Front Page Titles (by Subject) Section 7.: The greatest happiness of the greatest number requires—that every draught, so given in, be, from beginning to end, if possible, the work of a single hand. Hands not more than one. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 4
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Section 7.: The greatest happiness of the greatest number requires—that every draught, so given in, be, from beginning to end, if possible, the work of a single hand. Hands not more than one. - 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.
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The greatest happiness of the greatest number requires—that every draught, so given in, be, from beginning to end, if possible, the work of a single hand. Hands not more than one.
On a nearer inspection, this position will be found composed of two distinguishable ones: two, which, standing on different grounds, will, at the outset, require to be distinguished. One is—that each part, considered by itself, should be the work of not more than one hand: the other is—that, whatsoever be the number of the parts, they should be, all of them, if possible, the work of that same single hand.
In regard to each part taken by itself,—the ground on which the position stands is—that of moral aptitude: two, or any greater number of workmen, will not be so effectually disposed to take the greatest happiness of the greatest number for the object of the work, as any single one of them would: comparative want of appropriate probity is the cause of the inferiority in this case. In regard to the several parts taken together,—the ground on which the position stands is—that of intellectual and active aptitude: two, or any greater number of workmen, all equal in good intention and skill as above, but taking each one of them a different part of the work, will not render it so well adapted to that same end as any one of them would, supposing him to execute the whole. Want of consistency in the workmanship, is the cause of the inferiority in this case.
I. In the case of each part, taken by itself, let us now see in what manner appropriate moral aptitude on the part of the workman, and thence aptitude on the part of the work, as far as depends upon such aptitude on the part of the workman, are affected by the number of the hands.
Upon the efficiency of the inducements, whatever they are, by which the workman is prompted to render his work as highly contributory as possible to the greatest happiness of the greatest number, in despite of all temptation offered by sinister interest in all its several shapes,—will depend, so far as depends upon moral aptitude on his part, the degree in which the work will be contributory to that same all-comprehensive and only justifiable end. But, it is by the power of the popular or moral sanction, as applied by the tribunal of public opinion, that these inducements, whatever they may amount to, have to be applied. In the case of this, as of every other sanction, it is of the anticipation, either of eventual evil having the effect of punishment, or of eventual good having the effect of reward, or of both together, that the inducement will consist.*
Let us first see the effect of multiplicity in this case, in diminishing the power of the tribunal of public opinion, in so far as depends upon the influence of evil having the effect of punishment; diminishing, in a word, the degree and the efficiency of responsibility.
1. The greater the number of the workmen concerned in the work, the greater is the difficulty of knowing, in case of bad workmanship, who are to blame, and which is most to blame.
Say even that the number is no greater than two: still, in regard to blame, everything is in the dark: in regard to each distinguishable part, by which of them it was brought forward: from which of them it received the most strenuous support: in the giving support to it, what were the arguments—what the other means, if any, that were employed.
2. The greater the number, on whom, on this as on any other occasion, disapprobation falls, the lighter it falls and sits on each. It keeps floating as it were in the air, not knowing where to settle; and no sooner does it attempt to alight on any one, than, like a shuttlecock, it is driven back again, or driven on against another.
3. The greater the number of the workmen, the more ample and efficient is the aggregate of the support which the unapt work will be apt to receive everywhere, in the legislative body, and even in the nation at large, notwithstanding its inaptitude. For, the greater the number of the workmen, the more extensive will be the aggregate of their several connexions; and, the more extensive as well as the more influential those connexions are, the more efficient will be the support which they will afford.
The reputation of the bad workmen will be supported by them and their connexions for the sake of them and their connexions: and for the sake of their reputation, the reputation of the bad work will be supported. For a protection to particular arrangements inimical to the interest of the greatest number, rules of judging inimical to that interest will be devised and circulated. Also, for the sake of ulterior bad arrangements, bad principles—the fruitful seed of such bad fruit. Everything that is most inimical to the greatest happiness of the greatest number, does it not find in one single word, legitimacy, one of its most efficient supports?
Of the tribunal of public opinion, there may be seen in every country two sections: the democratical, and the aristocratical. In each section, the judgments of the tribunal are of necessity determined by the interest of the judges: by what are, or if there be any difference, by what are supposed by them to be, their interests. In relation to every such work, and the conduct of the workman or workmen on the occasion of it,—the judgments of the democratical section of this same tribunal will be more or less favourable or unfavourable, according as that same work and that same conduct are regarded as being more or less contributory or detrimental to the greatest happiness of the greatest number: of the aristocratical section of that same tribunal, the judgments will, in relation to that same work and that same conduct, be more or less favourable or unfavourable, according as they are respectively regarded as being contributory or detrimental to the greatest happiness of the ruling and influential few, whatsoever may become of the happiness of the subject many—the altogether uninfluential or less influential many. To the aristocratical section of this same tribunal can scarce fail to belong, in the case of the sort of work here in question, whatsoever workmen are occupied in the composition of the work. The greater the number of these same workmen, the more efficient therefore is the support, which, in the legislative body, a draught drawn by such hands is likely to receive—to receive, in whatsoever degree it may have been rendered unapt with reference to the greatest happiness of the subject many, by attention paid to the particular and sinister interest of the ruling and influential few.*
Thus much as to the influence of a multiplicity of workmen, in diminishing the efficiency of the punitory power of the tribunal of public opinion, as operating towards the suppression of bad works. Now as to its influence in diminishing the efficiency of the remuneratory power of that same tribunal, as contributing by its general influence to the production of good works:—
1. In regard to the whole—the general complexion of it being by the supposition meritorious—in regard to each several arrangement contained in it, the greater the number of the workmen, the greater will be the difficulty, in distinguishing from those, if any, to which no share, those to which some share of the honour is due; and, among these, in distinguishing to whom the greatest share is due.
2. The greater the number of the workmen, the less the share which each one of them has in the aggregate mass of the honour bestowed upon the work. On him to whom it is indebted for the greater part or even the whole of the aptitude displayed by it, it may happen that no more honour shall be bestowed, than upon him to whom it is not indebted for any more than the smallest part, or than upon him to whom it is not indebted for any part. From him whose share in the merit is greatest, more or less of the honour may thus be drawn away, by the others and their connexions. In its endeavour to fix upon the proper person, and in the proper proportion,—honour, from causes correspondent and opposite, will find as much difficulty in this case, as dishonour in the opposite case. Number of colleagues, suppose five: parts taken by them, suppose undistinguishable. Here, then, he who had most of the merit, or even the whole of it, may, instead of the whole of the honour, have no more than a fifth part of it.
Thus, by means of the multiplicity of the hands, will the probability of the ultimate adoption of the most apt work be diminished, as it were, at both ends: diminished by the conjunct operation of the two opposite moral forces: of the inducements to bad workmanship, the force will be increased—of the inducements to good workmanship, the force will be diminished.
Another circumstance there is—by which, more particularly in a case such as the present, by and in proportion to the number of the working hands, the probability of bad workmanship, and the probable badness of it, are increased. So many workmen, so many individuals, by each of whom a particular sinister interest of his own may be possessed; and, in the texture of so vast a whole,—arrangements, indefinite in number, extent, and importance, inserted: inserted, under favour of that exclusory initiative, which would be done away by the above proposed open mode. On this as on every other occasion, each particular interest will of course be using its endeavours to make provision for itself, at the expense of all opposing interests. The interests, which each of these workmen will find standing in collision with and in opposition to his own, are the universal interest, and the several particular interests of his several colleagues. Of his own particular interest, or that of any particular connexion of his, no one of them all will willingly consent to make sacrifice: if at all, not without a degree of reluctance proportioned to his conception of the importance of the sacrifice: at the same time, in regard to sacrifice of the universal interest, scarcely in the breast of any of them will the degree of reluctance, if any, be so great. Why? Because, in the close situation here in question, independent of public opinion every one of them is; no one is so of any of his colleagues: thus circumstanced, his own interest no one will sacrifice to the rest; the public interest, every one. As to proportions, true it is—that, in respect of influence, wheresoever operating—whether within doors or without—whatever be the number of these collaborators, no such assurance as that of an exact equality can have place. Power, opulence, talent, reputation—in every one of these may be seen an efficient cause of influence: and in regard to each of these, in how ample a scale gradations may have place, is sufficiently manifest. But, in a small knot of men, each of them so circumstanced, that for an indefinite length of time it may be in his power at every turn to stop the course of the rest, another instrument of influence there is, and that is pertinacity:—in the language of those by whom, on the occasion in question, the exercise given to it is not approved—obstinacy: an instrument, the influence of which is capable of being full as great as that of any of the four others: but, proportioned to pertinacity on the part of one individual is vexation, or say annoyance, on the part of the rest: annoyance, and thence the amount of the sacrifice in all shapes, which each of them is willing to make, on condition of being rid of it. In an English jury, with this single weapon, how often has not one man overpowered eleven others!
Interest—sinister interest, has here been mentioned for shortness. But interest-begotten prejudice, authority-begotten prejudice, habit-begotten prejudice, and inbred intellectual weakness, are, each of them, not less capable of suggesting arrangements inimical to the greatest happiness of the greatest number, and at the same time of giving birth to pertinacity, not always less intense than such as is produced by sinister interest.
By means of the vitiating influence of the multiplicity so often spoken of,—suppose an unapt work produced in a legislation committee,—proportioned, in this case, to the degree of confidence reposed in that select body—in that selection of the select—will be its probability of making its way through the several other appropriate authorities:—not to speak of the national mind at large. True it is—that if by the members of the legislative body at large, it be seen or supposed to be, in this or that part, adverse to their respective particular interests—true it is, that, in those parts respectively, any such alterations as seem well adapted to the rendering it conformable to those same interests, will willingly enough be made in it. But, so far as, in those parts of it which are adverse to the universal interest, nothing particularly adverse to these same particular interests happens to be observed,—the confidence, the existence of which stands demonstrated by the choice made of the members of that same select and close body, will naturally prove sufficient to carry it, without considerable opposition, through the body at large. Such will be the case, where the sinister arrangements introduced into the original draught by the sinister interests of the several workmen of all classes are simply not unfavourable to the particular interests of the members of the body at large: much more surely in so far as they are seen or supposed to be decidedly subservient to these same particular interests. To the situation of the monarch, where there is one—of the monarch, his subordinates, dependents, and partisans, these same observations may of course be seen to have equal application. And thus, under a form of government, having for its declared end in view the greatest happiness of the greatest number—thus, by the conjunct predominance of a cluster of particular and sinister interests over the universal interest, may existence come to be given—given even to a sanctioned work—as inimical to the greatest happiness of the greatest number, as even to that proposed, but happily not yet adopted, penal code, with which the Spanish nation was so near being afflicted.
Note, that in this close mode, any number of stages of subordination as between workmen and workmen may have place: in each stage, any number of workmen, and on the part of each, with or without observance and consent of superiors, this or that pernicious suggestion, of sinister interest, interest-begotten prejudice, authority-begotten prejudice, or inbred intellectual weakness, may have slipt in, and contributed to give their increase to the aggregate mass of inaptitude in the work.
In each stage, in the breast of each individual, contributing or not contributing labour, but in either case exercising influence, there will be two distinguishable masses of particular and sinister interests, in perpetual action against the universal interest: namely, 1. Whatsoever sinister interests may chance to appertain to him in his individual capacity. 2. Whatsoever particular and sinister interests appertain to whatsoever particular class or classes of men he happens to belong to: and, to the same man it may happen to belong, at the same time, to little less than the whole number of the classes included in the aggregate of the aristocratical classes.*
Suppose even the case to be that of a commonwealth, altogether clear of monarchy, or a monarchy in which the monarch has no share in the legislative power. The workmen, on whom, in the first instance, the texture of the work depends, will in this case be the members of a legislation committee. The sinister interest, here predominant, will be the interest of the legislative aristocracy: and, in the breast of each member, whatsoever other branches of the aristocracy it happens to him to belong to, to his larger sinister interest will be added those their several smaller sinister interests. As to the sinister interest belonging to the legislative aristocracy as such, it is an object, the existence of which is obvious and undeniable. What it prompts to is—the giving, to the aggregate mass of emolument, power, and factitious dignity attached to the executive branch of the government, the utmost magnitude possible, that, in their own persons, or those of their respective connexions, the shares obtained and enjoyed by the members of this legislative branch may be proportionably abundant.
As to the other branches of the aristocratical interest—of itself, no one of them can do anything for itself. But, with the assistance of the legislative branch, they may, each of them, do anything. The sinister interest, common to the legislative body, has therefore, for its natural ally and supporter, the sinister interest of every one of those other branches.
To the reader, according to the constitution of the political state he belongs to,—to the reader it must be left, to take note and observation of these several stages: with the present design, no such detail would be compatible.
II. Lastly, as to want of consistency. This, to an extent more or less considerable, has already been stated as an evil that will unavoidably have place, if by one workman one part of this great whole be executed, by another workman another. Moreover, what is sufficiently evident,—the inconsistency of the whole will be the greater, the greater the number is of those same parts executed, each of them by a different hand.
Vast is the diversity of design incident to so vast a work: vast again is the diversity incident to the mode of execution: correspondent to the diversity in both, will be the diversity that can scarce fail to have place in respect of the leading terms. If he who is occupied in the penal code is not at the same time working on the civil code,—neither in respect of method, nor thence in respect of language, will the one fit in to the other: and so, as between the compound of these two codes, compared with the constitutional code. Much to be regretted will, at the least, be the obscurity and ambiguity that will ensue: proportionable the change, which, in one or both, will be necessitated: unless for the affliction of the subject citizen, these two so intimately connected imperfections be suffered to remain unremedied. In this state of things, if, of two of these parts, namely, the penal code and civil code, one be allotted to one of two draughtsmen, the other to the other, what will be to be done? Upon the coming in of the two draughts, even supposing the approbation bestowed upon them ever so exactly equal, a necessity will be seen, for taking one of them for the groundwork, and altering the other in such sort as to make the several portions of it to fit in to the corresponding portions of the first. But, to the difficulties that would be attendant on any such operation, or the time that would unavoidably be to be expended on it, no limits can be assigned: while, by the simultaneous and all-comprehensive mode of operation here proposed, all such difficulty, with its attendant delay, is of course avoided.
So, as between the main body of the law, or say system of substantive law, and the system of the law of procedure, or say system of adjective law, included in each such part as above. In each part, the adjective branch has for its object and business the giving execution and effect to the substantive branch. Conceive now, in the penal and civil parts, taken together or separately, a system of procedure, having for its object the giving execution and effect to a system of benefits and burthens, of rights and obligations, the forms and denominations of which remain to be determined: the system of substantive law, the production of one workman; the system of procedure, which is to give execution and effect to it, that of another: both works going on without concert at the same time. In such a state of things, in what case is he, to whose lot it falls to pen the system of procedure? Instead of seeing the system of offences as exhibited in the penal code, and that of the efficient causes of rights and obligations as exhibited in the civil code, he is reduced to grope for all those objects in the dark in the region of conjecture.
[* ]In so far as evil having the effect of punishment is the inducement, responsibility, i. e. exposure to eventual punishment, is a word which, in this case, is in possession of being employed: it is by his sense of responsibility, that is, by his perception of this exposure, that, be the work what it may, the workman is, in this case, induced to endeavour to make good work, to render his work in this or that way contributory, to abstain from rendering it in this or that way detrimental, to the maximum of happiness.
[* ]Modes of support to a bad work. The following may serve as an exemplification of the devices wont to be employed, for the purpose of eluding or unduly mitigating the judgment of condemnation, due from the tribunal of public opinion, to the author or authors of a law or other authoritative literary composition, adverse to the greatest happiness of the greatest number:—
[* ]In every civilized nation there exists a natural aristocracy, of which the following may be stated as the main branches, having each of them its own particular interest: namely:—
In a monarchy, to these are added two factitious branches: namely—