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save water from geology on the ground that Werner did not
take them into account, as limit the investigations of the
economist to the mode of distribution taken cognizance of in
either the seventeenth or the eighteenth century, in either
England or France. The very word ' distribution,' moreover,
which Adam Smith applies in his first book to the partition
effected by exchange, is in his third book applied to that
effected by succession ; though in both cases we may perceive
the influence of the ideal code of nature on his opinions and
language. Long before his time, indeed, the term was applied
to the distribution of wealth by law, as the Statute of Distribu-

• ' In se ipso totus, teres atque rotundus.' — Hor.



Political Economy and Sociologjj. 209

tions shows. He sets before us both the ' natural,' as he
called the ideally best, order of things, and the actual order
resulting from positive institutions, historical events, and the
constitution of human nature with its various and conflicting
propensities; among which, as he points out, the love of
dominion is apt to prevail over the desire of gain. The third
book of the * Wealth of Nations ' is mainly an investigation
into the action and reaction of political and economic history,
the progress of agriculture, manufactures, and commerce, and
of the different classes of society in both country and town,
until out of mediaeval Catholic and feudal Europe had issued
the Europe of his own time with an economy moulded and
fashioned by centuries. The word ' evolution ' had not come
into use in Adam Smith's day, and social philosophers did not
call the historical order of events the natural order, or the
actual sequences resulting from the whole constitution of
human society and the surrounding world the results of
natural law : the word ' Nature,' in their terminology, having a
purely ideal meaning. Yet in substance Adam Smith shows
that the economic condition of the nations of modern Europe
was the outcome of a long historical evolution, and could not
otherwise be accounted for or understood, although a better
state of things, which in the language of his time he called
the natural state, would have resulted from better human
government and institutions. Whoever compares the last three
books of the ' Wealth of Nations ' with the announcement, at
the end of the ' Theory of Moral Sentiments,' of the author's
intention ' in another discourse to give an account of the general
principles of law and government, and of the different revo-
lutions they have undergone in different ages and periods
of society, not only in what concerns justice, but in what
concerns police, revenue, arms, and whatever else is the subject
of law,' will find evidence that political economy was not the
only branch of political science in which Adam Smith had
advanced beyond Plato, in whose days Mr. Lowe affirms that
knowledge in all other branches of moral and political philosophy
came to a standstill. Adam Smith saw that ' the revolutions



210 Political Economy and Sociology.

of law and government ' had followed a determinable order ;
that the whole movement of society, including even that of
positive law, was subject to law in the scientific sense of regular
and intelligible sequence ; and that the economic state of a
nation at every period of its history was only a particular aspect
of the whole social development. This is the fundamental
conception on which the Science of Society rests, although the
modern social philosopher calls the actual succession of social
phenomena the natural one, while Adam Smith used the word
' natural ' in a diiierent sense.

' In love, or war, or politics, or religion, or morals,' Mr. Lowe
argues, 'it is impossible to foretell how men will act, and
therefore it is impossible to reason deductively;' whereas, 'in
matters connected with wealth, deviations arising from other
causes than the desire of it may be neglected without perceptible
error.' The truth is that all these causes — war, love, religion,
morals, and politics — do profoundly influence the conduct and
condition of mankind in relation to wealth, and the economic
structure of society. It is one of Mr. Buckle's incorrect
generalizations that in the middle ages there were but two
engrossing pursuits — war and religion — and only two professions
— the church and the army. It is, on the other hand, a no less
superficial philosophy that overlooks the influence of war and
religion on the economy of modern Europe, the occupations of
its inhabitants, and the nature, amount, distribution, and
consumption of their productions. At no period of the middle
ages was so large a proportion of the population of the
Continent trained to war as at the present day. An immense
part of the wealth of modern Europe, England included,
consists of weapons, warlike structures and stores, and the
appliances of armies and fleets. What would be the worth of
a treatise deducing the economy of Germany from the assump-
tion that every man is occupied solely in the acquisition of
wealth, ' the actual deviations being so slight that they may be
treated as practically non-existent ? ' Were astronomers able
to discover certain indications of human life in another planet,
on Mr, Lowe's principle we should know all that need interest



• li



Folitical Economy and Sociologij. 211

or could instruct us respecting the economy of the planetary-
world from ' the two ruling passions of mankind — wealth and
ease.' Would not the questions arise : — ' Does war exist, and
if so, is every man a soldier, or is there a distinct military
profession ? ' ' Have the inhabitants of the planet any religion,
and if so, is there a wealthy priesthood ? ' ' Are the institutions
of marriage and the family established ? ' ' What are the
checks to the increase of population ? ' 'Is land held in
common, or does private property in it exist ? ' ' What are the
laws and customs with respect to succession ? ' ' Have the
people of this planet the same kinds of wealth as those of the
earth, and have different countries in it different kinds, as in
our own world ? ' It has been shown that the mundane
economist possesses no such powers of prediction as Mr. Lowe
ascribes to him, just because politics, war, religion, morals,
and love, do all powerfully affect human conduct in matters
connected with wealth. Nevertheless, the philosophy of society
is not so undeveloped that no regular sequence or natural law
is discoverable in these very influences, or prediction altogether
impossible in relation to them. It can be foretold, with a close
approximation to accuracy, how many marriages there will be
between the 1st of January, 1879, and the next census. A
well-known economist is said to maintain that marriage is
nothing but a commercial contract ; but Edmund Burke's
complaint that the age of chivalry was gone, and that of
economists and calculators had succeeded, was not quite so
well grounded. Love, chivalrous sentiment, morals, religion,
do still deeply affect marriage, even among a nation of shop-
keepers ; and it is because they do that we can nearly foretell
the number of such unions, and the number of children boru
and reared. We should be altogether without data for cal-
culating the advance of population, the supply of labour, the
movement of rent, the accumulation of capital, and its distri-
bution by marriage and succession as well as exchange, if men
and women, or even men alone, were influenced by no other
than mercantile motives.

The economic structure of any given community, the direc-

P 2



212 Political Economy and Sociology.

tion taken by national energies, the occupations of tlie different
classes and of both sexes, the constituents and the partition of
movable and immovable property, the progressive, stationary,
or retrogressive condition in respect of productive power and
the quantity and quality of the necessaries, comforts, and
luxuries of life, are the results not of special economic forces,
but of all the social forces, political, moral, and intellectual, a&
well as industrial. The very wants and aims summed up in
' the desire of wealth ' arise not from innate, original, and
universal propensities of the individual man, but from the
community and its history. Hunger and thirst, desire of
shelter from cold and heat, are probably the only forms of the
economic impulse that a human being isolated altogether from
social influences would feel. The very kinds of food sought in
civilized society are determined by a long national history, and
are not the same in England and France. The predominant
form which the love of wealth takes in the last country is, as
already said, the love of landed property, a form non-existent
in primitive humanity, and which in civilized countries is so
much the result of national history, that it is extinct in our own
as a motive to labour and thrift on the part of the nation at
large, though once widely diffused through all classes in both
country and town.

Political economy is thus a department of the science of
society which selects a special class of social phenomena for
special investigation, but for this purpose must investigate all
the forces and laws by which they are governed. The deductive
economist misconceives altogether the method of isolation
permissible in philosophy. In consequence of the limitation of
human faculties, not that the narrowing of the field is in itself
desirable or scientific, it is legitimate to make economic pheno- |

mena, the division of labour, the nature, amount, and distribution
of national riches, the subject of particular examination, pro-
vided that all the causes affecting them be taken into account.
To isolate a single force, even if a real force and not a mere
abstraction, and to call deductions from it alone the laws of
•wealth, can lead only to error, and is radically unscientific. The



{



Political Economy and Bociologtj. 213

ilevelopment of the positive law of a nation, for example, is in
all its bearings on industrj', commerce, accumulation, and the
distribution of property, a subject demanding the economist's
investigation. The primitive ownership of things in common,
the evolution of the separate possession of both chattels and
land ; of slavery, serfdom, and free labour ; the changes in the
law of intestate succession ; the growth of the testamentary
power, and of the law of contract in its diiferent forms, are at
once jural and economic facts, which the jurist regards from
one point of view and the economist from another. The field
of human society is so large and complex, man's capacity so
limited, that it is by a number of investigations in relation
to different aspects of the subject, that the science of society,
as a whole, is most likely to be advanced, and its ultimate
generalizations and laws at last reached. The history of politi-
cal economy is a warning against all attempts to reach them
per saltiim, and to construct at once a complete and symmetri-
cal system. A radical error with respect to the history of both
science in general, and political economy in particular, lies at
the root of Mr. Lowe's notion, that ' science means knowledge
in its clearest and most absolute form, the test of which is
prediction ' ; and that the fabric of economic science, under the
hand of Adam Smith, ' rose up, like Jonah's gourd, in a single
night.' If science meant only knowledge in its clearest and
most absolute form, no science could have a beginning or a
youth : it must spring into life fully grown and armed, like
Minerva from the head of Jove ; and only a science founded,
like deductive political economy, on fiction, could do so. Had
political economy grown up, like Jonah's gom-d, in a night, it
would like it have perished in a day, and could not have borne
the light. A long line of inquirers had preceded Adam Smith,
to some of whom he has acknowledged his debt. Nearly a cen-
tury before the publication of the ' Wealth of Nations,' Dudley
North, himseK a merchant, had expounded the policy of com-
mercial liberty, going on some points even beyond his illustrious
successor. Adam Smith's own language respecting the French
economists answers a question raised by Auguste Comte's



214 Political Economy and Sociology.

remark, that he made no pretence of founding a new and special
science of wealth. He did not pretend to be its founder, but he
did regard such a science as not only founded, but far advanced,
by Quesnay and his followers, whose system of political economy
he describes as, ' wdth all its imperfections, the nearest approach
to perfection that had yet been made in that important science.'
At the same time, like his French contemporaries, he regarded
it as a branch of a wider science, which they called Physiocratie,
or the science of the government and laws of nature, and which
he called Moral Philosophy.

Science is patient and progressive, never, therefore, reaching
perfection ; its essence consists in a right method of investi-
gation more than in the extent of its progress. The same mis-
conception that leads Mr. Lowe to admire the a priori political
economy, with its fictitious completeness, symmetry, and exact-
ness, and to deny a science of society, because it is yet in an
inchoate state, shows itself in his assertion that no more is known
now in psychology, morals, or politics, than was known in the
days of Plato. No such realistic abstraction as the ' Ideas of
Plato ' now deludes the psychologist, though something akin to
it lingers in the deductive economist's notion of ' the desire of
wealth.' The association of ideas is a psychological law which
alone places mental philosophy far beyond the point it had
reached with the Grreeks ; and the change in the course of
social progress, on the one hand, and the inheritance, on the
other, of cerebral qualities can hardly be known to Mr. Lowe,
or he could not refuse to admit a great recent advance in our
knowledge of the laws of the human mind. In the science of
law and politics the superiority of Adam Smith himself over
Plato is evident. His remarks on the Athenian tribunals show
that he could have saved Pericles from a blunder which not
only deprived Athens of a system of jmisprudence, but did
much to corrupt and undermine the State ; yet Plato failed to
discover it, though its consequences were under his eyes, and the
constitution of courts was one of the subjects that engaged his
attention. And the perception of revolutions in law and
government following a regular sequence, and evolving successive



Political Economy and Sociologif. 215

economic as well as political states, to whicli Adam Smith
attained, not only never dawned on Plato's mind, but may be
said in itself to be a long step towards the foundation of a true
science of society. The attempt to raise a prejudice against
such a science, on account of the difficulty of naming it other-
wise than sociology, a compound of Latin and Greek, is not only
captious and frivolous, but displays an extraordinary forget-
fulness of scientific nomenclature. To say nothing of the
admission of such combinations in Germany, the fatherland of
philology, in words such as Socialpolitik, English philosophical
terminology itself abounds in them. Natural philosophy, moral
philosophy, are names compounded of Latin and Greek, which,
according to German usage, would be written in one word, like
SocialpoUtik ; and the term 'natural law' is a mixture of Latin
and English. One wonders, indeed, that Mr. Lowe, who is so
shocked at sociology, does not shudder at the name of Adam
Smith, as a combination, not from cognate tongues like Latin
and Greek, but from Hebrew and English.

Yet, although neither the objection that sociology has not
attained to the perfection of astronomy, nor that it is a hybrid
word, is entitled to a serious consideration, it would be a grave
error to regard it as otherwise than a science still in its infancy.
Its students should take warning from the history of political
economy against hasty induction, and attempts to rise at once
to the deductive stage. Two men of extraordinary genius,
Auguste Comte and Herbert Spencer, though differing consi-
derably on some points, have struck out some luminous gene-
ralizations and ajjer^us ; but great circumspection and caution
are needed in their application : they cannot safely be made to
support trains of deduction, still less can they be treated as
constituting the supreme inductions and fundamental laws of
a science of society. Mr. Spencer's theorem, for example,
that ' a movement from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous
characterizes all evolution,' in both the physical and the social
world, is true in a number of instances ; and he has connected
it with verce caiisrc, with ascertained nattiral forces and con-
ditions, indubitably creating diversity where there had been



216 Political Economy and SociologiJ.

similarity, and evolving new kinds and species of phenomena.
Yet it is not a universal law, or an invariable truth from which
inferences respecting the course of social development can with
certainty be drawn.* The movement of language, law, and
political and civil union, is for the most part in an opposite
direction. In a savage country like Africa, speech is in a per-
petual flux, and new dialects spring up with every swarm from
the parent hive. In the civilized world the unification of lan-
guage is rapidly proceeding ; probably no Celtic tongue will be
spoken in any part of Europe, Bri^'tany or Wales not excepted,
in a few generations. The diversities of English speech were so
great four hundred years ago, that Caxton found them a great
obstacle to printing ; four hundred years hence the same English
will be spoken over half the globe, and will have few competitors,
there is reason to believe, over the other half. The movement
of political organization is similar ; already Europe has nearly
consolidated itself into a HejDtarchy, the number of States into
which England itself was once divided ; and the result of the
American war exemplifies the prevalence of the forces tending
to homogeneity over those tending to heterogeneity. Two
systems of civil law, again — the French and the English — now
extend over a great part of the civilized world ; and Sir Henry
Maine has established many grounds for the proposition that
' all laws, however dissimilar in their infancy, tend to resemble
each other in their maturity.' In customs and fashion civilized
society is likewise advancing towards uniformity. Once every
rank, profession, and district had a distinctive garb; now all such
distinctions, save with the priest and the soldier, have almost
disappeared among men ; and among women the degree of
outlay and waste is becoming almost the only distinction in
dress throughout the West. In the industrial world a generation

♦ [In an article published in the Academy of October 23rd, 1880, Mr. Leslie
wrote as follows : —

' The movement of society, designated by Mr. Herbert Spencer as from " the
homogeneous to the heterogeneous," is highly important in its economic aspects ;
and the present writer acknowledges that Mr. Spencer's recent reply" — (Appendix to
First Frinciples, dealing with criticisms) — " to some comments of his own on the
doctrine so formulated is in the main substantially just and sufficient.']



Political Economy and Sociology. 217

-ago a constant movement towards a differentiation of employ-
ments and functions appeared ; now some marked tendencies to
their amalgamation have begun to disclose themselves. Joint-
stock companies have almost effaced all real division of labour
in the wide region of trade within their operation. Improve-
ments in communication are fast eliminating intermediate trades
between producers and consumers in international commerce ;
and the accumulation and combination of capital, and new
methods of business, are working the same result in wholesale
and retail dealing at home. Many of the things for sale in a
village huckster's shop were formerly the subjects of distinct
branches of business in a large town ; now the wares in which
scores of different retailers dealt are all to be had in great
establishments in New York, Paris, and London, which some-
times buy direct from the producers, thus also eliminating the
wholesale dealer. These changes are among the causes that
bafSe the supposed prevision on which the doctrine of the
equality of profits rests.

In the early stages of social progress, again, a differentiation
takes place, as Mr. Spencer has observed, between political and
industrial functions, which fall to distinct classes : now a man
is a merchant in the morning and a legislator at night; in
mercantile business one 3^ear, and the next perhaps head of the
navy, like Mr. Goschen or Mr. W. H. Smith. There is even a
strong tendency to sink the representative into the delegate, and
to give every male householder a direct and immediate part in
the government of the country. Improvements in both manu-
factures and the art of war seemed to Adam Smith, with good
reason, to necessitate a separation between the military and
industrial occupations : now every able-bodied man is a soldier
on the Continent. And here one of Auguste Comte's great
generalizations also comes into question. Were a tendency to
division of labour and differentiation of functions still to display
itself on all sides, it would not give us a fundamental law
determining the directions of human energies and their actual
■occupations. To take the case of another planet inhabited by
liuman beings, astronomers might conceivably discover marks



218 Political Economy and Sociology.

of a diversity of employments, and yet get no clue to the nature
or course of the division of labour. We should need to know,
for example, whether war and religion had any influence on
their occupations. One of Comte's inductions affords an
example of the kind of fundamental law needed to give us
an insight into the causes and directions of the movement.
Theology and war, according to Comte, are the ruling powers
governing, in the early stages of society, human energies and
employments ; science and industry the chief powers in the
more advanced stages. Undoubtedly the grounds on which this
induction rests go to the root of the matter, and bring some great
changes in the political, moral, and economic state of society
under scientific law. Theology has long been a declining force,,
and, though its indirect influence is still great, has now little
direct control over the economic structure of Western society.
But the military element is more powerful now in Europe, and
its power rests on less accidental causes than in Auguste Comte's
own day. The very improvements in manufacture and the
military art which tended, in Adam Smith's view, to wean the
mass of mankind from war, the very agencies represented by
steam and gunpowder, to which Buckle triumphantly traced its
extinction in the civilized world, have brought nations so close
together, and armed them with such deadly weapons, that
every man may almost be said now to sleep with arms at his
side, ready to do battle in the morning. Science and industry
themselves, along with pacific tendencies, have others of the
opposite character, both in the effects already referred to and
in the higher pride, rivalry, ambition, and patriotism of nations,
developed by intellectual and industrial progress. When
Buckle pointed to the Russians as the only warlike people in
Europe, except the Turks, because the least civilized, they were
really a most unwarlike people under a warlike government.
Now a military spirit is fast rising among them. Who shall
say, too, that when the people of the United States have fully
assimilated their present territory, and are at the same time
brought into close proximity to the old world, their energies
may not take a military direction for a time ? ' The Americans,'



Political Economji and Sociology. 219

said Tocquevllle, ' have no neighbours, consequently no great
wars to fear ; they have almost nothing to dread from military
glory.' When they are within four days of Europe they may
find they have neighbours beyond sea; but, without crossing it,
the whole continent north and south of the isthmus may tempt
their ambition. Although a fundamental truth underlies the
generalization referred to, it is not, then, a law from which
deductions can be made. There are, moreover, diversities in the
course of social evolution in different countries, which must be



Online LibraryT. E. Cliffe (Thomas Edward Cliffe) LeslieEssays in political economy → online text (page 20 of 41)