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sense ; and
ville) enriches the individual household, but impoverishes the State. Everything is a luxury which is not "immediately necessary to make man subsist as he is a living creature.”Nobody, as a matter of fact, even in
savage countries, confines himself to necessaries in this strict
yet this is the only line that can be drawn. If the above definition is not right, then nothing is a luxury, for the necessary comforts of life, beyond the strict necessaries in the above sense, vary with the persons concerned. Mandeville thinks that all luxury (in the sense defined) is exceedingly wrong, but, for the general weal, exceedingly expedient. It is (in modern language) ethically wrong, but economically right.
Hume deals with Mandeville's position in more than one part of his writings. He expresses himself most tersely on the subject when he says that luxury once condemned as a vice, is now (namely, by Mandeville) recommended as useful, and, therefore, not a vice.?
The Utilitarian ethics of Hume enable him to solve the contradiction that Mandeville flaunted in the faces of philosophers, between economics and politics on the one hand and morality on the other. The merit of the social virtues, he thinks, is due to "that regard which the natural sentiment of benevolence engages us to pay to the interests of mankind and society." 3° In the case of justice, utility is the sole source; and in the case of other virtues, it is the chief source of merit.“ Virtue demands “just calculation and a steady preference of the greater happiness"; yet reason and calculation alone are not enough to move to action; there must be “ feeling for the happiness of mankind, and a resentment of their misery.” Reason, in fact, tells us the tendencies of our actions ; humanity (or sympathy) tells us which to approve; and the ones approved are those which“
"give to a spectator the pleasing sentiment of approbation.' I approve those acts of my own, in which if they were done by another, I should find pleasure. The test is thus the pleasure of the agent ; but it is his projected or reflected pleasure; the agent puts himself in the place of a spectator of his own conduct, and asks himself how it would impress him if he were not agent, but spectator.
1 Fable of the Bees, vol. i., Remark L, cf. Q.
2 Essays, II. 257 (Of Benevolence), cf. I. 315 (Of Refinement in the Arts).
3 Ibid., II. 311.
4 Ibid., 313
This is not the place to enter into a full statement or criticism of the ethical doctrine of Hume. It involves a rejection of the view of Shaftesbury and Hutcheson, that man distinguishes moral good from moral evil through a "moral sense,” by showing the elements into which the alleged "sense” may be analysed. But, looking simply at its relation to economics, we have to consider whether the above conception of virtue justifies us in concluding from the tendency of all virtue to public good, that whatever tends to public good implies a virtue ; does a public benefit necessarily involve a private virtue ?
Hutcheson had seen that in cases where the intention of the agent was far from the public good, we could not count the action meritorious, though, as a matter of fact, it may have turned out advantageous to the public. Hume himself has to make similar concessions ; but, though necessary, they seem fatal to his reply to Mandeville. Private vices might be public benefits, and yet remain vices. A deeper objection is that no reason is given why the pleasure of the projected sort should have greater claims to be preferred by me than any other pleasure ; and, if it be answered (as it is by Hume) that my interest is involved, for private utility in the end does coincide with public, there still remains the question of fallibility. With the best intentions a man may go wrong in judging of the tendency of actions to the public advantage-witness the conflicting views of statesmen. He will frequently disagree with the general opinion of men on this point, public opinion itself being fallible. He may even go wrong about his own advantage ; and Hume expressly admits there are occasions in which “men knowingly act against their interest, and the view of the greatest possible good ” does not influence them.”
Hume is not so abstract and rigorous in his Utili
Inquiry into the Original of our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue (ist ed. 1720); 4th ed. 1738, pp. 117, 118.
? Hum. Nat., II. 253; cf. Essays, I. 520: "Were all men possessed of so just an understanding as always to know their own interest.
tarianism as Bentham ; he knows the world too well. He would allow that the individual is not always the best judge of his own, still less of the public interest ; and that even when he judges rightly he does not always follow up the judgment by action. Hume, again, does not make it plain whether the pleasure of reflected approbation, which is the standard of virtue, is the pleasure of approving that which the public (including myself) believe to be tending towards the public advantage, or the pleasure of approving that which I (perhaps against the opinion of all others) believe to be so tending, or that which retrospectively is seen, as a matter of fact, to have so tended. The great difficulty is to explain, on the principles of Hume's philosophy, any objective and permanent standard at all; and this applies to the ethical and to the economical theory quite as much as to the theory of knowledge. In the latter, we are at a loss to account for an irrepressible belief in permanent objects and uniform causes; in the former, to account for a belief in a common standard of what is good or bad, and what is economical or wasteful.
The beginning of Hume's psychological analysis is simplicity itself, at first sight." He reminds us of his distinction of ideas and impressions, which are, according to him, the two ultimate constituents of human knowledge. Where action, as distinguished from knowledge, is concerned, men are affected less by impressions than by ideas. There are no doubt (as Bishop Butler had taught) certain appetites which move to action, not by any idea, such as a remembrance of pleasure, but directly (before we have had any pleasure from satisfaction of them) by an unexplained stimulus driving us to their object. We have the hunger, and desire the food, not the pleasure of eating it. But these are exceptions. The ordinary action of men in managing the affairs of life, and in pushing their way in the world, involves the holding up before the mind's eye of an idea of a pleasure; and this idea of a pleasure constitutes a desire
1 Human Nature (1739), I., beginning.
2 Ibid., vol. ii., II. 288. Reason in the same way is distinguished from Passion only as the calm from the violent.
and excites to action. Now this suggests to a modern reader the comment that the remembrance of a pleasure, the “idea” as opposed to the impression,” is very far from being the pleasure itself ; it is, or (it might be more true to say) it brings with it, more pain than pleasure. It is something which, if we desire to have, we thereby confess that we do not now have. How far the desires are from being simple and direct like the appetites, we may see when we take the desire which is most important for the present subject, the desire of wealth.
Among the psychological aspects of the Desire of Wealth are the following (1) The relation of the individual to other individuals, in the way of interest secured by connection with them, or in the way of sympathy with them ; (2) the effort of the individual for the satisfaction of his own wants, the relation of Pleasure to Desire, and the relation of Will to both of them, which involves, inter alia, the contrast of permanent and transitory, present and future.
The light thrown by Hume's incidental consideration of these points is, perhaps, as important as his services to what are, by comparison, the more mechanical and external parts of the subject, treated consecutively in the essays on Commerce.
To be quite thorough, the philosopher who was examining the assumptions made by the political economist would need to go back to the whole theory of knowledge and human experience in general. We should need, for example, in this case to examine Hume's doctrine of the genesis of our experience from impressions and ideas by association. But this would involve discussion of subjects that are beyond our scope here. It will be enough to remark that “economy,” even in its widest sense, is an adaptation of means to ends ; it implies that the subject is in conscious relation to a world of objects from which he distinguishes himself, but on which he believes himself to act under the guidance of permanent principles of causation.
If, indeed, no causes were permanent, but every fresh event were a miracle, economy of any kind would be impossible and useless. Or, if there were no permanent subject, or
none that is conscious of its own permanence, there could be no
economy, for each want would be a feeling by itself
, to be stilled by itself without co-ordination or comparison with others. There could be no desire of wealth, as of a “ permanent possibility” of the satisfaction of wants, any more than there could be any plan of living of any kind. In the battle of Philosophies the possibility of Economics is as much at stake as the possibility of Physical Science.1
Without, however, discussing whether Hume's philosophy explains either possibility, let us look more particularly at his Economical doctrines. According to Hume there are three kinds of goods (1) goods of the mind ; (2) goods of the body; and (3) external goods.
Human happiness consists in three ingredients“action, pleasure, and indolence”;: all indispensable, but occurring in various proportions in various men, and in various nations according to their civilization. These ingredients are most harmoniously combined where industry and the arts have prospered most.
"Men are kept in perpetual occupation, and enjoy as their reward the occupation itself, as well as those pleasures which are the fruits of their labour. The mind acquires new vigour, enlarges its powers and faculties, and by an assiduity in honest industry both satisfies its natural appetites and prevents the growth of unnatural ones, which commonly spring up when nourished with ease and idleness." 4 In another place he says that men's happiness "consists not so much in an abundance of the commodities and enjoyments of life as in the peace and security with which they possess them.” " Inward peace of mind,” too, is very requisite to happiness.
1 See the acute papers in the Giornale degli Economisti (last half of 1891), on the relation of Political Economy to Evolution, written by T. Martello under the pseudonym of " Hiatus.”
2 Hum. Nat., vol. iii. 55 (ed. 1739).
3 Essays, vol. i. 303, 304 (Of Refinement in the Arts). By pleasure he means amusements and actual consumption of wealth as distinguished from production. “ Indolence” may have been suggested by Locke (First Letter on Toleration, p. 252).
4 Ibid., 304.
5 lbid., I. 50 (Of Parties).
Ibid., II. 372 (Principles of Morals, Conclusion).