A System of Logic

John Stuart Mill

Book 3, Chapter 10, Footnote #04
A more optimistic view of experiment in politics

Professor Bain, though concurring generally in the views expressed in this chapter, seems to estimate more highly than I do the scope for specific experimental evidence in politics (Logic, book 5, ch. 8, #25--30). There are, it is true, as be remarks (book 5, ch. 8, #29), some cases ``when an agent suddenly introduced is almost instantaneously followed by some other changes, as when the announcement of a diplomatic rupture between two nations is followed the same day by a derangement of the money-market.'' But this experiment would be quite inconclusive merely as an experiment. It can only serve, as any experiment may, to verify the conclusion of a deduction. Unless we already knew by our knowledge of the motives which act on business men that the prospect of war tends to derange the money-market, we should never have been able to prove a connection between the two facts, unless after having ascertained historically that the one followed the other in too great a number of instances to be consistent with their having been recorded with due precautions. Whoever has carefully examined any of the attempts continually made to prove economic doctrines by such a recital of instances, knows well how futile they are. It always turns out that the circumstances of scarcely any of the cases have been fully stated: and that cases, in equal or greater numbers, have been omitted, which would have tended to an opposite conclusion.

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Sol, Book 3, Chapter 10 Of Plurality of Causes, and of the Intermixture of Effects