« НазадПродовжити »
to one principle, namely, that force in the intellectual world producing the special sciences which is the division of labor in the economical sphere. The distinction between ethics and economics reached its maximum degree of clearness and development in Ricardo and what is known as the “ Manchester School,” and however irrefutable and convincing its definitions, facts, and arguments may be, the tendency has led to consequences against which the socialistic movement to-day is a legitimate reaction. Political economy is defined by the old school as the science of wealth ; ethics, the science of conduct; and the difference between wealth and conduct is assumed to be great enough to keep the two sciences distinct and without any mutual relations. The expansion of these conceptions would seem to confirm this assumption. Thus the science of wealth is the science of the laws of its production and distribution, of the laws of exchange, of the laws regulating price, value, wages, rent, interest, etc. These are all phenomena which can be studied much as we study the phenomena of physics and chemistry. They have a similar uniformity of sequence, and can be formulated in the same way. The science of conduct, or ethics, is distinctly regarded as the science of what ought to be, of the duties of honesty, courage, temperance, humanity, chastity, obedience, etc., and so is contrasted with economics as the ideal is contrasted with the real. Economics is supposed to teach what is, or what occurs, and not what ought to be, or ought to occur. This is assumed to make it clear that the two sciences have nothing to do with each other. This conception of the matter is not to be dispúted as false in every relation. It may as well be admitted, once for all, that it is wholly true in so far as the two subjects are pure sciences. In this sense they are distinct. The investigation of the laws regulating the incidents of production and distribution is purely explanatory of facts and events: the investigation of the laws for regulating conduct is legislative of ends and duties. The laws of one are physical, the laws of the other are jural. The difference between them is the difference between the declarative and the imperative. This suffices to establish a radical and unimpeachable distinction between the two sciences.
But if this were all, we should be at a loss to explain Carlyle's lifelong and bitter denunciation of political economy as the "dismal science,” and the universal revolt of the present day against the divorce of ethics and economics which the distinction drawn has seemed to imply. The truth is, that distinctions are too frequently taken to be absolute. They may be in some cases,
but we have no right to generalize from these particular instances to others which contain different subject-matter. By that we commit a fallacy of accident. Distinctions often hold true only for certain relations. When the point of view is changed the distinction may no longer be useful. This can be shown to be true in the case of ethics and economics. They are scien 'es, it is true, and they are sciences which can be radically distinguished in their formal and, to some extent, in their material aspects. But both are occupied with human action and human interests, and however distinct they may be in their objects, they cannot be kept wholly apart from each other in regard to the questions growing out of human interests and action. The essential weakness of the distinction laid down and defended so strenuously by most economists, apparently in all relations of the two subjects, is that it is an abstract one. The distinction, for instance, between ethics and politics can never be absolute or wholly concrete : their principles interpenetrate. They at least partly coincide, because they have the same subject matter for consideration. Indeed, politics, as a science, is but one division of ethics in its widest import, and this suffices to keep them in a close relation practically as well as theoretically. Unfortunately the tendency of practice the world over is to keep them apart as much as possible, probably because the contagion of laissez faire which has dominated economics has extended its virus to the political domain, and in removing the restrictions upon liberty of conduct has also removed the conception of moral responsibility with them. But however that may be, the distinction between ethics and economics has some analogies with that between ethics and politics, although less general. We can keep chemistry and geometry independent of each other because the phenomena, relations, and forces with which they have to deal are wholly distinct; one deals with dynamic affinities and quantitative combinations, and the other with space relations. In a similar way we may keep geology and ethics indlependent of each other. Human conduct is not concerned materially with the laws and history of the earth's structure. It is quite different when we come to examine the matter of economics and ethics. Certain incidents of their subject-matter are distinct, and suffice to sustain a distinction between them in that abstract relation. But both are inseparably bound up with forms of human action and interest, and so cannot be wholly divorced from each other. They act and interact upon each other. “The creeds and laws of a people,” says J. S. Mill, “ act powerfully upon their economical condition, and this again, by its influence upon their mental development and social relations, reacts upon their creed and laws.”
This is sufficient to establish, in a general way, a relation between them as sciences. But we are not limited to that conception of the case. Political economy is an art as well as a science, and by art we here mean that it formulates rules for the production and distribution of wealth as well as ascertaining the laws regulating them under the assumption of given causes. There is always a clear distinction between a science and an art: one looks to causes and laws, and the other to ends. An art, therefore, in its widest conception is always ethical, because the pursuit of an end involves human volition and action, and such a solidarity of interests exists between men that no action, or “readjustment of matter and motion,” can take place without involving to some extent a right or a wrong to another. If then economics were only a science, and ethics only an art, the distinction between them might be even broader than we have made it. But economics is an art and ethics a science, so that they interpenetrate in a twofold relation. As sciences they are partly occupied with the same matter; as arts they are partly occupied with the same ends and interests. As an academic study political economy must be studied only as a science; or if this is not exactly the way to state the matter, it must first be studied as a science in order to ascertain the laws which have to be applied in producing and distributing wealth. But we are not to be blinded by the abstract independence of science from art or ethics to believe that economical questions have nothing to do with the inoral. The fact is, that they are simply the obverse and reverse sides of the saine problem. The average student, when he is taught, as in the language of one writer, that “the economist, as such, has nothing to do with the question whether existing institutions, or laws, or customs are right or wrong,” will not stop to make nice distinctions, but, assuming that the elaborated differences between ethics and economics mean literally what they seem to import, will go on his way disregarding all moral principles in the application of economic laws. The history of opinion shows that men too often mistake abstract distinctions for concrete ones, and act accordingly, to find themselves presently brought up against facts of which mere logic had not warned them. Hence to tell the student that political economy has nothing to do with ethics, although true in one relation, is equivalent in another to telling him that he may do as he pleases in the accumulation of wealth, that his conscience need not trouble him in the use of economic laws. If told that geology, or geography, had nothing to do with morals, he might safely disregard the latter, but only because geology and geography have do applications as arts. But the applications of economic laws enjoy no such immunities. Where those immunities are assumed there is sure to be either a great deal of injustice inflicted, or a marked contrast between the professions of virtue and one's conduct in business. This is so true that the majority of the world distrust the Christianity of a man who has rapidly grown wealthy by commercial business. There is everywhere assumed an incompatibility between practical Christianity and great wealth, or between conscience and commerce, and in many instances the assumption is true. More than one illustration of this could be given if we could allow ourselves to mention names. But a general one can be taken which will show quite as effectively the consequence of having the public mind feel that there is no connection between economic and ethical questions. This illustration is found in the indifference shown by religious people in the tariff question. The malcontents in both of the great parties, and mainly of the Republican, constituting the backbone of its moral element, are mostly of the religious class, and since the issues of the war, connected with slavery and the protection of the rights of the negro, have passed out of consideration, they have felt that their search for a moral question could be rewarded only by going over to the cause of temperance. Thither they are going in great numbers from sheer moral impulse, and see nothing moral about the adjustment of the tariff. The writer has heard sermons preached and temperance addresses delivered in which interest in the tariff was denounced as relating to a matter of indifference; tariff adjust ments were said to be only matters of money in which the service of Mammon was involved, and if men were to be alive to the moral issues of the day they should throw this one aside for temperance. Now we do not censure the earnestness or the moral enthusiasm that grows indignant over the growing evils of the drink traffic, but it is a grave misfortune that religious people, the conscience of the country, should not understand the moral question involved in the unequal distribution of taxes, or the enriching of one part of the community at the expense of the other. But they have everywhere been taught that economics have nothing to do with ethics, and not being able to keep in mind the abstract sense in which such a claim is true, they imagine that the same is true in regard to the economic problems of society. They give their allegiance to a cause whose moral character is unquestioned, and do not realize that even it has economical aspects. But they utterly fail to appreciate the moral character of all interference with natural economic conditions. We speak, of course, only of the generality; there are exceptions enough. But the number of those who are not exceptions is so great as to justify the claim made in regard to the practical effect of urging too absolutely the independence of the two subjects.
There is another aspect of the matter. Political economy, as we have said, deals with the laws regulating the production and distribution of wealth. It is sometimes less accurately defined as treating of production and distribution, in which its purely scientific character is less apparent, and in which it is easier to show its ethical affiliations. Hence the first view is taken to evade this implication. But this more accurate view does not alter the case, since production and distribution are human actions, acts of volition, and incontestably of an ethical nature. The laws of these acts must have a connection with ethics. What that connection is we shall see later in our discussion. The nature of production and distribution has been called up to emphasize the fact that one half of the definition is forgotten in the accent upon the other half. The conception of economics too easily exhausts itself in the mere laws of production and distribution, leaving its material and differential aspects quite insufficiently considered. When these laws, or the several topics with which they are connected, are enumerated, such as capital, interest, rent, prices, value, wages, profits, etc., the peculiar relation of production and distribution to the human will is much more distinct. But what are these two factors and how do they affect the question ?
Production is the application of human labor to natural resources; namely, it is fishing, mining, agriculture, manufacturing, etc. These activities are the creation of wealth : not the creation of natural products, but of values, and in some cases of utilities. Aside from interference with the rights of property, it is easy to see how an argument against the intrusion of ethics into the field of production might be sustained. Ethics is so generally concerned with social phenomena, the relations of man to man with actions affecting persons, that we feel exempt from considering its obligations when volition affects things, or physical forces. Production is labor applied to things, and can never be said to be immoral or wrong; abstraction, being made of the rights of property, and hence socially considered, cannot be regarded as