Зображення сторінки

rate actions of men when these actions are directed by a certain strong personal motive. It is an attempt (in later language) to show the purely economical categories bursting through all historical hindrances. There is an objective standard of good and bad economy, and it is possible to say that the mass of men have been tending towards good economy so far as their hindrances have allowed them. Our author's system of natural liberty would not lead to perfect economy unless men are, for the sake of the argument, supposed to be infallible in judging their interests and singleminded in pursuing them. Our standard would thus be the acts and results that follow from these suppositions, in other words from the method criticised very generally now as abstract and deductive. The method consists in considering one particular end and motive of human life in detachment from the rest, and afterwards replacing it in its context. It would be beyond criticism if only it could be applied to each and every one of the separate ends and motives, and not to one (desire of Wealth) alone. But the others, e.g. desire of Honour, relate to less tangible objects and less imperious needs, and are (largely on this account) less definable and less separable even in thought from one another. Malthus may be said to have treated one of them in this way, but he quickly saw how short a distance this method could carry him. Adam Smith tries to show the strength of one desire in midst of modifications as well as in abstraction from them, whereas Malthus, in the case of a different desire, spends nearly all his strength on the concrete modifications. Even in regard to the pursuit of wealth the abstraction from all other motives is difficult, for (except to a few misers) wealth is not an end in itself, and yet when we abstract from all other motives we seem to be treating it as such. Adam Smith runs the risk of this misconception in almost every chapter of his Wealth of Nations. It is clear, from such passages as the eloquent description of the ideally Prudent Man, in the Moral Sentiments, that there is no narrowness in his own mind; but he certainly would have saved himself obloquy if he had in all cases made it clear when he was reasoning abstractly from the supposition above mentioned and when he was giving the historical facts. There is room for suspicion that he overpasses the limits between theoretical economy and history when he speaks in one place of “the property which every man has in his own labour" as the “original foundation of all other property" and also the "most sacred and inviolable,"1 and in another place of the “sacred regard” to life and property, in the conventional sense, as the foundation of justice and humanity. There would not be even the appearance of contradiction if the notion of liberty were more positively defined, so as to include opportunities of development and not simply relief from interference, and if the notion of law had not been opposed to that of custom. The respect accorded to superior rank and fortune seems to him healthy on the whole because it is custom ; and yet, we all know, in great measure the distinctions of rank and fortune are preserved if not created by laws in which the customs are embodied and defined. It is possible that Adam Smith's projected treatise on Natural Jurisprudence would have dealt with such points. As his work stands, they are not adequately treated.

16th ed., II. 50-65.

Neither is the distinction of Society and State consistently maintained. After accustoming us to view the State as a body almost hostile to progress and mainly of use in protecting us against injustice and violence, a committee of the nation with less than the virtues and more than the faults of the average citizen, he commits to the State the maintenance of popular education, in the Schools and even (with reservations) in the Churches. He does not see that, once we admit that the State can act as parent and guardian of the people, if only in matters sanitary and educational, we have passed beyond the mediæval notion to a modern notion of the State which has more affinity with Greece than with mediæval Europe, involving an action that is more than purely regulative. This modern notion would colour even the economical conception of Taxation; the taxes could not be treated (as for the most part they are in the Wealth of Nations) as a quid pro quo, an equivalent for a service rendered by State to individual, a service as exactly measurable as the recompense for service rendered by a tradesman to his customer, or by an agent to his principal. Adam Smith probably means no more than that the advantages of government should be at least equal to the cost of it; and his inclusion of Church and University, to say nothing of schools, among benefits to which the State makes contribution, would itself show that he that he thought better of the State than his own language sometimes suggests. It is only in the earliest statement of his views that we find protection and light taxes brought forward as substantially the only desiderata in a good State. Both philosophy and economics were conconcerned in the solution of these difficulties; but the solution was not then ready.

1 W. of N., I. x. 55.

26th ed., Moral Sent., I. 378-379. 3 This gap is partly filled by W. of N., V. 1., where inter alia he insists on Popular Education to remedy the bad effects of division of labour, already pointed out by Ferguson, Civil Society (1767), Part IV.

4 Violence against property in particular. See the striking passage in W. of N., V. I., pt. ii., 319.

5 W. of N., V. 1. 353. (To prevent the spread of diseases.)

NOTE (I.) BOOKS ON ADAM SMITH. Professor Wilhelm Hasbach, of Königsberg, has lately published two books in which the economical doctrines of Adam Smith are brought into relation with his philosophical. The earlier of these (Die allgemeinen philosophishcen Grundlagen der von F. Quesnay und Adam Smith hegrindeten politischen Oekonomie

, 1890) is largely a comparison of the Physiocratic doctrine of natural rights and laws with the views of Adam Smith. The second (Untersuchungen über Adam Smith, 1891) includes an elaborate comparison of the ethical views of our author with those of his predecessors, especially Hutcheson and Hume. The above chapters cannot compete with such monographs in exhaustiveness. Professor Hasbach argues that in spite of Adam Smith's own declarations, his doctrine of Sympathy is essentially that of Hume's. (See especially Untersuchungen, pp. 90 seq.).

Besides the work of Oncken already cited (pp. 169, 170), there may be noted here, out of the multitude of other writings on Adam Smith, the essays of Cliffe Leslie (Essays in Moral and Political Philosophy,

1 1.e. the paper quoted by Dugald Stewart as having been drawn up by Adam Smith in 1755. See Life of Adam Smith prefixed to his Philos. Essays, p. lxxxi.

2 For a different vindication see Prof. E. Sax, Theoret. Staatswirthschaft, pp. 48, 49 (1887).

1879), and Bagehot (Biographical Studies, 1881), the bibliography appended to Mr. R. B. Haldane's Adam Smith (1887), J. A. Farrer's analysis of the Moral Sentiments (“Adam Smith," 1881). In French there are the books of Du Puynode (1868) and Delatour (1886). No one has as yet “dragged the ponds” so thoroughly for biographical details as the German Professor E. Leser, Lebensgeschichte Adam Smith's (1881). Dr. R. Zeyss, in his Adam Smith und der Eigennutz (1889), takes the pains to give grave refutation to the notion of Skarzynski (Adam Smith als Moral-Philosoph, 1878), that our author changed in 1776 the doctrines he had taught in 1759, because in the interval he had travelled in France and become a Materialist. Zeyss disposes also of Buckle's idea (History of Civilization in Europe) that in the one book men were regarded as moved purely by selfishness, and in the other as moved purely by benevolence. As regards Adam Smith's relation to French writers, it has hardly been noticed how he himself describes the opinions of Rousseau and the Encyclopedists in his Letter to the Authors of the Edinburgh Review (1755). He says of Rousseau's treatise on Inequality among Men: “Whosoever reads this last work with attention will observe that the second volume of the Fable of the Bees has given occasion to the system of Mr. Rousseau, in whom however the principles of the English author are softened, improved, and embellished, and stripped of all that tendency to corruption and licentiousness which has disgraced them in their original author. Dr. Mandeville represents the primitive state of mankind as the most wretched and miserable that can be imagined. Mr. Rousseau on the contrary paints it as the happiest and most suitable to his nature. Both of them, however, suppose that there is in man no powerful instinct which necessarily determines him to seek society for its own sake ; but, according to the one, the misery of his original state compelled him to have recourse to this otherwise disagreeable remedy ; according to the other, some unfortunate accidents, having given birth to the unnatural passions of ambition and the vain desire of superiority, to which he had before been a stranger, produced the same fatal effect. Both of them suppose the same slow progress, and gradual development of all the talents, habits, and arts which fit men to live together in society, and they both describe this progress pretty much in the same manner. According to both, those laws of justice which maintain the present inequality amongst mankind were originally the inventions of the cunning and the powerful in order to maintain or to acquire an unnatural and unjust superiority over the rest of their fellow creatures. Mr. Rousseau however criticises Dr. Mandeville; he observes that pity, the only amiable principle which the English author allows to be natural to man, is capable of producing all those virtues whose reality Dr. Mandeville denies. Mr. Rousseau at the same time seems to think that this principle is in itself no virtue, but that it is possessed by savages and by the most profligate of the vulgar in a greater degree of perfection than by those of the most polished and cultivated mannersin which he perfectly agrees with the English author.

“The life of a savage, when we take a distant view of it, seems to be a life either of profound indolence or of great and astonishing adventures; and both these qualities serve to render the description of it agreeable to the imagination. The passion of all young people for pastoral poetry which describes the amusements of the indolent life of a shepherd, and for books of poetry, chivalry, and romance, which describe the most dangerous and extravagant adventures, is the effect of this natural taste for these two seemingly inconsistent objects. In the descriptions of the manners of savages we expect to meet with both these, and no author ever proposed to treat of this subject who did not excite the public curiosity. Mr. Rousseau, intending to paint the savage life as the happiest of any, presents only the indolent side of it to view, which he exhibits indeed with the most beautiful and agreeable colours in a style which, though coloured and studiously elegant, is everywhere sufficiently nervous, and sometimes even sublime and pathetic. It is by the help of this style, together with a little philosophical chemistry, that the principles and ideas of the profligate Mandeville seem in him to have all the purity and sublimity of the morals of Plato, and to be only the true spirit of a republican carried a little too far” (Edinburgh Review, 1755, part ii. pp. 73-75).

NOTE (II.) DUTIES AS DIVINE COMMANDMENTS. In view of Oncken's comparison of Adam Smith and Kant, a passage of the first edition of the Moral Sentiments (p. 203) may be quoted here, as it was omitted in later editions, and is probably new to many readers. It shows how Adam Smith, unlike Hume, kept in view not only the Greek idea of vice, but the Hebrew sense of sin. It may also explain the popularity of the book in clerical circles, attested by Hume.1

“That the Deity loves virtue and hates vice, as a voluptuous man loves riches and hates poverty, not for their own sakes but for the effects which they tend to produce, that he loves the one only because it promotes the happiness of society which his benevolence prompts him to desire, and that he hates the other only because it occasions the misery of mankind, which the same Divine quality renders the object of his aversion, is not the doctrine of nature, but of an artificial though ingenious refinement of philosophy. All our natural sentiments prompt us to believe that, as perfect virtue is supposed necessarily to appear to the Deity as it does to us, for its own sake and without any

further view, the natural and proper object of love and reward, so must vice, of hatred and punishment. That the gods neither resent nor hurt was the general maxim of all the different sects of the ancient philosophy; and, if by resenting be understood that violent and disorderly perturbation which often distracts and confounds the human breast, or if by hurting be understood the doing mischief wantonly and without regard to propriety and justice, such weakness is undoubtedly unworthy of the Divine perfection. But, if it be meant that vice does not appear to the Deity to be for its own sake the object of abhorrence and aversion, and what for its own sake it is fit and right should be punished, the truth of this maxim can by no means be so easily admitted. consult our natural sentiments, we are apt to fear lest before the holiness of God, vice should appear to be more worthy of punishment than

If we

1 In a letter quoted by Dug. Stewart, Life of Adam Smith (prefixed to Essays), pp. xlvii. xlix.

« НазадПродовжити »