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Happiness (says his Epicurean) is not to be produced artificially ; it is an affair of the desires rather than of the reason. A propensity to hope and joy is (says his Sceptic) real riches; one to fear and sorrow, real poverty.' The life of business does not pall so soon as the life of pleasure ; but no one situation in life is absolutely better than another.
There is here the distinction between wealth and happiness, and the sentiment of the last sentence could be strained to imply that there was no necessary difference in happiness between poor and rich. Francis Hutcheson, whose Inquiry into Beauty and Virtue (1720) had great influence on Hume, was of opinion that all the best pleasures in life were nearly as open to the poor as to the rich. (Inquiry, 4th ed., 1738, p. 94.) Adam Smith in his Moral Sentiments, and Hume in the above quoted passage, follow suit.3
They seem all three of them to have meant no more than Aristotle. Wealth does not make a man happy, but neither as a rule can men be happy without it. Without a certain equipment of external goods ordinary men cannot realize the internal goods at all. In adopting this view we assume (and nearly every economical argument involves the assumption) that other men are so far like ourselves that external objects are, with them (as they are with ourselves), a necessary means of satisfying wants. The precise nature and degree of these wants and therefore the precise relation of the external objects to them may vary in others, as they do in ourselves. We reason from what men do to what they are, presuming that action, agent and object are in the case of others what they are in ourselves.*
This is the assumption made by Hume when he speaks of our power to put ourselves by “sympathy” in the place of others, and even when he pronounces happiness
1 Essays, I. 154 (Epicurean), 187 (Sceptic). 2 Ibid., 188, 189.
“How small of all that human hearts endure,
That part which laws or kings can cause or cure !
Our own felicity we make or find.”—(Traveller, 1764.) + Cf. Hume, Essays, II. 268.
to depend less on our control over worldly goods (or on the purely economical element) than on the state of the mind itself apart from such external relations.
Looking further at economical facts, we find more implied in “economy” than a simple relation of outward and inward. We find a relation of past, present, and future. A large part of economy is provision from the past in the present, and for the anticipated wants of the future. Wealth itself includes the idea of such a provision, or it would be identical with the satiety of the moment. It is rather a permanent power to be satisfied than a state of being or having been so. But it is provision for a near future, not a distant. “Men are principally concerned about those objects which are not much removed either in space or time, enjoying the present and leaving what is afar off to the care of chance and fortune. Talk to a man of his condition thirty years hence and he will not regard you. Speak of what is to happen to-morrow, and he will lend you attention. The breaking of a mirror gives us more concern when at home than the burning of a house when abroad and some hundred leagues distant."? Distance in space, however, “weakens the ideas and diminishes the passions” less than distance in time. West Indian merchants are anxious about what is passing in Jamaica, though few of us, merchants or not, are affected by the possibility of accidents less distant in time than Jamaica is in space." Hume explains the difference by the fact that parts of space are co-existent and may be viewed as one in the imagination, whereas moments of time are always separate. (Aristotle would have said that whereas space is divisible time is divided.) To the imagination therefore it is harder to pass from the present to the future than from the near to the distant in space. It is hardest of all to pass from the present to the distant past, for this inverts the natural order of thought which follows succession of time. On the other hand the very difficulty of so using
- - - - - 1 See Human Nature, bk. II. part ii. sect. v. (Of our Esteem for the Rich and Powerful).
2 Hum. Nat., II. 272. The compensation is that far-off ills are not allowed to poison present happiness. Essays, I. 196.
3 It might be doubted if time and space are commensurable at all.
the imagination becomes a reason for a greater admiration of things past and for an attachment of greater value to things associated with past events. “ Distance lends enchantment to the view.” Hume does not in these passages take special note of the economical bearings of his observations. They are important economically, because a great number of the phenomena of trade are due to the divergence between one man and another in the view taken of present as compared with future advantages. It has even been argued in our own day? that the phenomenon of interest on capital (as distinguished from profits) is due simply to the higher value attached by ordinary men to things present as opposed to things future. Hume himself does not entirely overlook the social and political effects of this underestimate of the future. One advantage of the institution of government is (he says) that it enables men to defeat their own liability to be carried away by influences that are near them in time and space, and their temptation to seek present advantage to the detriment of their own interest, namely, the maintenance of order in society and (thereunto) the administration of justice. Knowing our weakness, we provide against it, deliberately (by "reason”) making it impossible for ourselves to yield to it.
Observe that Hume's language implies that circumstances may in a sense be moulded by the will. The will is vaguely described as “the internal impression we feel and are conscious of, when we knowingly give rise to any new motion of our body or new perception of our mind." The will itself is governed by uniform causes like everything else ; otherwise, general reasonings about human affairs would be impossible, whether in history, or in “politics, war, commerce, economy."5 But Hume does not (like Robert Owen) reason as if the outward and economical circumstances were the sole determining
-- - - ---- 1 Hum. Nat., 273-278, 279-289, bk. II. pt. iii. sect. vii. and viii.
2 By Prof. Böhm Bawerk, Positive Theorie des Capitals, Innsbr., 1889. See Harvard Quarterly Journal of Economics, April, 1889.
3 Human Nat., III. 132 seg. (part II., sect. vii.). * Ibid., II. III. sect. i. (Of Liberty and Necessity), ist ed., p. 220. 5 Ibid., II. III. sect. i. p. 229.
influence, and as if the inward should count for nothing. “ Prosperity is naturally, though not necessarily, attached to virtue and merit, as Adversity is to vice and folly.” 2 The desire for worldly prosperity, too, at least in the shape of the love of wealth, is not regarded as the ruling passion of mankind, though Hume lays stress on this passion when he wishes to show the need for rules of justice to defeat it. “The avidity of acquiring goods and possessions for ourselves and our nearest friends is insatiable, perpetual, universal, and directly destructive of society”-unless turned against itself by justice.3 Unlike Adam Smith, Hume by no means regarded the desire of wealth as a force which shaped society, in any good sense. It is rather a disintegrating influence which needs to be counteracted. In this respect at least he is no individualist.
The same regard to the spiritual as distinguished from the external conditions of human action appears even in his view of Production. His “Stoic"4 declares that "everything is sold to skill and labour"; man must direct his industry not only on nature but on himself; he must improve his talents, mind and body, if he would be victorious over the obstacles that encompass him. “Labour” is always understood by Hume to include intellectual as well as physical toil.
His account of the growth of the wealth of nations is in substance as follows :—“Our passions are the only causes of labour," and labour is the means of purchasing from nature all the wealth in the world. The passions are first of all directed to procuring the necessaries of life; and these are obtained by agriculture. Now agriculture will not be studied as a science unless manufactures and arts are also prospering ; but, if so, the result will be that the land will produce not only food for the tillers but food for the manufacturers and artisans, with whom the tillers
1 Essays, vol. i. “The Sceptic,” pp. 191, 192. Character can be changed, e.g., by the constant pursuit of a good model.
2 Essay on Impudence and Modesty, 1741. Not reprinted in collected essays.
3 Hum. Nat., III. 11. 11. 62, 63. On the other hand, cf. Essays, I. 339.
* Essays, I. 162 seq. 6 Ibid., I. (Of Commerce), 294.
will exchange it for luxuries. Luxury thereby becomes a political safeguard. For the men thus supported as manufacturers by the additional produce of the land could
on emergency be supported, in the same way, as soldiers. · In a civilized State therefore Hume represents agriculture
and manufacture as mutually necessary to each other, while (he says) trade and commerce grow up with them, and commerce, especially foreign commerce, is a fruitful cause of improvement in the arts. He recognises too the difficulty of separating town occupations from country occupations as if their spheres were quite distinct. In the country, he points out, perhaps as many as a third of the inhabitants are not husbandmen but artisans. He has no leaning to the exaggerations of the “ Agricultural System.”3 Labour, as Locke and Berkeley had seen, is the great source of wealth. Hume adopts the principle which Locke, with reservations, had applied to Property :-“Every person, if possible, ought to enjoy the fruits of his labour in a full possession of all the necessaries and many of the conveniencies of life. No one can doubt but such an equality is most suitable to human nature, and diminishes much less from the happiness of the rich than it adds to that of the poor,” besides augmenting the power of the State and making taxation bearable.
There is hint here of no little sympathy with the idea that the necessaries of a civilized life should be accessible to all persons in society. The principles of Locke's Civil Government were beginning to receive their full application in the popular philosophy of France and England at this time. The fashionable political doctrine is (Hume says in his Human Nature, III. II. VȚII. 145), that all men are born free and equal. His own verdict on all schemes for equality in the distribution of wealth or of any other distribution than the existing, is that they are very fine but very impracticable." He rejoices in the high wages of workmen in England as compared with the Continent, and he cannot be re
1 Essays, I. 297, etc. (Of Commerce).
? Essays, I. 288.