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himself to it on the understanding that every one else is doing likewise (407, 408). The population will be assigned to the various classes in proportions determined by the character and circumstances of the country. Where agriculture is comparatively hard and unproductive, there would be more need for “producers ” than for artisans. But, if circumstances change, the proportion may need to change along with them (408). Further, in order to secure to every one the means of living in the way indicated, we must have a régime of fixed prices, in contrast with that of competition and speculation, where one trader flourishes at the expense of another. The great gains of successful speculation will be among the greatest hindrances to the foundation of the rational State (510).
Comfort for all is what we want; but comfort is a relative expression, and we must find a standard for our estimates. This leads Fichte to consider the measure of
Value. The value of a thing (he thinks) is to be esti· mated by the time during which it would enable us to live,
-the value of oysters, for example, by the time a man could live on a certain quantity of oysters as compared with a similar quantity of bread (415). Bread is by universal consent the necessary of life. Take bread therefore (or rather the “product,” the corn, from which it is made) as alone having an absolute value, which measures the value of all other food. A pound of meat is of more value than a pound of bread because it gives more nourishment and enables a man to live by it for a longer time. Its value will be so much bread. The value of bread needs no paraphrase. In all work that does not deal with the production of food the standard of payment will be the quantity of food that a workman would need for his support during the making of his wares, and also (if his craft is a skilled one) during the time taken to acquire the skill (416). By food we should understand the cheapest food, or that which it costs least time and labour to produce. But there is food that is not simply nourishing ; it is agreeable and pleasant and prized on that account and not forits nourishing powers. “By general estimation ” it may thus have a value greater than its intrinsic (its nourishing power); and this extrinsic value will be equal to that amount of the standard food which could have been produced if the time and labour
devoted to the agreeable food had been devoted to the standard food instead.
In a State where the agreeable food is produced as well as the standard food (the luxury as well as the necessary) it is clear there is a reserved power of production ; if starvation were not some way off, all the production would be of the standard food. Clearly the State has forces to spare for what is dispensable as well as for what is indispensable. Payment of work in all cases will be measured by food; but this is not to mean that all will receive the same food or have their payments measured by the same amount of it. An agricultural worker can live on vegetables, while the brain-worker must have meat (417418). It is true (see VI. 186) that our conception of necessaries should depend not on habit but on nature ; but then nature determines that they shall be different for different people. The standard of living will vary with the occupation. What is to be paid to a man is that which will enable him to support life according to the degree of comfort his calling requires. The merchant, for example, must pay the farmer what will enable the farmer to support life as a farmer should, and the customers of the merchant must pay him what will do the same for him (III. 418). This does no wrong to our ruling principle, namely, that the well-being consulted is that of all, not as now of a few (423). All must have the possibility of leisure, that they may enter on their properly human existence as free men (418). Taxes there must be, but they will be equitably levied, and the needs of the State will be less great
than Present States take as much as they can get ; the rational State will take only what it needs. (Cf. 459.) Its efforts will be directed to seeing that the total supply of goods is as nearly as possible at the same figure always. The fluctuations of the harvests will be met by a calculation of averages ; a man's crop in good years will be valued not by that year but by the average production say of five years. The State must form statistics for the purpose of these calculations (429).
But if prices are to be fixed and stability assured to industry, there must be no dealings with those who are
1 III. 417.
not under the control of our State, and are therefore liable to introduce speculative and unstable prices ; all trade with foreigners must be stopped. Commercially as well as juridically, we must be a peculiar people (419, 476, 485, etc.). Towards this end, the State must call in all gold and silver money. According to Fichte, gold and silver have been chosen merely because of their general acceptability. People accept them because they know everyone else will take them in exchange for goods. There is no “intrinsic value” to justify this; and, when we say that a given quantity of gold is equivalent to a given quantity of some other commodity because they both cost the same time and labour, we are not (he says) giving any explanation of the facts. “ Assuming this equality of time and labour, the unsophisticated person values another man's wares not by the labour the other has spent in it, but rather by the utility he himself hopes to draw from it; and why should the cultivator reckon the gold-miner's labour in turning out a piece of gold equal to his own in the production of a bushel of corn, and hold it equally well laid out, while the farmer's corn is necessary to the miner's life, and the miner's gold by itself leaves the cultivator where he was?” (454, 455). Public opinion and nothing else has given gold and silver their place as money, and their value fluctuates accordingly (455). Fichte, like Sir Thomas More, would allow them to be kept only by the State for its dealings with foreign States (cf. 496, 467). He would have the State introduce a peculiar currency,' of a valueless material, and useless abroad ; and he thinks that, being isolated, the State can do so by a simple fiat. With the same ease it can regulate the value of the currency by simply having regard to the quantity of it. That the value of the currency depends on the amount in circulation, as compared with the amount of commodities circulated, is his only economic principle here. He thinks, by careful watching, the State can preserve a uniform proportion throughout the growth of national wealth. It
1 Landesgeld. III. 433. The defects of paper-money, assignats, etc., have, he thinks, been due to the fact that they have always run side by side with other money; they have represented money, not goods.
cannot be said that he shows clearness in regard to the economic theory of this subject (431 to 439, cf. 486 seq.).
Besides preventing foreign trade, he would hamper foreign travel, unless it be for scientific purposes (506). The isolation of the State is to be complete. The new policy, however, is to be made easier by a compensation of those who have come to depend on foreign markets for particular articles ; hitherto the State by tolerating such dependence has approved it as right; it must therefore secure to the parties in question the continued enjoyment of the same articles, by providing for their manufacture at home, and thus stimulating new industries there. In the case of what clearly could not be made at home, public warning should be given some time before the “ closing” of the State, that after the said “closing no such articles can be had (479). Fichte has in view on a complete scale what the Protectionists of his day attempted very imperfectly, the securing of national independence in industry (477, cf. 491). This is not one of the modern features of his Utopia ; but marks its affinity with Greek models; and in the detailed construction of his State Fichte has much in common with Plato. The aim of the State should be the well-being of the whole nation, and it is to be secured by division of labour; the classes are to be for the sake of the whole, not vice versâ (422, 423).
Officials like Plato's Guardians are to be chosen, to see to the production and distribution of wealth on the lines already laid down, as well as to the general government; and, as they are not themselves producers, they get their means of living out of the taxes, as a quid pro quo (424, 425). Fichte calls his governors by the Spartan name of Ephors. They are to have administrative powers(160). In whatever way elected (and the manner will depend on the stage of a people's development) they are responsible to the people
. Distinct from them are the judges and the executive officers (171), in regard to both of whom the Ephors, like the Roman tribunes, have only a veto. The sacro-sanctity and absolute power of the Ephors (177, etc.) undoubtedly give to Fichte's State the appearance of a benevolent despotism.
The chief features of this ideal commonwealth (the three classes, the security of living with fixed prices, the prohibition of foreign trade) are deduced from the theory of Property, and stand or fall with it (440). The current view (says Fichte) regards property as a right to things, whereas it is a right to free action, applying only to things derivatively and indirectly, so far as they are the object of the action, and never (even so) applying unrestrictedly (441). The better type is the right to a course of action chosen by myself—the right to make shoes or to till the ground. The last may be indirectly a right to the ground, but it need not be absolutely so; there might be the right of another to pasture on it when I have reaped my harvest (442). Property in land, strictly speaking, does not exist; "the earth is the Lord's," I and men have simply the power to make use of it (442). Elsewhere he says that the soil and its minerals under the surface are a “natural royalty” of the State (222).
But how are the really exclusive rights of property to be assigned ? The answer is, by contract of all with all, whereby every man enjoys his own right on condition that all the rest enjoy theirs unmolested. It follows that a man who owns nothing has made no contract, and is not so bound (445, 446). Every citizen as such has the right to practise his craft and to live by it. The State did not give him his powers of work; but the State can secure him the exercise of them, on the one condition that the State be closed. Quod erat demonstrandum (446, 447). This will of itself put an end to War, and advance Science (512).
Like other Utopias, Fichte's State owes something of its interest to its reflection of current ideas. But like Sir Thomas More, he is not content with indirect comments on the world of his own time.
He expressly arraigns and condemns it. Thoughtless common sense (he says) thinks that to be natural and necessary, which is really accidental. The morality, customs and institutions of its own time seem to it the only possible ones. It needs a deeper reflection to see that, besides what is, there is that which may be, and that
1 Die Erde ist des Herrn, 442, cf. 218. . Comp. above, p. 52.
2 See esp. Closed State, Works, III. pp. 448 seq. : “Vom Zustande des Handelsverkehrs in den gegenwärtigen wirklichen Staaten.”