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The Templars’ Dialogues
by [?]

DIALOGUES.

ORIGINAL ADVERTISEMENT, IN APRIL, 1824.

I have resolved to fling my analysis of Mr. Ricardo’s system into the form of Dialogues. A few words will suffice to determine the principles of criticism which can fairly be applied to such a form of composition on such a subject. It cannot reasonably be expected that dialogues on Political Economy should pretend to the appropriate beauty of dialogues as dialogues, by throwing any dramatic interest into the parts sustained by the different speakers, or any characteristic distinctions into their style. Elegance of this sort, if my time had allowed of it, or I had been otherwise capable of producing it, would have been here misplaced. Not that I would say even of Political Economy, in the words commonly applied to such subjects, that “Ornari res ipsa negat, contenta doceri:” for all things have their peculiar beauty and sources of ornament–determined by their ultimate ends, and by the process of the mind in pursuing them. Here, as in the processes of nature and in mathematical demonstrations, the appropriate elegance is derived from the simplicity of the means employed, as expressed in the “Lex Parcimonie” (“Frustra fit per plura, quod fieri fas erat per pauciora”), and other maxims of that sort. This simplicity, however, must be looked for in the order and relation of the thoughts, and in the steps through which they are trained to lead into each other, rather than in any anxious conciseness as to words; which, on the contrary, I have rather sought to avoid in the earlier Dialogues, in order that I might keep those distinctions longer before the reader from which all the rest were to be derived. For he who has fully mastered the doctrine of Value is already a good political economist. Now, if any man should object, that in the following dialogues I have uniformly given the victory to myself, he will make a pleasant logical blunder: for the true logic of the case is this: Not that it is myself to whom I give the victory; but that he to whom I give the victory (let me call him by what name I will) is of necessity myself; since I cannot be supposed to have put triumphant arguments into any speaker’s mouth, unless they had previously convinced my own understanding. Finally, let me entreat the reader not to be impatient under the disproportionate length (as he may fancy it) of the opening discussions on Value: even for its own sake, the subject is a matter of curious speculation; but in relation to Political Economy it is all in all; for most of the errors (and, what is much worse than errors, most of the perplexities) prevailing in this science take their rise from this source. Mr. Ricardo is the first writer who has thrown light on the subject; and even he, in the last edition of his book, still found it a “difficult” one (see the Advertisement to the Third Edition). What a Ricardo has found difficult, cannot be adequately discussed in few words; but, if the reader will once thoroughly master this part of the science, all the rest will cost him hardly any effort at all.

* * * * *

INTRODUCTORY DIALOGUE.

(SPEAKERS THROUGHOUT THE DIALOGUES ARE PHAEDRUS, PHILEBUS, AND X. Y. Z.)

Phaedrus
. This, Philebus, is my friend X. Y. Z., whom I have long wished to introduce to you; he has some business which calls him into this quarter of the town for the next fortnight; and during that time he has promised to dine with me; and we are to discuss together the modern doctrines of Political Economy; most of which, he tells me, are due to Mr. Ricardo. Or rather, I should say, that I am to become his pupil; for I pretend to no regular knowledge of Political Economy, having picked up what little I possess in a desultory way amongst the writers of the old school; and, out of that little, X. obligingly tells me that three fourths are rotten. I am glad, therefore, that you are in town at this time, and can come and help me to contradict him. Meantime X. has some right to play the tutor amongst us; for he has been a regular student of the science: another of his merits is, that he is a Templar as well as ourselves, and a good deal senior to either of us.