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Goods and “Relationships”

ARISTOTLE (POLITICS i. 4. 1253b, 23–25) calls the means of life and well-being of men “goods.” The predominantly ethical standpoint from which the, peoples of antiquity regarded human relationships is reflected in the views of ancient writers on the nature of utility and the nature of goods, just as the religious standpoint predominates in medieval writings. Ambrosius says “nihil utile, nisi quod ad vitae illius eternae prosit gratiam,”[2] and even Louis Thomassin, whose economic views belong to the middle ages, writes in his Traité du négoce et de l’usure (Paris, 1697, p. 22), that “l’utilité même se mesure par les considérations de la vie éternelle.”[3] Among more recent writers, François V. de Forbonnais defines goods (biens) as “les propriétés qui ne rendent pas une production annuelle, telles que les meubles précieux, les fruits destinés à la consommation.”[4] (Principes économiques in E. Daire [ed.], Mélanges d’économie politique, Paris, 1847, I, 174–175), and contrasts them with “richesses” (goods that yield a revenue). A similar distinction, in a different sense, is also made by Du Pont (Physiocratie, Leyden, 1768, p. cxviii).

     The word “good,” in the special meaning of present day science, was already used by Guillaume F. Le Trosne (De l’intdérêt social, Paris, 1777, pp. 5–6) who contrasts needs with the means for their satisfaction and calls the latter goods (biens). See also Jacques Necker, Sur la législation et le commerce des grains, Paris, 1775, pp. 17–24. Jean Baptiste Say (Cours complet d’économie politique pratique, Paris, 1840, I, 65) defines goods (biens) as “les moyens que nous avons de satisfaire [nos besoins].”

     The development of the theory of the good in Germany can be seen from what follows: Julius v. Soden (Die Nazional-Oekonomie, Leipzig, 1805, I, 39–40) defined a good as an article of consumption; L.H. v. Jakob (Grundsätzetder National-Oekonomie, Halle, 1825, p. 30) defined a good as “was zur Befriedigung menschlicher Bedürfinsse geschickt ist”;[5] Gottlieb Hufeland (Neue Grundlegung der Staatswirthschaftskunst, Wien, 1815, I, 15) defined it as “jedes Mittel zu einem Zwecke eines Menschen”;[6] Henri Storch (Cours d’économie politique, St. Petersbourg, 1815, I, 56–57) said: “L’arrêt que notre jugement porte sur l’utilité des chosest. . . en fait des biens.”[7] From these beginnings, Friedrich Carl Fulda (Grundsätze der ökonomisch-politischen oder Kameralwissenschaften, Tübingen, 1816, p. 2) defines goods as “diejenige [Sachen], welche der Mensch zu diesem Zweck [Befriedigung geistiger und physicher Bedürfnisse] als Mittel anerkennt[8] (cf., however, Hufeland, op. cit.,iI, 22ff.). Wilhelm Roscher (Grundlagen der Nationalökonomie, Twentieth edition, Stuttgart, 1892, p. 2) defines them as “alles dasjenige was zur. . . . Befriedigung eines wahren menschlichen Bedürfnisses anerkannt brauchbar ist.”[9]

     Sir James Steuart, in An Inquiry into the Principles of Political Oeconomy(London, 1767, I, 360ff.), had already divided goods into things, personal services, and rights. In the category of rights he even included marketable privileges or immunities (p. 370). Say (op. cit., pp. 530–531) counted a law practice, the goodwill enjoyed by a merchant, newspaper enterprises, and even the reputation of a military leader as goods (biens). Friedrich v. Hermann (Staatswirthschaftliche Untersuchungen, München, 1874, pp. 103ff.) includes a large number of relationships under the concept of external goods (relationships of hospitality, love, family, gainful employment, etc.) and distinguishes them from material goods and personal services as a special category of goods. Roscher (op. cit., p. 8) counts the state among “relationships,” whereas Albert E.F. Schäffle (Die nationalökonomische Theorie der ausschliessenden Absazverhältnisse, Tübingen, 1867, p. 12) confines the concept “relationships” to “übertragbare, durch private Beherrschung des Absatzes und durch Verdrängung der Concurrenz ausschliessend gemachte Renten.”[10] In this passage Schäffle uses the term “rent” in a sense peculiar to himself. (See Schäffle, Das gesellschaftliche System der menschlichen Wirtschaft, Tübingen, 1873, I, 208ff.; also Soden, op. cit., I, 25ff.; and Hufeland, op. cit., I, 30.)

[1]To Chapter I. See notes 2 and 8 of Chapter I.—TR.

[2]nothing is useful but what serves to the salvation of one’s eternal life.”

[3]utility itself is measured by considerations of eternal life.”

[4]possessions that do not yield an annual product, such as precious objects, products destined for consumption.”

[5]what is suited to the satisfaction of human needs.”

[6]every means to a purpose of a man.”

[7]the judgment we pass upon the utility of things . . . makes goods of them.”

[8]those [things] which man recognizes as means to this end [satisfaction of psychological and physical needs].”

[9]all that is recognized as being applicable to the satisfaction of a true human need” (Menger’s italics).

[10]transferable rents made exclusive by private control of supply and elimination of competition.”

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