Introductory Lectures on Political Economy
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3. It is perhaps hardly necessary to observe, that I do not pretend to have classical authority for this use of the word Catallactics; nor do I deem it necessary to make any apology for using it without such authority. It would be thought, I conceive, an absurd pedantry to find fault with such words as "thermometer," "telescope," "pneumatics," "hydraulics," "geology," &c. on the ground that classical Greek writers have not employed them, or have taken them in a different sense.
In the present instance, however, I am not sure that, if Aristotle had had occasion to express my meaning, he would not have used the very same word. In fact I may say he has used another part of the same verb in the sense of "exchanging;" (for the Verbals in are, to all practical purposes, to be regarded as parts of the verbs they are formed from) in the third book of the Nicom. Ethics he speaks of men who hold their lives so cheap, that they risked them in exchange for the most trifling gain . The employment of this and kindred words in the sense of "reconcilement," is evidently secondary, reconciliation being commonly effected by a compensation; something accepted as an equivalent for loss or injury.
5. I had not thought it necessary to observe that, in speaking of exchanges, I did not mean to limit myself to voluntary exchanges;—those in which the whole transaction takes place with the full consent of both parties to all the terms of it. Most exchanges, indeed, are of this character; but the case of taxation,—the revenue levied from the subject in return for the protection afforded by the sovereign, constitutes a remarkable exception; the payment being compulsory, and not adjusted by agreement with the payer. Still, whether in any case it be fairly and reasonably adjusted, or the contrary, it is not the less an exchange. And it is worth remarking, that it is just so far forth as it is an exchange,—so far forth as protection, whether adequate or not, is afforded in exchange for this payment,—that the payment itself comes under the cognizance of this science. There is nothing else that distinguishes taxation from avowed robbery.
Though the generality of exchanges are voluntary, this circumstance is not essential to an exchange: since otherwise the very expression "voluntary exchange," would be tautological and improper. But it is a common logical error to suppose that what usually belongs to the thing, is implied by the usual sense of the word. Although most noblemen possess large estates, the word "nobleman" does not imply the possession of a large estate. Although most birds can fly, the ordinary use of the term "bird" does not imply this, since the penguin and the ostrich are always admitted to be birds. And though, in a great majority of cases, wealth is acquired by labour, the ordinary use of the word "wealth" does not include this circumstance, since every one would call a pearl an article of wealth, even though a man should chance to meet with it in eating an oyster.
The logical error I have been adverting to has, in various instances, led to confusion of thought in many subjects, and not least in Political-Economy.
15. The present Bishop of Chester has treated at large of the subjects here considered, in the third part of his "Records of the Creation;" to which I have much pleasure in referring the reader, though I do not entirely coincide with every thing that the author has there said.
In the Notes and Appendix to Archbishop King's Discourse I have stated my own view of some of the most important of the questions now alluded to.
16. Yet how many, in almost every past age, (and so it will be, I suppose, in all future ages,) have shewn a tendency towards such presumption as that of our First Parents, in seeking to pass the limits appointed for the human faculties, and to "be as Gods, KNOWING GOOD AND EVIL!"
19. The Heathen Mythology contains, among a chaos of wild fables, some broken and scattered fragments, as it were, of true history; like the organic remains of an ancient world, found dispersed, and often hard to be ascertained, in the midst of the strata formed from the deposits of a deluge.
20. I hardly know what to conjecture respecting the domestication of some of the larger quadrupeds, such as the Ox and Buffalo, which, in a wild state, are so formidable, that the idea of making them servants seems unlikely to have occurred to a rude nation. In the Sandwich islands there are wild cattle, descended from those brought by Europeans, which none of the natives, though aware of this descent from domestic animals, have ventured to attempt reclaiming. They regard them with terror, on account of their fierceness.
23. Hence Mandeville calls "Content, the bane of industry;" playing on the double meaning of the word "content." He who has attained the power of commanding with ease a supply of all that he wishes for, and is content, in the sense of desiring nothing further, is not likely to be industrious. But one who is exerting himself all his life in the pursuit of fresh and fresh advancement, whether in Wealth, Learning, Fame, Virtue, or any other object, is not necessarily discontented and unhappy. On the contrary, a pursuit seems a main ingredient in happiness.
24. Errors are often committed in the estimate either of national or of individual character, by those who confound together qualities that are in some respects similar; or at least suppose them to imply each other. They imagine, for instance, that one who is recklessly profuse must be free from sordid cupidity;—that credulity and incaution imply a frank, open, sincere character, incapable of falsehood, and of crafty and deliberate treachery; and that a liability to violent ebullitions of passion, must be accompanied with something of generosity, and is at least incompatible with insidious malice. All such expectations however are contradicted by the character of most savages, and of such persons as have in them something of the barbarian character.
25. This, by the way, suggests a sure method of obtaining, what was so long sought by legislators, a general "favourable balance of trade" in the country. If a quantity of gold and silver be annually buried, a constant importation will ensue, of these metals, in exchange for other commodities, to supply the demand for bullion thus created.
Such is supposed to have been the condition, till within these few years, of the Peninsula of India; which was constantly receiving and absorbing a vast amount of silver; the insecurity of property (till lately) leading to the practice of this kind of hoarding.
In this way, or again, by an immense annual consumption of gold and silver in gilding and plating, &c. (and in no other way,) it is possible for a country to maintain a permanently "favourable balance of trade" with all the world: i.e. to import every year, on the whole, a less amount of other articles than it exports, receiving the difference in gold and silver. See "Senior on the Transmission of the precious Metals."
27. In a very recent publication I have seen mention made of a person who discovered the falsity of a certain doctrine (which, by the way, is nevertheless a true one) instinctively. This kind of instinct, i.e. the habit of forming opinions at the suggestion rather of feeling than of reason, is very common.
29. The views here taken are greatly at variance with a theory which, I regret to think, has obtained considerable currency; chiefly, I conceive, on the supposed authority of Mr. Malthus; in whose work however I have never myself been able to find this doctrine.
"Population having," it is said, "a tendency to increase in geometrical, and subsistence, only in arithmetical progression, it follows that, in each successive generation, the pressure of population on the means of support, and the consequent misery which is the result, must, unless new and extraordinary remedies be adopted, become greater and greater."
On this theory, our own country, and almost every other in the civilized world, ought to possess scantier means of subsistence in proportion to the population, now, than some centuries ago.
But we know that the reverse is the fact; and that our population, though so greatly increased since the time, for instance, of Henry VIII., is yet better off, on the average, in point of food, clothing, and habitations, than then.
It is urged, however, that since want and misery do exist among the lower classes, this is a proof that their numbers have gone on increasing at too great a rate. So it is: but the existence of an excess does not prove that that excess is increasing; or that it is not diminishing. What would be thought of one who should reason thus;—the flood is increasing, and must be expected to extend further and further; for though it is lower to-day than yesterday, still there are fields under water, which ought to be dry:—There is, in February, a progress towards total darkness; for though each day is longer than the last, still the nights are too long in proportion to the days!
But we are to expect, it seems, that the same causes which have always been in operation, are henceforth to lead to results opposite to all that have taken place hitherto. "Xanthe retro propera, versæque recurrite lymphæ!"
To any one who will steadily stand by his theory in the face of notorious facts, all arguments would be vain. But as an illustration of the importance of a careful employment of language, I have, in the Ninth Lecture, traced the error in question to its origin, in the ambiguity (that common source of confusion of thought) in the word "tendency."
30. The lady who was exhibited some time ago, who being born without arms or legs, practised needlework, painting, and other arts, notwithstanding the deficiency, did indeed absolutely excel many whose bodily conformation is perfect: but those who are conscious of inferiority to her in those arts, would not be therefore recommended to throw away their natural advantages, but to make the most of them;—to aim at greater proficiency by learning to employ their hands, not by cutting them off.
32. Vol. iv. p. 182-188. The Author has not perhaps much exaggerated the stupid narrow-mindedness of the labouring classes where their education is totally neglected: but he appears to have very greatly over-rated the intelligence, the thoughtfulness, and the mental activity of Barbarians.
34. As a set-off against this, however, it should be remembered, that manufacturers who are collected in large bodies have the advantage of mutual intercourse to sharpen their faculties, to a much greater extent than agricultural labourers. In most instances they may even during their work be engaged in conversation; which, however unprofitable and even hurtful in other respects, at least affords some intellectual exercise. And if their conversation be on the whole of a hurtful or frivolous character, must not this be attributed in great measure to the want of a well-conducted education?
35. It is curious to contrast the case of Alexander Selkirk, who was left for some years on the Island of Juan Fernandez, with that of a Musquito-Indian mentioned in Dampier's voyages, who was also left (but by accident) on the very same Island, for about as long a time. The savage cheerfully exercised all the little ingenuity possessed by his tribe, in providing himself with such implements, clothing, and habitation, as he had been accustomed to; and was found living in much the same style as prevails among the nation of Indians. The European was overwhelmed with melancholy, and seems scarcely to have exerted any of his powers.
36. Plato, in his Erastæ, represents Socrates ridiculing one who represented a Philosopher as this kind of person, having a slight knowledge of various arts, but perfect in none, and like the Pentathlete in the Games. When, says he, good artists are to be had, such a one is useless.
39. Geologists, when, commissioning their friends to procure them from any foreign country such specimens as may convey an idea of its geological character, are accustomed to warn them against sending over collections of curiosities; i.e. specimens of spars, stalactites, &c., which are accounted, in that country, curious, from being rarities; and which consequently convey no correct notion of its general features. What they want is, specimens of the commonest strata;—the stones with which the roads are mended, and the houses built, &c. And some fragments of these, which in that country are accounted mere rubbish, they sometimes, with much satisfaction, find casually adhering to the specimens sent them as curiosities, and constituting, for their object, the most important part of the collection. Histories are in general, to the Political-Economist, what such collections are to the Geologist. The casual allusions, to common, and what are considered insignificant matters, convey, to him, the most valuable information.
Mr. Jones objects to the procedure of founding our reasonings (in Political-Economy) on definitions. He did not enough consider that in Mathematics the Definitions answer two purposes: 1st, so far forth as they are nominal, to remove ambiguity (which is the purpose required in Political-Economy); 2dly, so far forth as they are real, to serve as the basis of our reasonings: and with such reasonings we should of course never rest satisfied in any subject except Mathematics or other pure science;—never in short, where matters of FACT are concerned.
See Burke's Essay on Taste, prefixed to his Treatise "On the Sublime and Beautiful." See also D. Stewart's Philosophy, Vol. II.
41. Among the rest, the interesting writer, Miss Martineau, in the "Manchester Strike." The lowest rate of wages is there defined (in the sense of the lowest amount) as the lowest that will enable the labourer to subsist: the highest rate is defined (in the sense of the highest proportion) as the utmost that will leave a reasonable profit to the capitalist. According to this definition, it may, and often does happen, that a labourer shall be receiving at once the highest and the lowest wages. A hand-loom weaver will often receive for the produce of a week's labour, hardly enough for a week's scanty subsistence, and yet within a very little of what the capitalist afterwards sells the web for; so that it is scarcely worth while, for so low a profit, to employ him.