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stract discussion of the problems of exchange without any strong bias either for or against the realizing of the abstractions and the universal adoption of the ruling motive of the middle classes. The stationary state" of material wealth and population is to him personally more attractive than the “ progressive," which was eulogised by Adam Smith ; but it is an aspiration of which he does not confidently foresee the fulfilment. He hopes that the future of the working classes will be cooperative industry, in place of work for an employer.
The mere intellectual enlightenment and increased worldly wisdom of the great body of the people, the present industrial relations of employer and employed, remaining as they are, would have realized the ideal of the Manchester School of politicians ; but this was not the ideal of Mill, or of any English economist, whose works have claim to be in the first rank. It was really a political theory with the stamp of the 18th century on it ; it was an enlightened “anarchy plus the constable.” Free competition was to Mill only the necessary assumption of abstract economical science ; he went so far as to say that Political Economy would not be a science without it. But he usually 3 recognised that the science so constituted was hypothetical, and it is with full recognition of this hypothetical character of it that he drew out in detail the doctrine of Value and Prices, Profit, Wages, Rent, International Exchange, and even Credit and Currency. For the present purpose, it is not needful to discuss the body of doctrine thus presented by Mill. It is enough to say that even in deductive economics his attitude of mind was so far from dogmatic, that as late as the year 1869 (see Fortnightly Review, May of that year), he abandoned what had since the days of MacCulloch and Senior been reckoned as a demonstrated economic doctrine, the theory of a Wages Fund, while otherwise his economical teaching is in principle that of the Ricardians.
1 Pol. Econ., IV. vi. (Of the Stationary State.) 2 Pol. Econ., II. iv., § 1.
3 Not always. In Diss. IV. 149, for example (“Maine," 1871) he says that political economy “teaches emphatically” that the status of a tenant at will is essentially vicious.
There is one topic, however, on which we might expect to find his new views of political philosophy transforming the old economical theories, and that is the relation of society to government and of both to the individual citizens.
The distinction between Society and Government is practically recognized by Mill. There is (he says) a powerful natural sentiment, a desire to be at one with our fellow creatures, which is not innate in the sense of being present perceptibly always with all of us, but natural, in the sense in which speech and reason are natural. The social state is at once so natural, so necessary, and so habitual to man, that except in some unusual circumstances or by an effort of voluntary abstraction, he never conceives himself otherwise than as a member of a body. This association (without “express inculcation” and simply from “the influences of advancing civilization ") is riveted more and more as mankind are further removed from the state of savage independence. Any condition therefore which is essential to a state of society becomes more and more an inseparable part of every person's conception of the state of things into which he is born and which is the destiny of a human being. It becomes impossible, for men, living together, working together and having common interests, to be without a strong feeling for the welfare of others as well for their own. To attend to the good of others becomes as much a matter of course with them as any of the physical conditions of their existence.
Yet the body, of which the individuals feel themselves to be members, is conceived by Mill (in the spirit of Bentham) as artificial. “We of this generation are not addicted to falling down before a Baal of brass and stone ; the idols we worship are abstract terms; the divinities to whom we render up our substance are personifications. Besides our duties to our fellow countrymen, we owe duties to the constitution ; privileges which landlords or merchants have no claim to must be granted to agriculture or trade ; and, when every clergyman has received the last halfpenny of his dues and expectations, there remain
i Utilitarianism, pp. 44-47.
rights of the Church, which it would be sacrilege to violate. To all such rights wel confess our indifference. The only moral duties which we are conscious of are towards living beings, either present or to come, who can be in some way better for what we do or forbear. When we have done our duty to all these, we feel easy in our minds, and sleep with an untroubled conscience the sleep of the just-a sleep which the groans of no plundered abstraction are loud enough to disturb.”? As Mill was prouder of the article in which these words are written than of almost any other he ever wrote (see Autob., p. 182), we may conclude that he did not give up this individualistic point of view. It is indeed the only one consistent with the nominalism of his Logic. A class, he says there (vol. i. 104) is nothing but individuals denoted by a general name. Inseparable association (we may infer) can make “society" appear to be more than this, but the only reality will be the feeling of the individuals that others are as they are.
Artificial or not, societies exist and societies develope (Mill thinks) in morality and in speculative knowledge, hindered and helped by governments and rulers, but at the same time, in a sense, independent of them. They are so far independent that they have a distinct character of their own which rulers cannot make for them, but must more or less consult even when they would pervert it to their own purposes. Industrial organization amongst other things is determined by this national character ; and nothing is more strictly relative to national character and peculiarities than government. Mill differs from his father in refusing to believe that rulers can govern simply with a view to their own selfish interests ; they must adapt themselves to the character and customs of the nation they rule, and they are always themselves more or less under the influence of the sensus communis. It follows that there is no absolutely best form of government, but that each nation, according to its historical
3 The doctrine of kinds maintained in that book would have made another view possible.
4 See Aug. Comte and Positivism, pp. 113, 114, etc., etc.
circumstances, will have a government peculiar to itself. He differs from Ricardian economists in refusing to believe that competitive industry is the final and best type; national character will to a large extent determine the type of industrial organization as well as the government. Yet he does not allow this view to become a fatalism; nations, like men, are never above criticism. Political Philosophy may show flaws in a constitution ; and Political Economy may “emphatically teach” that a certain industrial arrangement is necessarily bad. Nations, like men, are not free to begin the world as if they were the creators of it; but they are free to direct their circumstances so as to modify their own character by their acts.
Now one of their ways of doing so is by the action of government. Governments are not, as the writers of the school of Godwin and Paine supposed, purely a human invention and purely a mischief.
Neither are they, as writers like Burke and Macaulay have argued, purely a natural growth, where man's deliberate invention plays no part at all. "In every stage of their existence they are made what they are by human voluntary agency.” They are neither machines nor plants. Á people will not be made to substitute a good government for a bad without preparation, but it may be prepared for one or 'other by having the desire of it implanted by political propaganda or otherwise. Its government is in this sense a matter of choice; and its choice is not a fixed quantity that outside influences cannot affect. But what is our criterion of a good or bad government ? : Simply the Utilitarian ; the good is that which is best fitted to promote the interests of the society concerned. These interests are, it is true, not easy to define ; the constituents of social well-being cannot be exhausted in a formula like that of Coleridge, “permanence and progressiveness," or that of Comte, “order and progress, for all depends on what is included under order and progress, on the qualities which are to be cherished and developed in a people. Even in matters economical there is no real contrast between the two principles; a good system of taxation and finance which is essential to order, is conducive to progress also. It is best indeed to say simply that a good government is that which is most conducive to progress, for progress involves order, while order may not involve progress. Progress in wealth, for example, is impossible unless there is some sort of order in the sense of preservation of gains already made, but there might be the latter without any steps being taken to go beyond them. Progress, then, is the chief concern of government. It must be taken as including not only conservation of the past gains, but prevention of positive relapse. Mill, unlike Godwin, realizes that human beings and human affairs may drift strongly towards evil as well as good. He even hints that the service of philanthropists and reformers is much greater in preventing relapse than in assisting progress.
1 See, inter alia, Representative Govern. (1861), ch. i. “To what extent forms of Government are a matter of choice.”
2 Repres. Gov., loc. cit. 3 Ib., ch. ii.
Good government, in fact, (Mill argues) depends most of all on the personal “ qualities of the human beings composing the society over which the government is exercised.” 2 The best institutions will fail if corruptly directed and not supported by a popular sympathy with their spirit. No form of government, it is true, would be rational that depended on the absolute disinterestedness of the average citizen. But there must be a sense of common interest, such as has been already described as belonging to all members of a civilized society ; * and, besides this, there must be adequate machinery. Mill would have the representative machinery so constructed as to provide for the representation of minorities. We need not dwell on the political problem, but look rather at the general question in what institutions the good sense of a society is to express itself, and what can and cannot be expected from the institutions so formed. Government (Mill answers) has certain public business to carry on for the people, and it has a certain guiding influence
1 Mill's curious idea of the limits of the progress of Art, shown in his fear lest musical combinations of notes should be exhausted (Autobiogr., p. 145), may be compared with Condorcet (Esquisse, p. 376).
2 Repres. Gov., ch. ii. 3 Ib., ch. vi.