established economic science in most Anglo-Saxon Universities and have influenced many others. It is now labeled as Neo-liberalism, after retouches by the Austrian school under Ludwig Von Mises and Friedrich Von Hayek and by the Chicago School of Economics under Milton Friedman

Wealth distribution among productive classes

Both Sismondi and Marx were very exceptical about the market proclaimed virtues to turn greed and self interest into an instrument for social and economic equity. Marx, always radical, did not even bother to elaborate on how to improve wealth distribution. He considered the capitalist production system as unredeemable and proposed to eliminate private property altogether. Wherever his proposal for public ownership of means of production was applied, it developed a curious economic tendency: accessible public services and scarcity of consumer goods. We could elaborate on that, but Marx or Marxism is not our subject today.

Untitled1In what concerns the validity of Sismondi’s ideas for the XXI Century, we will first approach the issue of wealth distribution, or more to the point, wealth concentration; which is already related to the title of his main economics work: New Principles of Political Economy or of Wealth in relation to the population.

Sismondi was the first philosopher to worry about wealth distribution among the population. He explains that Adam Smith -who he considers his teacher – was the first to demonstrate that work was the only source of value and that accumulated value constitutes wealth. But he explains that Smith didn’t approach the issue of how wealth was distributed among the population. Such an omission left an important void concerning the effects of the Industrial Revolution on the standard of living of the working population. That is his reason for the title of his main economics book. His purpose is to describe wealth distribution among the population that produces it, and to propose more equitable principles. What was then Sismondi’s lonely concern, is now, two centuries later, and a mayor subject of political debate.

In year 2014, according to research made by Oxfam and Credit Suisse and published by the French journal Le Monde, an 80 % of the world population has only 5,5 % of world wealth. It means that the other 20% of the population owns 94, 5 % of total world wealth. It seems a tendency that only gets worse.

Already in 2010, Tony Judt, in his last book Ill Fares the Land: A treatise on our present Discontents, which is a deep study in wealth distribution, stated that « in contrast to their parents and grandparents, children today in the UK as in the US have very little expectation of improving upon the condition into which they were born ». It reminds us of Sismondi’s description of the proletarian; that class of dispossessed people whose permanent role in ancient Rome was to furnish the arms necessary for production with their offspring: ad prolem generanda[1]. In fact, present inequality is against class mobility. The stratification of classes and wealth concentration are more marked in the US, which wants to be taken as the universal economic model. It is followed on wealth concentration by the Nederlands, Germany, France, Norway and Great Britain getting close. All of them members of NATO that request austerity to other NATO countries with better wealth distribution.


A research in economic wealth distribution by Emanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, two specialists from the London School of Economics, published in Fortune on October 2014[2], found that there is no dispute that income inequality has been on the rise in the United States for the past four decadesIn America, the wealthiest 160,000 families own as much wealth as the poorest 145 million families, and that wealth is about 10 times as unequal as income. They argue that the drastic rise in wealth inequality has occurred for the same reasons as income inequality; namely, the trend of making taxes less progressive since the 1970s, and a changing job market that has forced many blue collar workers to compete with cheaper labour abroad. But wealth inequality is specifically affected by a lack of saving by the middle class.


Today there is an increasing inequality with a much bigger dimension than in the XIX century. It grows due to three factors already denounced by Sismondi: a) tax inequality; b) foreign labor competition and c) lack of savings because overproduction causes overspending.

Always in Fortune, we find confirmation of great wealth inequality at the US in an article by Chris Matthews, were he states that wealth inequality is worse than you think… While inequality is a natural result of competitive, capitalist economies, there’s plenty of evidence that shows that extreme levels of inequality are bad for business.

Untitled4That was said by Sismondi two hundred years before; he insisted over and over that good salaries are necessary to mobilize and broaden the domestic market; basically what John Maynard Keynes repeated one hundred years latter. Very much what China is doing to increase its domestic market in order to achieve independent economic growth. That policy has taken 700 million Chinese out of poverty.

Sismondi also described how more wealth equality increases national consumer’s purchasing power, while increasing wealth inequality pushes towards export dependent economies, which is the main cause for imperialism.[3] But since world markets also have limits – he remarked- the universal competition, imposed by inequalities at home, causes displacement of workers abroad and grows into a world-wide trade conflict, which can degenerate into armed conflict. The proof that this kind of struggle still goes on are the debates that take place at the WTO in Geneva. All of them are related to opening of markets and erosion of policy space for national economic policies for autonomous development.


Sismondi was the one that pushed aside Quesnay division of society into three classes and divided it into today’s perception of two classes in social and political dynamic: the working class and the capitalist class, which struggle to obtain a larger part in the benefits of production. It was Sismondi who discovered a surplus value [mieux value] from the workers input into production, which is appropriated by the capitalist class. Marx elaborated on that. Sismondi acutely comments that nations become richer when they increase their total revenue but not when a class usurps the revenue of another class.[4]

This observation can be perfectly well applied to modern and much advertised production criteria defined as Value Chains. This approach is intended for international production. Its value perception of the production process attributes to local inputs and local work, much less value and less retribution than the value attributed to Investment, Distribution and Intellectual Property factors.


It is blatantly a case of a capitalist partner – in this case international corporations- usurping the revenue share the local partner in an international production. This concept tends also to lower the income of working classes in the developed world, since under this model they have to compete with the working classes of developing countries. As Sismondi repeated often Wealth is something good when it spreads its comfort over all classes; …But a State can be miserable even if a few individuals are accumulating colossal fortunes.[5]   Or when he said later A manufacturer that increases his revenue from what he trims from his workers salary does not add anything to the national revenue ; …The same income is well spender either by the rich or by the poor, but is not used in the same way. The first will substitute much more capital and create much less work than the second; it favours much less the people and consequently, aids much less in the increase of wealth reproduction.[6]

We have documented enough, for today, the modern economic importance of wealth and its relation to the population. It seems to be overlooked by the architects of political economy in Washington and Brussels, who lead the world economic system. But people in the streets of the US and Europe are beginning to be aware of it and also tired of it. They may be called Occupy Wall Street or Indignados or Front National or Syriza, but there is an evident popular reaction against wealth concentration, that will have political consequences. Their opposition may succeed, but their leaders should be reminded of Sismondi’s recommendation: Improved social order is in general advantageous for the poor as well as for the rich, and political economy teaches to keep that order by correcting it, not by overthrowing it[7].

World wealth distribution among nations

Besides domestic wealth concentration, there is also wealth concentration and unfairness at the international level. 15 nations have 75 % of the world’s wealth. It must be noted that all of those countries, with the exception of China , are   also much indebted, which hints that their wealth share comes from some sort of surplus value skimmed on resources from the remaining 182 countries that own only the 25% of the world wealth.


It seems that there is a tendency for change in the world wealth distribution. China has now a 16 % share, while the US is reduced to a 13 %, but it must be remembered that the US has just 315 million (2014) inhabitants, while China has 1.357 (2013) millions, which gives the US an advantage in per capita wealth. But if we consider the external debt, the US has a per capita debt of US$ 58. 400 while China has only US$ 2.200.

Japan is third with a 9% of global wealth and a population of 127 millions, whose per capita debt is US$ 24.000. Germany, Italy, UK, France and Spain, have the biggest share from the EU economies and put together they amount to an 18% of global wealth; their added debts would be US$ 25,771 billions for a per capita debt media of US$ 80.500; but UK per capita debt is US$ 160,158. The weight of debt is oddly distributed. That there is a minority class that profits from debt is easily proven: the common citizen’s per capita debt is very often bigger than its net value.

The gigantic inequality in world wealth slows the world economy, because as Sismondi said, wealth concentration causes economic growth stagnation.[8]

We will abandon the wealth distribution theme and will comment on other pertinent modern issues, where Sismondi is still a guide. We will only mention some present concerns and quote pertinent parts from his Nouveaux Principes d’economie politique- his main economics book, even if there is a later one (1837) with the title of Études sur Economie Politique.

Nouveaux Principes d’Èconomie Politique

The First Book of Nouveau Principes is over the object of Political Economy and the origins of that science. In the first lines of the First Chapter Sismondi states that the science of government has, or should have, as its goal the well-being of men in society. It looks for the means to assure the highest possible well-being that is compatible with their nature; it tries at the same time to have the largest number possible of people as participants on such well-being[9]….In none of the political sciences this double goal should be forgotten by the legislator. We believe those principles to be still a valid guide for all governments, but unfortunately they are not always applied. The norm seems closer to the promotion of private special interests, at public expense.

We do not intend to cover here all of Sismondi principles applicable to present socio-economic problems, so we will limit ourselves to only some outstanding international modern issues.

Fair share of scientific and technological progress

Untitled8Now, as in Sismondi’s time, science and technology are changing the procedures of production in goods and services. It causes productivity increases. Now, as then, instead of being a blessing for all, it becomes cause of unemployment and displacement of people with hard won skills. Now as then, gains in productivity are not shared among workers and owners. There is unfairness in the distribution of the benefits. So the increase on productivity, instead of expanding markets by increasing purchasing power, becomes increased wealth concentration, which restrains markets.

Automatic procedures increase productivity and profits for invested capital, but make employment precarious and menaces workers with redundancy, so there is a tendency to accept even lower wages. This phenomenon exists since the Industrial Revolution, since Sismondi’s time. He observed it and said that improvements in science and technology were a progress for the whole of humanity and should be shared among those that participate in the production process. He proposes an obvious way to share the benefits of increased productivity either with increases in salary or increases in leisure time, with the same salary. What is wrong today is not the discoveries but the unfair sharing, the unfair partition of the benefits.[10] 

On Value-Added Tax or Tax on Consumption

Untitled14Consumption tax systems exist in more than 120 countries around the world, including every OECD nation, other than the United States. Rates range from 3 percent to 25 percent.  Value-Added Taxes (VAT) are charged on the majority of transactions at every level in the supply chain from production through the final sale of the product to the consumer. The levying of the tax is almost completely hidden to the final consumer. These taxes are not meant to be a cost to businesses and are generally recoverable by the producer and the distributor. Ultimately, it is the end consumer (mostly working people with salary) that bears the entire cost of the VAT. The International Monetary Fund, The World Bank group and other international financial institutions recommend the use of VAT or consumer taxes as a simpler way to increase fiscal income. It is also the official policy of the European Commission, which has set a minimum of 17%.


Sismondi expands himself on this kind of tax which he, appropriately, calls tax on consumption. He begins by explaining how there are many activities that classify as consumption but are very difficult to tax, like those that are consumed at the source or those that are of domestic production. He objects the widespread use of consumption taxes, because we never know who will end up paying it….they get always heavier in relation to incomes as they descend the wealth scale through the different classes, until reaching the poorest one, that of the industrial workers. Their expense is composed almost always of products that are bought and introduced into the cities, and there is not any part of it that can escape the tax.

It is unfair and inhuman to propose to eliminate direct taxes and to collect all of the State income from taxes on consumption…In a certain sense it would be like going back to the feudal system, in which the rich didn’t pay any tax.

Taxes on consumption raise the price of everything. Those that live from their work, which are the most numerous class, would not have enough to live….Since total sales will diminish it will be necessary to rise the price of every merchandise, in particular the essential ones, because those that sell them impose their law on the buyers that can not do without them. The increase in food prices will put pressure again on salaries and profits…competition in foreign markets will become more difficult; growth will stop…Then he mentions Ricardo’s trickle-down economics which is still the official US economic policy and says: Lets avoid believing that by taxing primary need goods, in which the poor advance the payment, the rich will end up reimbursing them.[11]


On International free trade agreements


The ancestor of bi-lateral or pluri-lateral trade agreements, presently called Free Trade Agreements or Partnership agreements, are the trade monopolies that were given to specific companies like the British East Indies Company. Today the purpose still is, regardless of the labels, to administer trade in a preferential and discriminatory manner. Sismondi already had a contrary opinion on that kind of trade. He stated that when it concerns commercial wealth in general, governments have only seen the traders; they believe that their interest is equal to that of the nation as a whole; it is always in agreement with their advice that they have adjusted their legislation. They have always tried to make them rich as soon as possible. …agreements can be obtained – sometimes as a favour from a foreign government, or because of fear or because of hope to reach an alliance – to give an advantage to traders of a particular nation over those of any other, …that is the goal of those trade agreements that, during half a century, have been an important matter of European policies.

An exception on the import tariffs that are paid by other nations …gives without doubt to the nation that obtains it, almost all the trade of the nation that grants it…When the trade agreement implies the concession of reciprocal exemptions, every country could find out that it acquired too expensively the monopoly given to its producers, in exchange of the monopoly given to foreigners against his own consumers…No trade agreement can ever satisfy the greed of traders that always want a monopoly.[12]

That timeless last remark by Sismondi, describes well the aspiration of those behind the push for trade negotiated agreements by governments. While describing the trade monopolies that the European powers imposed on their colonies, he has a very up-to-date valid proposition that implies already an idea similar to that of the European Common Market and which is contrary to the discriminative and exclusive trade enclosed in the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – TTIP- proposals by the US to the EU.

He says : a free trade of the whole of Europe with all of it colonies would have been, without doubt, more advantageous for all of them, because it would have increased infinitely the market of the first and accelerated the development of the second.. It is something that the EU, as a whole, is somehow now attempting now with APC countries (former colonies).

The TPP and TTIP agreements affect not only trade issues, but also non-trade areas that will immensely impact the lives of citizens in all participating countries. It is the reason to have them negotiated in secret, but the details are well known to specialists because of other similar agreements like NAFTA, CAFTA et al. The recent uncovering of the TPP clauses by New Zealand confirmed that it has the same clauses. The Mexican and Canadian experience on NAFTA can be then helpful to forecast what the probable consequences are.


On export subsidies


At WTO in Geneva, the theatre of multilateral trade negotiations, the Doha Round was accepted, only in order to eliminate price distorting subsidies on agricultural exports. Negotiations on all other aspects of trade are on stand-by because there has not been agreement on the elimination of agricultural exports subsidies, which are mainly from the US and to lesser degree from the EU.

The problem is not new. There have always been economies that are not based on their domestic market and whose growth depends on international trade, meaning, based on exports. It is a problem that already existed at the beginning of the XIX century and Sismondi analysis concerning export subsidies is as valid now as it was then. When all the other means for expanding foreign markets were found to be insufficient, some governments have gone to even pay their traders in order to allow them to sale at a better price; the more this sacrifice was odd and against the most simple calculations, the more it was attributed to a high policy. This subsidy is a reward that the state gives the manufacturer because of manufacturing and it replaces benefits : as a result it encourages the continuation of industries that produce no revenue; and when it is given to exports, the government is paying its traders at the expense of its citizens, so foreigners can buy at a better price. We suppose that this manoeuvre is frequently done in order to bankrupt foreign factories whose competition is feared. This sacrifice seems to be very much out of proportion with the proposed goal; the people that during ten years, would have paid to discourage its rival, runs the risk, if it is discontinued on the eleventh year, to find them ready to start again. This may be the reason by which the US and the EU find it so very difficult to scrap or at least reduce the subsidies to their agriculture and above all, to their agricultural exports. Without those subsidies, that lower international prices, some countries would stop importing and could start exporting again.

Continues Sismondi, Subsidies as a policy can only be justified when it is given to goods whose fabrication is considered necessary enough for the defence, or for feeding a nation, so its production must be assured at any price, like weapons, ship rigging equipment, medicines, food from the country or even those whose culture is still unknown. To accumulate wealth is not the main goal of a nation and it must be sacrificed to anything else that warrants the security and the health of a nation.[13] In this paragraph Sismondi inaugurates the principles for an autonomous defence industry as well as for food sovereignty. Those principles have been around since the Napoleonic Wars. Recent EU sanctions on Russia have put them at the forefront of present Russian and Chinese economic policy.

On overproduction and consumption


Overproduction is Sismondi’s bête noir and is also very much a present concern.

David Ricardo and Jean Baptiste Say stated that production could be unlimited; that there were no limits to production; that every production creates its own market. That idea is still taught as basic truth in today economics courses. It is the basic theory of the so-called Supply Side Economics, which guides US economic policies since President Reagan

Sismondi strongly objected. He said that the abundance of capital pushed owners to concentrate investment for production in big factories. The industrial concentration created unemployment, which restricted the internal market and pushed production to be exported to other countries.[14] It resembles the Hecksher – Olin theorem on international trade patterns: countries export products according to their most abundant resource: be it capital intensive or labour intensive ones. But Sismondi points out that international markets are also limited and that those exports are often sold by dumping, which ruins local production. It is a frequent complains that is heard today at international trade forums, such as WTO or UNCTAD in Geneva…

Sismondi quotes Ricardo when he said that M. Say [Jean Baptiste Say] has proven, in the most satisfactory manner that there is not a capital, however big, that can not be employed in a country, because the demand of products is only limited by production[15].

Sismondi protests and contradicts them: Their mistake is that they see annual production as the same thing as income…. With such a principle it is impossible to understand the most demonstrated fact in the whole history of trade ; market saturation …it is impossible to explain how is it that capital profit and salaries go down at the same time that production increases.[16]   It is the same effect that is causing in the stock market the over-production of money.


Some of today problems of over-production are linked to the Say and Ricardo’s mistakes. Marx agreed with Sismondi’s explanation of over-production as the cause of the periodical crisis of the capitalist system. So do also other critics of capitalism from the socialist camp, like Mikhail Bakunin, Rosa Luxembourg and nowadays by economists like Robert Brenner or J.A, Hobson. Both explain present recurrent economic crisis by overproduction, which causes as well as a wasteful tendency that goes against the idea of Sustainable Development.

Robert Brenner says A main cause, though not the only cause, of the decline in the rate of profit has been a persistent tendency to overcapacity in global manufacturing industries.[17]It is worth reading it, because his present day descriptions are similar to those of Sismondi, only that Sismondi’s description is closer to the primary root.

J.A.Hobson explains something that Sismondi said two hundred years before. Hobson states that over-production and subsequent under-consumption spark a complex chain reaction of events that result in imperialism. He attributes the 1929 crisis and subsequent depression to an excess of industrial and farming investments, which were financed by banks and created a wide over-production. Unsold products brought bankruptcies and emptied deposit accounts, which dragged the banks along. Sismondi describes the process: We may have noticed that capitals can accumulate faster than the increase in the demand for their production, that in such a case the interest that they carry diminishes, and that way they push production further, at the same time that they push consumption down ; that every transformation of working capital into fixed capital implies a future production, without equivalent consumption; and that if society continues some time still in its prosperity race …there will be very soon, because of capital accumulation, a frightening lack of proportion between production and consumption. It seems that terrible scourges are necessary to carry human societies back to harmony, .It could be that there is a time in the progress of nations, where destruction of existing wealth is necessary for the creative activity to start again. It is quite and very much Joseph Schumpeter’s, Creative Destruction theory.[18]

On economic policy fairness

When Business Schools are confused in the public mind with academic centres for the study of economic policy, it is useful to remind society of Sismondi’s keen distinction: Political Economy is not a calculus science but a moral science.[19]

[1]    Les Romains appelèrent prolétaires ceux qui n’a-vaient point de propriété, comme si, plus que

tous les autres, ils étaient appelés à avoir des enfans : Ad prolem generandam.   Sismondi. Nouveaux Principes, Livre VII, Chap. II, pag. 264.


[3]    L’ égalité des jouissances doit avoir pour résultat de donner toujours plus d’étendue au marché des producteurs ; leur inégalité, de le resserrer toujours davantage. …la concentration des fortunes entre un petit nombre de propriétaires, le marché intérieur se resserre toujours plus, et l’industrie est toujours réduite à chercher ses débouchés dans les marchés étrangers, Sismondi. Ibidem.Livre IV, Chap.IV, pags. 357 – 361

[4]    Les nations s’enrichissent quand elles augmentent leur revenu, mais non pas quand le revenu de l’une de leurs classes est usurpé par l’autre. Sismondi ibidem. Livre IV, Chap.V, Pag.378.

[5]    La richesse est un bien lorsqu’elle répand l’aisance dans toutes les classes ; …Mais un État peut être misérable encore que quelques individus y accumulent des fortunes colossales.

[6]    Le fabricant qui augmente son revenu de tout le salaire qu’il retranche à ses ouvriers, n’ajoute rien au revenu national….Le même revenu est bien employé par le riche et par le pauvre, mais il n’est pas employé de la même manière. Le premier remplace beaucoup plus de capital et beaucoup moins de travail que le second ; il favorise beaucoup moins la population, et sert par conséquent bien moins à la reproduction de la richesse.

[7]    L’ordre social perfectionné est en général avantageux au pauvre aussi bien qu’au riche, et l’économie politique enseigne à conserver cet ordre en le corrigeant, non pas à le renverser. Sismondi. Ibidem. Livre I, Chap. II

[8]    Aussi ce que nous avons vu au commencement de ce chapitre, que le marché intérieur ne pouvait s’étendre que par la prospérité nationale…. l’augmentation du débit universel ne peut résulter que de la prospérité universelle. Sismondi. Nouveaux Principes d’économie politique, Livre IV, Chap.IV. Page 362.

[9]    La science du gouvernement se propose ou doit se proposer pour but le bonheur des hommes réunis en société Elle cherche les moyens de leur assurer la plus haute félicité qui soit compatible avec leur nature ; elle cherche en même temps ceux de faire le plus grand nombre possible d’individus à cette félicité. Dans aucune des sciences politiques on ne doit perdre de vue ce double but des efforts du législateur Sismondi. Nouveaux Principes d’économie politique, Livre I, Chap.I.

[10]  Supposez tous les hommes partageant également entre eux le produit du travail auquel ils auront concouru, et toute découverte dans les arts sera alors, dans tous les cas possibles, un bienfait pour eux tous ; car, après chaque progrès de l’industrie, ils pourront toujours choisir, ou d’avoir avec moins de travail un plus long repos, ou d’avoir avec le même travail plus de jouissances. Aujourd’hui, ce n’est pas la découverte qui est le mal ; c’est le partage injuste que l’homme fait de ses fruits. Sismondi. Ibidem. Clarifications, Pages. 433 – 434.

[11]  C’est un grave inconvénient des impôts sur la consommation, qu’on ne sache jamais, en les établissant, par qui ils seront payés en dernier analyse. …que ses droits s’élèvent toujours plus dans leur proportion avec les revenus, à mesure qu’on descend vers les clases plus indigentes, et que la plus malheureuse de toutes, celle des ouvriers manufacturiers , dont la dépense se compose presque uniquement de denrées achetées et introduites dans les villes, n’y échappe pour aucune partie de son revenu.

C’est donc une proposition très-injuste et inhumaine que celle qu’on a souvent répétée, de supprimer toutes les impositions directes, et de lever la totalité des revenus de l’État par des impôts sur la consommation ; …à plusieurs égards ce serait rentrer dans l’ancien système féodal oû le noble ne payait rien ;…

D’autre part, lorsque les impôts sur la consommation ont élevé le prix de toutes choses, les hommes qui vivent de leur industrie, et qui forment une classe nombreuse parmi les consommateurs, ne trouvent plus dans l’industrie des ressources suffisantes pour vivre….Comme la vente totale diminue, il faut, pour qu’ils vivent, que chaque article leur rapporte davantage,…mais surtout celui des denrées de première nécessité, parce que leurs vendeurs font la loi aux acheteurs, qui ne peuvent s’en passer. Le renchérissement de ces denrées réagit de nouveau sur les salaires et les profits. … Gardons-nous de croire qu’en chargeant d’un impôt les objets de première nécessité, si les pauvres font l’avance, les riches finiront par le rembourser ! Sismondi. Ibidem , Livre VI, Cahp. VI

[12]  En général, les gouvernements, dans la richesse commerciale, n’ont vu que les marchands : ils ont cru l’intérêt de ceux-ci constamment conforme à celui de la nation ; et c’est presque toujours d’après leurs conseils qu’ils ont réglé leur législation. Ils ont cherché à les rendre riches le plus tôt possible ; …mais on pouvait quelquefois, par la faveur d’un gouvernement étranger, par la crainte, pas l’espérance d’une alliance, des avantages pour les commerçans d’une nation de préférence à toute autre,…C’est le but des traités de commerce qui, pendant un demi-siècle, ont été un objet important de la politique européenne. …Lorsque le traité de commerce portait une concession d’exemptions réciproques, chaque état aurait dû trouver qu’il achetait trop cher le monopole accordé à ses producteurs, par le monopole accordé aux étrangers contre ses consommateurs. …Aucun traité de commerce ne peut satisfaire pleinement l’avidité des marchands qui désirent un monopole. Nouveaux Principes d’Economie Politique. Livre IV, Chap. IX, pages 413, 414, 417, 418, 421.

[13]  Tous les autres expédiens pour étendre le marché des producteurs s’étant trouvés insuffisans, quelques gouvernemens sont allés jusqu’à payer leurs marchands pour les mettre en état de vendre meilleur marché ; plus ce sacrifice était étrange et contraire aux calculs plus simples, plus on l’a attribué à une haute politique. La prime est une récompense que l’état décerne au fabricant en raison de sa fabrication, et qui lui tient lieu de bénéfice : elle encourage par conséquent à suivre une industrie qui ne donne aucun revenu ; et lorsqu’elle est accordée sur l’exportation, le gouvernement paie ses marchands aux dépens de ses sujets, pour que les étrangers puissent acheter d’eux à meilleur marché. On a supposé que cette manouvre a été souvent suivie pour ruiner des établissements étrangers dont on redoutait la concurrence. Le sacrifice paraît bien disproportionné avec le but qu’on se serait proposé ; le peuple qui pendant dix ans, aurait payé une prime pour décourager ses rivaux, risquerait, s’il la discontinuait à la onzième année, de les trouver tout prêts à recommencer.

Une prime ne peut se justifier en politique, que lorsqu’elle est accordée sur la fabrication d’une marchandise que l’on juge assez nécessaire ou à la défense, ou à la subsistance d’un peuple pour vouloir s’en assurer à tout prix la production, comme des armes, des agrès de navire, des médicamens, des denrées propres au pays, quoique leur culture y soit encore inconnue. L’accumulation de la richesse n’est pas le but principal de l’existence d’une nation, et elle doit être sacrifiée à tout ce qui garantit sa sûreté ou sa santé.

[14]  L’effet de l’augmentation des capitaux est en général de concentrer les travaux dans de très-grandes manufactures….Ainsi donc, par la concentration des fortunes entre un petit nombre de propriétaires, le marché se resserre toujours plus, et l’industrie est toujours plus réduite à chercher ses débouchés dans les marchés étrangers, où de plus grandes révolutions la menacent. …une confiance générale de tous les producteurs, qu’ils vendraient aux étrangers, avait partout élevé la production au-dessus de la demande que l’offre d’un grand rabais que les producteurs d’un pays viennent faire aux consommateurs d’un autre, étant en même temps un arrêt de mort qu’ils lancent contre les producteurs de ce même pays….Ainsi,…que le marché intérieur ne pouvait s’étendre que par la prospérité nationale, et l’augmentation du revenu national …l’augmentation du débit universel ne peut résulter que de la prospérité universelle…. Le marché du fabricant peut donc s’étendre …par le progrès de la civilisation, de l’aisance, de la sûreté et du bonheur chez les nations barbares. Ibidem. Livre IV, Chap. IV pages 361, 362, 363

[15]  Sismondi quoting Ricardo : M. Say a prouvé, de la manière la plus satisfaisante, dit-il, qu’il n’y a point de capital, quelque considérable qu’il soit, qui ne puisse être employé dans un pays, parce que la demande des produits n’est bornée que par la production. Sismondi. Ibidem. Livre IV, Chap. IV, pag.366.

[16]  L’erreur dans laquelle ils sont tombés tient tout entière à ce faux principe, c’est qu’à leurs yeux la production annuelle est la même chose que le revenu. …..Avec ce principe, il devient absolument impossible de comprendre ou d’expliquer le fait le plus démontré dans l’histoire du commerce ; c’est l’engorgement des marchés. …il est impossible d’expliquer comment le profit des capitaux et le taux des salaires baissent souvent en même temps que la fabrication augmente. Sismondi, Ibidem, Livre IV, Chap. IV, pages 336, 367

[17]  Robert Brenner, Overproduction not Financial Collapse is the Heart of the Crisis: the US, East Asia, and the World.

[18]      Toutefois, on peut déjà avoir remarqué, que les capitaux peuvent s’accumuler plus rapidement que les demandes pour l’ouvrage qu’ils font produire n’augmentent; que dans ce cas l’intérêt qu’ils portent diminue, et qu’ainsi ils font produire plus , en même temps qu’ils font consommer moins; que chaque transformation de capital circulant en capital fixe entraîne la création d’une production future, sans consommation correspondante; et que, si la société continuait quelque temps dans son cours de prospérités, sans pouvoir s’étendre sur des régions nouvelles, et faire naître un nouveau peuple sur une nouvelle terre , il y aurait bientôt, en raison même de l’accumulation de ses capitaux , une disproportion effrayante entre ses productions et sa consommation. Il semble que de terribles fléaux sont chargés du soin de ramener à l’ordre les sociétés humaines, ….De même il y a peut-être telle époque dans le progrès des nations, où la destruction de la richesse existante est nécessaire pour que l’activité créatrice puisse recommencer à s’exercer.. Sismondi. Ibidem. Livre VI, Chap. VII, pages 248, 249.

[19]  Aussi, l’économie politique n’est-elle pas une science de calcul, mais une science morale. Sismondi. Ibidem. Livre III, Chap. XIII, page 313.

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