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For JANUARY, 1832.
Art. I.-1. Introductory Lectures on Political Economy, being part of
a Course delivered in Easter Term, MDCCCXXXí. By Richard Whately, D.D., Principal of St. Alban's Hall; Professor of Political Economy in the University of Oxford. 8vo. pp. 238.
Price 7s. London, 1831. 2. Lectures on the Elements of Political Economy. By Thomas Coo
per, M.D., President of the South Carolina College, and Professor of Chemistry and Political Economy. Second Edition, with Additions. 8vo. pp. 366. Price 10s. 6d. Colombia, S. Carolina.
Hunter, London. 1831. 3. The Working-man's Companion. The Rights of Industry: ad
dressed to the Working-men of the United Kingdom. By the Author of “ The Results of Machinery." § 1. Capital and La
bour. 18mo. ls. sewed. London, 1831. N EXT to Theology in importance, is that science which, next
to Theology, is in the most unsatisfactory state, its very name operating on multitudes of readers as a mental scarecrow ; —we mean of course, Political Economy. As to its importance, its paramount importance in relation to man's secular interests, there can be no question. The subjects of which it undertakes to treat, embrace the constituent principles of society, the objects of all sound legislation, the means and conditions of national prosperity and of individual advancement. Its aim is to 'analyse the transactions and dealings that take place between men who are combined in a political community', with a view to deduce from facts and consequences the true philosophy of com'merce'; taking that word in its widest sense, as comprising all the exchanges that take place in society, and the principles of fiscal legislation. As usually defined, political economy would seem
to be but a branch, though a most comprehensive one, of political science. The term is not, perhaps, very happily chosen, being apt to suggest vague and indistinct notions; yet, we do not perceive with Archbishop Whately, that, when resolved into its etymology, it implies any apparent contradiction. Economy, the management of a family, or the administration of a domestic establishment, preserves, in its application to the management of the concerns of a political family, the same general import: it is the management of the body politic. The name which the learned Prelate would have preferred as the most descriptive, ' and, on the whole, least objectionable, is that of Catallactics, or the Science of Exchanges.'
• Mæn might be defined, “ an animal that makes exchanges"; no other, even of those animals which in other points make the nearest approach to rationality, having, to all appearance, the least notion of bartering, or in any way exchanging one thing for another. And it is in this point of view alone that Man is contemplated by Political Economy. This view does not essentially differ from that of A. Smith; since, in this science, the term wealth is limited to exchangeable commodities; and it treats of them so far forth only as they are, or are designed to be, the subjects of exchange. But for this very reason, it is, perhaps, more convenient to describe Political Economy as the science of Exchanges, rather than as the science of national Wealth.'
pp. 6, 7. The proposed definition of Man, is about as good as the ancient one of a biped without feathers; but we have met with well authenticated anecdotes of dogs and elephants who have acquired very tolerable notions of barter. One accomplished individual of the canine species was in the practice of repairing with his halfpenny to a purveyor of food, and paying the coin in exchange for his money's worth. We have a more substantial objection, however, against Dr. Whately's definition of man, and of the science in question. The laws of population have hitherto been considered as strictly belonging to political economy. Now, in treating of this subject, man must, we presume, be regarded in other points of view than that of an animal that makes exchanges '; for, although the subject of population is contemplated by political economists chiefly in its bearing upon the value of labour, which may be termed an exchangeable commodity, it is impossible to treat satisfactorily of such a subject, without taking into consideration man's moral nature, as well as his physical attributes, and a variety of facts which cannot class under Catallactics.
The truth is, that political economy has come to mean much the same as political science, properly so called,--the science or art of governing a commonwealth; for it undertakes to ascertain the principles by which all laws affecting trade, agriculture, and manufacturing industry, all fiscal enactments, revenue laws, po
lice laws, and even colonial affairs should be regulated. In short, it embraces almost every subject of legislation, except juridical science and what may be termed political ethics, of which law is as it were the logic. Now why not call the study at once by the simple, intelligible name of political science; retaining the word economy, if it be wanted, as a subordinate designation, in reference to what assuredly forms but a branch of such inquiries,—the sources and distribution of wealth? To say that political economists treat only of the subject of national wealth, is not correct in point of fact, as may be seen by turning to almost any work which embraces the general range of inquiry. So long as they confine themselves to such topics as exchanges, currency, value, taxation, their inquiries and discussions are properly described as strictly economical, relating only to the means by which wealth may be preserved or increased. But how can we treat of labour, apart from the rights of industry', the duties arising out of the social relations, the condition and claims of the labourer ? How treat of national wealth, apart from the collateral poverty, or without sliding out of mercantile into statistical inquiries ? Dr. Whately expresses his wish, that the complaint sometimes urged against Political Economists, of confining • themselves to the consideration of wealth', were better founded than it is; that they would avoid digressing into questions appertaining to any other branch of politics. To inquire how far
wealth is desirable, is to go out of the writer's proper province. True, if the inquiry be as to the desirableness of wealth to the individual in a moral point of view. Not so, (as we shall see hereafter the Author himself admits,) if it relate to the desirableness of national wealth under certain circumstances and conditions, affecting or endangering the constitution of society, and the permanency of those institutions by which wealth itself is protected. The effect of narrowing the object of inquiries essentially involving such considerations, is only to ensure their being fundamentally erroneous.
Nothing has tended so much to retard the progress of political science, as the substitution of abstract inquiries for sound deduction from the wide range of connected and mutually illustrative facts. Hence, some of the most brilliant treatises of modern Economists have been among the least satisfactory; often displaying much acute reasoning built upon some specious fallacy. One of the greatest of fallacies is an abstract proposition involving imaginary conditions, to which nothing actual really corresponds, and which, unlike a general fact, (which is true on the average, and therefore in a majority of particular facts,) is true of no particular case, is never realised. Of this description is the axiom, that the rate of wages must depend on the proportion ' which the whole capital bears to the whole amount of the la. bouring population', - a position which may be styled an imaginary truth, but is a practical fallacy: that is, it is never true in fact, because there are actual circumstances overlooked in the proposition, which destroy the alleged dependence of the rate of wages upon the aggregate of capital. No one could have deduced such an axiom from facts, for facts supply a palpable refutation of the statement. The total amount of wages received by the aggregate labouring population cannot exceed, it is true, that of the whole capital; but this arithmetical truism throws no light upon the causes which determine the rate of wages.
We have referred to this, simply as an instance of a class of errors which have tended not a little to throw obscurity and uncertainty over a science which requires to be built upon the most cautious induction from fact and experience. Abstract reasoning, the semblance of mathematical demonstration, is wholly out of place in such inquiries ; as much so as in ethical or physiological inquiries, or in purely historical investigation. The only truths in Political economy are facts; which à priori truths seldom are. That two and two make four, though mathematically certain, does not, it has been remarked, hold good in the arithmetic of • taxation'. And among the vulgar errors which long passed for indisputable maxims of political science, are many such apparent truisms. Dr. Cooper, in shewing the importance of the study, has exhibited a formidable catalogue of false maxims' heretofore, ' and even at this day, adopted as true, and acted on as benefi'cial.' A few of the propositions which, as being contrary to his opinions, he would explode as 'dangerous fallacies ', we should take the liberty of retaining, as deserving of less summary treatment; but the greater part of them, we can have no hesitation in concurring with this stern Republican in denouncing as obsolete prejudices. We shall transcribe a few specimens, as serving to illustrate the sort of opinions which it is the object of political science to rectify.
That wealth consists in money or coin. "That what one nation gains by commerce or manufactures, another loses.
• That national superiority depends on successfully repressing the industry, and impoverishing the resources of other nations.
· That it is better to make at home every thing we want, rather than permit other nations to profit by selling to us.
• That national prosperity is to be judged of by the balance of trade, as represented by custom-house entries.
· That a country may be enriched by compelling the people to purchase during an indefinite length of time, inferior commodities at exorbitant prices.
• That population is always, and by all means, to be encouraged.
• That high taxes are not injurious, because they urge to great exertion; and when spent at home, they foster industry of all kinds.
· That national splendour is a sure sign of national wealth and national happiness.
• That the prosperity and increasing riches of a handful of manufacturers, is the same thing with national prosperity; and that the great mass of the people, the consumers, are as nothing in the scale.
That we should make laws to increase the wealth and influence of great capitalists, and to put more completely under their subjection the poor who work for them: that is, we ought so to frame our national system, as to make the rich richer, and the poor poorer.
Cooper, pp. 22–24. These and other similar maxims, although they may not all have been distinctly enunciated as axioms of political science, have been both urged in substance, and acted upon for ages, in every civilized country of Europe. If political economy be a new science, it is an old craft. There has always been afloat, abundance of unwritten theory respecting all the matters of trade, government, and national policy to which it relates ; and our new knowledge has been forced upon us by the fatal mistakes and misfortunes which have led to more accurate investigation. True science is but the register of observation.
It is a wise remark of Rousseau, cited in the invaluable little tract on the Rights of Industry, that it requires a great deal of * philosophy to observe what is seen every day.'
• To no branch of human knowledge can this remark be more fully applied, than to that which relates to the commonest things in the world; namely, the Wants of Man, and the Means of satisfying them. ... It is not more than a century ago, that even those who had “a great deal of philosophy" first began to apply themselves “to observe what is seen every day” exercising, in the course of human industry, the greatest influence on the condition and character of individuals and nations. The properties of light were ascertained by Sir Isaac Newton, long before men were agreed upon the circumstances which determine the production of a loaf of bread ; and the return of a comet after an interval of seventy-six years, was pretty accurately foretold by Dr. Halley, when legislators were in almost complete ignorance of the principle which regularly brought as many cabbages to Covent Garden as there were purchasers to demand them.
Rights of Industry, pp. 5, 6. But this principle, that supply will ultimately be regulated by the demand, which now ranks among the fundamental axioms of the science, is one which it would have been extremely difficult to arrive at, or to establish, by any à priori or abstract reasoning. Experience and observation have established the fact, which was constantly before the eyes of all who had any concern in such transactions ; but it is only of late years that Philosophy has learned to observe, instead of prescribing laws of her own de