Ruskins Critique of Classical Political Economy.
& Ghandis Translation.
This essay is widely published on the Web but I am reproducing both it and Ghandis Translation here
The Economic Reforms needed today are similar in root to the pivotal moments of History from the Fall of Rome through to the Levellers in the English Civil War, The American Revolution, The Great Depression, The Post 1st World War and Second World War, Post the 1974 Oil Crisis and Vietnam War and the , Monetarist Dogma and Milton Freidmans Chicago School adopted so damagingly and devastatingly by Reagan and Thatcher from 1979 onwards.
What is striking is the level of intellectual vigour with which the present hegemony is challenged in the poplar and main stream press would suggest a huge decline in the intellectual effectiveness of those opposed to the hegemony one would even question whether there is any intellectual opposition not so much polarisation but homogenisation of the real politick on the dawning of the age of Aquarius.
The internet happily informs us if we are persistent is a considerable body of thought and opinion not in the main stream narrative that shows the sham of the post 9/11 War on terrorism and Climate change / Globalisation consensus to be a huge sham and confidence trick.
In a busy world I am reminded of the old saying about Busy Fools at least I strain to recall it and call again on the wonders of Google to assist my often feeble powers of recall.
And the fourth class: busy fool. Busy fool is very dangerous. They are so busy, but because they are fools, therefore they are creating problems.
Lecture on SB 1.16.23 -- Hawaii, January 19, 1974:
We are all born foolish. So if we are not properly educated, then we remain fools and rascals, and the activities of fools and rascals, this is simply waste of time. Because... What is called? Busy rascals, busy rascal. If a rascal is busy, that means he's simply spoiling the energy. Just like monkey. Monkey is very busy. Of course, according to Mr. Darwin, they are coming from monkey. So monkey's business is simply waste of time. He's very busy. You'll find always busy. So the busy fool is dangerous. There are four classes of men: lazy intelligent, busy intelligent, lazy fool and busy fool. (laughter) So first-class man is lazy intelligent. Just like you'll see the high-court judges. They're very lazy and most intelligent. That is first-class man. They are doing everything very soberly. And the next class: busy intelligent. Intelligence should be used very soberly. And the third class: lazy fool-lazy, at the same time, fool. And the fourth class: busy fool. Busy fool is very dangerous. So all these people, they're busy. Even in this country, everywhere, all over the world, not this country or that country. They have discovered this horseless carriage—very busy. "Ons, ons," (imitates cars' noise) this way this way, this way. But actually, they are not intelligent. Busy fool. Therefore they are creating problems after problems. That's a fact. They are so busy, but because they are fools, therefore they are creating problems. This is fact. Even the animals, lower than the human beings, they have no problem.
A busy fool is fitter to be shut up than a downright madman. - George Lord Halifax
My point is we are all occupied with so much of the mundane so much of it imposed from above there is barely time to enjoy any time with our families and each other in relaxation let alone the luxury to think and reflect to step back and enjoy the over view, the Vista to reflect on the scent of the roses all around. Accident or design?
And now well Our man Ruskin.
Unto This Last
Essays from the Cornhill Magazine 1860
reprinted as Unto This Last in 1862
The Roots of Honour
Among the delusions which at different periods have possessed
themselves of the minds of large masses of the human race,
perhaps the most curious -- certainly the least creditable -- is
the modern soi-disant science of political economy, based on the
idea that an advantageous code of social action may be determined
irrespectively of the influence of social affection.
Of course, as in the instances of alchemy, astrology,
witchcraft, and other such popular creeds, political economy, has
a plausible idea at the root of it. "The social affections," says
the economist, "are accidental and disturbing elements in human
nature; but avarice and the desire of progress are constant
elements. Let us eliminate the inconstants, and, considering the
human being merely as a covetous machine, examine by what laws of
labour, purchase, and sale, the greatest accumulative result in
wealth is obtainable. Those laws once determined, it will be for
each individual afterwards to introduce as much of the disturbing
affectionate element as he chooses, and to determine for himself
the result on the new conditions supposed."
This would be a perfectly logical and successful method of
analysis, if the accidentals afterwards to be introduced were of
the same nature as the powers first examined. Supposing a body in
motion to be influenced by constant and inconstant forces, it is
usually the simplest way of examining its course to trace it
first under the persistent conditions, and afterwards introduce
the causes of variation. But the disturbing elements in the
social problem are not of the same nature as the constant ones:
they alter the essence of the creature under examination the
moment they are added; they operate, not mathematically, but
chemically, introducing conditions which render all our previous
knowledge unavailable. We made learned experiments upon pure
nitrogen, and have convinced ourselves that it is a very
manageable gas: but, behold! the thing which we have practically
to deal with is its chloride; and this, the moment we touch it on
our established principles, sends us and or apparatus through the
Observe, I neither impugn nor doubt the conclusion of the
science if its terms are accepted. I am simply uninterested in
then, as I should be in those of a science of gymnastics which
assumed that men had no skeletons. It might be shown, on that
supposition, that it would be advantageous to roll the students
up into pellets, flatten them into cakes, or stretch them into
cables; and that when these results were effected, the
re-insertion of the skeleton would be attended with various
inconveniences to their constitution. The reasoning might be
admirable, the conclusions true, and the science deficient only
in applicability. Modern political economy stands on a precisely
similar basis. Assuming, not that the human being has no
skeleton, but that it is all skeleton, it founds an ossifiant
theory of progress on this negation of a soul; and having shown
the utmost that may be made of bones, and constructed a number of
interesting geometrical figures with death's-head and humeri,
successfully proves the inconvenience of the reappearance of a
soul among these corpuscular structures. I do not deny the truth
of this theory: I simply deny its applicability to the present
phase of the world.
This inapplicability has been curiously manifested during the
embarrassment caused by the late strikes of our workmen. Here
occurs one of the simplest cases, in a pertinent and positive
form, of the first vital problem which political economy has to
deal with (the relation between employer and employed); and, at a
severe crisis, when lives in multitudes and wealth in masses are
at stake, the political economists are helpless -- practically
mute: no demonstrable solution of the difficulty can be given by
them, such as may convince or calm the opposing parties.
Obstinately the masters take one view of the matter. obstinately
the operatives another; and no political science can set them at
It would be strange if it could, it being not by "science" of
any kind that men were ever intended to be set at one. Disputant
after disputant vainly strives to show that the interests of the
masters are, or are not, antagonistic to those of the men: none
of the pleaders ever seeming to remember that it does not
absolutely or always follow that the persons must he antagonistic
because their interests are. If there is only a crust of bread in
the house, and mother and children are starving, their interests
are not the same. If the mother eats it, the children want it; if
the children eat it, the mother must go hungry to her work. yet
it does not necessarily follow that there will be "antagonism"
between them, that they will fight for the crust, and that the
mother, being strongest, will get it, and eat it. Neither, in any
other case, whatever the relations of the persons may be, can it
be assumed for certain that, because their interests are diverse,
they must necessarily regard each other with hostility, and use
violence or cunning to obtain the advantage.
Even if this were so, and it were as just as it is convenient
to consider men as actuated by no other moral influences than
those which affect rats or swine, the logical conditions of the
question are still indeterminable. It can never be shown
generally either that the interests of master and labourer are
alike, or that they are opposed; for, according to circumstances,
they may be either. It is, indeed, always the interest of both
that the work should be rightly done, and a just price obtained
for it; but, in the division of profits, the gain of the one may
or may not be the loss of the other. It is not the master's
interest to pay wages so low as to leave the men sickly and
depressed, nor the workman's interest to be paid high wages if
the smallness of the master's profit hinders him from enlarging
his business, or conducting it in a safe and liberal way. A
stoker ought not to desire high pay if the company is too poor to
keep the engine-wheels in repair.
And the varieties of circumstances which influence these
reciprocal interests are so endless, that all endeavour to deduce
rules of action from balance of expediency is in vain. And it is
meant to be in vain. For no human actions ever were intended by
the maker of men to be guided by balances of expediency, but by
balances of justice. He has therefore rendered all endeavours to
determine expediency futile for evermore. No man ever knew, or
can know, what will be the ultimate result to himself, or to
others, of any given line of conduct. But every man may know, and
most of us do know, what is a just and unjust act. And all of us
may know also, that the consequences of justice will be
ultimately the best possible, both to others and ourselves,
though we can neither say what is best, or how it is likely to
come to pass.
I have said balances of justice, meaning, in the term
justice, to include affection, -- such affection as one man owes
to another. All right relations between master and operative, and
all their best interests, ultimately depend on these.
We shall find the best and simplest illustration of the
relations of master and operative in the position of domestic
We will suppose that the master of a household desires only
to get as much work out of his servants as he can, at the rate of
wages he gives. He never allows them to be idle; feeds them as
poorly and lodges them as ill as they will endure, and in all
things pushes his requirements to the exact point beyond which he
cannot go without forcing the servant to leave him. In doing
this, there is no violation on his part of what is commonly
called "justice." He agrees with the domestic for his whole time
ad service, and takes them; -- the limits of hardship in
treatment being fixed by the practice of other masters in his
neighbourhood; that is to say, by the current rate of wages for
domestic labour. If the servant can get a better place, he is
free to take one, and the master can only tell what is the real
market value of his labour, by requiring as much as he will give.
This is the politico-economical view of the case, according
to the doctors of that science; who assert that by this procedure
the greatest average of work will be obtained from the servant,
and therefore the greatest benefit to the community, and through
the community, by reversion, to the servant himself.
That, however, is not so. It would be so if the servant were
an engine of which the motive power was steam, magnetism,
gravitation, or any other agent of calculable force. But he
being, on the contrary, an engine whose motive power is a Soul,
the force of this very peculiar agent, as an unknown quantity,
enters into all the political economist's equations, without his
knowledge, and falsifies every one of their results. The largest
quantity of work will not be done by this curious engine for pay,
or under pressure, or by help of any kind of fuel which may be
supplied by the caldron. It will be done only when the motive
force, that is to say, the will or spirit of the creature, is
brought to its greatest strength by its own proper fuel: namely,
by the affections.
It may indeed happen, and does happen often, that if the
master is a man of sense ad energy, a large quantity of material
work may be done under mechanical pressure, enforced by strong
will and guided by wise method; also it may happen, and does
happen often, that if the master is indolent and weak (however
good-natured), a very small quantity of work, and that bad, may
be produced by the servant's undirected strength, and
contemptuous gratitude. But the universal law of the matter is
that, assuming any given quantity of energy and sense in master
and servant, the greatest material result obtainable by them will
be, not through antagonism to each other, but through affection
for each other; and that if the master, instead of endeavouring
to get as much work as possible from the servant, seeks rather to
render his appointed and necessary work beneficial to him, and to
forward his interests in all just and wholesome ways, the real
amount of work ultimately done, or of good rendered, by the
person so cared for, will indeed be the greatest possible.
Observe, I say, "of good rendered," for a servant's work is
not necessarily or always the best thing he can give his master.
But good of all kinds, whether in material service, in protective
watchfulness of his master's interest and credit, or in joyful
readiness to seize unexpected and irregular occasions of help.
Nor is this one whit less generally true because indulgence
will be frequently abused, and kindness met with ingratitude. For
the servant who, gently treated, is ungrateful, treated ungently,
will be revengeful; and the man who is dishonest to a liberal
master will be injurious to an unjust one.
In any case, and with any person, this unselfish treatment
will produce the most effective return. Observe, I am here
considering the affections wholly as a motive power; not at all
as things in themselves desirable or noble, or in any other way
abstractedly good. I look at them simply as an anomalous force,
rendering every one of the ordinary political economist's
calculations nugatory; while, even if he desired to introduce
this new element into his estimates, he has no power of dealing
with it; for the affections only become a true motive power when
they ignore every other motive and condition of political
economy. Treat the servant kindly, with the idea of turning his
gratitude to account, and you will get, as you deserve, no
gratitude, nor any value for your kindness; but treat him kindly
without any economical purpose, and all economical purposes will
be answered; in this, as in all other matters, whosoever will
save his life shall lose it, whoso loses it shall find it.(1*)
The next clearest and simplest example of relation between
master and operative is that which exists between the commander
of a regiment and his men.
Supposing the officer only desires to apply the rules of
discipline so as, with least trouble to himself, to make the
regiment most effective, he will not be able, by any rules or
administration of rules, on this selfish principle, to develop
the full strength of his subordinates. If a man of sense and
firmness, he may, as in the former instance, produce a better
result than would be obtained by the irregular kindness of a weak
officer; but let the sense and firmness be the same in both
cases, and assuredly the officer who has the most direct personal
relations with his men, the most care for their interests, and
the most value for their lives, will develop their effective
strength, through their affection for his own person, and trust
in his character, to a degree wholly unattainable by other means.
This law applies still more stringently as the numbers concerned
are larger: a charge may often be successful, though the men
dislike their officers; a battle has rarely been won, unless they
loved their general.
Passing from these simple examples to the more complicated
relations existing between a manufacturer and his workmen, we are
met first by certain curious difficulties, resulting, apparently,
from a harder and colder state of moral elements. It is easy to
imagine an enthusiastic affection existing among soldiers for the
colonel. Not so easy to imagine an enthusiastic affection among
cotton-spinners for the proprietor of the mill. A body of men
associated for purposes of robbery (as a Highland clan in ancient
times) shall be animated by perfect affection, and every member
of it be ready to lay down his life for the life of his chief.
But a band of men associated for purposes of legal production and
accumulation is usually animated, it appears, by no such
emotions, and none of them are in any wise willing to give his
life for the life of his chief. Not only are we met by this
apparent anomaly, in moral matters, but by others connected with
it, in administration of system. For a servant or a soldier is
engaged at a definite rate of wages, for a definite period; but a
workman at a rate of wages variable according to the demand for
labour, and with the risk of being at any time thrown out of his
situation by chances of trade. Now, as, under these
contingencies, no action of the affections can take place, but
only an explosive action of disaffections, two points offer
themselves for consideration in the matter.
The first -- How far the rate of wages may be so regulated as
not to vary with the demand for labour.
The second -- How far it is possible that bodies of workmen
may be engaged and maintained at such fixed rate of wages
(whatever the state of trade may be), without enlarging or
diminishing their number, so as to give them permanent interest
in the establishment with which they are connected, like that of
the domestic servants in an old family, or an esprit de corps,
like that of the soldiers in a crack regiment.
The first question is, I say, how far it may be possible to
fix the rate of wages, irrespectively of the demand for labour.
Perhaps one of the most curious facts in the history of human
error is the denial by the common political economist of the
possibility of thus regulating wages; while, for all the
important, and much of the unimportant, labour, on the earth,
wages are already so regulated.
We do not sell our prime-ministership by Dutch auction; nor,
on the decease of a bishop, whatever may be the general
advantages of simony, do we (yet) offer his diocese to the
clergyman who will take the episcopacy at the lowest contract. We
(with exquisite sagacity of political economy!) do indeed sell
commissions; but not openly, generalships: sick, we do not
inquire for a physician who takes less than a guinea; litigious,
we never think of reducing six-and-eight-pence to
four-and-sixpence; caught in a shower, we do not canvass the
cabmen, to find one who values his driving at less than sixpence
It is true that in all these cases there is, and in every
conceivable case there must be, ultimate reference to the
presumed difficulty of the work, or number of candidates for the
office. If it were thought that the labour necessary to make a
good physician would be gone through by a sufficient number of
students with the prospect of only half-guinea fees, public
consent would soon withdraw the unnecessary half-guinea. In this
ultimate sense, the price of labour is indeed always regulated by
the demand for it; but, so far as the practical and immediate
administration of the matter is regarded, the best labour always
has been, and is, as all labour ought to be, paid by an
"What!" the reader perhaps answers amazedly: "pay good and
bad workmen alike?"
Certainly. The difference between one prelate's sermons and
his successor's -- or between one physician's opinion and
another's -- is far greater, as respects the qualities of mind
involved, and far more important in result to you personally,
than the difference between good and bad laying of bricks (though
that is greater than most people suppose). Yet you pay with equal
fee, contentedly, the good and bad workmen upon your soul, and
the good and bad workmen upon your body; much more may you pay,
contentedly, with equal fees, the good and bad workmen upon your
"Nay, but I choose my physician and (?) my clergyman, thus
indicating my sense of the quality of their work." By all means,
also, choose your bricklayer; that is the proper reward of the
good workman, to be "chosen." The natural and right system
respecting all labour is, that it should be paid at a fixed rate,
but the good workman employed, and the bad workman unemployed.
The false, unnatural, and destructive system is when the bad
workman is allowed to offer his work at half-price, and either
take the place of the good, or force him by his competition to
work for an inadequate sum.
This equality of wages, then, being the first object toward
which we have to discover the directest available road; the
second is, as above stated, that of maintaining constant numbers
of workmen in employment, whatever may be the accidental demand
for the article they produce.
I believe the sudden and extensive inequalities of demand,
which necessarily arise in the mercantile operations of an active
nation, constitute the only essential difficulty which has to be
overcome in a just organization of labour. The subject opens into
too many branches to admit of being investigated in a paper of
this kind; but the following general facts bearing on it may be
The wages which enable any workman to live are necessarily
higher, if his work is liable to intermission, than if it is
assured and continuous; and however severe the struggle for work
may become, the general law will always hold, that men must get
more daily pay if, on the average, they can only calculate on
work three days a week than they would require if they were sure
of work six days a week. Supposing that a man cannot live on less
than a shilling a day, his seven shillings he must get, either
for three days' violent work, or six days' deliberate work. The
tendency of all modern mercantile operations is to throw both
wages and trade into the form of a lottery, and to make the
workman's pay depend on intermittent exertion, and the
principal's profit on dexterously used chance.
In what partial degree, I repeat, this may be necessary in
consequence of the activities of modern trade, I do not here
investigate; contenting myself with the fact, that in its
fatalest aspects it is assuredly unnecessary, and results merely
from love of gambling on the part of the masters, and from
ignorance and sensuality in the men. The masters cannot bear to
let any opportunity of gain escape them, and frantically rush at
every gap and breach in the walls of Fortune, raging to be rich,
and affronting, with impatient covetousness, every risk of ruin,
while the men prefer three days of violent labour, and three days
of drunkenness, to six days of moderate work and wise rest. There
is no way in which a principal, who really desires to help his
workmen, may do it more effectually than by checking these
disorderly habits both in himself and them; keeping his own
business operations on a scale which will enable him to pursue
them securely, not yielding to temptations of precarious gain;
and, at the same time, leading his workmen into regular habits of
labour and life, either by inducing them rather to take low wages
in the form of a fixed salary, than high wages, subject to the
chance of their being thrown out of work; or, if this be
impossible, by discouraging the system of violent exertion for
nominally high day wages, and leading the men to take lower pay
for more regular labour.
In effecting any radical changes of this kind, doubtless
there would be great inconvenience and loss incurred by all the
originators of movement. That which can be done with perfect
convenience and without loss, is not always the thing that most
needs to be done, or which we are most imperatively required to
I have already alluded to the difference hitherto existing
between regiments of men associated for purposes of violence, and
for purposes of manufacture; in that the former appear capable of
self-sacrifice -- the latter, not; which singular fact is the
real reason of the general lowness of estimate in which the
profession of commerce is held, as compared with that of arms.
Philosophically, it does not, at first sight, appear reasonable
(many writers have endeavoured to prove it unreasonable) that a
peaceable and rational person, whose trade is buying and selling,
should be held in less honour than an unpeaceable and often
irrational person, whose trade is slaying. Nevertheless, the
consent of mankind has always, in spite of the philosophers,
given precedence to the soldier.
And this is right.
For the soldier's trade, verily and essentially, is not
slaying, but being slain. This, without well knowing its own
meaning, the world honours it for. A bravo's trade is slaying;
but the world has never respected bravos more than merchants: the
reason it honours the soldier is, because he holds his life at
the service of the State. Reckless he may be -- fond of pleasure
or of adventure-all kinds of bye-motives and mean impulses may
have determined the choice of his profession, and may affect (to
all appearance exclusively) his daily conduct in it; but our
estimate of him is based on this ultimate fact -- of which we are
well assured -- that put him in a fortress breach, with all the
pleasures of the world behind him, and only death and his duty in
front of him, he will keep his face to the front; and he knows
that his choice may be put to him at any moment -- and has
beforehand taken his part -- virtually takes such part
continually -- does, in reality, die daily.
Not less is the respect we pay to the lawyer and physician,
founded ultimately on their self-sacrifice. Whatever the learning
or acuteness of a great lawyer, our chief respect for him depends
on our belief that, set in a judge's seat, he will strive to
judge justly, come of it what may. Could we suppose that he would
take bribes, and use his acuteness and legal knowledge to give
plausibility to iniquitous decisions, no degree of intellect
would win for him our respect. Nothing will win it, short of our
tacit conviction, that in all important acts of his life justice
is first with him; his own interest, second.
In the case of a physician, the ground of the honour we
render him is clearer still. Whatever his science, we would
shrink from him in horror if we found him regard his patients
merely as subjects to experiment upon; much more, if we found
that, receiving bribes from persons interested in their deaths,
he was using his best skill to give poison in the mask of
Finally, the principle holds with utmost clearness as it
respects clergymen. No goodness of disposition will excuse want
of science in a physician, or of shrewdness in an advocate; but a
clergyman, even though his power of intellect be small, is
respected on the presumed ground of his unselfishness and
Now, there can be no question but that the tact, foresight,
decision, and other mental powers, required for the successful
management of a large mercantile concern, if not such as could be
compared with those of a great lawyer, general, or divine, would
at least match the general conditions of mind required in the
subordinate officers of a ship, or of a regiment, or in the
curate of a country parish. If, therefore, all the efficient
members of the so-called liberal professions are still, somehow,
in public estimate of honour, preferred before the head of a
commercial firm, the reason must lie deeper than in the
measurement of their several powers of mind.
And the essential reason for such preference will he found to
lie in the fact that the merchant is presumed to act always
selfishly. His work may be very necessary to the community. but
the motive of it is understood to be wholly personal. The
merchant's first object in all his dealings must be (the public
believe) to get as much for himself, and leave as little to his
neighbour (or customer) as possible. Enforcing this upon him, by
political statute, as the necessary principle of his action;
recommending it to him on all occasions, and themselves
reciprocally adopting it, proclaiming vociferously, for law of
the universe, that a buyer's function is to cheapen, and a
seller's to cheat, -- the public, nevertheless, involuntarily
condemn the man of commerce for his compliance with their own
statement, and stamp him for ever as belonging to an inferior
grade of human personality.
This they will find, eventually, they must give up doing.
They must not cease to condemn selfishness; but they will have to
discover a kind of commerce which is not exclusively selfish. Or,
rather, they will have to discover that there never was, or can
be, any other kind of commerce; that this which they have called
commerce was not commerce at all, but cozening; and that a true
merchant differs as much from a merchant according to laws of
modern political economy, as the hero of the Excursion from
Autolycus. They will find that commerce is an occupation which
gentlemen will every day see more need to engage in, rather than
in the businesses of talking to men, or slaying them; that, in
true commerce, as in true preaching, or true fighting, it is
necessary to admit the idea of occasional voluntary loss; -- that
sixpences have to be lost, as well as lives, under a sense of
duty. that the market may have its martyrdoms as well as the
pulpit; and trade its heroisms as well as war.
May have -- in the final issue, must have-and only has not
had yet, because men of heroic temper have always been misguided
in their youth into other fields; not recognising what is in our
days, perhaps, the most important of all fields; so that, while
many a jealous person loses his life in trying to teach the form
of a gospel, very few will lose a hundred pounds in showing the
practice of one.
The fact is, that people never have had clearly explained to
them the true functions of a merchant with respect to other
people. I should like the reader to be very clear about this.
Five great intellectual professions, relating to daily
necessities of life, have hitherto existed -- three exist
necessarily, in every civilised nation:
The Soldier's profession is to defend it.
The Pastor's to teach it.
The Physician's to keep it in health.
The lawyer's to enforce justice in it.
The Merchant's to provide for it.
And the duty of all these men is, on due occasion, to die for it.
"On due occasion," namely: -
The Soldier, rather than leave his post in battle.
The Physician, rather than leave his post in plague.
The Pastor, rather than teach Falsehood.
The lawyer, rather than countenance Injustice.
The Merchant-what is his "due occasion" of death?
It is the main question for the merchant, as for all of us.
For, truly, the man who does not know when to die, does not know
how to live.
Observe, the merchant's function (or manufacturer's, for in
the broad sense in which it is here used the word must be
understood to include both) is to provide for the nation. It is
no more his function to get profit for himself out of that
provision than it is a clergyman's function to get his stipend.
This stipend is a due and necessary adjunct, but not the object
of his life, if he be a true clergyman, any more than his fee (or
honorarium) is the object of life to a true physician. Neither is
his fee the object of life to a true merchant. All three, if true
men, have a work to be done irrespective of fee -- to be done
even at any cost, or for quite the contrary of fee; the pastor's
function being to teach, the physician's to heal, and the
merchant's, as I have said, to provide. That is to say, he has to
understand to their very root the qualities of the thing he deals
in, and the means of obtaining or producing it; and he has to
apply all his sagacity and energy to the producing or obtaining
it in perfect state, and distributing it at the cheapest possible
price where it is most needed.
And because the production or obtaining of any commodity
involves necessarily the agency of many lives and hands, the
merchant becomes in the course of his business the master and
governor of large masses of men in a more direct, though less
confessed way, than a military officer or pastor; so that on him
falls, in great part, the responsibility for the kind of life
they lead: and it becomes his duty, not only to be always
considering how to produce what he sells, in the purest and
cheapest forms, but how to make the various employments involved
in the production, or transference of it, most beneficial to the
And as into these two functions, requiring for their right
exercise the highest intelligence, as well as patience, kindness,
and tact, the merchant is bound to put all his energy, so for
their just discharge he is bound, as soldier or physician is
bound, to give up, if need be, his life, in such way as it may be
demanded of him. Two main points he has in his providing function
to maintain: first, his engagements (faithfulness to engagements
being the real root of all possibilities, in commerce); and,
secondly, the perfectness and purity of the thing provided; so
that, rather than fail in any engagement, or consent to any
deterioration, adulteration, or unjust and exorbitant price of
that which he provides, he is bound to meet fearlessly any form
of distress, poverty, or labour, which may, through maintenance
of these points, come upon him.
Again: in his office as governor of the men employed by him,
the merchant or manufacturer is invested with a distinctly
paternal authority and responsibility. In most cases, a youth
entering a commercial establishment is withdrawn altogether from
home influence; his master must become his father, else he has,
for practical and constant help, no father at hand: in all cases
the master's authority, together with the general tone and
atmosphere of his business, and the character of the men with
whom the youth is compelled in the course of it to associate,
have more immediate and pressing weight than the home influence,
and will usually neutralize it either for good or evil; so that
the only means which the master has of doing justice to the men
employed by him is to ask himself sternly whether he is dealing
with such subordinate as he would with his own son, if compelled
by circumstances to take such a position.
Supposing the captain of a frigate saw it right, or were by
any chance obliged, to place his own son in the position of a
common sailor: as he would then treat his son, he is bound always
to treat every one of the men under him. So, also, supposing the
master of a manufactory saw it right, or were by any chance
obliged, to place his own son in the position of an ordinary
workman; as he would then treat his son, he is bound always to
treat every one of his men. This is the only effective, true, or
practical Rule which can be given on this point of political
And as the captain of a ship is bound to be the last man to
leave his ship in case of wreck, and to share his last crust with
the sailors in case of famine, so the manufacturer, in any
commercial crisis or distress, is bound to take the suffering of
it with his men, and even to take more of it for himself than he
allows his men to feel; as a father would in a famine, shipwreck,
or battle, sacrifice himself for his son.
All which sounds very strange: the only real strangeness in
the matter being, nevertheless, that it should so sound. For all
this is true, and that not partially nor theoretically, but
everlastingly and practically: all other doctrine than this
respecting matters political being false in premises, absurd in
deduction, and impossible in practice, consistently with any
progressive state of national life; all the life which we now
possess as a nation showing itself in the resolute denial and
scorn, by a few strong minds and faithful hearts, of the economic
principles taught to our multitudes, which principles, so far as
accepted, lead straight to national destruction. Respecting the
modes and forms of destruction to which they lead, and, on the
other hand, respecting the farther practical working of true
polity, I hope to reason farther in a following paper.
The Veins of Wealth
The answer which would be made by any ordinary political
economist to the statements contained in the preceding paper, is
in few words as follows:
"It is indeed true that certain advantages of a general
nature may be obtained by the development of social affections.
But political economists never professed, nor profess, to take
advantages of a general nature into consideration. Our science is
simply the science of getting rich. So far from being a
fallacious or visionary one, it is found by experience to be
practically effective. Persons who follow its precepts do
actually become rich, and persons who disobey them become poor.
Every capitalist of Europe has acquired his fortune by following
the known laws of our science, and increases his capital daily by
an adherence to them. It is vain to bring forward tricks of
logic, against the force of accomplished facts. Every man of
business knows by experience how money is made, and how it is
Pardon me. Men of business do indeed know how they themselves
made their money, or how, on occasion, they lost it. Playing a
long-practised game, they are familiar with the chances of its
cards, and can rightly explain their losses and gains. But they
neither know who keeps the bank of the gambling-house, nor what
other games may be played with the same cards, nor what other
losses and gains, far away among the dark streets, are
essentially, though invisibly, dependent on theirs in the lighted
rooms. They have learned a few, and only a few, of the laws of
mercantile economy; but not one of those of political economy.
Primarily, which is very notable and curious, I observe that
men of business rarely know the meaning of the word "rich." At
least, if they know, they do not in their reasonings allow for
the fact, that it is a relative word, implying its opposite
"poor" as positively as the word "north" implies its opposite
"south." Men nearly always speak and write as if riches were
absolute, and it were possible, by following certain scientific
precepts, for everybody to be rich. Whereas riches are a power
like that of electricity, acting only through inequalities or
negations of itself. The force of the guinea you have in your
pocket depends wholly on the default of a guinea in your
neighbour's pocket. If he did not want it, it would be of no use
to you; the degree of power it possesses depends accurately upon
the need or desire he has for it, -- and the art of making
yourself rich, in the ordinary mercantile economist's sense, is
therefore equally and necessarily the art of keeping your
I would not contend in this matter (and rarely in any matter)
for the acceptance of terms. But I wish the reader clearly and
deeply to understand the difference between the two economies, to
which the terms "Political" and "Mercantile" might not
unadvisedly be attached.
Political economy (the economy of a State, or of citizens)
consists simply in the production, preservation, and
distribution, at fittest time and place, of useful or pleasurable
things. The farmer who cuts his hay at the right time; the
shipwright who drives his bolts well home in sound wood; the
builder who lays good bricks in well-tempered mortar; the
housewife who takes care of her furniture in the parlour, and
guards against all waste in her kitchen; and the singer who
rightly disciplines, and never overstrains her voice, are all
political economists in the true and final sense: adding
continually to the riches and well-being of the nation to which
But mercantile economy, the economy of "merces" or of "pay,"
signifies the accumulation, in the hands of individuals, of legal
or moral claim upon, or power over, the labour of others; every
such claim implying precisely as much poverty or debt on one
side, as it implies riches or right on the other.
It does not, therefore, necessarily involve an addition to
the actual property, or well-being, of the State in which it
exists. But since this commercial wealth, or power over labour,
is nearly always convertible at once into real property, while
real property is not always convertible at once into power over
labour, the idea of riches among active men in civilized nations,
generally refers to commercial wealth; and in estimating their
possessions, they rather calculate the value of their horses and
fields by the number of guineas they could get for them, than the
value of their guineas by the number of horses and fields they
could buy with them.
There is, however, another reason for this habit of mind;
namely, that an accumulation of real property is of little use to
its owner, unless, together with it, he has commercial power over
labour. Thus, suppose any person to be put in possession of a
large estate of fruitful land, with rich beds of gold in its
gravel, countless herds of cattle in its pastures; houses, and
gardens, and storehouses full of useful stores; but suppose,
after all, that he could get no servants? In order that he may be
able to have servants, some one in his neighbourhood must be
poor, and in want of his gold -- or his corn. Assume that no one
is in want of either, and that no servants are to be had. He
must, therefore, bake his own bread, make his own clothes, plough
his own ground, and shepherd his own flocks. His gold will be as
useful to him as any other yellow pebbles on his estate. His
stores must rot, for he cannot consume them. He can eat no more
than another man could eat, and wear no more than another man
could wear. He must lead a life of severe and common labour to
procure even ordinary comforts; he will be ultimately unable to
keep either houses in repair, or fields in cultivation; and
forced to content himself with a poor man's portion of cottage
and garden, in the midst of a desert of waste land, trampled by
wild cattle, and encumbered by ruins of palaces, which he will
hardly mock at himself by calling "his own."
The most covetous of mankind would, with small exultation, I
presume, accept riches of this kind on these terms. What is
really desired, under the name of riches, is essentially, power
over men; in its simplest sense, the power of obtaining for our
own advantage the labour of servant, tradesman, and artist; in
wider sense, authority of directing large masses of the nation to
various ends (good, trivial or hurtful, according to the mind of
the rich person). And this power of wealth of course is greater
or less in direct proportion to the poverty of the men over whom
it is exercised, and in inverse proportion to the number of
persons who are as rich as ourselves, and who are ready to give
the same price for an article of which the supply is limited. If
the musician is poor, he will sing for small pay, as long as
there is only one person who can pay him; but if there be two or
three, he will sing for the one who offers him most. And thus the
power of the riches of the patron (always imperfect and doubtful,
as we shall see presently, even when most authoritative) depends
first on the poverty of the artist, and then on the limitation of
the number of equally wealthy persons, who also want seats at the
concert. So that, as above stated, the art of becoming "rich," in
the common sense, is not absolutely nor finally the art of
accumulating much money for ourselves, but also of contriving
that our neighbours shall have less. In accurate terms, it is
"the art of establishing the maximum inequality in our own
Now, the establishment of such inequality cannot be shown in
the abstract to be either advantageous or disadvantageous to the
body of the nation. The rash and absurd assumption that such
inequalities are necessarily advantageous, lies at the root of
most of the popular fallacies on the subject of political
economy. For the eternal and inevitable law in this matter is,
that the beneficialness of the inequality depends, first, on the
methods by which it was accomplished; and, secondly, on the
purposes to which it is applied. Inequalities of wealth, unjustly
established, have assuredly injured the nation in which they
exist during their establishment; and, unjustly directed, injure
it yet more during their existence. But inequalities of wealth,
justly established, benefit the nation in the course of their
establishment; and, nobly used, aid it yet more by their
existence. That is to say, among every active and well-governed
people, the various strength of individuals, tested by full
exertion and specially applied to various need, issues in
unequal, but harmonious results, receiving reward or authority
according to its class and service;(2*) while, in the inactive or
ill-governed nation, the gradations of decay and the victories of
treason work out also their own rugged system of subjection and
success; and substitute, for the melodious inequalities of
concurrent power, the iniquitous dominances and depressions of
guilt and misfortune.
Thus the circulation of wealth in a nation resembles that of
the blood in the natural body. There is one quickness of the
current which comes of cheerful emotion or wholesome exercise;
and another which comes of shame or of fever. There is a flush of
the body which is full of warmth and life; and another which will
pass into putrefaction.
The analogy will hold down even to minute particulars. For as
diseased local determination of the blood involves depression of
the general health of the system, all morbid local action of
riches will be found ultimately to involve a weakening of the
resources of the body politic.
The mode in which this is produced may be at once understood
by examining one or two instances of the development of wealth in
the simplest possible circumstances.
Suppose two sailors cast away on an uninhabited coast, and
obliged to maintain themselves there by their own labour for a
series of years.
If they both kept their health, and worked steadily and in
amity with each other, they might build themselves a convenient
house, and in time come to possess a certain quantity of
cultivated land, together with various stores laid up for future
use. All these things would be real riches or property; and,
supposing the men both to have worked equally hard, they would
each have right to equal share or use of it. Their political
economy would consist merely in careful preservation and just
division of these possessions. Perhaps, however, after some time
one or other might be dissatisfied with the results of their
common farming; and they might in consequence agree to divide the
land they had brought under the spade into equal shares, so that
each might thenceforward work in his own field, and live by it.
Suppose that after this arrangement had been made, one of them
were to fall ill, and be unable to work on his land at a critical
time -- say of sowing or harvest.
He would naturally ask the other to sow or reap for him.
Then his companion might say, with perfect justice, "I will
do this additional work for you; but if I do it, you must promise
to do as much for me at another time. I will count how many hours
I spend on your ground, and you shall give me a written promise
to work for the same number of hours on mine, whenever I need
your help, and you are able to give it." Suppose the disabled
man's sickness to continue, and that under various circumstances,
for several years, requiring the help of the other, he on each
occasion gave a written pledge to work, as soon as he was able,
at his companion's orders, for the same number of hours which the
other had given up to him. What will the positions of the two men
be when the invalid is able to resume work?
Considered as a "Polis," or state, they will be poorer than
they would have been otherwise: poorer by the withdrawal of what
the sick man's labour would have produced in the interval. His
friend may perhaps have toiled with an energy quickened by the
enlarged need, but in the end his own land and property must have
suffered by the withdrawal of so much of his time and thought
from them: and the united property of the two men will be
certainly less than it would have been if both had remained in
health and activity.
But the relations in which they stand to each other are also
widely altered. The sick man has not only pledged his labour for
some years, but will probably have exhausted his own share of the
accumulated stores, and will be in consequence for some time
dependent on the other for food, which he can only "pay" or
reward him for by yet more deeply pledging his own labour.
Supposing the written promises to be held entirely valid
(among civilized nations their validity is secured by legal
measures(3*)), the person who had hitherto worked for both might
now, if he chose, rest altogether, and pass his time in idleness,
not only forcing his companion to redeem all the engagements he
had already entered into, but exacting from him pledges for
further labour, to an arbitrary amount, for what food he had to
advance to him.
There might not, from first to last, be the least illegality
(in the ordinary sense of the word) in the arrangement; but if a
stranger arrived on the coast at this advanced epoch of their
political economy, he would find one man commercially Rich; the
other commercially Poor. He would see, perhaps, with no small
surprise, one passing his days in idleness; the other labouring
for both, and living sparely, in the hope of recovering his
independence at some distant period.
This is, of course, an example of one only out of many ways
in which inequality of possession may be established between
different persons, giving rise to the Mercantile forms of Riches
and Poverty. In the instance before us, one of the men might from
the first have deliberately chosen to be idle, and to put his
life in pawn for present ease; or he might have mismanaged his
land, and been compelled to have recourse to his neighbour for
food and help, pledging his future labour for it. But what I want
the reader to note especially is the fact, common to a large
number of typical cases of this kind, that the establishment of
the mercantile wealth which consists in a claim upon labour,
signifies a political diminution of the real wealth which
consists in substantial possessions.
Take another example, more consistent with the ordinary
course of affairs of trade. Suppose that three men, instead of
two, formed the little isolated republic, and found themselves
obliged to separate, in order to farm different pieces of land at
some distance from each other along the coast: each estate
furnishing a distinct kind of produce, and each more or less in
need of the material raised on the other. Suppose that the third
man, in order to save the time of all three, undertakes simply to
superintend the transference of commodities from one farm to the
other; on condition of receiving some sufficiently remunerative
share of every parcel of goods conveyed, or of some other parcel
received in exchange for it.
If this carrier or messenger always brings to each estate,
from the other, what is chiefly wanted, at the right time, the
operations of the two farmers will go on prosperously, and the
largest possible result in produce, or wealth, will be attained
by the little community. But suppose no intercourse between the
landowners is possible, except through the travelling agent; and
that, after a time, this agent, watching the course of each man's
agriculture, keeps back the articles with which he has been
entrusted until there comes a period of extreme necessity for
them, on one side or other, and then exacts in exchange for them
all that the distressed farmer can spare of other kinds of
produce: it is easy to see that by ingeniously watching his
opportunities, he might possess himself regularly of the greater
part of the superfluous produce of the two estates, and at last,
in some year of severest trial or scarcity, purchase both for
himself and maintain the former proprietors thenceforward as his
labourers or servants.
This would be a case of commercial wealth acquired on the
exactest principles of modern political economy. But more
distinctly even than in the former instance, it is manifest in
this that the wealth of the State, or of the three men considered
as a society, is collectively less than it would have been had
the merchant been content with juster profit. The operations of
the two agriculturists have been cramped to the utmost; and the
continual limitations of the supply of things they wanted at
critical times, together with the failure of courage consequent
on the prolongation of a struggle for mere existence, without any
sense of permanent gain, must have seriously diminished the
effective results of their labour; and the stores finally
accumulated in the merchant's hands will not in any wise be of
equivalent value to those which, had his dealings been honest,
would have filled at once the granaries of the farmers and his
The whole question, therefore, respecting not only the
advantage, but even the quantity, of national wealth, resolves
itself finally into one of abstract justice. It is impossible to
conclude, of any given mass of acquired wealth, merely by the
fact of its existence, whether it signifies good or evil to the
nation in the midst of which it exists. Its real value depends on
the moral sign attached to it, just as sternly as that of a
mathematical quantity depends on the algebraical sign attached to
it. Any given accumulation of commercial wealth may be
indicative, on the one hand, of faithful industries, progressive
energies, and productive ingenuities: or, on the other, it may be
indicative of mortal luxury, merciless tyranny, ruinous chicane.
Some treasures are heavy with human tears, as an ill-stored
harvest with untimely rain; and some gold is brighter in sunshine
than it is in substance.
And these are not, observe, merely moral or pathetic
attributes of riches, which the seeker of riches may, if he
chooses, despise; they are, literally and sternly, material
attributes of riches, depreciating or exalting, incalculably, the
monetary signification of the sum in question. One mass of money
is the outcome of action which has created, another, of action
which has annihilated, -- ten times as much in the gathering of
it; such and such strong hands have been paralyzed, as if they
had been numbed by nightshade: so many strong men's courage
broken, so many productive operations hindered; this and the
other false direction given to labour, and lying image of
prosperity set up, on Dura plains dug into seven-times-heated
furnaces. That which seems to be wealth may in verity be only the
gilded index of far-reaching ruin: a wrecker's handful of coin
gleaned from the beach to which he has beguiled an argosy; a
camp-follower's bundle of rags unwrapped from the breasts of
goodly soldiers dead; the purchase-pieces of potter's fields,
wherein shall be buried together the citizen and the stranger.
And therefore, the idea that directions can be given for the
gaining of wealth, irrespectively of the consideration of its
moral sources, or that any general and technical law of purchase
and gain can be set down for national practice, is perhaps the
most insolently futile of all that ever beguiled men through
their vices. So far as I know, there is not in history record of
anything so disgraceful to the human intellect as the modern idea
that the commercial text, "Buy in the cheapest market and sell in
the dearest," represents, or under any circumstances could
represent, an available principle of national economy. Buy in the
cheapest market? yes; but what made your market cheap? Charcoal
may be cheap among your roof timbers after a fire, and bricks may
be cheap in your streets after an earthquake; but fire and
earthquake may not therefore he national benefits. Sell in the
dearest? -- Yes, truly; but what made your market dear? You sold
your bread well to-day: was it to a dying man who gave his last
coin for it, and will never need bread more; or to a rich man who
to-morrow will buy your farm over your head; or to a soldier on
his way to pillage the bank in which you have put your fortune?
None of these things you can know. One thing only you can
know: namely, whether this dealing of yours is a just and
faithful one, which is all you need concern yourself about
respecting it; sure thus to have done your own part in bringing
about ultimately in the world a state of things which will not
issue in pillage or in death. And thus every question concerning
these things merges itself ultimately in the great question of
justice, which, the ground being thus far cleared for it. I will
enter upon the next paper, leaving only, in this, three final
points for the reader's consideration.
It has been shown that the chief value and virtue of money
consists in its having power over human beings; that, without
this power, large material possessions are useless, and to any
person possessing such power, comparatively unnecessary. But
power over human beings is attainable by other means than by
money. As I said a few pages back, the money power is always
imperfect and doubtful; there are many things which cannot be
reached with it, others which cannot be retained by it. Many joys
may be given to men which cannot be bought for gold, and many
fidelities found in them which cannot be rewarded with it.
Trite enough, -- the reader thinks. Yes: but it is not so
trite, -- I wish it were, -- that in this moral power, quite
inscrutable and immeasurable though it be, there is a monetary
value just as real as that represented by more ponderous
currencies. A man's hand may be full of invisible gold, and the
wave of it, or the grasp, shall do more than another's with a
shower of bullion. This invisible gold, also, does not
necessarily diminish in spending. Political economists will do
well some day to take heed of it, though they cannot take
But farther. Since the essence of wealth consists in its
authority over men, if the apparent or nominal wealth fail in
this power, it fails in essence; in fact, ceases to be wealth at
all. It does not appear lately in England, that our authority
over men is absolute. The servants show some disposition to rush
riotously upstairs, under an impression that their wages are not
regularly paid. We should augur ill of any gentleman's property
to whom this happened every other day in his drawing-room.
So, also, the power of our wealth seems limited as respects
the comfort of the servants, no less than their quietude. The
persons in the kitchen appear to be ill-dressed, squalid,
half-starved. One cannot help imagining that the riches of the
establishment must be of a very theoretical and documentary
Finally. Since the essence of wealth consists in power over
men, will it not follow that the nobler and the more in number
the persons are over whom it has power, the greater the wealth?
Perhaps it may even appear, after some consideration, that the
persons themselves are the wealth that these pieces of gold with
which we are in the habit of guiding them, are, in fact, nothing
more than a kind of Byzantine harness or trappings, very
glittering and beautiful in barbaric sight, wherewith we bridle
the creatures; but that if these same living creatures could be
guided without the fretting and jingling of the Byzants in their
mouths and ears, they might themselves be more valuable than
their bridles. In fact, it may be discovered that the true veins
of wealth are purple -- and not in Rock, but in Flesh -- perhaps
even that the final outcome and consummation of all wealth is in
the producing as many as possible full-breathed, bright-eyed, and
happy-hearted human creatures. Our modern wealth, I think, has
rather a tendency the other way; -- most political economists
appearing to consider multitudes of human creatures not conducive
to wealth, or at best conducive to it only by remaining in a
dim-eyed and narrow-chested state of being.
Nevertheless, it is open, I repeat, to serious question,
which I leave to the reader's pondering, whether, among national
manufactures, that of Souls of a good quality may not at last
turn out a quite leadingly lucrative one? Nay, in some far-away
and yet undreamt-of hour, I can even imagine that England may
cast all thoughts of possessive wealth back to the barbaric
nations among whom they first arose; and that, while the sands of
the Indus and adamant of Golconda may yet stiffen the housings of
the charger, and flash from the turban of the slave, she, as a
Christian mother, may at last attain to the virtues and the
treasures of a Heathen one, and be able to lead forth her Sons,
"These are My Jewels."
Qui Judicatis Terram
Some centuries before the Christian era, a Jew merchant
largely engaged in business on the Gold Coast, and reported to
have made one of the largest fortunes of his time, (held also in
repute for much practical sagacity,) left among his ledgers some
general maxims concerning wealth, which have been preserved,
strangely enough, even to our own days. They were held in
considerable respect by the most active traders of the middle
ages, especially by the Venetians, who even went so far in their
admiration as to place a statue of the old Jew on the angle of
one of their principal public buildings. Of late years these
writings have fallen into disrepute, being opposed in every
particular to the spirit of modern commerce. Nevertheless I shall
reproduce a passage or two from them here, partly because they
may interest the reader by their novelty; and chiefly because
they will show him that it is possible for a very practical and
acquisitive tradesman to hold, through a not unsuccessful career,
that principle of distinction between well-gotten and ill-gotten
wealth, which, partially insisted on in my last paper, it must be
our work more completely to examine in this.
He says, for instance, in one place: "The getting of
treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of them
that see death: "adding in another, with the same meaning (he has
a curious way of doubling his sayings): "Treasures of wickedness
profit nothing: but justice delivers from death." Both these
passages are notable for their assertion of death as the only
real issue and sum of attainment by any unjust scheme of wealth.
If we read, instead of "lying tongue," "lying label, title,
pretence, or advertisement," we shall more clearly perceive the
bearing of the words on modern business. The seeking of death is
a grand expression of the true course of men's toil in such
business. We usually speak as if death pursued us, and we fled
from him; but that is only so in rare instances. Ordinarily he
masks himself -- makes himself beautiful -- all-glorious; not
like the King's daughter, all-glorious within, but outwardly: his
clothing of wrought gold. We pursue him frantically all our days,
he flying or hiding from us. Our crowning success at three-score
and ten is utterly and perfectly to seize, and hold him in his
eternal integrity -- robes, ashes, and sting.
Again: the merchant says, "He that oppresseth the poor to
increase his riches, shall surely come to want." And again, more
strongly: "Rob not the poor because he is poor; neither oppress
the afflicted in the place of business. For God shall spoil the
soul of those that spoiled them."
This "robbing the poor because he is poor," is especially the
mercantile form of theft, consisting in talking advantage of a
man's necessities in order to obtain his labour or property at a
reduced price. The ordinary highwayman's opposite form of robbery
-- of the rich, because he is rich -- does not appear to occur so
often to the old merchant's mind; probably because, being less
profitable and more dangerous than the robbery of the poor, it is
rarely practised by persons of discretion.
But the two most remarkable passages in their deep general
significance are the following: --
"The rich and the poor have met. God is their maker."
"The rich and the poor have met. God is their light."
They "have met:" more literally, have stood in each other's
way (obviaverunt). That is to say, as long as the world lasts,
the action and counteraction of wealth and poverty, the meeting,
face to face, of rich and poor, is just as appointed and
necessary a law of that world as the flow of stream to sea, or
the interchange of power among the electric clouds: -- "God is
their maker." But, also, this action may be either gentle and
just, or convulsive and destructive: it may be by rage of
devouring flood, or by lapse of serviceable wave; -- in blackness
of thunderstroke, or continual force of vital fire, soft, and
shapeable into love-syllables from far away. And which of these
it shall be depends on both rich and poor knowing that God is
their light; that in the mystery of human life, there is no other
light than this by which they can see each other's faces, and
live; -- light, which is called in another of the books among
which the merchant's maxims have been preserved, the "sun of
justice,"(4*) of which it is promised that it shall rise at last
with "healing" (health-giving or helping, making whole or setting
at one) in its wings. For truly this healing is only possible by
means of justice; no love, no faith, no hope will do it; men will
be unwisely fond-vainly faithful, unless primarily they are just;
and the mistake of the best men through generation after
generation, has been that great one of thinking to help the poor
by almsgiving, and by preaching of patience or of hope, and by
every other means, emollient or consolatory, except the one thing
which God orders for them, justice. But this justice, with its
accompanying holiness or helpfulness, being even by the best men
denied in its trial time, is by the mass of men hated wherever it
appears: so that, when the choice was one day fairly put to them,
they denied the Helpful One and the Just;(5*) and desired a
murderer, sedition-raiser, and robber, to be gran ted to them; --
the murderer instead of the Lord of Life, the sedition-raiser
instead of the Prince of Peace, and the robber instead of the
Just Judge of all the world.
I have just spoken of the flowing of streams to the sea as a
partial image of the action of wealth. In one respect it is not a
partial, but a perfect image. The popular economist thinks
himself wise in having discovered that wealth, or the forms of
property in general, must go where they are required; that where
demand is, supply must follow. He farther declares that this
course of demand and supply cannot be forbidden by human laws.
Precisely in the same sense, and with the same certainty, the
waters of the world go where they are required. Where the land
falls, the water flows. The course neither of clouds nor rivers
can be forbidden by human will. But the disposition and
administration of them can be altered by human forethought.
Whether the stream shall be a curse or a blessing, depends upon
man's labour, and administrating intelligence. For centuries
after centuries, great districts of the world, rich in soil, and
favoured in climate, have lain desert under the rage of their own
rivers; nor only desert, but plague-struck. The stream which,
rightly directed, would have flowed in soft irrigation from field
to field -- would have purified the air, given food to man and
beast, and carried their burdens for them on its bosom -- now
overwhelms the plain, and poisons the wind; its breath
pestilence, and its work famine. In like manner this wealth "goes
where it is required." No human laws can withstand its flow. They
can only guide it: but this, the lending trench and limiting
mound can do so thoroughly, that it shall become water of life --
the riches of the hand of wisdom;(6*) or, on the contrary, by
leaving it to its own lawless flow, they may make it, what it has
been too often, the last and deadliest of national plagues: water
of Marah -- the water which feeds the roots of all evil.
The necessity of these laws of distribution or restraint is
curiously over-looked in the ordinary political economist's
definition of his own "science." He calls it, shortly, the
"science of getting rich." But there are many sciences, as well
as many arts, of getting rich. Poisoning people of large estates,
was one employed largely in the middle ages; adulteration of food
of people of small estates, is one employed largely now. The
ancient and honourable Highland method of blackmail; the more
modern and less honourable system of obtaining goods on credit,
and the other variously improved methods of appropriation --
which, in major and minor scales of industry, down to the most
artistic pocket-picking, we owe to recent genius, -- all come
under the general head of sciences, or arts, of getting rich.
So that it is clear the popular economist, in calling his
science the science par excellence of getting rich, must attach
some peculiar ideas of limitation to its character. I hope I do
not misrepresent him, by assuming that he means his science to be
the science of "getting rich by legal or just means." In this
definition, is the word "just," or "legal," finally to stand? For
it is possible among certain nations, or under certain rulers, or
by help of certain advocates, that proceedings may be legal which
are by no means just. If, therefore, we leave at last only the
word "just" in that place of our definition, the insertion of
this solitary and small word will make a notable difference in
the grammar of our science. For then it will follow that, in
order to grow rich scientifically, we must grow rich justly; and,
therefore, know what is just; so that our economy will no longer
depend merely on prudence, but on jurisprudence -- and that of
divine, not human law. Which prudence is indeed of no mean order,
holding itself, as it were, high in the air of heaven, and gazing
for ever on the light of the sun of justice; hence the souls
which have excelled in it are represented by Dante as stars,
forming in heaven for ever the figure of the eye of an eagle:
they having been in life the discerners of light from darkness;
or to the whole human race, as the light of the body, which is
the eye; while those souls which form the wings of the bird
(giving power and dominion to justice, "healing in its wings")
trace also in light the inscription in heaven: "DILIGITE
JUSTITIAM QUI JUDICATIS TERRAM." "Ye who judge the earth, give"
(not, observe, merely love, but) "diligent love to justice:" the
love which seeks diligently, that is to say, choosingly, and by
preference, to all things else. Which judging or doing judgment
in the earth is, according to their capacity and position,
required not of judges only, nor of rulers only, but of all
men:(7*) a truth sorrowfully lost sight of even by those who are
ready enough to apply to themselves passages in which Christian
men are spoken of as called to be "saints" (i.e. to helpful or
healing functions); and "chosen to be kings" (i.e. to knowing or
directing functions); the true meaning of these titles having
been long lost through the pretences of unhelpful and unable
persons to saintly and kingly character; also through the once
popular idea that both the sanctity and royalty are to consist in
wearing long robes and high crowns, instead of in mercy and
judgment; whereas all true sanctity is saving power, as all true
royalty is ruling power; and injustice is part and parcel of the
denial of such power, which "makes men as the creeping things, as
the fishes of the sea, that have no ruler over them."(8*)
Absolute justice is indeed no more attainable than absolute
truth; but the righteous man is distinguished from the
unrighteous by his desire and hope of justice, as the true man
from the false by his desire and hope of truth. And though
absolute justice be unattainable, as much justice as we need for
all practical use is attainable by all those who make it their
We have to examine, then, in the subject before us, what are
the laws of justice respecting payment of labour -- no small
part, these, of the foundations of all jurisprudence.
I reduced, in my last paper, the idea of money payment to its
simplest or radical terms. In those terms its nature, and the
conditions of justice respecting it, can be best ascertained.
Money payment, as there stated, consists radically in a
promise to some person working for us, that for the time and
labour he spends in our service to-day we will give or procure
equivalent time and labour in his service at any future time when
he may demand it.(9*)
If we promise to give him less labour than he has given us,
we under-pay him. If we promise to give him more labour than he
has given us, we over-pay him. In practice, according to the laws
of demand and supply, when two men are ready to do the work, and
only one man wants to have it done, the two men underbid each
other for it; and the one who gets it to do, is under-paid. But
when two men want the work done, and there is only one man ready
to do it, the two men who want it done over-bid each other, and
the workman is over-paid.
I will examine these two points of injustice in succession;
but first I wish the reader to clearly understand the central
principle, lying between the two, of right or just payment.
When we ask a service of any man, he may either give it us
freely, or demand payment for it. Respecting free gift of
service, there is no question at present, that being a matter of
affection -- not of traffic. But if he demand payment for it, and
we wish to treat him with absolute equity, it is evident that
this equity can only consist in giving time for time, strength
for strength, and skill for skill. If a man works an hour for us,
and we only promise to work half-an-hour for him in return, we
obtain an unjust advantage. If, on the contrary, we promise to
work an hour and a half for him in return, he has an unjust
advantage. The justice consists in absolute exchange; or, if
there be any respect to the stations of the parties, it will not
be in favour of the employer: there is certainly no equitable
reason in a main's being poor, that if he give me a pound of
bread to-day, I should return him less than a pound of bread
to-morrow; or any equitable reason in a man's being uneducated,
that if he uses a certain quantity of skill and knowledge in my
service, I should use a less quantity of skill and knowledge in
his. Perhaps, ultimately, it may appear desirable, or, to say the
least, gracious, that I should give in return somewhat more than
I received. But at present, we are concerned on the law of
justice only, which is that of perfect and accurate exchange; --
one circumstance only interfering with the simplicity of this
radical idea of just payment -- that inasmuch as labour (rightly
directed) is fruitful just as seed is, the fruit (or "interest,"
as it is called) of the labour first given, or "advanced," ought
to be taken into account, and balanced by an additional quantity
of labour in the subsequent repayment. Supposing the repayment to
take place at the end of a year, or of any other given time, this
calculation could be approximately made; but as money (that is to
say, cash) payment involves no reference to time (it being
optional with the person paid to spend what he receives at once
or after any number of years), we can only assume, generally,
that some slight advantage must in equity be allowed to the
person who advances the labour, so that the typical form of
bargain will be: If you give me an hour to-day, I will give you
an hour and five minutes on demand. If you give me a pound of
bread to day, I will give you seventeen ounces on demand, and so
on. All that it is necessary for the reader to note is, that the
amount returned is at least in equity not to be less than the
The abstract idea, then, of just or due wages, as respects
the labourer, is that they will consist in a sum of money which
will at any time procure for him at least as much labour as he
has given, rather more than less. And this equity or justice of
payment is, observe, wholly independent of any reference to the
number of men who are willing to do the work. I want a horseshoe
for my horse. Twenty smiths, or twenty thousand smiths, may be
ready to forge it; their number does not in one atom's weight
affect the question of the equitable payment of the one who does
forge it. It costs him a quarter of an hour of his life, and so
much skill and strength of arm to make that horseshoe for me.
Then at some future time I am bound in equity to give a quarter
of an hour, and some minutes more, of my life (or of some other
person's at my disposal), and also as much strength of arm and
skill, and a little more, in making or doing what the smith may
have need of.
Such being the abstract theory of just remunerative payment,
its application is practically modified by the fact that the
order for labour, given in payment, is general, while labour
received is special. The current coin or document is practically
an order on the nation for so much work of any kind; and this
universal applicability to immediate need renders it so much more
valuable than special labour can be, that an order for a less
quantity of this general toil will always be accepted as a just
equivalent for a greater quantity of special toil. Any given
craftsman will always be willing to give an hour of his own work
in order to receive command over half-an-hour, or even much less,
of national work. This source of uncertainty, together. with the
difficulty of determining the monetary value of skill,(10*)
renders the ascertainment (even approximate) of the proper wages
of any given labour in terms of a currency matter of considerable
complexity. But they do not affect the principle of exchange. The
worth of the work may not be easily known; but it has a worth,
just as fixed and real as the specific gravity of a substance,
though such specific gravity may not be easily ascertainable when
the substance is united with many others. Nor is there so much
difficulty or chance in determining it as in determining the
ordinary maxima and minima of vulgar political economy. There are
few bargains in which the buyer can ascertain with anything like
precision that the seller would have taken no less; -- or the
seller acquire more than a comfortable faith that the purchaser
would have given no more. This impossibility of precise knowledge
prevents neither from striving to attain the desired point of
greatest vexation and injury to the other, nor from accepting it
for a scientific principle that he is to buy for the least and
sell for the most possible, though what the real least or most
may be he cannot tell. In like manner, a just person lays it down
for a scientific principle that he is to pay a just price, and,
without being able precisely to ascertain the limits of such a
price, will nevertheless strive to attain the closest possible
approximation to them. A practically serviceable approximation he
can obtain. It is easier to determine scientifically what a man
ought to have for his work, than what his necessities will compel
him to take for it. His necessities can only be ascertained by
empirical, but his due by analytical, investigation. In the one
case, you try your answer to the sum like a puzzled schoolboy --
till you find one that fits; in the other, you bring out your
result within certain limits, by process of calculation.
Supposing, then, the just wages of any quantity of given
labour to have been ascertained, let us examine the first results
of just and unjust payment, when in favour of the purchaser or
employer; i.e. when two men are ready to do the work, and only
one wants to have it done.
The unjust purchaser forces the two to bid against each other
till he has reduced their demand to its lowest terms. Let us
assume that the lowest bidder offers to do the work at half its
The purchaser employs him, and does not employ the other. The
first or apparent result is, therefore, that one of the two men
is left out of employ, or to starvation, just as definitely as by
the just procedure of giving fair price to the best workman. The
various writers who endeavoured to invalidate the positions of my
first paper never saw this, and assumed that the unjust hirer
employed both. He employs both no more than the just hirer. The
only difference (in the outset, is that the just man pays
sufficiently, the unjust man insufficiently, for the labour of
the single person employed.
I say, "in the outset;" for this first or apparent,
difference is not the actual difference. By the unjust procedure,
half the proper price of the work is left in the hands of the
employer. This enables him to hire another man at the same unjust
rate, on some other kind of work; and the final result is that he
has two men working for him at half price, and two are out of
By the just procedure, the whole price of the first piece of
work goes in the hands of the man who does it. No surplus being
left in the employer's hands, he cannot hire another man for
another piece of labour. But by precisely so much as his power is
diminished, the hired workman's power is increased; that is to
say, by the additional half of the price he has received; which
additional half he has the power of using to employ another man
in his service. I will suppose, for the moment, the least
favourable, though quite probable, case -- that, though justly
treated himself, he yet will act unjustly to his subordinate; and
hire at half-price, if he can. The final result will then be,
that one man works for the employer, at just price; one for the
workman, at half-price; and two, as in the first case, are still
out of employ. These two, as I said before, are out of employ in
both cases. The difference between the just and unjust procedure
does not lie in the number of men hired, but in the price paid to
them, and the persons by whom it is paid. The essential
difference, that which I want the reader to see clearly, is, that
in the unjust case, two men work for one, the first hirer. In the
just case, one man works for the first hirer, one for the person
hired, and so on, down or up through the various grades of
service; the influence being carried forward by justice, and
arrested by injustice. The universal and constant action of
justice in this matter is therefore to diminish the power oF
wealth, in the hands of one individual, over masses of men, and
to distribute it through a chain of men. The actual power exerted
by the wealth is the same in both cases; but by injustice it is
put all into one man's hands, so that he directs at once and with
equal force the labour of a circle of men about him; by the just
procedure, he is permitted to touch the nearest only, through
whom, with diminished force, modified by new minds, the energy of
the wealth passes on to others, and so till it exhausts itself.
The immediate operation of justice in this respect is
therefore to diminish the power of wealth, first in acquisition
of luxury, and, secondly, in exercise of moral influence. The
employer cannot concentrate so multitudinous labour on his own
interests, nor can he subdue so multitudinous mind to his own
will. But the secondary operation of justice is not less
important. The insufficient payment of the group of men working
for one, places each under a maximum of difficulty in rising
above his position. The tendency of the system is to check
advancement. But the sufficient or just payment, distributed
through a descending series oF offices or grades or labour,(11*)
gives each subordinated person fair and sufficient means of
rising in the social scale, if he chooses to use them; and thus
not only diminishes the immediate power of wealth, but removes
the worst disabilities of poverty.
It is on this vital problem that the entire destiny of the
labourer is ultimately dependent. Many minor interests may
sometimes appear to interfere with it, but all branch from it.
For instance, considerable agitation is often caused in the minds
of the lower classes when they discover the share which they
nominally, and to all appearance, actually, pay out of their
wages in taxation (I believe thirty-five or forty per cent). This
sounds very grievous; but in reality the labourer does not pay
it, but his employer. If the workman had not to pay it, his wages
would be less by just that sum: competition would still reduce
them to the lowest rate at which life was possible. Similarly the
lower orders agitated for the repeal of the corn laws,(12*)
thinking they would be better off if bread were cheaper; never
perceiving that as soon as bread was permanently cheaper, wages
would permanently fall in precisely that proportion. The corn
laws were rightly repealed; not, however, because they directly
oppressed the poor, but because they indirectly oppressed them in
causing a large quantity of their labour to be consumed
unproductively. So also unnecessary taxation oppresses them,
through destruction of capital, but the destiny of the poor
depends primarily always on this one question of dueness of
wages. Their distress (irrespectively of that caused by sloth,
minor error, or crime) arises on the grand scale from the two
reacting forces of competition and oppression. There is not yet,
nor will yet for ages be, any real over-population in the world;
but a local over-population, or, more accurately, a degree of
population locally unmanageable under existing circumstances for
want of forethought and sufficient machinery, necessarily shows
itself by pressure of competition; and the taking advantage of
this competition by the purchaser to obtain their labour unjustly
cheap, consummates at once their suffering and his own; for in
this (as I believe in every other kind of slavery) the oppressor
suffers at last more than the oppressed, and those magnificent
lines of Pope, even in all their force, fall short of the truth
"Yet, to be just to these poor men of pelf,
Each does but HATE HIS NEIGHBOUR AS HIMSELF:
Damned to the mines, an equal fate betides
The slave that digs it, and the slave that hides."
The collateral and reversionary operations of justice in this
matter I shall examine hereafter (it being needful first to
define the nature of value); proceeding then to consider within
what practical terms a juster system may be established; and
ultimately the vexed question of the destinies of the unemployed
workmen.(13*) Lest, however, the reader should be alarmed at some
of the issues to which our investigations seem to be tending, as
if in their bearing against the power of wealth they had
something in common with those of socialism, I wish him to know
in accurate terms, one or two of the main points which I have in
Whether socialism has made more progress among the army and
navy (where payment is made on my principles), or among the
manufacturing operatives (who are paid on my opponents'
principles), I leave it to those opponents to ascertain and
declare. Whatever their conclusion may be, I think it necessary
to answer for myself only this: that if there be any one point
insisted on throughout my works more frequently than another,
that one point is the impossibility of Equality. My continual aim
has been to show the eternal superiority of some men to others,
sometimes even of one man to all others; and to show also the
advisability of appointing such persons or person to guide, to
lead, or on occasion even to compel and subdue, their inferiors,
according to their own better knowledge and wiser will. My
principles of Political Economy were all involved in a single
phrase spoken three years ago at Manchester. "Soldiers of the
Ploughshare as well as soldiers of the Sword:" and they were all
summed in a single sentence in the last volume of Modern Painters
-- "Government and co-operation are in all things the Laws of
Life; Anarchy and competition the Laws of Death."
And with respect to the mode in which these general
principles affect the secure possession of property, so far am I
from invalidating such security, that the whole gist of these
papers will be found ultimately to aim at an extension in its
range; and whereas it has long been known and declared that the
poor have no right to the property of the rich, I wish it also to
be known and declared that the rich have no right to the property
of the poor.
But that the working of the system which I have undertaken to
develope would in many ways shorten the apparent and direct,
though not the unseen and collateral, power, both of wealth, as
the Lady of Pleasure, and of capital as the Lord of Toil, I do
not deny on the contrary, I affirm it in all joyfulness; knowing
that the attraction of riches is already too strong, as their
authority is already too weighty, for the reason of mankind. I
said in my last paper that nothing in history had ever been so
disgraceful to human intellect as the acceptance among us of the
common doctrines of political economy as a science. I have many
grounds for saying this, but one of the chief may be given in few
words. I know no previous instance in history of a nation's
establishing a systematic disobedience to the first principles of
its professed religion. The writings which we (verbally) esteem
as divine, not only denounce the love of money as the source of
all evil, and as an idolatry abhorred of the Deity, but declare
mammon service to be the accurate and irreconcileable opposite of
God's service: and, whenever they speak of riches absolute, and
poverty absolute, declare woe to the rich, and blessing to the
poor. Where upon we forthwith investigate a science of becoming
rich as the shortest road to national prosperity.
"Tai Cristian dannera l' Etiope,
Quando si partiranno i due collegi,
L'UNO IN ETERNO RICCO, E L'ALTRO INOPE."
We saw that just payment of labour consisted in a sum of
money which would approximately obtain equivalent labour at a
future time: we have now to examine the means of obtaining such
equivalence. Which question involves the definition of Value,
Wealth, Price, and Produce.
None of these terms are yet defined so as to be understood by
the public. But the last, Produce, which one might have thought
the clearest of all, is, in use, the most ambiguous; and the
examination of the kind of ambiguity attendant on its present
employment will best open the way to our work.
In his chapter on Capital,(14*) Mr J.S. Mill instances, as a
capitalist, a hardware manufacturer, who, having intended to
spend a certain portion of the proceeds of his business in buying
plate and jewels, changes his mind, and, 'pays it as wages to
additional workpeople." The effect is stated by Mr Mill to be,
that "more food is appropriated to the consumption of productive
Now I do not ask, though, had I written this paragraph, it
would surely have been asked of me, What is to become of the
silversmiths? If they are truly unproductive persons, we will
acquiesce in their extinction. And though in another part of the
same passage, the hardware merchant is supposed also to dispense
with a number of servants, whose "food is thus set free for
productive purposes," I do not inquire what will be the effect,
painful or otherwise, upon the servants, of this emancipation of
their food. But I very seriously inquire why ironware is produce,
and silverware is not? That the merchant consumes the one, and
sells the other, certainly does not constitute the difference,
unless it can be shown (which, indeed, I perceive it to be
becoming daily more and more the aim of tradesmen to show) that
commodities are made to be sold, and not to be consumed. The
merchant is an agent of conveyance to the consumer in one case,
and is himself the consumer in the other:(15*) but the labourers
are in either case equally productive, since they have produced
goods to the same value, if the hardware and the plate are both
And what distinction separates them? It is indeed possible
that in the "comparative estimate of the moralist," with which Mr
Mill says political economy has nothing to do (III. i. 2), a
steel fork might appear a more substantial production than a
silver one: we may grant also that knives, no less than forks,
are good produce; and scythes and ploughshares serviceable
articles. But, how of bayonets? Supposing the hardware merchant
to effect large sales of these, by help of the "setting free" of
the food of his servants and his silversmith, -- is he still
employing productive labourers, or, in Mr Mill's words, labourers
who increase "the stock of permanent means of enjoyment" (I. iii.
4)? Or if, instead of bayonets, he supply bombs, will not the
absolute and final "enjoyment" of even these energetically
productive articles (each of which costs ten pounds(16*)) be
dependent on a proper choice of time and place for their
enfantement; choice, that is to say, depending on those
philosophical considerations with which political economy has
nothing to do?(17*)
I should have regretted the need of pointing out
inconsistency in any portion of Mr Mill's work, had not the value
of his work proceeded from its inconsistencies. He deserves
honour among economists by inadvertently disclaiming the
principles which he states, and tacitly introducing the moral
considerations with which he declares his science has no
connection. Many of his chapters are, therefore, true and
valuable; and the only conclusions of his which I have to dispute
are those which follow from his premises.
Thus, the idea which lies at the root of the passage we have
just been examining, namely, that labour applied to produce
luxuries will not support so many persons as labour applied to
produce useful articles, is entirely true; but the instance given
fails -- and in four directions of failure at once-because Mr
Mill has not defined the real meaning of usefulness. The
definition which he has given-" capacity to satisfy a desire, or
serve a purpose" (III. i. 2) -- applies equally to the iron and
silver. while the true definition which he has not given, but
which nevertheless underlies the false verbal definition in his
mind, and comes out once or twice by accident (as in the words
"any support to life or strength" in I. iii. 5) -- applies to
some articles of iron, but not to others, and to some articles of
silver, but not to others. It applies to ploughs, but not to
bayonets; and to forks, but not to filigree.(18*)
The eliciting of the true definitions will give us the reply
to our first question, "What is value?" respecting which,
however, we must first hear the popular statements.
"The word 'value,' when used without adjunct, always means,
in political economy, value in exchange" (Mill, III. i. 2). So
that, if two ships cannot exchange their rudders, their rudders
are, in politico-economic language, of no value to either.
But "the subject of political economy is wealth." --
(Preliminary remarks, page 1)
And wealth "consists of all useful and agreeable objects
which possess exchangeable value." -- (Preliminary remarks, page
It appears, then, according to Mr Mill, that usefulness and
agreeableness underlie the exchange value, and must be
ascertained to exist in the thing, before we can esteem it an
object of wealth.
Now, the economical usefulness of a thing depends not merely
on its own nature, but on the number of people who can and will
use it. A horse is useless, and therefore unsaleable, if no one
can ride, -- a sword, if no one can strike, and meat, if no one
can eat. Thus every material utility depends on its relative
Similarly: The agreeableness of a thing depends not merely on
its own likeableness, but on the number of people who can be got
to like it. The relative agreeableness, and therefore
saleableness, of "a pot of the smallest ale," and of "Adonis
painted by a running brook," depends virtually on the opinion of
Demos, in the shape of Christopher Sly. That is to say, the
agreeableness of a thing depends on its relatively human
disposition.(19*) Therefore, political economy, being a science
of wealth, must be a science respecting human capacities and
dispositions. But moral considerations have nothing to do with
political economy (III. i. 2). Therefore, moral considerations
have nothing to do with human capacities and dispositions.
I do not wholly like the look of this conclusion from Mr
Mill's statements: -- let us try Mr Ricardo's.
"Utility is not the measure of exchangeable value, though it
is absolutely essential to it." -- (Chap. I. sect. i) essential
in what degree, Mr Ricardo? There may be greater and less degrees
of utility. Meat, for instance, may be so good as to be fit for
any one to eat, or so bad as to be fit for no one to eat. What is
the exact degree of goodness which is "essential" to its
exchangeable value, but not "the measure" of it? How good must
the meat be, in order to possess any exchangeable value; and how
bad must it be -- (I wish this were a settled question in London
markets) -- in order to possess none?
There appears to be some hitch, I think, in the working even
of Mr. Ricardo's principles; but let him take his own example.
"Suppose that in the early stages of society the bows and arrows
of the hunter were of equal value with the implements of the
fisherman. Under such circumstances the value of the deer, the
produce of the hunter's day's labour, would be exactly equal to
the value of the fish, the product of the fisherman's day's
labour, The comparative value of the fish and game would be
entirely regulated by the quantity of labour realized in each."
(Ricardo, chap. iii. On Value).
Indeed! Therefore, if the fisherman catches one sprat. and
the huntsman one deer, one sprat will be equal in value to one
deer but if the fisherman catches no sprat, and the huntsman two
deer, no sprat will be equal in value to two deer?
Nay but -- Mr Ricardo's supporters may say -- he means, on an
average, -if the average product of a day's work of fisher and
hunter be one fish and one deer, the one fish will always be
equal in value to the one deer.
Might I inquire the species of fish? Whale? or
It would be waste of time to purpose these fallacies farther;
we will seek for a true definition.
Much store has been set for centuries upon the use of our
English classical education. It were to be wished that our
well-educated merchants recalled to mind always this much of
their latin schooling, -- that the nominative of valorem (a word
already sufficiently familiar to them) is valor; a word which,
therefore, ought to be familiar to them. Valor, from valere, to
be well or strong; -- strong, life (if a man), or valiant;
strong, for life (if a thing), or valuable. To be "valuable,"
therefore, is to "avail towards life." A truly valuable or
availing thing is that which leads to life with its whole
strength. In proportion as it does not lead to life, or as its
strength is broken, it is less valuable; in proportion as it
leads away from life, it is unvaluable or malignant.
The value of a thing, therefore, is independent of opinion,
and of quantity. Think what you will of it, gain how much you may
of it, the value of the thing itself is neither greater nor less.
For ever it avails, or avails not; no estimate can raise, no
disdain repress, the power which it holds from the Maker of
things and of men.
The real science of political economy, which has yet to be
distinguished from the bastard science, as medicine from
witchcraft, and astronomy from astrology, is that which teaches
nations to desire and labour for the things that lead to life:
and which teaches them to scorn and destroy the things that lead
to destruction. And if, in a state of infancy, they supposed
indifferent things, such as excrescences of shell-fish, and
pieces of blue and red stone, to be valuable, and spent large
measures of the labour which ought to be employed for the
extension and ennobling of life, in diving or digging for them,
and cutting them into various shapes,or if, in the same state of
infancy, they imagine precious and beneficent things, such as
air, light, and cleanliness, to be valueless,-or if, finally,
they imagine the conditions of their own existence, by which
alone they can truly possess or use anything, such, for instance,
as peace, trust, and love, to be prudently exchangeable, when the
markets offer, for gold, iron, or excresrences of shells -- the
great and only science of Political Economy teaches them, in all
these cases, what is vanity, and what substance; and how the
service of Death, the lord of Waste, and of eternal emptiness,
differs from the service of Wisdom, the lady of Saving, and of
eternal fulness; she who has said, "I will cause those that love
me to inherit SUBSTANCE; and I will FILL their treasures."
The "Lady of Saving," in a profounder sense than that of the
savings bank, though that is a good one: Madonna della Salute, --
Lady of Health, -- which, though commonly spoken of as if
separate from wealth, is indeed a part of wealth. This word,
"wealth," it will be remembered, is the next we have to define.
"To be wealthy" says Mr Mill, "is to have a large stock of
useful articles." I accept this definition. Only let us perfectly
understand it. My opponents often lament my not giving them
enough logic: I fear I must at present use a little more than
they will like: but this business of Political Economy is no
light one, and we must allow no loose terms in it.
We have, therefore, to ascertain in the above definition,
first, what is the meaning of "having," or the nature of
Possession. Then what is the meaning of "useful," or the nature
And first of possession. At the crossing of the transepts of
Milan Cathedral has lain, for three hundred years, the embalmed
body of St. Carlo Borromeo. It holds a golden crosier, and has a
cross of emeralds on its breast. Admitting the crosier and
emeralds to be useful articles, is the body to be considered as
"having" them? Do they, in the politico-economical sense of
property, belong to it? If not, and if we may, therefore,
conclude generally that a dead body cannot possess property, what
degree and period of animation in the body will render possession
As thus: lately in a wreck of a Californian ship, one of the
passengers fastened a belt about him with two hundred pounds of
gold in it, with which he was found afterwards at the bottom.
Now, as he was sinking -- had he the gold? or had the gold
And if, instead of sinking him in the sea by its weight, the
gold had struck him on the forehead, and thereby caused incurable
disease -- suppose palsy or insanity, -- would the gold in that
case have been more a "possession" than in the first? Without
pressing the inquiry up through instances of gradually increasing
vital power over the gold (which I will, however, give, if they
are asked for), I presume the reader will see that possession, or
"having," is not an absolute, but a gradated, power; and consists
not only in the quantity or nature of the thing possessed, but
also (and in a greater degree) in its suitableness to the person
possessing it and in his vital power to use it.
And our definition of Wealth, expanded, becomes: "The
possession of useful articles, which we can use." This is a very
serious change. For wealth, instead of depending merely on a
"have," is thus seen to depend on a "can." Gladiator's death, on
a "habet"; but soldier's victory, and State's salvation, on a
"quo plurimum posset." (liv. VII. 6.) And what we reasoned of
only as accumulation of material, is seen to demand also
accumulation of capacity.
So much for our verb. Next for our adjective. What is the
meaning of "useful"?
The inquiry is closely connected with the last. For what is
capable of use in the hands of some persons, is capable, in the
hands of others, of the opposite of use, called commonly
"from-use," or "ab-use." And it depends on the person, much more
than on the article, whether its usefulness or ab-usefulness will
be the quality developed in it. Thus, wine, which the Greeks, in
their Bacchus, made rightly the type of all passion, and which,
when used, "cheereth god and man" (that is to say, strengthens
both the divine life, or reasoning power, and the earthy, or
carnal power, of man); yet, when abused, becomes "Dionysos,"
hurtful especially to the divine part of man, or reason. And
again, the body itself, being equally liable to use and to abuse,
and, when rightly disciplined, serviceable to the State, both for
war and labour, -- but when not disciplined, or abused, valueless
to the State, and capable only of continuing the private or
single existence of the individual (and that but feebly) -- the
Greeks called such a body an "idiotic" or "private" body, from
their word signifying a person employed in no way directly useful
to the State; whence finally, our "idiot," meaning a person
entirely occupied with his own concerns.
Hence, it follows that if a thing is to be useful, it must be
not only of an availing nature, but in availing hands. Or, in
accurate terms, usefulness is value in the hands of the valiant;
so that this science of wealth being, as we have just seen, when
regarded as the science of Accumulation, accumulative of capacity
as well as of material, -- when regarded as the Science of
Distribution, is distribution not absolute, but discriminate; not
of every thing to every man, but of the right thing to the right
man. A difficult science, dependent on more than arithmetic.
Wealth, therefore, is "THE POSSESSION OF THE VALUABLE BY THE
VALIANT"; and in considering it as a power existing in a nation,
the two elements, the value of the thing, and the valour of its
possessor, must be estimated together. Whence it appears that
many of the persons commonly considered wealthy, are in reality
no more wealthy than the locks of their own strong boxes are,
they being inherently and eternally incapable of wealth; and
operating for the nation, in an economical point of view, either
as pools of dead water, and eddies in a stream (which, so long as
the stream flows, are useless, or serve only to drown people, but
may become of importance in a state of stagnation should the
stream dry); or else, as dams in a river, of which the ultimate
service depends not on the dam, but the miller; or else, as mere
accidental stays and impediments, acting not as wealth, but (for
we ought to have a correspondent term) as "illth," causing
various devastation and trouble around them in all directions; or
lastly, act not at all, but are merely animated conditions of
delay, (no use being possible of anything they have until they
are dead,) in which last condition they are nevertheless often
useful as delays, and "impedimenta," if a nation is apt to move
This being so, the difficulty of the true science of
Political Economy lies not merely in the need of developing manly
character to deal with material value, but in the fact, that
while the manly character and material value only form wealth by
their conjunction, they have nevertheless a mutually destructive
operation on each other. For the manly character is apt to
ignore, or even cast away, the material value: -- whence that of
"Sure, of qualities demanding praise,
More go to ruin fortunes, than to raise."
And on the other hand, the material value is apt to undermine the
manly character; so that it must be our work, in the issue, to
examine what evidence there is of the effect of wealth on the
minds of its possessors; also, what kind of person it is who
usually sets himself to obtain wealth, and succeeds in doing so;
and whether the world owes more gratitude to rich or to poor men,
either for their moral influence upon it, or for chief goods,
discoveries, and practical advancements. I may, however,
anticipate future conclusions, so far as to state that in a
community regulated only by laws of demand and supply, but
protected from open violence, the persons who become rich are,
generally speaking, industrious, resolute, proud, covetous,
prompt, methodical, sensible, unimaginative, insensitive, and
ignorant. The persons who remain poor are the entirely foolish,
the entirely wise,(22*) the idle, the reckless, the humble, the
thoughtful, the dull, the imaginative, the sensitive, the
well-informed, the improvident, the irregularly and impulsively
wicked, the clumsy knave, the open thief, and the entirely
merciful, just, and godly person.
Thus far, then, of wealth. Next, we have to ascertain the
nature of PRICE; that is to say, of exchange value, and its
expression by currencies.
Note first, of exchange, there can be no profit in it. It is
only in labour there can be profit -- that is to say, a "making
in advance," or "making in favour of" (from proficio). In
exchange, there is only advantage, i.e., a bringing of vantage or
power to the exchanging persons. Thus, one man, by sowing and
reaping, turns one measure of corn into two measures. That is
Profit. Another, by digging and forging, turns one spade into two
spades. That is Profit. But the man who has two measures of corn
wants sometimes to dig; and the man who has two spades wants
sometimes to eat:They exchange the gained grain for the gained
tool; and both are the better for the exchange; but though there
is much advantage in the transaction, there is no profit. Nothing
is constructed or produced. Only that which had been before
constructed is given to the person by whom it can be used. If
labour is necessary to effect the exchange, that labour is in
reality involved in the production, and, like all other labour,
bears profit. Whatever number of men are concerned in the
manufacture, or in the conveyance, have share in the profit; but
neither the manufacture nor the conveyance are the exchange, and
in the exchange itself there is no profit.
There may, however, be acquisition, which is a very different
thing. If, in the exchange, one man is able to give what cost him
little labour for what has cost the other much, he "acquires" a
certain quantity of the produce of the other's labour. And
precisely what he acquires, the other loses. In mercantile
language, the person who thus acquires is commonly said to have
"made a profit"; and I believe that many of our merchants are
seriously under the impression that it is possible for everybody,
somehow, to make a profit in this manner. Whereas, by the
unfortunate constitution of the world we live in, the laws both
of matter and motion have quite rigorously forbidden universal
acquisition of this kind. Profit, or material gain, is attainable
only by construction or by discovery; not by exchange. Whenever
material gain follows exchange, for every plus there is a
precisely equal minus.
Unhappily for the progress of the science of Political
Economy, the plus quantities, or, -- if I may be allowed to coin
an awkward plural -- the pluses, make a very positive and
venerable appearance in the world, so that every one is eager to
learn the science which produces results so magnificent; whereas
the minuses have, on the other hand, a tendency to retire into
back streets, and other places of shade, -- or even to get
themselves wholly and finally put out of sight in graves: which
renders the algebra of this science peculiar, and difficultly
legible; a large number of its negative signs being written by
the account-keeper in a kind of red ink, which starvation thins,
and makes strangely pale, or even quite invisible ink, for the
The Science of Exchange, or, as I hear it has been proposed
to call it, of "Catallactics," considered as one of gain, is,
therefore, simply nugatory; but considered as one of acquisition,
it is a very curious science, differing in its data and basis
from every other science known. Thus: -- if I can exchange a
needle with a savage for a diamond, my power of doing so depends
either on the savage's ignorance of social arrangements in
Europe, or on his want of power to take advantage of them, by
selling the diamond to any one else for more needles. If,
farther, I make the bargain as completely advantageous to myself
as possible, by giving to the savage a needle with no eye in it
(reaching, thus a sufficiently satisfactory type of the perfect
operation of catallactic science), the advantage to me in the
entire transaction depends wholly upon the ignorance,
powerlessness, or heedlessness of the person dealt with. Do away
with these, and catallactic advantage becomes impossible. So far,
therefore, as the science of exchange relates to the advantage of
one of the exchanging persons only, it is founded on the
ignorance or incapacity of the opposite person. Where these
vanish, it also vanishes. It is therefore a science founded on
nescience, and an art founded on artlessness. But all other
sciences and arts, except this, have for their object the doing
away with their opposite nescience and artlessness. This science,
alone of sciences, must, by all available means, promulgate and
prolong its opposite nescience; otherwise the science itself is
impossible. It is, therefore, peculiarly and alone the science of
darkness; probably a bastard science -- not by any means a divina
scientia, but one begotten of another father, that father who,
advising his children to turn stones into bread, is himself
employed in turning bread into stones, and who, if you ask a fish
of him (fish not being producible on his estate), can but give
you a serpent.
The general law, then, respecting just or economical
exchange, is simply this: -- There must be advantage on both
sides (or if only advantage on one, at least no disadvantage on
the other) to the persons exchanging; and just payment for his
time, intelligence, and labour, to any intermediate person
effecting the transaction (commonly called a merchant); and
whatever advantage there is on either side, and whatever pay is
given to the intermediate person, should be thoroughly known to
all concerned. All attempt at concealment implies some practice
of the opposite, or undivine science, founded on nescience.
Whence another saying of the Jew merchant's -- "As a nail between
the stone joints, so doth sin stick fast between buying and
selling." Which peculiar riveting of stone and timber, in men's
dealings with each other, is again set forth in the house which
was to be destroyed -- timber and stones together -- when
Zechariah's roll (more probably "curved sword") flew over it:
"the curse that goeth forth over all the earth upon every one
that stealeth and holdeth himself guiltless," instantly followed
by the vision of the Great Measure; -- the measure "of the
injustice of them in all the earth" (auti i adikia auton en pase
te ge), with the weight of lead for its lid, and the woman, the
spirit of wickedness, within it; -- that is to say, Wickedness
hidden by Dulness, and formalized, outwardly, into ponderously
established cruelty. " It shall be set upon its own base in the
land of Babel." (23*)
I have hitherto carefully restricted myself, in speaking of
exchange, to the use of the term "advantage"; but that term
includes two ideas; the advantage, namely, of getting what we
need, and that of getting what we wish for. Three-fourths of the
demands existing in the world are romantic; founded on visions,
idealisms, hopes, and affections; and the regulation of the purse
is, in its essence, regulation of the imagination and the heart.
Hence, the right discussion of the nature of price is a very high
metaphysical and psychical problem; sometimes to be solved only
in a passionate manner, as by David in his counting the price of
the water of the well by the gate of Bethlehem; but its first
conditions are the following: -- The price of anything is the
quantity of labour given by the person desiring it, in order to
obtain possession of it. This price depends on four variable
quantities. A. The quantity of wish the purchaser has for the
thing; opposed to a, the quantity of wish the seller has to keep
it. B. The quantity of labour the purchaser can afford, to obtain
the thing opposed to B, the quantity of labour the seller can
afford, to keep it. These quantities are operative only in
excess; i.e. the quantity of wish (A) means the quantity of wish
for this thing, above wish for other things; and the quantity of
work (B) means the quantity which can be spared to get this thing
from the quantity needed to get other things.
Phenomena of price, therefore, are intensely complex,
curious, and interesting -- too complex, however, to be examined
yet; every one of them, when traced far enough, showing itself at
last as a part of the bargain of the Poor of the Flock (or "flock
of slaughter"), "If ye think good, give ME my price, and if not,
forbear" Zech. xi. 12; but as the price of everything is to be
calculated finally in labour, it is necessary to define the
nature of that standard.
Labour is the contest of the life of man with an opposite; --
the term "life" including his intellect, soul, and physical
power, contending with question, difficulty, trial, or material
Labour is of a higher or lower order, as it includes more or
fewer of the elements of life: and labour of good quality, in any
kind, includes always as much intellect and feeling as will fully
and harmoniously regulate the physical force.
In speaking of the value and price of labour, it is necessary
always to understand labour of a given rank and quality, as we
should speak of gold or silver of a given standard. Bad (that is,
heartless, inexperienced, or senseless) labour cannot be valued;
it is like gold of uncertain alloy, or flawed iron.(24*)
The quality and kind of labour being given, its value, like
that of all other valuable things, is invariable. But the
quantity of it which must be given for other things is variable:
and in estimating this variation, the price of other things must
always be counted by the quantity of labour; not the price of
labour by the quantity of other things.
Thus, if we want to plant an apple sapling in rocky ground,
it may take two hours' work; in soft ground, perhaps only half an
hour. Grant the soil equally good for the tree in each case. Then
the value of the sapling planted by two hours' work is nowise
greater than that of the sapling planted in half an hour. One
will bear no more fruit than the other. Also, one half-hour of
work is as valuable as another half-hour; nevertheless the one
sapling has cost four such pieces of work, the other only one.
Now the proper statement of this fact is, not that the labour on
the hard ground is cheaper than on the soft; but that the tree is
dearer. The exchange value may, or may not, afterwards depend on
this fact. If other people have plenty of soft ground to plant
in, they will take no cognizance of our two hours' labour, in the
price they will offer for the plant on the rock. And if, through
want of sufficient botanical science, we have planted an upas
tree instead of an apple, the exchange-value will be a negative
quantity; still less proportionate to the labour expended.
What is commonly called cheapness of labour, signifies,
therefore, in reality, that many obstacles have to be overcome by
it; so that much labour is required to produce a small result.
But this should never be spoken of as cheapness of labour, but as
dearness of the object wrought for. It would be just as rational
to say that walking was cheap, because we had ten miles to walk
home to our dinner, as that labour was cheap, because we had to
work ten hours to earn it.
The last word which we have to define is "Production."
I have hitherto spoken of all labour as profitable; because
it is impossible to consider under one head the quality or value
of labour, and its aim. But labour of the best quality may be
various in aim. It may be either constructive ("gathering" from
con and struo), as agriculture; nugatory, as jewel-cutting; or
destructive ("scattering," from de and struo), as war. It is not,
however, always easy to prove labour, apparently nugatory, to be
actually so;(25*) generally, the formula holds good: "he that
gathereth not, scattereth"; thus, the jeweller's art is probably
very harmful in its ministering to a clumsy and inelegant pride.
So that, finally, I believe nearly all labour may be shortly
divided into positive and negative labour: positive, that which
produces life; negative, that which produces death; the most
directly negative labour being murder, and the most directly
positive, the bearing and rearing of children; so that in the
precise degree in which murder is hateful, on the negative side
of idleness, in the exact degree child-rearing is admirable, on
the positive side of idleness. For which reason, and because of
the honour that there is in rearing children,(26*) while the wife
is said to be as the vine (for cheering), the children are as the
olive branch, for praise: nor for praise only, but for peace
(because large families can only be reared in times of peace):
though since, in their spreading and voyaging in various
directions, they distribute strength, they are, to the home
strength, as arrives in the hand of the giant -- striking here,
and there far away.
Labour being thus various in its result, the prosperity of
any nation is in exact proportion to the quantity of labour which
it spends in obtaining and employing means of life. Observe, -- I
say, obtaining and employing; that is to say, not merely wisely
producing, but wisely distributing and consuming. Economists
usually speak as if there were no good in consumption
absolute.(27*) So far from this being so, consumption absolute is
the end, crown, and perfection of production; and wise
consumption is a far more difficult art than wise production.
Twenty people can gain money for one who can use it; and the
vital question, for individual and for nation, is, never "how
much do they make?" but "to what purpose do they spend?"
The reader may, perhaps, have been surprised at the slight
reference I have hitherto made to "capital," and its functions.
It is here the place to define them.
Capital signifies "head, or source, or root material" -- it
is material by which some derivative or secondary good is
produced. It is only capital proper (caput vivum, not caput
mortuum) when it is thus producing something different from
itself. It is a root, which does not enter into vital function
till it produces something else than a root: namely, fruit. That
fruit will in time again produce roots; and so all living capital
issues in reproduction of capital; but capital which produces
nothing but capital is only root producing root; bulb issuing in
bulb, never in tulip; seed issuing in seed, never in bread. The
Political Economy of Europe has hitherto devoted itself wholly to
the multiplication, or (less even) the aggregation, of bulbs. It
never saw, nor conceived, such a thing as a tulip. Nay, boiled
bulbs they might have been -- glass bulbs -- Prince Rupert's
drops, consummated in powder (well, if it were glass-powder and
not gunpowder), for any end or meaning the economists had in
defining the laws of aggregation. We will try and get a clearer
notion of them.
The best and simplest general type of capital is a well-made
ploughshare. Now, if that ploughshare did nothing but beget other
ploughshares, in a polypous manner, -- however the great cluster
of polypous plough might glitter in the sun, it would have lost
its function of capital. It becomes true capital only by another
kind of splendour, -- when it is seen "splendescere sulco," to
grow bright in the furrow; rather with diminution of its
substance, than addition, by the noble friction. And the true
home question, to every capitalist and to every nation, is not,
"how many ploughs have you?" but, "where are your furrows?" not
-- "how quickly will this capital reproduce itself?" -- but,
"what will it do during reproduction?" What substance will it
furnish, good for life? what work construct, protective of life?
if none, its own reproduction is useless -- if worse than none,
(for capital may destroy life as well as support it), its own
reproduction is worse than useless; it is merely an advance from
Tisiphone, on mortgage -- not a profit by any means.
Not a profit, as the ancients truly saw, and showed in the
type of Ixion; -- for capital is the head, or fountain head of
wealth -- the "well-head" of wealth, as the clouds are the
well-heads of rain; but when clouds are without water, and only
beget clouds, they issue in wrath at last, instead of rain, and
in lightning instead of harvest; whence Ixion is said first to
have invited his guests to a banquet, and then made them fall
into a pit, (as also Demas' silver mine,) after which, to show
the rage of riches passing from lust of pleasure to lust of
power, yet power not truly understood, Ixion is said to have
desired Juno, and instead, embracing a cloud (or phantasm), to
have begotten the Centaurs; the power of mere wealth being, in
itself, as the embrace of a shadow, -- comfortless, (so also
"Ephraim feedeth on wind and followth after the east wind;" or
"that which is not" -- Prov. xxiii. 5; and again Dante's Geryon,
the type of avaricious fraud, as he flies, gathers the air up
with retractile claws, -- "l'aer a se raccolse"(28*)) but in its
offspring, a mingling of the brutal with the human nature; human
in sagacity -- using both intellect and arrow; but brutal in its
body and hoof, for consuming, and trampling down. For which sin
Ixion is at last bound upon a wheel -- fiery and toothed, and
rolling perpetually in the air: -- the type of human labour when
selfish and fruitless (kept far into the Middle Ages in their
wheels of fortune); the wheel which has in it no breath or
spirit, but is whirled by chance only; whereas of all true work
the Ezekiel vision is true, that the Spirit of the living
creature is in the wheels, and where the angels go, the wheels go
by them; but move no otherwise.
This being the real nature of capital, it follows that there
are two kinds of true production, always going on in an active
State: one of seed, and one of food; or production for the
Ground, and for the Mouth; both of which are by covetous persons
thought to be production only for the granary; whereas the
function of the granary is but intermediate and conservative,
fulfilled in distribution; else it ends in nothing but mildew,
and nourishment of rats and worms. And since production for the
Ground is only useful with future hope of harvest, all essential
production is for the Mouth; and is finally measured by the
mouth; hence, as I said above, consumption is the crown of
production; and the wealth of a nation is only to be estimated by
what it consumes.
The want of any clear sight of this fact is the capital
error, issuing in rich interest and revenue of error among the
political economists. Their minds are continually set on
money-gain, not on mouth-gain; and they fall into every sort of
net and snare, dazzled by the coin-glitter as birds by the
fowler's glass; or rather (for there is not much else like birds
in them) they are like children trying to jump on the heads of
their own shadows; the money-gain being only the shadow of the
true gain, which is humanity.
The final object of political economy, therefore, is to get
good method of consumption, and great quantity of consumption: in
other words, to use everything, and to use it nobly. whether it
be substance, service, or service perfecting substance. The most
curious error in Mr Mill's entire work, (provided for him
originally by Ricardo,) is his endeavour to distinguish between
direct and indirect service, and consequent assertion that a
demand for commodities is not demand for labour (I. v. 9, et
seq.). He distinguishes between labourers employed to lay out
pleasure grounds, and to manufacture velvet; declaring that it
makes material difference to the labouring classes in which of
these two ways a capitalist spends his money; because the
employment of the gardeners is a demand for labour, but the
purchase of velvet is not.(29*) Error colossal, as well as
strange. It will, indeed, make a difference to the labourer
whether we bid him swing his scythe in the spring winds, or drive
the loom in pestilential air. but, so far as his pocket is
concerned, it makes, to him absolutely no difference whether we
order him to make green velvet, with seed and a scythe, or red
velvet, with silk and scissors. Neither does it anywise concern
him whether, when the velvet is made, we consume it by walking on
it, or wearing it, so long as our consumption of it is wholly
selfish. But if our consumption is to be in anywise unselfish,
not only our mode of consuming the articles we require interests
him, but also the kind of article we require with a view to
consumption. As thus (returning for a moment to Mr Mill's great
hardware theory(30*)): it matters, so far as the labourer's
immediate profit is concerned, not an iron filing whether I
employ him in growing a peach, or forging a bombshell; but my
probable mode of consumption of those articles matters seriously.
Admit that it is to be in both cases "unselfish," and the
difference, to him, is final, whether when his child is ill, I
walk into his cottage and give it the peach, or drop the shell
down his chimney, and blow his roof off.
The worst of it, for the peasant, is, that the capitalist's
consumption of the peach is apt to be selfish, and of the shell,
distributive;(31*) but, in all cases, this is the broad and
general fact, that on due catallactic commercial principles,
somebody's roof must go off in fulfilment of the bomb's destiny.
You may grow for your neighbour, at your liking, grapes or
grape-shot; he will also, catallactically, grow grapes or
grape-shot for you, and you will each reap what you have sown.
It is, therefore, the manner and issue of consumption which
are the real tests of production. Production does not consist in
things laboriously made, but in things serviceably consumable;
and the question for the nation is not how much labour it
employs, but how much life it produces. For as consumption is the
end and aim of production, so life is the end and aim of
I left this question to the reader's thought two months ago,
choosing rather that he should work it out for himself than have
it sharply stated to him. But now, the ground being sufficiently
broken (and the details into which the several questions, here
opened, must lead us, being too complex for discussion in the
pages of a periodical, so that I must pursue them elsewhere), I
desire, in closing the series of introductory papers, to leave
this one great fact clearly stated. THERE IS NO WEALTH BUT LIFE.
Life, including all its powers of love, of joy, and of
admiration. That country is the richest which nourishes the
greatest number of noble and happy human beings; that man is
richest who, having perfected the functions of his own life to
the utmost, has also the widest helpful influence, both personal,
and by means of his possessions, over the lives of others.
A strange political economy; the only one, nevertheless, that
ever was or can be: all political economy founded on
self-interest(32*) being but the fulfilment of that which once
brought schism into the Policy of angels, and ruin into the
Economy of Heaven.
"The greatest number of human beings noble and happy." But is
the nobleness consistent with the number? Yes, not only
consistent with it, but essential to it. The maximum of life can
only be reached by the maximum of virtue. In this respect the law
of human population differs wholly from that of animal life. The
multiplication of animals is checked only by want of food, and by
the hostility of races; the population of the gnat is restrained
by the hunger of the swallow, and that of the swallow by the
scarcity of gnats. Man, considered as an animal, is indeed
limited by the same laws: hunger, or plague, or war, are the
necessary and only restraints upon his increase, -- effectual
restraints hitherto, -- his principal study having been how most
swiftly to destroy himself, or ravage his dwelling-places, and
his highest skill directed to give range to the famine, seed to
the plague, and sway to the sword. But, considered as other than
an animal, his increase is not limited by these laws. It is
limited only by the limits of his courage and his love. Both of
these have their bounds; and ought to have; his race has its
bounds also; but these have not yet been reached, nor will be
reached for ages.
In all the ranges of human thought I know none so melancholy
as the speculations of political economists on the population
question. It is proposed to better the condition of the labourer
by giving him higher wages. "Nay," says the economist, -- "if you
raise his wages, he will either people down to the same point of
misery at which you found him, or drink your wages away." He
will. I know it. Who gave him this will? Suppose it were your own
son of whom you spoke, declaring to me that you dared not take
him into your firm, nor even give him his just labourer's wages,
because if you did he would die of drunkenness, and leave half a
score of children to the parish. "Who gave your son these
dispositions?" -- I should enquire. Has he them by inheritance or
by education? By one or other they must come; and as in him, so
also in the poor. Either these poor are of a race essentially
different from ours, and unredeemable (which, however, often
implied, I have heard none yet openly say), or else by such care
as we have ourselves received, we may make them continent and
sober as ourselves-wise and dispassionate as we are models
arduous of imitation. "But," it is answered, "they cannot receive
education." Why not? That is precisely the point at issue.
Charitable persons suppose the worst fault of the rich is to
refuse the people meat; and the people cry for their meat, kept
back by fraud, to the Lord of Multitudes.(33*) Alas! it is not
meat of which the refusal is cruelest, or to which the claim is
validest. The life is more than the meat. The rich not only
refuse food to the poor; they refuse wisdom; they refuse virtue;
they refuse salvation. Ye sheep without shepherd, it is not the
pasture that has been shut from you, but the Presence. Meat!
perhaps your right to that may be pleadable; but other rights
have to be pleaded first. Claim your crumbs from the table, if
you will; but claim them as children, not as dogs; claim your
right to be fed, but claim more loudly your right to be holy,
perfect, and pure.
Strange words to be used of working people: "What! holy;
without any long robes nor anointing oils; these rough-jacketed,
rough-worded persons; set to nameless and dishonoured service?
Perfect! -- these, with dim eyes and cramped limbs, and slowly
wakening minds? Pure -- these, with sensual desire and grovelling
thought; foul of body, and coarse of soul?" It may be so;
nevertheless, such as they are, they are the holiest, perfectest,
purest persons the earth can at present show. They may be what
you have said; but if so, they yet are holier than we, who have
left them thus.
But what can be done for them? Who can clothe -- who teach --
who restrain their multitudes? What end can there he for them at
last, but to consume one another?
I hope for another end, though not, indeed, from any of the
three remedies for over-population commonly suggested by
These three are, in brief -- Colonization; Bringing in of
waste lands; or Discouragement of Marriage.
The first and second of these expedients merely evade or
delay the question. It will, indeed, be long before the world has
been all colonized, and its deserts all brought under
cultivation. But the radical question is not how much habitable
land is in the world, but how many human beings ought to be
maintained on a given space of habitable land.
Observe, I say, ought to be, not how many can be. Ricardo,
with his usual inaccuracy, defines what he calls the "natural
rate of wages" as "that which will maintain the labourer."
Maintain him! yes; but how? -- the question was instantly thus
asked of me by a working girl, to whom I read the passage. I will
amplify her question for her. "Maintain him, how?" As, first, to
what length of life? Out of a given number of fed persons how
many are to be old -- how many young; that is to say, will you
arrange their maintenance so as to kill them early -- say at
thirty or thirty-five on the average, including deaths of weakly
or ill-fed children? -- or so as to enable them to live out a
natural life? You will feed a greater number, in the first
case,(34*) by rapidity of succession; probably a happier number
in the second: which does Mr Ricardo mean to be their natural
state, and to which state belongs the natural rate of wages?
Again: A piece of land which will only support ten idle,
ignorant, and improvident persons, will support thirty or forty
intelligent and industrious ones. Which of these is their natural
state, and to which of them belongs the natural rate of wages?
Again: If a piece of land support forty persons in
industrious ignorance; and if, tired of this ignorance, they set
apart ten of their number to study the properties of cones, and
the sizes of stars; the labour of these ten, being withdrawn from
the ground, must either tend to the increase of food in some
transitional manner, or the persons set apart for sidereal and
conic purposes must starve, or some one else starve instead of
them. What is, therefore, the natural rate of wages of the
scientific persons, and how does this rate relate to, or measure,
their reverted or transitional productiveness?
Again: If the ground maintains, at first, forty labourers in
a peaceable and pious state of mind, but they become in a few
years so quarrelsome and impious that they have to set apart
five, to meditate upon and settle their disputes; -- ten, armed
to the teeth with costly instruments, to enforce the decisions;
and five to remind everybody in an eloquent manner of the
existence of a God; what will be the result upon the general
power of production, and what is the "natural rate of wages" of
the meditative, muscular, and oracular labourers?
Leaving these questions to be discussed, or waived, at their
pleasure, by Mr Ricardo's followers, I proceed to state the main
facts bearing on that probable future of the labouring classes
which has been partially glanced at by Mr Mill. That chapter and
the preceding one differ from the common writing of political
economists in admitting some value in the aspect of nature, and
expressing regret at the probability of the destruction of
natural scenery. But we may spare our anxieties, on this head.
Men can neither drink steam, nor eat stone. The maximum of
population on a given space of land implies also the relative
maximum of edible vegetable, whether for men or cattle; it
implies a maximum of pure air; and of pure water. Therefore: a
maximum of wood, to transmute the air, and of sloping ground,
protected by herbage from the extreme heat of the sun, to feed
the streams. All England may, if it so chooses, become one
manufacturing town; and Englishmen, sacrificing themselves to the
good of general humanity, may live diminished lives in the midst
of noise, of darkness, and of deadly exhalation. But the world
cannot become a factory, nor a mine. No amount of ingenuity will
ever make iron digestible by the million, nor substitute hydrogen
for wine. Neither the avarice nor the rage of men will ever feed
them, and however the apple of Sodom and the grape of Gomorrah
may spread their table for a time with dainties of ashes, and
nectar of asps, -- so long as men live by bread, the far away
valleys must laugh as they are covered with the gold of God, and
the shouts of His happy multitudes ring round the wine-press and
Nor need our more sentimental economists fear the too wide
spread of the formalities of a mechanical agriculture. The
presence of a wise population implies the search for felicity as
well as for food; nor can any population reach its maximum but
through that wisdom which "rejoices" in the habitable parts of
the earth. The desert has its appointed place and work; the
eternal engine, whose beam is the earth's axle, whose beat is its
year, and whose breath is its ocean, will still divide
imperiously to their desert kingdoms, bound with unfurrowable
rock, and swept by unarrested sand, their powers of frost and
fire: but the zones and lands between, habitable, will be
loveliest in habitation. The desire of the heart is also the
light of the eyes. No scene is continually and untiringly loved,
but one rich by joyful human labour; smooth in field; fair in
garden; full in orchard; trim, sweet, and frequent in homestead;
ringing with voices of vivid existence. No air is sweet that is
silent; it is only sweet when full of low currents of under
sound-triplets of birds, and murmur and chirp of insects, and
deep-toned words of men, and wayward trebles of childhood. As the
art of life is learned, it will be found at last that all lovely
things are also necessary: -- the wild flower by the wayside, as
well as the tended corn; and the wild birds and creatures of the
by every wondrous word and unknowable work of God. Happy, in that
he knew them not, nor did his fathers know; and that round about
him reaches yet into the infinite, the amazement of his
Note, finally, that all effectual advancement towards this
true felicity of the human race must be by individual, not public
effort. Certain general measures may aid, certain revised laws
guide, such advancement; but the measure and law which have first
to be determined are those of each man's home. We continually
hear it recommended by sagacious people to complaining neighbours
(usually less well placed in the world than themselves), that
they should "remain content in the station in which Providence
has placed them." There are perhaps some circumstances of life in
which Providence has no intention that people should be content.
Nevertheless, the maxim is on the whole a good one; but it is
peculiarly for home use. That your neighbour should, or should
not, remain content with his position, is not your business; but
it is very much your business to remain content with your own.
What is chiefly needed in England at the present day is to show
the quantity of pleasure that may be obtained by a consistent,
well-administered competence, modest, confessed, and laborious.
We need examples of people who, leaving Heaven to decide whether
they are to rise in the world, decide for them selves that they
will be happy in it, and have resolved to seek-not greater
wealth, but simpler pleasure; not higher fortune, but deeper
felicity; making the first of possessions, self-possession; and
honouring themselves in the harmless pride and calm pursuits of
Of which lowly peace it is written that "justice" and peace
have kissed each other;" and that the fruit of justice is " sown
in peace of them that make peace;" not "peace-makers" in the
common understanding -- reconcilers of quarrels; (though that
function also follows on the greater one;) but peace-Creators;
Givers of Calm. Which you cannot give, unless you first gain; nor
is this gain one which will follow assuredly on any course of
business, commonly so called. No form of gain is less probable,
business being (as is shown in the language of all nations --
polein from pelo, prasis from perao, venire, vendre, and venal,
from venio, &c.) essentially restless -- and probably
contentious; -- having a raven-like mind to the motion to and
fro, as to the carrion food; whereas the olive-feeding and
bearing birds look for rest for their feet: thus it is said of
Wisdom that she "hath builded her house, and hewn out her seven
pillars;" and even when, though apt to wait long at the
door-posts, she has to leave her house and go abroad, her paths
are peace also.
For us, at all events, her work must begin at the entry of
the doors: all true economy is "Law of the house." Strive to make
that law strict, simple, generous: waste nothing, and grudge
nothing. Care in nowise to make more of money, but care to make
much of it; remembering always the great, palpable, inevitable
fact -- the rule and root of all economy -- that what one person
has, another cannot have; and that every atom of substance, of
whatever kind, used or consumed, is so much human life spent;
which, if it issue in the saving present life, or gaining more,
is well spent, but if not, is either so much life prevented, or
so much slain. In all buying, consider, first, what condition of
existence you cause in the producers of what you buy; secondly,
whether the sum you have paid is just to the producer, and in due
proportion, lodged in his hands;(35*) thirdly, to how much clear
use, for food, knowledge, or joy, this that you have bought can
be put; and fourthly, to whom and in what way it can be most
speedily and serviceably distributed: in all dealings whatsoever
insisting on entire openness and stern fulfilment; and in all
doings, on perfection and loveliness of accomplishment;
especially on fineness and purity of all marketable commodity:
watching at the same time for all ways of gaining, or teaching,
powers of simple pleasure, and of showing oson en asphodelps geg
oneiar -- the sum of enjoyment depending not on the quantity of
things tasted, but on the vivacity and patience of taste.
And if, on due and honest thought over these things, it seems
that the kind of existence to which men are now summoned by every
plea of pity and claim of right, may, for some time at least, not
be a luxurious one; -- consider whether, even supposing it
guiltless, luxury would be desired by any of us, if we saw
clearly at our sides the suffering which accompanies it in the
world. Luxury is indeed possible in the future -- innocent and
exquisite; luxury for all, and by the help of all; but luxury at
present can only be enjoyed by the ignorant; the cruelest man
living could not sit at his feast, unless he sat blindfold. Raise
the veil boldly; face the light; and if, as yet, the light of the
eye can only be through tears, and the light of the body through
sackcloth, go thou forth weeping, bearing precious seed, until
the time come, and the kingdom, when Christ's gift of bread, and
bequest of peace, shall be "Unto this last as unto thee"; and
when, for earth's severed multitudes of the wicked and the weary,
there shall be holier reconciliation than that of the narrow
home, and calm economy, where the Wicked cease -- not from
trouble, but from troubling -- and the Weary are at rest.
1. The difference between the two modes of treatment, and between
their effective material results, may be seen very accurately by
a comparison of the relations of Esther and Charlie in Bleak
House, with those of Miss Brass and the Marchioness in Master
The essential value and truth of Dickens's writings have been
unwisely lost sight of by many thoughtful persons, merely because
he presents his truth with some colour of caricature. Unwisely,
because Dickens's caricature, though often gross, is never
mistaken. Allowing for his manner of telling them, the things he
tells us are always true. I wish that he could think it right to
limit his brilliant exaggeration to works written only for public
amusement; and when he takes up a subject of high national
importance, such as that which he handled in Hard Times, that he
would use severer and more accurate analysis. The usefulness of
that work (to my mind, in several respects, the greatest he has
written) is with many persons seriously diminished because Mr
Bounderby is a dramatic monster, instead of a characteristic
example of a worldly master; and Stephen Blackpool a dramatic
perfection, instead of a characteristic example of an honest
workman. But let us not lose the use of Dickens's wit and
insight, because he chooses to speak in a circle of stage fire.
He is entirely right in his main drift and purpose in every book
he has written; and all of them, but especially Hard Times,
should be studied with close and earnest care by persons
interested in social questions. They will find much that is
partial, and, because partial, apparently unjust; but if they
examine all the evidence on the other side, which Dickens seems
to overlook, it will appear, after all their trouble, that his
view was the finally right one, grossly and sharply told.
2. I have been naturally asked several times, with respect to the
sentence in the first of these papers, "the bad workmen
unemployed," "But what are you to do with your bad unemployed
workmen?" Well, it seems to me the question might have occurred
to you before. Your housemaid's place is vacant -- you give
twenty pounds a year-two girls come for it, one neatly dressed,
the other dirtily; one with good recommendations, the other with
none. You do not, under these circumstances, usually ask the
dirty one if she will come for fifteen pounds, or twelve; and, on
her consenting, take her instead of the well-recommended one.
Still less do you try to beat both down by making them bid
against each other, till you can hire both, one at twelve pounds
a year, and the other at eight. You simply take the one fittest
for the place, and send away the other, not perhaps concerning
yourself quite as much as you should with the question which you
now impatiently put to me, "What is to become of her?" For all
that I advise you to do, is to deal with workmen as with
servants; and verily the question is of weight: "Your bad
workman, idler, and rogue -- what are you to do with him?"
We will consider of this presently: remember that the
administration of a complete system of national commerce and
industry cannot be explained in full detail within the space of
twelve pages. Meantime, consider whether, there being confessedly
some difficulty in dealing with rogues and idlers, it may not be
advisable to produce as few of them as possible. If you examine
into the history of rogues, you will find they are as truly
manufactured articles as anything else, and it is just because
our present system of political economy gives so large a stimulus
to that manufacture that you may know it to be a false one. We
had better seek for a system which will develop honest men, than
for one which will deal cunningly with vagabonds. Let us reform
our schools, and we shall find little reform needed in our
3. The disputes which exist respecting the real nature of money
arise more from the disputants examining its functions on
different sides, than from any real dissent in their opinions.
All money, properly so called, is an acknowledgment of debt; but
as such, it may either be considered to represent the labour and
property of the creditor, or the idleness and penury of the
debtor. The intricacy of the question has been much increased by
the (hitherto necessary) use of marketable commodities, such as
gold, silver, salt, shells, &c., to give intrinsic value or
security to currency; but the final and best definition of money
is that it is a documentary promise ratified and guaranteed by
the nation to give or find a certain quantity of labour on
demand. A man's labour for a day is a better standard of value
than a measure of any produce, because no produce ever maintains
a consistent rate of productibility.
4. More accurately, Sun of Justness; but, instead of the harsh
word "Justness," the old English "Righteousness" being commonly
employed, has, by getting confused with "godliness," or
attracting about it various vague and broken meanings. prevented
most persons from receiving the force of the passages in which it
occurs. The word "righteousness" properly refers to the justice
of rule, or right, as distinguished from "equity," which refers
to the justice of balance. More broadly, Righteousness is King's
justice; and Equity, Judge's justice; the King guiding or ruling
all, the Judge dividing or discerning between opposites
(therefore the double question, "Man, who made me a ruler --
dikastes -- or a dividermeristes -- over you?") Thus, with
respect to the Justice of Choice (selection, the feebler and
passive justice), we have from lego, -- lex, legal, loi, and
loyal; and with respect to the Justice of Rule (direction, the
stronger and active justice), we have from rego, -- rex, regal,
roi, and royal.
5. In another place written with the same meaning, "Just, and
6. "Length of days in her right hand; in her left, riches and
7. I hear that several of our lawyers have been greatly amused by
the statement in the first of these papers that a lawyer's
function was to do justice. I did not intend it for a jest;
nevertheless it will be seen that in the above passage neither
the determination nor doing of justice are contemplated as
functions wholly peculiar to the lawyer. Possibly, the more our
standing armies, whether of soldiers, pastors, or legislators
(the generic term "pastor" including all teachers, and the
generic term "lawyer" including makers as well as interpreters of
law), can be superseded by the force of national heroism, wisdom,
and honesty, the better it may be for the nation.
8. It being the privilege of the fishes, as it is of rats and
wolves, to live by the laws of demand and supply; but the
distinction of humanity, to live by those of right.
9. It might appear at first that the market price of labour
expressed such an exchange: but this is a fallacy, for the market
price is the momentary price of the kind of labour required, but
the just price is its equivalent of the productive labour of
mankind. This difference will be analyzed in its place. It must
be noted also that I speak here only of the exchangeable value of
labour, not of that of commodities. The exchangeable value of a
commodity is that of the labour required to produce it,
multiplied into the force of the demand for it. If the value of
the labour = x and the force of demand = y, the exchangeable
value of the commodity is xy, in which if either x = 0, or y = 0,
xy = 0.
10. Under the term "skill" I mean to include the united force of
experience, intellect, and passion in their operation on manual
labour: and under the term "passion," to include the entire range
and agency of the moral feelings; from the simple patience and
gentleness of mind which will give continuity and fineness to the
touch, or enable one person to work without fatigue, and with
good effect, twice as long as another, up to the qualities of
character which renders science possible -- (the retardation of
science by envy is one of the most tremendous losses in the
economy of the present century) -- and to the incommunicable
emotion and imagination which are the first and mightiest sources
of all value in art.
It is highly singular that political economists should not
yet have perceived, if not the moral, at least the passionate
element, to be an inextricable quantity in every calculation. I
cannot conceive, for instance, how it was possible that Mr Mill
should have followed the true clue so far as to write, -- "No
limit can be set to the importance -- even in a purely productive
and material point of view -- of mere thought," without seeing
that it was logically necessary to add also, "and of mere
feeling." And this the more, because in his first definition of
labour he includes in the idea of it "all feelings of a
disagreeable kind connected with the employment of one's thoughts
in a particular occupation." True; but why not also, "feelings of
an agreeable kind?" It can hardly be supposed that the feelings
which retard labour are more essentially a part of the labour
than those which accelerate it. The first are paid for as pain,
the second as power. The workman is merely indemified for the
first; but the second both produce a part of the exchangeable
value of the work, and materially increase its actual quantity.
"Fritz is with us. He is worth fifty thousand men." Truly, a
large addition to the material force; -- consisting, however, be
it observed, not more in operations carried on in Fritz's head,
than in operations carried on in his armies' heart. "No limit can
be set to the importance of mere thought." Perhaps not! Nay,
suppose some day it should turn out that "mere" thought was in
itself a recommendable object of production, and that all
Material production was only a step towards this more precious
11. I am sorry to lose time by answering, however curtly, the
equivocations of the writers who sought to obscure the instances
given of regulated labour in the first of these papers, by
confusing kinds, ranks, and quantities of labour with its
qualities. I never said that a colonel should have the same pay
as a private, nor a bishop the same pay as a curate. Neither did
I say that more work ought to be paid as less work (so that the
curate of a parish of two thousand souls should have no more than
the curate of a parish of five hundred). But I said that, so far
as you employ it at all, bad work should be paid no less than
good work; as a bad clergyman yet takes his tithes, a bad
physician takes bis fee, and a bad lawyer his costs. And this, as
will be farther shown in the conclusion, I said, and say, partly
because the best work never was, nor ever will be, done for money
at all; but chiefly because, the moment people know they have to
pay the bad and good alike, they will try to discern the one from
the other, and not use the bad. A sagacious writer in the
Scotsman asks me if I should like any common scribbler to be paid
by Messrs Smith, Elder and Co. as their good authors are. I
should, if they employed him-but would seriously recommend them,
for the scribbler's sake, as well as their own, not to employ
him. The quantity of its money which the country at present
invests in scribbling is not, in the outcome of it, economically
spent; and even the highly ingenious person to whom this question
occurred, might perhaps have been more beneficially employed than
in printing it.
12. I have to acknowledge an interesting communication on the
subject of free trade from Paisley (for a short letter from "A
Well-wisher" at my thanks are yet more due). But the Scottish
writer will, I fear, be disagreeably surprised to hear, that I
am, and always have been, an utterly fearless and unscrupulous
free-trader. Seven years ago, speaking of the various signs of
infancy in the European mind (Stones of Venice, vol. iii. p.
168), I wrote: "The first principles of commerce were
acknowledged by the English parliament only a few months ago, in
its free-trade measures, and are still so little understood by
the million, that no nation dares to abolish its custom-houses."
It will be observed that I do not admit even the idea of
reciprocity. Let other nations, if they like, keep their ports
shut; every wise nation will throw its own open. It is not the
opening them, but a sudden, inconsiderate, and blunderingly
experimental manner of opening them, which does the harm. If you
have been protecting a manufacture for a long series of years,
you must not take the protection off in a moment, so as to throw
every one of its operatives at once out of employ, any more than
you must take all its wrappings off a feeble child at once in
cold weather, though the cumber of them may have been radically
injuring its health. Little by little, you must restore it to
freedom and to air.
Most people's minds are in curious confusion on the subject
of free trade, because they suppose it to imply enlarged
competition. On the contrary, free trade puts an end to all
competition. "Protection" (among various other mischievous
functions,) endeavours to enable one country to compete with
another in the production of an article at a disadvantage. When
trade is entirely free, no country can be competed with in the
articles for the production of which it is naturally calculated;
nor can it compete with any other, in the production of articles
for which it is not naturally calculated. Tuscany, for instance,
cannot compete with England in steel, nor England with Tuscany in
oil. They must exchange their steel and oil. Which exchange
should be as frank and free as honesty and the sea-winds can make
it. Competition, indeed, arises at first, and sharply, in order
to prove which is strongest in any given manufacture possible to
both; this point once ascertained, competition is at an end.
13. I should be glad if the reader would first clear the ground
for himself so far as to determine whether the difficulty lies in
getting the work or getting the pay for it. Does he consider
occupation itself to be an expensive luxury, difficult of
attainment, of which too little is to be found in the world? or
is it rather that, while in the enjoyment even of the most
athletic delight, men must nevertheless be maintained, and this
maintenance is not always forthcoming? We must be clear on this
head before going farther, as most people are loosely in the
habit of talking of the difficulty of "finding employment." Is it
employment that we want to find, or support during employment? Is
it idleness we wish to put an end to, or hunger? We have to take
up both questions in succession, only not both at the same time.
No doubt that work is a luxury, and a very great one. It is,
indeed, at once a luxury and a necessity; no man can retain
either health of mind or body without it. So profoundly do I feel
this, that, as will be seen in the sequel, one of the principal
objects I would recommend to benevolent and practical persons, is
to induce rich people to seek for a larger quantity of this
luxury than they at present possess. Nevertheless, it appears by
experience that even this healthiest of pleasures may be indulged
in to excess, and that human beings are just as liable to surfeit
of labour as to surfeit of meat; so that, as on the one hand, it
may be charitable to provide, for some people, lighter dinner,
and more work, for others, it may be equally expedient to provide
lighter work, and more dinner.
14. Book I. chap. iv. s. 1. To save space, my future references
to Mr Mill's work will be by numerals only, as in this instance,
I. iv. I. Ed. in 2 vols. 8vo. Parker, 1848.
15. If Mr Mill had wished to show the difference in result
between consumption and sale, he should have represented the
hardware merchant as consuming his own goods instead of selling
them; similarly, the silver merchant as consuming his own goods
instead of welling them. Had he done this, he would have made his
position clearer, though less tenable; and perhaps this was the
position he really intended to take, tacitly involving his
theory, elsewhere stated, and shown in the sequel of this paper
to be false, that demand for commodities is not demand for
labour. But by the most diligent scrutiny of the paragraph now
under examination, I cannot determine whether it is a fallacy
pure and simple, or the half of one fallacy supported by the
whole of a greater one; so that I treat it here on the kinder
assumption that it is one fallacy only.
16. I take Mr Helps' estimate in his essay on War.
17. Also when the wrought silver vases of Spain were dashed to
fragments by our custom-house officers, because bullion might be
imported free of duty, but not brains, was the axe that broke
them productive? -- the artist who wrought them unproductive? Or
again. If the woodman's axe is productive, is the executioner's?
as also, if the hemp of a cable be productive, does not the
productiveness of hemp in a halter depend on its moral more than
on its material application?
18. Filigree: that is to say, generally, ornament dependent on
complexity, not on art.
19. These statements sound crude in their brevity; but will be
found of the utmost importance when they are developed. Thus, in
the above instance, economists have never perceived that
disposition to buy is a wholly moral element in demand: that is
to say, when you give a man half-a-crown, it depends on his
disposition whether he is rich or poor with it -- whether he will
buy disease, ruin, and hatred, or buy health, advancement, and
domestic love. And thus the agreeableness or exchange value of
every offered commodity depends on production, not merely of the
commodity, but of buyers of it; therefore on the education of
buyers, and on all the moral elements by which their disposition
to buy this, or that, is formed. I will illustrate and expand
into final consequences every one of these definitions in its
place: at present they can only be given with extremest brevity;
for in order to put the subject at once in a connected form
before the reader, I have thrown into one, the opening
definitions of four chapters; namely, of that on Value ("Ad
Valorem"); on Price ("Thirty Pieces"); on Production ("Demeter");
and on Economy ("The Law of the House").
20. Perhaps it may be said, in farther support of Mr Ricardo,
that he meant, "when the utility is constant or given, the price
varies as the quantity of labour." If he meant this, he should
have said it; but, had he meant it, he could have hardly missed
the necessary result, that utility would be one measure of price
(which he expressly denies it to be); and that, to prove
saleableness, he had to prove a given quantity of utility, as
well as a given quantity of labour: to wit, in his own instance,
that the deer and fish would each feed the same number of men,
for the same number of days, with equal pleasure to their
palates. The fact is, he did not know what he meant himself. The
general idea which he had derived from commercial experience,
without being able to analyze it, was, that when the demand is
constant, the price varies as the quantity of labour required for
production; or, -- using the formula I gave in last paper -- when
y is constant, x y varies as x. But demand never is, nor can be,
ultimately constant, if x varies distinctly; for, as price rises,
consumers fall away; and as soon as there is a monopoly (and all
scarcity is a form of monopoly; so that every commodity is
affected occasionally by some colour of monopoly), y becomes the
most influential condition of the price. Thus the price of a
painting depends less on its merits than on the interest taken in
it by the public; the price of singing less on the labour of the
singer than the number of persons who desire to hear him; and the
price of gold less on the scarcity which affects it in common
with cerium or iridium, than on the sunlight colour and
unalterable purity by which it attracts the admiration and
answers the trust of mankind.
It must be kept in mind, however, that I use the word
"demand" in a somewhat different sense from economists usually.
They mean by it "the quantity of a thing sold." I mean by it "the
force of the buyer's capable intention to buy." In good English,
a person's "demand" signifies, not what he gets, but what he asks
Economists also do not notice that objects are not valued by
absolute bulk or weight, but by such bulk and weight as is
necessary to bring them into use. They say, for instance, that
water bears no price in the market. It is true that a cupful does
not, but a lake does; just as a handful of dust does not, but an
acre does. And were it possible to make even the possession of
the cupful or handful permanent, (i.e. to find a place for them,)
the earth and sea would be bought up for handfuls and cupfuls.
21. Compare George Herbert, The Church Porch, Staza 28.
22. "O Zeus dipou penetai" -- Arist. Plut. 582. It would but
weaken the grad words to lean on the preceding ones: -- "Oti tou
Platon parecho Beltionas, andpas, kai tin gnomen, kai ten idean."
23. Zech. v. ii.
24. Labour which is entirely good of its kind, that is to say,
effective, or efficient, the Greeks called "weighable," or axios,
translated usually "worthy," and because thus substantial and
true, they called its price time, the "honourable estimate" of it
(honorarium): this word being founded on their conception of true
labour as a divine thing, to be honoured with the kind of honour
given to the gods; whereas the price of false labour, or of that
which led away from life, was to be, not honour, but vengeance;
for which they reserved another word, attributing the exaction of
such price to a peculiar goddess, called Tisiphone, the "requiter
(or quittance-taker) of death"; a person versed in the highest
branches of arithmetic, and punctual in her habits; with whom
accounts current have been opened also in modern days.
25. The most accurately nugatory labour is, perhaps, that of
which not enough is given to answer a purpose effectually, and
which, therefore, has all to be done over again. Also, labour
which fails of effect through non-co-operation. The cure of a
little village near Bellinzona, to whom I had expressed wonder
that the peasants allowed the Ticino to flood their fields, told
me that they would not join to build an effectual embankment high
up the valley, because everybody said "that would help his
neighbours as much as himself." So every proprietor built a bit
of low embankment about his own field; and the Ticino, as soon as
it had a mind, swept away and swallowed all up together.
26. Observe, I say, rearing," not "begetting." The praise is in
the seventh season, not in sporitos, nor in phutalia, but in
opora. It is strange that men always praise enthusiastically any
person who, by a momentary exertion, saves a life; but praise
very hesitatingly a person who, by exertion and self-denial
prolonged through years, creates one. We give the crown "ob civem
servatum"; -- why not "ob civem natum?" Born, I mean, to the
full, in soul as well as body. England has oak enough, I think,
for both chaplets.
27. When Mr Mill speaks of productive consumption, he only means
consumption which results in increase of capital, or material
wealth. See I. iii. 4, and I. iii. 5.
28. So also in the vision of the women bearing the ephah, before
quoted, "the wind was in their wings," not wings "of a stork," as
in our version; but "miivi," of a kite, in the Vulgate, or
perhaps more accurately still in the Septuagint, "hoopoe," a bird
connected typically with the power of riches by many traditions,
of which that of its petition for a crest of gold is perhaps the
most interesting. The "Birds" of Aristophanes, in which its part
is principal, are full of them; note especially the
"fortification of the air with baked bricks, like Babylon," I.
550; and, again, compare the Plutus of Dante, who (to show the
influence of riches in destroying the reason) is the only one of
the powers of the Inferno who cannot speak intelligibly and also
the cowardliest; he is not merely quelled or restrained, but
literally "collapses" at a word; the sudden and helpless
operation of mercantile panic being all told in the brief
metaphor, "as the sails, swollen with the wind, fall, when the
29. The value of raw material, which has, indeed, to be deducted
from the price of the labour, is not contemplated in the passages
referred to, Mr. Mill having fallen into the mistake solely by
pursuing the collateral results of the payment of wages to
middlemen. He says" The consumer does not, with his own funds,
pay the weaver for his day's work. "Pardon me; the consumer of
the velvet pays the weaver with his own funds as much as he pays
the gardener. He pays, probably, an intermediate ship-owner,
velvet merchant, and shopman; pays carriage money, shop rent,
damage money, time money, and care money; all these are above and
beside the velvet price, (just as the wages of a head gardener
would be above the grass price). but the velvet is as much
produced by the consumer's capital, though he does not pay for it
till six months after production, as the grass is produced by his
capital, though he does not pay the man who mowed and rolled it
on Monday, till Saturday afternoon. I do not know if Mr. Mill's
conclusion, -- "the capital cannot be dispensed with, the
purchasers can " (p. 98), has yet been reduced to practice in the
City on any large scale.
30. Which, observe, is the precise opposite of the one under
examination. The hardware theory required us to discharge our
gardeners and engage manufacturers; the velvet theory requires us
to discharge our manufacturers and engage gardeners.
31. It is one very awful form of the operation of wealth in
Europe that it is entirely capitalists' wealth which supports
unjust wars. Just wars do not need so much money to support them;
for most of the men who wage such, wage them gratis; but for an
unjust war, men's bodies and souls have both to be bought; and
the best tools of war for them besides; which makes such war
costly to the maximum; not to speak of the cost of base fear, and
angry suspicion, between nations which have not grace nor honesty
enough in all their multitudes to buy an hour's peace of mind
with: as, at present, France and England, purchasing of each
other ten millions sterling worth of consternation annually, (a
remarkably light crop, half thorns and half aspen leaves, --
sown, reaped, and granaried by the "science" of the modern
political economist, teaching covetousness instead of truth.) And
all unjust war being supportable, if not by pillage of the enemy,
only by loans from capitalists, these loans are repaid by
subsequent taxation of the people, who appear to have no will in
the matter, the capitalists' will being the primary root of the
war; but its real root is the covetousness of the whole nation,
rendering it incapable of faith, frankness, or justice, and
bringing about, therefore, in due time, his own separate loss and
punishment to each person.
32. "In all reasoning about prices, the proviso must be
understood, 'supposing all parties to take care of their own
interest.'" -- Mill, III. i. 5.
33. James v. 4. Observe, in these statements I am not talking up,
nor countenancing one whit, the common socialist idea of division
of property; division of property is its destruction; and with it
the destruction of all hope, all industry, and all justice: it is
simply chaos a chaos towards which the believers in modern
political economy are fast tending, and from which I am striving
to save them. The rich man does not keep back meat from the poor
by retaining his riches; but by basely using them. Riches are a
form of strength; and a strong man does not injure others by
keeping his strength, but by using it injuriously. The socialist,
seeing a strong man oppress a weak one, cries out. -- "Break the
strong man's arms." but I say, "Teach him to use them to better
purpose." The fortitude and intelligence which acquire riches are
intended, by the Giver of both, not to scatter, nor to give away,
but to employ those riches in the service of mankind; in other
words, in the redemption of the erring and aid of the weak --
that is to say, there is first to be the work to gain money; then
the Sabbath of use for it -- the Sabbath, whose law is, not to
lose life, but to save. It is continually the fault or the folly
of the poor that they are poor, as it is usually a child's fault
if it falls into a pond, and a cripple's weakness that slips at a
crossing; nevertheless, most passers -- by would pull the child
out, or help up the cripple. Put it at the worst, that all the
poor of the world are but disobedient children, or careless
cripples, and that all rich people are wise and strong, and you
will see at once that neither is the socialist right in desiring
to make everybody poor, powerless, and foolish as he is himself,
nor the rich man right in leaving the children in the mire.
34. The quantity of life is the same in both cases; but it is
35. The proper offices of middle-men, namely, overseers (or
authoritative workmen), conveyancers (merchants, sailors, retail
dealers, &c.), and order-takers (persons employed to receive
directions from the consumer), must, of course, be examined
before I can enter farther into the question of just payment of
the first producer. But I have not spoken of them in these
introductory papers, because the evils attendant on the abuse of
such intermediate functions result not from any alleged principle
of modern political economy, but from private carelessness or
Translation of Ruskin.
In a chapter in his Autobiography (Part IV, Chapter XVIII) entitled "The Magic Spell of a Book' Gandhiji tells us how he read Ruskin's Unto this Last on the twenty-four hours' journey from Johannesburg to Durban. 'The train reached there in the evening. I could not get any sleep that night. I determined to change my life in accordance with the ideals of the book. ... I translated it later into Gujarati, entitling it Sarvodaya.'
Sarvodaya is here re-translated into English, Ruskin's winged words being retained as far as possible.
At the end of that chapter Gandhiji gives us a summary of the teachings of Unto This Last as he understood it :
1. The good of the individual is contained in the good of all.
2. A lawyer's work has the same value as the barber's, as all have the same right of earning their livelihood from their work.
3. A life of labour, i.e. the life of the tiller of the soil and the handicraftsman is the life worth living.
Nothing more need be said as regards the paraphrase of Ruskin's four chapters, but Gandhiji's conclusion (pp. 41-44), written as it was in South Africa long before he returned to India in 1915, is prophetic and fit to be treasured by India for all time to come. And the last paragraph of the booklet is a pearl beyond price.
Valji Govindji Desai
To The Reader
I would like to say to the diligent reader of my writings and to others who are interested in them that I am not at all concerned with appearing to be consistent. In my search after Truth I have discarded many ideas and learnt many new things. Old as I am in age, I have no feeling that I have ceased to grow inwardly or that my growth will stop at the dissolution of the flesh. What I am concerned with is my readiness to obey the call of Truth, my God, from moment to moment, and therefore, when anybody finds any inconsistency between any two writings of mine, if he has still faith in my sanity, he would do well to choose the later of the two on the same subject.
Harijan. 29-4-'33. p.2
People in the West generally hold that the whole duty of man is to promote the happiness if the majority of mankind, and happiness is supposed to mean only physical happiness and economic prosperity. If the laws of morality city are broken in the conquest of this happiness, it does not matter very much. Again, as the object sought to be attained is the happiness of the majority, Westerners do not think there is any harm if this is secured by sacrificing a minority. The consequences of this line of thinking are large on the face of Europe.
This exclusive search for physical and economic well-being prosecuted in disregard of morality is contrary to divine law, as some wise men in the West have shown. One of these was John Ruskin who contends in Unto This Last that men can be happy only if they obey the moral law.
We in India are very much given nowadays to an imitation of the West. It is necessary to imitate the virtues of the West, but there is no doubt that Western standards are often bad, and every one will agree that we should shun all evil things.
The Indians in South Africa are reduced to a sorry plight. We go abroad in order to make money, and in trying to get rich quick, we lose sight of morality and forget that God will judge all our acts. Self-interest absorbs our energies and paralyzes our power of discrimination between good and evil. The result is that instead of gaining anything, we lose a great deal by staying in foreign countries; or at least we fail to derive full benefit from it. Morality is an essential ingredient in all the faiths of the world, but apart from religion, our commonsense indicates the necessity of observing the moral law. Only by observing it can we hope to be happy, as Ruskin shows in the following pages.
Socrates in Plato's Apology gives us some idea of our duty as men. And he was as good as his word. I feel that Ruskin's Unto This Last is an expansion of Socrates' ideas; he tells us how men in various walks of life should behave if they intend to translate these ideas into action. What follows is not a translation of Unto This Last but a paraphrase, as a translation would not be particularly useful to the readers of Indian Opinion. Even the title has not been translated but paraphrased as Sarvodaya [the welfare of all], as that was what Rusking aimed at in writing this book.
(1) Gandhiji had published a summary of The Apology in Indian Opinion before Sarvodaya was written. V.G.D.
Essay I : The Roots of Truth
Among the delusions which at different periods have afflicted mankind, perhaps the - certainly the least creditable - is modern economics based on the idea that an advantageous code of action may be determined irrespectively of the influence of social affection.
Of course, as in the case of other delusions, political economy has a plausible idea at the root of it. 'The social affections,' says the economist, 'are accidental and disturbing elements in human nature ; but avarice and the desire for progress are constant elements. Let us eliminate the , and considering man merely as a money-making machine, examine by what laws of labour, purchase and sale, the greatest amount of wealth can be accumulated. Those laws once determined, it will be for each individual afterwards to introduce as much of the disturbing affectionate element as he chooses.'
This would be a logical method of analysis if the accidentals afterwards to be introduced were of the same nature as the powers first examined. Supposing a body in motion to be influenced by constant and inconstant forces, it is the simplest way of examining its course to trace it first under the persistent conditions and afterwards introduce the causes of variation. But the disturbing elements in the social problem are not of the same nature as the constant ones; they alter the essence of the creature under examination the moment they are added. They operate not mathematically but chemically, introducing conditions which render all our previous knowledge unavailable.
I do not doubt the conclusions of the science if its terms are accepted. I am simply uninterested in them, as I should be in those of a science of gymnastics which assumed that men had no skeletons. It might be shown on that supposition that it would be advantageous to roll the students up into pellets, flatten them into cakes, or stretch them into cables; and that when these results were effected, the reinsertion of the skeleton would be attended with various inconveniences to their constitution. The reasoning might be admirable, the conclusions true, and the science deficient only in applicability. Modern political economy stands on a precisely similar basis. It imagines that man has a body but no soul to be taken into account and frames its laws accordingly. How can such laws possibly apply to man in whom the soul is the predominant element?
Political economy is no science at all. We see how helpless it is when labourers go on a strike. The masters take one view of the matter, the operatives another; and no political economy can set them at one. Disputant after disputant vainly strives to show that the interests of the masters are not antagonistic to those of the men. In fact it does not always follow that the persons must be antagonistic because their interests are. If there is only a crust of bread in the house, and mother and children are starving, their interests are not the same. If the mother eats it, the children want it; if the children eat it, the mother must go hungry to her work. Yet it does not follow that there is antagonism between them, that they will fight for the crust, and the mother, being strongest, will get it and eat it. Similarly it cannot be assumed that because their interests are diverse, persons must regard one another with hostility and use violence or cunning to obtain the advantage.
Even if we consider men as actuated by no other moral influences than those which affect rats or swine, it can never be shown generally either that the interests of master and labourer are alike or that they are opposed; for according to circumstances they may be either. It is indeed the interest of both that the work should be rightly done and a just price obtained for it ; but in the division of profits, the gain of the one may or may not be the loss of the other. It is not the master's interest to pay wages so low as to leave the men sickly and depressed, nor the workman's interest to be paid high wages if the smallness of the master's profit hinders him from conducting it in a safe and liberal way. A stoker ought not to desire high pay if the company is too poor to keep the engine-wheels in repair.
All endeavour, therefore, to deduce rules of action from balance of expediency is in vain. And it is meant to be in vain. For no human actions ever were intended by the Maker of men to be guided by balances of expediency but by balances of justice. He has therefore rendered all endeavours to determine expediency futile for evermore. No man can know what will be the ultimate result to himself or others of any given line of conduct. But every man may know and most of us do know what is a just and unjust act. And all of us may know also that the consequences of justice will be ultimately the best possible, both to others and ourselves, though we can neither say what is best, or how it is likely to come about.
I have meant in the term justice to include affection-such affection as one man owes to another. All right relations between master and operative ultimately depend on this.
As an let us consider the position of domestic servants.
We will suppose that the master of a household tries only to get as much work out of his servants as he can, at the rate of wages he gives. He never allows them to be idle ; feeds them as poorly and lodges them as ill as they will endure. In doing this, there is no violation on his part of what is commonly called 'justice'. He agrees with the domestic for his whole time and service and takes them, the limits of hardship in treatment being fixed by the practice of other masters in the neighbourhood. If the servant can get a better place, he is free to take one.
This is the politico-economical view of the case according to the doctors of that science who assert that by this procedure the greatest average of work will be obtained from the servant, and therefore the greatest benefit to the community, and through the community, to the servant himself.
That however is not so. It would be so if the servant were an engine of which the motive power was steam, magnetism or some such agent of calculable force. But on the contrary he is an engine whose motive power is the Soul. Soul force enters into all the economist's equations without his knowledge and falsifies every one of their results.
The largest quantity of work will not be done by this curious engine for pay or under pressure. It will be done when the motive force, that is to say, the will or spirit of the creature, is brought to its greatest strength by its own proper fuel, namely by the affections.
It does happen often that if the master is a man of sense and energy, much material work may be done under also it does happen often that if the master is indolent and weak, a small quantity of work, and that bad, may be produced by his servant. But the universal law of the matter is assuming any given quantity of energy and sense in master and servant, the greatest material result obtainable by them will be not through antagonism to each other, but through affection for each other.
Nor is this one whit less generally true because indulgence will be frequently abused, and kindness met with ingratitude. For the servant who, gently treated, is ungrateful, treated ungently, will be revengeful ; and the man who is dishonest to a liberal master will be injurious to an unjust man.
In any case and with any person, this unselfish treatment will produce the most effective return. I am here considering the affections wholly as a motive power; not at all as things in themselves desirable or noble. I look at them simply as an anomalous force, rendering every one of the ordinary economist's calculations nugatory. The affections only become a true motive power when they ignore every other motive and condition of economics. Treat the servant kindly with the idea of turning his gratitude to account, and you will get, as you deserve, no gratitude nor any value for your kindness ; but treat him kindly without any economical purpose, and all economical purposes will be answered ; here as elsewhere whoever will save his life shall lose it, whoso loses it shall find it.
The next simplest example of between master and operative is that which exists between the commander of a regiment and his men.
Supposing the officer only desires to apply the rules of discipline so as, with least trouble to himself, to make the regiment most effective, he will not be able, by any rules, on this selfish principle, to develop the full strength of his subordinates. But if he has the most direct personal relations with his men, the most care for their interests, and the most value for their lives, he will develop their effective strength, through their affection for his own person and trust in his character, to a degree wholly unattainable by other means. This applies more stringently as the numbers concerned are larger : a charge may often be successful though the men dislike their officers ; a battle has rarely been won, unless they loved their general.
A body of men associated for the purposes of robbery (as a Highland clan in ancient times) shall be animated by perfect affection, and every member of it be ready to lay down his life for the life for the life of his chief. But a band of men associated for purpose of legal production is usually animated by no such emotions, and none of them is willing to give his life for the life of his chief. For a servant or a soldier is engaged at a definite rate of wages for a definite period ; but a workman at a rate of wages variable according to the demand for labour, and with the risk of being at any time thrown out of employment by chances of trade. Now as under these conditions no action of the affections can take place, but only an explosive action of disaffections, two points offer themselves of consideration in the matter :
1. How far the rate of wages may be so regulated as not to vary with the demand for labour ;
2. How far it is possible that bodies of workmen may be engaged and maintained at such fixed rate of wages (whatever the state of trade may be), without enlarging or diminishing their number, so as to give them permanent interest in the establishment with which they are connected, like that of the domestic servants in an old family, or an esprit de corps, like that of the soldiers in a crack regiment.
1. A curious fact in the history of human error is the denial by the economist of the possibility of so regulating wages as not to vary with the demand for labour.
We do not sell our prime-minister by Dutch auction. Sick, we do not inquire for a physician who takes less than a litigious, we never think of reducing six-and-eightpence to caught in a shower we do not canvass the cabmen to find one who his driving at less than sixpence a mile.
The best labour always has been, and is, as all labour ought to be, paid by an invariable standard.
'What !' the reader perhaps answers 'to pay good and bad workman alike ?'
Certainly. You pay with equal fee, contentedly, the good and bad preachers (workmen upon your soul) and the good and bad physicians (workmen upon your body) ; much more may you pay, contentedly, with equal fees, the good and bad workmen upon your house.
'Nay, but I choose my physician, thus indicating my sense of the quality of their work.' By all means choose your bricklayer ; that is the proper reward of the good workman, to be 'chosen'. The right system respecting all labour is, that it should be paid at a fixed rate, but the good workman employed, and the bad workman unemployed. The false system is when the bad workman is allowed to offer his work at half-price, and either take the place of the good or to force him by his competition to work for an inadequate sum.
2. This equality of wages, then, being the first object towards which we have to discover the road, the second is that of maintaining constant numbers of workmen in employment, whatever may be the accidental demand for the article they produce.
The wages which enable any workman to live are necessarily higher if his work is liable to intermission, than if it is assured and continuous. In the latter case he will take low wages in the form of a fixed salary. The provision of regular labour for the workman is good for him as well as for his master in the long run, although he cannot then make large profits or take big risks or indulge in gambling.
The soldier is ready to lay down his life for his chief and therefore he is held in greater honour than an ordinary workman. Really speaking, the soldier's trade is not slaying, but being slain in the defence of others. The reason the world honours the soldier is, because he holds his life at the service of the State.
Not less is the respect we pay to the lawyer, physician and clergyman, founded ultimately on their self-sacrifice. Set in a judge's seat, the lawyer will strive to judge justly, come of it what may. The physician will treat his patients with care, no matter under what difficulties. The clergyman will similarly instruct his congregation and direct it to the right path.
All the efficient members of these so-called learned professions are in public estimate of honour preferred before the head of a commercial firm, as the merchant is presumed to act always selfishly. His work may be very necessary to the community ; but the motive of it is understood to be wholly personal. The merchant's first object in all his dealings must be (the public believe) to get as much for himself and leave as little to his customer as possible. Enforcing this upon him, by political statute, as the necessary principle of his action ; recommending it to him, and themselves reciprocally adopting it, proclaiming for law of the universe that a buyer's function is to cheapen, and a seller's to cheat, - the public, nevertheless, involuntarily condemn the man of commerce for his compliance with their own statement, and stamp him for ever as belonging to an inferior grade of human personality.
This they must give up doing. They will have to discover a kind of commerce which is not . Or rather they must discover that there never was or can be any other kind of commerce ; and that this which they have called commerce was not commerce at all but cozening. In true commerce, as in true preaching or true fighting, it is necessary to admit the idea of occasional voluntary loss ;-that sixpences have to be lost, as well as lives, under a sense of duty ; that the market may have its martyrdoms as well as the pulpit ; and trade its heroism as well as war.
Five great intellectual professions exist in every civilized nation :
The Soldier's profession is to defend it.
The Pastor's to teach it.
The Physician's to keep it in health.
The Lawyer's to enforce justice in it.
The Merchant's to provide for it.
And the duty of all these men is on due occasion to die for it. For truly the man who does not know when to die does not know how to live.
Observe, the merchant's function is to provide for the nation. It is no more his function to get profit for himself out of that provision than it is a clergyman's function to get his stipend. This stipend is a necessary adjunct but not the object of his life if he be a true clergyman, any more than his fee (or honorarium) is the object of life to a true physician. Neither is his fee the object of life to a true merchant. All three, if true men, have a work to be done irrespective of fee-to be done even at any cost, or for quite the contrary of fee ; the pastor's function being to teach, the physician's to heal and the merchant's to provide. That is to say, he has to apply all his sagacity and energy to the producing the thing he deals in in perfect state and distributing it at the cheapest possible price where it is most needed.
And because the production of any commodity involves the agency of many lives and hands, the merchant becomes in the course of his business the master and governor of large masses of men in a more direct way than a military officer or pastor, so that on him falls, in great part, the responsibility for the kind of life they lead ; and it becomes his duty not only to produce goods in the purest and cheapest forms, but also to make the various employments involved in the production most beneficial to the men employed.
And as into these two functions, requiring for their right exercise the highest intelligence as well as patience, kindness and tact, the merchant is bound to put all his energy, so for their just discharge he is bound, as or is to give up, if need be, his life, in such way as it may be demanded of him.
Two main points he has to maintain ; first his engagement ; and secondly the perfectness and purity of the thing provided by him ; so that rather than fail in any engagement or consent to any deterioration, adulteration, or unjust or exorbitant price of that which he provides, he is bound to meet fearlessly any form of distress, poverty or labour which may through maintenance of these points come upon him.
Again in his office as governor of the men employed by him, the merchant is invested with a paternal authority and responsibility. In most cases a youth entering a commercial establishment is withdrawn altogether from home influence; his master must become his father; else he has, for practical and constant help, no father at hand. So that the only means which the master has of doing justice to the men employed by him is to ask himself sternly whether he is dealing with such subordinate as he would with his own son, if compelled by circumstances to take such a position.
Supposing the captain of a frigate were obliged to place his own son in the position of a common sailor ; as he would then treat his son, he is bound always to treat every one of the men under him. So also supposing the master of a factory were obliged to place his own son in the position of an ordinary workman ; as he would then treat his son, he is bound always to treat every one of his men. This is the only effective, true or practical Rule which can be given in this point of economics.
And as the captain of a ship is bound to be the last man to leave his ship in case of wreck and to share his last crust with the sailors in case of famine, so the manufacturer, in any commercial crisis, is bound to take the suffering of it with his men, and even to take more of it for himself than he allows his men to feel ; as a father would in a famine, shipwreck or battle, sacrifice himself for his son.
All this sounds very strange; the only real strangeness in the matter being, nevertheless, that it should so sound. For all this is true everlastingly and practically ; all other doctrine than this being impossible in practice, consistently with any progressive state of national life ; all the life which we now possess as a nation showing itself in the denial by a few strong minds and faithful hearts of the economic principles taught to our multitudes, which principles, so far as accepted, lead straight to national destruction. Respecting the modes and forms of destruction to which they lead I hope to reason farther in a following paper.
Essay II : The Veins of Wealth
The answer which would be made by any ordinary economist to the statement in the preceding papers, is in a few words as follows :
"It is true that certain advantages of a general nature may be obtained by the development of social affections. But economists never take such advantages into consideration. Our science is simply the science of getting rich. So far from being fallacious, it is found by experience to be practically effective. Persons who follow its precepts do become rich, and persons who disobey them become poor. Every capitalist of Europe has acquired his fortune by following the laws of our science. It is vain to bring forward tricks of logic against the force of accomplished facts. Every man of business knows by experience how money is made and how it is lost."
Pardon me. Men of business do indeed make money, but they do not know if they make it by fair means or if their money-making contributes to national welfare. They rarely know the meaning of the word 'rich'. At least if they know, they do not allow for the fact that it is a relative word, implying its opposite 'poor' as positively as the word 'north' implies its opposite 'south'. Men write as if it were possible, by following certain scientific precepts, for everybody to be rich. Whereas riches are a power like that of electricity, acting only through inequalities or negations of itself. The force of the guinea you have in your pocket depends wholly on the default of a guinea in your neighbour's pocket. If he did not want it, it would be of no use to you ; the degree of power it possesses depends accurately upon the need he has for it, and the art of making rich, in the ordinary mercantile economist's sense, is therefore equally and necessarily the art of keeping your neighbour poor.
I wish the reader clearly to understand the difference between the two economies, to which the terms, 'political' and 'mercantile' might be attached.
Political economy consists in simply the production, preservation and distribution, at fittest time and place, of useful or pleasurable things. The farmer who cuts his hay at the right time ; the builder who lays good bricks in well-tempered mortar ; the housewife who takes care of her furniture in the parlour and guards against all waste in her kitchen are all political economists in the true and final sense, adding continually to the riches and well-being of the nation to which they belong.
But mercantile economy signifies the accumulation in the hands of individuals, of legal claim upon, or power over, the labour of every such claim implying precisely as much poverty or debt on one side as it implies riches or right on the other.
The idea of riches among active men in civilized nations generally refers to such commercial wealth ; and in estimating their possessions, they rather calculate the value of their horses and fields by the number of guineas they could get for them, than the value of their guineas by the number of horses and fields they could buy with them.
Real property is of little use to its owner, unless together with it he has commercial power over labour. Thus suppose a man has a large estate of fruitful land with rich beds of gold in its gravel; countless herds of cattle; houses, and gardens and storehouses ; but suppose, after all, that he could get no servants ? In order that he may be able to have servants, some one in his neighbourhood must be poor and in want of his gold or his corn. Assume that no one is in want of either, and that no servants are to be had. He must therefore bake his own bread, make his own clothes, plough his own ground and shepherd his own flocks. His gold will be as useful to him as any other yellow pebbles on his estate. His stores must rot, for he cannot consume them. He can eat no more than another man could eat, and wear no more than another man could wear. He must lead a life of severe and common labour to procure even ordinary comforts.
The most covetous of mankind would, with small exultation , I presume , accept riches of this kind on these terms. What is really desired, under the name of riches is, essentially, power over men ; in its simplest sense, the power of obtaining for our own advantage the labour of servant, tradesman and artist. And this power of wealth of course is greater or less in direct proportion to the poverty of the men over whom it is exercised and in inverse proportion to the number of persons who are as rich as ourselves, and who are ready to give the same price for an article of which the supply is limited. If the musician is poor, he will sing for small pay, as long as there is only one person who can pay him ; but if there be two or three, he will sing for the one who offers him most. So that the art of becoming 'rich' in the common sense is not only the art of accumulating much money for ourselves but also of contriving that our neighbours shall have less. In accurate terms it is 'the art of establishing the maximum inequality in our own favour'.
The rash and absurd assumption that such inequalities are necessarily advantageous lies at the root of most of the popular fallacies on the subject of economics. For the beneficialness of the inequality depends first, on the methods by which it was accomplished and secondly, on the purposes to which it is applied. Inequalities of wealth, unjustly established, have assuredly injured the nation in which they exist during their establishment ; and unjustly directed, injure it yet more during their existence. But inequalities of wealth, justly established, benefit the nation in the course of their establishment ; and nobly used, aid it yet more by their existence.
Thus the circulation of wealth in nation resembles that of the blood in the natural body. There is one quickness of the current which comes of cheerful emotion or wholesome exercise ; and another which comes of shame or of fever. There is a flush of the body which is full of warmth and life ; and another which will pass into putrefaction.
Again even as local determination of the blood involves depression of the general health of the system, all morbid local action of riches will be found ultimately to involve weakening of the resources of the body politic.
Suppose two sailors cast away on an uninhabited coast and obliged to maintain themselves there by their own labour for a series of years.
If they both kept their health, and worked steadily and in amity with each other, they might build themselves a house and in time to come possess some cultivated land together with various stores laid up for future use. All these things would be real riches or property ; and supposing the men both to have worked equally hard, they would each have right to equal share or use of it. Their political economy would consist merely in the careful preservation and just division on these possessions.
Perhaps however after some time one or other might be dissatisfied with the results of their common farming ; and they might in consequence agree to divide the land into equal shares, so that each might thenceforward work in his own field and live by it. Suppose that after this arrangement had been made, one of them were to fall ill, and be unable to work on his land at a critical time - say of sowing or harvest. He would naturally ask the other to sow or reap for him.
Then his companion might say, with perfect justice, 'I will do this additional work for but if I do it, you must promise to do as much for me at another time. I will count how many hours I spend on your ground, and you shall give me a written promise to work for the same number of hours on mine, whenever I need your help, and you are able to give it.'
Suppose the disabled man's sickness to continue, and that under various circumstances, for several years, requiring the help of the other, he on each occasion gave a written pledge to work, as soon as he was able, at his companion's orders, for the same number of hours as the other had given up to him.
What will the positions of the two men be when the invalid is able to resume
Considered as polis or state, they will be poorer than they would have been otherwise ; poorer by the withdrawal of what the sick man's labour would have produced in the interval. His friend may perhaps have toiled with an energy quickened by the enlarged need, but in the end his own land must have suffered by the withdrawal of so much of his time from it; and the united property of the two men will be less than it would have been if both had remained in health and activity.
But the relations in which they stand to each other are also widely altered. The sick man has not only pledged his labour for some years, but will have exhausted his share of the stores, and will be in consequence for some time dependent on the other for food, for which he can only 'pay' him by yet more deeply pledging his own labour.
Supposing the written promises to be held entirely valid, the person who had hitherto worked for both might now, if he chose, rest altogether, and pass his time in idleness, not only forcing his companion to redeem all his pervious pledges but exacting from him pledges for further labour, to an arbitrary amount, for what food he had to advance to him.
There might not be the least illegality (in the ordinary sense of the word) in the but if a stranger arrived on the coast at this advanced stage of their political economy, he would find one man commercially the other commercially Poor. He would see, with no small surprise, one passing his days in the other labouring for both and living sparely, in the hope of recovering his independence at some distant period.
What I want the reader to note especially is the fact that the establishment of the mercantile wealth which consists in a claim upon labour signifies a political diminution of the real wealth which consists in substantial possessions.
Take another example, more consistent with the ordinary course of affairs of trade. Suppose that three men, instead of two, formed the little isolated republic, and were obliged to separate, in order to farm different pieces of land at some distance from each other : each estate furnishing a distinct kind of produce and each in need of the material raised on the other. Suppose that the third man, in order to save the time of all three, simply superintends the transference of commodities from one farm to the other, on condition of receiving a share of every parcel of goods conveyed.
If this carrier always brings to each estate, from the other, what is chiefly wanted, at the right time, the operations of the two farmers will prosper, and the largest possible result in produce or wealth will be attained by the little community. But suppose no intercourse between the landowners is possible, except through the travelling agent ; and that after a time, this agent keeps back the articles with which he has been entrusted until there comes a period of extreme necessity for them, on one side or other, and then exacts in exchange for them all that the distressed farmer can share other kinds of produce ; it is easy to see that by ingeniously watching his opportunities, he might possess himself of the greater part of the surplus produce of the two estates, and at last, in a year of scarcity, purchase both for himself and maintain the former proprietors thenceforward as his labourers or servants.
This would be a case of commercial wealth acquired on the exactest principles of modern political economy. But it is clear in this instance also that the wealth of the State or of the three men considered as a society, is collectively less than it would have been if the merchant had been content with juster profit. The operations of the two farmers have been cramped to the utmost ; the limitations of the supply of things they wanted at critical times, together with the failure of courage consequent on the prolongation of a struggle for mere existence, must have diminished the effective results of their labour ; and the stores accumulated by the merchant will not be of equivalent value to those which, had he been honest, would have filled the granaries of the farmers and his own.
The question, therefore, respecting not only the advantage but even the quantity of national wealth, resolves itself finally into one of abstract justice. The real value of acquired wealth depends on the moral sign attached to it, just as sternly as that of a mathematical quantity depends on the algebraical sign attached to it. Any given accumulation of commercial wealth may be indicative, on the one hand, of faithful industries, progressive energies and productive ingenuities ; or on the other hand, it may be indicative of mortal luxury, merciless tyranny, ruinous chicanery.
And these are not merely moral attributes of riches, which the seeker of riches if he chooses, they are literally material attributes of riches, depreciating or exalting the monetary signification of the sum in question. One mass of money is the outcome of action which has created, - another, of action which has annihilated, - ten times as much in the gathering of it.
Therefore the idea that directions can be given for the gaining of wealth, irrespectively of the consideration of its moral sources is perhaps the most insolently futile of all that ever beguiled men through their vices. So far as I know, there is not in history record of anything so disgraceful to the human intellect as the modern idea that the commercial text 'Buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest' represents an available principle of national economy. Buy in the cheapest market ? - yes ; but what made your market cheap ? Charcoal may be cheap among your roof timbers after a fire and bricks may be cheap in your streets after an earthquake ; but fire and earthquake may not therefore be national benefits. Sell in the dearest ? - yes, truly ; but what made your market dear ? You sold your bread well today ; was it to a dying man who gave his last coin for it and will never bread more ; or to a rich man who tomorrow will buy your farm over your head ; or to a soldier on his way to pillage the bank in which you have put your fortune ?
None of these things you can know. One thing only you can namely whether this dealing of yours is a just and faithful one, which is all you need concern yourself about respecting sure thus to have done your part in bringing about ultimately in the world a state of things which will not issue in pillage or in death.
It has been shown that the chief value of money consists in its having power over human beings ; that without this power large material possessions are useless, and to a person possessing such power, comparatively unnecessary. But power over human beings is attainable by other means than by money.
In this moral there is a monetary value as real as that represented by more ponderous currencies. A man's hand may be full of invisible gold, and the wave of it or the grasp shall do more than another's with a shower of bullion.
But farther. Since the essence of wealth consists in its authority over men, if the apparent wealth fail in this power, it ceases to be wealth at all. It does not appear lately in England that our authority over men is absolute.
Finally since the essence of wealth consists in power over men, will it not follow that the nobler and the more in number the persons are over whom it has power, the greater the wealth ? Perhaps it may even appear after some consideration that the persons themselves are the wealth ; not gold and silver. The true veins of wealth are purple - and not in Rock but in Flesh. The final consummation of all wealth is in the producing as many as possible full-breathed, bright-eyed and happy-hearted human beings. In some far-away and yet undreamt-of hour I can even imagine that instead of adorning the turbans of her slaves with diamonds from Golkonda and thus showing off her material wealth, England, as a Christian mother, may at last attain to the virtues and the treasures of a non-Christian one and be able to lead forth her Sons, saying,
"These are MY Jewels."
Essay III : Even-Handed Justice
Some centuries before the Christian era, a Jew merchant, reported to have made one of the largest fortunes of his time (held also in repute for much practical sagacity), left among his ledgers some general maxims which have been preserved even to our own days. They were held in respect by the Venetians who placed a statue of the old Jew on the angle of one of their principal buildings. Of late years these writings have fallen into disrepute, being opposed to the spirit of modern commerce.
He says for instance in one place : 'The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death'; adding in another, with the same meaning : 'Treasures of wickedness profit nothing ; but truth delivers from death.' Both these passages are notable for their assertions of death as the only real issue and sum of attainment by any unjust scheme of wealth. If we read instead of 'lying tongue', 'lying label, title, pretence or advertisement,' we shall more clearly perceive the bearing of these words on modern business.
Again the says: 'He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches shall surely come to want.' And again more strongly: 'Rob not the poor because he is neither oppress the afflicted in the place of business. For God shall spoil the soul of those that spoiled them.'
This 'robbing the poor because he is poor' is especially the mercantile form of theft, consisting in taking advantage of a man's necessities in order to obtain his labour or property at a reduced price. The ordinary highwayman robs the rich, but the trader robs the poor.
But the two most remarkable passages are the following :
'The rich and the poor have met. God is their maker.' 'The rich and the poor have met. God is their light.'
They 'have met.' That is to say, as long as the world lasts the action and counteraction of wealth and poverty is just as appointed a law of the world as the flow of stream to sea : 'God is their maker.' But also this action may be either gentle and just, or convulsive and destructive ; it may be by rage of devouring flood or by lapse of serviceable wave. And which of these it shall be, depends on both rich and poor knowing that God is their light.
The flowing of streams is in one respect a perfect image of the action of wealth. Where the land falls, the water flows. So wealth must go where it is required. But the disposition and administration of rivers can be altered by human forethought. Whether the stream shall be a curse or a blessing depends upon man's labour and administrating intelligence. For centuries districts of the world, rich in soil and favoured in climate, have lain desert under the rage of their own rivers ; not only desert, but plague-struck. The stream which, rightly directed, would have flowed in soft irrigation from field to field - would have purified the air, given food to man and beast, and carried their burdens for them on its boson - now overwhelms the plain and poisons the wind : its breath pestilence, and its work famine. In like manner human laws can guide the flow of wealth. This the leading trench and limiting mound can do so thoroughly that it shall become water of life - the riches of the hand of wisdom ; or on the contrary, by leaving it to its own lawless flow, they may make it the last and deadliest of national plagues : water of Marah - the water which feeds the roots of all evil.
The necessity of these laws of distribution or restraint is curiously overlooked in the ordinary economist's definition of his own 'science'. He calls it the 'science of getting rich'. But there are many sciences as well as many arts of getting rich.
Poisoning people of large estates was one employed largely in the middle adulteration of food of people of small estates is one employed largely now. All these come under the general head of sciences or arts of getting rich.
So the economist in calling his science the science of getting rich must attach some ideas of limitation to its character. Let us assume that he means his science to be the science of 'getting rich by legal or just means'. In this definition is the word 'just' or 'legal' finally to stand ? For it is possible that proceedings may be legal which are by no means just. If therefore we leave at last only the word 'just' in that place of our definition, it follows that in order to grow rich scientifically, we must grow rich justly ; and therefore know what is just. It is the privilege of the fishes, as it is of rats and wolves, to live by the laws of demand and supply ; but it is the distinction of humanity to live by those of right.
We have to examine then what are the laws of justice respecting payment of labour.
Money payment, as stated in my last paper, consists in a promise to some person working for us, that for the time and labour he spends in our service today we will give or procure equivalent time and labour in his service at any future time when he may demand it.
If we promise to give him less labour than he has given us, we under-pay him. If we promise to give him more labour than he has given us, we overpay him.
In practice, when two men are ready to do the work and only one man wants to have it done, the two men underbid each other for and the one who gets it to do is under-paid. But when two men want the work done and there is only one man ready to do it, the two men who want it done overbid each other, and the workman is over-paid. The central principle of right or just payment lies between these two points of injustice.
Inasmuch as labour rightly directed is fruitful just as seed is, the fruit (or 'interest' as it is called) of the labour first given, or 'advanced', ought to be taken into account and balanced by an additional quantity of labour in the subsequent repayment. Therefore the typical form of bargain will be: if you give me an hour today, I will give you an hour and five minutes on demand. If you give me a pound of bread today, I will give you seventeen ounces on demand and so on.
Now if two men are ready to do the work and if I employ one who offers to work at half price he will be half-starved while the other man will be left out of employment. Even if I pay due wages to the workman chosen by me, the other man will be unemployed. But then my workman will not have to starve, and I shall have made a just use of my money. If I pay due wages to my man, I shall not be able to amass unnecessary riches, to waste money on luxuries and to add to the mass of poverty in the world. The workman who receives due wages from me will act justly to his subordinates. Thus the stream of justice will not dry up, but gather strength as it flows onward. And the nation with such a sense of justice will be happy and prosperous.
We thus find that the economists are wrong in thinking that competition is good for a nation. Competition only enables the purchaser to obtain his labour unjustly cheap, with the result that the rich grow richer and the poor poorer. In the long run it can only lead the nation to ruin. A workman should receive a just wage according to his ability. Even then there will be competition of a sort, but the people will be happy and skilful, because they will not have to underbid one another, but to acquire new skills in order to secure employment. This is the secret of the attractiveness of government services in which salaries are fixed according to the gradation of posts. The candidate for it does not offer to work with a lower salary but only claims that he is abler than his competitors. The same is the case in the army and in the navy, where there is little corruption. But in trade and manufacture there is oppressive competition, which results in fraud, chicanery and theft. Rotten goods are manufactured. The manufacturer, the labourer, the consumer, - each is mindful of his own interest. This poisons all human intercourse. Labourers starve and go on strike. Manufacturers become rogues and consumers too neglect the ethical aspect of their own conduct. One injustice leads to may others, and in the end the employer, the operative and the customer are all unhappy and go to rack and ruin. The very wealth of the people acts among them as a cures.
Nothing in history has been so disgraceful to human intellect as the acceptance among us of the common doctrines of economics as a science. I know no previous instance in history of a nation's establishing a systematic disobedience to the first principle of its professed religion.
The writings which we (verbally) esteem as divine not only denounce the love of money as the source of all evil, and as an idolatry abhorred of the deity, but declare mammon service to be the accurate and irreconcilable opposite of God's service ; and whenever they speak of riches absolute and poverty absolute, declare woe to the rich and blessing to the poor.
True economics is the economics of justice.
People will be happy in so far as they learn to do justice and be righteous. All else is not only vain but leads straight to destruction. To teach the people to get rich by hook or by crook is to do them an immense disservice.
Essay IV: Ad valorem
We have seen how the ideas upon which political economy is based are misleading. Translated into action they can only make the individual and the nation unhappy. They make the poor poorer and the rich richer and none are any the happier for it.
Economics do not take the conduct of men into account but hold that the accumulation of wealth is the sign of prosperity, and that the happiness of nations depends upon their wealth alone. The more factories, the merrier. Thus men leave village farms with their spring winds and coming to cities, live diminished lives in the midst of noise, of darkness, and of deadly exhalation. This leads to deterioration of the national physique, and to increasing avarice and immorality. If some one talks of steps to be taken to eradicate vice, so-called wise men will say that it is of no use at all that the poor should receive education and that it is best to let things alone. They however forget that the rich are responsible for the immorality of the poor, who work like slaves in order to supply them with their luxuries, and have not a moment which they can call their own for self-betterment. Envying the rich, the poor also try to be rich, and when they fail in this effort, they are angry. They then lose their senses, and try to make money by force of fraud. Thus both wealth and labour are barren of all fruit or else are utilized for chicanery.
Labour in the real sense of the term is that which produces useful articles. Useful articles are those which support human life, such as food, clothes or houses, and enable men to perfect the functions of their own lives to the utmost and also to exercise a helpful influence over the lives of others. The establishment of big factories with a view to getting rich may lead a person into sin. Many people amass riches but few make a good use of it. Accumulated wealth which leads to the destruction of a nation is of no earthly use. The capitalists of modern times are responsible for wide spread and unjust wars which originate from the covetousness of mankind.
Some people say that it is not possible to impart knowledge so as to ameliorate the condition of the masses ; let us therefore live as seems fit and amass riches. But this is an immoral attitude. For the good man who observes ethical rules and does not give way to greed has a disciplined mind, does not stray from the right path, and influences others by his acts. If the individuals who constitute a nation are immoral, so is the nation too. If we behave as we choose and at the same time take our neighbours to task for their wrongdoing, the results can only be disappointing.
We thus see that money is only an instrument which makes for misery as well as happiness. In the hands of a good man it helps in the cultivation of land and the harvesting of crops. Cultivators work in innocent contentment and the nation is happy. But in the hands of a bad man, money helps to produce say gunpowder which works havoc among its manufacturers as well as among its victims. Therefore THERE IS NO WEALTH BUT LIFE. That country is the richest which nourishes the greatest number of noble and happy human beings ; that man is richest who, having perfected the functions of his own life to the utmost, has also the widest helpful influence, both personal and by means of his possessions, over the lives of others.
This is not a time for self-indulgence but for each of us to labour according to our capacity. If one man lives in idleness, another has to put in a double amount of work. This is at the root of the distress of the poor in England. Some so-called work is nugatory as in jewel-cutting and even destructive as in war. It brings about a diminution in the national capital, and is not beneficial to the worker himself. It seems as if men are employed, but really they are idle. The rich oppress the poor by misuse of riches. Employers and employees are at daggers drawn with one another, and men are reduced to the level of beasts.
Ruskin's book thus paraphrased has a lesson for Indians no less than for the Englishmen to whom it was primarily addressed. New ideas are in the air in India. Our young men who have received Western education are full of spirit. This spirit should be directed into the right channels, as otherwise it can only do us harm. 'Let us have Swaraj' is one slogan ; 'Let us industrialize the country' is another.
But we hardly understand what Swaraj is. Natal for instance enjoys Swaraj but her Swaraj stinks in our nostrils, for she crushes the negroes, and oppresses the Indians. If by some chance the negroes and the Indians left Natal, its white men would fight among themselves and bring about their own destruction.
If not like Natal's will we have Swaraj as in the Transvaal one of whose leaders, General Smuts, breaks his promises, says one thing and does another ? He has dispensed with the services of English policemen and employed Afrikanders instead. I do not think that this is going to help any of the nationalities in the long run. Selfish men will loot their own people, when there are no more 'outsiders' left to be looted.
Thus Swaraj is not enough to make a nation happy. What would be the result of Swaraj being conferred on a band of robbers ? They would be happy only if they were placed under the control of a good man who was not a robber himself. The United States, England and France for instance are powerful States, but there is no reason to think that they are really happy.
Swaraj really means self-control. Only he is capable of self-control who observes the rules of morality, does not cheat or give up truth, and does his duty to his parents, wife and children, servants and neighbours. Such a man is in enjoyment of Swaraj, no matter where he lives. A state enjoys Swaraj if it can boast of a large number of such good citizens.
It is not right that one people should rule another. British rule in India is an evil, but let us not run away with the idea that all will be well when the British quit India.
The existence of British rule in the country is due to our disunity, immorality and ignorance. If these national defects were overcome, not only would the British leave India without a shot being fired but we would be enjoying real Swaraj.
Some foolish Indians rejoice in bomb-throwing, but if all the Britishers in the country were thus killed, the killers would become the rulers of India who would only have a change of masters. The bomb now thrown at Englishmen will be aimed at Indians after the English are there no longer. It was a Frenchman who murdered the President of the French Republic. It was an American who murdered President Cleveland. Let us not blindly imitate Western people.
If Swaraj cannot be attained by the sin of killing Englishmen, it cannot be attained either by the erection of huge factories. Gold and silver may be accumulated but they will not lead to the establishment of Swaraj. Ruskin has proved this to the hilt. Western civilization is a mere baby, a hundred or only fifty years old. And yet it has reduced Europe to a sorry plight. Let us pray that India is saved from the fate that has overtaken Europe, where the nations are poised for an attack on one another, and are silent only because of the stockpiling of armaments. Some day there will be an explosion, and then Europe will be a veritable hell on earth. Non-white races are looked upon as legitimate prey by every European state. What else can we expect where covetousness is the ruling passion in the breasts of men ? Europeans pounce upon new territories like crows upon a piece of meat. I am inclined to think that this is due to their mass-production factories.
India must indeed have Swaraj but she must have it by righteous methods. Our Swaraj must be real Swaraj, which cannot be attained by either violence or industrialization. India was once a golden land, because Indians then had hearts of gold. The land is still the same but it is a desert because we are corrupt. It can become a land of gold again only if the base metal of our present national character is transmuted into gold. The philosopher's stone which can effect this (1) transformation is a little word of two syllables - Satya (Truth). If every Indian sticks to truth, Swaraj will come to us of its own accord.
(1) Institutions,' says Herbert Spencer, 'are dependent on character ; and however changed in their superficial aspects, cannot be changed in their essential natures faster than character changes.'