Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

" legal” or “historical categories” of political economy. The picture contains in it only such economical features as are independent of any particular legal institutions, such as those relating to property and contract.

Now it is quite true that there is a body of economical doctrines, such as those relating to the conceptions of wealth and of economy, and perhaps of value, which can be treated quite apart from any particular nation or even any particular age of the world's history. But the distinction seems less important to us when we consider how impossible it is for even such a simply organized State as Plato's first ideal to exist, except on a basis of customs, if not of laws, and of an understood, if not a formulated agreement as to the rules of the market-place, the conditions of sale and purchase, domestic and foreign, to say nothing of an agreement as to the currency that was and was not to pass,” and the terms of the hiring of labourers. Even from this point of view, the patriarchal origin of the State is prior to the economical. In the Statesman 3 Plato says there is no difference between a large household and a small State ; and that the art of government may be called Politics or Economics indifferently. Socrates (apud Xenoph. Memor., iii. 4) had substantially said the same thing before him; he thought the difference between the subjects of the two studies was only one of degree. This is only so far true that economy (in the sense of regard to greatest results, in the way of wealth, with least sacrifice) is possible both in the House and in the State; in every State there is an element analogous to that of housekeeping, and in every household an element analogous to that of government. Translating this into modern language, we might say that the government of a nation cannot be divorced from its industrial organization, and there can be no industrial organization without some kind of government.

1 The terms have become current under the influence of Rodbertus. See e.g. his book on Kapital, ed. Wagner and Kozak, 1884, pp. 226, 314. Sax, Staatswirthschaft (1887), p. 38 n. Compare Mill's distinction between the laws of production and the laws of distribution.

2 Beyond saying that money is a “token for the purpose of exchange,” he gives no analysis of money. The ordinary terms for money-changers, etc., occur in the same connection as this definition.

3 Politicus, 259, B.

--Before passing, however, to questions of Political Philosophy, we may notice Plato's attempts to define and classify arts and handicrafts. We shall find the historical element forcing an entrance even into what seems a matter of colourless theoretical analysis. In the Sophistes, he divides all arts into (1) productive and (2) acquisitive. The former class include Agriculture, Manufacture, and the Fine Arts. They produce something ; they bring something new into existence. The second bring nothing new into existence, but help men to procure what is already there. They include all learning and science, and (coming down to the work-aday world) they include the acquisition of worldly goods, in two sub-divisions-acquisition by exchange and acqui. sition by force. Exchange includes gift and sale ; and sale may be either (a) of the seller's own productions or (6) of other people's. This last is either retail trade, between the members of one city, or commerce between city and city. In a passage of the Laws,” he adds that retail traders and general merchants are far from being necessarily bad, though so often associated with trickery and meanness; they do for the public a service very similar to that of money—“they equalize our needs and our possessions”; they furnish us with a common measure or standard by which to estimate what we have; and they enable things to go from where they are not wanted to where they are wanted.

To complete the analysis of productive industry, we may add the two remarks in the Politicus bearing directly on the subject. The first is that the work of every art is either to produce a good or to avert an evil ;

—it is either creative or preventive. The second, that there is an order of precedence among arts, and those are subordinate and subsidiary which prepare the instruments for the principal. In the end, all the other arts are subsidiary to the statesman's, which weaves the whole into one web.

From the above account it appears that Plato's economic analyses are only incidents in a larger philosophical

[ocr errors]

investigation. In his division of the arts into productive and acquisitive, for example, he would rank together fishing and philosophy, under the latter heading. Now the notion of production itself, as the bringing into being of something new, could not in the Fine Arts, and need not in the handicrafts, mean anything more than change of form. Again, if production and acquisition are represented in Economics by production and distribution, we see how difficult it is felt, in the one case by the philosopher and in the other by the economist, to keep the two absolutely separate. It is impossible, for example, to separate the “acquisition ” of knowledge by the artist or artisan from the “ production” by either of them. And in the region of economics by itself, if we begin at a point anterior to the artisan's completed act of production, it is impossible to say that the persons whose help was indispensable to him are not in various degrees as truly productive as he ; if we follow the finished product till the producer himself has got the fruits of it, this will involve, under any system of division of labour (i.e. · under any organized society whatsoever), an inseparable association of distributors with producers. Even in Plato's City of Pigs the product would not be ready for the consumer till it was landed in the market; and it becomes difficult to refuse to retail dealers, and much more to wholesale, a certain title to the name productive. It would be difficult to say then at what point the economic categories pass into the historical. To construct a society on abstract principles is even harder than to do what the classical economists are supposed to have attempted—to construct an abstract individual man. Plato does his best to look at the matter in a dry light ; 1 but he is forced to turn from the abstract to the concrete ; and, relapsing into common prejudices, he tells us that, in the concrete, a freeman should consider retail trading to be beneath him. Even the craftsmen who produce the articles afterwards retailed need surveillance in their work, or they will charge their customers above its value (axia). What this value is, and how it is to be judged,

1 As in the case of retail dealers, Laws, X. 919, B, C. % Laws, XI, 920, etc; cf. V. 741, E.

Plato does not explain, but says that “they themselves know perfectly well what it is. It is not enough for them to be honest (he adds), they must aim at good work and not simply at excelling their neighbours. Even when they obey all these rules they are still, in a sense, unprofitable servants, for their work spoils their body and cramps their mind ; they can never be in the first rank of citizens or know the highest good. They are genuine producers of a definite and unquestioned good, whereas such a pretentious pursuit as Rhetoric can point to no definite product, and is therefore, in a bad sense, unproductive. The artisan is from one point of view before the artist himself ; he is one degree nearer to the reality. But the artisan is as full of self-conceit as the most pretentious philosopher. Plato has undoubtedly a prejudice against manual labour, more especially in its harder and coarser forms. Tolstoi and St. Paul, however like him in some important respects, have nothing in common with him in this matter.

No doubt there was here a general prejudice of Greek philosophers, due partly to the idea that an artisan's work unfitted him for military service, partly to the association of it with the labour of slaves, and partly to the fact that many of the industrial arts were introduced by foreigners. The same prejudice existed among the Persians, and has probably prevailed more or less among all warlike nations at a certain stage of development. Socrates, the son of an artisan, rose above it, and it was perhaps dying out at Athens in Plato's time. It was a common taunt of the critics of democracy that democracies admitted artisans and shopkeepers to the government of the State. They never forgot that Cleon was a tanner, and Agoracritus a sausage-seller.

In Plato, however, the prejudice against shopkeepers and merchants is much stronger than against the artisan. He grudgingly allows that division of labour seems to require them ; but he thinks that, even on the strength

| 1 Laze's, XI. 921.

2 Gorgias, 452, C. 3 Republ., X. 596-598.

4 Apology, 22, D, E. 5 dloupyoû, sculptor, stone-carver, or stone-mason. For his sentiments on the subject, see Xen. Mem., I. ii. 56, ii. 7.

6 Aristoph., Knights.

of this principle, only the physically weakest men unable to do anything else should take up such work. They were at the best a necessary evil. Their trades were under the strongest of temptations to the accumulation of wealth in private hands ; ? and gold and silver money, by facilitating trade, facilitated this accumulation.

Money-making as an end in itself is to Plato an unmixed evil. An art, especially of a high degree of skill, such as the physician's, ought (he thinks) to be practised disinterestedly from an eye to the ideal of the art itself, not from an eye to the fortune it may bring. It should lead to good work done for its own sake. To turn an art into a trade is, he says (in the first book of the Republic), to add to it the art of money-making. He condemns usury with equal emphasis ; he excludes it, in the Laws, from the ideal city described there, allowing only one exception in its favour, the case of a customer who does not promptly pay for work that has been duly executed to his order,* and who must after a certain time pay interest as well as the sum due.

Finally, he thinks he can prevent most of the abuses of money-making, money-lending, and trading by decreeing that gold and silver money shall never be private property, and the only currency shall be a small change of the nature of a token money. He would be glad if he could to taboo private property also, which he thinks to be one main root of the evil. In his perfect ideal city (of the Republic) as distinguished from his practicable ideal (of the Laws), he had forbidden to the Guardians both private property in general, and gold and silver money in particular.

Plato's Economics of Production may be thus summed up. Industrial Production is only one species of a genus Production which includes every kind of creation, mental

i Republ., II. 371, C. On the other hand it is the common view of commercial men in England and the U.S. that only those take up professions who are not fit for business.

2 Laws, XI. 918, D, E.
3 V. 742, C. VIII. 842, D.
4 Laws, XI. 921, C, D. The mediæval usura punitoria.
5 Ib., V. 742, A.

6 ib., V. 739. ? ib., VIII. 831, C.

8 Republ., III. 416, 417.

« НазадПродовжити »