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in great part the measure) it is plain that men ? have agreed to a disproportionate and unequal possession of the earth,—they having by a tacit and voluntary consent found out a way how a man may fairly possess more land than he himself can use the product of by receiving, in exchange for the overplus, gold and silver, which may be hoarded up without injury to any one, these metals not spoiling or decaying in the hands of the possessor. This partage of things in an inequality of private possessions men have made practicable, out of the bounds of society and without compact, only by putting a value on gold and silver, and tacitly agreeing in the use of money." 3 He sees, too, how this spontaneous action apart from the State goes on in trade even under the State, and no laws to forbid (for example, the exportation of coin will ever succeed in their purpose. When he draws attention, too, to the power of custom in retarding even beneficial political changes * he is again allowing the existence of a joint action of men that is not political, and not even deliberate or conscious. The truth that lay in the doctrine of “ laissez faire," as expounded by later writers, was simply the necessity of leaving room in a political society for the spontaneous action, joint and several, of its individual members.
1 2nd ed. reads "that the consent of men have agreed " (p. 202).
2 4th ed. has “equality.” 2nd ed. reads (after“ unequal possession of the earth "): “I mean out of the bounds of society and compact, for in governments the laws regulate it, they having by consent found out and agreed in a way how a man may rightfully and without injury possess more than he himself can make use of by receiving gold and silver (which may continue long in a man's possession) for the overplus,” etc., etc. (p. 202).
3 Civil Govt., bk. II. ch. v. (vol ii. p. 187). 4 Ib., vol. ii. pp. 217, 238.
DAVID HUME (1711-1776). The interval between Locke and HUME is better filled up by the philosophers than by the economists. Bishop Berkeley, the most important philosopher, was one of the most important economists. Yet this last is little to say. Berkeley always took up the subject of economics rather from a desire to carry out a particular reform than to gain truth for its own sake in this region; and his economical writings are suggestive rather than systematic. The effects on English society of the South Sea Scheme and kindred speculations impressed him deeply, and led to his Essay towards Preventing the Ruin of Great Britain (1721). He took too gloomy a view of the decadence of England; and his own suggestions are not far in advance of current economics. He proposes, for example, a bounty on children, and the confiscation of half the estates of those who die unmarried. His Alciphron (1732) contains, besides an attack on freethinkers generally, a reply to “the wickedest book that ever was," namely, Mandeville's Gambling Hive ; or, Knaves Turned Honest (1714), expanded (1723) into the Fable of the Bees; or, Private Vices, Public Benefits. In the course of this reply he points out some obvious economical sophisms of Mandeville ; and he gives at some length his own ethics and political philosophy. He had already given a sketch of these in his sermon Passive Obedience on the Principles of the Law of Nature (1712), which is largely a criticism of Locke's Civil Government. The ethics are a “theological Utilitarianism,” such as we meet again in Abraham Tucker, Paley, and Malthus. The political philosophy adds nothing new to the points of controversy ; and his remarks on subjects connected with economics are always most valuable when they are elicited, not by authors and theories, but by pressing social questions of the day. In his Journal of a Visit to Italy (1717) he is careful to notice the economical features of country and people ; and in the Querist (1735-37), he deals with the condition of Ireland, as he has seen it and known it, and with the improvements in it which he and his friend Prior hoped to make by the promotion of arts and sciences and a National Bank. The Querist is the happiest of his economical writings, and adds to the admiration which all philosophical students have felt towards “one whom the wicked are not worthy even to praise." But Berkeley rendered no such service to the political philosophy of Locke as he rendered to the metaphysics of that author. In this region the “dry light” of the less enthusiastic Hume will help us further.
Alciphron, or The Minute Philosopher, i.e. the Freethinker. The book was composed at Rhode Island on Berkeley's farm of Whitehall.
2 See esp. Alciphron, ist, 2nd, and 3rd dialogues. For Mandeville's relation to Rousseau see below (Ad. Smith).
Hume was no missionary or social reformer. He was not even an iconoclast ; but he was a studious seeker for philosophical truth, and a keen lover of argument. In one particular he believed himself a reformer. He believes himself the founder of the science of human nature as an experimental science (Hum. Nat., ist ed., vol. i., p. 474, bk. I. pt. iv.). He believes in the possibility of a science of ethics and a science of politics. He believes, lastly, in the possibility of a science of Economics. He does not indeed use the term, but he describes the study itself. Its scope is, he says, an inquiry into the nature of commerce and riches, and their effect on the greatness of the State and the happiness of individuals. Till England and Holland (he says) had shown what commerce could do to make a State prosperous, no one had thought the subject worthy of special study. It is a vulgar weakness, he continues, to think that general principles are out of place in such a region--"general
1 See the Essays on Cominerce, first publ. in 1752. They form the second part of the first vol. of the collected Essays publ. in 4to by Cadell in 1768. An excellent account of the editions is given by Mr. Grose, Essays of Hume, Longmans, 1874.
2 Essays, I. 95.
principles, if sound, must always prevail in the general course of things, though they may fail in particular cases; and it is the chief business of philosophers to regard the general course of things." His own way of distinguishing causal from accidental may be gathered from what he says in the Essay on the “Rise and Progress of the Arts and Sciences" : 2
“What depends upon a few persons is in a great measure to be ascribed to chance or secret and unknown causes.3 What arises from a great number may often be accounted for by determinate and known causes." If the die has a bias, it may not appear in one throw, but it certainly will in a great number. Moreover, causes that act on the multitude as compared with those that act on the select few are “gross as a mountain, open, palpable”; they are strong and stubborn, and can be made a basis of calculation, With these principles in mind, and without separating economics by name as a study distinct from other branches of political philosophy, he proceeds to take up current generalizations, and examine their truth. For example, it is usually said that the power of the State and the wealth of its private citizens mutually depend on one another ; but there are certainly cases where the commerce, riches, and luxury of individuals” are such as to weaken the State instead of strengthening it. The labour devoted to supplying the superfluous as distinguished from the necessary wants of rich subjects might have been employed in the feets and armies of the State, to better advantage from the public point of
1 Essays, p. 286.
Ibiit., p. 120. 3 This is not the place to discuss whether such language is logical in a writer who takes Hume's view of Causation in general.
Joseph Harris, in his Essay on Coins, 1757, reached the generalization that the rate of profits tends to be the same in all trades in the same neighbourhood, and he is sometimes reckoned the first to declare an economic law; but, to say nothing of Gresham, Hume was before him and before Cantillon, whose Essai sur le Commerce (though written about 1732) was first published posthumously in 1752, and who did not become an English classic till 1881. Marx declared that Hume borrowed his theory of interest from J. Massey, Natural Rate of Interest (1750). See Kapital, I. 537, n. So Coleridge accused Hume of borrowing his ethics from Thomas Aquinas (Life of Hume, by Burton, I. 286).
• Essays, I. 287. He is not using State in the narrow sense.
view. Sparta had no luxury nor commerce, and therefore could be powerful in war. But Sparta was a kind of political miracle ; “were the testimony of history less positive and circumstantial, such a government would appear a mere philosophical whim or fiction, and impossible ever to be reduced to practice.”ı “Ancient policy was violent and contrary to the more natural and usual course of things.” “According to the most natural course of things, industry and arts and trade increase the power of the sovereign as well as the happiness of the subjects, and that policy is violent which aggrandises the public by the poverty of individuals.” Luxury, with its attendant arts and manufactures, leads to the increase of industry, which is a reserve fund on which the State may draw in case of need, without imperilling the means of subsistence; "the more labour therefore is employed beyond mere necessaries, the more powerful is any State.” 2 Public spirit is not now a sufficient motive ;3 “it is requisite to govern men by other passions, and animate them with a spirit of avarice and industry, art and luxury.” Thus the public and individuals alike are the gainers. “Avarice or the desire of gain," unlike the desire of knowledge, is universal among men. In society man's wants are not a fixed quantity, but “multiply every moment upon him.”
This is an example of Hume's manner of dealing with economical subjects. They are always, to him, mixed with politics. And the above passages incidentally show us his conception of wealth. Wealth must not include merely a few fixed and simple elements; it must embrace“ luxuries” as well as “necessaries.” The distinction of the two was brought into prominence by Mandeville. The Bees in his Fable had prosperity for their little commonwealth so long as they had luxuries and vices, and they lost all their good fortune and “few into a hollow tree” as soon as the vice and luxury gave place to virtue and plain living. Frugality (says Mande
1 Ibid., 291.
2 Ibid., I. 294. 3 He forgets that it was not so even in Greece and Rome, for the slaves worked from necessity, not from choice. 4 Ibid., 296.
5 Ibid., I. 82, cf. 122. 6 Hum. Nat., bk. III., $ 2, p. 51.