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a realisation of definite principles of social good in a pattern commonwealth, where peace and contentment would prevail, and when stable and rational authority would be subject to no disturbing influence.
But this disorder and uncertainty in the teaching of social principles, this undue stress upon the absoluteness and the permanence of his ideals, must not be allowed to blind us to the fundamental excellence of Mr. Ruskin's Political Economy.
He has laid a solid foundation of social economics as the science of the relation of efforts and satisfactions in a society. By insisting upon the reduction of moneymeasured “cost” and “ utility” to subjective or human “cost” and “utility,” he has taken a truly scientific and not, as commonly supposed, a sentimental position. It has been humorous to hear the dull drudges of commercial economics speaking contemptuously of an economist whose logic is far keener than their own, and whose work will hereafter be recognised as the first serious attempt in England to establish a scientific basis of economic study from the social standpoint.
Upon this human basis the fuller economic theory of the future will be built. In America and upon the continent of Europe not a few professional economists of note are engaged in working out the biological factors involved in the various forms of " cost” and “utility," so as to throw fuller light upon the economy of production and consumption. It is becoming more widely admitted that both the starting-point and the goal of economic activity is human life, and that all economic terms must be reduced to the standard not of money but of man. The art of Political Economy demands
such enlargement and humanisation of the science as shall enable it to direct and govern social conduct. The admission of this claim does not imply, as is sometimes represented, the degradation of a science by making it subservient to practical utility. The visible failure of the orthodox Political Economy to throw light upon social or even distinctively industrial problems proves that a narrow group of phenomena has been falsely specialised, and that a standard of valuation has been taken which has sterilised the study. Mr. Ruskin's first claim as social reformer is that he reformed Political Economy.
FLAWS IN THE SCIENCE AND PRACTICE OF MODERN
§ 1. Detection of flaws in the structure of industrial science.
§ 2. Growing acceptance of Mr. Ruskin's teaching of the economy of high wages. § 3. Over-specialisation as a malady of modern industry. § 4. The need of good work for all. $ 5. Consumption the industrial goal — Detection of the fallacy of unlimited saving. $ 6. “Demand for commodities not a demand for labour” refuted. $ 7. Currency based on intrinsic values — No credit.
§ 1. In the last two chapters we have examined the vital differences in scope and nature between the Political Economy of Mr. Ruskin and the current Mercantile Economy. But Mr. Ruskin by no means confined himself to a general repudiation of the claims of the latter. Much of his closest analysis and his choicest ridicule are devoted to exposing specific flaws in the structure of commercial science, which he further charges with offering support to the immorality of business conducted for individual profit. Perhaps the most caustic summary of his position is contained in the following words : “ While I admit there is such a thing as mercantile economy, distinguished from social, I have always said also that neither Mill, Fawcett, nor Bastiat knew the contemptible science they professed to teach.” 1
1 Note by Mr. Ruskin to “ A Disciple of Plato," by Mr. William Smart.
Such scornful language, applied to able and honest specialists, has done much to prevent Mr. Ruskin's arguments from receiving the attention they deserve. But the undue depreciation and the captious criticism in which he sometimes indulged must not deter us from recognising the acuteness of many of the points he presses. The inherent difficulties which arise in every department of social science from the complexity and shifting character of its phenomena, the few opportunities of scientific experiment, the difficulties of securing just and reliable terminology, attach, as we have seen, in no ordinary measure to Commercial Economy; while the conditions of its late and comparatively obscure growth have prevented it from receiving an adequate share of the attention of the keenest and most farsighted intelligences of our century. The result has been a too facile establishment of dogmas enrolled in specious phraseology and sustained by the authority of a few able men who have been prematurely accredited as the builders of a complete science of industry, whereas they are only entitled to be regarded as pioneers groping in the obscure beginnings of a science.
When a man with Mr. Ruskin's mental equipment approached the text-books of this commercial economy he could hardly fail to detect considerable flaws. The unconscious pressure of class interests and prejudices, flowing often through honest and efficient channels, is always operative in the intellectual world, framing hypotheses, moulding theories, driving home conclusions to support the intellectual or material vested interests of the educated classes. This is not the judgment of a cynic. No one who faithfully follows out the progress
of any science, medicine, law, theology, philosophy, geology, politics, can fail to see the innumerable subtle ways in which the dry light of the intellect is humidised by passion and class interest. Just in proportion as the science is applicable for the guidance of an individual or a nation in matters where self-interest weighs heavily, is this injurious influence operative. In the selection and rejection of ideas and phrases, the formation of theories, the admission and the valuation of different kinds of evidence, even in the basic processes of observation, bias creeps in. The study of industrial facts and laws among a people, passionately devoted to the pursuit of industrial gains, is subject to these falsifying forces in no ordinary measure.
Free competition of individuals upon the basis of existing distribution of property was at once the passion and the intellectual conviction of the hard-headed men who, during the first half of this century, had in their hands the making of Commercial Economy. It was not, indeed, their conscious design to make a science which should yield an intellectual, or a moral, support to the existing industrial order; but any one who closely follows the growth of the study from Adam Smith to Jevons can see that it was in fact made to yield such support. Though much valuable work was done in the collection of industrial facts, and much acuteness was evinced in the deductive reasoning from economic principles, these principles themselves, the corner-stones of the scientific edifice, were often exceedingly defective both in substance and in wording, and each of these defects were serviceable for the maintenance of the industrial power of the classes." Moreover, these