XXIII.15 On the number of inhabitants with relation to the arts

When there is an agra­rian law, and the lands are equally divi­ded, the coun­try can be very popu­lous even though there are few arts, because each citi­zen obtains by wor­king his land pre­ci­sely enough food, and all the citi­zens toge­ther consume all the fruits of the earth : so it was in some ancient repu­blics.

But in our sta­tes today, where par­cels of land are so une­qually dis­tri­bu­ted, more fruits of the earth are pro­du­ced than those who culti­vate them can consume ; and if the arts are neglec­ted, and agri­culture is the only indus­try, the coun­try can­not be popu­lous. Since those who culti­vate or have others culti­vate the land have lef­to­ver pro­duc­tion, nothing for­ces them to work the fol­lo­wing year ; the pro­duce would not be consu­med by idle men, for idle men would not be able to afford them. It is the­re­fore neces­sary for the arts to become esta­bli­shed so the pro­duce will be consu­med by the farm wor­kers and arti­sans. In a word, in these sta­tes there need to be many who raise more than they require ; for that, they must be given the desire to have the sur­plus ; but it is only arti­sans who give it.

These machi­nes desi­gned to sim­plify art are not always use­ful. If a piece of work is at a modest price, one that equally suits the buyer and the wor­ker who made it, machi­nes which will sim­plify its pro­duc­tion, in other words which will reduce the num­ber of wor­kers, would be per­ni­cious ; and if water mills were not set up eve­ryw­here, I would not believe them as use­ful as peo­ple say, because they have stilled an infi­nite num­ber of hands, depri­ved many men of access to water, and cost the fer­ti­lity of many fields.