111. Economic science… is not innocent
As long as free exchanges and contracts were effected within natural living communities, they remained civilised, empirically moderated by ecological prudence, moral justice and Christian charity. The measure of value, laws of exchange, mechanisms of competition and conditions for maximising profits remained almost unknown, such a study being of no interest other than theoretical. On the other hand, since liberalism has isolated the market and deprived it of every external rule, its free play has become the object of a deceitful science called “ economics ”. Aristotle saw this as no more than a secondary science, “ chrematistics ”, the science of the production and exchange of goods within the City. How right he was !
1. Modern “ economic science ” is therefore the systematic and practical knowledge of the mechanisms of the market, spontaneously instituted, set in motion, developed and automatically regulated by the free encounter and confrontation of individual interests in a society that is neither frozen or protected but open on principle to every initiative. Thus at any given moment we find the various operators of the life of the economy – capital and labour, production and consumption – reciprocally informed, evaluated and balanced. Liberal society is in a state of spontaneous self-management. Economic science applies itself to knowing the mechanisms of this self-management.
2. In reality, this science of the market’s mechanisms is only of use to the owning classes, who alone have the effective freedom of entering or not into the play of the market and of directing a part of the market for their own convenience. The consumer needs to buy such and such a product immediately ; the business man, the worker, the peasant need to gain a wage or some immediate profit for the work they have to offer ; and the investor the interest of the capital on which he lives. All are constrained by need and tied to the particular character of their contribution. They arrive at the free market as job-seekers. The financier, on the other hand, with his “ anonymous and vagabond fortune ” (Philippe Duke of Orleans, 1899), is constrained by no necessity of time nor bound by any form of employment. He rules over the market and his knowledge of its mechanisms allows him to win every time.
Therefore economic science is at his exclusive service, until the State gets involved. This science informs him how to obtain the maximum profit from his liquid funds in an unprotected market. In this way the great banks end up directing the whole game and in accordance with their own interests they steer the concentration of capital, industrial production, business and even the consumption of goods ! This science, which is supposedly directed towards the maximum general prosperity, in fact facilitates the fatal process whereby money dominates the entire economic life – “ freed ” from every other constraint – and subjects it to the laws of its own profit. It is a very peculiar form of philanthropy.