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keep in motion all the factories in Lowell; as the aggregate capital of all the great manufacturing establishments in that city, in 1845, fell short of eleven millions. Observe, also, that large sums are annually withdrawn from these institutions, for productive investment in other ways, and the deficit thus made is immediately supplied by fresh deposits ;- so that these Savings' Banks resemble great lakes, in which the water ever remains at the same level, though they are constantly supplying running streams, which bear a fertilizing influence with them all their way towards the ocean."
We now go back to the principle first enunciated, and which seems to be firmly established ;— that the whole wealth of a civilized nation is in a state of constant flux and renovation, the apparent stability and unchangeableness of the fortunes of individuals offering no exception to this principle. The instance analyzed also proves, that a gain, a profit, an addition to the national stock, is made only at and by these successive changes of form. What is inconsumable is also necessarily unproductive. We consume in order that we may produce, and we must consume before we can produce. If Scripture may be reverently quoted on such a topic, “ that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die.” The wealth which is literally locked up or buried only rots or rusts; and we might just as well bury only stones or sand in its place. But money or wealth is not locked up when placed in banks, institutions for savings, - moneyed corporations, as they are called, — and the like. These institutions are nothing but contrivances for collecting it, setting it in motion, and making it circulate around us like the atmosphere which we breathe. The wealth which would otherwise be scattered in many little hoards, remaining idle because owned by those whose circumstances would not allow them to use it to advantage, or the separate sums being too small to admit of a profitable application, is, by these means, brought together and made
* The whole amount deposited in the Savings' Banks of Great Britain and Ireland, a year or two since, had risen to nearly $ 140,000,000, the number of individual depositors being over one million. No one can deposit more than £ 150 in one of these institutions, and the sum is not allowed to accumulate to more than £ 200 ; the presumption being, that, for larger sums, other safe modes of investment can be found.
as efficient as the vast accumulations of great capitalists. The aggregate thus formed is made to do its full part in supplying the lungs of industry, keeping it alive and active, and making all the parts of the body politic and social contribute to the sustenance and growth of the whole. The twenty-three millions in the Savings Banks, and the fifty-seven millions of capital in the banks of deposit and circulation, (I speak only of Massachusetts,') do not rest there, but are at this moment circulating around us, - driving the wheels of our factories, supplying our mechanics with tools and our tradesmen with goods, building and freighting our ships, bringing to us the productions of all habitable climes, hurrying from one task to another with indefatigable ardor, and assuming a thousand different forms and hues, according to our necessities and desires.
“ Whatever a person saves from his revenue,” says Adam Smith, “he adds to his capital, and either employs it himself in maintaining an additional number of productive hands, or enables some other person to do so, by lending it to him for an interest, that is, for a share of the profits.” “What is annually saved is as regularly consumed as what is annually spent, and nearly in the same time too; but it is consumed by a different set of people. That portion of his revenue which a rich man annually spends is, in most cases, consumed by idle guests and menial servants, who leave nothing behind them in return for their consumption. That portion which he annually saves, as, for the sake of the profit, it is immediately employed as a capital, is consumed in the same manner, and nearly in the same time too, but by a different set of people; by laborers, manufacturers, and artificers, who reproduce, with a profit, the value of their annual consumption.”
* The rapid increase of capital in Massachusetts, as indicated by the Bank Rcturns, deserves notice. The statistics to illustrate the passage in the text were first collected in 1850; and then, the amount lodged in the Savings' Banks was only about thirteen millions, and the aggregate capital in the banks of deposit and circulation was but thirty-seven millions. Hence, in five years, the savings of people of moderate means have increased seventy.seven per cent, and bank capital has received an addition of fifty-four per cent.
THE AIMS AND ADVANTAGES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY.
THE AIMS, THE LIMITATIONS, AND THE ADVANTAGES OF THE STUDY OF POLITICAL ECONOMY: THE LAISSEZ-FAIRE," OR
We are now entitled to assume, that the theory of wealth is a large and complicated one, embracing many curious and difficult problems, and resting upon many general principles or laws, the discovery and development of which constitute a distinct and important science. One of these laws or general facts — the transmutations of capital — has been pointed out and briefly elucidated. And we perceive that it is a fruitful one, pregnant with important conclusions and inferences respecting the institution of property and the modes of favoring industry and increasing national wealth. If the science has been successfully cultivated, many more such general laws must have been discovered in it, a knowledge of which is all important to the statesman, the merchant, and the philanthropist. As Political Economy is expounded in the books, whether by Adam Smith, Ricardo, Sismondi, or Mill, it may, or may not, be well founded and trustworthy in all its parts. Authorities differ on many points. But these men have not been studying a mere chimera, or wasting their energies in a vain pursuit. There are general laws affecting the production and distribution of wealth, whether they have been discovered or not, and a knowledge of these laws is a very different thing from the practical knowledge, the acquaintance with details, and the natural shrewdness, which enable a man to acquire property, and to take good care of it when acquired.
And this leads me to remark, that Political Economy is not, as many suppose, the art of money-making, any more than meteorology is the art of predicting the weather. It is no art at all, but a science; for its immediate end is knowledge, not action, or the guidance of conduct. The meteorologist says that the phenomena of the atmosphere and the weather, irregular as they are in their occurrence, and obscure as to their immediate causes, must depend on the general principles of gravity and the equilibrium of fluids, and must be referable to general laws, which are legitimate objects of investigation. He may have studied these laws successfully, and still not be so able as an old sea-captain is, who never opened a book on meteorology in his life, to tell what the weather will be the next hour or the next day. It is a point of as much interest and importance to know how a storm occurs, as to know when it will occur. So, after one of those storms in the commercial world which are known as commercial crises," we may reasonably seek an explanation of the phenomenon, or the cause of its occurrence, though this knowledge should not enable us to tell when another and similar disturbance will happen.
The general principles of any science are obtained only by abstraction, — by leaving out of view many of the details and particulars which actually belong to the case, and thus so far simplifying it that we can reason about it with facility. The conclusions at which we arrive by this process are very comprehensive, but do not admit of immediate application. They are true only with certain qualifications and restrictions. They are involved in all the phenomena to which they relate, and have a share in producing them ; but they do not determine the whole of these phenomena.
Political Economy, Mr. Mill remarks, is a deductive science, so far as it reasons from assumptions, not from facts. supposes an arbitrary definition of a man, as a being who invariably does that by which he may obtain the greatest amount of necessaries, conveniences, and luxuries, with the smallest quantity of labor and physical self-denial with which they can be obtained in the existing state of knowledge. ..... It predicts only such of the phenomena of the social state as take place in consequence of the pursuit of wealth. It makes entire abstraction of every other human passion or motive, except those which may be regarded as perpetually antagonizing principles to the desire of wealth, — namely, aversion to labor, and desire of the present enjoyment of costly indulgen
These it takes, to a certain extent, into its calculations, because these do not merely, like other desires, occasionally conflict with the pursuit of wealth, but accompany it always, as a drag or impediment, and are therefore inseparably mixed
up in the consideration of it. Political Economy considers mankind as occupied solely in acquiring and consuming wealth; and aims at showing what is the course of action into which mankind, living in a state of society, would be impelled, if that motive, except in the degree in which it is checked by the two perpetual counter-motives above adverted to, were absolute ruler of all their actions. Not that any one was ever so absurd as to suppose that mankind are really thus constituted, but because this is the mode in which the science must proceed.
“ Political Economy, therefore, reasons from assumed premises, — from premises which might be totally without foundation in fact, and which are not pretended to be universally in accordance with it. The conclusions of Political Economy, consequently, like those of Geometry, are only true, as the common phrase is, in the abstract; that is, they are only true under certain suppositions, in which none but general causes
causes common to the whole class of cases under consideration are taken into the account. .... In proportion as the actual facts recede from the hypothesis, the Political Economist must allow a corresponding deviation from the strict letter of his conclusion; otherwise, it will be true only of things such as he has arbitrarily supposed, not of such things as really exist. That which is true in the abstract is always true in the concrete, with proper allowances. When a certain cause really exists, and, if left to itself, would infallibly produce a certain effect, that same effect, modified by all the other concurrent causes, will correctly correspond to the result really produced.”
All legislation which is designed to affect the economical interests of society, or which relates immediately to its commerce, agriculture, or manufactures, is in truth an application of the principles of some system of Political Economy to practice, be that system a wise or a mistaken one. It is often a very injurious application of them, because the circumstances which actually limit the principles are lost sight of, and the abstractions by which they were obtained are forgotten. Mischief results; and practical men," seeing that the consequen
Mill's Essays on some Unsettled Questions of Political Economy, pp. 137 – 145.