Montesquieu
 

XIII.2 That it is ill reasoning to say that a large sum of tributes is good in itself

We have seen in cer­tain monar­chies that small coun­tries exempt from tri­bu­tes were as mise­ra­ble as pla­ces all around them which were over­bur­de­ned by tri­bu­tes. The prin­ci­pal rea­son for this is that the small, sur­roun­ded state can have scar­cely any indus­try, any arts or manu­fac­tu­ring, because in this res­pect it is cons­trai­ned in a thou­sand ways by the large state that hems it in. The large state sur­roun­ding it has the indus­try, the manu­fac­tu­ring, and the arts, and it makes sta­tu­tes that pro­cure all their advan­ta­ges for itself. The small state thus neces­sa­rily beco­mes poor, howe­ver light the taxes impo­sed on it.

It has never­the­less been conclu­ded from the poverty of those small coun­tries that heavy obli­ga­tions were essen­tial to making the peo­ple indus­trious. It would have been more appro­pria­tely conclu­ded that there must be none. It is all the wret­ched of the sur­roun­ding area who with­draw into those pla­ces to do nothing ; already dis­pi­ri­ted by the bur­den of work, they find their only feli­city in their indo­lence.

The effect of wealth in a coun­try is to plant ambi­tion in every heart. The effect of poverty is to fos­ter des­pair ins­tead. The first sti­mu­la­tes itself with work, the second conso­les itself with indo­lence.

Nature is just towards men : she rewards them for their trials ; she makes them labo­rious, because she atta­ches grea­ter rewards to grea­ter labors. But if an arbi­trary power sup­pres­ses nature’s rewards, the dis­taste for work returns, and inac­tion appears to be the only good.