Jeremy Bentham Theory and Hedonism

The System Of Doctrines, Jeremy Bentham Theory and Hedonism

"Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do."3 That sen­tence, which opens one of Bentham's many books, his lengthy Intro­duction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, succinctly states the twin propositions which formed the foundation of his whole edifice of thought. He believed that—together with their reasoning minds— men's impulses to seek pleasures and avoid pains are both the main­springs of their actual behavior and their potential, true guides to all good behavior. And it is necessary at the outset to grasp clearly the dis­tinction and the relation between the positive and the normative—the psychological and the ethical—part or member of this "pair" of doc­trines. Men do seek to maximize their pleasures—satisfactions of their wants or desires-,—and minimize their pains—dissatisfactions or frustra­tions. But they generally accomplish this only very imperfectly because their knowledge (foreknowledge of the actual consequences of their choices for their later realized enjoyments and sufferings) is too limited and otherwise imperfect or mixed with illusions, superstitions, preju­dices, etc.; because they use too little reflection and/or faulty reason­ing; and because their societies are so badly organized that in striving, as individuals, to fulfill their own desires, they become involved in mutual conflicts and defeat or frustrate each other's efforts. The goal to be sought then—through universal education and social reconstruc­tion—is a society of men who will really, always, make and carry out the right decisions, i.e., those really required, in the actual circum­stances, to bring about the best possible results for their own and each other's happiness. The gap between what human behavior is and what it ought to be is attributed in Benthamism not to any "wrong" or "evil" basic human desires; the idea that there are any such desires is rejected as self-contradictory, for under Bentham's definitions "good"means simply "pleasant" which in turn simply means "desired," while "evil" means "painful" which means "undesired." Rather, the gap between actual and ideal behavior is attributed entirely to (1) the deficiencies of men's knowledge and reasoning (about the factual conditions of success in attaining their ends), and (2) the defects of their ill-orga­nized societies, which often make injury or frustration of each other a condition of their fullest successes as individuals, instead of making the latter always dependent upon the best service to each other.

But I must still further stress a few points about Bentham's easily confusing uses of his basic terms, "pleasure" and "pain." He did not use these as they are often used, in the narrow sense of physical sensa­tions (only) signifying satisfactions or nonsatisfactions of the bodily appetites (alone); instead he used them always in the broadest possible sense, of all experiences felt by the experiencers as pleasing or displeas­ing, i.e., as signifying fulfillments or nonfulfillments of any of their desires, of whatever kinds. Satisfactions and frustrations of intellectual, aesthetic, religious, moral, and all "high" aspirations were included equally with those of "base, animal" desires. Thus it is not true that Benthamism either assumed as prevalent in fact, or approved as ethically adequate, the kind of conduct which results from aiming only to satisfy the latter, or running toward "pleasures" and away from "pains" in the narrow and "low" sense. Instead the most devastating valid criti­cism of the creed's basic notions is that it defines those key words so broadly as to make its psychological and ethical "first principles" mere truisms or tautologies—assertions that include and agree with all the possible facts and views, and thus convey no information. To say that all desires are and should be desires for "pleasures" or ingredients of "happiness," and define these words as meaning the goals of all or any desires whatever, is to say only that men desire whatever they desire, and should desire whatever they should desire; to include all the possible answers in a blanket formula, and thus beg all the crucial questions.

The real significance, however, of this way of thinking is that it tries to start out by formulating a fully general or all-inclusive approach to the problems of human life or conduct, so that all of the particular facts, relations, and possibilities can then be examined with the aid of, and be fitted into, this conceptual framework. Also, Bentham aimed or hoped—the belief in this possibility was his great illusion—to make psychology and ethics quantitative, mathematical sciences by working out a method of measuring or weighing the relative strengths or intensi­ties of all human desires and aversions and the relative magnitudes or degrees of importance of all satisfactions and dissatisfactions, and arriv­ing at formulas that would specify the conditions of simultaneous at­tainment by all men of their "optimal" or best possible patterns of behavior, maximizing their (properly weighted) aggregates of achieved satisfaction of all their needs and wants, in their real situations. Actual behavior would then be explained as all the resulting actions, roughly tending toward those "optimal" sets of results that in the world as it is are too blindly aimed at. The extreme generality of Bentham's thought and its "quantifying" bent account for his refusal to accept any rank­ing of different kinds of desires and pleasures in a moral hierarchy, or any qualitative distinctions of that kind. It was his contention that the "lower" pleasures are so regarded only because common experience shows them to be, all things considered, the smaller pleasures; and that full, exact understanding of the entire spectrum could best be achieved by reducing all qualitative distinctions and gradations to quantitative ones. But further, he insisted that each individual must be his own judge in thus ordering and evaluating his own experiences; if anyone prefers pinochle to poetry—gets more pleasure from the former than from the latter—then the former is for him the "better."

And yet, finally, Bentham could thus think that he accepted all the desires existing in anyone as legitimate—or as deserving some degrees of satisfaction and capable of receiving them along with concurrent attainment of adequate or proper satisfactions of all the other desires of the same and all men—only because he in fact, although uncon­sciously, imputed value-judgments and desires like his own, and those of other decent contemporary Englishmen, to all men; he could not imagine all or many of the "hellish" desires and perverse "pleasures" which in fact are prevalent in this wicked world. This too explains why he thought that his really neutral or empty—purely general, nonspeci­fic—basic theory of life as pursuit by all men of their "greatest happi­ness" or fullest satisfaction of their actual desires, was a theory leading with logical necessity to his fairly specific, liberal-democratic vision of the good society. What in fact led him to the latter was not the former but the set of more specific, implicit value-judgments which he read into and confused with it. What regime and set of public policies in a particular society will make "the greatest number" of its members "hap­piest" depends on the qualities of the desires that are most strong and prevalent among them. If those are of the right (or wrong) sort, they may be much more fully satisfied by or under a bellicose despotism than by or under a pacific liberal democracy. Bentham really assumed a uni­versal nonexistence in mankind of any other desires than those which —however varied—are all potentially compatible with or adjustable to one another; or capable of being reconciled (to the point of foregoing any violent aggressiveness) to the only partial satisfactions consistent with as fair measures of satisfaction of all other existing desires. And this assumption helped him, also, to retain the age-old overconfidence in the power of the "reason" in all men to control or determiiieall their choices of means to their ends in their situations, or make all of their conduct in that sense fully "rational." His was indeed a far too simple, innocent "psychology" containing no real perception or suspicion of the wild dark jungle of the human passions, their frequent power to overwhelm weak "reason," and the stubborn irrationality of much hu­man behavior.

I have not yet sufficiently spelled out and/or emphasized one vital difference between the first premise of Bentham's psychology and that of his ethics. His basic psychological principle was that of egoistic hedonism—that everyone's actual behavior is determined entirely by "self-interest" or the aim at his own "greatest happiness." And yet at the same time his basic ethical principle was that of universalistic hedonism—that the proper ethical goal is the greatest happiness of all mankind. It was this discrepancy between the positive and the norma­tive side of this system of thought which made the concept and problem of "the harmony of interests" within society crucial and central for it. The individual members of society who were assumed to be inherently selfish could be expected or be led to behave generally in the ways most conducive to the common welfare of the entire society only if it could either be shown to be true, or he made true (by the requisite reforms), that all the self-interests are in harmony, i.e., that each in best serving himself will always also best serve all and vice versa. But the contused, equivocal sense in which the self-interest assumption really was made and used, is reflected in Bentham's statement about himself, that he was as selfish as all other men but so fortunately constituted that^he found his own greatest happiness in doing his utmost to promote that of all mankind. In other words, even ideal "benevolence" or "altruism" is only a special form of "selfishness," since anyone who tries to help or benefit others does so because he wants to, and is acting to satisfy this want of his own or to increase his own happiness. This ambiguity is another result of the tautological way of equating pursuit of happi­ness or pleasures for one's self with that of satisfactions of whatever are one's desires or interests. And there is in this result a confusion of or between the two different relations of the self to (all or some of) its interests—as their subject and as their object. In other, words, there is a confusion of the harmless truism that all actions necessarily result from interests of (felt by) the self, with the different, restrictive, and partly false proposition that all must result from interests solely in the self or in winning benefits for it alone. At the same time there probably was in Benthamism in this connection—among its more truly realistic insights—the insight, only somewhat exaggerated by or through the mistake just described, that in fact a great deal of "selfishness" in the everyday sense is a very prevalent and stubborn trait in (most) human beings. And yet while the creed was in one way overpessimistic on this point, it was overoptimistic, almost Utopian, in its confidence that, in a properly organized society of properly educated people, the "self-interests" of all could be made to yield the same results (behavior) as would flow from perfect universal "altruism":—because there would then be a perfected and universally perceived harmony among all the "interests" at work as motive-forces. It is, then, the development of this last conception—exhaustively traced by the great French scholar, Elie Halevy, in his large work analyzing Benthamism, The Growth of Phi­losophical Radicalism—which I must now, with some indebtedness to him but in my own way, summarily describe.

It is not true that Bentham simply carried on the common, naively optimistic, and vague eighteenth-century belief in the Providential "design" of, and resulting "harmony" throughout, the entire cosmic "system of nature" including (each) human society in its "natural" form and state. The tendency of Bentham's thought was more purely secular, anticlerical, agnostic, and pragmatic than metaphysical; and his notion was not that of a preestablished or inherent, universal, time­less, and perfect "harmony" of or among all the forces of "nature" including all human, psychological, and social forces. Instead, his idea was that of a "harmony" of the "interests" of the members of any tolera­bly well-organized society, already partly and imperfectly in being, and to he more fully achieved, created, or perfected by deliberate re­forms. The part of the optimism generated by the Enlightenment which Bentham fully shared was not its deistic faith in a wisely planned uni­verse, but its faith inspired by advancing science, in the power of human "reason" to plan and reshape human societies so that all their members, in exchanging services, would best serve each other and themselves. There was even much more in Bentham's than, e.g., in Adam Smith's thought, of this notion of "rational" planning and reconstruction of societies, to make them more fully harmonious. But he did conceive as already existing, e.g., in the England of his time, a partial or imper­fect harmony of the interests of the society's different members, factu­ally based in their division of labor and resulting interdependence, which entailed for everyone an interest in performing services for others in order to obtain their services, and a general interest in earning and retaining the good will of others as a condition of his own well-being. To perfect this harmony, partly through improved and universal edu­cation of the people to make them all more fully aware of their true interests or to "enlighten" and socialize them, and partly through all the needed reforms of or in the society's political, legal, and economic system, became the great aim of Bentham and his followers.

To explain, now, the ideas involved in the educational aspect of that program, I must first turn to a further part of the group's (not primarily Bentham's own) work or thinking in the field of psychology, which I have not yet touched upon. The already explained and dis­cussed "hedonism," or pleasure-pain theory of all behavior, was not by itself the whole of the Benthamite theory of psychology, though it was fundamental. The other, no less important, part of the whole—this was developed mostly by Bentham's great disciple and lieutenant James Mill, the father of John Stuart Mill—was a special, quite elaborate, and in its day and way an impressive development of "associationism" in psychological theory. It was an effort to analyze all mental life— the sequential formation, flow, and pattern, in every mind, of all its sensations, perceptions, memories, imaginings, concepts, reasonings, emotions, and volitions—as a process conforming to or exemplifying a set of scientific laws of the "associations" of or among particular experiences and mental states, whereby each one as it occurs suggests, evokes, or generates as immediate successors the others that have become "associated" with it. This general idea is very ancient and had a many-centuries-long history of limited, partial development by diverse writers; in the eighteenth century it was much more fully developed on somewhat differing lines by David Hartley, Condillac, and others. James Mill avowedly built upon Hartley's work, and pro­duced, in his book An Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind, a treatise which deserves to rank well among the historic classics of "scientific" psychological theory.6 "Associationism" may perhaps be called the introspectionist forerunner of modern "behaviorism" in psychology; or the latter's central notion of "conditioned reflexes" may be called a physiological translation or equivalent of the former's notion of "associations." If for a time whenever you feed your dog you ring a bell, the dog will learn to expect and seek its food whenever it hears the bell; sensations which repeatedly occur together build up linked thoughts or responses—one becomes a "sign" of the other. And if all mental life and/or behavior is but a fabric of such formed linkages, then—as both these schools of psychological theorists have tended with similar optimism to conclude—almost any mind and character can be molded or developed into one having almost any set of abilities and "bents," by or through (from its infancy on) proper "conditioning" of the organism's "reflexes," or education to form the mind's association-patterns.

This then was James Mill's central idea in psychology and the theory of education that he based upon it. The minds, characters, and conduct of men as citizens are made what they are by the association-patterns formed in their streams of consciousness by their experiences and edu­cations; and the task or function of education—in the broadest sense —is to so form these patterns, in the minds of all, that all will be model citizens. And in combining this idea with the principle of "hedonism" which he shared with Bentham, he bridged the gap between the as­sumption of each man's innate, total selfishness—disposition to seek only pleasures for himself-—and the ideal of conduct conducive to the greatest general happiness throughout society. His argument was that universal, proper, social experience and education, from birth through life, would cause everyone always to associate expectations of pleasure or pleasant consequences for himself exclusively with actions beneficial to his fellows-—and painful consequences for himself with all actions injurious to them. Thus by what he called "die chemistry of the human mind," pure selfishness could become in effect pure altruism. Though men would remain at bottom simply seekers of pleasures for themselves, i.e., selfish pleasures would really remain their ultimate ends, their efforts to give pleasures to others would become (i) the sole means or routes used toward their final ends, hence (2) always their immediate or proximate ends, and even (3) their sole conscious aims, in all their conduct.

Now to a considerable extent, in a rough, imperfect way, young children in existing societies already are "brought up" by parental dis­cipline and that of group life and experience, in that manner and with that result. The crudely, directly selfish, animallike infant learns, as it grows up, that actions injurious to and punished or resented by others —elders or contemporaries—result in more pains than pleasures for itself, and that only all actions which benefit and please others and win approval and rewards from them, are in fact safe routes to its own hap­piness. And the mental "associations" thus formed, by oft-repeated ex­periences of what leads to what, become the components of the child's and young adult's character or "second nature." What is needed, then, to produce the good society made up entirely of good citizens, is simply a full, deliberate, scientific perfecting of the socializing or civilizing educations—personality-forming, complete, planned experience-pat­terns—given to all individuals from birth onward, to and into their adult lives. I will not use any of my limited space here to say more about Mill's or the Benthamite group's development and applications of this part of their scheme of thought—their philosophy of, and program to reform, all education. They did not in fact develop the idea very far beyond the starting point already sketched although it was an im­portant and revealing part of their total system of ideas. I must return now to other parts of their thought which they did more with or made more out of, and above all and first, to Bentnam's philosophy of and program to reform all law—the legal system of society.

In moving on to this, however, I am not moving as far away from the ideas in psychology and about education, just described, as might be thought. For Bentham's ideal legal system was to do, in its own sphere and way, more of the same work which James Mill's ideal educational system would do in its sphere of operation upon the young. That is, the right legal system would continue, for all adults, the same channel­ing of the pursuit by each of his own success and happiness, into best promotion of the common welfare of all, by (again) attaching deter­rent penalties to antisocial behavior, and attractive rewards or incentives only to socially useful behavior; though in the main, as we shall see, the latter (rewards) were to be offered not directly by the law or the state but rather by or through the competitive market system operating within the right legal framework. In a sense the educational process alone was not fully trusted to endow the citizens as individuals with socially ideal characters (association-patterns) firm enough to remain intact even when or if continually exposed to adult experience-patterns of a contrary kind. The right association-patterns in the mental lives of adult citizens must be kept intact by making the legal system one that would cause their experience-patterns to continue to conform to and
reinforce them.

The best starting point, however, in considering Bentham's philoso­phy of law, the state, and the economy, is his rejection of the age-old and in his time (though already declining) still prevalent belief in a system of "natural" law, right, or justice and "natural rights" for all individuals; and the nature or presuppositions and bearings of his effort to substitute for that ethical-juristic "natural law" tradition, his own (as he thought) different and superior "principle of utility." He found— correctly enough—that the "natural law" idea had been and was being so diversely used and construed in different quarters that it must be regarded as, in itself, meaningless. Since everyone could give it any meaning he pleased, or appeal to it to sanction his own moral-and-political ideas, whatever their color, Bentham concluded that it should be universally discarded as a mass of empty jargon, a vehicle for all opinions, and a source of confusion. On the one hand the great eight­eenth-century English, ultraconservative legal writer, Blackstone, in summarizing and eulogizing the body of English common law, had declared it to be, as it stood, a practically perfect embodiment or expres­sion of the true principles of "natural" law, right, or justice. And at the other pole, some extremists among the supporters of the French Revo­lution had appealed to the principles of "natural law," as conceived by them, to sanction their really or virtually anarchistic ideas of "the rights of man" as nature-given rights of all individuals to absolute liberties not to be curbed by any state or other human authority. The "natural law" conception, then, was equally a cloak for the worst reactionary prejudices and for the worst anarchical fallacies.

All this is quite true as far as it goes; what must be questioned is the validity of Bentham's faith that his own "principle of utility"—setting up as the test of good law (legislation) its "utility" for or conduciveness to "the greatest happiness of the greatest number"—was itself really a determinate principle, free of such ambiguity. There is not only the obvious ambiguity of that carelessly worded phrase or formula with its two superlative terms, leaving unanswered the question which is really to be maximized, the number or percentage of (more or less) happy people, or the intensity of the happiness of those most largely benefited. Beyond and apart from that there is the more fundamental ambiguity arising from the fact that the specific desires, and constellations of them, of different human beings, differ endlessly, and hence so do their ideas of "happiness" or the word's meanings for them, and the conditions or requisites of fullest realization of their diverse and often incompatible kinds of "happiness." Bentham's belief in the possibility of creating and using a true, logical-and-empirical science of the real conditions of attainment of a maximal social aggregate of "happiness" or satisfactions of the needs and wants of the people generally, was his great delusion. Were such a science really possible, its achievement would, of course, give to the "utilitarian" test of "good" law and gov­ernment—"utility" for the happiness of the governed—a clarity or fixity of meaning not to be found in the old, supposed test of agreement or conformity with "natural law" or ideal "justice" (as conceived by each person appealing to that imaginary standard). But since in fact Bentham's projected "science" of the laws required to best serve the people's "happiness" was an' impossible figment and bound to remain that, his "new principle" was really as vulnerable as the "natural law" idea, to his own chief criticism of the latter.

Ambiguity, however, or openness to diverse and conflicting-inter­pretations, is not necessarily so fatal a defect in a system of ethical, juridical, and political thought, as it is held to be by scoriiers of "all hut" the kind of "exact science" which simply is not attainable in these fields. Any "philosophy" of this kind—asserting and arguing that such-and-such are the basic principles of "natural law," or conditions of best growth and prevalence of human happiness, or whatever—may be, in spite of all its inevitable intellectual defects, an achievement of very great intellectual, moral, and practical value, if it has both a good meas­ure of internal logical consistency and much of the relative wisdom that is the fruit of mature reflection or meditation upon a wide range of relevant experience. Thus neither Bentham's criticism of, the "natural law" tradition, nor the similar criticism which applies as truly to his own "utilitarian" philosophy, really justifies any complete or very severe condemnation of either one, or "settles" any appropriate question about its merits or about how they compare with those of the other. The "natural law" philosophy in its best developments before Bentham's time in the tradition of liberal thought which he in his way continued, had on the whole very much to commend it; and his own liberal de­velopment of his "utilitarian" philosophy was—to my mind—in some ways superior and in other ways inferior to the "natural rights" phi­losophy of his forerunners.

Nor were the two by any means so completely' different in real sub­stance as he thought they were; he did not really abandon the whole of the earlier "natural rights" philosophy so completely as he thought he did. The notion of a set of rules so directing men's conduct in their mutual dealings that they would fulfill the conditions of their own and each other s welfare or happiness, always had been a large, inherent part of the meaning of the notion of the code or system of "natural law." Some at least of the further elements that were also included in the liberal conception of that system-involving, e.g., notions of par­ticular essentials of "true" human happiness or fulfillments of the "real needs" of "human nature," and an impartial, equal concern for the liberties, rights, opportunities, and happiness of all individuals— in fact remained implicit also in Bentham's thought, even though its explicit formulations appeared to exclude them. Thus for example, in laying down his dictum—quite unsupported by his basic formal prin­ciples—that in the computation of the social aggregate of happiness, every individual within the society was to count as one and only one unit, Bentham was simply in substance repeating that assertion of the equality of the natural rights of all individuals which was a very im­portant tenet of the liberal "natural law" philosophy of Locke and others. On the whole, the differences between the older liberalism employing the language of the "natural law" tradition, and the new "utilitarian" liberalism, were only different distributions of emphasis among the several ideals contained in both. The utilitarian version shifted the main emphasis away from belief in individual liberty (for all men alike), as a final end or good in itself, to belief in the social utility or expediency of (much) liberty for all severally, as one of the main conditions of their greatest common or collective welfare or pros­perity and happiness; and away from belief in a fixed set of liberties, decreed by "nature" and limiting the authority of the political state, to belief in an active, "rationally" or "scientifically" planning and manag­ing state, which should grant and secure the proper liberties to all and act to realize and maintain all the conditions of their greatest welfare. And these alterations, though they strengthened liberalism as a creative and progressive force and helped it to develop a more adequate program, weakened the convictions underlying its most fundamental ideal— liberty for everyone—and opened a way toward Utopian and potentially illiberal, authoritarian visions of an omnicompetent "welfare state."

We must now consider, however, some of Bentham's more specific ideas of the lines on which different parts of the body of English law, as it stood in his time, should be reformed to make them ideal instru­ments for causing men to act in the ways most conducive to their com­mon welfare. The field in which he most fully and clearly developed his ideas, and in which his critical and reforming work and influence brought about much improvement, was that of criminal law. Bentham was an important contributor to the modern progress of scientific and humane criminology, criminal jurisprudence, and penology. English criminal law in his time was still full of survivals from more barbarous ages—useless, cruel, and excessive punishments for petty crimes and misdemeanors, and other provisions reflecting irrational popular emo­tional attitudes. Bentham insisted that the sole purpose of legal punish­ments for crimes should be, not to express or gratify the public's desires for revenge upon the criminals, but only to deter men from committing crimes by causing them to foresee as certain results for themselves, pains severe enough to outweigh all the pleasures they could hope to gain. The prescribed punishments should not be any more severe than necessary to make them effective as deterrents; and, besides enough severity in the prescribed penalties, the other all-important requirement was invariable certainty and promptness of conviction and actual pun­ishment. Bentham made those points and then went beyond them, using his hedonistic ethics and his "felicific calculus" to argue that the penalties for particular crimes should be scientifically calculated and adjusted to make them represent or threaten the minimal, just sufficient pains required for the deterrent purpose. For in themselves all pains are evil, as all pleasures are good; good = pleasant, and painful = evil. The sole purpose of the law should be to do all it can to increase the sum of the pleasures enjoyed and decrease the sum of the pains suffered in society as a whole by making it not pay any individual, in resulting pleasure for himself, to destroy the pleasures of his fellows or increase their pains; and the pains inflicted or threatened for this purpose must be the least severe ones capable of doing the job, if the over-all purpose is to be best served.

Criticism of that line of thought must be mitigated by recognition of the greatly useful work that Bentham accomplished by applying it thoughout his analysis and proposed reformation of all criminal law; but a good deal of criticism is still in order. His belief in the possibility of exact measurements and calculations of amounts of pleasure and pain added its fringe of fantasy to the sounder elements of his thought in this as in every field. And his belief in the possibility making ap­propriate punishments for crimes always highly effective as deterrents, in the cases of all types of crimes and of potential criminals alike, was, of course, a result of the worst mistake in his theory of psychology: his assumption that all human behavior is essentially "rational," i.e., results from foresight and comparison of the pleasant and painful consequences for one's self, and therefore can be controlled by controlling those con­sequences.

But I must now bring into view the relative positions in his wider scheme of thought of his treatments of (1) criminal law, (2) one topic

in the field of civil law—the institution and law of private property__and (3) political economy. In general, he envisaged a division of func­tions between the state and the economy. The state as the maker and enforcer of all law should largely confine itself to the negative part of the task of perfecting the harmony of private interests with the public interest, i.e., the task of defining, prohibiting, penalizing, and thus preventing all antisocial actions—making the actions that are contrary to the public interest also contrary to all private interests. And the other, positive part of the same general or total task—rewarding and thereby evoking socially useful actions by individuals—should in the main be performed by or rather through the competitive market system or economy. Let the state, through the law and the deterrent penalties for violations of its rules, make all deeds injurious to others unprofitable for the doers; and then let the people, as individuals, acting within the law and through the market system, reward each other for and thus elicit from each other all desired or useful services. Rewards and pun­ishments—incentives and deterrents—represent the two ways of align­ing men's self-interests with their common interest. Although the state is required for the work of developing and applying all the requisite deterrents—the task of attracting men and their resources into different lines of socially useful work, with incentives properly adjusted to the public's demands for different kinds of work and the abilities and alter­native opportunities for the doers of them, can (in the main) be done far better through a competitive market economy operating within the framework of the law.

I shall return in a moment to Bentham's argument in support of that laissez-faire thesis, as presented in his Manual of Political Economy, a small work or essay also published (in French by the translator Du-mont) as Part Four of another work of Bentham's, The Rationale of Reward. But punishing and thus preventing crimes is not, he recog­nized, the only work which the state must do. There must be, besides the body of criminal law, also a body of civil law including the law of property and contract, which enables men to carry on their businesses and dealings and to know what belongs to whom, and on what condi­tions their promises to and claims on each other will be valid and bind­ing. Bentham's ideal economy required a system of private property rights as its legal foundation; and his view of the ground of moral justifi­cation of private property rights must now be considered before we go on to further consideration of his views in economics.

Property rights, of course, were not for Bentham "natural rights," for he repudiated that conception. Like all rights in his system, they were purely state-created legal rights, to be justified, if at all, only on the ground of their social utility or expediency—conduciveness on the whole, through the sum of their consequences, to "the greatest happi­ness of the greatest number" of the people. And he recognized, at the outset of his discussion of private property, a set of unfavorable conse­quences arguing, as far as they go, against the institution. It results in a society having a highly uneven distribution of wealth and income— containing a few very rich, more only moderately rich, and many poor people. And Bentham's "felicific calculus" included or led him to an anticipation of one part of the later "utility economics"—the principle of the "diminishing utility" to anyone of further additions to his wealth, beyond the amount required to satisfy his most urgent needs and wants. Public measures, then, to confiscate and redistribute wealth or lessen economic inequality—transfer income from the rich to the poor— would in the first instance increase the social aggregate of happiness, want-satisfactions, or economic welfare, by taking from the rich only trivial satisfactions and giving important new ones to the poor. Bentham granted the validity of this argument within its own terms or field of reference, but held it to be outweighed by a counterargument concerned with other considerations. A private-property system, by making every­one "secure" in the knowledge that he himself would own and enjoy the fruits of his own productive efforts and achievements, would set up strong incentives causing all to strive to maximize their own produc­tive contributions. And the probable result, in Bentham's judgment, would be a national output of wealth, to be distributed, so much larger than could be obtained otherwise that, despite unequal distribution, even the poor would be (in the long run) richer or less poor than they would come to be under any regime not providing the strong incentives to full productive effort by all, which only a private-property system could provide. Thus Bentham originated both the main argument that has ever since been used by socialists and egalitarian reformers of all kinds, and the main counterargument used by defenders of the system of property rights at the basis of pure "capitalism," in the debate as to which kind of regime offers the greater promise of leading toward aboli­tion of poverty. And it was typical of Bentham's thought thus to state the grounds of both views, and decide between them only on the basis of a judgment about probabilities to be verified or not by subsequent experience.

In Bentham's over-all conception, then, of the well-arranged and hence well-functioning society and economy, the state through the law would do two things (mainly) to enable the economy to function on the lines determined by a full harmony of all men's self-interests with their common interest. The state, through the criminal law, would close (make actually disadvantageous for all individuals) all roads (which would otherwise be such) to private gains through acts injuri­ous to others or the public, thus leaving open as roads to private gains only all types of services to others. And through the law of property, the state would further tie all private gains to public services by making Whatever others (the market) would pay for the productive services of ieach individual and/or of his possessions, the source and measure of his Income. The remaining work (in perfecting the harmony of interests), would be to so adjust the relative magnitudes of the rewards or incen tives for different services—contributions to the outputs or supplies of different goods or products—as to lead all severally, in choosing the activities and courses most advantageous for themselves, to choose those most beneficial to the public, i.e., most productive of things most in de­mand; and this could be done best by or through the automatic working of the competitive market or price system, operating under the general conditions thus created by the state through its legal system. This view of the proper functions of the state, and the functions capable of being better performed by a market system "free" from state "interference" in its sphere, was what the counsel of laissez faire as to economic policy meant, as a part of Benthamism. And Bentham presented his general argument for this position most clearly and fully in the tract already mentioned above—his Manual of Political Economy, also appearing as Part Four of The Rationale of Reward.

The Rationale of Reward, apart from that added fourth part, deals with the "principles" to be observed by governments in acting directly to reward and encourage—e.g., contributions to science and inventions —socially useful private achievements not sure to be adequately in demand in the markets. But our main interest here is in the argument of Part Four or the Manual, directed against state subsidies, loans, and aids to favored industries and enterprises, restrictive regulations of those not favored by the government in power, protective tariffs, and all devices to make the pattern or balance of production of different goods and services—the allocation of society's manpower and resources among various activities—different from that which the "free" automatic opera­tion of the market or price system would bring about. And the essence of this argument is very simple: that the judgments of public authorities as to which activities should be especially rewarded and encouraged, and what the pattern of relative rewards should be to bring about the socially most useful pattern of activities, cannot be as fully informed, impartial, and accurate as the set of judgments (reflecting those of all the people as consumers) which are formed and registered and made effective in the markets and through the price system.