« НазадПродовжити »
happiness but not so easy contentment. The desires of an ignorant or uncivilized man are satisfied sooner and with greater ease; but in the higher grades of existence wants are more numerous and more difficult to satisfy ; “ a highly endowed being will always feel that any happiness which he can look for, as the world is constituted, is imperfect,” but he has a sense of the dignity of man which makes him always prefer rather to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied, and to be a Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. If the fool thinks otherwise, it is because he only knows his own side of the question. Tannhäuser in Wagner's drama did not take this view of the matter when he taunted his fellow bards with having no practical knowledge of the pleasure of love; but the concession itself, whether logically maintainable or not, deprives Utilitarianism of a great part of its difficulties in relation to Economics, and we need not pause to criticise the theory. Mill's own answer to Tannhäuser would be (see Utilitarianism, p. 14) that when a man returned to the baser pleasures he had lost capacity for the higher and therewith real knowledge of them. He recognises frankly that men are not always the best judges of their own wants (Diss. and Disc., I.28).
Desires, it appears, thus only tend towards infinity and insatiableness when the subjects of them are civilized and instructed men. In modern civilization Mill elsewhere (Diss. I., “Civilization," pp. 177, 178) remarks another feature. The individual, owing to the comparative security of political institutions, relies very little on himself for protection of his person and property, and devotes all his energies to personal aggrandisement, virtue, philanthropy, or the gaining of wealth. These motives vary greatly in different cases, but the desire of wealth may be considered almost universal ; and wealth being as a rule “the most accessible means of gratifying all their other desires,” “nearly the whole of the energy of character which exists in highly civilized societies concentrates itself on the pursuit of that object." The highest classes in society have too much wealth already to make them incur the toil of procuring more, and as a rule they have no dominant
1 Perhaps a rejoinder to Carlyle's epithet, “the Pig Philosophy.”
pursuit, while that of the middle classes is almost wholly the pursuit of wealth.
Abstract economics, therefore, would seem to be an analysis of the effects of the dominant desire of the middle classes. This desire is to be considered as not only the most powerful but the sole ruler ; all parties are to be supposed in the first instance “ to take care of their own interest" (Pol. Econ., III. 1., $ 5; ist ed. 519; 5th, 531 to 533), and it is implied that they make no mistakes about it. We are to suppose free competition and enlightened competitors.
Such are the premises of Mill's abstract political economy. The economical doctrines which he proceeds to draw from them are in the main Ricardian. Perhaps the most original feature of his first book (on Production) is his ingenious introduction into it of the “law of the increase of labour” as affecting the numbers of the producers and being therefore co-ordinate with the “law of the increase of capital” and the “law of the increase of production from land” (chaps. X., xi., xii.). As before noticed, this is really a composition of causes, and logically a departure from the severity of the first abstraction. In dealing with the Requisites of Production” (I. 1.) he discusses the relation of human labour to nature, and decides that the part which“ nature" plays in any work of man is incommensurable with man's part. things into fit places for being acted upon by their own internal forces and by those residing in other natural objects.” He can do nothing but move them from one position to another. In the first of the Essays on Nature, the Utility of Religion, and Theism he goes more fully into this point, and shows how widely the 19th century is removed from the opinions of the 18th. "Nature" (he tells us)“ means the sum of all phenomena together with the causes which produce them, including not only all that happens but all that is capable of happening ” (p. 5). In this sense, it includes Art, for “Art
Jas. Mill is said by his son to have been the first to apply this observation to economics. It occurs as a general maxim in Bacon's Novum Organum, IV.: “Ad opera nil aliud potest homo quam ut corpora naturalia admoveat et amoveat; reliqua natura intus agit.”
has no independent powers of its own. Art is but the employment of the powers of Nature for an end. Phenomena produced by human agency, no less than those which, as far as we are concerned, are spontaneous, depend on the properties of the elementary forces or of the elementary substances and their compounds. We move objects.
Even the volition which designs, the intelligence which contrives, and the muscular force which executes these movements are themselves powers of Nature ” (pp. 7, 8). But the usual antithesis has been between the doings of man and the doings of the rest of nature. In this sense the Law of Nature was made a standard of ethics and of jurisprudence. The modern use of the terms natural and unnatural points to a third distinction, namely, between what is and what ought to be, though there is always in the minds of those who use the terms an idea that observation of what is will guide us to a knowledge of what ought to be (pp. 8-13). We can only make sense of such a notion by translating the precept "follow nature” into the precept “study nature.” We cannot escape from nature as a whole; but by study of the laws of nature we can use one law to counteract another (pp. 16, 17). But, if it is intended that we should imitate in our action the spontaneous course which the rest of nature follows when left to itself, human wisdom would be folly ; to dig, to plough, to build, and to wear clothes would be direct infringements of the injunction to follow nature (pp. 19, 20). The arts of life and civilization generally are so many admissions that nature is from man's point of view imperfect. They
They are intended to supply what is lacking on nature's part, το της φύσεως ελλείπον αναπληρεϊν. Because we cannot imitate the vastness of natural forces, it does not follow that we ought to imitate external nature in its other attributes from mere awe of its vastness. Nature goes straight to her ends with a reckless indifference to all moral considerations. “Nearly all the things which men are hanged or imprisoned for doing to one another are nature's everyday performances” (pp. 27, 28). This applies to the causes at work on and in human society. It is “part of Nature's habitual injustice that to him that hath shall be given, but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” It is the good who become more good; it is the person who already knows much that can learn most easily ; "those who find it easy to gain money are not the poor but the rich, while health, strength, knowledge, talents, are all means of acquiring riches; and riches are often an indispensable means of acquiring these,”—and the tendency of evil is towards further evil, of ill health to worse health and poverty, of poverty to a thousand mental and moral evils, of vice to multiplied vice (pp. 34-36).
1 The doctrine of Natural Law (he says) has now exhausted what good influence it ever had (Diss. and Disc., III. 243. “ Austin.”).
2 A philosopher should not be frightened by mere bigness (Unseen Univ.).
We have nothing here to do with Mill's theological conclusion, which is that the Creator is not omnipotent. But we see how closely this reasoning (in an essay written between 1850 and 1858) bears on Mill's economical views. The laws of production are of physical necessity, and therefore (we infer) they partake of the general imperfection of nature, and are to be turned one against another, in order to be of service to man. Similarly the distribution and the exchange of wealth (however Ricardian is the treatment of the latter by our author) are by no means to be left to take their spontaneous course as if that were necessarily the best. The works of nature, including the spontaneous action of economical laws, are no more to be passively taken on trust, and taken as patterns for imitation, than the actions of our fellow men.
But our first duty as intelligent men is to ascertain what they are. The facts of production are (he considers) a body of facts partaking of the nature of physical truths. No modification of external nature, or of human nature, can go so far as to modify them. While the earth endureth, the production of wealth by material agents and by labour, and of human beings by procreation from human beings, will not be otherwise than it is now. To believe otherwise would be to give up belief in fixed laws of nature altogether. Some evolutionists would perhaps dispute the assumption that physiologically men will always remain essentially as they are ;1 and even in later life Mill devotes no discussion to this point, thinking it settled perhaps by Malthus in his controversy with Condorcet and Godwin. There is probably no one who would dispute the assumption that the constitution of the material world is unalterable.
Mill had, however, been so strongly impressed with the power of human beings, and especially human societies, to grow from strength to strength both in intellect and in character, that he seized perhaps too eagerly the opportunity of marking out an apparently clear line of distinction between the province of unalterable laws and the province of human institutions in matters economical. He recognised the first in Production, and the second in Distribution. But even his chapters on production are full of illustrations from contemporary life and from history, which show how large is the effect of social arrangements, and of ideas, in that region also ; the laws of production are no doubt not of man's invention, but they are turned to much or little use according to the wisdom or unwisdom of human arrangements. In other ways Mill himself fails to preserve his distinction between distribution and production. It appears that distribution itself has at certain stages certain laws that are not of man's creation. It depends no doubt on man whether they have the conditions of their operation supplied to them or not ; but, these once supplied, the further steps (or their actual operation itself) are “determined by laws as rigid as those of production itself.”2 They are not the result of deliberate human invention, but are “sponte acta.” Mill was referring to the laws of Exchange and Value, and he could not himself have denied their hypothetical exactness without ceasing to be a
1 The human race might say with Omar :
“Think that to-day you are what yesterday
You were ; tomorrow you shall not be less." The assumption is implied in Mill's expression, “the inherent properties of their own bodily and mental structure” (Pol. Econ., II. I., $ 1). We may compare Hume's remark, above quoted, p. 156.
? So Pol. Econ., ist ed., Preliminary Remarks, last sentence but one. In later editions the sentence stood thus: “As much a subject for scientific inquiry as any of the physical laws of nature.”