Public Welfare Systemsby Adam Smith
11 Those institutions which promote the public welfare are frequently recommended by:
- the same principle,
- the same love of system, and
- the same regard to the beauty of order, art, and contrivance
When a patriot exerts to improve the public police, his conduct does not always arise from pure sympathy with the happiness of those who will benefit of it.
A public-spirited man encourages the mending of high roads not commonly from a fellow-feeling with carriers and wagoners.
When the legislature establishes premiums and other encouragements to advance the linen or woollen manufactures, its conduct seldom proceeds=
- from pure sympathy with the wearer of cloth,
- much less from sympathy with the manufacturer or merchant.
The perfection of policy and the extension of trade and manufactures are noble and magnificent objects which are part of the great system of government.
It makes the wheels of the political machine move with more harmony and ease.
However, all constitutions of government are valued if they promote the happiness of those who live under them.
- This is their sole use and end.
We sometimes value the means more than the end because of a certain=
- spirit of system,
- love of art and contrivance.
We are eager to promote the happiness of others more from our desire to perfect and improve a beautiful and orderly system, than from any immediate feeling of what they feel.
On the contrary, there have been men of the greatest humanity who lacked public spirit.
- There have been men of the greatest public spirit who were not very sensible to the feelings of humanity.
We all have both kinds of people within our circle of acquaintances.
Peter the Great had the least humanity and most public spirit.
On the contrary, the social and well-natured James I of Great Britain had no passion for his country’s glory or interest.
How would you drive the industry of an ambition-less man?
He would not be moved even if you tell him that the rich are happy from not experiencing fatigue nor lack. But you can convince him if you explain to him=
- the convenience and arrangement of the rooms in their palaces,
- the propriety of their equipages, and
- the number, order, and offices of all their attendants.
These can make an impression on him.
In the same way, a non-patriotic person will not care about the superior advantages of a well-governed state. You will be more likely to persuade him if you=
- describe the great system of public police which procures these advantages, and
- explain the connections and dependencies of its several parts=
- their mutual subordination to one another, and
- their general subserviency to the society’s happiness.
Anyone would surely feel animated with public spirit if you show:
- how this system might be introduced into his own country,
- what hinders it from taking place there at present,
- how those obstructions might be removed,
- how the wheels of the machine of government can be made to move with more harmony and smoothness, without:
- grating on one another, or
- mutually retarding one another’s motions.
For the moment, he will feel some desire to:
- remove those obstructions, and
- mobilise such a beautiful and orderly a machine.
The study of politics best promotes public spirit. It is the study of:
- the systems of civil government with their advantages and disadvantages,
- the constitution, situation, commerce, defence, and the interest of our own country with regard to foreign nations, and
- how to remove its disadvantages and guard against its dangers.
Upon this account, political essays which are just, reasonable, and realistic, are the most useful of all the works of speculation. Even the weakest and the worst of them are useful. They serve to:
- animate the public passions of men, and
- rouse them to seek ways to promote the society’s happiness.