James Mill

Scottish historian, economist, political theorist and philosopher
No good government can ever want more than two things for its support: 1st, Its own excellence; and, 2dly, a people sufficiently instructed, to be aware of that excellence. Every other pretended support, must ultimately tend to its subversion, by lessening its dependence upon these.

James Mill (April 6, 1773June 23, 1836) was a Scottish utilitarian philosopher of the school of Jeremy Bentham; also an economist, historian and political theorist. He was the father of the political philosopher John Stuart Mill.

Contents

QuotesEdit

  • The government and the people are under a moral necessity of acting together; a free press compels them to bend to one another.
    • The Edinburgh Review, vol. 18 (1811), p. 121
  • No good government can ever want more than two things for its support: 1st, Its own excellence; and, 2dly, a people sufficiently instructed, to be aware of that excellence. Every other pretended support, must ultimately tend to its subversion, by lessening its dependence upon these.
    • The Edinburgh Review, vol. 21 (1813), pp. 217-18
  • If nature had produced spontaneously all the objects which we desire, and in sufficient abundance for the desires of all, there would have been no source of dispute or of injury among men; nor would any man have possessed the means of ever acquiring authority over another.
    • "Government", in Supplement to the 4th, 5th and 6th Editions of the Encyclopædia Britannica (Edinburgh: Archibald Constable, 1824) vol. 4, p. 491
  • Whenever the powers of government are placed in any hands other than those of the community, whether those of one man, of a few, or of several, those principles of human nature which imply that government is at all necessary, imply that those persons will make use of them to defeat the very end for which government exists.
    • "Government", in Supplement to the 4th, 5th and 6th Editions of the Encyclopædia Britannica (Edinburgh: Archibald Constable, 1824) vol. 4, p. 493

Elements of Political Economy, 1821Edit

 
Elements of Political Economy, 1826

James Mill, (1821), Elements of Political Economy. (3rd Edition, 1844 online)

  • The distinction, between what is done by labour, and what is done by nature, is not always observed.
Labour produces its effects only by conspiring with the laws of nature.
It is found that the agency of man can be traced to very simple elements. He does nothing but produce motion. He can move things towards one another, and he can separate them from one another. The properties of matter perform the rest.
  • A certain immense aggregate of operations, is subservient to the production of the commodities useful and agreeable to man. It is of the highest importance that this aggregate should be divided into portions, consisting, each, of as small a number of operations as possible, in order that every operation may be the more quickly and perfectly, performed. If each man could, by the more frequent repetition thus occasioned, perform two of these operations, instead of one, and also perform each of them better, the powers of the community, in producing articles useful and agreeable to them, would, upon this supposition, be more than doubled. Not only would they be doubled in quantity, but a great advantage would be gained in point of quality.
This subject has been fully illustrated by Dr. Smith, in the first chapter of the first book of the "Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations," where the extraordinary effect of the division of labour in increasing its productive powers, in the more complicated cases, is displayed in some very remarkable instances. He states that a boy, who has been accustomed to make nothing but nails, can make-upwards of two thousand three hundred in a day; while a common blacksmith, whose operations are nevertheless so much akin to those of the nailer, cannot make above three hundred, and those very bad ones.
  • In the employment of labour and machinery, it is often found that the effects can be increased by skilful distribution, by separating all those operations which have any tendency to impede one another, and by bringing together all those operations which can be made in any way to aid one another. As men in general cannot perform many different operations with the same quickness and dexterity with which they can by practice learn to perform a few, it is always an advantage to limit as much as possible the number of operations imposed upon each. For dividing labour, and distributing the powers of men and machinery, to the greatest advantage, it is in most cases necessary to operate upon a large scale; in other words, to produce the commodities in greater masses. It is this advantage which gives existence to the great manufactories; a few of which, placed in the most convenient situations, frequently supply not one country, but many countries, with as much as they desire of the commodity produced.
    • Cited in: Karl Marx. Human Requirements and Division of Labour, Manuscript, 1844.

Quotes about James MillEdit

  • His place is an eminent one in the literary, and even in the political history of his country; and it is far from honourable to the generation which has benefited by his worth, that he is so seldom mentioned, and, compared with men far his inferiors, so little remembered.

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