I was reading this morning John Ramsay McCulloch’s great Principles of Political Economy (5th edition, 1864) and when I got to the end I found this as the final statement of principle and economic wisdom. If you would like to understand our new Government’s approach to the economy, it seems to me you cannot do better than this:
We here close this view of the Principles of Political Economy. We have endeavoured to show the indissoluble connexion subsisting between private and public opulence,—that whatever has any tendency to increase the former, must, to the same extent, increase the latter,—and that, speaking generally, security of property, freedom of industry, diffusion of sound information, and moderation in the public expenditure, appear to be the only as they are the certain means by which the various powers and resources of human talent may be called into action, and society made continually to advance in the career of wealth and civilization. Every increase of security, freedom, and intelligence, is a benefit, as every diminution, whether of one only or of all, is an evil. We have endeavoured to show that there is no real opposition of interests amongst the various classes of the community—that they mutually depend upon each other; and that any favour or advantage given to one class, is not only immediately injurious to the others, and subversive of that equality of protection which every just government will always indiscriminately grant to all who are under its protection, but that it is not either really or lastingly beneficial to those whose interests it is intended to promote. Except on extraordinary occasions, the true line of policy is to leave every one to pursue his own interest in his own way, and not to lose sight of the maxim pas trop gouverner. Owing to the different dispositions and capacities of individuals, and the widely different circumstances under which they are placed, they will no doubt continue to exhibit in time to come, as they have done hitherto, great differences in their situation and conduct. But the adoption of a well-digested system of public economy is sure, notwithstanding, to conduce to the general well-being. While it adds to the numbers and wealth of the rich, it makes still greater additions to the numbers and wealth of the middle classes, and raises the poor more nearly to a level with the others. In a well-constituted society, all who pursue their occupations with diligence, intelligence, and economy, may reasonably expect to realize the advantages attached by Providence to such conduct. At all events, that is the only way in which their condition can be honourably, and therefore beneficially improved, and the public wealth augmented. It is by the spontaneous and unconstrained, but well-protected efforts of individuals to improve their condition, and to rise in the world, that nations become rich and powerful. Their labour and their savings are at once the source and the measure of national opulence and public prosperity. They may be compared to the drops of dew which invigorate and mature all vegetable nature: none of them has, singly, any perceptible influence; but we owe the foliage of summer and the fruits of autumn to their combined action.