Jeremy Bentham's Economic Writings - Vol. 3

Jeremy Bentham's Economic Writings - Vol. 3

Jeremy Bentham's Economic Writings - Vol. 3

Jeremy Bentham's Economic Writings - Vol. 3

Excerpt

The final failure of the Annuity Note scheme ends a period in Jeremy Bentham's career as an economist. Up to September 1801 he had thought and written mainly as a projector and would-be reformer; from then onwards his attitude is pre-eminently that of a polemist and a teacher. Defence of a Maximum is essentially a piece of pamphleteering; The True Alarm, though originally meant to be an argument with "Mr Pitt, Mr Fox, and Mr Boyd" (Works X, 366), assumed in the end a definitely didactic character; and the last important work he ever wrote on economic science, the Method and Leading Features of an Institute of Political Economy, is planned to be, and executed as, a textbook of the subject pure and simple. This turn his work had taken makes it easier to introduce the reader to the writings of this last productive period. There is little to be presented in the way of historical narrative: no brilliant personages flit across the stage in this final act, no hopes are alternately raised and dashed, no startling schemes of national and world improvement started and abandoned. To be sure, Bentham is still anxious to be "of use": he could not well abandon this desire without abandoning all he stood for, his whole philosophy, his whole life, work and endeavour. But he is operating now from his writing desk. The world is no longer the field in which he moves, or even hopes to move. Comparatively speaking, there is a mood of tiredness and resignation.

"THE TRUE ALARM"

As has been pointed out in vol. II, Bentham was determined to make a contribution to the general discussion then going on of the paper money question, and first intended to write a pamphlet against W. Anderson and his Iniquity of Banking (cf. p. 110). He later dropped this plan because he found Anderson too sympathetic a writer to be held up to disdain and ridicule, and decided to attack instead Walter Boyd whose Letter . . . on the Influence of the Stoppage of Issues in Specie . . . on the Prices of Provisions had drawn "considerable attention" (cf. Works X, p. 361; cf. also ib. p. 364). A second and augmented edition of that booklet by a well-known banker and politician seems to have been published on Friday, February 27, 1801 . . .

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