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philosophy as a whole ;--the appeal to custom and tradition was discredited, and writers were forced to give a reason for the steps they took and a first principle for the doctrines they advanced, as well as to define the terms they used.
The influence of Utilitarianism, and especially of Bentham's Utilitarianism, on Political Economy has been profound and enduring. It is certainly not by accident that nearly all leading English economists, and a large proportion of Continental economists since his time have been Utilitarians when they have had any philosophy at all. This applies to Ricardo, James and John Mill, Say, Sadler, Destutt de Tracy, Jevons, Cairnes, and Sidgwick. Going back to economists before Bentham we find the conjunction in Malthus, and earlier still in Beccaria and Verri. It will be best to consider the affinity (thus indicated) in special relation to the form of Utilitarianism which is, from one point of view, the purest, and, from another, the crudest,—the theory of Bentham himself, as distinguished from the later modifications of J. S. Mill, Spencer, and others.
A man like Ricardo, whose first and chief intellectual training in mature life had been derived from political economy, seemed to fall at once into line with the principles of Bentham as soon as he tried to express for himself a political philosophy at all. The two bodies of doctrine seemed to agree (i) in being directly related to palpable and tangible, or (to put it more bluntly) mundane and materialistic aims. Carlyle speaks of the monster Utilitarianism and the dismal science (of political economy) in the same breath, as symptoms of one and the same disease.” John Stuart Mill speaks of Bentham's whole system as dealing almost entirely with the "business relations 3 of human life, the relations in which men are
1 Beccaria, Dei delitti e delle pene, 1764. Verri, Sull' indole del Piacer, etc., 1773.
2 E.g. Carlyle, Signs of the Times (1830). Macaulay deplores the association of Benthamism with Political Economy as tending to discredit the latter. Edin. Rez!., June, 1829, pp. 298, 299. See too Palgrave's Econom. Diction., article “Carlyle," and note to this chapter.
J. S. Mill, Essay on Bentham (Dissert. and Discuss.). Cf. Ricardo's Letters to Malthus, Clarend. Press, Preface.
competing or contracting parties, not members conscious of their membership in the same body. To both (2) the body politic is a “fictitious body, composed of individual persons who are considered as constituting as it were its members." The alliance of political economy with Utilitarianism may be said to have given a new lease of life to the individualism of the 18th century. Comte saw how close the connection was when he spoke of “ Benthamism" as "the main origin of what is called political economy.
Besides individualism there was (3) a point of contact in the emphasis laid by both on the deliberate calculation of means to ends, as opposed to action from habit or instinct. Then (4) the notion of an indefinite sum of satisfactions is common to both. “Consumption is a quantity almost indefinite, for there is no end to the desire of enjoyment. To Aristotle there was a definite limit of wealth, but Aristotle was not a Utilitarian. In the same connection (5) we may note that the calculus of pleasures and pains which is so striking a feature of Bentham's Utilitarianism has been turned to account in the exposition of the economical notion of final utility in relation to Value. In the pages of a recent Italian writer, for example, “homo economi
and hedonist are convertible terms. Finally (6) (especially by recent writers of the School of Final Utility), the absolutely individual character of economical judgments is asserted in the same way as the absolutely individual character of the hedonistic by the older Utilitarians. The individual is not only the best but the only judge of his own interests, as of his own pleasures. All desires are equally legitimate ; all objects satisfying a desire (of whatever character the desire may be) are equally wealth. This is nearly the point of view described by Hegel in his Philosophy of Right as that of Civil Society as distinguished from the Family and the State; and in Civil Society, ab
| Princ. of Morals and Legisl., I. iv.
Jas. Mill, Pol. Ec., p. 1.
Unless the 7th book of the Nicom. Ethics is really his. 5 Pantaleoni, Economia Pura (1889). 6 Even Böhm Bawerk and Sax use language that implies this.
stractly considered, the chief end is simply Greatest Happiness.
To take the points of affinity in their order—we must note that, though it is true that Political Economy deals with palpable and tangible goods and makes provisional abstraction of goods that are not such, and motives that do not relate to such, it by no means follows that Political Economy is consistent only with a Utilitarian ethics. It is a sufficient warrant for the existence of Political Economy as a separate study that the tangible goods are; there is no need or wish to claim that the others
Nor is there need or wish to claim that selfinterest, whether directed to tangible or intangible goods, is the only motive of men. It is enough that selfinterest directed to tangible goods is certainly one motive of men, and a motive, comparatively speaking, more uniform than the rest, so that abstraction from the rest will yield results (again comparatively speaking) more fruitful than abstraction from this particular motive itself would be.
In the second place Political Economy needs no necessary assumption of individualism in politics. Its abstraction would apply to the acts of the State as well as to those of individuals, and to those of families and societies as well as those of the State. It would consider them in their relation to “tangible goods” in the first instance. This implies no historical judgment as to what has been, and no postulate of this relation as the one and only relation, still less a pronouncement that the State and other groups of men are more “ artificial” than their component individuals. It may even be doubted whether the merely economical aspects of society themselves could ever be exhaustively understood by individualism. Men who have confined their studies mainly to abstract economics have sometimes been led to forget that they were dealing with abstractions which gave no complete guidance in the handling of concrete social problems. But in this they were exceeding the scope of their own method.
In the third place, though political economy must assume that men calculate means to ends, there is no
need to assume that the calculation is deliberate, and that men are in every case clearly conscious both of their ends and of their means. What' Bentham called the "sponte acta” were “sponte” in a wider sense than he intended. Not even the acts done from self-interest and concerning only “ tangible goods” can be truly described as always deliberate in any or every individual case. The end is often forgotten in the means, and the means are often borrowed, without reflection, from habit and tradition. If no more is meant than that the actions are voluntary, this does not mean that they involve deliberate calculation. It is one of the paradoxes of Bentham's Utilitarianism (as of Godwin's Political Justice) that though founded on a Sensational Psychology it tended to the undervaluing of feeling.
The older Utilitarianism (of Bentham) may be described as the most conscious of ethical teleologies. Some chief end (Téos Tl) is no doubt an indispensable conception in all Ethics, from the Socratic downwards; but in no Ethics is it so distinctly conceived to be consciously followed in every part of the regulation of life. Utility in the sense of personal self-interest was the general description of the end and the motive both in economics and in the older Utilitarianism. "Sponte acta" to Bentham are not, as we might have supposed from their name, the unconscious results of a groping after ends only dimly known if known at all, but the results of conscious individual effort as compared with those of collective or governmental action.
Teleology was read into political economy by Adam Smith, and seen in it after him with great delight by Hegel. The end reached was public utility, the motive was private utility. This might or might not point to a conception quite alien to the older Utilitarian. It at least introduces an end gained without being deliberately sought. It has an affinity rather with the later Utilitarianism of John Mill than with the older of Bentham. John Mill thinks of the ethical end as one to be sought not directly but indirectly. But in his Economics he is less inclined than Adam Smith to allow private selfinterest to work out its results without interference, in faith that they will result in public benefit. In short, he does not see economic teleology from Adam Smith's point of view, nor ethical from Bentham's. Economists need not assume in their “economic man ” any more deliberate or precise teleological action than is common to all ordinary men.' They assume that man as such acts with a view to ends, and they investigate that special kind of action of which outward wealth is the end. But they need not assume, for example, that, even when men are clearly conscious of their proximate ends, they are with equal clearness conscious of their remoter ends, any more than that they are all alike in preferring the present to the future. Indeed, to make this last assumption would go far to make the phenomenon of interest on capital almost unintelligible.?
In the fourth place there is no need to assume that, because the desires of human beings are unlimited, their desires for tangible goods must be so. The expansion in men's conception of “necessaries” often falls behind the growth of their resources, though there is undoubtedly a tendency for the former to overtake the latter. The idea of insatiable desire for tangible goods seems inconsistent with the existence of a class of capitalists. Capitalists prefer a limited satisfaction secured for a long time to an indefinitely greater satisfaction in the present.
It might be answered that when they are rich enough to secure both they will not fail to do so. But we see as a rule that men who have made money in business are not great spenders of it in the present, and have often no other notion of spending it than to make new businesses to bring them in future returns.
Upon the whole (a) it may be true of the human race generally that there is no end to the variety of goods that will be desired by them as a whole. one particular class, or of any individual man, it is not true. There are many who could say for themselves that as regards the tangible and palpable good things of this life (which are now in question), there is a definite limit to the amount wanted. Their pleasures go in a
But of any
1 Compare Prof. Marshall, Principles (1st ed.), I. VI.