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presented as (like Mandeville ?) even in appearance the favourer of low wages and ignorance among the poorer classes ; but neither is he a convert to the New Learning that tried to look at social problems from the poor man's point of view. The place of labour, however, in his economical theories is hardly less important than in Adam Smith's after him; and Hutcheson's influence may perhaps be traced here as we have seen it elsewhere.?
As Hume does not exaggerate the importance of agriculture as compared with other kinds of labour, neither does he connect wealth too closely with money and commerce. “Men and commodities," he says, “are the real strength of any community. Money is nothing but the representation of labour and commodities and serves only as a method of rating and estimating them.”4 It is not a wheel of circulation ; it is only a lubricating oil. It has merely “a fictitious value" arising from convention. But he admits that an increase in its quantity and consequent rise in prices will give a temporary stimulus to trade, which may last if the production is so much increased that there are as many goods (in proportion) to be exchanged by the new money as there were by the old.”
The domestic happiness of a people, or, in other words, the happinesss of a people within its own boundaries, is not affected by the great or small quantity of money it employs; and though its foreign trade is so affected, foreign trade is not essential to national prosperity. Like Berkeley, Hume thinks that commercial isolation might be no calamity for a nation. This is, however, hardly consistent with his express admission that every improvement Britain had made in the previous two centuries had been due to imitation of foreigners and importations from them ;' or that a single country can hardly be rich and industrious when its neighbours are idle, any more than a single man. The two positions are not to be reconciled by the assumption that Hume is in the former case looking at the matter from a purely economical point of view, while in the latter he is reasoning as the political philosopher who has regard to the · whole civilization of a nation, and to its wealth only as one element out of many therein. It does not occur to him to reason in the “abstract" method at all; and the explanation is rather to be sought in his love of posing as a sceptic on all occasions.
1 Mandeville, Essay on Charity Schools. Fable of the Becs, 2nd. ed., pp. 326 seq.
2 Hutcheson, Inquiry, p. 284.
3 Essays, I. 331 (Of Money). How far the Mercantile System involves too close a connection will be considered later. 4 Ibid., 321.
5 Ibid., 317. 6 Ibid., 334.
7 Ibid., 322, 329, etc. 8 Ibid., 324, cf. 298, 343. Berkeley, Querist, 134: “Whether, if there was a wall of brass a thousand cubits high round this kingdom, our natives might not nevertheless live cleanly and comfortably, till the land, and reap the fruits of it?”
At the end of a long argument, when the whole has been converging to a seemingly unavoidable result, he likes to point out a loophole, by which to escape the appearance of a dogmatic conclusion. His decided opinion that public debts would eventually ruin the indebted nation is one of the few exceptions to his rule. The same spirit of philosophical criticism, which in economics as in metaphysics drives him beyond common assumptions down to the foundations of the truth, keeps him almost painfully aware of the difficulties of his own theories. He is acting perhaps in this spirit when he first demonstrates that the interest of loans does not depend on the variations in the amount of the metal currency and that the usual explanations of depreciation are wrong, and then adds a suggestion that the value of the currency may be altered, after all, by banks and paper money. To take another instance, he first demonstrates that restrictions on foreign trade are worse than useless if they are meant to keep gold in a country, and then adds that they may be useful enough if they are meant to encourage manufactures. In both cases he goes straight to the
1 Essays, I. 370 (Of the Jealousy of Trade). 2 Ibid., 370, 371.
3 Essays on Commerce. 4 Cf. the remarkable passage in Hum. Nat., I. iv., sect. VII., 457 seq: “But, before I launch out into those immense depths of philosophy which lie before me, I find myself inclined to stop a moment in my present station,” etc. • Essays, I. 333 seq. (Of Interest). 6 Ibid., 348 seq. (Of the Balance of Trade).
concrete conditions of the case, whether psychological or social. But, though we cannot say that Hume reasons down from abstract principles to their modification by concrete conditions, he certainly distinguishes generalizations that may be called universal because they apply without distinction of social conditions, from generalizations that are directly drawn from the latter and are therefore in a sense narrower. This is what may be termed, in the words of a later economist, the distinction between economical and historical categories. The principles that regulate the value of money are of the first class, those that regulate the rate of interest on loans are of the second. Hume does not deal exhaustively with economical theory. His view of value (so far as he distinguishes it from price at all) is even less fully stated by him than by Hutcheson. Scattered suggestions are happy. He speaks of property as being only in things limited in amount, and therefore being sometimes in water only (the wells of the Desert) and sometimes in land only, where water is unlimited. There is something more than an analogy (we shall find) between this view and that of later economists who restrict Political Economy to things “limited in supply" and "capable of appropriation."? The connection of Property with Value would have been a fruitful theme; but Hume passes it by, and selects only a very few (and those of the most current) economical principles, on which to deliver his mind fully. One of these is the subject of Interest. The rate of interest, he says, depends on the demand for loans, on the ability to supply that demand, and on the contemporary profits of trade. There must be a body of proprietors of land and their manners and customs must be such as to lead some to be spendthrift. There must also be a body of frugal people in whose hands loanable wealth has accumulated, and this means that merchants and manufacturers have come into being, in whom the amor habendi has taken fast root. In the third place the profits that can be made by merchants in their trade will determine the
1 Hutcheson, Moral Philosophy (Foulis, 1747), pp. 209 seq.
2 E.g., to take one instance out of many, Rich. Jones in his Introductory Lecture, 1832.
3 Essays, I. 335 (Of Interest).
4 Ibid., 339.
minimum rate at which they will lend sums away from their trade, even to debtors known to be secure. Competition of traders will keep down profits, and competition of lenders will keep down interest. But abundance of metal currency will not of itself affect either; the cases are quite distinct.
We see, therefore, that Hume recognises how much the historical conditions of a case affect the working of economical principles. He never indeed deliberately detaches the two. Still, even in regard to such a “historical” category as the rate of Interest on loans his language would imply that, given the combination of circumstances described, human nature would always show itself in much the same way. Even the “historical” categories have thus a general economical element. Taking men not as individuals but as communities, caprice may be disregarded, for it will not disturb general reasonings and prevent general conclusions. In other words, the action of men in communities will have a uniformity on which investigators may count, and a logic in it which they may decipher.
In his general theories of Society and the State Hume presses this doctrine rigorously. In outward nature we expect uniformity of causation; much more with men ; we not only know that “men always seek society, but can also explain the principles on which this universal propensity is founded.” 3 If every man could propagate his kind and preserve his being without need of the other sex or other men, there would be no society ; but it is not so. The union of the sexes is as certain as any mechanical attraction—say of “two flat pieces of marble.” The care of parents for their children is no less certain ; and the provision for members of various families made by their union in a society is as certain as any of the others. Men cannot live without society, and (as the next step) they cannot be joined together without govern
1 He does not think of the phenomenon mentioned by Cliffe Leslie (Fortn. Rev., Nov., 1881, page 7 ft.). The silver discoveries, by enlarging the stocks of silver, enlarged the loanable capital, and thereby lowered interest.
2 Essays, I. 120, 121, above quoted ; cf. Hum. Nat., I. III. XI. 227. 3 Hum. Nat., bk. II., pt. 111., sect. 1., p. 224.
ment. Government makes a distinction of property, and with it of ranks of men.“ This produces industry, traffic, manufactures, law-suits, war, leagues, alliances, voyages, travels, cities, fleets, ports, and all those other actions and objects which cause such a diversity, and at the same time maintain such a uniformity in human life.”] This reasoning “ from the actions of men, derived from the consideration of their motives, temper, and situation," is so mixed with our life that we cannot act or subsist a moment without having recourse to it.
A Society without Government is not indeed impossible, where the pleasures and the possessions are few and simple. Government probably arises when two societies quarrel ; and this would be after considerable 'wealth had been formed. “Camps are the true mothers of cities." 3
This view of Hume's reminds us of Plato's idea of the City of Pigs. It was only when the simplicity of the City of Pigs was exchanged for luxury that the development of the State could fairly begin. Mandeville had gone farther and said that not only was vice the beginning, but it was an inseparable condition of political development throughout. Hume, taking another view of the nature of vice, thinks that civilization as it progresses tends to free us from vice, or at least to counteract its effects. The Golden Age and the State of Nature are to him fictions——the one of the poets and the other of the philosophers—and contradictory fictions, the one of a state of Peace, the other of a state of War. The idea of a Golden Age, Elysian fields and Arcadia, is a poetic representation of the fact that if goods were abundant and all men were benevolent no civil society would be needed, and there would be no need of justice. On the other and he allows that in a universal scarcity Justice would be impossible, for it would be as useless as in universal abundance (Essays, II. 262). The idea that after a State of Nature men entered into a Contract to make Society and Government is not, he considers,
1 Hum. Nat., 225.
2 Ibid., 229, 230. 3 Ibid., III., Pt. II., sect. VIII., 141-144 ; cf. Essays, II. 268, 269 (Of Justice).
4 Essays, II. 260, 263, 266, 267. Hum. Nat., III. 64-66.