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extremely modern man would say ;* but such studies of texts exact much space for the writer and much patience for the reader; we will abuse neither the one nor the other. As everywhere, economic study in France is to-day in a state of transition; let us hope that it will emerge with new strength and brilliancy.
*I have several times attempted to make such comparisons in my work, "Le Progés de la Science économique" (Paris, Guillaumin).
[Translated by CORNELIA H. B. ROGERS ]
THE RELATION OF ECONOMIC STUDY TO
PUBLIC AND PRIVATE CHARITY.*
The purpose of this paper is the discussion of certain aspects of the study of economics, especially this question:
Of what avail is the study of economics in the practical work of dealing with the problems of poverty? In putting the question thus, I am, perhaps, making too great a concession to those who demand from study of any sort immediate results in hard cash or some equally obvious medium of exchange. Such persons must always remain strangers to the pleasures of the pursuit of truth for its own sake rather than for the sake of the profit that it brings, and strangers also to the real enjoyment derivable from the getting of knowledge ostentatiously useless.
Among the numerous inconsistencies in which we are apt to detect each other, there is the inconsistency of feeling more interested and excited about things remote than about things near; and at the same time demanding in connection with things near, that every thought about them shall pay in some definite form. We expend our compassion and our money in sending missionaries to the heathen of other countries, or in alleviating the miseries of Russian Jews, or Christians of the Lebanon, while we manifest some impatience at the demands upon our time and our purses for the service of our next-door neighbors. The closer things are to our vital interests, the less they interest us. We see too much of them, and have them thrust in our eyes until we are weary of them. Things that are familiar bore us to death, even though we may run the risk of their doing us to death in some other way. The commonplace does not excite • Inaugural Lecture delivered before the University of Toronto, February 6th,
us, because it is commonplace.
What excites us is the novel, the uncommon, the unfamiliar. Now, here, perhaps, is the reason for the prevalence of the notion that political economy is "the dismal science." Because it deals with the common place, because it has to do with the familiar, it is dismal, and for no other reason.* It is true that economics opens a new window through which we may, if we will, look out upon life; but the window is glazed with no garish colors, there is no inviting label to make us aware of the treasures that lie within.-There is indeed a label which is traditionally repellent-hence the popular view which, like most popular views, is partly justified and partly erroneous, that economics is a dull affair, that it is a study by dull people, of dull people, for dull people.
In so far as economics is regarded as dismal because of its relation to every-day life, there is no help for it; in so far as it is dismal because it throws little or no light upon practical problems, there is no excuse for it. Let us see how far and in what way the study of economics can throw light upon practical affairs. But first-What is the relation between • practical affairs and science of any kind? Is it not this? The region of practical affairs is the region of action-it is the region of art in the widest sense. The region of science is the region of thought, of action too, no doubt, in the sense of experiment and observation, but still essentially the region of thought, of logical continuity, of guarded progress from one proof to another, of careful employment of theories and hypotheses. In science we think and talk about its principles and classifications. In art we have no occasion to talk-we have to do it. Art like charity, is to be done, not to be talked about. It were childish to discuss the opposition of science and art,—the opposition of theory which is in the region of science to practice, which is in the region of art. They are not opposed, one is the complement or the fruition of the other. Two theories may be opposed as two *Cf. Helps "Social Pressure." p. 255.
methods of practice may differ, but there is no such opposition, in reality as that which underlies the phrase "It is all very well in theory but it does not work out in practice." Where this phrase is employed it will be found that there is something loose in the theory, some error in the method of working in the practice, or a total want of harmony between the conditions presupposed in the theory and those which actually accompany the practice. In any case it is a loose and inaccurate phrase suggesting an opposition which has no counterpart in reality. Science and art, theory and practice are then not opposed, though they are different. One is concerned with executive power-with action, with the emotions, with the muscles, and the other with thought, with orderly arrangement, with opinion, with criticism.
Now, though political economy is held by some to be an art as well as a science, and perhaps rightly so held, we must not confound the methods of the science of political economy with those of the art of political economy. The science of political economy is the province of the economist, the art of political economy is the province of the statesman, or the practical administrator in civic, national or international economic affairs.
The functions of the two classes of persons vary widely; the two classes may be of mutual aid, they may be of mutual hindrance. The two functions require different orders of mind, different aptitudes and different studies.
An excellent economist may make an indifferent statesman, not because "what is all very well in theory will not work out in practice," nor because the study of economics is of no use to a practical statesman; but, because the qualities which have enabled the economist readily to grasp scientific principles are not those which as a statesman he is called upon to exercise. Power to grasp scientific principles is a valuable quality in any man; but the statesman must have other qualities beside, he must have the capacity and the habit of control, he must have the magnetic power to bind
men together and to lead them his way. He must be a man of action. It were as unreasonable to demand of the economist administrative ability as to demand of the statesman intimate knowledge and grasp of scientific principles.
Yet it is of the greatest importance for the economist to know, and to know exhaustively, the methods of practice, however little he may share in them, as it is for the statesman to know, and to know exhaustively, current theories of political action, however little he may be able or desirous to take a share in thinking them out.
The statesman, politician, town councilor or other representative of the people who takes part in public economics and who, nevertheless, passes the study of economics by on the other side does so, not because there is any opposition between sound theory and sound practice, but rather because being a man of action he has no aptitude for abstract thinking, and no wish to trouble about it. The average man does indeed confine himself to one or other sphere of activity-to practical government or to the study of systems of governments.
It will perhaps now be evident that objections to the economist because he is not practical are as valid as, and no more. valid than, objections to the politician because he does not offer unbiased statements of theories of government instead of party speeches.
All this may seem rather elementary, yet, perhaps, at no time has there been more need to emphasize this distinction between science and art than there is now. If we are to build up a science of economics we must do so with our eye on, but with our minds and voices away from, the market place or the hustings. We must have as little emotional interest in this or that theory, or this or that policy, as we should have in the examination of the evolutions of an oyster feeding under a microscope or in the discussion of the succession of the rocks in our neighborhood.