This essay of mine is offered as a plea that a corresponding change in the conditions of political science is possible. In the great University whose constituent colleges are the universities of the world, there is a steadily growing body of professors and students of politics who give the whole day to their work. I cannot but think that as years go on, more of them will call to their aid that study of mankind which is the ancient ally of the moral sciences. Within every great city there are groups of men and women who are brought together in the evenings by the desire to find something more satisfying than current political controversy. They have their own unofficial leaders and teachers, and among these one can already detect an impatience with the alternative offered, either of working by the bare comparison of existing institutions, or of discussing the fitness of socialism or individualism, of democracy or aristocracy for human beings whose nature is taken for granted.
If my book is read by any of those official or unofficial thinkers, I would urge that the study of human nature in politics, if ever it comes to be undertaken by the united and organised efforts of hundreds of learned men, may not only deepen and widen our knowledge of political institutions, but open an unworked mine of political invention.
The Conditions of the Problem
IMPULSE AND INSTINCT IN POLITICS
Whoever sets himself to base his political thinking on a re-examination of the working of human nature, must begin by trying to overcome his own tendency to exaggerate the intellectuality of mankind.
We are apt to assume that every human action is the result of an intellectual process, by which a man first thinks of some end which he desires, and then calculates the means by which that end can be attained. An investor, for instance, desires good security combined with five per cent interest. He spends an hour in studying with an open mind the price-list of stocks, and finally infers that the purchase of Brewery Debentures will enable him most completely to realise his desire. Given the original desire for good security, his act in purchasing the Debentures appears to be the inevitable result of his inference. The desire for good security itself may further appear to be merely an intellectual inference as to the means of satisfying some more general desire, shared by all mankind, for ‘happiness,’ our own ‘interest,’ or the like. The satisfaction of this general desire can then be treated as the supreme ‘end’ of life, from which all our acts and impulses, great and small, are derived by the same intellectual process as that by which the conclusion is derived from the premises of an argument.