“Thus the wealth of a Nation consists in the multitude of products or, rather, in their value; but the multitude of products depends on two chief causes, namely, the number of workmen and their diligence. Nature will produce both, when she is left untrammelled.
Would the Great Master, who adorns the valley with flowers and covers the cliff itself with grass and mosses, exhibit such a great mistake in man, his masterpiece, that man should not be able to enrich the globe with as many inhabitants as it can support? That would be a mean thought even in a Pagan, but blasphemy in a Christian, when reading the Almighty’s precept: “Be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth.”
It was punishment for fallen man to support himself in the sweat of his brow; but this punishment was such that Nature itself measured it out, when man was forced to work because of his wants, when he had nothing but his own hands to rely on for his needs; and toil was made lighter by the desire for his own benefit, when he saw that he could thereby get what he needed.
If either is lacking, the fault should be sought in the laws of the Nation, hardly, however, in any want of laws, but in the impediments that are put in the way of Nature.
If by them citizens are rendered incapable of supporting themselves and their children, they must either die together with their offspring or forsake their native land. The more expedients are afforded by laws for some people to live by the toil of others, while others are prevented from supporting themselves by work, the more is diligence checked, and the Nation cannot but resemble the mould in which it is cast.
Now, if this is incontrovertible, I intend to found thereon the following proposition, i.e. that every individual spontaneously tries to find the place and the trade in which he can best increase National gain, if laws do not prevent him from doing so.
Every man seeks his own gain. This inclination is so natural and necessary that all Communities in the world are founded upon it. Otherwise Laws, punishments and rewards would not exist and mankind would soon perish altogether. The work that has the greatest value is always best paid, and what is best paid is most sought after.
As long as I can produce 6 Daler worth of goods a day in one trade, I do not willingly change to another that brings in 4. In the former case the Nation’s gain and mine was one-third more than in the latter.
It is thus undoubtedly a loss to the Nation when somebody is forced or is encouraged by public rewards to work in a trade other than the one in which he earns the highest profit; for this does not happen without such inducements, just as a merchant does not sell his Wares for less than what is offered him.
If he whose work someone has been forced to do gains as much as the worker has lost, it is not National gain; but if he gains more, only the difference is the gain of the Nation, but obtained through the oppression of its citizens.
Thus it is obvious that, when somebody conducts an enterprise by the work of others, but neither pays nor is able to pay without loss as much as the workers can earn in some other trade, the deficiency in their wages must then be a National loss.”
-Anders Chydenius (18th century Finish clergyman, politician and philosopher 1729-1803)