The Rationale of Reward

Book II

Rewards Applied to Offices

Chapter I


Rule III. The amount of the salary, or other emoluments, attached to every office, ought to be the least that the individuals qualified to execute its duties are willing to accept for their performance.

The fair and proper price of any vendible commodity is the least that anybody will take for it: so that the expectation of like payment shall be a sufficient inducement to the labour requisite to produce other like articles in future. The fair and proper price of any service is the least that anybody will do it for: so that if more were given, it would be done either not at all the better, or not so much the better as that the difference of quality should be equivalent to the difference of expense. In this proper and necessary price is included, of course, everything necessary to enable the individual to perform, and to continue to perform, the service; and also whatever is necessary on account of the disadvantages attending the service, and on account of the chance which may be given up of the advantages that might be expected from other services.

At the first establishment of an office, it may be difficult accurately to determine what ought to be the amount of its emoluments: in this, as is the case with every commodity when carried to market for the first time, we can only be guided by chance. The number and character of the candidates will, however, soon determine whether the amount offered be too large or too small.

According to this rule, the salaries paid to the judges in England, which appear so considerable, are scarcely enough; since, as we have already seen, they are not sufficient to induce those who are best qualified to discharge the duty, to undertake the office.

In France, before the Revolution, scarcely any salaries were paid to. the judges: they were not drafted from the class of advocates, and no sacrifice was required of them when they entered upon their duties; it was not necessary that they should be possessed of much experience, and their reward consisted principally in the honour and respect attached to their station. In England, the number of judges is so small, that there is no place for cyphers: it is necessary that each judge should possess, from the first day be enters upon his office, that skill which, in the present state of immensity and obscurity in which the law is found, can only be the fruit of long study. In France, among the enormous multitude of her judges, there was always a sufficient number endowed with the requisite skill; and the novice might, so long as he chose, preserve a Pythagorean silence.

A method of ascertaining the proper amount of emoluments for any office, simple as it is efficacious, is afforded by allowing the persons employed to discharge their duty by deputy. If no one employ a deputy, the emoluments cannot be much too great: if many individuals employ deputies, it will be only necessary to observe what is paid to the deputies: the salary of the deputy is the proper salary for the place.

If this rule be applied to the emoluments of the clergy, and it be asked what is the proper price for their services, the answer is not difficult. It is, prima facie, the price given by one class of the clergy, and received by the other; it is the current price of curacies. I say always prima facie; for, in reality, the current price is somewhat greater; part of the price being made up in hope. For insuring the due performance of all the duties of their office, this price is found to be sufficient. The possession of any greater emolument is not only useless but pernicious, inasmuch as it enables them to engage in occupations incompatible with the due performance of their function, and as it tends to give them a distaste for the duties of that function.

The inequality observable in the emoluments of the established clergy is also disadvantageous in respect to the greater number of ecclesiastics. The comparison which they make between their condition, and that of the rich incumbents, diminishes still further, in their eyes, the value of what they receive. A reward so unequal, for equal services, degrades those who receive only their proper portion. The whole presents the appearance of a lottery---of favour and injustice, ill according with the moral character of their vocation.

It is a good rule of economy to employ only real labourers, who do not think themselves superior to the work they have to perform. Dutch florists ought not to be employed in the cultivation of potatoes.

It is well also fully to occupy the time of the individuals employed. The duties of many public offices require only three or four hours attendance daily. After the office-hours are passed, such individuals seldom are able profitably to employ their time. The leisure they possess increases their wants. Ennui, the scourge of life, is no less the enemy of economy. It is among this class, that those who are most discontented with their salaries, are generally found.

[RR, Book II, Chapter III] [RR, Book II, Chapter V]