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proper only to the more extensive subject of society. Instead of addressing himself to the problem, according to what law certain facts result from certain principles, he proceeds to explain how the existence of the facts in question is consistent with social wellbeing and natural equity; and generally succeeds in, deluding himself with the idea that he has solved an economic problem, when, in fact, he has only vindicated a social arrangement. · The objections, therefore, to this method of treating
Political Economy, resting as they do on the incompatible nature of the investigations which it seeks to combine, are fundamental. Even if it should be thought desirable to give the name of Political Economy to the larger inquiry, it would still be necessary to reserve for separate and distinct investigation the laws of the production and distribution of wealth.
But, secondly, the definition represents Political Economy as a science and not as an art. The distinction between these two ideas is thus very clearly pointed out by Mr. Mill. “These two ideas,” he says,* “differ from one another as the understanding differs from the will, or as the indicative mood in grammar differs from the imperative. The one deals in facts, the other in precepts. Science is a collection of truths; art a body of rules, or directions for conduct. The language of science is, This is, or, This is not ; This does, or
* Essays, p. 124.
does not happen. The language of art is, Do this, Avoid that. Science takes cognizance of a phenomenon, and | endeavours to discover its law; art proposes to itself an end, and looks out for means to effect it.”
In conformity with this distinction, it is the province of Political Economy to observe phenomena, and to discover their laws; it does not undertake to ! supply practical rules, or to recommend particular
policies ; " although,” to quote again from the same author, “unless it be altogether a useless science, practical rules must be capable of being founded upon it. The science of mechanics, a branch of natural philosophy, lays down the laws of motion, and the properties of what are called the mechanical powers. The art of practical mechanics teaches how we may avail ourselves of those laws and properties, to increase our command over external nature. An art would not be an art unless it were founded upon a scientific knowledge of the properties of the subjectmatter : without this it would not be philosophy, but empiricism ; čutteipla not téxvn in Plato's sense. Rules, therefore, for making a nation increase in wealth, are not a science, but they are the results of a science. Political Economy does not of itself instruct how to make a nation rich ; but whoever would be qualified to judge of the means of making a nation rich, must first be a political economist.”
Into the reasons for treating Political Economy as a science rather than an art, it is not necessary that I should enter at any length. They will be found
stated with admirable fullness and clearness in the introductory essays of Mr. Mill and Mr. Senior. I may, however, mention an incidental advantage which arises from this way of regarding the study, which I am not aware that they have noticed.
It is scarcely to be expected, as I have already remarked, that discussions which have so direct a bearing upon questions of conduct in some of the most important duties of life as those of Political Economy, should ever be carried on with the same pure and disinterested regard to truth as discussions in mathematics or astronomy, in which no human interests are immediately concerned ; but, if we would approximate to that desirable state of feeling, certainly our wisest course is to keep the discussion of the general principles of the science completely clear from the advocacy of the particular practical measures which may be founded upon them. Those who have not yet addressed themselves to the study of Political Economy will be more likely to do so, and to do so with candour and impartiality, if they feel that, whatever be the conclusions at which they may arrive, these will not necessarily commit them to any positive political course; that, having satisfied themselves as to the general law, it will still remain open to them to consider the expediency of its application in any given contingency.
I believe too that, even with a view to making converts to practical measures, it is the more expedient course to keep distinct the discussion of general principles from the question of the propriety of their practical application. The dispassionate attention of the objector being once secured, and the truth being ascertained with reference to the abstract principle, his opposition will, if founded upon mere prejudice, at once disappear ; on the other hand, if it rest upon solid considerations, the grounds of it will at least be narrowed—we shall have fixed the precise point upon which the objection turns, which is certainly the most important condition towards its removal.
Again, by drawing the line broadly between theory and practice, this further advantage is gained : Political Economy ceases to be burdened with the various schemes and nostrums, financial and political, of its adherents, the confounding of which with the conclusions of the science has, I think, hitherto tended much to check its progress and to prejudice it unfairly in the eyes of the public.
There is no reason whatever that a political economist should dogmatize on questions of general politics, or even on those which arise in the more limited field of taxation and finance. There is no question of the kind which does not involve many other than purely economic considerations—considerations of time, of place, of convenience, of morality, perhaps of public faith. Even such questions as those connected with the maintenance of a public debt, or the imposition of an income tax, cannot be satisfactorily discussed without taking into account, in the one case, the reciprocal obligations of successive generations, in the
other, the effect of such impositions upon public morality, points with respect to which the most profound knowledge of the principles of the production and distribution of wealth affords no security against error.
For these reasons it appears plainly desirable that a clear severance should be made between the measures which may be advocated by economists, and the doctrines of the science which they teach ; in other words that Political Economy should be treated as a science and not as an art.
I need scarcely add that it is not by this intended that a political economist should be precluded from pointing, when he sees occasion, to the practical applications of his doctrines. All that is desired is that he should distinguish between such applications and the principles of the science ; that the discussion of the laws of the production and distribution of wealth should not be encumbered with the necessity of defending or refuting measures, the propriety of which must often be determined by other than purely economic considerations.