Economic Sophisms/147

<pagequality level="3" user="Zoeannl" />style="background: #ececec; text-align: left; padding-left: 0.5em; font-weight: bold;" class="table-rh"The prudence of each would be enforced by the vigilance of all; and reform, confining itself to the regulation of external acts, and never going deeper than the skin, would fail to penetrate men's hearts and consciences. Such a society would remind us of one of those exact, rigorous, and just men, who are ready to resent the slightest invasion of their rights, and to defend themselves on all sides from attacks. You esteem them; you perhaps admire them; you would elect them as deputies; but you would never make them your friends.

But the two principles of morality I have described, instead of running counter to each other, work in concert, attacking vice from opposite directions. Whilst the economists are doing their part, sharpening the wits of the Orgons, eradicating prejudices, exciting just and necessary distrust, studying and explaining the true nature of things and of actions, let the religious moralist accomplish on his side his more attractive, although more difficult, labours. Let him attack dishonesty in a hand-to-hand fight; let him pursue it into the most secret recesses of the heart; let him paint in glowing colours the charms of beneficence, of self-sacrifice, of devotion; let him open up the fountains of virtue, where we can only dry up the fountains of vice. This is his duty, and a noble duty it is. But why should he contest the utility of the duty which has devolved upon us?

In a society which, without being personally and individually virtuous, would nevertheless be well ordered through the action of the economic principle of morality (which means a knowledge of the economy of the social body), would not an opening be made for the work of the religious moralist?

Habit, it is said, is a second nature.

A country might still be unhappy, although for a long time each man may have been unused to injustice through the continued resistance of an enlightened public. But such a country, it seems to me, would be well prepared to receive a system of teaching more pure and elevated. We get a considerable way on the road to good, when we become unused to evil. Men can never remain stationary. Diverted from the path of vice, feeling that it leads only to infamy, they would feel so much the more sensibly the attractions of virtue.

Society must perhaps pass through this prosaic state of transition, in which men practise virtue from motives of prudence, in order to rise afterwards to that fairer and more poetic region where such calculating motives are no longer wanted.