The Rationale of Reward

Book II

Rewards Applied to Offices

Chapter VIII


Rule VII. Pensions of retreat ought to be provided, especially when the emoluments allowed are not more than sufficient to meet the absolute wants of the functionary.[1]

Pensions of retreat are recommended by considerations of humanity, justice, and good economy: they moreover tend to insure the proper discharge of duty, and constitute a source of responsibility on the part of the individuals employed.

1. There are many cases in which it is not desirable that a public functionary should continue to be employed after his activity and capacity have become impaired. But since the infirmities of age tend to increase his wants, this is not the time in which he will be able to retrench his expenditure; and he will be induced by this consideration, in his old age and impotency, to continue to endeavour to perform, with pain, and even with disgrace, the duties of a station which in his maturity he had filled with pleasure and reputation. To wait till he voluntarily resigns, is to expect a species of suicide; to dismiss him without a pension of retreat, is, in the supposed state of his faculties, a species of homicide. A pension of retreat removes all these difficulties: it is a debt of humanity, paid by the public to its servants.

2. By means of these pensions, the scale of all salaries may be lower than otherwise, without producing any ill effect upon the quality of the services rendered: they will constitute an item in the calculation which every individual makes. In the meantime, government will obtain from all, at a low price, services, the ulterior compensation for which, on account of the casualties of human life, will only be received by a few. It is a lottery in which there are no blanks.

3. In all employments from which the individuals are removable at pleasure, the pension of retreat, in consequence of the approach of the period at which it will become necessary or due, will add an increasing value to the salary, and augment the responsibility of the individual employed. Should be be tempted to malversation, it will be necessary that the profit derivable from his malversation should compensate with certainty, not only for the loss of his annual salary, but also for the value of his future pension of retreat: his fidelity is thus secured to the last moment of his continuing in office.

4. We ought not to forget the happiness insured to the persons employed, resulting from the security given to them by the provision thus made against that period of life which is most menaced with weakness and neglect. Hence an habitual disposition to perform the duties of their office with alacrity will arise; they will consider themselves as permanently provided for, and fixed in a situation in which all their faculties may be applied to the discharge of its duties, without being turned aside by vague apprehensions of future distress, and the desire of improving their condition, which so often leads individuals successively to try different stations. Another advantage to the government: instead of being badly served by novices, it will possess a body of experienced functionaries, expert and worthy of its confidence.

The amount of these pensions ought to be regulated by fixed rules, otherwise they will become a source of abuse: offices will be bestowed for the sake of the pension, instead of the pension being bestowed for the sake of the office. They ought also to increase according to the length of service, leaving at all times an inducement to continued exertion; without which precaution, the services of experienced individuals, which it might be desirable to retain, would frequently be lost.

[RR, Book II, Chapter VII] [RR, Book II, Chapter IX]