Front Page Titles (by Subject) Section 6.: The greatest happiness of the greatest number requires—that, for the drawing of any such draught, no reward at the public expense be given. At additional expense, reward none. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 4
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
Section 6.: The greatest happiness of the greatest number requires—that, for the drawing of any such draught, no reward at the public expense be given. At additional expense, reward none. - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 4 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 4.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
The greatest happiness of the greatest number requires—that, for the drawing of any such draught, no reward at the public expense be given. At additional expense, reward none.
Of the above-described unexpensive plan, the advantages cannot be more clearly brought to view, than by bringing to view the several detrimental effects, produced or liable to be produced, by the expensive one.
In this as in other instances, where service is proposed to be called for, in behalf of the public, at the hands of individuals,—a natural enough conception is—that, by factitious reward, allotted to the purpose at the public expense, a proportionable degree of aptitude may probably be obtained for the work: a degree greater than could otherwise be obtained for it: insomuch that the higher the reward, the greater is the probability of the highest possible degree of aptitude.
On an attentive examination, so far will this be from being found to be the case, that by, and even in the direct proportion of the magnitude of such factitious reward, will the probability of the highest possible degree of aptitude be seen to be diminished.
From any such factitious reward, the following are in detail the evil effects that will be seen to be the result: effects either as detrimental to the degree of aptitude in relation to the work in question, or as productive of evil in this or that other shape:—
1.—Evil 1. The effect of the reward is—to give birth to so much expense: and it will immediately be seen, that this expense is not merely useless, but worse than useless. Say, Expense wasted.
2.—Evil 2. The tendency of the reward is to lessen, instead of increasing, the number of apt competitors: thence the probability of the highest degree of aptitude is lessened instead of increased. Say, Number of competitors lessened.
3.—Evil 3. The tendency of the reward is—to place the work in hands less apt, instead of more apt, than those in which it otherwise would have been placed. Say, Less, not more apt hands,—the result.
4.—Evil 4. The tendency of the reward is—to produce precipitate execution, thence comparative inaptitude, or else extra-delay, up to ultimate non-performance, according to the mode of payment in respect of time. Say, Precipitation, or else delay up to non-performance, the result.
5.—Evil 5. The effect of the reward is—to deprive the public of the benefit of all such works as, how useful soever, would not in point of extent be adequate to the desired purpose. Say, Useful, though not adequately extensive, performances, excluded.
6.—Evil 6. The effect of the factitious reward is—to lessen the number of the instances, in which, by the natural reward alone, proofs of aptitude for political service in various shapes would be brought to view. Say, Legislation school narrowed.
Now for a few explanations:—
Evil 1. Expense wasted.—True it is—that if, by increase of remuneration, any reasonable promise of a corresponding increase of aptitude were afforded,—the highest reward, that could with any chance of success be proposed, could not be too great. But, whether any such promise could be afforded may now be seen.
Evil 2. Number of competitors lessened.—It will be lessened by the non-appearance of all such otherwise apt competitors as by the apprehension of the want of interest (in the English phrase) of the want of protection (in the French phrase)—in a word, of the want of appropriate favour in the eves of those on whom the choice depends, will be deterred from entering the list.
By the introduction of factitious reward in the shape in question, the case would be rendered a case of patronage: of patronage, in the hands of the person or persons, on whom the choice of the individual or individuals to whom the service, with its reward, shall be allotted, depends. As to patrons, and their number,—they may be many, few, or one: the whole legislative assembly, for example, a legislative committee of the assembly, a council of ministers, the president of the legislation committee, or the minister of justice. With respect to the result in question, no one of these diversifications will make any considerable difference. In the eyes of every person in the situation of patron—in the eyes of every person in the situation of protegé,—the reward will, in the ordinary course of things, be at the least the principal object; the service, if an object at all, at the utmost a subordinate one. But, the greater the reward, the greater in all these several eyes will be the ratio of its importance to that of the service: the greater the reward, the less therefore will be the chance the service has of being in the highest degree well performed.
Evil 3. Less, not more apt, hands,—the result.—Unless any adequate reason can be shown to the contrary, the chance in favour of the best possible workmanship will of course be diminished by every diminution in the number of the candidates: and, the number of the candidates being (suppose) the same, the chance in favour of the best possible workmanship will again be diminished, by every diminution that can be shown to be effected, in the aggregate aptitude of all the candidates. But, for a work of the sort in question, the probability in favour of aptitude on the part of the workmen is rather diminished than increased, by that felicity of connexion, of which, as above, interest in the English sense, protection in the French sense, is the natural result. For superior aptitude in this line, the most intense and persevering habit of scrutiny and reflection, with a correspondent and adequate stock of information for the subject-matter of it, is not too much: and such habit is more likely to be persevered in, such stock more likely to be laid in, by one who, as the phrase is, has mixed little with the world—in the high world—in the aristocratical world in all its several orbs,—than by one who has mixed much. A person not known to the patron, whoever he be, cannot be an object of his choice: of those who are known to him, he who in his eyes is the most agreeable object, stands a better chance of experiencing his support, than he who, even in those same eyes, is in the highest degree possessed of appropriate aptitude, with relation to any such dry work.
True it is—that, to the apt composition of a work, by which the condition of all classes from the lowest to the highest is undertaken to be disposed of, while for its success it depends upon the state of the human mind in all those several classes,—opportunities for the observation of it should not, in the instance of any of them, have been altogether wanting. But, for this purpose, a slight intercourse will, in each instance, be sufficient: slight is the intercourse that will be sufficient to convince an attentive observer, that, where literary culture, intellectual and moral, has not been altogether wanting or deplorably misapplied, the degree of regard for the greatest happiness of the greatest number is rather in the inverse than in the direct ratio of a man’s elevation in the conjunct scales of opulence, power, and factitious dignity. The less the need a man feels of the good will of others, the less solicitous will be his endeavours to possess it, and, that he may possess it, to deserve it.
Evil 4. Precipitation or else delay, up to non-performance, a natural result.—Of precipitation, the effect as applied to the case in question is, as the term in a manner supposes, on the part of the work, inferiority of aptitude. In the instance of the most apt workman, the time allotted for the work not being sufficient for the purpose of giving to it so high a degree of aptitude as it would otherwise have possessed, aptitude in the work will, in a correspondent degree, be diminished.
If unnecessary delay has place, and in proportion as it has place—i. e. if the time allotted for the completion of the work, and thence for the receipt of the reward, is greater than what is necessary for giving to it its best chance for possessing the highest degree of aptitude—the difference, between the length of time appointed and the length of time that would have been sufficient, gives the length of time, during which the advantages resulting from the work fail of having place: which is as much as to say—the evils, that have place in the as yet existing state of things, continue unremoved.
If, in his view of the matter, the interest of the workman requires, that the work be performed with precipitation, with precipitation it will of course be performed: and from precipitation comes, as above, proportionable inaptitude.
If, in his view of the matter, the interest of the workman requires, that the task be performed with delay, with delay it will of course be performed: and if, in his view of the matter, his interest requires that it be not ever completed by him at any time, it will not ever be completed by him at any time.
Of these several cases, no one is altogether an imaginary one: of the one last mentioned, an exemplification will presently be brought to view: and by this one, exemplification in the case of the two others will be rendered unnecessary.
Had factitious reward in this case been regarded as necessary, and accordingly recommended,—a task that might here have been called for, is the showing by what course both these rocks might be avoided: and, for this purpose, the several possible modes of connexion, between reward and service, with reference to time, might have required to be brought to view in full detail. As it is, nothing more belongs to the purpose than what is necessary to the giving of a tolerably distinct conception, of the advantage in this respect possessed by the gratuitous, as compared with the stipendiary mode.
For exemplification, here follow a few of the most obvious modes, with the attendant evils:—
Mode 1. Payment none, till the service has been completed; and a time fixed, within which, on pain of non-payment, it must have been completed: Evil, actual or probable, precipitation; thence, on the part of the work, correspondent inferiority in the scale of aptitude.
Mode 2. Payment none till the service has been completed; but no such time for it fixed: Evil, actual or probable, precipitation, with inferiority as above.
Mode 3. Payment, the whole at once, made or (what comes to the same thing) secured, before any portion of the service has been rendered: Evil, actual or probable, delay; ending or not ending in ultimate non-performance, partial or total.
Mode 4. Payment going on while the service is rendering, or supposed to be rendering: Evil, delay, ending or not ending in non-performance, as above.
Mode 5. Payment, part of it made in a mass, beforehand, as above; other part in instalments, as last mentioned: as in the case of a pension, for a time fixed or not fixed, limited or not limited: Evil, delay, ending or not ending in non-performance, as above.
For illustration of all these several imaginary modifications, a single actually exemplified one may, it is believed, suffice.
Before me lies the unpublished, and even undenominated, yet assuredly authentic, plan of a still-existing official establishment for the production of an all-comprehensive code. State, Russia; year, 1804: aggregate annual amount of salaries, roubles of that time 100,000: pounds sterling, say 10,000: this, exclusive of the salaries of two master men, by one of whom auspices were furnished, by the other, labour, or the appearance of it: crowning salaries, over which, probably in consideration of their enormity and disproportionateness, a veil of secresy is spread. Of each salary, the whole, secured to each workman or alleged workman, so long as the work remained unfinished: the work finished, to each possessor an indeterminate chance for the continuance of a part, possibly even the whole of it. (See in page 33, article 16.) Such the adjustment of means to ends. Date, 4th of February 1804. In August 1821, no such code as yet, either in whole or in part: interval, 17½ years: exclusive of the unknown additions, money expended, unless engagements have been violated, £170,000.
Suppose all such factitious reward out of the question, none employed but in the natural and unexpensive shape, proposed in the last preceding section, danger is, in all the several above-mentioned shapes, either excluded, or at least lessened. A time (suppose) is fixed: nor can such fixation be easily avoided. Each competitor, if, to his own satisfaction, he is able, will complete his work by the time. But, if not in this degree able, he will not on that account give up the pursuit: he will either send in his work, although it be in what to him appears an incomplete or otherwise imperfected state, and thus take his chance for acceptance in the first instance; or, leaving it to others to send in their works by the time, send in his own afterwards, in the hope of its presenting matter capable of being employed in the way of amendment to whatever draught shall have received the stamp of authority. In either case, appropriate aptitude, in whatsoever shape and degree possessed by him, will have been displayed: and, with or without the honour of being aggregated to the body of the law, the produce of his labour will serve as evidence of his aptitude for official situation, in this or that other and more tangibly profitable shape.
Evil 5. Useful, though not adequately extensive, performance excluded.—The evil that presents itself in this shape has just been brought to view.
Evil 6. Legislation school narrowed.—In whatsoever shape and degree appropriate aptitude, with reference to the sort of work in question, may have been displayed, the demand for fresh exertions in the same line can never be altogether made to cease. Not even with reference to the time, be it what it may, at which it has received the stamp of authority, will any draught, either in universal opinion or in its own nature, possess the attribute of absolute perfection: and, even supposing it possessed of that super-human attribute with reference to that moment of time, fresh times, with correspondent states of things, will continually be presenting more or less demand for change. Such will be the case, perhaps, as long as, in any community whatsoever, the species continues in existence. But at the present moment, at how vast a distance, in the best organized community, is the state of things from that ideal point!
In respect of form, including method and expression, absolute exemption from all need of change is not by any means so completely ideal as in respect of substance. In respect of method, there will be seen to exist in this case, in the line of aptitude, a point at which the problem of the highest degree of that quality will have been solved: solved, in such sort, that whatever shall from time to time come to be the changes made in respect of substance, no further advantage remains to be obtained from change in respect of method. Even in regard to expression—expression given to the substance, such as it is at the time in question—this point may not be absolutely unattainable, though the time of its attainment will not arrive so speedily in this case as in the other. But, as substance changes, expression undergoes of necessity a correspondent change. Meantime, in regard to such men as from time to time shall have succeeded in obtaining this or that change in respect of substance, the nature of the case admits not of any sufficient assurance that they will all of them be at all times willing, and at the same time able, to give to the new matter a mode of expression, or even a method, corresponding in every point with that which it found in existence.
Here, then, comes the demand for the sort of scientific skill alluded to in the last section: and to a supply of this skill, the legislation school herein described would give commencement; and, after commencement, continuance: but, to the establishment of this legislation school, the perfectly open competition above described has been shown to be necessary.
Supposing these objections to the remuneration plan well-grounded and conclusive, in no state of things can they be useless: in no state of things can a plausible demand for inducement in this shape be altogether wanting. For example, take the case of a legislation committee. By no such body (it may indeed be said,) nor by any member of it, can remuneration in any shape be expected or received: to no such portion of itself could the legislative body at large propose to make any such allowance. True. But if a rationale is to enter into the composition of the work, it has been seen how plainly impossible it is that this extraordinary business should, by any man or men in that situation, be carrying on at the same time with their part in the ordinary business: always remembered that the time within which it must be completed by them stands limited to two years: that being the utmost time anywhere allotted for the continuance of their authority. This being supposed,—then, if the work is to be executed at all, comes the necessity of turning it over to other hands. Thereupon, in a manner altogether natural, comes in the proposal of a remuneration. Custom and shame would have concurred in forbidding the offering any such boon to their own hands; but, this being a public service, custom would seem to require, and shame would not forbid, their offering it to other hands. Hereupon comes the necessary question, as above—in what patronizing hands shall the choice of the operative hands be lodged? and, let the answer take what shape it may, then come the evil consequences that have been brought to view. Patronizing hands—say, those of the legislation committee—say, those of the legislative body at large—say, those of the chief of the state: in a monarchy, the monarch’s; in a representative commonwealth, the president’s: time of payment, in the whole or in part—say, antecedent to the commencement of the service—say, concomitant with the service—say, posterior to the conclusion of the service: under no one of all these modifications will the result stand clear of the evils above specified.