David Hume’s Political and Economic TheoryJune 26, 2021
Hume’s views on political and economic issues are closely related to his ethical and psychological views.
Since he was interested in the development of the science of human nature throughout his life, and since political and economic institutions are human institutions, he took the path of realizing his examinations and criticisms of these institutions by basing them on the facts of human nature. His remarkable precision and practical foresight on these matters enabled his views to play an important role in the development of British political thought.
It envisages the principle of utility in solving all political problems. This view was followed by Adam Smith, Paley and Bentham. First, he criticizes the social contract view; first of all, he states that there is no evidence to show that the social contract is a historical phenomenon. If this is the case, all existing governments will fall into an illegal state. Secondly, this theory does not really explain anything, so it is unnecessary. If it is to be called the duty to obey the administration, this duty is actually based on the obligation to keep the promise made. The obligation in question also comes from considerations of usefulness. The duty to keep a promise does not explain political obligation, but it is based on the fact that without it an orderly society would not be possible, and without an orderly society it is clear that people’s happiness cannot be preserved.
Hume, in his view on private property, did not find it correct that Locke grounded property right on labor. He explained this with the habit based on established institutions such as enthronement, occupation, right of succession, right based on statute of limitations. People have never tried to organize it even on the basis of labor or direct utility, because they found the difficulties of distribution on these principles insurmountable. On the other hand, other habits had a greater impact on people. Once these institutional habits were structured and guaranteed, a different practice was deemed unnecessary.
Hume admits that he tends to side with those who want tighter limits on authority. In no case should human happiness be sacrificed; The means should not overpower the ends. The principle “Salus populi suprema lex (the happiness of the people is the highest law)” is the correct principle, and this can no doubt sometimes justify revolt. The problem is how do we know to what extent what is needed to justify it is necessary? In this respect, Hume admitted that he wanted to be on the side of those who were inclined to insist on obedience.
As for Hume’s views on the economy: In this respect, Hume is still in a transitional period. Because he believes in the possibility of an economics even if he does not use the term. His interest in this field is again revealed in relation to the phenomena whose foundations are in human nature. In all kinds of actions, people chase their own happiness, and the way to take the most necessary step in order to achieve happiness easily, economic life should be scientifically investigated. In reality the maxim may be wrong, but it insists that it is right for policy purposes.
Everything in the world is bought with labor, and only our passions are reasons to labor. All desires and passions, even greed and luxury, become provocative in the economy. Mandeville’s “private vices are social goodness.” The fault itself can never be an advantage to society, but two opposite faults can be more advantageous than one alone. By banishing evil luxury, you are only shrinking the industry without curing laziness or indifference to other people. Although labor is not at the center of Hume’s theory, he insists that the working people make their voices heard strongly. Everyone should be able to enjoy life as much as possible, fully enjoy the fruits of their labor, and lead a comfortable life as much as possible. The state can also benefit from this by increasing its taxation capacity; Undoubtedly, differences in the distribution of wealth are the primary cause of weakening.
Among Hume’s views are the beginnings of population theory. The growth of the population is seen as very dependent on the economic conditions and it is thought that it will also affect the economic development very closely. It was only after reading Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations that his views gained remarkable sharpness. It refers to a central weakness. And he says: “The renting of farms is a fraction of the price of the product. But that price is also determined by quality and demand.” This is in line with the general sanity of his position. Although he says “Everything in the world is bought for labor”, he also does not forget to say “our passions are the only causes of labor”.
All of the trends that determined English political thought in the first half of the nineteenth century are contained in Hume’s teaching. Fundamental views of the interconnected ethical, psychological, and economic theories were more or less expounded in Hume’s writings.