Principles of the Civil Code

Jeremy Bentham

Part 1

Objects of the Civil Law.

Chapter 4

Of Laws Relative to Subsistence.

What can the law do relative to subsistence? Nothing directly. All that the law can do is to create motives; that is to say, to establish rewards and punishments, by the influence of which, men shall be induced to furnish subsistence to themselves. But nature has created these motives, and given them sufficient energy. Before the idea of law was formed, want and enjoyment had done, in this respect, every thing which could have been done by the best concerted laws. Want, armed with every pain, and even death itself, had commanded labour, had sharpened courage, had inspired foresight, had developed all the faculties of man. Enjoyment, the companion of every satisfied want, had formed an inexhaustible fund of rewards for those who had overcome the obstacles and accomplished the designs of nature.

The force of the physical sanction being sufficient, the employment of the political sanction would be superfluous.

Besides, the motives furnished by the laws are always more or less precarious in their operation: this is a consequence of the imperfection of the laws themselves, or of the difficulty of establishing the necessary facts, before bestowing reward or punishment. The hope of impunity glides to the bottom of the heart, in all the intermediate degrees through which it is necessary to pass, before arriving at the accomplishment of the law. But those natural effects, which we may consider as the rewards and punishments of nature, do not admit of this uncertainty: there is no evasion, no delay, no favour: experience announces the event; experience confirms it -each succeeding day repeats the lesson of the past, and the uniformity of this course leaves no place for doubt. What can be added, by direct legislation, to the constant and irresistible power of these natural motives?

But the law may indirectly provide for subsistence, by protecting individuals whilst they labour, and by securing to them the fruits of their industry when they have laboured: security for the labourer---security for the fruits of labour. In these cases, the benefit of the law is inestimable.

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