This section is from the "The Science Of Wealth" book, by Amasa Walker.
Political Economy is the Science of Wealth, and professes to teach the laws by which the production, and consumption of wealth are governed.
The term, "political economy," is not a fortunate one, since it leads the popular mind to a misapprehension of what the science actually teaches, and confounds it with politics, or the science of government, from which it is distinct.
The relations into which these sciences enter are voluntary, and for the supposed advantage of both, not from any logical necessity to complete either. A just and efficient government of the state is important to realize the largest development of wealth, but only as a condition under which the laws of wealth, already complete and harmonious, may have their own proper sway.
Government cannot furnish a new power in man, or a new agency in nature. It can, to a certain extent, control the exercise of existing power, and the use of existing agencies ; but it can control only by limiting them. Nothing is added through legislation. The science of wealth is complete in its own principles, though the statesman may think it policy to contravene them for a supposed good. Political economy is, then, silent before the law.
The science of wealth would be no less complete and certain, should the action of government render the creation or possession of wealth impossible. The science would vindicate itself by saying, that, when wealth is created, it must be as my laws determine. The independence of these sciences does not imply that they are indifferent to each other. The statesman must consult the economist at every step, if he would use the powers of government to national advantage, and legislate in accordance with the natural laws of wealth, and to the advancement of the national industry. It is not intended here to enforce this as a duty, but to show, by these remarks, the relation of the statesman to the science we are to investigate.
Political economy teaches the relation of man to those objects of his desire which he can obtain only by his efforts. He has wants : he needs food, clothing, and shelter;. he wishes many things not vital to him. Together, these constitute his wants, in the view of political economy. This is the first fact of the science. It is the foundation of all. These wants can only be satisfied by efforts. This is the second fact. By it, man builds on the foundation laid in his wants. The objects or satisfactions obtained by these efforts are collectively called wealth, or those things which contribute to the welfare of man. This is the third fact to be noticed. The circle of political economy is here com-pleted. It may hereafter appear that there is a perpetual progress, an unceasing self-multiplication; that each satisfaction creates a new want, which in turn seeks its object through an effort.
Let us make a formal statement of what we have obtained : —