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to exert upon the people. The first class of functions (called in the Political Economy' the “necessary” as distinguished from the “optional” functions of government) include the maintenance of the laws of property and the administration of justice and police, taxation, finance, and such public works as coinage and sanitary regulations. They might conceivably be the same for all societies. The second class (or optional functions) include all those actions of government which are usually said to go beyond the principle of laissez-faire or non-interference. “Whatever theory we adopt respecting the foundation of the social union and under whatever political institutions we live, there is a circle around every individual human being which no government ought to be permitted to overstep.” 2 But how large should this circle be ? Mill decides that it ought to include all that concerns mainly the life of the individual himself, and only affects the interests of others by way of example,and the burden of proof should always be laid on the advocates of interference. “In the most advanced communities the great majority of things are worse done by the intervention of government than the individuals most interested in the matter would do them or cause them to be done, if left to themselves.” 3 This applies, for example, directly to industrial operations. Government may regulate them (as it regulates railways by a Railway Commission), but it cannot so successfully conduct them. Even if it had at its disposal all the talents of the community instead of a small fraction thereof, it would not be desirable that the training which the conduct of business gives to a people should be taken away from them and confined to a small number of officials.“ Letting alone, then, should be the general practice.”
On the other hand, where the consumer is not the best judge either of his own wants or of the article to. be provided (as in education and scientific enterprises and research, and in the case of children, the insane, the lower animals, the Poor Laws, colonization, and even
1 Bk. V., ch. 1. 2 Pol. Econ., V. xl., § 2. 3 Ibid., $ 5.
perhaps the hours of labour) 1 Mill will allow no abstract principle to forbid the interference of the State. Where expediency is distinctly shown, that is to him the highest principle and must prevail. He makes full recognition of the fact that much of our law is simply custom made definite and written, this being more especially true of Commercial law which consists in great part of the usages of merchants, and has thus been created by those who have most interest in keeping it good.? But he sees clearly that besides this almost spontaneous growth of law out of custom there must be a legislation that is ahead of custom while not contrary to national character.
In political philosophy and in political economy Mill's work, if not that of a mere formulator, is not that of a great constructor. In the former he has emphasized, perhaps even exaggerated, some neglected views; he was so anxious to avoid the narrowness of his own early days, that he too often leaves us with the impression that of two opposing theories both are true, though the principle that reconciles them is not clearly discoverable. In political economy, too, in his anxiety to avoid representing the postulates of abstract economics as the literal truths of concrete life, he leaves the impression that the qualifications are too great to make the abstract theory very useful. It was the less useful in his case because he never dealt quite freely with the work of Ricardo, whom from his early training he regarded as the creator of the science. He prepared the mind of English economists for new ideas, but he did little to introduce these himself. The latest developments of economical doctrine were to come from an entirely different direction and to follow a path to which he had not pointed.
In the pamphlet Gneist und Stuart Mill. Alt-Englische und NeuEnglische Staatsanschauung (Anon.], 1869, the principles of Mill on Representative Government are compared with those of the German
i Pol. Econ., V. XI., $ 12. Mill is as cautious here as in his admission of the possible desirability of Protection in " young communities.”
2 Pol. Econ., V. viii., $ 3.
historian Gneist. The main question is, how far is it possible for a people to adopt the institutions of another and more highly developed people, without passing through all the stages in which the latter had developed. The anonymous writer sets Gneist against Mill on this point, Mill's view being to him the unhistorical one. We must remember however that the stress laid by the school of Bentham on political mechanism may be a needful corrective of the extreme “historical ” view from which it would almost appear that all teaching of one nation by another is impossible, and all institutions are spirit without machinery. It is no doubt true that division of labour must not be allowed to justify bureaucracy (Gneist, p. 31). The State is not a workshop. But, even in industry, division of labour does not mean absence of all knowledge and control of the work of others outside of one's own subdivision.
The best general estimate of Mill as an economist, is given by F. A. Lange, J. S. Mill's Ansichten über die sociale Frage (1866). Professor Bain's J. S. Mill, a Criticism (1882) is a disparaging account which is well corrected by Mr. W. L. Courtney's Life of John Stuart Mill (1889). M. Taine's Study of John Stuart Mill (transl. 1870) relates chiefly to the philosophy; it received the commendation of Mill himself.
The Lettres inédites de Stuart Mill printed by Laveleye (Brussels, 1885) are of very inferior interest to the correspondence with Comte. The letters are few and short, the commentaries long. There is an interesting description of Mill's house and person ; but Mill's character appears far more clearly in the letters printed as Appendix to the Journals and Letters of Caroline Fox (1881), and addressed to her brother Robert Barclay Fox (1840-43).