This section is from the "The Science Of Wealth" book, by Amasa Walker.
But, while a knowledge of the laws of wealth is especially desirable and useful for particular classes and professions, it is obvious that the masses of the people should have an intelligent understanding of its principles. In a country where suffrage is universal, every man is virtually a lawgiver. His opinions will influence his action in his choice of those who are to decide the policy of the government, which will be but the general expression of the popular will. Every man has his ideas of currency, trade, and finance; and, however imperfect or mistaken, they influence his political action. Hence the great desirableness of a general diffusion of sound views upon all questions appertaining to the economical interests of the country.
That Political Economy is a science having nothing to do with morals or religion, nor in any way appertaining to human welfare, except so far as relates to the production and accumulation of wealth, is a common opinion; but it may be fearlessly asserted, that no other science is so intimately connected with the destiny of the human race, in its highest and most enduring interests. Such has been the uniform testimony of those in the clerical profession who have given special attention to its teachings. Dr. Chalmers, while he held the chair of Divinity in the University of Edinburgh, gave lectures upon Political Economy. In the preface to the volume he published upon the subject, he says, " We cannot bid adieu to Political Economy without an earnest recommendation of its lessons to all who enter upon the ecclesiastical profession." Rev. Dr. Bethune, in his address before the Literary Society of Yale College, 1845, spoke of Political Economy " as that philanthropic science, which, next to the gospel, whose legitimate offspring it is, will do more than any thing else for the elevation and fraternization of our race." Bishop Whately was heard to remark, a short time before his death, that " no theological seminary should be without its chair of Political Economy." Agreeing fully with the opinions expressed by these eminent men, I have felt desirous, throughout the following work, to show how perfectly the laws of wealth accord with all those moral and social laws which appertain to the higher nature and aspirations of man.
Taxation in all its forms, as imposed by national, state, or municipal authority, has received a large share of attention in this work. The great change that has taken place in the fiscal condition of the country, by which the different modes of raising revenue have become matters of the first importance to every citizen, has been an inducement to enter more fully into details than usual with writers on the general science of public economy. The American system of taxation is more complex, perhaps, than any other, from the fact of its triple character; that on the part of the general government being both direct and indirect, while that by State and municipal authorities is, in the main, direct, upon property and polls. The National Debt and Public Finances occupy that position in the present work which their importance seems to require. The subject may almost be regarded as a new one in this country. • References are made in this work to the writings of the late M. Frederick Bastiat. No author of the present age has done more to dispel popular delusions, and expose popular sophisms, — especially in his own country, France. It would be well if his writings were more extensively read in this country; and the republication of his " Harmonies of Political Economy" here would be a great benefaction to the public.
We are already furnished with the valuable work of John Stuart Mill, who is undoubtedly the ablest of living writers. Though more especially adapted to European than American use in the application of economic principles, it is extensively read in this country. While the science of wealth is always and everywhere the same, it is equally true that certain subjects of which it treats have a more practical interest in one country than another; and, of course, the importance attached to different topics will be determined by that consideration. Pauperism, and the economy of the poor-laws, may be a matter of deep concern where a frightful proportion of the people are dependent upon public charity, but of little consequence where very few, as in this country, are found in that condition. It is for this reason, that each community, while recognizing precisely the same economic laws, finds that the subjects to which they may be applied vary greatly in importance.
I cannot claim for myself any peculiar qualifications for the work I have undertaken. Some twenty years of my early life were devoted to pursuits connected with the trade and manufacturing industry of the country, while a longer period has since been devoted to the study of the laws of wealth. A practical knowledge of business and banking affairs generally, and a most earnest and persistent search for the truth in all matters appertaining to my favorite science, are the only claims I have to the attention of the public.
I should do injustice to my own feelings, if I did not acknowledge the valuable assistance of my son, Colonel Francis A. Walker, late of the volunteer service of the United States, without whose aid it would have been nearly impossible, amid other avocations, to complete this work.
North Brookfield, Mass., 1866.