Lapas attēli
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

on Political Economy to attribute the force of mathematical demonstration to its conclusions. The fashion just now amongst this class of inquirers is to designate their favourite study as 'Political Mathematics,' but it would obviously be just as reasonable to give the name of 'Ethical Mathematics' to the sister-science of morals. The rules of economical policy are to be ascertained only by studying the same variable course of human action, and with a reference to the same indefinite end, the happiness of the species, as the rules of morality. Far from partaking of the character of an exact science, like the mathematics, which deals in the qualities of abstract and imaginary entities, it has not even the fixity of any of the natural sciences to whose study the mathematics are usually applied; the facts of which it takes cognisance consisting only of such variable, vague, and uncertain essences, as compose human pains and pleasures, dislikes and preferences."

"" #

Thus it is seen that the author commences his investigation of the science with the acknowledged adoption of an indeterminate or doubtful principle; notwithstanding which, when dilating on conclusions, he sets them down as determinate, or positive; or, in other words, of two propositions, not being able to comprehend the lesser, he, nevertheless, professes to comprehend the greater, which includes the lesser. This is ascertained by an examination of the following passage::

"Nor are errors on this subject by any means confined to those who have pursued its study in their closets. On the contrary, the most pernicious fallacies, and absurd paradoxes, have been, and still are, generally current among those who pride themselves on being practical' men, and on despising theory. There are, indeed, few rasher theorists than those

[ocr errors]

* Principles of Political Economy, by Poulett Scrope, ch. i. p. 44.

*

who habitually exclaim against theory. The notions, for example, that a country is enriched by what is called a favourable balance of trade causing an influx of the precious metals; that the expenditure of taxes, in employing the people, compensates them for the burden of taxation; that improvements in machinery are injurious to the labouring class; that one individual, or one country, can only gain at the expense of another; that the outlay of an absentee's income abroad, or the introduction, for sale, in this country, of an article of foreign manufacture, abstracts an equal amount of employment from our native industry;- these, and many others that might be mentioned, ARE theoretical doctrines of the falsest and most injurious character, taken up by numerous persons, on what they consider the authority of common sense, but which, in truth, is merely crude induction from a very limited and imperfect experience.” *

Of the passage just quoted, I beg to call attention, in a more particular manner, to that part having reference to the outlay of an absentee's income, and the introduction for sale, into a country, of an article of foreign manufacture; for herein the author's conclusion does not partake, in the slightest degree, of the nature of doubt, but his opinion is of a character entirely positive. Thus it is, at the commencement of his investigation, when he could deal with the facts of the subject in so cursory a manner as to mould them accordantly with his own will; but I now request attention to another part of his work, where his course of argument is presented under a very altered aspect. Here the writer has arrived at that stage of his investigation where the facts necessarily coerce him into an abandonment of simple assertions, and conclusions unconnected with premises, and, in their places, to trace, with some degree of accuracy, the agency and con

Principles of Political Economy, by Poulett Scrope, ch. i. p. 37.

[merged small][ocr errors]

nection of cause and effect; and now it has to be remarked, that the facts of his proposition, though badly and confusedly worked together, yet lead him to the necessity of reversing his former conclusion. The passage is long, and, on account of ill-arrangement, and the commingling of heterogeneous matter, will prove tedious on perusal; notwithstanding which, it must be carefully separated, and minutely examined; and, this being done, it will be found to contain a complete summary, and, consequently, afford an additional proof of the weak, ill-constructed, and false line of argument by which it has been attempted to develop the truth of this great subject. The passage is as follows:

"The disputed question of the effects of absenteeism is connected with that on commercial restraints, and, therefore, comes properly into discussion in this place. The moral benefit which the residence of landlords upon their estates tends to confer upon society, has been conceded by those who at first denied that residence was any advantage whatever, and, consequently, that absenteeism could be any injury. The economical consequences of absenteeism, so far as relates to England, consist, it appears to us, simply in such as may flow from the landlord's income being expended in the employment of one branch of industry rather than another, or of the inhabitants of a town rather than of a country district. If an English landlord reside in London, and expend there his rental, drawn from Yorkshire, the tradesmen, &c., of London gain all that the tradesmen, &c., of Yorkshire lose. If he reside abroad, his rental must be remitted indirectly, in British manufactured commodities, and its expenditure, therefore, gives the same aggregate employment to British capital and labour as if he resided in the country, and spent it on British goods of a different kind. To put an extreme case: were even the whole rental of the kingdom spent abroad,

there would still be as much employment afforded to British industry as before. RUIN would no doubt fall upon the tradesmen of London, of our watering places, and MANY country towns and villages; but Manchester and Sheffield, Leeds and Liverpool, would gain in exact proportion to the loss sustained by other places. The rental could not be remitted, except in the form of British manufactures, fabricated at some of these places. It is not meant to deny that great injury would not result from the absenteeism of all our landed proprietors; but the injury would be of a moral and social rather than an economical nature.

"The case of Ireland, however, differs from that of Britain, in this remarkable point, that, while the latter exports solely manufactures, the exports of Ireland consist solely of food,— corn, butter, pork, beef, &c. In her case, therefore, that portion of the raw produce of the soil which accrues to the landlord as rent, will, if he is an absentee, be directly exported, as the only means of remitting his rent, instead of being consumed by manufacturers at home, while working up goods for exportation, as in England. The English absentee landlord may be considered as feeding and employing, with the surplus produce of his estate, that portion of our manufacturing population which is engaged in fabricating the goods that are sent abroad to pay his rent. The Irish absentee, on the contrary, can only have his rent remitted in the shape of food there is no secondary intervening process whatever; and the more food is in this way sent out of the country, the less of course remains behind to support and give employment to its inhabitants. If these were all fully fed and employed, no harm would result from the exportation of food, as is the case, for example, with some parts of North America. But so long as the people of any country are, as in Ireland, but halfemployed, and half-fed-so long, to export food from thence,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

will be to take away the means existing in the country for setting them to work, and improving their condition. Should the Irish absentee landlord return to reside at home, a considerable portion of the food now exported to pay his rent would be transferred by him to Irish tradesmen, artisans, and labourers, whom he could not avoid employing to satisfy a variety of wants. Ireland would profit, pro tanto, by the additional employment and subsistence afforded to her inhabitants. As it is, she loses, by the absence of her landlords, exactly what she would gain by their return.”*

Although I feel called upon to remark generally upon the absence of coherency, and also upon the incorrectness with which the propositions contained in the foregoing passages are put together, and to invite attention to the discrepancy that exists between the line of argument which it contains, and that previously adduced from the earlier part of the same work; yet I have to invite attention more especially to that part of the paragraph near the end, commencing with the words, "Should the Irish absentee landlord return to reside at home," &c. because it will be found that in this passage there is a reconstruction of the identical proposition of the Two sources of production as laid down by Adam Smith and M. Say, only the conclusion is substantiated by means of a backward process of inference. And here it is interesting to note the strong agency of facts in urging on a recognition of truth; for, in the instance now under notice this is accomplished, even though the mind of the writer has become involved in a condition so perplexed and bewildered by the previous advocacy of an opposite line of argument, that he does not perceive the sequences issuing out of the proposition he has been under the necessity of constructing; hence, no material change in his general con

* Principles of Political Economy, by Poulett Scrope, ch. xv. p. 303, et seq.

« iepriekšējāTurpināt »