Bauhaus-Universität Weimar

Dictionary of philosophy and psychology including many of the principal conceptions of ethics, logics, aesthetics ... and giving a terminology in English, French, German and Italian, vol. 1 [a-laws]
Baldwin, James Mark
Economic Motive : Ger. ökonomisches 
Motiv ; Er. motif économique ; Ital. motivo 
economico. A motive connected with, a line 
of conduct or feeling whose results are capable 
of quantitative analysis. 
No term in the whole range of philosophic 
discussion has been more loosely used. Under 
one set of conceptions of the term, an economic 
motive is equivalent to a hedonistic motive. 
Another conception is derived from the ab¬ 
straction of an ‘ economic man,’ of which the 
English economists about the middle of the 
19th century made some use. ‘Political 
economy/ says Mill, ‘is concerned with man 
solely as a being who desires to possess 
wealth, and who is capable of judging of the 
comparative efficacy of means to that end.' 
A more precise and more useful meaning of 
the term can he developed on lines like this : 
social services, in their objective or imper¬ 
sonal aspect, tend to take the form of wealth. 
When they do this, they become capable of 
measurement. So far, therefore, as wealth 
forms the basis of motives, the balance of 
such motives can be compared with imper¬ 
sonally measurable causes or effects, or both. 
To motives whose balance can be studied in this 
way, we give the name ‘ economic.’ (a.t.h.) 
Economic Science, or Economics, or 
Political Economy [Gr. rà olkovo/xikü, matters 
of the household] : Ger. Oekonomie, National- 
Oekonomik; Fr. économie politique; Ital. 
economia politico. The science which deals 
with the phenomena of wealth. 
Economics, as conceived by the Greeks 
(e. g. Xenophon, Aristotle), dealt with the 
questions involved in the ordering of a house¬ 
hold, as distinct from politics, which dealt 
with the questions involved in the ordering 
of a state. In the middle ages the separate 
study of wealth fell into abeyance. Economic 
questions were handled only as part of a system 
of morals (Aquinas), or in connection with 
some disputed points of law—especially those 
involved in the taking of interest or usury. 
About the beginning of the 16th century 
we see attempts to develop an art of political 
economy, which should guide the statesman 
in his attempts to promote public wealth, in 
the same way that the art of domestic eco¬ 
nomy guides the householder in his attempts 
to promote private wealth. The first eco¬ 
nomists who took this view are known as 
Cameralists, because they dealt almost entirely 
with the conduct of the cameralia or goods 
belonging to the exchequer. It is hardly 
necessary to say that this conception, which 
identified public wealth with government 
property, was a vei’y narrow one. It was 
the outgrowth of a conception of the state 
which made the ruler stand in loco parentis 
towards his subjects. Though the phenomena 
of government property must always form an 
important field of economic investigation, 
they now constitute the domain of the special 
science of finance rather than of the more 
general science of economics. 
In the 17th century another school arose, 
generally known as the Mercantilists. This 
school remained dominant until after the 
middle of the 18th century, nor is its 
influence wholly lost at the present day. 
The most noted practical exponent of mer- 
cantile principles was the great French 
financier, Colbert; the best known writers 
who advocated them were perhaps Thomas 
Mun, William Petty, and, later, James 
Stuart. The name given to this school is 
derived from the conception, prominent in 
its writings and practice, that a nation makes 
money in the same manner as an individual 
merchant, by selling more than he buys—i. e. 
by exporting more than the nation imports. 
In the hands of all but its most able advocates, 
this mercantile system tended to become 
a miserly system—to lay too much stress on 
the hoarding of the precious metals, and too 
little on wise purchases of outside commodities. 
The reaction against the errors of the 
mercantile system led to the development of 
the French school of Physiocrats, who laid 
stress on natural resources as a measure of 
wealth. Quesnay (1694-1774) was the most 
original writer of this school, Turgot its most 
eminent statesman. The physiocrats laid 
stress on the agricultural produce of the 
community as the basis of its prosperity, and 
counted the value of the manufactures as 
limited by the surplus of food which the 
farmers had left over beyond their own wants. 
From the over-valuation of money and manu¬ 
factures, which was characteristic of the 
mercantilists, they passed to an under-valuation. 
This error was corrected by Adam Smith 
(1723-90), whose Wealth of Nations, pub¬ 
lished in 1776, is usually counted as the 
starting-point of modern political economy. 
In its general basis the work of the English 
school, from Smith to Mill, is nevertheless 
essentially physiocratic ; and its most serious 
errors, like the wage-fund theory, have re¬ 
sulted from carrying over to its broader 
definitions of capital and wealth, certain pro¬ 
positions which were quite true when capital 
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