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should consider it a matter of no small moment to instil, betimes, just notions on subjects with which all must in after-life be practically conversant, and in which no class of men, from the highest to the lowest, can, in such a country as this at least, be safely left in ignorance or in error.” In later years like opinions have been held and efforts made by Mr. William Ellis, Professor W. B. Hodgson, Dr. John Watts, Mr. Templar, and others, and experience seems to confirm both the need and the practicability of the teaching advocated by Whately. But it is evident that one condition of success in such efforts is the possession of a small text-book exactly suited to the purposes in view. Relying upon my experience of ten years in the instruction of pupil-teachers at Manchester, I have now put my lessons into the simplest form which the nature of the subject seems to render advisable.
It is hoped that this little treatise may also serve as a stepping-stone to a knowledge of the science among general readers of maturer age, who have hitherto neglected the study of political economy.
Owing to the narrow limits of the space at my disposal, it was impossible to treat the whole of the science in a satisfactory way. I have, therefore, omitted some parts of political economy altogether, and have passed over other parts very briefly. Thus the larger portion of my space has been reserved for such subjects as Production, Division of Labour, Capital and Labour, Trades-Unions, and Commercial Crises, which are most likely to be interesting and useful to readers of this Primer.
UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, GOWER STREET, LONDON, W.C.
31st January, 1878. 1
1. What is Political Economy ? Political Economy treats of the wealth of nations; it inquires into the causes which make one nation more rich and prosperous than another. It aims at teaching what should be done in order that poor people may be as few as possible, and that everybody may, as a general rule, be well paid for his work. Other sciences, no doubt, assist us in reaching the same end. The science of mechanics shows how to obtain force, and how to use it in working machines. Chemistry teaches how useful substances may be produced—how beautiful dyes and odours and oils, for instance, may be extra cted from the disagreeable resuse of the gasworks. Astronomy is necessary for the navigation of the oceans. Geology guides in the search for coal and metals.
Various social sciences, also, are needed to promote the welfare of mankind. Jurisprudence treats of the legal rights of persons, and how they may be best defined and secured by just laws. Political Philosophy inquires into the different forms of government and their relative advantages. Sanitary Science ascertains the causes of disease. The science of Statistics collects all manner of facts relating to the state or community. All these sciences are useful in showing how we may be made more healthy, wealthy, and wise.
But Political Economy is distinct from all these other sciences, and treats of wealth itself; it inquires what wealth is; how we can best consume it when we have got it; and how we may take advantage of the other sciences to get it. People are fond of find
ing fault with political economy, because it treats only of wealth; they say that there are many better things than wealth, such as virtue, affection, generosity. They would have us study these good qualities rather than mere wealth.
A man may grow rich by making hard bargains, and saving up his money like a miser. Now as this is not nearly so good as if he were to spend his wealth for the benefit of his relatives, friends, and the public generally, they proceed to condemn the science of wealth.
But these complainers misunderstand the purpose of a science like political economy. They do not see that in learning we must do one thing at a time. not learn the social sciences all at the same time. No one objects to astronomy that it treats only of the stars, or to mathematics that it treats only of numbers and quantities. It would be a very curious Science Primer which should treat of astronomy, geology, chemistry, physics, physiology, &c., all at once. There must be many physical sciences, and there must be also many social sciences, and each of these sciences must treat of its own proper subject, and not of things in general.
2. Mistakes about Political Economy. A great many mistakes are made about the science we are going to consider by people who ought to know better. These mistakes often arise from people thinking that they understand all about political economy without studying it. No ordinary person of sense ventures to contradict a chemist about chemistry, or an astronomer about eclipses, or a geologist about rocks and fossils.
But everybody has his opinion one way or another about bad trade, or the effect of high wages, or the harm of being underbid by cheap labour, or any one of hundreds of questions of social importance. It does not occur to such, people that these matters are really more difficult to understand than chemistry, or astronomy, or geology, and that a lifetime of study is not sufficient o enable
us to speak confidently about them. Yet, they who have never studied political economy at all, are usually the most confident.
The fact is that, just as physical science was formerly hated, so now there is a kind of ignorant dislike and impatience of political economy. People wish to follow their own impulses and prejudices, and are vexed when told that they are doing just what will have the opposite effect to that which they intend. Take the case of so-called charity. There are many good-hearted people who think that it is virtuous to give alms to poor people who ask for them, without considering the effect produced upon the people. They see the pleasure of the beggar on getting the alms, but they do not see the after effects, namely, that beggars become more numerous than before. Much of the poverty and crime which now exist have been caused by mistaken charity in past times, which has caused a large part of the population to grow up careless, and improvident, and idle. Political economy proves that, instead of giving casual ill-considered alms, we should educate people, teach them to work and earn their own livings, and save up something to live upon in old age. If they continue idle and improvident, they must suffer the results of it. But as this seems hard-hearted treatment, political economists are condemned by soft-hearted and mistaken people. The science is said to be a dismal, cold blooded one, and it is implied that the object of the science is to make the rich richer, and to leave the poor to perish. All this is quite mistaken.
The political economist, when he inquires how people may most easily acquire riches, does not teach that the rich man should keep his wealth like a miser, nor spend it in luxurious living like a spendthrift. There is absolutely nothing in the science to dissuade the rich man from spending his wealth generously and yet wisely. He may prudently help his relatives and friends; he may establish useful public institutions,
such as free public libraries, museums, public parks, dispensaries, &c.; he may assist in educating the poor, or promoting institutions for higher education ; he may relieve any who are suffering from misfortunes which could not have been provided against ; cripples, blind people, and all who are absolutely disabled from helping themselves, are proper objects of the rich man's charity. All that the political economist insists upon is that charity shall be really charity, and shall not injure those whom it is intended to aid. It is sad to think that hitherto much harm has been done by those who wished only to do good.
It is sad, again, to see thousands of persons trying to improve their positions by means which have just the opposite effect, I mean by strikes, by refusing to use machinery, and by trying, in various ways, to resist the production of wealth. Working men have made a political economy of their own: they want to make themselves rich by taking care not to produce too much riches. They, again, see an immediate effect of what they do, but they do not see what happens as the after result. It is the same with the question of Free Trade. In England we have at length learned the wisdom of leaving commerce free. In other countries, and even in the Australian Colonies, laws are yet passed to make people richer by preventing them from using the abundant products of other lands. People actually refuse to see that wealth must be increased by producing it where it can be produced most easily and plentifully. Each trade, each town, each nation must furnish what it can yield most cheaply, and other goods must be bought from the places where they also can be raised most easily.
Political economy teaches us to look beyond the immediate effect of what we do, and to seek the good of the whole community, and even of the whole of mankind. The present prosperity of England is greatly due to the science which Adam Smith gave to the world in his “ Wealth of Nations." He taught us