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Essays, Moral and Political

In 1741 and 1742, a Scottish philosopher, David Hume published his second most important work, Essays, Moral and Political in two volumes. These works were later recompiled in 1758 into Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary, combining the earlier work with his essays Four Dissertations. David Hume (1711-1776) was one of the founders of British empiricism, along with John Locke and George Berkeley, who maintained that all knowledge comes from experience.

Essays, Moral and Political

One of Hume’s essays, “Of Commerce,” was an examination comparing politics and economics, where he described the ideal conditions of a state with ancient Sparta and Rome. Hume held that any nation’s state of peace and its ability to defend itself rests upon that nation’s industry. During peacetime, agricultural workers have the luxury of leisure. In war, they are the ones who comprise the army. Hume does this through his division of society into two classes: the great thinkers and shallow thinkers. Hume appears to be arguing for an educated elite to govern society.

Following “Of Commerce” is the essay “Of Money,” in which Hume argues that wealth is not the accumulation of money, but its potential, and that government should always monitor money within a country. Hume also argued against the idea of credit, as it gave nations too much access to money, which would lead to price increases.

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