The Rationale of Reward

Book I

Of Rewards in General

Chapter XVII


After having exhibited in what manner the matter of wealth is applicable to the purposes of reward, we proceed to show other uses derivable from it for the public service, which are not remuneratory.

The idea of reward will be much clearer when it shall have been distinguished and separated from these accessory uses, which have certain relations with it:---

1. Wages necessary for the support of life.---Servants must be fed whilst they are employed, and there are cases in which it is necessary to feed them even before they begin to work. If the wages paid do not exceed what is necessary for this purpose, as is sometimes the case among, the soldiery, and especially if the enrollments are involuntary, such wages, being absolutely necessary, are not reward.

2. The instruction of servants.---Certain kinds of service require advances from government for this object. If this instruction require much time, it is naturally begun at an early age, and is then called education. This employment of the matter of reward is sufficiently distinct from that which regards subsistence, with which, however, it is very frequently combined and confounded. If there be a sufficient number of individuals willing to bear this expense, so much the better; otherwise, it is necessary that government should bear it for them. This has almost everywhere been thought to be the case with respect to the church. It has also generally been considered necessary in new countries, or countries but little advanced in the career of prosperity with respect to the teachers and professors in most branches of science. In the war department, the corps of cadets is a nursery for young officers. The foundations of public schools are nurseries for the church. The greater number, however, of these foundations, are owing rather to the good intentions of individuals, than to the cares of governments.

3. Equipment.---That an individual may be in a condition to render service, be must be furnished with the necessary equipments. The warrior wants his accoutrements---the astronomer his observatory---the chemist his laboratory---the mechanic his machines---the naturalist his collections of natural history---the botanist his garden---the experimental farmer a plot of ground, and funds to enable him to improve it.

4. Indemnity.---When an individual is only indemnified, he is not rewarded: reward properly speaking, only begins when indemnity is complete. Do we wish for services, we ought to recollect that, by the person from whom we seek to obtain them, the inconveniences of every sort which compose the burthen of the service will be put into one scale, the advantages he finds attached to it into the other. To the head of indemnity belongs everything necessary to produce an equilibrium between the two; it is only the scale which is thrown into the scale of advantage which strictly belongs to the head of reward.

5. The assuring responsibility.---In so far as the matter of reward is employed for this purpose, it is employed in laying a foundation for the infliction of punishment. The stock of punishment is in itself inexhaustible; but when the body is withdrawn from the hands of the ministers of justice, corporal punishment cannot be inflicted and all other punishments can be compensated. If a servant possess property of his own, so much the better: if he possess none, and a salary be given to him, he will always have so much to lose; the loss of this salary will be a punishment he will always be liable to undergo whatever may become of him.

The principal use of this employment of the matter of reward, is in the case of offices which place property in the hands of those who fill them. If there be no other means of securing their probity, it would not be bad economy to made their appointments amount in value to but little less than the highest interest they could reap from the largest sum they ever have in their hands. This would be to make them assure against their own dishonesty. The difference between the actual salary and the least salary they could be induced to accept, would constitute the premium. It is rarely that a distinct sum is appropriated to this purpose: on the one hand, this end is partly effected by surety-ship; and on the other, the sum considered requisite for the purposes of indemnity and reward equals or surpasses what could be proposed to be allowed for it: but this function is not the less distinct from all the rest.

6. A guarantee against temptations.---Money like the most valuable articles of the medical pharmacopœia, may serve either as a poison or an antidote, according as it is applied. This employment of the matter of reward resembles that last mentioned, without being confounded with it. Money employed for assuring responsibility will produce its effect, though the individual be already corrupted. The use of money employed as a guarantee against temptation, is to prevent corruption. A less sum may suffice in this case than in the former: in that, it was necessary that the revenue granted should preserve some proportion to the sum confided; in this, such proportion is not required: the measure to be observed is only that of the wants of the individual placed in the rank that the office he occupies confers. In a word, salary, considered as n pledge, is only useful in the prevention of theft; money employed as an antiseptic, is equally useful in the prevention of peculation in all its forms, in the prevention of all improper conduct which can have for its motive the desire of money, and for its means the situation in which the individual is placed by his office.

7. The support of dignity.---Public opinion exacts---it matters not by what reason---from every individual possessed of a certain rank a certain expenditure: his wants are thus increased in proportion to his dignity. Dignity, deprived of the wealth necessary for its support, furnishes, in proportion to its extent an incentive to malversation, and at the same time generally furnishes the opportunity. As an antidote to such temptation, money may therefore sometimes be bestowed for the support of dignity. The good of the service may also require the same thing. It is incontestably true, that between wealth and power there subsist an intimate and natural union. Wealth itself is power: it may be proper, therefore, that the support of the respect which it commands be not refused in favour of certain employments in which much depends upon the place they hold in public opinion.

8. Another use of the matter of reward consists in the excitement of alacrity; I mean, the production of an habitual disposition to do what is required with pleasure. The greater the degree of mental enjoyment, the quicker and more lively are ones ideas, and the larger the quantity of work which can he performed in a given time. The mind, in a happy mood, acts with incomparably more ease than when agitated by grief; or even in its ordinary condition, when it is moved only by habit. It is the same with the bodily powers. Who knows not how much the power of the muscles depends upon the energy of the mind? What comparison is there between the labour of slaves and of free men? It is upon this that the superiority of hired soldiers over unpaid and arbitrary levies depends. In the one case as in the other, the motive which leads to exertion consists in the expectation of being treated according to their behaviour: the motive is nothing else hut the fear of pain. But in the first case, there is the gratification of reward to sustain the alacrity; in the other the labour has no other accompaniment but grief.

The simple expectation of a reward how large soever it may be, will not always produce the same effect as a reward previously bestowed. The condition of expectancy in which the individual finds himself in such a case, is a mixed and uncertain state, in which despair and hope may alternately predominate.

The danger to be guarded against is, lest rewards previously bestowed should produce diversions little favourable to labour, either by suggesting the idea of some more favourite occupation, or by supplying the means of its pursuit. The progress of the thoughts may be accelerated, but the thoughts excited may be of a different nature: the dull ideas of labour may be supplanted by the enlivening considerations of shows and of pleasure.

Whether or not it is proper to bestow such rewards, depends upon the character of the individual: that character must be known, before it is possible to determine what will be their effect; but in every case there can be no greater folly than to waste in previous gratifications everything which is destined for reward.

In conclusion, these distinctions ought not to be abused. The expense of rewards need not be increased on account of each of these items; it is not necessary to appropriate a distinct sum to each. The same sum may serve for many, and even for all. That which suffices for assuring responsibility, will in general suffice as a guarantee against temptations, and vice versâ, so far as ends so uncertain may be effected by such means,---and will in every case suffice for indemnification. That which suffices for equipment, may serve in part for the support of dignity and the excitement of alacrity that which suffices for the maintenance of dignity will be sufficient for almost all the other ends; and the whole of whatever is employed for any other of these purposes, except equipment, cannot but serve for subsistence.

[RR, Book I, Chapter XVI] [RR, Book II, Chapter I]