Front Page Titles (by Subject) INVESTMENT IN HUMAN BEINGS - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume II - The Principles of Political Economy with Some of Their Applications to Social Philosophy (Books I-II)
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INVESTMENT IN HUMAN BEINGS - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume II - The Principles of Political Economy with Some of Their Applications to Social Philosophy (Books I-II) 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume II - The Principles of Political Economy with Some of Their Applications to Social Philosophy (Books I-II), ed. John M. Robson, introduction by V.W. Bladen (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1965).
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INVESTMENT IN HUMAN BEINGS
One important element in Mill’s treatment is his emphasis on investment in human beings. After a century of neglect this has come to the fore as a result of the immense investment in education required in backward and advanced countries alike. In discussing “Labour as an Agent of Production” (I, ii) he devotes one section (§7) to “labour of which the subject is human beings” (I.40.35). Much of this labour is “incurred from other motives than to obtain such ultimate return, and, for most purposes of political economy, need not be taken into account as expenses of production” (I.41.6-8). But “technical or industrial education” is generally “undergone for the sake of the greater or more valuable produce thereby attained” and should therefore be treated as “part of what the produce costs to society” (I.41.8-19). Similarly “the labour employed in keeping up productive powers; in preventing them from being destroyed or weakened by accident or disease,” though not generally employed by the individual patients from “economical motives,” must be considered “as part of the advance by which society effects its productive operations” (I.41.19-37). There follows a section on the labour of the inventor and the savant. Again there is the difference between the individual and the social aspect: “these material fruits, though the result, are seldom the direct purpose of the pursuits of savants . . . . But when (as in political economy one should always be prepared to do) we shift our point of view, and consider not individual acts, and the motives by which they are determined, but national and universal results, intellectual speculation must be looked upon as a most influential part of the productive labour of society . . .” (I.43.4-16).
Mill recurs to this theme in the chapter on “Unproductive Labour” (I, iii) where he discusses “utilities fixed and embodied in human beings.” He would have preferred, he says, to “regard all labour as productive which is employed in creating permanent utilities, whether embodied in human beings, or in any other animate or inanimate objects” (I.48.21-3). But he accepted the usage which limited the term to labour which produces “utilities embodied in material objects” (I.49.23). He then broke through this limitation to include as productive, “labour expended in the acquisition of manufacturing skill . . . not in virtue of the skill itself, but of the manufactured products created by the skill” (I.49.28-30). The emphasis is on the “investment” aspect of some part of education: if the labour of the teacher is classed as “unproductive” this is not “derogatory,” but in classing it as “productive” its contribution to increasing future productivity is established. That part of education expense is essentially part of the “accumulation” which is so urgently required. Finally one notes the chapter on the degrees of productiveness (I, vii). “Successful production . . . depends more on the qualities of the human agents, than on the circumstances in which they work . . .” (I.103.13-5). So he discussed as the second of the causes of superior productiveness “the greater energy of labour” (I.103.27). Here the preacher comes back into the picture (the sermon varying somewhat between the editions but remaining essentially the same). In the first edition the essential problem is stated: “An Englishman, of almost every class, is the most efficient of all labourers, because, to use a common phrase, his heart is in his work. But it is surely quite possible to put heart into his work without being incapable of putting it into anything else” (I.105r-r). Mill had, and continued to have, no doubt about the cause of the high productivity: he had serious doubts as to the ultimate “welfare” of people who were productive of material objects but incapable of enjoying them. But if he would “moderate the ardour of their devotion to the pursuit of wealth” (I.105.10), he would hope not to diminish “the strenuous and businesslike application to the matter in hand, which is found in the best English workmen” (I.105.11-3).
The third element determining the productiveness of labour is “the skill and knowledge therein existing” (I.106.6). The effects of increased knowledge in increasing wealth “have become familiar. . . . A thing not yet so well understood and recognised, is the economical value of the general diffusion of intelligence among the people” (I.107.25-8). The scarcity of “persons fitted to direct and superintend any industrial enterprise” (I.107.28-9) is only one aspect of the problem: another is the “connexion between mental cultivation and moral trustworthiness” (I.108.35). Mr. Escher of Zurich is quoted at some length: “The better educated workmen . . . are distinguished by superior moral habits . . . they are entirely sober; they are discreet in their enjoyments . . .; they have a taste for much better society, which they approach respectfully . . .; they cultivate music; they read; they enjoy the pleasures of scenery . . .; they are . . . honest and trustworthy” (I.108.36—109.9). Of the uneducated English Mr. Escher says they are “the most skilful,” but the most “debauched . . . and least respectable and trustworthy”: if treated with “urbanity and friendly feeling” they become “unmanageable and useless.” Mill comments, “As soon as any idea of equality enters the mind of an uneducated English working man, his head is turned by it. When he ceases to be servile, he becomes insolent” (I.109.11-28). Again we are going beyond the theory of productivity: for that theory it is important to recognize with Mill that the “moral qualities of the labourers are fully as important to the efficiency and worth of their labour, as the intellectual” (I.109.29-30). But the plea for moral improvement is not primarily a plea for improving productivity: the whole character of society and the future condition of man is involved. We shall return to the issue when commenting on Mills’ chapters on communism and on the probable futurity of the working class. Appropriately, in view of the emphasis on education and the development of knowledge in the beginning of the book, Mill devotes a section of his final chapter on the limits of the province of government to a plea for provision for scientific research and for the maintenance of a “learned class.” “The cultivation of speculative knowledge, though one of the most useful of all employments, is a service rendered to a community collectively, not individually, and one consequently for which it is, primâ facie, reasonable that the community collectively should pay . . .” (II.968.34-7).